Up, up and away

I completed my two drops in Denver and Grand Junction today within a reasonable amount of time. Heading over the Rockies on I-70 was exciting with such a light load. Eisenhower and Vail passes had decent amount of snow and ice on the western sides which made descending all the much more, shall we say, invigorating.

I didn’t think about it when I picked up the trailer but I wasn’t technically legal running through Colorado because I didn’t have an extra set of chains that would fit on the super single tires!

Tomorrow’s plan is to head back east to Denver then north up to Fort Collins to grab a load of beer heading to the thirsty fans in the Kansas City area for Saturday.

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On my way to cross the Rockies

I was up around 0600 this morning checking the weather with my eyes and various online sources. The frozen rain that beat down most of yesterday morning and afternoon had finally let up and just froze in place.

When I fueled yesterday I weighed adding some anti-gel additive just in case. The forecast had it only down in the low 20’s overnight for OKC so I decided against it. I awoke to a chilly 10 degrees, but my primary fuel filter wasn’t gelled up and the truck started normally.

Heading out the roads were lightly traveled and mostly free of snow and ice. I accidentally triggered my wipers and sat astonished as they very slowly started sweeping then stopped in the upright position. Oops.

I had cleaned them off carefully before I departed and I was using the defroster and maximum heat to burn through the patches of ice left on my windshield. The blades themselves weren’t stuck, so I figured there was a problem with the swinging mechanism. I phoned our shop to see if there was a good way to push them back down (turns out, you just push them back down) then exited at the next rest area. It seems there is kind of a tray area under the wipers that allowed a good two inches of snow and freezing rain to accumulate from yesterday then freeze solid, and the icepack was preventing the bottom of the wiper arms from completing their arc. I broke out the scraper and went at it for a few minutes until everything was clear then was happy to find the wipers wanted to work again without a hiccup.

After stopping in Salina, Kansas to carefully wash my windshield and take a shower I headed west along I-70, coming to a stop in Colby, Kansas. The “Oasis of the Plains” if you believe the billboards. All I know is, I had a decent meal at the nearby Village Inn and am tucked in for the night.

Tomorrow should be fun as I head into Denver for a 10 AM drop then west over the I-70 Eisenhower summit to Grand Juction before nightfall for the second drop.

I Fought the (storm) System, and It Won

It took two years and two months, but for the first time ever I’m shut down due to weather.

Since my trailer was empty I drove carefully the last 20 miles into Ardmore this morning. The freeway and ramps were slick, though there wasn’t much accumulation at the time. The guards at the Circuit City DC were a bit amazed anyone was showing up to haul their stuff today, but I grinned my way through the cavity check and exchanged trailers anyway.

After getting everything configured and my log updated, I drove next door to use the restroom and snapped some pics:

Unfortunately, it went downhill from there.

Heading north from Ardmore is one of the few hills worth mentioning in the state of Oklahoma. It isn’t particularly steep or twisty, but toss in a heapin’ helpin’ of frozen rain, ice, a smidge of sand and a generous dollop of snow and it is a real humdinger, pard!

Though you can’t tell it in the pictures, the trailer I picked up is one of the few in our fleet with super single tires so for only the second time at Hill Bros all my tires except for the steers are super singles. For non truckers, this means that instead of having two tires at the end of each axle, you have one larger one:

I personally like running this type of tire. They weigh considerably less than a pair smaller tires (and the pair of rims that go along with them), they last a very long time if you treat them right and they are about 4-5% more efficient going down the road, due to much thicker and stiffer sidewalls which reduce the amount of flex that heavy loads cause. Some drivers complain that they don’t handle rain, snow and ice as well but I’ve not found that to be the case.

Anyway, after what passes as hills in Oklahoma the weather got much worse. There was so much freezing rain packed down onto the road bed it formed “ribs”, like expansion joints in concrete, and the ride went to hell quickly. More snow and ice was falling and there was little or no plowing being done so there quickly became tall furrows of ice and snow between the lanes making lane changes dicey. Drivers in cars and SUVs (“four wheelers”, in trucker parlance) became a real menace, moving out in front of you with little notice or concern about your momentum.

I passed the time as I wrestled my truck down the road listening to the CB. Drivers heading down from the north reported it only got worse up to the Tulsa, Oklahoma and Salina, Kansas areas so once I reached my fuel stop at the Flying J on the east side of OKC I called it a day.

For the first time ever, the weather beat me.

To go West, one must first go East

I delivered my load of boxes for Banquet TV dinners in Russellville, Arkansas Sunday night. Afterwards I bobtailed to a nearby Walmart to purchase supplies then to a nearby truck stop to sleep the night away.

Mid-morning Monday my dispatcher calls me with news of a pre-plan.

“That really isn’t a PRE-plan, is it mister dispatcher since I’m just sitting here.”

He agreed, but shot back with news that he had a plan and a pre-plan to follow. My ears perked up.

First, take a trailer of frozen food from Russellville to a Walmart DC in Terrell, Texas then deadhead about 120 miles north to Ardmore, Oklahoma and take a load of Circuit City electronics out to two stores in Colorado. Yes, apparently they still have some stock left in the pipeline even though they are going out of business.

The only snag in the ointment was this wintery weather system forming here in the midwest. The forecast had freezing rain, snow and ice over most of Oklahoma and the northern part of Texas, and snow the rest of the way into Denver. Perhaps I should have demurred, but that damn Protestant work ethic won out and I took it.

I put the details of my first trip into the GPS and at first I thought it had blown a fuse. It was telling me to get back on to I-40 and head East, towards Memphis. I brought up the full map for the trip and played around with various routes for a bit but couldn’t come up with anything better. Believe it or not, this is how you drive from point A to point B on this trip (in a big rig at least):

I arrived 40 minutes early for my 7:25 PM appointment and was soon checked in and backed in to a door. I walked the paperwork in and they gave me a cool little electronic pager gadget that would go off when the trailer was unloaded. I ate a meal, diddled around on my laptop, slept, and yet it did not go off. Realizing I was one of the last truckers still left in their compound three hours later I went inside, only to be told that it was going slow because they had over 4,000 cases to count.

Now, this is what irritates the crap out of me. It took probably 20-30 minutes for the lumpers to extract the pallets from my trailer on to their dock. At this point, MY JOB IS FREAKING DONE. I got hired (indirectly) to haul cargo from point A to point B in a certain time frame. Only because my time has absolutely no value to anyone but myself do I have to stick around for company x (Walmart, in this case) to find out if company y (ConAgra, in this case) have screwed up what was on the load. I had nothing to do with the loading and nothing to do with the unloading, and certainly nothing to do with the counting on either side. Companies x and y should yell and bitch at each other about who sent or didn’t send what, when and to whom. I don’t have a dog in that fight.

Sigh.

Anyway, I eventually made it out of there and headed Ole Betsy north towards Ardmore, Oklahoma. I saw a truck stop about 20 miles south of there that had some parking and stopped for the night.

Take a break

After I delivered near Kansas City there was a load waiting for me in Independence with a long delivery time down to Russellville, Arkansas so I took a break. I’m fine, the truck is fine and I’ll resume updates tomorrow.

Out of the Frozen North

I made my delivery appointment yesterday around noon and after a few hours a new load was assigned, picking up first in St Micheal, Minnesota then in New Ulm, Minnesota, then delivering near Kansas City, Kansas. I picked up the first half of the load last night (29,000 pounds of eggs in various forms) then the rest this morning (12,000 pounds of butter).

I made a boo-boo when we I went to fuel in Des Moines. I was kinda close to the gross weight limit for my truck and figured I would just take on 50 gallons or so. Not thinking (I mean, REALLY not thinking), I filled the tanks then the reefer tank as well. This put me several hundred pounds over gross and I was sweating it a bit until I made it to the scale just inside Missouri and it was closed. Yay for me.