Waiting and reading and catching up

I’m here at the Ralph’s DC in Riverside, California. Saw some news coverage of the wildfires just north of here and that they are advising surgical-style masks for people with breathing issues. I’m not one of those, but I’m still going to stay inside and keep the AC on, not least of which because its over 100 degrees outside.

Oh, and apparently there is a freaking hurricane on the way to southern California. The one freaking time in recent memory I’m out here, sheesh.

I’ve been going through some of the reports that Google Analytics comes up with showing traffic patterns, referral sites and the like. It is amazing how much information Google has on what people click on the web.

Anyway, I’ve been reading up some of the other blogs that have, for whatever reason, decided to link to this one. If you think I’ve been through some trials and tribulations, you might want to take a gander at VBob’s OTR Journal — this guy started at Millis, had to quit, got rehired, had to quit then got rehired again! At least I think that is how many times that cycle has happened — I’m not through the 2009 posts yet. Show him some reading love.

Mountains and wind and wildfires, oh my!

Regular readers of this forum know by now that I tend to be fairly lazy about my driving. By which I mean, miles that don’t have to be run until tomorrow generally are left to be run tomorrow. Friday was no different.

I got the loaded trailer straight from the dock at ConAgra in Council Bluffs, Iowa in the late afternoon. Since the cargo was only 32,000 lbs or so there was no reason to scale out and I hit the pavement heading west. By 2100 or so I was nearing Lexington, Nebraska (which regular readers also know is home to My Favorite Wal-Mart) and I decided to pack it in for the night.

Now, I probably should have gone on for a few more hours. The trip out to California is 1,520 miles or so and if I had done only 450 or so my task on Saturday and Sunday would have been easier. But, this is a load with a 1400 appointment out in California so there isn’t much need to rush, so the miles left to run were left to run, so to speak.

Saturday morning I was up bright and early (it sure is bright around 10 AM) and I mushed west some more. After five hours or so I made it to Denver and fueled up at the Pilot then continued on I-70 across the Eisenhower and Vail summits. For those of you from elsewhere on the planet not familiar with the Rockies, they are a big-ass range of mountains that divides the far western US from the midwest. This photo, taken several years ago from over 12,000 feet shows the tops of some of these mountains:

Even with the average weight load I was hauling my small engine struggled mightily to climb up the steep grades and my fuel economy sucked badly until I got to the far side.

As darkness was falling I decided to stop at a rest area in Fruita, Colorado. I managed to park next to a “WWE” wrestling truck with large photos of various entertainers plastered on the side. If that is how they get around no wonder they look pissed off all the time.

I awoke to moderate winds this morning and as I made my way west along I-70 the intensity kept building. By the time I made Richfield, Utah and pulled off to use the little driver’s room some of the gusts were 35-45 MPH with lots of dust and grit in the air. There was even a whiff of something burning and my eyes were starting to water.

For a while I thought maybe it was smoke from the fires out in the southern California area but that didn’t make sense given the distance I was at. Eventually, I came across a large wildfire in the southern part of Utah near the border with Arizona and that explained the smell.

Today’s driving concluded at a truck stop in Las Vegas, Nevada. I was considering driving another hour or so but, you know, those damn lazies caught up with me again.

The (e)mail bag

When I started my first blog it had one of my email addresses displayed but after a time I ran out of time to answer each of the emails personally. So, I discontinued the practice.

Now there are many more readers of my old and new blogs and my time is still at a premium, yet a few enterprising souls have managed to send in missives via Picasa or YouTube comments and the like.

Therefore, I have come up with a compromise:

I’m going to start an occasional (e)mail bag feature here on the Lease Purchase Journal blog where I answer questions submitted by you, the gentle reader. Since I still don’t have much time I can’t promise a personal, private reply but if you have something you’ve wanted to ask, praise or criticize for some time this will give you an outlet.

The address for the (e)mail bag is OTRjournal (at) gmail (dot) com. If you are at all familiar with email addresses you will recognize the address intended and your email will make its way to my attention.

I will post the questions (edited for content, readability and the like) and responses occasionally here on the blog.

(At the time of this writing, Google Analytics shows approximately 2,000 readers each month who get their fix via the website; an unknown quantity receive updates via RSS/Atom/etc. Thus, I’m outnumbered by a fair margin.)

The end of the line…

… for my trailer.

After unloading this morning I drove back to the yard and took my rig through our safety lane to be inspected. The trailer I have is one of the oldest in the fleet and apparently its number found its way on to the sell off sheet. Instead of worrying about its lights, brakes or insulation it was instead fitted with a red tag marked “SOLD” and I dropped it off in our farthest lot. I’ve been a driver now for almost three years and this is the first time I recall that happening.

Good news! The Powers That Be assigned me a trip from Council Bluffs, Iowa out to Riverside, California for Monday morning delivery. This means 1,520 uninterrupted blissful miles then the potential for an equally long trip back to the midwest. I urged my dispatcher to check on the condition of the load planner in question, as apparently his palsy must be acting up if he managed to key in my truck number for such a load. Not that I’m complaining.

The load is only about 30,000 pounds which is a very light one coming out of ConAgra. Since my Little Engine That Could and I have to run over Eisenhower and Vail summits in Colorado along the way this is a Good Thing.

This cracker is in Omaha

Today’s journey was short and sweet. Short in that I only had to drive about 280 miles to Omaha, Nebraska and sweet in that this week is Driver’s Appreciation week and Hill Bros is having a cookout each day in one of the buildings, with lots of free food and drink. You don’t have to tell drivers about this twice, I note.

I offered to tcall the trailer here at the yard since I had hours to run but there wasn’t enough freight and I was told to deliver it tomorrow morning. Thus, after ransacking the free vittles I drove over to the west side of town to the local truck stop for a shower, which happens to be less than a mile away from the Kraft warehouse I deliver at 0600.

New day, new swap

My body decided I needed to be awake earlier than I set my alarm for. This required a quick dressing session and speed walking to the Flying J building, then a consultation with the porcelain goddess. Is she ever a relief.

Since the other driver I met last night had a load himself, I had to deliver it today about 270 miles northwest in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Everything went smoothly until I actually arrived in Fort Dodge then all hell broke loose.

They are doing some major road destruction in the downtown area and it was directly in the path I needed to take to get to the beer distributor waiting patiently for the 22 tons of suds I had in back. I had to make several tight corners and work my way back out of some narrow streets before I got back to the main road and found another way in to my target.

This is one of the things I don’t understand about those (few) drivers who do not care for GPS units. If I didn’t have one today I would have been completely borked and it would have taken a long time to get to the distributor. Instead, I zoomed in the map a bit and played around with routes until I made one that went around the blockage and in about five minutes I was chatting with the beer folks in person.

Unloading was the typical slow, we’re-in-no-hurry affair I discuss so often. After all the pallets had been removed and only some plastic bulkheads remained the guy doing the unloading went off to an office for a 15-20 minute break. He may have been handling some sort of paperwork but why is any of that my concern? He took the bills with him and when he came back one was signed and he handed it to me after taking care of the bulkheads. Perhaps I aggravate easily, I don’t know.

My new orders were in place and I had to deadhead about 105 miles to Marshalltown, Iowa to yet another Swift meatpacking plant that does everything different, yet again. This place has you go past the trailer lot first to the next entrance where you find the washout company, but you back into the dock then keep your trailer once they are done. But you close the doors and seal them with a white seal, which of course you don’t do at the Swift plant I was at yesterday. Then you take the paperwork back to the trailer lot and check in at their guard shack and, if you’re lucky, your load is ready and all you have to do is drop your empty trailer in a very muddy and pothole-ridden lot. If you are unlucky, you still get to drop but then you get to wait in said lot. Such is your lot in life.

Turns out, we have two loads going to Elkhart, Indiana for 0600 tomorrow morning. The one I was waiting for was MIA, the other load was ready to go. Perfect.

I inform dispatch what the deal is and sit down for dinner. *BEEP* goes the satellite unit.

Eh!? My masters say they’ve switched loads and I can leave now with the one that is ready. Be still my heart!

I race to get everything taken care of (get paper with trailer number on it; find trailer, hook up, pretrip; scale out; park; walk back to guard shack with paperwork) and leave before someone changes their mind. Biff, bam, boom soon I’m rolling.

Today’s trip is, again, a bit too much for a solo driver to legally log. This entails another switch, this time in Atalissa, Iowa. The new driver is ready to go so we swap trailers and paperwork and he boogies, as much as you can boogie with 44,000 pounds of pig in back that is. I hook up to his relatively light (35,000 lb) load heading to Omaha and am calling it a night.

Swapped load

Yesterday I was told to deadhead from Omaha to Worthington, Minnesota for a load heading to Washington, Missouri. The shipper was a Swift plant (big meatpacking concern) that processes pigs into pork products.

On arrival I followed signs directing me to a business down the street that handles trailer washouts. After a small bit of confusion I get directed to a door and my trailer got a nice bath and a once-over by an inspector. Passing muster, I’m told to drop it somewhere in the large lot and they will handle its movement from then on.

My new trailer is in a nearby lot and eventually I figure out how to get the paperwork… on every day but Sunday you simply go to the same truck washing business and they have the paperwork there. Odd, but every Swift place makes it up completely from scratch.

Trailer attached, paperwork in hand and codes punched into satellite unit I set off across the street to get scaled out. The load is heavy, but I have it right the first time so I nearly sprain my elbow patting myself on the back.

Out to the street to get on to I-90 but the eastbound ramp is closed so I got to drive through lovely downtown Worthington. Once is enough for me.

Since the trip was a bit too long for me to legally complete in one day my dispatcher found a truck with more hours that I could swap with in Alexandria, Missouri. I arrived after dark and we swapped trailers and paperwork, and the other driver headed off into the night to finish off that journey.