Underground in Valmeyer, Illinois

I forgot that I shot some videos of one of the caves I’ve delivered to. Here is a two-parter for your viewing pleasure:

Part 1:

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Things we work for

This past weekend was a bit more interesting than normal. On Friday I sat down in the office of a title company and finished the (lengthy) paperwork required in the purchase of a new home.

I have been searching for just the right place for the past three months and the confluence of interest rates under five percent, house prices off a third from their peak and that wonderful $8,000 tax incentive pushed me off the sidelines and into the real estate market.

The weekend was spent with a very lengthy list of things to purchase and install, like a new refrigerator, blinds, lawn mower, carpet mower (vacuum) and the like. I’m definitely doing my part for fiscal stimulus.

This morning we returned to the truck and Snowie is beside herself with joy:

I’m picking up at the Buske underground location in Springfield as usual to run up to Omaha, Nebraska for tomorrow morning.

Beer Hell

Yesterday morning I drove to Eau Claire, Wisconsin to pick up one of our reefers then east about four hours to Milwaukee for a load of beer from the Miller people. This is the first Miller plant I’ve been to before and if it is representative of the lot they have a lot of catching up to do with the Budweiser folks.

The check-in procedure was a bit weird. Go to one guard shack, pick up some paperwork, park truck and go to a “driver’s lounge” where you use one of two phones to speak with the shipping people. Then, monitor the CB until they tell you what door to head to.

On the back of the paperwork the guard handed to me was a map and he told me to follow the clearly-marked path from the staging lot to where the shipping doors would be. I do so, but the doors there are numbered (roughly) 1-30 and my door is 70. On the back side of the building, perhaps? Nope, but I did get a football field length straight backing opportunity out of the exercise.

So I walk into the shipping office (which is at that building) and ask where the heck they are hiding my door and it turns out there are ten or so docks at some other building a quarter mile away. Back out to the street, make some tight turns, eventually pass through a gate then back into a diagonal slot dock.

Several hundred kegs of Miller Lite beer are forklifted into the trailer and I’m eventually turned loose with the paperwork. Just in time to head out of town in rush hour with 79,600 pounds of truck under me.

I stopped at one of the crappiest Pilot truck stops in the network, that being Beloit, Wisconsin for the night. Crappiest because of the way too tight parking lot and traffic that comes in from two directions on the same u-shaped piece of pavement. Backups galore.

The alarm goes off at 0345 this morning and I’m off. I didn’t want to get up at that hour but my load had to deliver by 1400 and it was at least eight hours and a fill up to get to Kansas City. Roughly eight hours and a fill up later, I was there and got the beer off of the trailer speedily enough.

My dispatcher is well aware I need to be home tomorrow and I ask if I should stay where I am at the southern edge of Kansas City or head over to our yard. “Not much moving there, you’d better head to the yard.” I do so.

Naturally, a few hours later the nothing much turns into a load sitting at our yard that needs to deliver across town in Lenexa, Kansas at the propitious hour of 0300 tomorrow. All of 15 miles of work on my part, plus wait for it to be unloaded and of course all of the paperwork. In exchange, I exact the promise they will assign me my dreaded Buske load and deadhead me there to pick it up on Monday.

We’ll see how well that works out.

Switching sides

The trailer I got from the Budweiser plant in Fort Collins was one of our older ones and by the time it came to a rest at the distributor in Omaha the product inside was knocked around pretty good. My load locks were on the floor along with most of the dunnage, including one of those neat inflatable bag things to hold everything in place. Thankfully, the product itself still stood on the pallets and nothing had to be restacked.

I noticed the very rear of the trailer where the metal met the oak floor was bent upward and cautioned the dock supervisor to let his workers know that it was looking sketchy. Then I plugged in a trailer breakdown macro and waited to be unloaded.

The unloading went on and on, more than an hour after the truck before me had left. Then there was nothing heard or felt bumping around in back for a while and I went off to investigate. This is where I found the entire trailer filled nose-to-tail with plastic pallets and separators that the Bud folks use to shuttle their beer on.

Soon enough the manager came out and explained that this trailer was going to be used for today’s backhaul to Fort Collins. I mentioned that the trailer was a bit damaged and in need of some TLC and he wisely decided to not bother putting a seal on it, since our maintenance folks would have to immediately tear it off to repair the floor (and anything else causing a ruckus back there).

I was instructed to pull the trailer from the door and drop it on the far side of the parking lot. This is when I realized I was simply being used as a yard jockey and my long wait had been solely for the reason of moving the trailer off the dock once it was loaded. Just another priceless moment in trucking that reinforces my adage: “A trucker’s time is only worth something to that trucker, and no other.”

The nearby Sapp’s truck stop was a good place to take a shower and I took full advantage. My dispatcher also called to get the 411 on the broken-trailer-being-loaded-for-Fort-Collins situation and that got settled. My flu symptoms were still bothering me so I told him as long as we were short on freight in the area let the other drivers go ahead for a bit.

Later, he offered a run down to Atlanta, Georgia but the hours were short and I pointed out that I needed to be home this Thursday for some important matters. He spoke with the Georgia dispatcher to see if we had any freight that would slingshot me home from there and that didn’t fly, either, so I was taken off of that load.

The QualComm went off an hour or so later and I was ordered to our yard to pick up a trailer headed to Mondovi, Wisconsin. Only 420 miles or so and I could deliver it any time the next day. Very few details on the load screen though.

I get over to the yard and head in for the paperwork only to find out I’m taking a brand new empty trailer belonging to a company called Marten out to their HQ in Wisconsin. Never one to pass up a light load in the summertime, I hooked up to the trailer and split. I even treated myself to a 63 mph pace for most of the way!

The final couple hours were over state highways in Iowa and Wisconsin, right as night was falling. This place was so far out in the boonies I had to dodge not one but two cows standing in the middle of the road. Arriving in tiny Mondovi I find the address listed on the bills but it turns out they have opened a new facility a mile or so away in just the past month. Getting to it was a bit of a problem because the industrial park in which it was located was so poorly lit, but the buildings themselves were first rate (even nicer than CFI’s when I worked for them, which says something in my book).

The head mechanic was out on break when I arrived so I had chance to drop the trailer and park my truck before wandering around aimlessly. Then, a flurry of paperwork and he checked out the trailer to see if everything worked and I was off to a nearby dead-end street where I passed an uneventful night.

This Ault to be fun

The people at the Sam’s Club DC did their thing this morning in about the time frame I expected, and I was out of there by 1100 or so. A quick jaunt up the interstate to the Budweiser plant in Fort Collins and I swapped my empty for a trailer full of beer.

Ordinarily, when I head to the east from Fort Collins I just go north up I-25 to Cheyenne, Wyoming then turn on to I-80. My GPS showed a shorter route taking Colorado 14 due east from Fort Collins to I-76, which then connects to I-80 in Nebraska. The first town you come across along the way is Ault, Colorado, thus the title of this post.

The road was very straight and almost entirely one lane each way for just under 100 miles. Not too much traffic, though there were a number of bicyclists using the very narrow shoulder. One sneeze on my part and they would end up as a hood ornament real quick.

I stopped at Big Springs, Nebraska (I-80 exit 107) for yet another wonderful steak at the Sam Bass Saloon. From there it was about 340 miles to the Budweiser distributor in Omaha where I’m parked for the night, unloading to begin around 0600.

Da flu

Runny nose? Check. Sore throat? Check. Cycles of sweating and chills? Check.

I guess its the flu. Hopefully it is the new pig kind so I can put that puppy behind me. The symptoms were worst yesterday when I left Phoenix, so I only managed about 370 miles up to Jamestown, New Mexico where I fueled this morning.

A nice shower and some good hot food got me going this morning and I managed to rumble, stumble and fumble my way to the Pilot in Denver, Colorado. The load I picked up in Phoenix delivers tomorrow morning just north of here, then I’m preplanned on a beer load immediately after heading to Omaha. Hopefully the body will be up to all of that.