My Secret Santa: “Tow Tow Tow!”

I’m a bit behind on my updates, mostly because I’m waiting to put up a new video that will dovetail into some interesting developments on Christmas day.

Stay tuned.


Xmas eve storm

Nine freaking hours is what it took for the folks to get my trailer loaded. Well, 30 minutes is what it took once they started loading my trailer… By the time they finished I was way past the end of my 14-hour clock so I parked it and snoozed.

At 0300 my alarm went off. I had to start that early in order to have a shot at making the 1500 delivery time in Lawrence, Kansas. Only one problem: there is this freakishly huge storm between here and there.

The Denver area was peaceful and cold when I started up my truck. Hours later as I entered Kansas, all heck broke loose. Winds were gusting from the north up to 35-45 MPH, perpendicular to the road I was on, which made the rear of my trailer dogleg to the right by 12-18 inches at times. For several hours I had to travel in the left lane so the crown of the road helped keep me from being shoved over. Some stretches of the Interstate were icy and snowy, while others were relatively clear. None of today’s journey was easy, however.

I shot some video that I present here. The first clip starts just after sunrise when things are still fairly mellow, but as it goes on you’ll see the winds kick up and the snow blowing hard from left to right. There is also a piece showing a truck rolled on its side and if you listen closely you can hear my satellite unit beep.

My deadline was 1500 hours and I arrived at 1430. Unloading was quick and painless… why couldn’t loading be that way?

A frozen day in Denver

I did manage to stumble out of bed around 0500 this morning, only to find the lot of the Pilot in Colby, Kansas I was parked at covered over with powdered sugar-like snow. I trudged inside to get some radiator fluid and topped off the engine before I got running.

The weather between Colby and Denver was fairly nasty. Lots of ice and snow, and plenty of poor drivers as I closed in on the city. Still, I avoided hitting anything or letting anything hit me and by 0845 I was at the FedEx gate in Henderson to drop off the load.

I asked dispatch if I should get a reefer or a van for my next load and after a long pause I was told to go for a reefer. The next load would be going back to Lawrence, Kansas through the storm I just made my way through and would need to be temp controlled.

The instructions said fuel at the Denver Pilot so I took care of business:

My poor truck’s paint job.

Less than fifteen minutes later I was in Aurora, Colorado on the east side of Denver waiting along with dozens of other drivers to get loaded with various alcoholic concoctions (the trailers being loaded, not the drivers I trust). I was first given an impossible door to back in to and after nearly scraping some things that shouldn’t be scraped I gave in and admitted I was not yet a Supertrucker. They relented and gave me a nice new door to back in to that a student could probably hit the first time. Pride has long since left this driver.

That was six hours ago. The green light still blinks next to my trailer, indicating it hasn’t even been locked to the dock yet. Very few of the 20+ trucks here before me have left as of yet, so it may be a while…

Episode 1: The Phantom T-Call

My dispatcher called on Monday to let me know that they had a short run from Joplin, Missouri up to Kansas City, Kansas lined up to get me back into our main freight lanes. No biggie, I told him to shoot the info over to my truck and asked when it picked up.

“Not sure,” he said. The broker hadn’t gotten back to the CSR folks yet to let us know. “Okay, call me back when you know,” I said.

A while later I get a phone call and its the dispatcher again. The short load is off and I’m set to head up to Edwardsville, Kansas to pick up a Fedex load heading to Henderson, Colorado. Since the total distance was on the order of 770 miles, we agreed I would pick it up and he would find a swap for the load down the road and we’d go from there.

The weather in Springfield was nice, high 40’s and clear. Kansas City was a bit warmer and still pretty nice as I swapped my empty trailer for the loaded one at Fedex. As I drove east, however, the noonday sky darkened and clouds closed in, until I was driving in moderately foggy conditions for the last three hours of my tour this evening.

As I was nearing my designated stopoff point, my dispatcher calls to inform me there isn’t going to be a t-call after all. Seems there weren’t any other trucks up to it, so this Fedex load will be a bit late.

When I pulled into the parking lot of the Pilot in Colby, Kansas it was really closing in, no doubt a part of the big snowstorm coming from the west that will make tomorrow very challenging.

I’m off to bed shortly to rise before dawn and continue my trek into the wild snows of Colorado.

The long way home

The trip from Hadley, Colorado to Springfield, Missouri was longer than the 620 miles I actually drove might indicate. Ninety percent of the route was over state highways, most notably US-400 through most of Kansas and it goes through an amazing collection of small towns with low speed limits and no jake brake signs.

I pulled up to the gates of the consignee in the early evening hours on Friday and went to bed after setting my alarm for a 0230 wakeup. By 0300 I was backed into a dock and the lumpers were doing their thing. By 0530 I was empty and the paperwork complete, at which time I headed a few miles across town where I parked the truck and went to the house.

Hey, do you smell something burning?

After my second drop in the Denver area I drove to the north side of the city to fuel up. The price of diesel in Denver was almost twenty cents per gallon cheaper than it had been in Arizona and New Mexico and I took full advantage.

Just as I arrived so did the new orders: run back south more than two hundred miles to Center, Colorado to pick up a load of spuds heading to… wait for it… wait for it, Springfield, Missouri! I do get to go home this week after all!

After I arrived at the potato shipping warehouse, the individual running the forklift tells me the interior of my trailer smells of smoke. Odd, since I just had it washed out back in Denver. I sniff, his boss sniffs, another boss type sniffs and we conclude that any odor in the trailer is too faint to be a factor and loading begins.

As usual, however, this wasn’t the only issue. The shipper tells me I’m loaded with 42,000 pounds of potatoes, yet this takes the gross weight of my rig up to 81,500, according to the on-site scale.

Now, I’ve been driving professionally for just over three years now. I know my rig, and I’m familiar with the weights of the trailers we haul. There ain’t no damn way that 42,000 pounds of anything puts me over 80k gross, even with full fuel tanks.

After a bit of back and forth they agree to take off a pallet and I rescale, with my total weight now at 79,500. Unfortunately, I’m heavy on my steers and I have the tandems all the way at the front so its just that the concentrated weight of the pallets up front is putting me a smidge over the limit. Since I burn a pound a mile or so of fuel, and all of it comes from the steers and drives, I decide to get moving and try to put a couple hundred more miles behind me before my 14-hour clock stalls out.

Tonight I finished in the tiny town of Hadley, Colorado at a cute little rest area I ran across.

Off to Denver

I was beeped with a preplan heading to Denver but the load wasn’t ready yet, so I got to sit around until noonish when a new message popped up telling me the trailer was loaded and the paperwork ready. I joined a line of three other HB drivers at the PetSmart guard shack who apparently got the same heads up and began hooking up to our various trailers.

One of the drivers was having a terrible time trying to get his tandems slid and another driver was trying to help as I drove up. After watching the fun for a few minutes I broke out my tandem sliding bar and some WD-40 and soon the tandems were sliding (and the other driver who stopped to help had an oddly contented look on his face; go figure).

After the trucker union mandated squawking broke up we lined up at the scale to make sure our loads were set up legally, then marshaled at the guard shack to finish up the paperwork and install load locks. My load was full all the way to the doors so my load lock was completely unnecessary, but still required by the PetSmart higher-ups who must know better than we drivers.

Yesterday’s drive ended and today’s began in Grants, New Mexico. I was listening to a fairly good audio book today and only stopped a couple times to use the facilities. Denver traffic was starting to back up pretty good as I arrived this evening around 1630 local time. Worse, this is the same PetSmart that a dumbass commercial architect who will be languishing in hell for all of eternity decided that it would be fun and games to make me back up from a busy WalMart parking lot into a tight dock where the rear of the trailer is higher than the cab of my truck. Stupid idiots.