I don’t have $3,000+ weeks very often so it was nice to see that my yearly longevity bonus show up when I opened my settlement email yesterday. Hill Bros pays each driver one cent for each dispatched mile you rack up in the previous year, and an extra half cent each following year. Last year was my second year at the company so I made 1.5 cents per mile in longevity bonus money, or $1,928.43. Coupled with the 3,200ish miles I drove, the net was $3,517.88. Yay team.

The preplan out to Frontenac, Kansas originated at the dreaded Central Beverage Distribution plant in Aurora, Colorado. It always seems to take them five or six hours to get a truck loaded there, and this time was no exception. I napped some, played computer games, watched some Hulu and basically vegetated.

By the time they had their act in gear I could only make it to Oakley, Kansas for the night and set my alarm for 0330 again.

The rest of the drive was easy and boring, and the guys at Eagle Distributing in Frontenac had me unloaded at a pretty good clip. From there I sped away south to Joplin, Missouri for fuel then east on I-44 to Springfield, Missouri for some home time.

The Denver Pilot

Against my better judgment, I said in my last post. If I only knew…

My delivery was scheduled for 0400 hours local time so I set my alarm for 0330. A quick pre-trip showed me that my rig was ready to go, but the guy who pulled in next to me was way too close for me to pull around him safely (diagonal parking — only one way out). I delicately tried for five minutes or so before concluding it would probably cost him a mirror for me to get out and I decided to rouse the driver and get him to temporarily move back ten feet or so. I don’t like waking up other drivers but sometimes you gotta.

Only, there was no waking this driver. The truck was idling, windows down an inch and no amount of banging, knocking or pleading would raise him or her.

Plan B was a rehash of Plan A but getting my rig absolutely the farthest forward I could get it before exchanging paint with the trucks facing me and trying to make the turn. Forward a little bit, watching carefully. Backing a little bit to get a better angle. Forward again, set brakes, get out and look. Rinse and repeat fifty times. Finally, I was around the corner with an inch or so to spare and ran into the next obstacle: I was so far forward and close to the trucks facing me I could no longer turn right at the corner to exit the lot. Nor could I turn left, as a driver with an oversized load had ghetto parked on the end. Sigh.

Carefully I tried the corner and couldn’t make it work to the left no matter how far I swung, so I backed and filled for a while until I was able to straight back down the alley between the two rows of trucks far enough to let me swing back to the left and not hit anyone. Twenty minutes of my life down the tubes.

There was some road construction on I-70 but no traffic to speak of so a few minutes later I was dropping anchor at the consignee. A few hours later and the load was off and I was heading to nearby Aurora, Colorado for a preplanned load heading to Frontenac, Kansas.

Kansas State Police gone wild

Dispatch gave me a load picking up in St Joseph, Missouri heading to Denver, Colorado with two days on it, on account of my thin log book. Being a devotee of laziness, I stopped for the night in Junction City, Kansas instead of pressing on. I did enjoy a light dinner at an A&W restaurant — I haven’t been there since I was a kid.

This morning I headed down the road only to dodge one Kansas State Trooper after another with cars and trucks pulled over. There must have been six in less than 100 miles, which is a bit extreme in my book. Since municipalities and states only make money with one kind of revenue enhancement law enforcement, perhaps that explains it. No one gave my lumbering 60-mph truck a second look.

I finished the day at the Denver Pilot, against my better judgment. There was no place to park at the consignee and the Pilot was only a few miles away.

Very long run with little notice and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls

I had parked in the back lot of the Farley’s & Sathers plant in Chattanooga Sunday night, next to the shipping docks. The receiving docks were on the other side of the building and a bit of a hassle to pull in to, but I dutifully moved my truck around on time for delivery then brought the paperwork in to the receiving office. At which point they said they had way too many shipments coming in that day and I should just drop it in the back lot… right where I had been parked. Ah well, at least I didn’t have to wait for it to be unloaded.

There was another HB trailer on the lot but it too was full, and this plant was only getting part of the load. I was told to wait for an empty but my trailer was sitting where I had dropped it and the other trailer was being shuttled to a different F&S facility on the east side of town.

Late in the morning the planners finally decide what to do with me and I’m dispatched up to Smyrna, Tennessee to take a load to Kansas City, Kansas for the following morning. I’m not complaining about the miles (700ish) but I sure wish they had given me the heads up five hours earlier when I delivered.

Some drivers listen to music all day long but I’ve kind of gotten tired of the radio myself. I’ve never been able to listen to the rantings on the various talk shows (and my lord, the commercials every two minutes!) and listening to sports doesn’t do it either. This leaves mostly audio books to keep me company as the miles drone by, and I’m currently listening to the Robert Heinlein book The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. Not one of his best, but he was a master of the form and even his mediocre work is better than most in my book (pun intended). If you want what I consider to be some of his better work try The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Glory Road and Starship Troopers (the book NOT the movie!).

I got a dressing-down when I was in the process of leaving the Estes terminal in Smyrna. Some safety or managerial type was driving around the lot in a dark SUV and I passed him before stopping near the office and getting the paperwork. He growled at me to obey the 5 MPH speed limit they post at the gate, and I said I would. I didn’t mention the suggestion to post more than one sign and not just at the front gate if he wanted compliance, as many times drivers that are entering parking lots are having to juggle paperwork, the satellite unit, unfamiliar directions and signage and any one sign can be missed. Not to mention, the yard dogs were moving trailers around like Mario Andretti, but I let that go as well.

The book made the next twelve hours go by tolerably and just after midnight I delivered in Kansas City then immediately hit the sack. Even though the lot is smaller than most of their competitors, they didn’t have any problem letting me snooze off on the side — FedEx and ConWay, you could learn a lesson here.

The candy man can

I loaded yesterday morning in the greater Dallas area then headed east, ending up in Jackson, Mississippi for the night. Both Pilot’s in town were overflowing but the nearby Flying J had dozens of empty parking spots. I, of course, had a guy with Opti-Idle (aka keep your neighbors up all night idle) roll up next to me after I had gone to bed and the lot filled. Thanks a pantload, dude.

I’ve actually needed to use my AC for something other than defrosting now two days in a row. The weather has been cloudy but no rain, snow or ice is to be found.

The remaining 380 miles went by quickly this morning and by early afternoon I was at the consignee in Chattanooga with 33,393 pounds of bubble gum and other candies. I was planning on stopping short at the rest area just inside the Tennessee state line but it has been closed and the concrete ripped out.

Farmer’s Co-op

I was beeped this morning to head up to Lubbock, Texas to Farmer’s Co-op #3 to pick up a 45,000 load of something that I would drop off at our yard in Garland, Texas. Turns out, that something were bales of cotton bound for the textile mills of China, to be turned into socks, shirts and the like. Amazing how chinese slave labor globalization makes it cheap enough to ship raw materials across the globe for processing, then back to be sold.

Loading took forever, heck even finding the right warehouse took a long time. The docks were outside and difficult to get lined up on, but eventually it was sorted out and the trailer loaded.

The drive to Garland was over hundreds of miles of mostly narrow state highways, which actually aren’t that bad in Texas. I’m holed up at our yard with a preplan for tomorrow heading from nearby Grand Prairie, Texas to Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Ottawa to Odessa

The trip from Ottawa, Illinois to Odessa, Texas was blessedly free of snow and ice. For the first time in months, I was able to leave my APU’s heat off for the night.

The PetSmart store I delivered to is a new one that opens March 1 and my load was one of many being brought in to establish the initial inventory. The parking lot was kind of a doozy but it did include a mexican fast food joint, a Starbucks and a McAllister’s Deli store.

Now, I’ve heard of McAllister’s before and the people I’ve talked to recommended it highly. I got half of a sandwich and an ultimate spud and, frankly, wasn’t impressed. Seems too much like a bad ripoff of Panera. I will say this, though: the place was packed with people.

The same could be said about the Starbucks. With as many people were lined up to pay $4 for a cuppa I have to think this whole recession thing might be easing up a bit.