A day off, then a long day

With all the driving out to Phoenix then up to Colorado Springs, my log book was pretty shot. I only had about 4.5 hours that came back to me Monday morning so dispatch told me to head up to Denver to get fuel then hang on.

The Denver Pilot was a complete cluster, with dozens of trucks trying to turn in and long lines for the pumps. The first time I went by I headed up the road a couple miles to a nearby Walmart to get stocked up, then came back after an hour to get fuel. Still jacked up.

After a good fifteen minutes out on the street I finally made it into the parking lot and another twenty minutes or so got me to the pump. Ten minutes later I was full of fuel and parked nearby at one of our drop lots.

Late in the afternoon dispatch gave me an early morning load from nearby Henderson, Colorado to Des Moines, Iowa. That is about 660ish miles, from one Conway terminal to another. The load had to pick up by 0400 and deliver by 1800 on Tuesday, and that is what I did. Only a couple stops for restrooms and one short nap and I spent the night at the Des Moines Conway terminal.

New Mexico to Phoenix to New Mexico

It is a long day’s drive to go from exit 39 on I-40 in New Mexico to exit 3 on I-40 in New Mexico… if you head over to Phoenix first of course.

It took almost six hours to get to PetSmart then fifteen minutes or so to swap trailers and get scaled out. The original estimate of 42,000 pounds was heavy: the trailer only had about 38,000. With my engine I’ll take all the lower weight loads I can get.

Trudging back up I-17 was slow but uneventful and I ran and ran as far as I could with the hours I had, ending just inside the New Mexico border at the inbound rest area for the night.

Today I ran the remaining 510 miles to Colorado Springs, Colorado and parked at the dock of the only PetSmart store in town that I haven’t delivered at before. The last stop on this load is across town at the same store I adopted Snowie from, so I know she’s just all kinds of thrilled.

A sweet load turned sour

What do I consider to be a good load to haul? I like long runs, average to light load weight, a newer trailer with air-ride suspension and drop and hook on both ends. I rarely get such loads.

Today I got a great looking load. Omaha to Phoenix, Arizona and the weight is just 28,000 pounds. The trailer is a newer one with air suspension and it was preloaded. Plus, Phoenix is always a drop for us. Sweet!

All was great in my world except for the damned wind! As I headed west, south then southwest I kept running into heavy winds blowing right against me, with gusts up to 30 and 40 MPH. My fuel economy was just 6.0, where I would have ordinarily expected close to 8.0 with this type of load.

The delivery was set for any time Saturday which gave me three days. I could push really hard and get there in two days, go kinda hard and get there in two-and-a-half days or lope along and get there in three days. Yeah, I went with the three days option.

My first stop was Dodge City, Kansas and I planned on Albuquerque, New Mexico for the next one. Then the stupid satellite unit went off.

See, I had taken a look at my hours and realized by the time I got to Phoenix I would only have 14 or so left for the next two days and only pick up 4.5 on Monday. It is rare for me to take a 34-hour restart but heck, why not let my hair down once in a while?

Only, the satellite unit wouldn’t let it be. I got a preplan to pick up Saturday and deliver at 0300 Monday morning in Colorado Springs, Colorado. At first glance this wasn’t even possible, and even if it was it would mean running 1,800 miles in three days using only 29 driving hours, or a pair of dispatches with 62 MPH average speeds required.

After a long series of back-and-forths with my dispatcher and the planner I worked out a way to make it happen, but it meant instead of stopping in Albuquerque tonight I had to get as far as Jamestown, New Mexico. Tomorrow I have to run from there down to Phoenix then back to somewhere near the New Mexico state line to position myself to get to Colorado Springs on Sunday. Long, long driving days in other words, and running up against the very end of my logbook.

So, I’m in Jamestown tonight and we shall see about the next two days.

Kick-Ass!

It turns out I didn’t get that shower or get to Wal Mart before I left Mt Vernon.

I woke up just before 0900 which was the time I planned on leaving. That would put me in St Louis around 1000 and Kansas City around 1400, with a short break to fuel in between. Thus, I would miss the morning rush in the former and the afternoon rush in the latter.

Yes, I could have taken a shower and rushed through Wal Mart in perhaps an hour but I thought it more important to get rolling and make my self-imposed deadlines. What Snowie thought of me not showering is not known.

Everything went the way I planned and I fueled in Higginsville, Missouri at about 1330. Traffic in KC was child’s play at 1400 and by 1430 I was turned north along I-29 for the last three hours up to Omaha.

I have an iPhone and one of the apps I use has all the movie information, showtimes and such for most theaters. When I went to see Avatar on the IMAX screen in Council Bluffs, Iowa a few months ago I realized that the theater was just a few blocks down the street from the Horseshoe casino, which has truck and RV parking. Further, I realized I would be there around 1800 which would give me enough time to grab a shower before heading over and that was the plan.

The movie I went to see is called Kick-Ass and it was a fun (though very R-rated) superhero action/comedy movie.

Back in the truck by 2200 and snoozing, in preparation for my 0600 delivery tomorrow morning in Omaha.

Atlanta

I forgot to mention, we sometimes go from Russellville, Arkansas to Atlanta, Georgia. Like I did.

The trailer I dropped Sunday night for unload was the one they chose to load up with product heading for my next trip, so I rehooked Monday morning and boogied eastward. I had it timed so I would be going through Memphis around 1400 and this made that part of the trip a breeze. This also put me in Birmingham at around 1800 so that went smoothly as well. I like planning ahead in this fashion to avoid traffic when I can.

Just east of Birmingham the satellite unit went off with not one but two preplans. First, after I dropped on the southwest side of Atlanta I would have to head north on I-75 to Calhoun, Georgia then shuttle a loaded trailer from there back down to the southwest side of Atlanta. A shit sandwich, in other words.

The second preplan wasn’t that great either. It was a brokered load from Lafayette, Georgia heading to Dallas. Being unfamiliar with Lafayette I mapped it and found that it was in the northwest part of the state, a ways away from the interstates. That would be interesting.

My drop at AmeriCold took place like clockwork, and I figured I had just enough time to run up to Calhoun before my 14-hour clock ran out. At 660 miles, it was a long driving day. I got in just before 0100 local time, dropped the empty I had picked up and hit the sack hard.

I awoke this morning with a new message. Disregard that second preplan in Lafayette and instead return back to Calhoun after I delivered the shag load for a load of carpet leaving between 2000 and 2300 tonight. Said load being due in Omaha on Thursday morning at 0600, meaning I would have to cover at least 300 of the 920ish miles tonight to be able to get it there on time.

Then word came down that the people receiving the shag load no longer wanted it and I would just be doing the carpet load. THEN I go inside the shipper to use the facilities and talk up the staff to see if there was any chance the load might be ready early.

“Oh, we thought you were here for last night’s load that never picked up.” Ears perk up.

“Uh… yeah, I mean that one. Can I see the paperwork pretty please?”

Armed with the bills I retreated to my truck and spoke with my dispatcher. He said he would speak with someone who would speak with someone who might be able to make a decision, and it would take a while so he’d call me back. After 30 minutes or so, I call him back and tell him I’m stealing the damn trailer, ’cause Hill Bros doesn’t have enough salt and pepper to eat all of me, at least not in one sitting.

The skies clear and I’m given the go ahead to take that load and I’m rolling, rolling, rolling rawhide.

Instead of grabbing the load at 2000 at the earliest then running until 0200 or 0300, here I am in Mt Vernon, Illinois at 1930 getting ready to take a shower and do some shopping at Wal Mart. Some days work out that way.

Short home time

The load of GE appliances from Louisville, Kentucky to Kansas City, Kansas went smoothly, as that load always does. I got a load going through the house from Independence, Missouri to Russellville, Arkansas that doesn’t deliver until Monday at 0730 so I had most of a weekend at home.

This afternoon (Sunday) I stocked my truck, bundled up Her Majesty and finished the trip. Most outbound loads from Russellville have been to Rochelle, Illinois or sometimes a hop over to Batesville, Arkansas first, then up to Rochelle.

How to load a trailer

Suppose you work in a warehouse and your job is to move inventory your factory produces into trailers to be taken out into the Big Wide World. Your boss gives you the task to combine two smaller orders into one in the same trailer, with about half going to one stop in one state and the other going to a different stop (and company) in a different state, with different product going to each.

The smart way to put the load on would be to take the cargo going to the last stop up at the front of the trailer, and behind that put the cargo going to the first stop. Thus, the warehouse people at the first stop would get their stuff off and stop once they saw that the remaining cargo wasn’t theirs. They would then count up the number of pallets and boxes and such and conclude that they had received everything and all would be well.

The way my trailer was loaded in Dallas was to put a bit of the first load up in the front of the trailer, followed by the entire second stop, then filled up with the rest of the first stop. The warehouse people at my first stop had a cow thinking they were shorted until they decided to pull off the rest of the cargo at which point they found their last two pallets right up in the nose of the trailer. I got dirty looks, the parentage of the shipping warehouse workers was questioned, dogs slept with cats and the like.

Finally all that was straightened out and I headed to Nicholasville, Kentucky for the last drop. This is a po-dunk town just south of Lexington, Kentucky with no freaking parking, beyond some short term street parking near my consignee. Which was great, except my 14 hours ended on their dock and I had no place to park for my 10-hour break.

At least our dispatch had told me my next load would be in Louisville, Kentucky so I headed that way, checking every off ramp and truck stop for parking. Nothing, nada, zip, zilch. I had almost made it to Louisville and there was one more place to check: the Pilot in Simpsonville. Now, the odds that a Pilot will have an open parking spot way past midnight in Kentucky on a weekday? Better chance of me knocking boots with (insert favorite sex icon here; preferably female).

Wouldn’t you know it, there was not only one parking spot available but it was an easy one to get into, as someone had departed just as I arrived. There is hope left after all.

Running bored

Yes, I made it to OKC (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) on the fuel in my tanks and took on some more to get me to Sherman, Texas. I should have filled up, and would have knowing that every single scale from Nebraska to Texas that I crossed was closed. Ah well.

My Trucker’s fuel stop pocket guide called the little woebegone truck stop in town the “Sheman” truck center but it did serve as a good place to sleep.

In the morning, a new dispatch down to Dallas to pick up a load of candy heading first to Chattanooga, Tennessee then on to someplace called Nicholasville, Kentucky. I made it as far as Shreveport, Louisiana before shutting down, mostly because the load doesn’t deliver until Wednesday.

Easy day out to York

I like the kind of day where I can just decide to drive some, rest some, get something to eat, maybe grab a load and go on a bit further. You know, like today.

The Powers That Be decided I should deadhead about 310 miles back into Nebraska to Lexington to pick up a load from Tyson going to a different Tyson plant in Sherman, Texas. It was ready to go and I can deliver any time before 0830 Monday morning. Sweet.

I took my time getting to the pickup. Got some food made, took a nap, stopped a few times to stretch and scratch and even took the initiative to fill up my fridge and pantry at that very nice truck-friendly Walmart in Lexington.

The load was a bit of a bummer, being so nose heavy that even with less than half a tank of fuel I was at 33,900 on my drives and only 32,000 or so on the tandems, with the tandems all the way forward. No way to change it around since I was legal, so I headed off to the east, stopping in York, Nebraska for the night.

My tanks are down to 1/4 and I’m planning on putting on about 100 gallons at OKC… hope I have enough to make it.

Another broken load

By the time I had picked up the load heading to Shelby, Iowa there was already a note sent to me to expect to swap it for a different load in Des Moines. Odd, since Shelby is about a hundred miles past and I had the time to deliver it and cruise back to Des Moines, but I’m paid to drive not dispatch.

As the day wore on the details emerged: head in to Fedex in Des Moines to drop my full trailer and in the morning pick up a load heading to Denver. Now, that isn’t a bad load at 650 miles and Fedex tends to be in the 20,000-35,000 lb range so I wasn’t upset.

Yesterday morning I began the long journey out to Colorado with about 36,000 in the box. What really killed my MPG was a stiff wind hitting my truck almost squarely head-on, though I still managed 7.0 by the trip computer. A couple short stops to take care of business and a longish one in Big Springs to get a shower and a steak made me near the 2000 drop deadline for the load, but it was there on schedule. I spent last night on a nearby street with three other HB trucks and an envious Swift driver who didn’t have an APU, and the smaller cab 670 model Volvo as well.

No pickup number and no load

The brain trust at HQ let me know the following morning that whatever load they were looking at didn’t exist, or something like that. This was followed by a question about me taking a load from Fayetteville down to Houston that turned out to be rhetorical since that load ceased to exist as well.

Finally it was decided I would head south to Russellville, Arkansas to pick up a preloaded trailer from the previous day and head to Rochelle, Illinois. This was news to ConAgra, since the preloaded trailer from the previous day was just being loaded in a door when I arrived some four hours after being dispatched.

It was sealed up and ready to go about 30 minutes later and I picked up the paperwork and the trailer. 44,424 pounds of goodness. Ninth hole on the tandems put me at 12,000, 33,500 and 33,900 so I was good to go in one shot.

I didn’t get much further yesterday, just to West Memphis, Arkansas. There is a truck parking area just north of the I-55 split off of I-40 that normally has room and there was plenty around 2030 when I arrived.

This morning it was up early and out on the road as soon as my log would allow. A quick stop in Hayti, Missouri for fuel (average diesel price is over $3.00 per gallon again, praise jeebus!) and to top off the reefer was complicated by long lines at the men’s bathroom. What kind of unfair world is this when that kind of thing doesn’t only happen to women?

Another stop in Mt Vernon, Illinois for some food (Chili’s Express all-you-can eat soup and salad lunch is the bomb! Includes chips and salsa!) and a few supplies from Walmart and I departed to finish the last 300 miles up to Rochelle.

Somehow the One True weather god has decided that Chicago is going back to winter, as it was 42 degrees and windy as heck when I arrived. Dummy me, I left my coat at the house since I didn’t figure I would be needing it until the fall.

Tomorrow’s load is lined up: in towards Chicago to pick up some stuff going to Menards in Shelby, Iowa.

We have a load and no pickup number

So I speak to the dispatcher today. Seems they have a load picking up in Carthage at AmeriCold heading to Moberly, Missouri for WalMart. Just got the details via EDI (Electronic Data Interchange I think; a system to link various legacy systems together into kind of a retarded internet) and I’m the man on the spot.

This load is so super secret when I arrive in Carthage even the AmeriCold people can’t find it in their system. This is a bummer since I can’t get an electronic gate pass to park on their property without the pickup number, so I have to turn around and retreat to a small truckstop nearby.

The funny thing is, I know how many pieces are in the load, how much they weigh, when and where and to whom it delivers but not that magic pickup number.

Ah, trucking.

East, West, South, North, Home

I’ve been a bad blogger of late, missing my regular posting. Since my last update I went from Omaha east to Geneva, Illinois then picked up a load in Chicago heading back to Omaha. From there, south to Russellville, Arkansas, then to Pittsburg, Kansas and back to Omaha. Finally, I got a load heading to Georgia that I t-called at our yard in Kansas City before heading home.

I’ll be away until Tuesday so I hope everyone has a great weekend and fun times with eggs and such.