Trucker; Life On The Road – Part One
After my training at Swift Driving Academy in Lewiston, ID and my six weeks of over the road training, I got my first truck and was cleared as a solo driver. Following is an account, taken from emails home to friends and family, of my first few weeks of long haul trucking around the country.
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When I returned to the Sumner terminal from my six weeks on the road and passed my tests, my new driver manager offered me a 2009 Volvo 630, but I had to take it right then and go to work. As tempting as that was, I said, “nope, I gotsta go see my peeps”. I had a lovely Christmas week with my friends in Lynden and Birch Bay; it was nice to have the time off and it was so relaxing and great to see everyone. You guys, you know who you are, you’re way too good to me.
I got a call on Christmas eve from my buddy Steve who had gotten his truck and was on the road; I think he said he was in Nebraska or some such. I congratulated him for passing everything and I asked what equipment he was driving and he said a 2009 Volvo. Oh Dang, he got my truck. Oh well. I’ll just roll with it and see what happens.
I got a call from my driver manager early last week, he said he had a truck for me and that I should come on in. I got there on Tuesday at noon and found him and he handed me a set of keys and off I went to hunt it down. I finally found my 2008 Volvo 670, which is the same model that Ernie, my first mentor has. Kinda small, but I had it all to myself. It had a little over 213,000 miles on it. It was in fairly good shape at first glance. It was then I realized that the 630, the model that was first offered me, and that Steve got, is even smaller. It’s actually designed for one person whereas the 670 is designed for two; so then.
Someone had made a half assed effort to clean it up, so I got my cleaning supplies out of my car and started making the other half assed effort and detailed it pretty well. I then started my inspection, in the rain, and noticed some things missing like the oil filler cap, load locks, etc. so I visited the parts department and stocked up on several things like the above and some more. My inspection revealed some items that needed repairing so I arranged to get it in the shop the next day. I started moving in that night, in the rain, and made up my bed which turned out to be quite comfy. I lowered the upper bunk and am using that for storage of a few things including my Trikke; yea! Got my fridge from WalMart all set up and stocked it and a cupboard with food. I ran the fridge during the night as well as the Webasco heater (an alternate heater so I don’t have to idle the engine). I wanted to see how well the batteries held up. We were able to run the services pretty much all night in Ernie’s truck with no problem. Well, in my truck… problem. I got up in the morning and the engine wouldn’t start. Not a good way to start my first day. I sauntered over to the shop and, with hands in pocket and head hung low, I sheepishly asked if they had a portable jump battery as I kicked an imaginary rock on the floor. The guy grinned and he drove over a bank of batteries on a small trailer and got me going again. Pretty awesome.
After moving some more stuff in, in the rain, I drove it over to the shop and then I had nothing to do till I got my truck back. So, I went to Walmart, one of many trips, and I went to a movie.
Got my truck back late afternoon and kept working on it, in the rain, and getting my gear stowed. It was much like settling in to my sailboat, in the rain. Interesting I thought. The next morning, just a few last minute items to tend to and I saved the chains till last cause that was going to be a dirty job. I took all my chains and laid them out on the ground, in the rain, and inspected them and I had two sets of duals and one single. Well, that wouldn’t do. I asked the shop foreman for more chains and he said they were all out. So, we built one set from scraps of others and I swiped the rest from another truck that had just arrived. Four duals and five singles now. One does what one must do I reckon. So, I declared my truck and myself road ready and I got my DM to do his check out of the truck. He apologized for not getting with me over the last couple of days as he was swamped and apparently, he had no idea that I had already done all this stuff. He was quite surprised actually. Anyway, he agreed, it was road ready and I was made available in the system for loads.
Got a call from Steve and he said he had been having problems with his truck. A couple of electrical problems and the webasco heater doesn’t work very well and it was below 0 where he was. The truck is so small he said. Because Steve is a big guy, he can’t even stretch out in his bed he said. I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t get that truck although I do feel bad for him.
I was walking back to my car to put it in the driver’s parking lot and I heard a voice in the distance calling my name. I turned and it was Corey, my bud from school. It had been a long time and it was great to see him. We went out for Chinese food and had a nice meal together and got all caught up. He’s doing well.
That evening (Thursday, I think), I waited for the Qualcom to beep with a preplan for me. Nothing. So I went to bed. Then, at midnight, the preplan came through. Two loads actually, the first was a pickup in Kent, WA and deliver to Tigard, OR and the next was a pickup in Albany, OR and deliver to Great Falls, MT. Cool. The pick up in Kent was for 7 AM New Year’s Day, so I went searching for an empty trailer, in the rain, and after an hour, found one and hooked up, in the rain. Then I went to bed, in the… wait, what? That incessant rain finally let up.
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The pickup in Kent was only 16 miles away, but I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time in case anything went wrong so I got up at 5am. I finally got a break from this incessant rain. Oh man. I got to the customer about 20 minutes early and the place was dark and locked up tight. OK, I’ll wait, someone will show up. Won’t they? Lesee, New Year’s morning, hmmmm. No one showed up. There was one Swift truck backed in to a loading bay and I could just wedge my head in between enough to see that it was full. I figured that was my trailer, but we can’t just start hooking up to trailers at a customer site without permission, even though they are ours. So, I called it in and the planners tried to reach the customer to no avail. Finally, they cancelled the load and assigned me to another. Just as I was leaving, I got a message to take the trailer if I could find the paperwork. So, I dropped the empty trailer and hooked up to the loaded one which only took a really long time because the landing gear had sunk down into the asphalt so the front of the trailer was so low. I lowered the truck suspension, but still couldn’t get my tires under the front of the trailer. I had to jack up the trailer as far as it would go and that was a work out and time consuming. I finally got the truck under it, just barely, and hooked it and pulled it away from the dock and found the paper work in the back between some boxes. How about that?
So, off I went, with a two and half hour late start, which would of course make me late for the delivery. The drive went well and I was only one hour late, but the company had informed them of what happened and they were pretty nice. The loading dock was accessed from a weird circular parking lot, I had to come in, do a U turn and put my nose into the dock of another store, then do a blind side 45 degree back. Wow. But I did it, much to my surprise, and it only took two pull ups, one because I forgot to open the trailer doors, silly me. They got me unloaded and off I went to spend the night at a truck stop a little further south and I got up the next morning to pick up the next load in Albany which went smoothly but I forgot to send my loaded call (just a message on the qualcom saying I have the load). It’s not something I can do later because it synchronizes with your current position and if I’m not at the actual location, it doesn’t work. Geez, all these little things. I called it in and they fixed it. I just felt silly though.
The load was going to a Target store in Great Falls, MT. Luckily, I didn’t have to cross Snoqualmie Pass in Washington, because I heard chains are required there. I got to go through the Columbia River Gorge between Oregon and Washington, north through eastern Washington, through Idaho, and into Montana. I did have to cross Lookout Pass in Idaho and the continental divide at Rogers Pass in Montana though. Both were yuckie; snow and an ice, I didn’t have to chain but I had to go real slow. I spent the night at a rest stop near the summit of Lookout Pass. It was a veritable winder wonderland. Quite nice at night actually.
I made it to Great Falls and found the Target store and got there two hours early and the receiver guy was very grateful because he said he gets to go home early now, so that was cool. This store had three bays. One had a Target trailer, another had an empty swift trailer and the other bay was unoccupied. He asked me if I could pull the empty away and put my loaded trailer where it is. Being all about customer service as I am, I said of course, I’d be happy to do that, all the time wondering, what the hell? Why not just put my loaded trailer in the empty bay and then pull the empty trailer and go? But noooooo, he wants me to drop the loaded trailer, hook the empty and pull it away, drop the empty, go back and hook the loaded trailer and put it where the empty was, drop it, and then go hook the empty, again, and take it away. Oh well. When he broke the seal on the doors of the loaded trailer and I opened the doors, I was shocked, shocked I tell you, to see one measly lone pallet of stuff way at the front of the trailer. “That’s it”? I exclaimed. “Yep, that’s it” he said. Then he said if I just back up to the dock really hard and then brake hard, he probably wouldn’t have to bring his guys in the next morning to unload it. I laughed, but I kinda sorta considered it. One measly pallet. Holy cow.
Spent the night at a truck stop and got a new load assignment to deadhead back to Missoula and pick up a load and take it Fresno, CA. So far this load has been fraught with perils. I’ve made it to Bend, OR so far. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
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Last time, on Life On the Road… hauled one pallet to Montana, headed to Fresno, fraught with perils, blah, blah, blah.
So, I’m in Bend Oregon now. My route here brought me over I 90 W back across the Continental Divide and Lookout Pass, through the snow and ice. Still didn’t have to chain though, but it was slow going.
As I was just connecting to I 84 E from I 82 S, to head to Ontario, OR (my next fuel stop), I realized I didn’t have enough fuel to get to Ontario, so I called in and told them I needed a fuel stop in Hermiston, OR, which they gave me and I fueled up just fine and set out on my way to Ontario again. I kept having this funny feeling though, so I pulled over, about 35 miles down the road, and checked my fuel route again. Sure enough, the whole route changed. Instead of going west to Ontario on I 84, it routed me east on 84 to pick up US 97 S. So, I turned around and got back on track. Just wasted 70 miles and the time to drive it, and the fuel. I’m learning though. US 97 S was quite an enjoyable drive. It runs south on the east side of Mount Hood and goes through central Oregon, in the high desert. I drove as long as my hours permitted, and decided to stop at Gordy’s Truck Stop for the night.
I kept an eye out and finally it came into view, but somehow, I missed the entrance. I really hate that. Here’s why. Turning around in a truck isn’t that easy. I headed on down the road a bit, looking for a major road to turn on, found one, took it, then started looking for another, found one took it, only it turned out to be not so major. It was still OK, though. Alright, just two more turns now, that’s all I needed. Keep in mind, it’s dark, really dark. I found another road and started my turn and when I was almost all the way turned, I’m running on a dirt road. Dirt road with really big pot holes. And lots of snow and slush and trees. Oh man, now what have I done. I had to push forward a bit to get my ass end of the trailer off the last road. I couldn’t just back out onto that road either, that’s a no no.
I pulled forward a bit, at about 1 mile an hour and saw a pull out on my right. I pulled past it and figured I’d just back the trailer into it and then I’d head back out to the last road. Yep, that’s what I figured. As I’m doing this, I’m imagining that the pull out is probably really some swamp or other such evil incarnation that I would never get out of. As I’m backing, I see headlights behind me and so I stop and get out to go talk to them to let them know what insanity I’m attempting. As I stepped out, I sunk into slush right up to my knees. The whole walk to the rear of the trailer was in slush right up to my knees. I talked to a nice couple in their SUV who were headed home in this neighborhood. They advised me to keep going forward. Apparently, there’s a guy in the neighborhood that drives a big rig and he navigates it OK and there was one way out up ahead. So, I pulled up and straightened out to let them pass and they led me to the turn that would take me out. That was quite nice of them. I did have to go about 1 mile an hour though and guess what, it took me about an hour to get out. But I got out and found my way back to the highway going the other way and made my way to Gordy’s and got parked. What an ordeal. That’s why I hate missing turns.
So, my load was going to Fresno, but I was going to get there way ahead of time. I asked if I could just drop the load at our Lathrop, CA terminal and they said no. So, I spent the next night at the Lathrop terminal and got up early and went for a Trikke ride. The roads around here are nice and wide with big no parking lanes on either side. They didn’t say no Trikking so… I got back to terminal and it got a lot of attention and questions. Man, I wish I could sell these things. Later in the day, I mozzied on down the road for a couple of hours and stopped at a Pilot Truck stop within a half hour of my destination. Delivery was at 6:00am the next morning, so I just relaxed and did a little house keeping. I delivered the load just fine and got a new preplan to pick up a load here in Fresno and take it back to Sumner, WA. I had to pick up the load that night at 10:00 and it was after midnight before I got out of there and on my way. I was only able to drive for a couple of hours before I had to stop for an hour to sleep. A little farther down the road, I got an interesting call on the CB. “Hey Swift, got your ears on?” “Yup”, said I. “Hey, you got no lights on your trailer, no tail lights, no markers, nuttin”. I told him I appreciated the heads up and I pulled over to investigate. Sure enough. I figured out that the electrical pigtail between the tractor and the trailer was trashed. Not my night. Or was it? I vaguely remembered a spare pigtail in my bag of goodies in the tool compartment. Found it, installed it in short order and jury rigged a support mechanism, and I was on my way. Sweet.
This trip was hard to plan because of my available hours. You see, when I go on duty, doing whatever – driving, pre-tripping, fueling, anything – it starts a 14 hour clock. Within that 14 hours, I can drive for up to 11 hours. Once that 14/11 hours are done or once I just stop for the day, I can’t drive again until I have 10 hours off duty or in the sleeper. But, there’s another rule, the 70 hour rule. I can’t work more than 70 hours in an eight day period. To get everything zeroed out again, one must take a 34 break, the 34 hour reset it’s called. But, there’s a catch. We are only legally required to have logs for the current day plus the past seven. So… each day, the hours worked eight days ago, rolls off the 70 hour clock, thereby freeing up more hours. This can be good or bad depending how many hours you worked that day. Now, knowing all that, here’s the thing. My delivery is at 3:00am at the Costco distribution center in Sumner, WA. My first day, I only had 4 hours available to me to drive/work. The next day, I had 12, so that was good. But the third and final day, I had only 3.5 available. So, I had to make sure I was within 3 hours of my destination on the final day, also making sure that I was able to drive, meaning that I had a 10 hour break prior. Which meant I had to use up all my available hours on the second day but I had to be finished by 3:00 pm to allow a 10 hour break, and I had to stop at a safe spot. I got to my safe spot a couple of hours south of Sumner at 2:45 and then was able to start driving again at 12:45 the next morning and I made it to the destination with a few minutes to spare. I was so surprised. But hey, I did it.
I figured I’d take the 34 restart then so I don’t have to deal with that hassle on my next couple of loads. I’d be in Sumner and I’ll have my car so… Well, I got a new preplan and since I’ll be all squeaky clean hours wise, I got a sweet run. A pick up locally and a 3,200 mile run to Doral, FL. It’s gotta be there in six days though, so no time for dawdling and I’ll have a lot of night driving. I spent quite a bit of time last night redoing the electrical pigtail and did a right and proper support for it and some housekeeping, laundry, etc. and came back to the hotel.
It’s funny how obsessive sometimes I get about some things. On my dash, there are gobs of switches and even more gobs of places for switches. To the right, there are four rows of switches or switch places. Where there’s no switch, there’s a flat plastic blank to fill the hole. The places for switches are grouped. So, there’s a group of four, two up and two down. Then there’s a group of six and another group of five. Anyway, it really bugs me see. A group of six, way over at the right has four switches and two blanks, but the group of four to its left has one switch and three blanks. Why didn’t they just put that one switch over with the other group? What the heck? There’s three of these groupings that bug me. I have this nice spot for my GPS, but there’s one switch in the way. I started to wonder what it would take to relocate that switch.
Well, I fiddled with the dash a little and wondered if I could pry this thing off. I stuck a screwdriver in there and voila, it popped right off. Then I went after another panel and then another and I was able to get my hand in behind some of the switches and then figured out how to get them out. One thing led to another and before long, I had the whole dash ripped apart, panels and switches and blanks and screws all over the place. People walking by must have thought I was nuts. But I got the switches relocated and everything put back together and only had one part left over. Not sure what it is. Hmmmm. Anyway, I freed up some valuable dash real estate. I have nice spots for my GPS and my iPhone now and for my satellite radio when I get one.
So, I’m here at the hotel, it’s 9:00am, I’m gonna get another long hot tub soak in and head back to the terminal, board the truck and go to bed. I have to sleep as much as I can because my pick up is at 5:00 and I’ll be driving all night. Hey, did you know that there’s a difference between a Freeway and a Highway? A freeway is free of access other than on and off ramps. A highway has other access such as roads, they may have intersections and even private or commercial driveways. Interstates are freeways as are some US routes. Some US routes and most state routes are highways though. I thought that was interesting.
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So, a 3200 mile run to South Florida. Wow. This is considered a dream run by most. I bumped into Ernie, my first mentor, and Dawn who did my orientation. Ernie gave me some ideas how to handle this load as did Dawn who used to drive as well. Dawn said she’s never seen a solo company driver get a run this long. She also said she’s never seen a solo company driver get a high value load either, those are usually given to teams. And, the fact that I’m a brand new driver; she just shook her head. “OK, well now I’m scared” I said, she said “don’t worry about it, just have fun”. Hmmmm.
What is it about the pouring rain ruining my trip get ready? Geez. Not off to a good start. I set out at 3:00pm to go get my load and as I was driving my left hand rummaged around in the little document pouch/slot thingy on my door, just making sure things were there. Flashlight check, gloves checks, vice grips check, enforcer lock… uh oh. The enforcer lock is a super heavy duty pad lock for the trailer doors, they cost about 80 bucks. We’re supposed to put it on every load but hardly anyone ever does. But on this high value load, it is a must. My heart skipped a couple of beats as I imagined where my lock might be as I continued to search every nook and cranny of that door pouch. I imagined that I left it on the trailer doors of the trailer I dropped at Costco night before last. If I did, well, that’s bad enough. Even worse, I don’t have a lock for this new trailer and they are hard to come by. I called my driver manager and said “Doh!” He said go to Costco and see. So, I got turned around and then, all of sudden, my hand felt what must be the lock, but it was stuck. I finally got it out and then had to get myself turned around again. Whew, tragedy averted.
I got to the shipper (I can’t say the name, cause it’s a big secret see), and dropped my empty and found the loaded trailer OK. It’s only a 23,000 pound load so that should be a nice ride. The pick up went smoothly and I was off. There are extra precautions I must take when hauling a high value load, which I can’t discuss, but, I made it to Spokane about 10:00 OK and stopped for a break, which turned into an all night sleep. I just couldn’t go on. This is gonna trash my schedule I’m sure.
I reviewed my route and schedule the next morning and I’m pretty worried I’m gonna miss my delivery time. I hope I’m just miscalculating something. Headed out first thing in the morning through Coeur d’Alene and across the mountain passes of Idaho and Montana. The passes were typical; snowy and icy. Stopped for the night in eastern Montana and made it the next day to eastern South Dakota. A lot of snow on the ground, but the roads were clear. It was an awesome drive through Wyoming and South Dakota; sun shiny day with temps ranging from 9 to 60; wild. You know, there are lots of cool things and places in South Dakota. Ya got your Sturgis – home of the motorcycle rally, Mount Rushmore, Deadwood, Wall Drug, Devil’s Tower (might be WY, I forget), Black Hills, the Corn Palace, etc. Yep.
Last week, in California, near my delivery there, the streets were named Southwest St, North St., etc. Then there was North Southwest St, and East North St. and holy cow it got confusing. Way to go Fresno, what the heck were you thinking? On this trip, I drove through the Crazy Mountains, I crossed Crazy Woman Creek and I’m going to fuel up in Yeehaw Junction in Florida. I was driving north on I5 last week, in Oregon I think, and I saw the strangest sight. The road was elevated and off to my right and below me was a valley. Mostly dried grass, some of it with a light cover of snow. There was small patch where a couple of horses stood and this patch had a bit of standing water. Not deep mind you, just a couple of inches I’m guessing. But, it was glass smooth and the sunlight shone on it just right. One horse was just standing there and the other was munching on one of a few tufts of grass sticking up from the water. It was so strange looking, sort of angelic. It looked like the horses were standing on water. They were like… horse… angels… or something. Hmmm.
I made it almost to St. Louis where I spent the night. Even worse than the Idaho and Montana weather, was the weather in Iowa and Missouri. I had to stop almost every hour to break the ice off the mirrors. And oh so cold it was. I stopped at the Edwardsville, MO Swift Terminal for fuel and the place was all iced up. Left at 2:30 am and made it through St. Louis OK and headed east and south arriving in Atlanta at 2:30 pm today (Sat). I think I’ll make my delivery. I’ve got a full day tomorrow and about eight hours available to me on Monday morning (starting at midnight) to get the load there. My delivery time is between 2:00am and 8:00am.
Stopped in Atlanta for the night at a Petro Truck stop. As I entered the lot, I drove up to a security gate where I was issued a parking pass. I went on in and noticed heavy duty barbed wire fences all around me. The place really felt like a prison. I guess it’s to keep the drug dealers and hookers out though. The last time I stopped in Atlanta, we were at a Pilot that was unsecured and the dealers walked up and down the sidewalk and the hookers, called lot lizards, were so bold as to knock on the doors asking if we want a date. OK, well, no thank you. After getting parked and settled in for the night, I listened to the CB for awhile. Along the road, it’s usually pretty quiet, but at the truck stops, it comes alive. Especially in Atlanta. Some sports chat, but mostly lonely guys trolling for companionship. I’m very quiet cause I know as soon as they hear a female voice, well. One poor female newcomer to the lot said something on the radio and man, they pounced on her. Oh well.
I talked to my neighbor Barb today and she’s in Florida and will be driving from Tampa north on I75 to Ocala in the morning. I’ll be driving south on I75 as well, so we’ll see if we can hook up somewhere. Once I drop my load in Doral, I hope I’ll have some time to visit my Aunt and Uncle in Miami before I have to head out. We’ll see.
Sunday: I headed south early this morning and made a rest stop in Unadilla, GA for few minutes right at dawn. It was a balmy 62 degrees with a slight breeze and birds were chirping. Hmph, I hadn’t heard that for awhile, it was nice. I moved on and hit the Florida border as the sun was getting a little higher In the sky. Now, I used to live in Florida for several years and never really cared for it and surprisingly, I felt a little anxious. Good anxious. I had butterflies at the thought of “coming home”. Familiar sights and smells. Moss hanging from the trees, pine needles littering the ground, the moistness in the air. Yeah, it was kind of neat. The sun rose a little higher, as did the temperature; 72 now. Other thoughts began creeping into my mind; heat, humidity, flatness, palmetto bugs (cockroaches), sunburns, etc. 82 degrees now. Ok, well the feeling was nice while it lasted.
Called Barb and she headed north from Tampa and we actually hooked up at a truck stop near Ocala; perfect timing. We had a short but nice visit. She came out to the truck and I got to say “that’s my tru-uck”. I don’t know why I find that so amusing. Oh well. I am starting to think I might actually get this load delivered on time. After my visit, I continued on south and across the state on the Florida turnpike, my buddy Doug in Bellingham helping me out with a little on the spot navigation. Thanks Doug. I got to within 45 miles of my destination when I ran out of hours. I stopped for the night at a service plaza in the middle of the turnpike. Got up at 3:00 and left at 4 and took the load on in delivering well within my window and all went well. Wow, a 3200+ mile run, the dream run. Feels good. But, 109 degrees my outside temp gauge reads. Doh!
After finding a truck stop and getting parked, I called my Aunt and Uncle here in Miami and they came to get me for a visit of unknown duration, since I don’t when a new load assignment comes. They brought with them their little grandson, my cousin, Vincent and he really wanted to see my truck, so dog gone it, we showed him my truck. He got behind the wheel and seemed to have a ball. After a nice lunch out, we headed back to the house and as cute as Vincent is, I got a bigger kick out of watching grampa dote all over him. I’ve never seen anything like it and I don’t know how he does it or how he keeps up with the cooking and trekking through the jungles (the shrubs and landscaping around the house), delving into the mysteries of a tangerine tree, and everything else. Good on ya Uncle.
So, we’re at the house now, waiting for Vincent’s parents to get off work to come over and we’ll all go out for dinner. I hope. Not sure if I’ll be able to spend the night or not, cause, you know. Oh, my phone just beeped, oh it’s a new preplan… South Bay to Jacksonville, FL…. Pick up tomorrow (19th), delivery on the 20th… Cool.
And so it goes.
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Amarillo by Morning… as the song says. I‘ve been waiting to say that. But first…
I had a lovely visit with my family in Miami and we all went out to dinner. It was so awesome to see my cousin Sarah, whom I hadn’t seen for 20+ years and I got to meet her husband Frank, finally. I got a night time tour of Miami including South Beach; wow, that’s some place. Of course, the current happening is the influx of Haitian refugees and injured from the earthquake, so my heart goes out to them. As if Haiti needed something like this; jeepers. Uncle drove me back to my truck in the morning and I started making preparations to get under way. The parking lot had turned into a little … oh…I don’t know what. It was a couple opposing rows of trucks, it was sunny and warm, some drivers were sitting in fold up chairs in front of their trucks sunbathing, a couple had a barbeque going and truckers were just milling around enjoying each other and their time off. It was a little impromptu community of sorts. After a chat with some, I did my pre trip and got going.
I headed out, skirting the edge of the Everglades, to South Bay Florida for a live load where I found myself in a line of trucks a little over a half mile long. I walked the distance to the shipping office, talking with several other drivers along the way, and got checked in. Back to the truck and I waited almost five hours for my call on the CB. I was at a processing plant in the middle of sugar cane fields. It was a gorgeous day, with a perfect breeze coming through the truck, so I read some, wrote some, made lunch, and just enjoyed my surroundings with the occasional whiff of manure used to fertilize the cane. Yeah, I coulda done without that last one. Finally got loaded and got on my way to Jacksonville where I spent the night at a small truck stop and got solicited by a pimp asking me if I wanted company. Just out there in the open, he was going from truck to truck and his girls were sitting in a car backed into a truck parking spot, which angered the truckers to no end, I presume because he was taking up a valuable spot. He got shewed away as did his girls, no one seemed interested.
I made my delivery the next morning OK and then got another one right there in Jacksonville destined for somewhere in South Carolina. It was a drop and hook and the stated weight was around 40 some thousand pounds, which is near max, so I had to hunt up a scale where I could get a certified weight ticket. Problem is, there are no scales in or around Jacksonville. I had a choice of one about 35 miles west on I10 or one just inside Georgia on my route. I chose Georgia. Big mistake. There’s a weigh station just before the border that I didn’t know about, but luckily I got a pass (a little green light on my transponder) and I drove on by the weigh station. Whew. Ah but wait. I get to the scale and my gross weight was OK but the balance was all wrong. Too much weight on my drive axles and I couldn’t adjust for it because my tandems were already slid all the way forward, meaning I couldn’t shift any weight from the drive axles to the trailer axles. So, I had to go back to the shipper to get them to reload the trailer. Problem; there’s no way I’d get a pass at the weigh station on the return trip. Oh man, what a dilemma. So, I had a look at the maps and worked out a route on side roads hoping to avoid the weigh station and off I went. I came to the Florida border and the river crossing and into Florida I went, almost 15 miles on these roads till I was well past the weigh station on I95 and then as I made my way to the interstate… Weigh Station Ahead. Oh No… They got me. Didn’t have a choice, so onto the scales I went, and off, and I got a green light. Whoa, wait what? Someone must be asleep in there and I didn’t wait around, so I went. Man did I get lucky. The luck didn’t last long though.
I got back to the shipper and they re loaded the trailer and off I went to the scales that were 35 miles out of the way. I scaled it and it was still all wrong, the other way now though. At this point, it was raining very hard. It was a good ole fashioned eastern thunder and lighting storm. The wind kicked up and tornado warnings were in affect. I was able to adjust the tandems this time, after three tries, to get it into compliance, getting drenched in the process. At this point though, I was almost six hours behind schedule, so I got going. After a close lighting strike in front of me that blinded and deafened me for a couple seconds, I drove wet all the way to South Carolina and got that load there on time. I headed on to a nearby truck stop for the night, where I had my first accident.
While backing into a slot, my right rear drive wheel bumped another truck’s front right bumper. Dang. The police came and did their whole thing that took about four hours. Turns out that it was so minor that the other guy’s insurance company didn’t even want to pursue a claim with mine. But, now I have a record. Dang. That just urks me.
I shook it off and hit the road in the morning for a Miller/Coors brewery near Shenandoah National Park in Virginia after picking up a new load in North Carolina. After dropping that load I headed straight to Covington, VA to pick up another load and then I ran out of hours so I spent the night in the drop yard with a bunch of trailers. Oh well, but I’m pretty self sufficient. As I reviewed my route to Chicago in the morning, I went nuts. It took me along the West Virginia Turnpike to Charleston where I catch US35 across the Ohio River at Galopolis, and north through Jackson to Chillicothe, my home town, where I get US23 to Columbus, then east on I70. Oh man, it was so frustrating. I hadn’t been home for 10 years or more and I had to drive right by it because I didn’t have time to stop. That was tough. I got all excited as I approached the river. With butterflies in my belly, I crossed the bridge and came to the Welcome to Ohio sign. It felt good to be home. I called my friend Jan, I had to share the moment with someone. She probably thought I was nuts. Anyway…
Another thing that I’ve found frustrating is access to things. What I mean is … take Bob Evans for example. Bob Evans restaurants started near my home town and has expanded to many states, but not out west. I really want to go eat at Bob Evans, but I can’t get to them with my truck. I’d like to go to a Chic Filet and a Steak & Shake, but I just can’t get to them. Krispy Kreme is another one that I grew up with, of course though, that’s one I really don’t need, and they, unfortunately are in almost every truck stop. Oh well. Just north of Chillicothe, in Circleville, I passed a Pilot Truck stop, with a truck friendly Walmart nearby, a Bob Evans, a White Castle, and more, all in one place. Jackpot. But I couldn’t stop. No time. Dang.
Side note: At one of my deliveries, can’t remember which one, I arrived at 7:00am like I was supposed to, and joined the end of a long line of trucks. It didn’t move at all. I got out and walked around and found the guard shack and got back in my truck and passed all the trucks and drove up to the shack. The guard told me that the place didn’t open up till 8:00 and he turned me away. Well, that stank. But, as I was turning around, I noticed that all the other trucks had followed me in… and they were going to be turned away as well… and I was the first one back out… so, I was the first one in the new line that formed… behind me… and the first one in at 8:00. Sweet.
Back to the story. I hit Indianapolis and it hit me with a white out. So, I pulled into a truck stop for the night and made the rest of the drive to downtown Chicago the next morning. Now that was an experience. Navigating those streets is crazy. Right turns are the toughest. I had one close call. I have to use my hands to signal drivers to back up some because I need their lane. One guy was starring at me and didn’t get it, so I just started driving toward him and he got it soon enough and backed up. As I made the turn, I could see that the ass end of my trailer had the potential of clipping a parked car, so I just kept inching forward as long as I could see the slightest hint of daylight between the two. I made it with just an inch or so to spare. Anyway, I got to the warehouse and it’s one of these old buildings with docking bays right on a very narrow street. This was going to be tough. There were four other Swift drivers there though and we all got to talking. I wanted to move my tandems all the way forward to give me the most maneuverability and in the effort, one of the locking pins broke. Not only could I not move them forward, I also could not move them backward as the warehouse required. Because of the way their bays are designed, the tandems have to be put all the way back to raise the trailer enough so their forklift can get in the trailer. I told them I couldn’t do it and they said go ahead and back it in and they’ll try. I did and they did, but no go. They just couldn’t get the forklift in because the back of the trailer was too low.
So, I had to take the trailer away. I drove to Gary Indiana where we have a terminal and t-called the trailer there. I told them they needed to fix several problems on the trailer and have someone deliver it the next day and they were agreeable. On the way out of Chicago though that afternoon, I was driving down a very busy street, going very slow and came to an intersection. The light was green, but there were cars ahead of me beyond the light, not leaving me enough room to get through the intersection, so I stopped short at the green and waited for the lane ahead of me to clear, which it did. I looked up, the light was still green and so I headed on in. Part way into the intersection, the light turned yellow, then within one second, it turned red, and I’m only half way into the intersection. “OH MAN” I exclaimed, actually I think I said something else, and then I saw flashy, flashy, flashy. They took my picture. So, I have that to look forward to. Geez. Not a good week accident and violation wise. I talked to my DM about this one and he said they’d get me back to Chicago to fight it in court if need be. Lovely.
So, I didn’t get to the Amarillo part yet, but I will in the next installment. Please join me when I blow through a toll booth, get shutdown by the Oklahoma ice storm and Maggie gets a stalker.
The attached pics are my truck right after my first truck wash.