Saturday, December 7, 2013

Amish Country

In my travels I often get the chance to pass through various pockets of Amish country.  It's not at all like I had imagined it.  I always thought I would see areas where only Amish people lived, sort of a community to themselves separated from the rest of the world by their antiquated ways and customs.  It's more like there are pockets of Amish people mixed in with, perhaps, encroaching neighbors, or maybe over the years various Amish folk have sold their farms to "foreigners", people who are not sticking with the old and simple ways of the traditional Amish.  I really don't know about all this I'm just trying to explain the way it appears to me as I pass through these areas.  There is one Amish community in Ohio that I go through fairly often that is littered with oil field trucks and equipment.  Now those Amish folks have got some really nice barns and houses, and I suppose that they were financed by the mineral rights of their properties.  Imagine that, Amish folk bank rolling money from the rest of us consumers who are burning gas in our SUV's and moving freight right through their neighborhoods with our eighteen wheelers!  Life has it's comical ways of working things out sometimes.

Today I'm waking up in Plymouth IN and it's 16 degrees on a beautifully clear winter morning with some light snow flurries gracefully dancing on the breezes here at the truck stop where I slept last night.  Here is a photo of the load of Steel I picked up at a NuCor Steel mill in Wallingford CT.



This load is all concrete reinforcing wire in various forms and sizes.  My delivery papers tell me that I have two different places that I am delivering to and they have loaded me in such a way that the first stop will unload their quantity of goods without having to disturb the other portion of the load.  My first delivery is in the small town of Grabill IN which is just outside of Fort Wayne.  I've been over in this area before and remember seeing Amish buggies on the roads there, so I know I'm headed for Amish Country.  My first delivery is scheduled for Monday Dec. 9 at 8:00 am, and then my second delivery is scheduled on the south side of Chicago at 10:00 am.  That will be ridiculously hard to make that second delivery time if there is any kind of delay at the first one, plus you can always count on getting hung up in traffic in Chicago.  Murphy's law was basically discovered by truck drivers, so we have to do our best to combat it's effects.  I figure out that if I really get on with it I could get to the first place by 3:00 pm on Friday and that will give me the chance to get my 34 hour break in over the weekend, reset my 70 hour clock, still make my delivery on time in Chicago and have a fresh start on a new work week.  So while I'm steaming down the road I make some calls and get my first appointment rescheduled with a gentleman on the other end of the line who has a distinctive but unfamiliar accent.  Then I go ahead and call the second appointment just to see if I could schedule them for Saturday morning, which can't be done, but they offer to move it from 10 am to 8 am on Monday which I gratefully accept because that will make it that much easier for me to get on to something else Monday when I get unloaded.

I made it into my first delivery at Graber Farm and Building Supply at 2:30 where the first thing that catches my eye is an Amish buggy being loaded with lumber, and then I notice a small structure over to the left of the driveway that has about four buggies with horses tethered to them sitting there peacefully in the shade of the loafing shed.  I assume that is the parking area for the Amish employees working here.  And sure enough next thing I see is a fork-lift flying out of a warehouse with a bearded gentleman in a typical flat-brimmed Amish hat at the wheel.  He comes over to my truck, tells me where to park and says they will start unloading me as soon as I can get the straps off my load.  Then out of the office comes the Boss Man in a very simply tailored grey suit sporting a full Amish beard and the same hat, but this guy has a cell phone to his ear!  There are sweet looking Amish ladies, wearing their traditional head pieces and simple dresses, inside sitting at computers, and I am in culture shock at this irreconcilable conflict in my mind over what the Amish people are really like!  I visit with the gentleman whose name is James (a Bible name of course), and even ask if I can take a photo with him to send to my daughter Abigail.  But as modern as they seem they still don't want any photographs taken.  It seems that they justify using modern conveniences when it comes to making their living, but try to stick with the traditional ways of the simple life in their homes, at least that was the way with this particular group I encountered.  James seemed very soft spoken and kind as he queried me about how other places unload this stuff from my truck.  It seemed he wanted to make sure he was keeping up with the rest of the modern world in the ways that he ran his business.

It was such an interesting, but brief, encounter.  It's these little unexpected pleasures that keep this job so interesting, and of course it always makes me wish one of my children, or my dear wife,  were here to share it with.  But I do what I can to share my experiences with you here, and I hope they bring to you a little bit of the pleasure they bring to me.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Simple Redneck Pleasures

What can be more fun than going to the dump?  Well, I'll tell you the answer.  It's going to the dump in an eighteen wheeler!  Now if you've never gone to a trash dump when the weather isn't so good you don't really know about the simple pleasures of slipping and sliding all over the place in your vehicle. They generally pack the roads in the dump with clay so they will hold up to the traffic, but that also makes them very slippery (and fun, in a redneck sort of way) when it's wet.  I delivered a trash load to a very large trash dump in Amsterdam OH yesterday where they have had quite a bit of snow lately. Well, the melting snow and slush wed together with the clay roads made it interesting to say the least!

First off let me show you what these trash loads look like.  This is a load of trash from Stratford Bailing in Stratford CT.  This is called construction debris and it is bailed up tightly and enclosed in these huge green bags.  What you are looking at here is about 48,000 pounds of trash.  It doesn't smell too great but it's not near as bad as the trash loads I some times pick up in West Babylon, that is more like household trash. Here's what it looks like loaded and ready to roll across the five states it takes to get it to Amsterdam.  Isn't that a crazy way to make a living?  I went through five states today just trying to get my job done.



There's nothing like going mudding in an eighteen wheeler!  You can lock in your extra drive axle and you aren't just in four wheel drive, you're in eight wheel drive!  Oh, I'm being silly, this is some serious driving, and I saw more that one truck end up in the ditch.  Some of the trucks had to be pushed, with a bull-dozer, up the hill to the dumping site, but you'll be glad to know that I made it under my own power.  Here's a photo of the site.  If you can see the equipment up on the side of the hill that is where we had to get so we could get unloaded.



I forgot to tell you about the seagulls, or maybe they should be called dump gulls that are at both the place where they bail the trash and at the dumping site.  I guess these are gulls that have an aversion to fresh seafood or something, or else they are too lazy to make their living at the sea - I don't know, but they are always hanging about gathering bits of food from the trash that is being processed.  I always throw them a few crackers from the cab of my truck.  I don't know why, I guess I feel kind of sorry for the dumb birds, surely some little fishes from the sea would taste better than these cast off wastes from the rest of the world.  Birds and people act strangely at times, sometimes life causes us to settle for so little when there is an abundance available.  "If you seek Me, you will find Me"



As I was headed over to Amsterdam and coming through the Susquehana Valley and then through the Alleghany mountains I was wishing Abigail or mom could be here with me to enjoy the beautiful scenes along the way.  This was the area that David Brainerd labored in with the local Indian tribes.  Here's a photo of a mountain pass I went through.  I don't like to take photos while driving, but I went ahead and snapped a quick one here.



After I got this load delivered I found out I'm headed right back to Connecticut with a sheetrock load.  I'm going to have to go get my truck and my tarps washed because I don't think the people getting this sheetrock expected it to already have the mud applied to it before they hang it on the wall!  Here's what my truck looked like after I got this ordeal over with.



All in a day's work.  Fun, fun!  I guess somewhere deep inside I'm just a little bit of a Redneck!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Loneliness Goes With the Territory

I've really felt the loneliness that comes with this job lately.  I think part of it is due to the fact that I had Esther riding with me for a while.  It was such a pleasure to have her along and share with her my daily routines.  It was fun to get to show her what I do while at the same time enjoying her company as we toiled and traveled the country.  It's such a different type of job than most people ever experience.  In just the short time that Esther was with me we went from the Gulf Coast area of Texas and Louisiana all the way up into upstate New York and then down through the Smoky Mountains and back in to Deep East Texas.  I do this type of moving around so much it just starts to become routine after a while.  Another possible reason for this sudden influx of loneliness is just that I didn't go home for Thanksgiving.  I ended up taking a break parked in a bowling alley parking lot in Norwich CT.  I had completely used up my legal working hours - I had put in a little more than 70 hours in five days which kept me from being able to drive the seventy miles or so it would have taken me to get to a truck stop, so I was stuck at a local bowling alley which kindly granted me permission to park there.  I really missed my family over the holiday - you all know how much I enjoy preparing a big feast for friends and family to enjoy together.  It just wasn't the same being stranded in a vacant parking lot eating tuna and crackers knowing those you love are missing you just as much as you are missing them.  Also I've not been feeling well this week (just a nasty head cold) and I think the combination of all these things has provided me with sufficient circumstances to feel the blue-hoos lately.

The reason I'm up in the far North East parts of the country is because I pulled a high value high security load (HVHS) of copper up here from a mine in El Paso TX.  I then got a short haul load of lumber from Bloomfield CT over to a Home Depot in Monticello NY.  Now I'm back in CT where I will pick up a load of trash from Stratford CT that will propel me over to Amsterdam OH.  I don't really enjoy hauling trash, but it's not that bad.  The good thing about these trash loads is that they will generally get you over to Ohio where there is an abundance of better paying freight to all sorts of places.  In my next post I will provide a photo of my trash load, and you will see that it is nicely bagged in these huge green bags.  The trash from the particular place that I will be loading at is considered to be "construction debris" so it is not too stinky or messy.  It is usually dry trash and it is bailed up tightly by a huge trash compactor and then enclosed in these huge bags so that it doesn't get spread around as you are going down the road with it.

It's been really cold up here, but the weather has been clear for the most part.  It snowed on me a little in Monticello NY, but it wasn't too bad.  It's kind of funny because I left out of El Paso TX with this load and it's not a place known for it's severe winter weather.  But the weather down in El Paso was worse than what I've been experiencing up here in the North East.  While driving from El Paso to Midland TX I saw six eighteen wheelers in the ditches or medians - all of them jack-knifed after passing over the frozen overpasses.  There was an abundance of cars (four wheelers as the truck drivers call them) in the same situation - all of them immediately following an overpass.  So I took it slow and easy until I could get to the truck stop I was planning on spending the night at in Midland.
Once I woke in the morning I discovered they had closed the interstate that I had just traversed to get where I was.  I was fortunate to get out of there in time so I could keep moving toward my destination.  Check out this layer of ice that built up on my truck mirrors as I drove through that unusual Texas winter storm.


I kept having to stop every hour or so and break the ice off my windshield wipers because they would get so iced over that they wouldn't keep the freezing rain off my windshield.  I'm glad I pressed on to get out of there though because as I said I may have been stuck there for a lengthy and unnecessary stay.

I'm hoping I can get loaded early in the morning and make some good time on my way to Ohio, I'll let you know tomorrow about how that goes.  I'm looking forward to getting home for Christmas, until then you are all in my prayers and my hearts warmest affections.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Day ten continued and the end of my days with Esther along for the ride.



I'm gonna finish this by sharing with you why I chose to be flat-bedder.

It's kind of a long history of my situations and circumstances in life, but as many of you know I am retired from one industry in which I was, for a long time, self-employed in the electrical sign business. With the economy being as it has been for the past eight or so years I simply needed to do something else at this point in my life. I had dealt with truck drivers in my business all through the years and always found the flat-bed drivers to be the friendliest, most courteous, and most helpful drivers we ever had to deal with. This is not a jab at the other drivers, it's just the way it was. I still remember a very nice Conway driver we had bringing and delivering stuff in a dry van for us, but he was an exception to the rule. Also I've always enjoyed physical work outdoors with my hands. Even though I was the boss, I was a very "hands on" manager. If my employees needed to training or certification in their jobs I always made sure I met those same qualifications. Consequently I am a Certified welder, certified crane operator, and a licensed master electrician.

I also owned big trucks of my own for my business. We had crane trucks, and other various large pieces of equipment to enable ourselves to meet the needs of our customers. I was already familiar with load securement practices because we hauled large signs and pipes around on our own flat-bed straight trucks or trailers. My familiarity with the drivers and the practices of the flat-bed business made it an easy transition for me to go in that direction, and my love of working with my hands and being outdoors all had an influence on this decision.

I enjoy the daily variations in this job. Some days I'm outdoors, other days I'm just driving, some days I get a little of both. Some days it's not always fun, but it is always challenging. For me that is what makes life and working enjoyable. I need to be challenged each day, I want to try my best and accomplish something each day. Flat-bedding allows me to overcome obstacles every day, and I find that type of job to be personally rewarding. I may just sound like a nut to some of you, but that doesn't bother me. I know who I am, and I enjoy this type of work. I'm not going to get rich doing this and I know that, but if I don't have a challenge in my daily work I will be bored and unsatisfied. Being satisfied at the end of the day that I did my best to help American industries and citizens get the things they needed to keep producing and being innovative is a reward that cannot be measured.

I'm an American truck driver who happens to enjoy being a flat-bedder, and because of that I can sleep very well at night.

Day ten



We get into our destination and everything goes smoothly getting our load of paper rolls delivered. There's quite a few other drivers and trucks from my company there getting unloaded and I stop and chat with a few of them. I enjoy getting to meet the other drivers and can quickly recognize which ones get it and which ones don't. One was a "super trucker" complaining to me how slow one of the other drivers was about getting his load ready to be unloaded, another was quiet and unassuming. I went over to meet the fellow that "super trucker" was griping about, and found out that he was only on his third solo delivery. I talked with him a few moments to encourage him and see if there was any thing I could help him with. He was really almost finished and rolling his last few straps up, but saw my daughter using my strap roller and wanted to know where I got it - apparently he was unaware there was such a thing.

There is a camaraderie among flat-bedders that I enjoy - it's not what it used to be years ago, but there is still some evidence of it remaining, and it's one of the reasons I was drawn to flat-bedding. As I close out this final addition to this thread I'll return to this thought and share with you some of the reasons I chose to be a flat-bedder.

Do you remember when you were a kid how exciting it was to get to tear the paper off those Christmas presents? And if you got a really large present it made it that much more thrilling? Well as a flat-bedder you sometimes get to start your day doing just that. I'm saying all this because my friend Daniel B. kind of made a joke the other day in reference to flat-bedders having to wrap up their freight like it was a big old Christmas present. Well anything that has to be wrapped also has to be unwrapped. Now I realize that only a fellow flat-bedder understands my sentiments about this job, but I really do enjoy what I do and take a great deal of pride in how it's done. Very few dry van haulers, or refrigerated drivers understand this, and of course that's why they don't want to have anything to do with it, and there's nothing wrong with that. There's a popular song out now that says something like "ever since the beginning, to keep the world spinning it takes all kinds of kinds."

Here's a few photos of me unwrapping a very large "present".
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Of course after you get finished tearing those presents open, you've got to clean up the area and put the wrapping paper away, it's just part of the job.
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The flat-bedder usually gets to tell the loaders how he wants his trailer loaded. Things like where the load is centered, and how it should be stacked, or which pieces need to be loaded first are all things that the driver responsible for the load gets to have his say about. Not many dry van or refrigerated loads have that privilege - no you usually just have to take what you get. Of course we have to wait for live loads while the other guys may get quite a few drop and hooks. Each of the different forms of freight have their positives and negatives, but it's funny how in this business one person sees something as a positive while another sees the very same thing as a negative. It's a diverse industry with a diverse group of people comprising a very large group of people that are professional drivers.

Remember when I told you I requested my DM to try and get me to Texas so that I could get my daughter home? Well, he came through! Just as we got our paper rolls unloaded in Bridgeport Alabama my qualcomm received a message telling us to deadhead over to a Nucor Steel plant in Tuscaloosa Alabama to pick up a load of 8' x 55' steel plates bound for Fort Worth Texas. It isn't always that easy, but this time he really came through for me in a pinch. We do each other favors. That's the way a driver keeps up a good relationship with his DM. I go out of my way for him when he needs me to, and he will do the same for me because he knows that I am willing to help him when needed. If you don't cultivate this type of relationship with your DM you are only hurting yourself and making your job more difficult.

Our route took us through a scenic area on the outskirts of the smoky mountains which made this last leg of our journey together very rewarding in it's own way. My daughter snapped photos along the way of the scenery that she found interesting.
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Okay, in order to complete this I will have to continue on another page.

Days eight and nine



I'll probably end this thread with one more post after this one. I hope those of you following it have enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed sharing it with you. My purpose was to give you a taste of what it really is like living on the road. And sure enough we've gotten to see good days, bad days, frustrations and successes. That's pretty much how each week in a truck drivers life goes, and if you noticed the same things are happening in Daniel's thread. There are always ups and downs in this business. The main thing to being successful at this is being able to be steady in an ever changing environment while continuing to conduct yourself in a professional reliable manner that your dispatcher can always depend on.

Ok, I'm getting sidetracked - I'm putting days 8 & 9 together here because they mostly consist of pleasant weather and driving.

As I was drifting off to sleep in Oakfield New York around 1:30 in the morning, I realized that I was very close to Brett's little farm. I imagined him waking up in a few hours and throwing some more logs in the wood burning stove, sitting down in front of his computer with a friendly dog lying at his feet, and working away at some project or idea he has in his mind for this web site. Just wanted to say thanks to you Brett, we all sincerely appreciate what you've done to help us break into the industry, and it's nice to know that you've still got a long list of "to do" projects going on in the recesses of that cranial cavity of yours!

Day 8 We got up and got going before the sun was up and had beautiful weather all day. We traveled from Oakfield New York to Pendleton Kentucky where we settled in for a nice night at a Pilot truck stop. We ate New England Clam chowder that had been cooking in the crock pot while we were driving the last leg of the days journey. We threw some crab meat in the pot that we had picked up at Wal-mart on our earlier grocery trip. The smell was tantalizing as we traveled, and the meal was very satisfying at the end of our day.

Day 9 We need to get to Bridgeport Alabama before 1400 today, and we should be able to do it. Something just doesn't seem right when I wake up. I don't hear the interstate noise, I instead hear the sound of lots of big trucks moving slowly in low gear. After checking things out we find that the interstate has been closed due to an early morning accident involving a truck load of pigs! A detour has been established and lots of big trucks are rolling slowly by the truck stop onto a scenic byway that goes right by our truck stop. Once we get rolling it takes so long for us to get through the detour and back onto our regular route that I'm running calculations in my head about my delivery time frame and realize that there's no way I'm going to make it now. I pull over at a rest area and message my DM explaining the situation. He agrees with my assessment and tells me I can get unloaded Friday morning.

We get ourselves down close to the destination and settle in at a truck stop that's about thirty minutes away from our destination. I always try my best to meet the demands of the schedule they give me, or even do better, that's how you make more money in this crazy job than the many folks that just don't seem to get it. But, there will always be things that pop up that are beyond your control. You do your best to be consistent and reliable, but don't let the things you can't control get to you. If you let those uncontrollable variables start unsettling you you're going to quit enjoying what you do, and once you no longer enjoy this the more those uncontrollable variables start to control you.

My daughter had a job interview just before we embarked on this little journey together, and today she got a call from the prospective employer that they want her to come back in for a follow-up interview. So, I will have to figure out how to get her back to Texas before I wanted to. Man, I'm gonna miss her. She has not only been very pleasant company, but a huge help to me also while travelling together. I put in a special request to my DM to see if he could find a way to route me to Texas - hopefully I'll know something in a few days.

We'll get this paper unloaded in the morning, and then we'll tell you what our next load assignment is. I'll probably end this thread there and try to get back in the mode of responding to the many new questions that keep popping up in the forum. I've been kind of MIA while working on this little documentary, and the forums been hopping. Sorry Brett, I've noticed you've been working overtime this week, but you've sure been giving some good advice!

Good night!

Day seven



Just another day in Paradise!

I'm naturally an early riser, so I do my trip planning, writing myself notes in a notebook for the day, and any necessary paperwork in the mornings when my mind is fresh and alert. So that's how this day started. I looked over my route to Syracuse, and made notes to myself about it. I noticed Daniel refers to a notebook in his journal. I don't know if we are doing the same thing or not, but I write everything down like my route, my load number, city of origin and destination, fuel stop, etc. Not only does writing it down help me to remember it, but it is also an easily accessible source of that information if I were to need it while driving because my Qualcomm doesn't allow you to read the massages unless you're stopped.

Woke up around 5:00 am and then we finally could log on duty at about 6:45. After pre-tripping the truck we set out for Syracuse NY. If you remember we had to be there by 1600 and we didn't have a whole lot of room for delays. We stopped once briefly for a bathroom break at a rest stop, and then rolled on through some heavy snow in Ohio, fairly decent weather in Pennsylvania, and some light snow in upstate New York.

One of the things about this job is that things can change so quickly on you while you're out here, and you've just got to be prepared to play the game with the hand your dealt. Take for example the weather. Yesterday I couldn't have asked for anything nicer, the temp was mild and we were looking at scenes like this:
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And Now today we woke up in a truck stop covered in snow and our view on the road looked like this.
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We made it through the weather safely, and arrived at our destination at 1500 which just made me proud! And I guess my DM was thrilled also since he quickly sent us another load to be picked up tonight in Oakfield, NY. Oakfield is about three hours away on a good weather day, and I've got about five hours left on my clock. After about one and a half hours I have my load untarped and unloaded and we make a quick stop at a Walmart for some groceries. Oh, by the way here's what a flat-bedder goes through in the winter months while doing his job.
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Now we have just enough time to get to Oakfield if we don't hit a snag. We are still having heavy snow in Syracuse and some frozen overpasses that haven't been salted yet, but we make this leg of the journey without a hitch and arrive at our shipper (a USG Plant) with five minutes left on our clock.

Here's how we are going to manage our clock now in this situation. I went ahead and logged fifteen minutes for my post-trip which I will do later while I'm waiting to be unloaded, and then I got the clock on sleeper berth so that I can get going as soon as possible in the morning, because I will never make my delivery appointment in Bridgeport Alabama if I don't get started as soon as possible. This will give you a good idea about how some days are long ones. We started at about five this morning reviewing our options and making a plan on how to accomplish all this today and now this load here didn't get completed being loaded, secured and tarped until about one a.m. Since we were out of hours and already on the sleeper berth line we bedded down in the shippers parking lot so as not to set our clock on the drive line.

Here's a few photos of me securing, and tarping this late night 47,000 pound load of large paper rolls bound for a Sheetrock plant in Bridgeport Alabama.
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While we were backed up to the dock and waiting to be loaded we couldn't help but feel that someone was staring at us the whole time, because every time we glanced across the parking lot there was this funny little forklift sitting over there across the way that looked like it had two eyes a nose and a mouth forming a sort of face on it. Can you see it in this photo?
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I'll be back to let you know if we make a tough delivery time on this one. I think we can make it, but if we have a traffic delay or something like that it will make it even tougher. I hope you're getting a feel for what it's like out here on the road, because that was my purpose in doing this little journal. I've enjoyed sharing these things with you and hope I haven't scared too many of you away from the joys of flat-bedding.

Day six



My work day today was from about 6 am until 8:30 pm

Started the day with planning my last leg of my trip which was getting into Cincinnati, and getting to my receiver which was in the downtown area of the city. Studied several different sources until I felt I had come up with a plan that would get me into the right place without any mishaps. When delivering a load on a fifty three foot spread axle trailer in a downtown area with very tight turns you don't want to get yourself in a bind anywhere if you can help it. I also went ahead and filled out my Transflo paper work that I will have to send in after I get unloaded. It's so easy to do this stuff now - we used to have to find a truck stop with a transflo scanner to send in our paper work, but now you can use your smart-phone and snap a photo of the pages and send it in using their phone app.

I logged myself to on duty at about seven a.m. and after my pre-trip I started rolling toward my destination. Arrived right at 8 a.m., which was the earliest they would receive me. I spent about 30 minutes on duty unstrapping my 47,000 pound load of slinky coils, and then I went off duty for about an hour until I was unloaded. I sent in my paperwork and sent my dispatcher an empty call, which produced the immediate effect of my qualcomm going off like crazy with messages from him telling me that I still had my load going to Syracuse New York. Man I was glad about that, I was afraid my blunder the other day had messed things up, but we're still on. The only problem is that it still has the same delivery date, I'm going to really be challenged to see if I can get it home on time. Here's a couple photos of me getting ready to be unloaded on Depot Street in Downtown Cincinnati.
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We "high tailed" it over to Shoals Indiana from Cincinnati to the USG plant to pick up a load of Sheetrock bound for Syracuse New York. Fortunately for the sake of my time management this will be a drop and hook at the Sheetrock plant. This is a little unusual in the flat-bed work that I do, but occasionally we get a load like this, usually it is a Sheetrock load. I drop my trailer in the yard, leave enough tarps, straps, bungees and corner protectors with that trailer to secure and tarp the load that will go on it, and I will get those things back with the trailer that I am hauling out of the plant. This is a nice treat to not have to throw the tarps on this load, it's already done for us and we still get paid for doing it - not even a truck driver could complain about that.

We do our best at getting to our fuel stop just on the other side of the Ohio line before we are forced to take our thirty minute D.O.T. break. After that we keep pushing what little time we have left to get ourselves to the Flying J at Sunbury Ohio. While we were rolling down the road we had our supper simmering in the crock pot tempting us to shut down with it's fragrance filling the air inside our cab.

After finding a place to park we indulged our willing appetites with this truckers Jambalaya that had been teasing us along the way for too many miles. It's a simple and inexpensive recipe that I made up myself with chopped up bologna for the meat. It sure tasted good on this cold damp night.
Flatbed truck driver strapping down metal coils


We've still got a ways to go tomorrow, but if we don't hit any snags I'll get this thing in there before 1600 hours and that will have me caught back up with where I needed to be before the blunder that caused me to sit idle for two straight days. Everything's looking favorable except the weather, we will just have to see how it goes. When you sign up to be a road warrior you just have to take things as they come, and when the boss expects you to produce like a professional, you tackle the job and don't complain. After all this is what we wanted to be, an American Truck Driver.

Day five



We have enjoyed ourselves just being together for a few days without the demands of a schedule. I did some reading today while my daughter worked on some of her knitting projects. We also took a few walks, did our laundry, took showers, and ate so much food at a nice Chinese restaurant for lunch that we didn't even want any supper in the evening. But, let me tell you that being stuck at a truck stop for a weekend really isn't any fun when you are by yourself, at least I don't personally care for it.

Now sometimes I do sit at a truck stop for a re-set, but that's just because I tend to burn up my time by running extra hard in hopes of accomplishing something early, or just the nature of the loads that I'm getting will take up a lot of time with securement procedures. I'm kind of glad that Daniel is doing his similar thread at the same time because it will probably show how each individual driver may run his loads and manage his time in the way that works best for him, or for the type of freight he's handling. One of the nice things about being a truck driver is that you are in charge of your own time, and as long as you are getting the job done and keeping the customer satisfied you can manage things they way it works best for you.

With that thought in mind I'm going to share one more "tale from the road" with you of an earlier experience I had on a lengthy run across the country. My company is fairly lenient about the routes we take, although recently they have been getting a little more particular about it because of drivers abusing their liberties. We always are given a recommended route, and that is generally what I will follow, but occasionally I will change it up for one reason or another. We haul a lot of "copper loads" from several mines, but one that I get put on fairly often is a run from a mine in Tyrone NM to Norwich CT. It's a nice gig with lots of miles. The only catch to this run is that they like us to run it with another truck for security reasons. This is considered a "high value" load and we are instructed to watch out for anyone that might be following us, and we just have to be on high alert for any suspicious activity when we are parked at a truck stop.

One time when I was on this run I had left the mine with another company driver who was getting loaded at the same time I was and we had gotten ourselves over into Oklahoma on the companies suggested route when I get a message on my qualcomm instructing me to call another driver in the company that they wanted to be running along with us. After calling and making contact with the driver she began asking me where we were and I told her our location in Oklahoma. I can't use the language here that she was using as she told me how stupid I was to have taken that route. She was down in Texas on I-10 somewhere and she was incredulous that we had taken the route we did because, as she told me, we were going to run into snow and not be able to make it on time to Norwich. My only thought was well, she does seem to realize that we are going to Connecticut, but I don't see why in the world she is down in Texas on I-10 knowing we've got to get to the far Northeast parts of the country.

I got tired of hearing her dropping F-bombs just about every other word and finally hung up on her because I just wasn't in the mood for suffering a fool at the moment. I sent dispatch a message that said we were way too far apart for us to meet up with each other and they would just have to find her someone else to run with. We kept running hard and after about three and a half days got there a little early. We got unloaded and drove about seventy miles to a Pilot truck stop so we could shower and take a rest. There's not a whole lot of good choices to park at in Connecticut so we did the best we could.

I hadn't been at the truck stop 30 minutes when my dispatcher calls me and asks me "How would you like to be the savior of the day?" I was a little apprehensive about that, but as it turns out they had a driver who had run out of hours and couldn't deliver their copper load to Norwich. He wanted me to go and re-power the load in for them, and it looked like I had just enough hours to get er done. I was tired, but I told him I'd be glad to do it, so off I go, and lo and behold it's the girl with the foul mouth that I had talked to earlier in the week. It seems her safe but circuitous route had burned up all her hours and she had to shut down without making her destination.

Do you remember that old line that says "it's always best to have a little more than you show". Well, in trucking it's always good if you can be available when they need you. Managing your time is very important in this business, as is evidenced by the big mistake that I made on Friday which caused me to lose two whole days of revenue for both me and the company.

Well, after some interesting discussion I finally managed to get the load from the other driver who did not want to relinquish it to me. Drivers can be some very interesting characters, and she was definitely in that category.

Long story short, I delivered the load and got back to the truck stop while only going about seven or eight minutes over my legal hours of service. I was pleased, dispatch was pleased, and so was the customer. There was only one person unhappy about the situation, but she'll just have to get over it and try a little harder next time.

Day four continued



I get backed up and out of the way over on a side street where I'm told to sit and do not move until I have my escort car there, and a commercial vehicle officer will be here in a moment to issue me my tickets. Well, a really friendly officer shows up and tells me that the powers that be have told him to write me up with as many violations as he can find, so he has to follow orders, but the only problem is he can't seem to find any thing that I actually did that was illegal. As it turns out, since I was still on the New Jersey side I wasn't legally bound to have my escort yet. Even though I have to have the escort to get on the bridge I never even really made it on the bridge so technically he doesn't think he could write me a ticket that will stand up in court. He also says that after thoroughly inspecting my load securement and truck he doesn't find any thing out of order, but he is under strict orders to write me up with anything he can find. He does notice that after I'd traveled all the way from Alabama to get there that the wind has stretched my "Oversize Load" sign a little so that is obstructing part of my license plate. So he will write me a ticket for that which is not considered a moving violation and I can just mail in the fifty bucks instead of having to appear before a New York magistrate. I think I let out a sigh that could have been heard in Texas when he finished telling me that.

I can't get through to anyone at my company because they are so busy all the lines are tied up, so I just handle lining up an escort service myself and after sitting for about four hours now I'm on my way across the Hudson on that very trying George Washington Bridge. By the way it cost my company a little more that $500.00 just to get that load across the bridge! Crazy isn't it - but that's life in New York. The really cool thing about crossing this time with the wide load on my truck is that the escorts blocked off all four lanes for me and I sailed through that thing without a care on my mind - what a relief! Also the escorts knew exactly where I needed to be as far as which lanes to be in all the rest of the way across the state until they dropped off at the Connecticut line. They would tell me in advance over the CB radio which lane they were blocking off for me to get over into and it made it so easy to maneuver through the state without any mishaps or damage to my sensitive cargo.

I keep trying to make this long story short, but it's not going too well, I keep remembering things about this trip that made it an unforgettable learning experience. I left out all the details of running through the other states and trying to park at truck stops with my wide load, but it has to be shortened because I just don't think I can hold your interest for that long.

The customer was thrilled to see me when I finally get there and they unload me with a smile on their faces at the condition their precious beams and trusses are in. Apparently they were having considerable anxiety about them while they were in transit. It's always good to see your customers so satisfied after you just went through all kinds of trouble that they don't even know about to get them their goods.

Well, it was about the end of the day on a Friday when I got this ordeal over with and that makes it hard to get a load for the weekend, but my dispatcher came through for me. The only catch about that next load was that I had to go over to the Long Island area to West Babylon and pick up a load of garbage! Such is the life of a truck driver, you just never know what you might be pulling across the country. Apparently those folks in Long Island have no place to deal with their trash, but the people in Ohio are more than willing to make them pay good money to have it hauled over there and buried in an old mining site. That was a stinky load! Now I know how those bull haulers feel when they have to go park next to somebody at the truck stops. I didn't really want to stink up the place, but I had to shut down somewhere along the way.

Well, there you have it. I probably shouldn't have put that in there about the garbage load, I feel like I've had a positive influence on some of you to go with a flat-bed job. Well, now you know it's not all fun and games.

Day four



I know I said I was going to take a short break, but when I woke up this morning and thought about this thread I remembered that my purpose in starting this was to show what a truck drivers daily life is like. Many of you will remember me referencing my first experience with an over-sized flat-bed load in some other posts. I had kind of saved the story to put it in the blog section of this site, but since I made that blunder yesterday that has caused me to have a break in the action on this thread I've decided to throw it in here because it is so illustrative of the things a rookie truck driver can quickly get himself into. So, as an added bonus here's the story about my first over-size load that I had to take across the George Washington Bridge and through the Bronx area. Just a word of warning here, it's a long story and will probably take two parts to fit within the text limitations of the forms format, so here's part 1.

This story begins down in Mobile, Alabama where I delivered a load of I-beams from Midlothian, TX to the port of Mobile.

After about two hours at the port I'm unloaded and have all my tarps and chains and binders put up and I'm ready to roll again. So I send dispatch a message saying I'm empty. It takes a little longer than usual for them to respond so I go to the truck stop and wait on them. I'm there about thirty minutes when I get my orders which are for my very first "oversize" load. Now an oversize load is one that is not legal to drive on the highways without having special permits issued to you by each of the various states you'll be travelling through. I'm going through about nine different states to get this load to Greenwich, Connecticut. I pick up my load in Greenville, Alabama. As it turns out this load is some laminated wood trusses and beams built for a timber frame structure being constructed in a Greenwich park. I had to take special care with this load by providing rubber padding between the pieces and putting special foam padding under my straps where they made contact with the beams because all this wood is to be exposed in it's final resting place. What a challenge! But if you know me, then you'll realize that this is just the kind of thing I enjoy.

The load is 12' wide, and I've got to get all the way up into Connecticut without letting it get bumped or scratched on the way there. Another thing about these permitted loads is that you can only drive during daylight hours for obvious safety reasons. Also you have to travel on the route that the different states you're going through assign you to. Well, my route takes me across the George Washington Bridge in New York! I know you're probably not familiar with this, but the first time I had to cross this toll bridge I got hit twice by another eighteen wheeler, but there's no way you can stop and check on the damages, it is the craziest flow of vehicular traffic I've ever experience and to top it all off the lanes are really narrow and there must be ten thousand pot holes in the pavement. My New York permit also requires an escort. Well, apparently my company missed that part and after I tried to get on the bridge and found out I don't even fit through the toll gates I had to call 911 to get the police out there to stop the ridiculous traffic so I could back up and get out of the way. They have some special Port Authority Police for the George Washington Bridge because it spans on both the New Jersey side and the New York sides of the Hudson. About thirty officers showed up! I'm not kidding, it was like a circus, and they were not real happy with this rookie truck driver for making them come out there and deal with this problem. The first one on the scene was not nice at all and told me he was going to throw the book at me and starts naming off all these violations that I'd committed. It was from him that I learn that there is a special way to get on the bridge when you have a wide load - gee whiz! - somebody could have told me about this ahead of time and saved a lot of trouble. This same officer tells his commercial vehicle inspector underlings to look my truck over really good because he is going to write me enough tickets to make sure I never forget all the trouble I caused him.

Day three



Trucking serves me Humble Pie!

Well, have you ever felt really dumb? If you haven't, your trucking career will certainly help you get there one day. I thought I had such a great plan worked out for this load, and just as we were nearing our destination and checking my paper work I realize that I had the wrong delivery time slot fixed in my mind. I was supposed to be there no later than 11:00 - it's now a little after noon - AARGHHH! They refuse to unload me until Monday! Now I can't get the load my dispatcher had planned for me later today! Man, am I bummed and embarrassed at this point. I always try my best to be professional and reliable and then I go and do something really stupid like this!

After sending my dispatcher the dreaded news he sends me this message: "This is highly unlike you my man, you are one of my best drivers. I never have to worry about you. What's going on? Is everything Okay?"

I've already apologized profusely, and don't really know what to say to him. I let him know that nothing is wrong other than I just made a bone-head mistake. Gosh this is embarrassing.

Well, the whole point of doing this little exercise was to show everyone what it really is like out here, and now you know, it can be very frustrating at times. Sometimes it's other folks causing you issues, sometimes it's traffic, other times it's foul weather, and sometimes it's just your own bone-headed self that causes a major disaster.

I pride myself on thinking ahead and planning out these trips so that I can get more done than the typical driver. I usually do pretty well at it, but not today! Well, now we are stuck at a truck stop for the weekend. This is the first time this has happened to me, and it probably won't be the last. I've always had good success at having a load to take me through the weekend, and it is one of the goals that I keep in mind every week. In my opinion the way you make extra money in this business is to be pro-active and keep yourself available for a load when the load planners are needing some help. If you can be their "go to guy" you will quite often end up with the best runs.

I consistently average around 2800 miles/week, but recently I was visiting with another flat-bed driver here and he complained that he's never gotten more than eighteen hundred miles a week, and he's been here over a year now. When I questioned him further I found that he won't take a load on the weekend. He claimed that was his time, and he didn't allow them to control his weekend after they'd been running him ragged all week! I gently tried my best to lead him into the right way of thinking, but sometimes peoples mindsets are so cemented in fallacy that it takes a bull-dozer load of truth to get them moved off of their false position.

One of the things I do when I hit a snag in this business is try and make the best of the situation. Since my daughter is with me on this trip I'm gonna enjoy being with her and we will do some fun stuff together while we wait till Monday morning gets here. I'm gonna take a short break from this thread and will jump right back in here on Monday night to to let you know where we are headed next. I'm not sure if I will end up with that load going to Syracuse or not at this point!

Day 2 with Esther by my side.



We started out about 9:30 this morning and drove like there was no tomorrow. I did about twenty minutes of paperwork and trip planning this morning before I ever logged on duty, and then after a fifteen minute pre-trip we hit the road. Today was a beautiful day and it was going to be one of those fortunate days in a truck drivers life where all I really had to do was drive. I'm already loaded and we know we aren't going to get to our destination until tomorrow any way, so we can just churn out the miles and enjoy a day with out having other duties like tarping and load securement.

We enjoyed visiting with each other while driving today and after only two days on the road I begin to notice my daughter is picking up the truck drivers jargon. After the sun had gone down I saw a brightly lit O/O's truck coming our way on the interstate, and my daughter said "hey look dad, here comes a chicken truck!" This is turning out to be a fun time for us both.

I had planned our trip to get us into position so that we could get into Cincinnati before noon tomorrow, and it worked out well. We took the D.O.T.'s precious 30 minute break and later on top of that we took an hour break to eat at a restaurant. We rolled into the Love's truck stop at Horse Cave Kentucky around midnight tonight logging just under 650 miles today. That makes two days in a row so far that I've worked until midnight - but a professional truck driver is willing to do what ever it takes to make things happen out here, and that is what sets him apart from his peers in this arena.

We had the added bonus today of getting a pre-planned load assignment from my DM which will be shooting us on another jaunt of around 1,000 miles from Cincinnati to Syracuse, New York. My dispatcher is really good about this kind of thing - he usually has a plan working for me way before I've finished the one I'm currently executing. I'm really exhausted tonight, but we had a great day and will have plenty to keep us busy and earning money over the weekend now. Had we drug our feet today and taken our time, knowing that we have plenty of time tomorrow to get there without considering leaving enough time available so we can grab another load on Friday for a Monday delivery, we would probably have been stuck at the truck stop T.V. lounge with the other John Wayne fans watching re-runs and spending way too much money on snacks and drinks.

My dispatcher knows how I think and work, so he feels free to put the work out there knowing I'm a step ahead and ready for him to get me something. I'm not bragging, but rather trying to teach anyone who will listen, how you make more money than your fellow drivers in this business. If they're confident that you will handle it they will give you the stuff that will keep you rolling. I just started back on the road on Wednesday, tomorrow is Friday, and all we need now is another 800 mile load and we will be right at 3,000 miles for this week.

Things are looking good for this week, but it's quite possible we could hit a snag somewhere along the way. We'll keep on working steady and hope everything works out well for the rest of our journey this week.

I'm back!

Okay, I've been very negligent to this little blog lately.  I think I know why, but it's actually hard to express my thoughts about it.  I still am enjoying this career, but the reasons that I started the blog have all been shot down in one way or another.  If I try to express my feelings about my wife or family it seems that someone will call my wife and tell on me like I've done something wrong.  So I'm feeling a little shackled in my cathartic reasons for doing this in the first place.  Then I'm told about a young lady, who I had no idea was reading this blog (seriously I'm not even sure the people I write it for look at it very often), was so touched by my comments about my wife and family that she sought out my wife to talk to her about raising a family so that it might turn out like ours.  So, there you have it, what a conflict I find myself in over a silly little writing exercise that gives me a chance to open up and share my feelings every now and then.  So, I've decided that I'm just going to write exactly as I please, and if people think I'm going overboard then they don't have to read it!  Hows that?

I recently had the pleasure of taking my oldest daughter Esther with me as a rider.  We had a great time together and I blogged about our experiences together as an exercise in showing new truck driving candidates what life is like when you actually get out on the road.  I do some work on a web site for new truck drivers trying to break into the industry and I blogged my time with Esther riding along with me.  I am going to post our travels here for you to read and hopefully it will help you understand a little about what an American Truck Driver does to keep our economy churning along.

I started this journal about three weeks ago so the time frames don't coincide with the current dates. Also there may be references here and there to the site that this was originally posted in, so hopefully it won't be too distracting to make for a pleasant and informative read concerning what it's like to live and work out on the road.

OK, I started back to work today with the alarm going off at 5 am. I got up and showered and started getting my winter gear gathered up to put in my truck because this time of year we just don't know what we might get ourselves into. I was pretty confident that my very efficient driver manager would be putting a pre-planned load on me by 7 am and I wanted to be ready to roll when it came across the qualcomm.

Oh, by the way, my oldest daughter is riding with me this time around. She is 25, and just recently lost her job. She talked to me the other day about maybe riding with me and we decided to give it a try. It's a great chance for her to do something like this since she really has no other ties right now.

Well, by 8:00 I still hadn't heard anything from my DM so I sent him a message letting him know that I was ready and waiting to make some money for the company. He messaged me back very quickly and said he had been working on trying to find me something since yesterday, but hadn't found anything he liked. He asked me to give him another half hour or so and he thought he might be able to come up with something worthwhile. At 8:30 I get a load assignment that picks up in Vidor, TX, and delivers to Cincinnati, OH. That's an 1100 mile run to start my week off, and I'm happy!

After getting all my daughters stuff packed in the truck, we set off around 9:30 am and got to our pick up at Gerdau Steel mill in Vidor around 1:00 pm, an hour ahead of our pick-up time. We end up sitting for about three hours before security lets us in the gate, and then they quickly get us loaded with 47,000 pounds of Steel slinky coils. My daughter helps me get 12 straps on the load and we're off at 5:45 and head across Louisiana until we turn North on I-55 and we turn in for the night at a truck stop about 35 miles North of New Orleans. We stopped somewhere along the way to eat at a Denny's in a truck stop, but when we settled in at our present location I had 12 minutes left on my 14 hour clock, so I had to stop driving.

We will hopefully make some good time tomorrow so that we can get into Cincinnati early enough on Friday so that we still have time to pick up another load somewhere up there that will carry us through the weekend with our wheels turning.

I know we have a thread on here somewhere that talks about funny signs we've seen along our way. While I was parked in the waiting area before security let us in there was a sign on the fence that said "Warning - Alligators Present"! My daughter got a real kick out of that and posted it on facebook - she is documenting her trip with me so her "friends" can follow along with us.

This was a long day - we woke at 5 am, started rolling around 9:30 am, after packing all our gear for the trip, and finished up at almost midnight. Another American truck driver can rest well tonight knowing he earned another nights repose while keeping the nations goods moving to the places where they are needed.

Good Night - I'll be back in here tomorrow night to fill you in on our day.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Every Day Is A New Learning Experience

Wow, so much has happened this week that I'm not sure where to begin.  First I'll tell you that I'm in Drums Pennsylvania right now and I'm taking a 34 hour break here at the Pilot truck stop.  Now, here goes the story of how I got here.

I think last time I left you I was waiting to go into the port at Mobile Alabama with a load of I-beams. That actually went surprisingly well.  Sometimes when I'm going to places that I never have been yet I just don't know what to expect.  I'd been told by another truck driver while at the steel mill in Midlothian that it would be a struggle to get unloaded at the port because there would be so many trucks there to get unloaded.  I got there about 7:00 am and after going through the truck traffic control office and getting all my paperwork verified by them I was allowed in to the port property and directed where to park and wait for further instruction.  By the way, the only people allowed to enter these ports are those who have previously been issued a TWIC card.  This is a plastic card with certain electronic information embedded in it issued to you by the department of Homeland Security.  It requires a FBI background check of the cardholder, fingerprinting and various other government bureaucratic criteria.  This is something I applied for early in my pursuit of this truck driving career, and am glad I have it because already I have delivered at two different ports.  It allows me to be a more versatile, available, and valuable employee.

Okay, I think I got sidetracked, sorry about that.  As it turns out, once I was inside the port, I'm like the fifth truck in a line that is continuing to lengthen very quickly behind me.  After about two hours I'm unloaded and have all my tarps and chains and binders put up and I'm ready to roll again.  So I send dispatch a message saying I'm empty.  It takes a little longer than usual for them to respond so I go to the truck stop and wait on them.  I'm there about thirty minutes when I get my orders which are for  my very first "oversize" load.  Now an oversize load is one that is not legal to drive on the highways without having special permits issued to you by each of the various states you'll be travelling through.  I'm going through about nine different states to get this load to Greenwich, Connecticut.  I pick up my load in Greenville, Alabama.  As it turns out this load is some laminated wood trusses and beams built for a timber frame structure being constructed in a Greenwich park.  I had to take special care with this load by providing rubber padding between the pieces and putting special foam padding under my straps where they made contact with the beams because all this wood is to be exposed in it's final resting place.  What a challenge!  But if you know me, then you'll realize that this is just the kind of thing I enjoy.

The load is 12' wide, and I've got to get all the way up into Connecticut without letting it get bumped or scratched on the way there.  Another thing about these permitted loads is that you can only drive during daylight hours for obvious safety reasons.  Also you have to travel on the route that the different states you're going through assign you to.  Well, my route takes me across the George Washington Bridge in New York!  I know you're probably not familiar with this, but the last time I had to cross this toll bridge I got hit twice by another eighteen wheeler, but there's no way you can stop and check on the damages, it is the craziest flow of vehicular traffic I've ever experience and to top it all off the lanes are really narrow and there must be ten thousand pot holes in the pavement.  My New York permit also requires an escort.  Well, apparently my company missed that part and after I tried to get on the bridge and found out I don't even fit through the toll gates I had to call 911 to get the police out there to stop the ridiculous traffic so I could back up and get out of the way.  They have some special Port Authority Police for the George Washington Bridge because it spans on both the New Jersey side and the New York sides of the Hudson.  About thirty officers showed up!  I'm not kidding, it was like a circus, and they were not real happy with this rookie truck driver for making them come out there and deal with this problem.  The first one on the scene was not nice at all and told me he was going to throw the book at me and starts naming off all these violations that I'd committed.  It was from him that I learn that there is a special way to get on the bridge when you have a wide load - gee whiz! - somebody could have told me about this ahead of time and saved a lot of trouble.  This same officer tells his commercial vehicle inspector underlings to look my truck over really good because he is going to write me enough tickets to make sure I never forget all the trouble I caused him.

I get backed up and out of the way over on a side street where I'm told to sit and do not move until I have my escort car there, and a commercial vehicle officer will be here in a moment to issue me my tickets.  Well, a really friendly officer shows up and tells me that the powers that be have told him to write me up with as many violations as he can find, so he has to follow orders, but the only problem is he can't seem to find any thing that I actually did that was illegal.  As it turns out, since I was still on the New Jersey side I wasn't legally bound to have my escort yet.  Even though I have to have the escort to get on the bridge I never even really made it on the bridge so technically he doesn't think he could write me a ticket that will stand up in court.  He also says that after thoroughly inspecting my load securement and truck he doesn't find any thing out of order, but he is under strict orders to write me up with anything he can find.  He does notice that after I'd traveled all the way from Alabama to get there that the wind has stretched my "Oversize Load" sign a little so that is obstructing part of my license plate.  So he will write me a ticket for that which is not considered a moving violation and I can just mail in the fifty bucks instead of having to appear before a New York magistrate.  I think I let out a sigh that could have been heard in Texas when he finished telling me that.

I can't get through to anyone at my company because they are so busy all the lines are tied up, so I just handle lining up an escort service myself and after sitting for about four hours now I'm on my way across the Hudson on that very trying George Washington Bridge.  By the way it cost my company a little more that $500.00 just to get that load across the bridge!  Crazy isn't it - but that's life in New York.  The really cool thing about crossing this time with the wide load on my truck is that the escorts blocked off all four lanes for me and I sailed through that thing without a care on my mind - what a relief!  Also the escorts knew exactly where I needed to be as far as which lanes to be in all the rest of the way across the state until they dropped off at the Connecticut line.  They would tell me in advance over the CB radio which lane they were blocking off for me to get over into and it made it so easy to maneuver through the state without any mishaps or damage to my sensitive cargo.

I keep trying to make this long story short, but it's not going too well, I keep remembering things about this trip that made it an unforgettable learning experience.  I left out all the details of running through the other states and trying to park at truck stops with my wide load, but it has to be shortened because I just don't think I can hold your interest for that long.

The customer was thrilled to see me when I finally get there and they unload me with a smile on their faces at the condition their precious beams and trusses are in.  Apparently they were having considerable anxiety about them while they were in transit.  It's always good to see your customers so satisfied after you just went through all kinds of trouble that they don't even know about to get them their goods.

Well, it was about the end of the day on Friday when I got this ordeal over with and that makes it hard to get a load for the weekend, but my dispatcher came through for me.  The only catch about this next load is I've got to go over to the Long Island area of New York to West Babylon!  On top of the fact that I've got to pick up a load in a town with such an infamous name, it is a load of garbage that I'll be taking to Amsterdam, Ohio.  Apparently they have so many people over here and no available land to use as a landfill so they have to ship their garbage out to other places.  It was an interesting operation that I picked up at.  They unload their garbage trucks inside big buildings where big front end loaders scoop it up and place it into very large trash compactors which bale it up and put in large bags that are then loaded onto trucks to go to other landfills at various parts of the country that are willing to accept it.  So, I'm sitting here today in Drums, Pennsylvania taking a break while my truck is emitting a rather unpleasant odor.  Oh well, I'm glad to have the load, and I was glad I could call my wife yesterday and tell her that I came out of Babylon today.  Yes, I'll be glad to get this load off of my truck and off my mind.  I'll update this lonely little blog as soon as I can.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The River's Flow

Once again I've been staying at places that don't have a wifi connection, so another week has gone by without an update, but last night I stayed in Greenwood, LA at the Flying J truck stop so I'll try to take advantage of this opportunity to tell you about my travels.

After delivering my load of coiled re-bar in Milton, FL I was promptly dispatched to Calvert, AL where a 42,000 pound steel coil was waiting on me to get it safely delivered to Lavergne, TN.  Since I drive a flat-bed truck most of what I pull behind me is headed to Industrial sites or manufacturing facilities, so I was surprised to see my next message sending me to Springfield, TN to get loaded with something headed to a Dollar Tree distribution center in Marietta, OK.  Being familiar with the types of things that Dollar Tree sells I couldn't imagine what I'd be taking to their warehouse.  These dispatch messages don't typically tell me what I'm getting loaded with, and I was curious all the way there until I got there and realized they were a manufacturer of warehouse shelving.  So, even though the customer was a retailer I was still delivering an industrial product.

Have you ever thought about what it takes to get the $1.00 package of paper plates or plastic cups to the shelf of the store where you so conveniently go and purchase them?  Well, it takes manufacturing facilities (often times over seas), and ships, and ports, railroad tracks, and trains, and trucks - lots of trucks, and warehouses, distribution centers, and more trucks, and then finally it takes the retail outlet itself with an individual person to unload the truck and set the product on the shelf so your little kid can have matching paper plates, cups, and napkins at their birthday party.  Then you throw them away without even a thought of how many people had a hand and an effort in getting those things to you.

Like the continual flow of a river, freight moves across this country in and through some amazing facilities that are all designed to keep the American consumer satisfied.  There are times that I can't tell if I'm actually part of the flow of that river or if I'm just a little speck of flotsam being carried along by the current.  But at times I catch the flow of the current that carries me home and that's my favorite time on this river.

Some of these facilities that I go to are so huge it's almost hard to believe when you see them.  There is an awful lot of investment and effort that goes into putting those $1.00 packages of party favors on the shelf for you to so conveniently pick up at the store just before your kid's birthday party.

After that I went to Idabell, OK and picked up a load of lumber headed to a truss manufacturer in Austin, TX.  As I left out of Idabell around 5:30 in the morning I witnessed the new day being ushered in with the brief but endearing kiss of a beautiful sunrise.  The heavens declare God's glory.  Day after day He speaks down through the ages.  He is the light of the world and His people will dwell with Him in a fair and glorious land that needs no sun or moon for He is the radiance and glory of Immanuel's land.

From Austin, TX  I made my second visit to Gerdau Steel in Midlothian, TX to get 40,000 pounds of steel I-beams bound for the port in Mobile, AL.  That's where I will be tonight waiting for a ship to dock there so we can unload them directly onto it.  There will be  long line of trucks there all with the same intention, so I'll be contending for a position up front so I don't have to wait a long time to get unloaded.

Well, I've got to get rolling, but I'll let you know how all that goes as soon as I can.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

What's in a Name?

I've been really busy this past week and was not able to park anywhere that I could get internet service. Sometimes I'm pushing the clock so hard I just have to park at the best place possible, whether or not they have internet service is never part of my decision making process.  I'm simply trying to move my load down the road as efficiently as possible.

Here's how this past week unfolded:

After unloading the shingles in Rochester, I was dispatched to Auburn, NY to get a load of steel going to Langhorne, PA.  From there I picked up another load of shingles in Meyerstown, PA to be delivered to Bozrah, CT.  Then I hightailed it over to Wallingford Connecticut to pick up a load of 18 rolls of coiled re-bar going down south to Milton, Florida.  Isn't that something.  The past two weeks I have worked my way up the east coast from Florida to New York, and then came right back down from there to Florida.

The traffic in these north east states is ridiculous.  It can be excruciating trying to get 40 tons of rolling steel through the clogged up highways from D.C. up into Connecticut.  I entertained myself on this arduous journey by writing down names of towns and streets that I saw that have some significance to my girls, my wife, and myself.  Quite probably they won't mean anything to anyone else but them, but here they are.  While passing through the towns of "Lime", "Bath", and "Brighton", I came across "Grace Church St.", "Wentworth Rd", and "Georgiana St.".  I also drove through three different cities named "Middletown", and came across both a "Kimberly" and "Dale" street.  Oh, yes I almost forgot, I spent Wednesday night in the parking lot of a truck driver friendly little restaurant named "Esther's".



Esther's was so quaint it made it quite enjoyable to be there.  It reminded me of Johnny Caces in that all the employees there looked like they'd been working there for the last 40 years.  They were all portly little old ladies with a cheerful air about them, and they each sported a nicely starched white uniform which was reminiscent of the "Harvey Girls".

One sees so many things when traveling like I do that you start forgetting most of them, but I remember seeing this quizzically comical arrangement of signs on one stretch of highway in Pennsylvania.  I came upon a highway sign warning you to "Beware of aggressive divers in this area" and then just about fifty feet down the road from that one was another one that pictured an Amish horse and buggy on it!  It just struck me funny.

One more thing I saw right next door to Esther's Restaurant was this old phone booth!



I haven't seen one of these in at least 35 years!  It's hard to believe it's still in use, but it is.

I left Connecticut on Thursday morning and I arrived in Milton Florida on Saturday morning with enough time left over to take my 34 hour break and reset my clock for the next week.  Saturday night I went down to the bay, which was just about fifteen minutes away from the Wal-Mart where I parked for the weekend, and listened to the waves gently roll in and get broken up into droplets as they landed on the rocky shores protecting the peninsula from the relentless wear and tear of their continual march.



The bright light of the sun slowly gave way to the filtering effect of the horizon as the evening made it's slow and gentle progression of time toward darkness, while I stood there wishing my wife were here to share this moment with me.




As I turned to the east to go back to my rented car I notice the moon rising and shedding it's borrowed light over a weather worn beach house on the other side of the small peninsula.


Today I took the short drive over to Pensacola and strolled along the beach for some fresh air and exercise.  I watched some people para-sailing out in the bay, and took a break under a pavilion that gave me some shade from the sun while a friendly waterfowl came up to me begging for a handout.


For the most part I've had a very busy work week, and a very nice break over the weekend to get me ready for another week of running this truck down the road, carrying the things that are needed to keep our economy moving and hopefully improving.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Resting in Rochester

I'm in Rochester New York today waiting for my Monday morning delivery.  I got here Saturday around 2:00 in the afternoon so that I would have time to take a 34 hour break.  That magic number of 34 hours is what allows a truck driver to re-set his hours on his 70 hour clock.  It's kind of confusing, but it's a good thing to do because it allows you to run harder and get more miles accomplished, and if you have a good dispatcher, like I do, he's paying close attention to how you're managing your hours.  When he sees that you are keeping time available he's more free to send you the good runs with lots of miles on them.  Time management and math skills are very helpful to one's success in this field.

One thing a truck driver has is a lot of time to himself.  I think it works against some of them - sometimes you can spend too much time thinking on things that will drive you crazy.  I think of my dear wife often.  I feel for her being there at home alone.  I wish I could be there for her more often - I talk to her everyday but that's not the same as a tender embrace, or a shoulder to lay her head on.  I miss looking into her beautiful eyes when we're talking, I miss the gentle touch of her hand.  After thirty years of marriage just the touch of her hand still makes me weak in the knees and dizzy in my head.  There's a sparkle in her eyes that I've never seen in anyone else's.  Who can explain the feeling of affection between a man and his wife?  Jane Austin spoke of a woman's "charms and allurements".  Well, I'm not a Jane Austin expert, but I know there is no other woman on this earth that has ever even come close to "charming" me than my dear "Beloved".  The mystery of her allurement cannot be explained by me, it's spiritual, it's pure, and it comes over me at times like a wave of fresh pure clean unadulterated emotion - it's a foretaste, if you will, of the unending pleasure and enjoyment we will have in eternity with the Bridegroom Who sought us and brought us into His kingdom.

Oh boy, you see what I mean about having too much time to think.  I better stop this train of thought before I say something I'll be chastised about when I get home.  Which brings up another thing about this crazy job - coming home.  You look so forward to getting home, but it's hard to just jump right in there and assimilate your life right back into your family's life when you're gone most of the time.  They have schedules and plans that don't include you - their lives have to go on without you while your gone and you just popping in for a few days doesn't really change that.  It's something that causes many truck drivers problems at home - I've discovered a long list of divorced truck drivers that testify to this difficulty.

Okay, I've got to change gears here, I'm going into the realm of "TMI".  I try to exercise and walk when I can out on the road.  When I'm taking a 34 hour re-start like this weekend I have plenty of time to do that.  Yesterday evening I took a lengthy and brisk walk here in a beautiful farming community and ended up back at the truck stop with this sunset taking shape as I arrived.



Well, I better close this post for now.  I'll let you know as soon as I can what my next adventure will be.  It's one of those things about this job that's unpredictable.  Tomorrow morning when I send them an e-mail saying that I'm unloaded they will send me my next assignment.  I don't have a clue what I will be doing until I get that message, and then it's "off to the races".  It's really kind of fun though - I could be storming across the country or I could be just traveling over to the next state - I never know.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

From Sea to Shining Sea

Well, just about a week and a half ago I was as far west as Santa Maria California, and on Monday I picked up a load of 40 foot long I-beams in Midlothian, TX (former hometown of my good friend Jennifer D.) and delivered them today in Fernandino Beach, Florida.  You can't go any further east in Florida without falling into the beautiful ocean.  Tomorrow I will pick up a load of shingles in Savannah, Georgia and deliver them to Rochester New York.  I've been everywhere man!

I know it sounds like I'm on a vacation or something, but this is hard work, really it is.

I'm really enjoying this job, it's kind of a crazy profession, I mean it is the only job I know of where there is a good chance that you very well might not know anybody else that works for the same company.  We have about 2,500 drivers, and the only one that I might could even say that I know is the one who trained me, and I probably will never see him again in my life.  I couldn't even tell you who my boss is, but there is somebody who sends me e-mails that give me my marching (or driving) orders everyday.  And this week they sent me about three thousand miles already for this week.  I better get to bed so I can rest, I've got a lot of miles to knock down tomorrow if I'm going to get all this done.