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.