Monday, May 26, 2014


It's really hard for people to understand how much an over the road truck driver values their home-time.  It's not just a job for the road warrior, but a lifestyle that has some definite negatives to it.  One of the biggest disappointments in this field is the long stretches of being away from the people you love more dearly than anything else in this world.  Then when you do get the chance to be with them you have to just realize that they have schedules of their own and they can't just stop everything that they have already committed to just because you happened to drop in to town for a few days.

When at home I always have a long list of things that I need to take care of - my wife keeps a running list for me of things she would like me to tend to while at home. I'm not trying to make it sound like she's a nag, or a slave driver, because she definitely isn't - this is just our way of doing things - I ask her to keep me a running list because that way I can easily take care of the things that she is concerned about while I'm home. She usually asks me if there is a special meal I would like for her to fix while I'm home, and last week when she asked me that question in anticipation of me being home for Memorial Day weekend, I was so tired at the end of my day that I couldn't think of anything in particular so I told her I would think about it and call her the next day and let her know. So after a good nights rest, I woke up in the morning thinking about that meal, and I realized all my girls would be home also. So I called my wife and told her that what I really would like to do this time was cook some steaks on the grill for her and the girls while I was home. Of course she loved the idea, and we had a small feast together. It was great fun having everyone together, and the steaks turned out great. I've still got a couple more days at home before I leave, (took four days) but am already feeling the urge to start hitting it again. This lifestyle gets in your blood and you just feel the need to keep moving at times, but those times at home are very special and I wouldn't trade them for anything.

I really enjoyed getting to prepare a meal for my family, and most of all just enjoyed being here with them all.  I'll be getting back on the road in just a few days, headed for Eagle Lake, TX with a load of seven slinky coils.

Monday, May 5, 2014

From Port to Port

This morning I woke up at 5:00 am and got rolling by 5:30.  I left Port Fourchon and drove to what is called "The Wharf" at the Port of New Orleans.  This is a busy place for trucks and great ships.  I've been here a few times before and sometimes it takes a while to get loaded.  There was a bit of a mix up involved with my paperwork, but after about an hour delay we managed to get it all worked out, and I rolled out of New Orleans around noon.  I'm headed to Calvert Alabama, which is a fairly short run for me.  I'm loaded with two "suicide" coils.

I will deliver these first thing in the morning and then I am scheduled to pick up some stainless steel coils in the same town (Calvert) and will take them to my company's terminal in Birmingham, AL.  I will drop my trailer there and then put my truck in the shop there for some routine maintenance, and a few repairs - like my A/C that quit working.  If it takes longer than just the day that I am there they will put me in a Hotel for the duration of the repairs.  I'm hoping it doesn't take very long, but one night at the Hotel and a nice hot soak in the bath sounds kind of appealing right now.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Working At Sea Level

I'm taking a 34 hour break down at Port Fourchon LA this weekend. If you've never been down in this part of the country you are missing out on a unique cultural experience. These folks down here have their own unique culture, their own foods, a unique vernacular, the Zydeco music is theirs to claim - they've got boats that are unique to the area, they've even got their own unique breed of dog (the Catahoula hound - one of the finest dogs for hunting wild hogs with, and he also makes a unique dog for working with cattle) I've got one of these at home "Cricket", who jumps and barks excitedly every time I come home from being out on the road.

These folks can wail out a sad love song with those accordion strands going on in the background that will bring tears to your eyes even though you can't understand a word of their quasi-French lyrics.  The live music in this area is pretty amazing.

I picked up 15 bags of salt weighing 3,000 pounds each from a salt mine in Carlsbad NM to deliver to a Halliburton yard down here at Port Fourchon. Here's a look at the salt mine and the bags of salt.

Port Fouchon is basically an oilfield area that also services the off-shore rigs out in the Gulf of Mexico, there are great ships here along with lots of Helicopters and other various forms of oilfield equipment. Just about any company that's involved in the oilfield support business has a drop yard or facility of some sort down here. Here's a photo of one of many ships that was docked at the yard I delivered to and following that is a photo of a "Man Camp" right next to the truck stop I'm taking a break at. It's not the greatest photo, but notice how the mobile homes are all elevated - everything down here is elevated like that- the roads I'm driving on are just inches above the water levels down here.

Okay, one more interesting picture of what is called a "fishing shack" down here, it's actually more like a beach house or vacation home, but it's out in the water - there's just no other place to put them down here. You don't drive your car to these houses, you either take your boat, or walk down about 150 yards of old rotting wooden walkways to get to them.

There's never a dull moment doing this flat-bed work, last week my daughter was with me when we got into a little snow storm up in upstate New York, and this week I'm enjoying a break down in Louisiana with the night time coastal breezes blowing gently through my truck while I type out this post. You move around so much doing this job that you never know what's going to be next, it's all part of the adventure

My Final Days With Sarah

We actually got into some snow in upstate New York, that was a surprise after going through some really beautiful weather in other places. I guess winter is reluctant to give up it's strong grip on those New Yorkers. While making our way up into Sanborn NY we drove over the bridge from Grand Island over the Niagara river and could see the vapors rising from Niagara Falls in the distance. When we delivered this load we were done with our hours and parked at the K-Mart in Niagara Falls for a ten hour break.

Our next load was to pick up some large paper rolls in Oakfield NY, and take them to Danville, PA. This was one of the same places I had been to with my other daughter, some of you will remember it as the place where the little fork lift with a funny face was staring at us.

Here's what our load looked like after we had it secured, tarped, and ready to roll on down the road.

After getting that job done we got a short haul load of shingles that was headed to Danville CT. When we arrived at the plant they told us that our pick-up number was for a load that wasn't even supposed to pick up for another four days. Well, at that point it was 7:30 at night and those poor folks at night-time dispatch didn't have a clue about what to do about that, so Sarah and I shut er down for the night and sent my DM an e-mail explaining the situation, and reminded him that while I was willing to take that load, I really needed to get her back home so she could get back to her job. First thing in the morning he sent me a message to ignore that load, he hadn't realized the planners had put it on me, and he had a load of stainless steel pipe from Clark Summit, PA that was bound for Houston, TX which would allow me to drop her off at the house on my way through. I love the way this guy pulls it all out for me when I need him to work a little magic for me.

Here's our tarped load of stainless steel pipe. I took it to a distributor, but they told me this stuff goes into nuclear power plants.

We had a great time together seeing the sights, and she got to see what the "Old Man" does on a daily basis. They kept us moving right along as you can see from this screen shot of my qualcomm - there's one line not in the picture with about 385 miles on it, so if you can add all those numbers up you'll see what adds up to a pretty good weeks worth of work. We traveled from a port on the coast of Texas up to Niagara Falls NY, and back down to TX together, and that makes a decent work week for a driver.

I thought I'd leave you with what was to me the most interesting thing we saw on this trip, and for some reason it escapes me right now where we were, but it was on our way back to Texas from Upstate New York. We passed this salt mine where there was a huge pile of rock salt out side. If you look closely you can see the bull-dozer up in the top right hand area of the pile and that will give you a little perspective as to just how large this pile of rock salt was.

Still Enjoying Having Sarah Along

I've dropped Sarah off at the house now, and I want you to know that we were so busy having such a nice time together, that I didn't take the time to keep this thread updated. Shame on me!

Let me take a stab at catching y'all up.

After spending the night at Blacksburg, SC we delivered our load of lumber the following morning in Rocky Mount VA. I want to tell you about this day because it is a good example of how you have to be willing and able to adjust your plans and schedule on a daily basis in this career if you are going to be able to stay sane and still keep making a decent paycheck each week. It's not usually the problems of moving a big rig down the highway that cause people to throw in the towel in this business, but rather it's succumbing to the frustrations and not knowing how to deal with the unexpected curve-balls that are constantly challenging your ability to cope with ever changing goals and targets. Here's how things went for us and what we did to deal with it.

We gave ourselves a three hour cushion in our plans for the day so that we could make our 2:00 loading appointment at Steel Dynamics in Roanoke. Well, the folks who were unloading us in the morning let us sit and sit for a little more than three and a half hours before they managed to get us unloaded. Very frustrating because now it makes us late for our pick-up schedule, so I had to call and get it rescheduled. The next available time was about three hours later than my original appointment so I took it and we rolled on in about an hour ahead of our appointment time and waited. About six hours after our rescheduled appointment we were finally loaded and ready to roll. I would have only had two hours of legal driving time at that point, and I had studied all this while we were waiting, running out different scenarios in my head trying to figure out how to still make my scheduled appointment even though they loaded me much later than originally planned. If I went a head and drove for that two hours and then took a ten hour break as required by the regulations I would be late and probably have to reschedule for the next day. Can you say "Not Happening"? Here's what we did to "beat the system" and keep outsmarting the folks driving themselves nuts struggling every week trying to figure out how to make this frustrating career work for them. After being at this shipper for about twenty minutes I went ahead and got myself on the sleeper berth line. Now if you are following all this, and keeping up with the math, you'll quickly realize that after I was loaded and ready to go I only needed about four more hours on the sleeper berth before I could turn those wheels again. Now I've got to get to a place to sleep for a little while without starting my electronic logs - that's a challenge because there is no truck stop nearby. Of course the driver who is constantly trying to stay on his game pays attention to all this as he's rolling in to his shipper, and because of that I had already spotted a grocery store nearby with a large parking lot. We pulled in as they were closing the store and slept until 1:00 am and then started rolling again. I let Sarah sleep as I drove those early morning hours since she isn't accustomed to my erratic sleeping patterns. But there you have it - one way you can keep those wheels turning even if your shippers and receivers do everything in their power to mess you up. We were still on schedule and we didn't take a hit on our paycheck. Most important though is that we didn't cuss and scream and send nasty messages to our DM griping and complaining about the way we're being treated and saying that we're too tired to get this load delivered now. Personally as far as I'm concerned they can keep all that miserable layover pay in the company bank account - I want to get paid for delivering my load and start heading to the next load, and that's how you do it.

Once the sun came up, we enjoyed the beautiful weather and scenes along the way on our journey - it's beginning to be a very beautiful spring.

Sarah got a kick out of this water tower we saw which was designed to look like a large peach.

Sarah and I Continue After Taking a Break

We enjoyed our 34 hour reset at Madison, Georgia by taking walks, enjoying some meals at local restaurants, and we even went to a local church for Easter Morning Worship. When Sarah woke up Monday morning I already had us moving on down the road about an hour away from Madison, and the delicious smell of sausages sizzling and frizzling in the pan was filling up the cab of the truck so that it was making it hard to sleep much more. We enjoyed a rolling breakfast together as we kept our freight moving toward it's destination. We arrived at our receiver and had no problems getting our "slinky coils" unloaded quickly.

We sent in our "empty call" on the Qualcomm and waited for about fifteen minutes for our next load which is a load of lumber to be picked up at a Georgia Pacific mill in McCormick SC and will deliver to Rocky Mount VA. Here's what it looked like after we were loaded.

Then I worked on making the tarps look like a professional who put a little pride in his work had done the work, and we set off. We kind of had some of our time get burned up at this plant because of another driver taking his sweet time (he was a rookie, so I'm not going to lay into him) but there were a considerable number of us being held up by him having to do his tarps over a couple of times. This particular mill has a tarping station that you have to work in when doing your tarps, and it is only made for one truck at a time. If he had known what he was doing, he could have gotten his tarps stretched out and secured with just 6 or 8 bungees and then pulled on up out of the way and let the next truck in, but he'll know better next time. Here's our tarped load ready to roll.

We got ourselves up to Blacksburg South Carolina where we stopped for fuel and checked our qualcomm messages which had a pre-planned load on it of a steel load to pick up in Roanoke Virginia tomorrow that will go to upstate New York. I had originally planned on getting started early tomorrow, but after seeing the appointment times on the pre-plan it will be better for us to start around eight in the morning with this current load or else we will end up sitting for a while waiting for our pick-up appointment. I'm sure my DM went ahead and sent me that information knowing I would need it to plan my day tomorrow - he does a great job at knowing how I think and operate. Now that we know what the plan is for tomorrow we decided to go ahead and shut down here at the Flying J in Blacksburg for our evenings rest. We'd been smelling the wonderful smells of "smothered" pork chops coming from the crock-pot in our truck for several hours now, and it was nice to stop, rest, and enjoy the fruit of our labors together sitting in the truck eating a nice "truck cooked" meal. The smothered pork chops with baby bella mushrooms and shallots in a rich brown gravy sure tasted good after a nice days work! I love to cook.

We will begin our day tomorrow with some good hot truck stop showers and a nice breakfast at Denny's. Today we delivered one load and picked up another, and tomorrow we will do the same thing again. That can add up to a lot of work for a flat-bedder and not always a lot of miles, but it's only Monday and I've already got fifteen hundred miles for this week in the bag - it's all good! Looks like it's gonna be a great spring - the rush is on!

Taking Sarah Along

Some of you who have been around a while will remember when I documented my travels with my oldest daughter. This week my middle daughter took some time off from her job to ride with me and I thought I would repeat that little exercise for the sake of any new lurkers and regulars that may be interested in what life on the road is really like.

I came through the house with a load of plastic pipe welding equipment that I picked up in Gallatin Tennessee that was headed to Katy TX. The receiver had such a tight spot I had to turn around in to get backed into a bay that was really only designed for something like a one ton truck, that I had to jack-knife the truck hard enough so that I could get the trailer to move forward with the tractor moving in reverse. Here's a photo of the load I had on the truck when I picked up my daughter at the house.

My daughter Sarah and I delivered that first load and then promptly got another load to pick up in Vidor Tx that was headed for Abbeville South Carolina. I surprised Sarah with a pink hard hat that I had ordered for her in anticipation of this event. Here she is decked out in her PPE (Pink Protective Equipment)

Well, it was interesting that we start out our journey together in exactly the same place at Vidor TX. Do you remember the place that had the sign warning us about the alligators? That's where I started my travels with my oldest daughter, and this is where Sarah and I started also.

Just as soon as we got loaded up with these slinky coils we got rolling on into Louisiana where we spent the night at Breaux Bridge.

I try to make these trips with my daughters special for them so we managed to view some of the local artwork...

And sample some local cuisine,,,

All at the same place!

Well, we rolled 615 miles the next day to get to Madison Georgia, where we set ourselves up for a 34 hour reset because my hours are running low on my 70 hour clock. We cooked a jambalaya in the crock-pot while we were rolling down the road and enjoyed the smell on the road and the flavor at the truck stop when we finally stopped for the night.

It's spring time in the south and we've been enjoying scenes like this down here where the wild flowers are in full bloom.

It sure beats looking out your window at scenes like this - these kind of views got a little bit old during the long winter.

I'll keep this thing posted as we move along, I hope you enjoy coming along for the ride!

It's Official - I'm Pathetic

Yes, I am officially pronouncing myself as a pathetic blogger - of course since there is absolutely no one following this thing anyway I guess it really doesn't matter.  I actually enjoy posting stuff about what I do, and I think it could be helpful to someone wanting to become a professional truck driver, but the main reason I even started this was to inform my family of my whereabouts and my goings on, which now seems kind of unnecessary since I talk to my wife every day on the phone.  Then there is also the fact that I left my last post almost 5 months ago saying I would tell how I ended up in California tomorrow, and here it is almost five months later and I don't even remember how I got over there anymore.  Also after looking at my blog today I realize that I didn't even understand that if I removed a photo from my photo bucket account it would also remove it from my blog!  I'm so lame at this techie stuff - now I've got photos that have been deleted from the blog pages.  There are probably ten thousand other reasons I can be declared pathetic, but I'm thinking I may just persevere anyway and see what becomes of this officially pathetic blog.

Recently Sarah (my second daughter) took her vacation time from work to ride along with me, and we had a great time together.  I tried to document it on a web-site that I do some work on for new truck drivers coming in to the industry, but there again I fell behind and had to catch it up after skipping out on them a few days.  I'm going to copy and paste it here for others to read about it, and realize it may not be as personal as if I were just blogging about it here because it was done in a different environment originally.  Also I will follow up that post with another copied and pasted post from Trucking Truth about where I'm at this weekend.

I'm saying all this to say that I'm going to try and give this one more shot and see how it goes.  I really do enjoy putting my thoughts down here for you to read, but I find that my time to do it is not always convenient.  This job is very demanding as far as time goes and you have to sleep at all different times of the day to make your schedule work out in the most efficient way, so it's not always conducive to blogging.  But since the main thing that doing this accomplishes for me is the cathartic effect of writing out my thoughts, I will try it again, even if it is a completely selfish reason for doing so.