Friday, July 10, 2015

Waiting... It's What Truck Drivers Do Best

I was in Delhi this morning at nine a.m.  I planned on being here at eight, but I ended up sleeping in a little this morning.  It's no big deal because I really didn't have any idea when my load was going to be ready, or even where in Texas it would be taking me.  Now that I'm here I found out I'm going to Corpus Christi, and then on to McAllen, TX.  That means that Abigail, whom I will pick up on my way through Nacogdoches, will go with me right down to the border of Mexico, and then more than likely duty and honor will call us to the North.  Since I am constantly running up into the Northeast Corridor of the country, I have no doubt that we will end up in New York and Connecticut together.

I also found out that they won't be loading this load until tomorrow.  So, here I sit, just a few hours from my home, waiting until probably late tomorrow afternoon to be able to get there.  I took a chance by coming in here as early as I could in hopes that I could get home maybe even today.  I lost the gamble, but it would have been worth it if it had worked out.  Sometimes the information coming out of the folks at the plant in Delhi is not as efficient as I would like, but any time I can get the jump on things it only helps me do a better job.  So, I do my thing whether I have all the information needed or not - sometimes it works out really good, other times I just end up waiting.  Most truck drivers despise waiting, it only serves to raise their blood pressure.  I try to look upon it as a positive, I always capitalize on my waiting time to get some rest, see some sights, or take some very enjoyable walks.  Here I am waiting, waiting to see my family, waiting...

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Working My Way To Texas

I spent the night last night in Dandridge, TN which was a good stopping point for me with my load of aluminum pipe that I delivered today in Moun Juliet, TN.  After getting that done I was dispatched to Delhi, LA so that I can grab a load going to Texas.  That's right, I put in my request a while back for a Texas load so that I could go get my "baby girl" for a whirlwind summer trip with her "old man."

Tonight I am in Winona, Mississippi at the Pilot truck stop.  I'm not a fan of Television, but most truck stops have a driver's lounge area where the drivers can sit down and relax in front of the T.V.  I just had to show you the driver's lounge at this truck stop.  Most of them can seat twenty or thirty people, and to be honest with you they are usually fairly crowded.  This one tickled me - it looked more like a walk-in closet that they didn't know what to do with, so they stuck four chairs and a flat screen T.V. in there so they could advertise that they have a driver's lounge!

Here I am in Mount Juliet getting my tarps off and getting my load ready to be off-loaded by the fork-lift operator.  Usually when you have a load of pipe that fills up your trailer like this you have got some weight on there, but since this is aluminum pipe I was only grossing out at about 46,000 pounds.  Some of my loads put me up around eighty thousand pounds, but this one was pretty light.

I am really looking forward to getting home to see my dear wife.  As much as I enjoy this job, it is a really difficult thing to be separated from the finest woman I've ever known.  The truck driver suffers, and those he loves suffer also.  It is a sad reality to this career.  My wife bears it well, and I appreciate her long suffering, and the grace with which she handles the whole situation.

I'm also looking forward to getting my Abigail and taking here with me on a whirl-wind tour of the country.  We're gonna have a great time together.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Being on the Alert for Potential Dangers

I'm in Dandridge, Tennessee tonight.  I left Cressona Pennsylvania about 3:30 this morning.  If you are asking yourself why did he leave so early in the morning when he didn't have an appointment to be somewhere the next day, I will answer that question for you.  There are basically two reasons.  One is that a truck driver always has to be thinking about his hours of service rules that he has to abide by.  And one of those is that after each days worth of driving (which can conceivably be a maximum of 11 hours of driving in a 14 hour period) I have to take a ten hour break before I can drive again.  So, if I need to be in Mount Juliet, Tennessee at 8:00 am Thursday (which I do) I need to leave in time to get my first day's driving time in plus the required ten hour break before I can leave early enough to get me to Mount Juliet by that time.  The other reason in this case was that I had planned out my trip to take my break time at the Pilot truck stop in Dandridge.  The parking at that particular truck stop usually fills up by about five o'clock in the afternoon (after you've done this long enough you start to figure all these important details out) so I needed to leave around 3:30 in the morning so that I could get here while I could still count on getting a parking spot.  Having a good understanding of these kind of details can make your life as a truck driver so much easier and more profitable.  These are the kind of things that trip people up repeatedly in this business.  While it is usually the rookies who get caught up with making mistakes and miscalculations on these details, I still run into people who have been doing this stuff for years that still don't get it.

Another thing that a truck driver must do is be on constant alert for dangers and problems along his chosen route that can not only mess up his day, but possibly end his/her career.  Pennsylvania is full of treacherous things that can cause all kinds of problems for you.  Anytime you get off the interstate system in Pennsylvania you need to be on "high alert."  Many of their roads are twisty mountain roads with very tight curves that are simply too tight to pull a 70 something foot long vehicle through.  Most of these roads are clearly marked, but in a big truck once you have entered a road that you shouldn't have gotten on in the first place it is next to impossible to get yourself turned around.  I have one of these "disasters waiting to happen" on my route coming out of the SAPA plant in Cressona, but I am fully aware of it so I know how to avoid it.  The highway that is my suggested route from my company to leave the plant on passes under a bridge that is too low for a big truck to get under.  My truck is thirteen feet tall - the bridge I'm speaking of is 11" - 8".  Not gonna happen!

Don't really know why I'm sharing all this, I'm sure it is of no interest to anyone, but I sit here all alone all day and sometimes I just feel like telling someone about some of the stuff I deal with everyday.  So, there you have it, a daily dilemma for the truck driver.

As soon as I can get this load of pipe delivered in Mount Juliet I am heading to Delhi to get a load that will take me to Texas so that I can pick up my youngest daughter Abigail - "her father's joy" - that's what here name means.  And so far she has done a good job of fulfilling that meaning.  I'm very excited to have her along with me, just as I was when I took her sisters on their grand adventures.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

An Extended Stay in Cressona

Well, it has happened again.  I came to Cressona for a load and they cannot seem to get it together for me.  I've been here since yesterday at around 3:00 pm and they finally had my load ready about twenty four hours later.  I spent my day today wandering around this interesting little town on foot.  I'm sure some of the locals think they've got a new "homeless" person in town.  Once I had my load it only made sense to me to wait for another ten hours to go by and that will 'reset" my seventy hour clock.  I don't want to bore you with the regulations that truck drivers have to work under, but by doing that 34 hour break I will be a lot more free to run the way I want to.  If I don't get that break in I will only be allowed to work for five hours tomorrow due to what is referred to as re-cap hours by the very intelligent folks in Washington, D.C. who came up with these mostly illogical rules that we work under.

Enough of that.  I ate breakfast this morning at a favorite little spot of mine, Jean's Place.  It is not particularly exceptional food, but it has an atmosphere that reminds you of generations gone by, almost Mayberry like.  This is a small restaurant run by Jean herself, all by herself.  It is tucked away in one of these unique to this area buildings just down the street from the SAPA plant.  If you look at this photo, Jean's Place is in the lower right hand section (white area) of this building.  The up stairs of the building is lodging with two different dwellings, and the other side of the lower section is another small restaurant called Site's Luncheonette.  I've yet to go into the other diner, but I will some day.  I find Jean's Place so intriguing that I have never even been tempted to go into the other place.

Jean's Place has a total of five tables in it that you can dine at.  There was one gentleman inside when I entered, and soon after me another one showed up.  So, there were three customers in there.  Since I am a stranger in town I didn't expect Jean to come and sit down at my table with me, but she certainly did with the other two men, and had a nice little chat with each of them.  She does know that I am a truck driver getting loads from the SAPA plant.  When I got ready to leave she said "I guess it;s time for you to go again, we'll see you next time your in town."  Here's a look at the inside of her little diner.  It is so small I couldn't even get back far enough to include all five of the tables in the shot!

I walked quite a bit today, I enjoy walking and it is bound to be good for me.  A truck driver can end up sitting for so long in that truck that it is not conducive to good circulation in your legs.  So I do what I can to combat that.  I took another shot of some of the local architectural style that is so dominant here.  I found a unique wooden bridge in town that crosses a section of four or five railroad tracks running along side each other.  It seems to have been put there so that the local folks can cross over the tracks on foot without the inherent dangers of crossing those tracks.  When I got across to the neighborhood on "the other side of the tracks" I spotted these two houses sitting next to each other.

I'm going to bed a little early tonight.  I've got to get up and get to work around three o'clock in the morning if I am going to get this thirty four hour break in and still be able to deliver this load on time.  Good night!

Abigail, I am on my way to get you!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Waiting for my next "Marching Orders"

I'm spending the night in Cressona, PA tonight at the SAPA plant nestled in among the cute little houses that make up this very old town.  Here's an example of the architectural style that is predominate in this town.

The homes have a small footprint, and almost always a front porch.  Notice the decorative trim below the eave of the roof, and the small door that is the entrance to the basement.  These homes are very narrow and often fairly deep.  I find them very intriguing - I would love to get a look inside one of them just to see how they are laid out on the inside.  There are hundreds of them built like this in this little town.

I successfully delivered my two stop load first thing this morning with my first stop being the Star Headlight and Lantern company in Avon, NY, and my final stop in North Collins to E&D Specialty stands.  This was delivered on time despite the delay of a whole day due to the tire issue I had.  My dispatcher was thrilled, and sent me a message with the word "Awesome" in there describing my accomplishment.  I think he really gets carried away with his compliments - I mean, for me, I'm just doing my job.  I guess he has a lot of people he deals with who just can't seem to get things done in a timely manner.  I try to help other drivers understand how to succeed at this stuff, but most of the time they just look at me like I'm crazy when they hear how I do things.  I don't know what ever happened to the good old American work ethic that our forefathers had, but I'm afraid it is sadly missing in most folks (at least in most truck drivers) these days.  This is my fourth week in a row where I ran over the three thousand miles a week threshold.  That is how you want to do this stuff if you want to make any money at it.

Okay, here's a shot of the folks at E&D Specialty Stands unloading the material I brought them.  These folks build stadium seating for ball parks and such.  So, it is possible that you have set down at a ball game on the very materials that I hauled across the country.

My first stop in Avon reminded me of one of the interesting sites you see in upstate New York, as you're traveling around, is lots of old barns.  Much of this area was settled in the early eighteen hundreds, and the barns they built then are still standing today.  This one sits across the street from Star Headlight & Lantern on a beautiful old farm.  The original home has either been torn down or destroyed in some way, and a nice modern one has been built in it's place, but the original barn is still standing strong, as are so many of them all across this area.

I'm waiting here tonight to find out the details of my next load.  It often happens here (at this plant in Cressona) that you show up in the evening, and then you get a call in the middle of the night around 2 or 3 in the morning telling you what the details of your load are.  So, I am going to bed and try to get a little rest before I have to get up and do it all over again.  Good night!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Delays... The Truck Drivers Constant Companions

I've been sitting in Olive Branch Mississippi at the Knight terminal there since 11 a.m.  It is now close to 9 p.m.  I'm on a run up into upstate New York that has one stop at the Star Headlight and Lantern company that I told you about the other day, and then it has as it's final stop a business in North Collins that makes stadium seating or "stands".  Yes, when you go to see a ball game at a stadium it is possible that you are parking your self onto some of the aluminum materials that I have hauled across this great country.

I've been delayed here because I discovered a steel shaft, which appears to maybe have been a chisel or a similar tool that found it's way into the roadway, and then consequently into my tire.

I pulled in here to get this fixed because I wasn't exactly comfortable with driving all the way up into upstate New York with this steel shaft poking through my tire, but the folks here don't seem to be in any kind of hurry to get me back on the road.  So, I wait... and wait... until tomorrow when I am told they will "get to me".  The tire is not leaking air, but still it seems like I should not take any chances with this thing causing me to have a blow-out while rolling down the interstate and probably causing havoc for more folks than just myself.  In this business you have always got to consider what effect your actions will have on the other motorists whom you share the road with.  So, I am delayed, but not for too long... I hope.

After my last run down through the Carolinas, I picked up a load of lumber in Fayette, Alabama that was my back haul - it delivered right to the SAPA plant in Delhi.  They use the wood for crating and packaging the out going products that I deliver.  When I left the wood yard where I picked up the lumber I asked one of the employees there if there was a place nearby that I could get some breakfast that might have truck parking.  He told me where the "Cruise In" diner was just a few blocks away, and said they had room for me to get in and park my truck.  I was pleasantly surprised by this cute little diner where I ate a breakfast plate of two eggs with bacon, grits, and toast for the grand total of $3.68!  They had an outside dining area with a cute little table that was designed to look like a 1957 Chevy.

I realize I'm rambling on and not even sticking to the main subject of delays, but I'm bored here and just throwing out what ever comes to mind... so I will also tell you about the handsome little red winged black-bird that I saw today, only this was not my first encounter with this particular bird.  The last time I was at this terminal I was having my truck serviced in the shop and having to wait around in the "driver's lounge' while they did what they do here.  I happened to notice a red winged black-bird admiring his reflection in one of the windows of the driver's lounge.  I didn't really think a lot about it at the time, I've seen male cardinals do this also... interesting isn't it that it is usually the male species we see doing silly antics like this.  But here he was again, prancing around in front of the window, obviously enjoying looking at himself, or maybe he was thinking it was an intruder into his territory that he wanted to put on alert, and let him know he was not welcome.  It is really hard to say what might be going on in that little bird brain of his, but here he was again, and I can only assume that he is a regular visitor to that reflective window that amuses him so.  It is not a good photo due to the screen, but here is the proud little fellow twittering away his time almost as fruitlessly as I am on the other side of the glass.

When I finish up this run into upstate New York I will be working my way back to Texas so that I can pick up my youngest daughter Abigail, who will join me for a grand adventure on the highways and byways of this great land.  I am really looking forward to our time together.