Friday, February 26, 2016

Visiting With Friends Along The Way

A unique advantage to truck driving is that you often times will get the chance to stop and visit with friends or family along the way if you happen to be passing near where they live.  My good friend Jim Rogers, who now resides in Tulsa, Oklahoma with his dear wife Virginia calls me at least once every week wanting to know the same thing with every call, "Where in the world are you today?"  He also wants to know when I'm coming to Tulsa.

I have not seen them in well over a year now.  I used to get through there to see them fairly often before I took on this dedicated SAPA position.  I knew we had a customer in Tulsa because my good friend Paul Anderson is often times delivering over there.  Of course once I told Jim about that, he from that point on has been asking me when I'm coming that way.  I have never been dispatched on that run until this week.  Due to me breaking down last week it has kind of thrown me off of my usual schedule so that I am back in Delhi in time to grab a load heading up to Connecticut.  My dispatcher likes to put me on that one because, as he told me, "I know you will take care of it and not be late."

So, as soon as I realized I was heading to Tulsa I gave Jim a call and he was so excited I thought he was going to burst.  I parked at my consignee (that is a fancy truck driver word for the customer that you are delivering to - it is an old word left over from the days of British seamen who delivered goods across the oceans on their ships) and Jim came and picked me up.  The three of us enjoyed a nice lunch together at a place called Fish Daddy's.  They are both getting on up in years and Virginia is having some mobility issues, but it sure was good to see them again.  I've known them since 1978, and I count them among some of my dearest and closest friends.  I only wish my wife could have been with me, because Virginia is very dear to her also.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Back At It

Well, tonight I'm sleeping in the parking lot at Brawo, a customer in Laurens, South Carolina.  It sure feels good to be back at my job and being productive.  After three days and two nights in a Hotel waiting for my truck to be repaired I was eager to get back out here.  I delivered my load that was on my truck up to Farmington, Connecticut and then went to Cressona, Pennsylvania to pick up this load of aluminum rods that I will deliver here in the morning.  When I left Cressona my Zonar computer froze up on me and then shortly after that the screen went black.  It is now officially on the fritz - it makes things a little tricky because that is how I communicate with my dispatcher and he with me.  Oh, well we are managing over the cell phone, and as soon as I get this load off of the truck I will go to our terminal in Atlanta, Georgia and get it replaced.  That terminal is on my route back to Louisiana so that is no big deal to get that done.  For now I am having to keep a paper log for my records.  The Zonar also keeps up with my electronic logs, but nothing is working for now.

I'm trying to keep myself at the top of the food chain around here but that delay didn't help things.  I'm also going to have to get back home to see my doctor again because those places of skin he removed from my forehead came back from the pathologist as basal cell carcinoma.  I'm going to need to get quite a bit more of the tissue removed, and he wants me to see a plastic surgeon.  Oh boy, I never thought I'd be in a plastic surgeon's hands.  I'll probably end up looking like a modern day Frankenstein or maybe I could ask for the "Herman Munster" look!  I'm really not looking forward to all of this, but it must be done.  I need to be healthy so that I can continue to support my family, so I will do what it takes to get "back at it."

Thursday, February 18, 2016


That's what I decided to eat yesterday.  I'm still stuck here in Harrisonburg, Virginia - bored stiff.  Now the odd part of that is that I have never eaten Sushi before.  Oh I think I have taken a bite or two of it when someone else offered it to me, but I have never really determined to have a meal of it before.  I've always heard that the first time you eat Sushi that you should do it with someone who knows a little about it, but the opportunity presented itself and I didn't have an experienced companion along, so I just winged it. This place was advertised as a Japanese all you can eat type restaurant so I naively thought it would be like a buffet where you can see what it is you are getting - Wrong!  The petite little Japanese woman who seated me gave me a menu and explained that I could order any thing off the menu and they would bring me a small serving of it, then I could order again and again as long as I could eat what I was ordering.  She was very specific about the fact that if they thought I was wasting food they would charge extra for it on my bill.  I started this little experimental journey into food exploration off with a bowl of Myoshi soup - I think that is what they called it, and some Shrimp Tempura (I knew what that was).

I went from there to ordering a couple of different kinds of "rolls" as they were called - I honestly can't remember what they were called anymore.  I was doing pretty good until I got curious about the green pasty stuff and the small pile of thinly sliced whitish looking stuff on the plate with the Sushi rolls.  I figured it must have been something that I was suppose to put on the roll and take it all in together - I seemed to remember someone telling me that to enjoy the full effect of Sushi you had to know how to put the right sauce on it, so that you could enjoy all the flavors together.  So, I tried a little experiment - I put a nice dollop of the green paste, and a couple of slices of that white stuff on a small section of one of those rolls, popped it in my mouth, and KABLOOOOWEY!  I figured out that particular combination of ingredients was like an ancient Japanese witch doctor's formulation for opening up the breathing passages of a person with severely blocked sinus passages!

I think I learned how not to eat Sushi, but at least I learned a little bit about it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

All In A Day's Work... Or Not

One of the things I enjoy about truck driving is the fact that you have the ability to measure out your own amount of pay.  This job is totally performance based.  Of course there are also limitations that you have to work with.  Things like HOS (hours of service rules), bad weather, problem receivers and shippers, and of course physical problems like breakdowns of your equipment.

Here is my truck with a wrecker backed up to it preparing to pull it away from the TA truck stop in Lexington, Virginia.  My truck almost caught on fire here due to an electrical short.  When I woke up here from a nice sleep during a 20 degrees night I smelled a strange smell like rubber burning in my cab.  The heat generated by the short melted a bunch of wiring and burned a hole in the air lines for my air brakes - not a good way to start your day in this business!

That was yesterday, today I am in Harrisonburg, Virginia waiting on the repair work to be completed at a Volvo dealership here.  I spent the night in the Ramada Inn here, and I will be spending tonight here also. Hopefully they will have me rolling again sometime tomorrow.  Sometimes you measure out yourself the amount of money you make at this and sometimes it seems somebody else is measuring it out for you.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Dealing With The Elements

I left out of Delhi on Saturday night with a load headed for Connecticut.  Normally I would drive all night Both Saturday and Sunday nights and be in Connecticut in time for an early Tuesday morning delivery.  Tonight (Monday night) I have only made it as far as Lexington, Virginia.  There's a bad winter storm I'm dealing with, and all the other consequences that come along with a storm also.  Things like the fact that I got caught in a heavy squall of wind that was bad enough to tear one of my tarps open on the back end of my load.  So, I had to get to a truck stop and work out in the freezing rain to add another tarp on to that section of my load in an attempt to keep my materials dry.  Talk about freezing cold, even my insulated coveralls were soaked through after I got that accomplished.  It's all part of the pleasure of flat-bed trucking - I don't know why I enjoy it so much, but I do.

The weather is so bad that there are a lot of accidents along my route, and that just makes everything go really slow.  I lost track counting vehicles in the ditches and medians today after fifty something.  There was a fifteen car pile-up on I-81 in Northeastern Tennessee yesterday, and today there was a cattle truck that slid off the road and then overturned in Virginia, releasing all it's disoriented cattle out on the interstate!  What a mess!  The interstate is still closed tonight.  It looks like I will be three days late in getting there at this rate - today I averaged about 30 miles per hour, and was only able to drive for about five hours.  I was sending my dispatcher an email informing him of the delays and my lack of progress, and I received this back from him:

"That is completely fine.  I trust your judgement 100%.  I'll put you down for getting empty on Thursday, just let me know if that changes.  Thanks for making solid decisions, and communicating those things with me."

It is really nice that he has such confidence in me since we are not allowed to be late on these dedicated loads.  I've worked hard to be dependable and reliable, and they know that I will do whatever it takes to get things done, but safety has to trump all that customer service stuff or else we won't be here to serve the customer tomorrow.

The roads are really slushy, and with the dropping temperatures tonight there will be ice developing - every state ahead of me on this trip is advising people not to travel unless absolutely necessary.  I stopped today at about four in the afternoon, and I probably won't get started tomorrow until well after the sun comes up.  I don't want to be in this mess in the dark, and besides I need it to warm up a little tomorrow to begin the thaw before I get back out in this mess.

It's really been remarkable how little bad weather I've had to face this winter.  I've been very fortunate.  It won't be long until Spring begins to wrench this part of the country free from Winter's harsh grip - it's a struggle that goes on every year up here, a testament of the power of an indestructible life.

Monday, February 8, 2016


Not sure I know how to spell that crazy word which sounds "quite atrocious."

Well, Super Bowl 50 has come and gone - I was driving through the game, in fact I drove until about 3 a.m. so that I would be sitting at the gate of Horton Automatics in Corpus Christi, TX this morning when they open up for business.  So, I didn't see a moment of the game, in fact I don't even know who won!  A truck driver's life is so disconnected from everything - Oh I know we live in the age of information, and with a few swift clicks on my computer I could gather that knowledge, but the simple truth is, I personally could care less!

I raised three girls who were not the least bit interested in sports, and we have this strange little family tradition of watching "Mary Poppins" on Super Bowl Sunday.  If you want to know the truth I haven't seen a Super Bowl game in years!  Well maybe I caught some of it while at a truck stop - I honestly can't remember.

It all started way back when my girls were little and I went to a Video Store (Remember those things - they are non-existent now days) on Super Bowl Sunday, to rent "Mary Poppins" for my little girls, who had requested that little favor from their Dad.  The young college age fellow behind the counter looked quizzically at me, and even asked me "You do realize your checking out Mary Poppins, right?" "Oh yes," I replied.  At which he began an inquiry as to why I wasn't going to be watching the game.  Upon hearing my answer he looked at me with a visible sense of pity on his face and asked me if I would be interested in coming over to his house - he was having some friends over to watch the game and wanted me to know that I would be quite welcome to come If I wanted to.  So there you have it - the genesis of a long standing family tradition in my home - we watch "Mary Poppins" instead of the Super Bowl.  I don't know if my kids got together this year to continue the tradition or not, but I can assure you that if I had been there we would have been watching Dick Van Dyke cavorting around with those silly looking Penguin in that one dance scene along with my all time favorite scene where he and the other "sweeps" are dancing all about on the roof tops of the houses and popping down the chimneys with ease.

Oh boy, I have really thrown my "Man Card" away this week.  I have confessed to preferring "Mary Poppins" over Peyton Manning and Cam Newton, and I had a waitress in Virginia declare that I was not a "Real Truck Driving Man!" because I didn't drink coffee.  I think I feel my testosterone levels decreasing just talking about all this - It's not been a very good week for my hormones - Oh well...

On a brighter note, I am headed home today!  I requested this load to Corpus so that I could go by my house for a few days.  I've got some things to take care of - one of which is seeing my good friend and physician, Mark Cline, who is going to remove some sun damaged skin from my forehead and send it off to the lab to make sure it isn't anything bad.  I'll probably have a permanent raised eyebrow on one side of my face now if he has to remove a lot of skin on that side - oh well, if it looks to goofy I'll just go back in and have him take out a plug on the other side of my forehead and give me the full "Nancy Pelosi" look!

Here's a little truck driving/Music trivia for you that's related to this post/subject.

There was a song written in 1954 by a fellow named Terry Fell, ( I hope I have that right) called "Truck Drivin' Man."  Buck Owens made a hit out of it, and the song has had a nice long life.  When I was a young teen interested in music, (mostly rock) we enjoyed a version of that same song done by the J. Geil's Band.  That little song has been recorded by many different artists and found it's way over into several different genres of music.

I can still recall that hopping little tune in my head today... it was about stopping at a "Road House" in Texas, that not only had great coffee, but also had a song in the "Juke Box" called "A Truck Drivin' Man."

"Pour me another cup of coffee, it is the best in the land,
I'll put a nickel in the Juke Box, and play me A Truck Drivin' Man"

Saturday, February 6, 2016

You A'int No Real Truck Driving Man!

That is what somebody told me last week!  Here is how it all went down:

I stopped in the T/A truck stop near Lexington, Virginia around 3:00 a.m. the other night to take my federally mandated thirty minute break.  I walked into the restaurant, sat down at a table, and a rather plump and friendly waitress plunked down a cup of coffee on the table in front of me while saying,  "Here's your coffee Dahhling, what ya gonna have to eat?"  Now she didn't know it until I told her, but I don't drink coffee.  After I said, "Well, thank you, but you might want to give that to the gentleman who just sat down over there, because I'm not a coffee drinker," she just blurted out, "Well, you a'int no real truck driving man then are ya?"

I guess I'm gonna have to start drinking coffee, and show some solidarity with the real men.

I can't keep hanging out at these truck stops with my glass of ice water if my waitresses are going to be challenging my manhood.