Tuesday, June 28, 2016


Okay here's an update of sorts.  I just don't seem to find the time to work on this blog on a regular basis, so all three of you who wait with bated breath on my next enthralling post will just have to excuse my tardiness!  Truck drivers put in long hours and they need their rest during their break times.  There are other things that demand my time when I get a little break, so this little blog kind of takes the back seat at times.  It has been hot.  Of course it is supposed to be hot right now, it is summer time.  I ran that load to Tempe, AZ and it was in excess of 110 degrees up there.  Arizona is a unique place.  Tempe is right there near Phoenix, basically a city in the middle of a dessert.  Almost nothing grows there. I mean they landscape their yards up there by spreading rocks around just to keep the occasional rain shower from washing away the dirt in their yards!  The desert has a rugged beauty that is unique to itself, I always enjoy driving through that area - the temperature change as the evening descends can sometimes be incredibly satisfying.

I was hauling some material used for the stadium seating at the remodeling project of the Arizona State University football stadium.  I had an appointment set for 10 p.m. Friday night.  The paper work indicated that I had to meet a crane to unload me at the stadium and the crane would be there at ten o'clock Friday night.  They are working this construction project at night because of the brutal heat.

Now, no savvy truck driver ever wants to get unloaded that late on a Friday.  "Why is that?"  Well, that means that he is going to be stuck for the weekend with nothing to do.  Your dispatcher will be off, and even though there is always someone on duty that we call "weekend dispatch," there is usually nothing they can do for me.  In fact the way my dedicated account is set up, the weekend dispatcher is not even able to access our information or secure loads for us.  Remember how I talked about freedoms and responsibilities in my last post?  Well here's what I do with those things... I got right on the phone until I could get hold of the superintendent of the construction site.  After discussing the situation with him and explaining that it would be much easier and faster to unload this material with a JLG construction boom that had forks, he agreed with me that there was no reason to use the crane truck.  He also agreed that if I could get there on Thursday at three p.m. they would get right on it and unload me.  After thirty years in the sign business and operating cranes of all sorts, I knew that any construction site would have these JLG Booms sitting around.  That is how you do this stuff and stay successful.  You don't wait around for things to happen, you push for earlier appointments so your time does not get wasted.  My dispatcher was so impressed - in fact he told me in an e-mail "Dale, you get our customers to do stuff for you that nobody else can ever do, no matter how nicely they try to go about it.  I don't understand it.  Our customer service reps already tried to get your appointment changed to an earlier time before we ever dispatched this load to you, they were flatly refused."

Here's some shots of my truck where I had to do an almost three hundred yard serpentine backing maneuver through all sorts of equipment and construction debris and under this passage way into the very football field area itself to get unloaded.

By getting this done early like I did it set me up for a back haul load that came out of the mountains in Arizona.  I wish I could have gotten some shots of the approximately 2 hour trip from Tempe up in to the White Mountain area - it was beautiful, but I was pressed for time and it is just not safe nor easy to stop and park a seventy something foot long vehicle on the side of a twisting mountain road to take photos.  I will say this, it reminded me of the time I had to go through the Salt River Canyon area of Arizona, and I have some photos of that area - so here is what it sort of looked like.

This is an area where much of the land is Indian Reservation land.  But to me they had the most politically incorrect names for the area, not that I am into political incorrectness, because I certainly am not, but the names just struck me as odd.  I'm in Indian reservation territory and I'm going up "White" mountain.  Furthermore the place I'm going to pick up a load of lumber is called "FATCO."  I don't know why but the names just struck me as odd.  FATCO is an acronym for Fort Apache Timber Company.  Another oddity about Arizona is that I was in the desert there at Tempe, but by just driving about an hour up into the neighboring mountains I was in lush Forest growth.  You could barely find a tree or a blade of grass down there in Tempe, but once you get a little higher in elevation everything begins to grow.  The Indians loaded me up with all the lumber I could legally haul, and I set out for my destination in Clifton, TX near Waco.

Clifton turned out to be a sleepy little town that is making an effort to revive itself by revitalizing it's old Main Street area.  I got there Saturday night and slept at the Clifton Trim Company where I would deliver Monday morning.  By getting my appointment moved up in Arizona, it enabled me to keep working over the weekend.  That is how I stay at the top of the drivers in my group.  It's hot in Texas too!

There was a team roping competition going on just down the street from where I was parked, so I went over and watched the cowboys and cowgirls compete for the best times and the pot of prize money.

That picture is of a husband/wife team which got one rope around the calf's neck and another around it's back legs in 5.2 seconds!  That's "gittin er done!"

I enjoyed killing a little time in Clifton.  I walked their main street area...

Found a local Luthier's shop...

Enjoyed looking at the old buildings... This one had a corner stone with a date of 1879 on it.

Check out this plaster work on this porch ceiling that I spotted at one building - you just don't find this type of architectural work anymore...

I also enjoyed a really great breakfast at a local Czech bakery - it was really good!

Since then I've been over to Miami. Florida where I caught this rainbow after a thunderstorm...

And enjoyed the landscaping at my delivery point.  I don't know what this plant is, but it's beautifully colored waxy leaves were very attractive juxtaposed with the lighter colored taller shrubbery behind it.

I also have been up in Connecticut where they blamed me for bringing the heat up there with me from Louisiana.  Yes, it was even hot in Connecticut!

I went from Connecticut down to Cressona, Pennsylvania and enjoyed the Elvis music and the food at the Manheim Diner while waiting on my ten hour break there before heading down to Tampa, Florida with a load of extrusions bound for two different distributors there.

Down in Tampa I spotted these two Sandhill cranes scrounging around for something to eat at the little truck stop I was at.

It was so hot in Tampa, and I needed to take a 34 hour break to reset my clock, so I checked into a hotel for the night.  It was a nice change of pace and the air conditioning worked way better than my truck's!  The pillows were all standing at attention when I entered the room, and the housekeeping personnel left me a nicely folded towel flower!

Okay, now you know what I've been up to.  Today I'm back in Delhi waiting on a load that I will pull out with tonight when it is ready.  My first stop is in Kansas City, and then on to several places in Missouri, and a final stop in Round Lake, IL.  I'm looking forward to my next time at home in July.  I've got a follow up doctor's appointment.  My recent surgery has healed very nicely, and I'm trying to do what I can to protect my skin from further sun damage.

Did I mention how hot it is everywhere?  Mucho Caliente!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016


Please forgive my lapse in not keeping you updated on my dilemma of being stuck in the corn fields of South Dakota.  Here's what happened and how I was released from the vertical stalks of corn that began to look like prison bars to me: On Sunday afternoon  I got a message from the terminal manager wanting to know why I was still there?  "They didn't give you a load yet?" he inquired of me.  I had to hold my tongue in my response, because there is no "they" in this equation.  He was totally responsible for my activities, I guess he doesn't realize that I am fully aware of how this program works on this dedicated account.  Maybe, I know more about it than he does - I wouldn't think so, but the only response I got from him after I responded with "no" was, "I'm going to do something about this," and then it went silent for the rest of the day again.  On Monday, Memorial Day, I get a call from my real dispatcher who wants to know how my week went.  He told me that I was the only driver who hadn't tried to call him while he was on his vacation, and he had hopes that maybe I had a better week than everyone else.  When he found out I had been sitting there in Yankton since Friday morning he was livid.

He said he was going to get logged on and get me moving one way or the other.  About fifteen minutes later he called me, and I cannot use the kind of language he was using to tell me how frustrated he was over this issue, but basically he told me that there was a load in our system "pre-planned" for me to pick up at the Yankton SAPA plant on Friday morning!  All the manager had to do was get it dispatched to me!  So, it turns out the load was still sitting there waiting on me, and within about thirty minutes I was over there and getting ready to roll out with my new marching orders.  If I have some competency backing me up at the office I can accomplish a lot out here - my dispatcher is a great guy and we work together real well - I'm going to give you another example of this in just a few minutes.  This load had three stops on it, Batavia, Ohio - Franklin, Kentucky - and Enterprise, Alabama.  A nice run indeed.  I got on the phone and set up my appointments at each location after studying out the trip and making a plan on how to accomplish it all in a manner that honored both their time and mine.

Now I was scheduled to be home for June 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th.  Normally the way I go home is I will request a load going to Texas a few days ahead of when I need to get home, and typically I schedule my home time so that it starts on a Tuesday.  There is a reason for that, and here is why I do it that way.  We have a load that goes to Corpus Christi, TX that loads every Saturday and has to be delivered on Monday morning at seven a.m.  Sometimes they load it on Sunday, but typically it loads on Saturday.  To get back to Delhi, I have to go right through my home-town.  That allows me to get home either Monday night or Tuesday morning, and I can be home a few days and then go back to Delhi on Friday night and have been off duty enough to reset my 70 hour clock, and also be back to Delhi for one of those really nice loads up to Upstate New York, or Connecticut.  That is why I do it that way.  This time I wanted to be home over the weekend for several reasons, one of which was so that I could attend church with my family and see some of my dearest friends while I was home.  By the time I finished this load in Enterprise, Alabama there was not sufficient time for me to take a load to Texas and still get home in time to do what I wanted to do.  I was a little frustrated, but I was just going to go with the flow, because I know they don't like to send me off to Texas without pulling a load while in the process.  My dispatcher called me after I emptied my load in Alabama, and said, "Here's what we are going to do... you put in your request last month to go home this weekend, but what took place up there in South Dakota really threw a wrench in things.  You come through Delhi and drop that empty trailer off at the plant and then bob-tail your truck to Nacogdoches.  Whenever you are ready to come back to work just give me a call."  This guy treats me like a king!

Okay, I had a great time at home - we went to Kemah, TX to a little family get together for a couple of my nieces who just graduated - that was fun.  I spent some time just chillin' with the latest four legged member of the family, "Lucy," who kind of had the same ideas as I did for a great way to spend a few days at home...

I enjoyed seeing some of the beautiful things my wife was producing in her garden,  I forgot to snap a photo of the beautiful tomatoes she will be harvesting soon, but I did get a nice shot of this Day Lilly that was showing itself off in the sun...

I really enjoyed seeing my friends at church, these are my dearest friends and have been for many years.  We also enjoyed going over to Sarah and Austin's house (my daughter and son in law) for a little surprise birthday party for Austin on Monday evening - that pretty much was a fun filled, fully packed weekend for me, and of course the real high light of it all is just being with my wife for a few days - there is nothing more rewarding to me than to see her gentle smile and feel her warm embrace - she means everything to me!

So, I made up my mind to go ahead and leave Monday night after Austin's birthday party.  At about 9:15 p.m. I was in my truck setting my logs to on duty and starting my pre-trip inspection of my truck when my phone started ringing.  Now here's the part about how well my dispatcher and I work together... I could have spent another night at home in my own bed, and left out on Tuesday morning, but I knew that some of the best possible loads would go out on Tuesday.  Now, if I were to leave Nacogdoches on Tuesday morning a good amount of my on duty/driving hours would have been used up once I arrive in Delhi, and I would be limited by how far I could advance that load on Tuesday.  But if I leave Monday night, I can have time to put in a ten hour break on Tuesday in Delhi, and all my options are open that way.  I had already informed my dispatcher that I would be there Tuesday ready for a load.  What he didn't know is when I was going to leave for Delhi.  Okay, who is it calling me at this time of the night?  My dispatcher.  He wants to know what time of the day on Tuesday I will be there - it seems he has gotten a really nice load going West to Tempe, AZ.  It is a tight schedule and he is wanting to give it to me because he is confident that I can handle it, but it is worrying him that I won't make it because part of my hours will be used up while driving to Delhi, on Tuesday.  He is calling to see if there is any way he could persuade me to go ahead and leave tonight!

Hehe... he is amused and derides himself for even calling me once he realizes what is going on.  He laughs at himself and says, "Now I am wondering why I even thought I needed to call you, I should have known what you would be doing.  This is the stuff that always puts you head and shoulders above the rest of these guys - thanks Dale, I'll see you Tuesday."  If you are one of the few people who follow this little blog, I hope you realize that I am not bragging on myself.  I expound these matters in hopes that some future truck driving newbie can learn from the things I have learned.  This job is completely performance based, that is why professional drivers get paid by the mile.  The ones who get it, and understand how to set themselves apart, will always be the best paid and the most rewarded.  You see most of the drivers on this account live right near Delhi, LA, and that allows them to get home on the weekends, a very nice privilege in this career, but they all want to come back to work on Monday morning.  Some of them have complained to my dispatcher that it seems to them that I get the best loads.  If they would just do like I do and pay attention to what days these loads are going out, then they could serve themselves better by working things out so they could go home on Sunday and come back to work on Tuesday, as opposed to going home Friday afternoon and then coming back to the plant on Monday morning.  There is a definite pattern to what goes out the door at the plant.

Just to give you an idea of the jealousy that is among some of the drivers here, my dispatcher told me that he was going to hide my paperwork so that the other drivers would not see that I had gotten a load to Tempe, AZ!  What is funny about all this is that some of them have gotten a chance here lately to run the loads that I normally do up into Upstate New York, and Connecticut.  I had that surgery, and have had to have some more frequent time at home for doctor visits, etc, but our dispatcher tells me that he has had a lot of problems with the drivers getting these loads in on time.  He told me, "I have to stay on the phone with them, halfway chewing them out and telling them you have got to get there on time, this is a dedicated customer, we have a contractual agreement with them to get this stuff done on time or else we get punished financially - and halfway trying to give them the "rah, rah, rah," cheering them on so they will make it there."

I have a ton of "freedom" in this job - my dispatcher says I've earned it.  I pretty much get to choose the areas I go to, and I get home whenever I need to.  Freedom carries with it great responsibility, and I take my freedoms with caution.  I am responsible for a great deal, and that is what makes these freedoms so rewarding.  I never take advantage of the freedoms they claim I've earned, I just keep trying to do my very best at a job that few ever learn to excel at.  I read lately in a trucking publication that over 90% of the new drivers who enter this career don't last past the first 90 days as a new solo driver.  That is an awful lot of wasted time, effort, and money on the trucking companies part to try and train new drivers in what has become a rewarding career for me.