Saturday, November 19, 2016

Heading Home For Thanksgiving

I'm in Cressona, PA hooked to my next load.  It's a multi-stop load to Texas which will allow me to get home for Thanksgiving.  This load has six separate locations to deliver to.  Three in Houston, TX, two in Austin, and one way down south in Pharr, TX.  The regulations we are working under don't allow me the legal working hours to finish the load in time to get back to Nacogdoches for the holiday, so my dispatcher is allowing me to split it up by delivering the three stops in Houston on Tuesday, then go to Nacogdoches and take a few days off for the holiday, and then deliver the other three stops on Monday.

If you were paying attention in that last post you would have noticed that this load has about 2,800 miles on it.  That is a nice load, but it is very unusual to be allowed to take a few days off in the middle of a load.  These guys that I'm working with, Knight Transportation, are really big on trying to get everybody home for Thanksgiving.  When you have about five thousand drivers out there spread out all over the country, that is no small feat.

Here's what this stuff looks like on my trailer - most of it is aluminum pipe, or round tubing.  There's a few I-beams, some square tubing, and maybe one other shape.

It's a thing of beauty, at least that's the way I see it.  Don't you agree?  There's just something pretty about these nice shiny extruded aluminum products.

We have to tarp all these loads, but when we load up here in the Northeast they insist that we cover the load with some poly sheeting before we put our tarps on it.  Here I am backed up into the tarping station - a contraption that gives you about one inch of clearance on either side of your trailer to back into. It is supposed to keep you from falling off your load while you are up there monkeying around with those tarps.  And it is a good thing too, because trying to lay out your tarps while walking around on that poly sheeting, laid over the top of this nice shiny aluminum, is the closest thing to ice skating that one can do without actually strapping on some skates!  Here it is with the poly sheeting in place.

I'm looking forward to seeing my family, but I am going to miss my youngest daughter Abigail.  I think this will be my first Thanksgiving without her being there.  She is in school in Colorado this year, but we will see her at Christmas, and we'll have a great time together then.

Friday, November 18, 2016

A Plan Comes Together

Okay, let me finish telling you how everything went down on this load.  I apologize, I meant to do this yesterday, but at the end of the day I was just exhausted.

Remember I slept at my customer at Bridgewater, NJ so that I could get unloaded first thing in the morning and get started on my day quickly, because I had a lot of ground to cover and five stops to deliver.

Here's how my stops break down...

1st stop - Bridgewater, NJ

2nd stop - Mountain Top PA. This is a SAPA plant

3rd stop - Hamden, CT. This is a customer that I go to often.

4th & 5th stops are actually at the same location in Farmington, CT. This is a really big customer on this account. We send at least three truck loads per week to these guys.

Well, sleeping at Bridgewater was a smart move. At about five thirty in the morning several other flat-bed trucks showed up thinking they were going to be the first in there to get unloaded. As I cracked open my sleeper curtain and peered at them I could see the dejected look on their faces when they realized I had outsmarted them. A slightly evil grin involuntarily spread across my face as I eased the curtains back together. At 7:15 I was unloaded and the race was on!  I sometimes speak of this job as being competitive, and this is a great example of what I'm talking about.  Had I not been competing with those other drivers by getting ahead of them with my approach, everything could have broken down for me on the execution of my plan.

There are several problems with loads like this, but you just have to take the initiative and solve the issues. That's how you make a success out of this career. One of those issues is the time it takes dealing with the tarps at each stop. Here's a look at how I pull the tarp up to the top of the load on one side so that the customer can get their product off the truck without me having to totally remove the tarp. Then I will just pull it back down, throw the bungees in place and roll. If you want to do these types of loads you have to be prepared for this - it requires some agility and work, but it is all part of the gig.

As I was racing through this load and getting near to Hamden, CT, I realized that I was not going to make it to Farmington by three o'clock, which is the cut off time for receiving. Not a problem, I have the fork lift operators cell phone number, and he has waited on me before. I send him a text message letting him know that I will be there around four o'clock, and was it possible for him to unload me then? He sends back that their boss has really been cracking down on the overtime pay, and that I had better check with him first. Hmmm, that doesn't sound promising, but I give the man a call anyways. He doesn't think well of the idea. He tells me they are having a little Thanksgiving party and dinner for the employees starting at 3:30 and it just wouldn't be fair to pull the fork lift operator from the party to have him unload me. Okay, fair enough, I will just pull over there when I can and sleep there so they can unload me first thing in the morning. Only problem is that will put me at Ilion around noon. That works, but it isn't what I told my dispatcher. I send another text to "Jorgo" the fork lift guy and tell him that Jody said no, and that I will just park out back and see him first thing in the morning. I get a text from him in a few minutes that says, "Just roll on over here and we will see what happens."

When I pull in at four o'clock Jorgo is sitting on the fork lift waiting on me at the unloading area. He tells me that he doesn't enjoy all the small talk at the beginning of these company parties, so he slipped out to unload me while they get that part over with, and he will join back up with them when the food starts being served. So, as you see his little act of kindness made my whole plan come together. Remember what I said about these guys, the lowly fork lift operators, and how they can help you or hurt you. Usually your attitude toward them will set the tone for your future encounters with them.

Jorgo's generosity (he was off the clock) set me up to get myself onto the sleeper berth line by 4:30, which allowed me to start driving at 2:30 a.m. That put me in Ilion, New York at 0700, and I was sending my MT call in at 7:15 a.m. BOOM! It all came together!

As soon as that MT call was sent in my Qualcomm started going off with my next dispatch. Check out the miles on this next load going to Texas.

Not bad! What's really great about this load is that I get to split it up and take my Thanksgiving break at home in the middle of the load. How cool is that?

Remember what I told you about the detention pay I got on this load? Take a look at the total X-pay on this load. Sometimes this stuff really adds up!

I'm down in Cressona, PA tonight where I will spend the night and pick up my load in the morning, Then it's back to the races!

I hope this stuff helps some of you see the tactics and strategies for success out here.

It's funny, this week we've had a couple of drivers in our forum over at who were throwing in the towel and complaining vehemently about this industry and they way they "feel" they have been treated. One of the complaints was the crazy hours one has to keep, flipping your sleep schedules from night to day and starting your day at 2 or 3 in the morning. Did you notice how I drove all night the first two drive shifts on this load, then I flipped it back over to day time so that I could make those five stops happen? Then I had to start at 2:30 in the morning to get to my final destination first thing Friday morning like I had communicated with my dispatcher. That is how you make a success out of this crazy job. You are responsible for putting the pieces of the puzzle together - nobody is going to hold your hand. That is responsibility, and that creates success. I like being responsible for my actions and then enjoying the fruit of my labors. If you can take your own initiative to tackle the issues out here, then you can make it a pleasure and a joy to be an American Truck Driver.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

My First Stop is in the Bag

I traveled another 650 miles last night and parked my truck on my customer's property here in Riverdale, New Jersey.  I arrived here at 5:45 this morning.  The easiest way to get unloaded quickly at this particular place is to get here early in the morning, which is why I planned it out like this. They do not have a good place here for unloading flat-bed trucks.  They have five docks here for dry van loads, and the only place for you to get a flat-bed in here is to block off the other trucks access to those docks by parking across them so they can come out with a fork lift and unload you.  If you get here late in the day it is almost impossible to get in there because of all the other trucks coming and going, and if they see that you are sitting there waiting, then they just back out of the entrance and go in the exit and back up to their dock, which effectively keeps you blocked out.  Basically you need to be here when there are no dry van trucks here, and if you get here early in the morning you can block them out.  I've danced this dance here enough times to know how it all plays out.

Here's the problem with all that.  I got here early and I got unloaded, but because of the fact that I had to drive 650 miles to accomplish that, I am now required to take a ten hour break to get some rest.  Well, that puts me too late into the day to get to my next stop before they stop receiving for the day!  So I will have to take a ten hour break here, then drive over to my next stop in Bridgewater, New Jersey, which is only 40 miles from here.  I'll sleep in their parking lot tonight and get unloaded there first thing in the morning.  Seems kind of silly to drive forty miles and then take another ten hour break, but that's the way this one falls.

I pushed really hard to get to this first stop today, because after studying this whole load, I am quite sure that I can get the next five stops all unloaded tomorrow.  Had I taken my time at the beginning and got here tomorrow as my dispatch appointments were set up, I would not be able to accomplish my goal of getting myself emptied out first thing Friday morning.  Remember the whole point of this was to set myself up for another load early on Friday.  That is how you prove your worth in this business, in fact I got a call from my dispatcher yesterday saying, "I see what you are doing with this load, I really like the way you think!"

Okay, so what do you do when you are taking two ten hour breaks back to back?  Well, I like to walk for exercise, and Riverdale is a great place to do just that.  There is a city park right next door to my customer here which I can walk through and get into a nice little neighborhood that boasts sights like this...

You can also seek out a small diner where the locals go to eat and find yourself a bargain on a nice hot lunch plate such as this open faced roast beef sandwich served with mashed potatoes and real soup that they actually make on the premises.  This is a little place called Karen's Country Kitchen.  I eat here every time I make a delivery to this customer.  They are friendly and the food is always good and reasonably priced.

Karen's Country Kitchen is a small luncheonette counter with a feel of days gone by about it.  It is fun to discover these little tucked away places all across the country.  It is part of the simple pleasures of doing this job.  You can make this job enjoyable by embracing the whole lifestyle it offers, or you can sit in your truck and be miserable.  I have chosen to enjoy myself, all while proving that I can do this with the best of them.

Some new drivers really struggle with staying up all night driving, and the last thing I want for a driver to do is to be unsafely driving while trying to doze off.  Here's a tip on how you can assist yourself in that task of staying awake.  I like to snack on something if I am getting sleepy.  I'm not sure why it helps, but if my mouth can be active it seems to help me stay awake.  I think a lot of truck drivers do this, and is probably why so many of us are grossly overweight.  So, don't go for the chips and a soft drink, try getting yourself some fresh fruit instead.  I will set some fruit over on the passenger seat well within my reach so that I can snack on it at times to help me stay awake.  Fruit has natural sugars, and if you choose something crunchy, like an apple (or some celery or carrot sticks) it also helps.  This was my bowl of assistance last night...

Here's the tip about the tarp that I mentioned earlier.  If you remember I said that I had overlapped my second tarp section over the back one considerably more than usual.  Here's why I did that.  There were twelve bundles of freight on the very back of this load that all went to the first stop.  By overlapping that tarp like I did I was able to just completely remove that third section and roll it up to be stored.  That left my middle tarp section still covering what was left of my freight.  What that accomplished was a time saver for me.  Normally I might have to rearrange the tarps so that they would keep my freight that is left on the trailer protected from the elements.  This way I just pulled the back tarp off and bungeed the middle section back down and I'm ready to roll without a lot of extra work.  Here's a look at Julio, the fork lift operator unloading his material, and I think you can see what I mean about the middle tarp being in the proper position to cover the freight that was left after he removed his portion.

I know all these fork lift operators by name, and they are usually glad to see me.  It pays to be friendly and professional in this business.  If you establish yourself as an impatient loud mouthed jerk with the people you are delivering too you will suffer in this job.  Keep this in mind, that lowliest of employees, the fork lift operator, can often be your key to success.  He is far more important to you than the CEO of the whole company.  After all, you are a truck driver, and he has the power to make your day go really well, or really bad.  Treat him like he is worth something and he will pay you back ten fold.

Remember, this load has 1,882 miles on it.  I've done roughly 1300 so far, and gotten one stop unloaded.  I have got another 582 miles to go with six more stops total.  All the rest of it is up here in the Northeast, where it can be slow plodding at times.  It helps a lot that I am familiar with these customers and I know my way around up here.  Usually for most truck drivers the biggest problem in this area of the country is finding parking.  I am very fortunate in that so many of my customers allow me to park on their property, so I don't struggle with the parking issue so much.

I'll be back in here tomorrow evening with an update on how it's going.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Back on Track And Ready to Roll

Okay, we will continue on with this topic even though it turned out differently than I had hoped. But that's one thing about this job, you can expect each day to throw you a curve. The challenges in this career are one of the things that make it enjoyable for one person, while demoralizing for another. It takes some special folks to make this career work, and I hope you all may get to see a little bit of what it takes to get ahead in this career while getting to see how I make this load work out the way I want it to.

They finally got the load ready late on Monday. I hooked to the pre-loaded trailer and was ready to pull out of Delhi, LA at 7:30 p.m. Monday night. This is Tuesday morning as I'm posting this and I am sitting in the T/A truck stop at Greenville, TN (exit 36 on I-81). I drove all through the night last night, logging 658 miles with a brief stop in McCalla, AL at the Love's truck stop for fuel and my thirty minute break. I arrived here in Greenville (a different time zone now) at 8:00 a.m.

They added several more stops onto the load to make it a more efficient run for their pocket book - such is the life of a dedicated driver. The total miles on this load are 1,882. Because of the multiple stops, they've got it emptying out on Saturday. These multiple stop loads can really slow you down sometimes, especially when all the stops are in the Northeast. I've already told them that I'm going to empty out first thing Friday. We'll see how that works out, but what I want to stress to those of you who are wondering at this, is that I do this almost every week. I am always trying to push my appointments forward. It is a tried and true strategy for me that has put me considerably ahead of the other drivers in my fleet in terms of my annual income. This load is a good example of why you want to move things along quicker than the average driver would think to do. This load is actually pretty tough to get done by Saturday, but I don't want to empty out on a Saturday and have to be dealing with weekend dispatch, which in my case on this dedicated account is NOBODY. That means I will have to sit for the weekend. That is why I already communicated to them that I will be empty on Friday morning. They have got to get me back to Delhi, LA anyways because that is my dedicated customer down there. If they get me something close to a direct run back that is another 1400 miles added onto this week. You guys are good at math - that is almost thirty three hundred miles this week. Those miles are not because I have a good dispatcher, but because I took the initiative to move things along so that they work out to my advantage - that's how the veteran drivers handle this stuff. That is how you make some serious money at this job.

My first stop is in Riverdale New Jersey, and they set me an appointment for Thursday morning. I already contacted the customer and told them we need to deliver it first thing Wednesday morning and that our truck would be sitting there waiting on them when they show up for work that morning. I'll drive all night tonight also and unless some unforeseen catastrophe strikes in the night, I'll be there waiting on them in the morning just like I told them.

These multi-stop flat-bed loads can be quite tricky. I will have to expose the various product at the different locations so that they can unload it, but I sure don't want to have to un-tarp it completely and re-do it each time. The Conestoga trailers simplify this greatly, but this one was loaded on a regular flat-bed. I always climb all over the load before tarping it and memorize where everyone's product is situated so that I can get unloaded at each stop efficiently. Here's a shot of what this load looks like...

You can't see it in that first photo, but there is a gap in this load back at the back where the tarp dips down into the irregular shape of the stacked product on the trailer. After we get the first stop off in Riverdale, I'm going to show you a little trick that I did on this tarping job to save me some work. I have a three section tarp system, and I overlapped the middle section quite a bit extra on top of that back tarp - that's a clue. It will be easier to explain when I get you a shot of them unloading me at that first stop early tomorrow. Here's a look at that dip in the load I'm talking about...

Okay, it's high time for me to get some shut eye. After all I've got to do another 650 some odd miles tomorrow night also. I'll get back to you on some of the fun I'm having with this load on Wednesday. Thanks for following along with me on this run.

"We've got a long ways to go, and a short time to get there.  We're gonna do what they say can't be done."   -Jerry Reed, from Smokey And The Bandit

Saturday, November 12, 2016

I Hit a Snag!

Well, I guess the joke is on me on this one. When I rolled from the truck stop over to the SAPA plant I was told by the crew that loads the trailers that my load was not going to go out tonight! It seems the production crew had some problem with part of the load, and there was not going to be enough material on the load to make it worth the while to ship it out. Here I am wanting to do a running commentary on this load for you guys because it had some really interesting features to it that make for some really great moments to teach the importance of trip planning, and it gets fouled up right at the start! Two of the things that I was going to point out are...

1) The fact that I left my home time early enough so that I could get my ten hour break in before I needed to grab the load and go.

2) It is a great load to show you how I sometimes flip my days and nights so that I can make a tight schedule work out just right.

Now the fact that I left my home (which is four and a half hours away) early and my load isn't going to be ready means I'll have to sit here all day tomorrow at the truck stop (sigh...) and take the load on Monday whenever they are able to get it ready to go. My dispatcher apologized profusely, but it isn't his fault. No one communicated the issues with him so he had no way of knowing what was happening. He did put two hundred dollars layover pay on me though, so I guess I can live with that. Whenever the load is ready I will go ahead and document it for you guys even if it doesn't need to be run like I would have originally done it. I'm sure it will help some of you see how things come together, or fall apart for us out here when we are doing this job.

The Critical Component of Good Timing

Timing is very critical in this job.  Often times I need to tell my dispatcher, or a customer exactly (at least within an hour) what time I will be somewhere that is maybe fifteen hundred miles away, and I may need to tell them four days before I am going to be there.  The customer needs to know because they are often times needing their goods to be introduced into their production lines, and my dispatcher needs to know so that he can plan on my next load.  All of this plays a part in the successful truck driver's ability to remain a top tier driver in his fleet, which means he becomes someone who can be depended on, and therefore leaned on, more heavily.  Of course all this adds to his bottom line, and that is why we strive to do our best at this.  I try to teach people how much this job is seriously akin to being self employed, because the results of how much one gets out of it are directly related to how much one puts into it.  It is a career in which there is a wide range of annual pay that is received by the men and women who have taken on this crazy lifestyle.  The discrepancy in pay in this career is not due to the fact that some trucking companies are cheapskates, wile others are willing to pay better, but rather that the pay in this whole career is completely performance based. The best performing drivers earn the most money - it is as simple as that.  I fully realize that there is some variance in mileage pay amounts, but for the most part it is your performance that really counts.

If my dispatcher knows exactly when I am going to be empty then he can plan on finding me something that will keep me on the move, instead of me sitting and waiting for my next load.  There is no money made by an idle truck, neither for the company, or the driver.  Efficiency is boosted by this critical component of good timing and being able to communicate it with those who need to know when you are going to arrive, when you will be empty, and when you will be available to roll again. This whole element of timing helps the driver with his "cash flow" also.  There is a cut-off point in a professional driver's week that he must have his paperwork turned in so that the company can process those trips for payment on the day that they do the weekly payroll.  The more you can accomplish by that cut-off point, the more money there will be on your weekly paycheck.

I'm embarking on a good trip to illustrate all this that is being loaded today on a trailer at the SAPA plant in Delhi, Louisiana.  I'd like to finish this multi-stop load which finals in Ilion, New York on Tuesday morning before ten o'clock in the morning at the time zone of Phoenix, AZ - my company's headquarters.  As you may already know, I've been home for a few days to have my stitches from some recent surgery removed, so I've already been thinking about this whole trip.  In fact, as I'm posting this I am sitting at the Jubilee Truck Stop in Delhi, where I arrived at 7:30 this morning.  I left my house at three o'clock in the morning with the whole reason being that I was thinking ahead about this trip, and one of the things that will make it possible to pull it off is that when I leave tonight I need to have my full clock available to me so that I have enough time to make it half way to Riverdale, New Jersey, my first stop on this load.  The only way I could accomplish that was to leave the house early enough so that I could get to Delhi in time to take a full ten hour break before I depart with my loaded trailer.  I already know from experience that they will not have me loaded until about five o'clock in the afternoon.  My ten hour break will be finished at 5:30 this afternoon, and I can get on the road with a full eleven hours of driving time available to me.

Well, hopefully you can already see how much planning has got to go into this to make it all come off like clock work.  I'll have stops in Riverdale, New Jersey, Hamden, Connecticut, Farmington, Connecticut, and my final stop in Ilion, New York.  I'm leaving tonight, (Saturday) and I need to arrive and get unloaded in Ilion on Tuesday morning before ten a.m. in Phoenix, AZ's time zone.  I'm going to keep you posted all along the way, but for now I've got to lay down and get some rest.  I'll update you tomorrow on how everything is coming along.  I hope you will enjoy this little exercise, as it will illustrate how important trip planning is and how vital a truck drivers performance is linked to his overall pay.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

You Are Crazy Man! I'm Talking Certifiable!

That is what the young black man who was the fork lift operator unloading my truck in Austin, TX this week said to me.  We were just about done when he took a good look at me and said, "Hey, I see you've got some stitches in your face.  What happened to you?"  After I explained to him that I had some minor surgery to remove some skin cancer he then queried me further and asked, "Is it okay for you to be out here working like this with those stitches in your face?"  When I told him that I got right back to work three days after the surgery he then blurted out, "You are crazy man!  I'm talking certifiable!  Id' still be home taking it easy if I had gone through that.  What is wrong with you?"

I explained to him that I ran a load up North, and then this load was to Texas so that I could get to the doctor to remove the stitches, but none of that made any sense to him.  He was convinced I was a lunatic, and had no business out here working like I was.  I didn't really think of myself as doing anything heroic.  I was just doing my job, taking care of my business.  We are too soft these days.

I was just up in De Smet, South Dakota.  That is the town where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived for a good while.  We always enjoyed reading her books to our children when they were little.  Those pioneers would have never considered taking it easy just because they had a few stitches in their face. I remember the tales of plenty of hard work and adventure that Laura wrote about in those books. They were fictional, but based on her experiences growing up in a different time that would have tried most of us to our limits.

While I was in De Smet I ate a meal at the "Oxbow Restaurant.  It is a Laura Ingalls themed place.  Of course the name goes along with some of the tales in "Farmer Boy," and the menu even had pictures and some menu items that went along with the books.

Here's some shots off of the menu.  They aren't very good photos due to the lighting and the clear plastic sleeve that covered the menu.  But you can get the idea of what it was like.

I've been here before, and I think I've mentioned it here in some old blog posts, but I didn't even bother to look back and see what I said last time.  One other interesting thing here is the salad bar.  It is designed to look like it is being served out of the back of a covered wagon.

I am at home today, and I got my stitches removed.  I am back to my usual handsome self now!

I'll be getting back on the road after tomorrow, so I won't be here for the weekend, but it was still good to see my wife for a brief visit.  She's a wonderful woman, and I miss her greatly.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Pain and Pleasure of Being Home for a Few Days

I'm in Albert Lea, Minnesota tonight, sleeping at the Love's truck stop at exit 11 on I-35.  It's a Wednesday, and I am looking back amazed that last Wednesday I was anesthetized into oblivion while a surgeon was removing some more tissue from my fore head and face.  I am continuing to have issues with basal cell carcinoma - a skin cancer condition that keeps plaguing me.  I actually enjoyed being home for a week to take care of this problem.  It is most unusual for me to be home for seven or eight days straight, and I made every effort to make the most of it.  I love to cook, and while I was there I cooked up a bunch of tamales.  I cooked the pork roast I had selected for the meat filling on Friday, and then my daughter Sarah pitched in on Saturday and helped me with the whole assembly process of the masa and the corn husks, and the steaming of the tamales in the pot.  Here is a look at what this great pot of tamales looked like as we were getting started on the actual cooking part of the process.

I had a great time with Sarah while working on that project, and I had a great time with my wife while at home.  I enjoyed seeing some of my friends at church, a special treat for me since I am gone so much of the time.

Here is a shot of my new look. I didn't even need a mask for Halloween this year, I was pretty scary looking with my very own fresh set of stitches on my forehead and along side my nose.  I've been frightening my customers this week without even thinking about it.  I am happy to be working again, and I completely forget that I'm kind of frightening looking until I realize that folks are looking at me kind of askance, and then I remember - oh yeah - I've got stitches that are kind of prominently showing on my face!

Oh well, I was just as glad to get back to work as I was to be at home.  I do enjoy what I do, but it is a problem being separated from the folks you love so much.  It is a part of what makes this career so challenging, and yet the adventure of it all makes it rewarding at the same time.  The conflict that goes on inside the soul of the American Truck driver is seldom understood.  He loves his job, and he loves his family.  His profession needs him, and his family needs him.  There is no getting around that conflict, we live with it as our constant companion.

I started back to work on Monday.  I was heading to the SAPA plant in Delhi, Louisiana from my home in Nacogdoches, Texas when my dispatcher called me about a load that he was distressed about. I had planned on getting there Monday, and then taking a break so that I could grab a load on Tuesday with a full clock ahead of me to work with.  He asked me if I could go ahead and rescue a load that was sitting at the plant ready to go and get it up here to Minnesota as fast as possible.  It was supposed to leave on Saturday, but apparently one of our new drivers completely dropped the ball, and now it is up to me to save the day.

I took the assignment and have made some really good time on the load so far.  I had four other drops on this load on the way up here.  I had customers to deliver to in Lead Hill, Arkansas - Lenexa, Kansas - Yankton, South Dakota, and Lennox, South Dakota.  In the morning I will deliver to a Valmont location in Farmington, Minnesota, and then will go back down to De Smet, South Dakota to deliver the last of what is loaded on this trailer to the consignee.  After that I will pick up a back haul load from the SAPA plant in Yankton, South Dakota that will get me back down south.  From there I think the plan is to get me another load going to Texas, so I can go and get these stitches removed.  I'm tempted to whip out my pocket knife and remove them myself, but I guess I'll restrain myself.