Wednesday, September 17, 2008

No longer using Blogger

Due to numerous problems I've had with blogger since the last time I was able to post I have decided to move over to Facebook so folks can see what I'm up to on the road.

Facebook really isn't a blog, but I am going to use it as one and for other things.

Please feel free to join there and follow my adventures.

Sorry to all of those who have been kept waiting for a new post. But today is the first time I've actually been able to log in in over a month.

Michael Schreiber's Facebook profile

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Melissa's Ride

As I stated previously Melissa came along for a trip, a short one, but a pretty decent one.

After we left the hotel in Dumas, Texas we ran up to Cactus, Texas and picked up our load. It was going to be a good trip and we were going to be able to take our time as it wasn't due till Monday morning in Sioux City, Iowa.

Out trip took us through the Oklahoma Panhandle into Kansas, and we spent the night in Dodge City, Kansas.

I have found out Melissa doesn't like the smell of cattle yards :)

The next morning we took off and headed up through Kansas into Nebraska and stopped in York, Nebraska for a few hours to shower and eat.

Once we were finished in York we ran up to Sioux City and then camped out at a rest area about five miles from the receiver till the delivery time.

Delivery went pretty smoothly and we were able to pickup another load going back to Fort Worth just a few miles away at Sara Lee.

The trip back to Fort Worth took us through Nebraska, Kansas and into Oklahoma again. It was pretty uneventful actually. However, I will note that it rained pretty much all the time once we left Dodge City till we crossed the border into Texas on Tuesday.

Frankie seemed to enjoy the trip though as usual when he comes he just sits and broods as there is nothing for him to really do other than sleep. Usually he plays a bit, but we forgot to bring toys for him.

The trip was short and sweet, not a lot of miles but a good five day stretch for the two of us. And it was time well spent together.

In five days Melissa crossed five states, Texas, Oklahoma (twice), Kansas (Twice), Nebraska, (Twice) and Iowa for a total of 1880 Miles.

She'll probably come out again when she has more time and no pressed schedule.

I'm heading out to Denver tonight, will post again in a few days.

[Miles Driven Since Last Post: 1483]

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Lots of Miles

Well, since I left the Wal-Mart in Irving last week I have been super busy. I got to Terrell on time and delivered my load and then started a six day super drive fest.

It was just me this time around and with it the fact that a holiday was coming up and many drivers had taken off, the promise of good freight was good. And I wasn't to be disappointed.

After unloading in Terrell I was told to deadhead out to Friona, Texas (nearly 500 miles) to pickup a load heading for two stops in Denver. Talk about nice, that long of a deadhead is rare and it is a good thing to have, especially as fuel mileage is so good when empty.

Got to Friona late in the evening and found out my load wasn't ready yet and that I would have to wait till at least 6:00am for it. This was kind of a good thing since I was so tired. Unfortunately, Friona had one of it's heaviest rainstorms in history that night, and in the morning I had to be towed out of the mud in the parking lot at the truckstop. Was embarrassing, however I wasn't the only one.

I picked up the load and made the mad dash for Denver and unloaded both my loads early in the morning and took a nap. Shortly after I got to sleep, I got the call to head out to Fort Morgan to pickup a load heading to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Another good load, however it was hot. The load was running late and if I could they wanted me to try and get it there on time.

So, being the kind of guy I am I did the whole 17 hour stretch in one run, and arrived at the receiver exactly at 5:59am Eastern Time. One minute before the scheduled delivery time. More brownie points :)

Once done there I was told to pickup a load at SaraLee in Zeeland, Michigan about 45 minutes away and then take it back to Fort Worth. It was going to be due anytime on 7/4. Well since it was Tuesday 7/2 I had plenty of time.

I picked up the load and then crashed for about twelve hours in Benton Harbor, Michigan at the Flying J. Was a good sleep too, it rained the entire time I was there, good heavy thunderstorms so I slept like a rock and it was nice and cool in the truck because of all the rain.

I got up around midnight, took a shower and ate at the restaurant then decided I would drive straight through to Texas without stopping if I could. The company was complaining that they had a ton of freight sitting on the yard and no drivers cause everyone decided to take off for the 4th.

So in route I called Melissa and asked her if she wanted to come with me for the weekend since the kids were gone, she said yes so I cleared it with the company.

I got into Fort Worth just after midnight on the 4th and dropped the load at the yard for the local driver to deliver and headed home to sleep.

Friday afternoon I got a load heading from Fort Worth to Cactus, loaded up the wife and the dog and off we went.

Unfortunately, she has to be back early Wednesday morning for class so it is going to be a short trip.

We got up here to Cactus and they told us that Swift was closed for the Holiday and we would have to wait for our next load which is going to Iowa, and then back to Texas.

We stayed at the Dumas Inn last night, and now we are in the truck waiting for the load to be ready.

It was a breakneck week with a ton of miles but was quite a lot of fun. I don't want to do it often but those kinds of weeks are good paydays.

[Miles Driven Since Last Post: 3799]

Friday, June 27, 2008

Nikki's Ride

As I stated in my last post my daughter Nikki rode with me this last week.

Unfortunately, her trip wasn't as fun in my opinion as her brother's trip. But she stated she had fun and wants to go again in August after she finishes visiting her mother in July.

We left Fort Worth and headed to Amarillo on what has become a regular run to Affiliated Foods from Cargill for me to start off my trips with.

The drive isn't that long, but in that eight hours Nikki got to see quite a lot of things she never gets to see. Her favorite thing it seems is cows. Every time we passed one or even a herd she would moo out the window at them.

Though she did quite enjoy all the horses as well, but not as much as the cows it seemed.

After we unloaded at AF we spent the night in Amarillo then headed up to Cactus to pickup a load heading to Denver, a place she's never been and wanted to see badly. Especially the mountains. However, we stopped off in Dumas at the Wal-Mart to pickup some supplies and to buy her some new tennis shoes.

You should have seen her when we passed the feed yards in Cactus, talk about her going crazy seeing all the cows ... was quite funny.

Our run up to Denver was pretty boring in my opinion, however she did get to see some Antelope and a few Buffalo on the way. Once we got to Denver she was all bug eyed staring at the mountains. She wanted me to detour there so bad it was funny, unfortunately we were not able to.

We completed our unload in Aurora, Colorado outside of Denver and then spent the night in Denver.

The next morning after running some local work moving trailers, we loaded out of Greeley, Colorado heading down to Houston. However we never made it that far.

As we started to pass through Cactus on Thursday with the intent on being back in Dallas on Friday, dispatch called and asked us to do a load swap with another driver in Amarillo.

Apparently he had to get home to Houston (we have 3-4 drivers who live in Houston instead of the DFW area) for personal reasons. We were going to give him our load and take his empty trailer and do another run instead.

After doing the swap I found out that I was going to be better off for the switch. They had us deadhead to Dodge City, Kansas to pickup a two stop load. This was another bit of excitement for Nikki as she got to visit another state and see even more cows at the extremely substantial feed yards surrounding Dodge City.

After picking up our load in Dodge City we headed back to Amarillo for the first stop. Unfortunately since time was critical I drove all night while Nikki slept so she missed some nice sights. However, I did stop in a non-lighted rest area just outside of Stratford, Texas on the way back and woke her up so she could stand outside under the stars in the near pitch black night and marvel at the sky.

That rest area is on top of a butte with no lights for about 20 miles so it is nearly 100% pitch black. The view of the night sky is incredible. The whole spiral arm of our galaxy is visible, and the stars themselves seem alive. You can even see the faint traces of the red and blue clouds of the Horsehead nebula when the sky is that clear. And was it ever clear, and quite cool. An awesome sight to behold.

After unloading at AF again in Amarillo I crashed for a few hours, and then started the run to Terrell, Texas for the second stop at the Sam's DC there.

However, it was Friday and I have no idea when I was going to be back in town so I stopped back at our house and dropped Nikki off. She goes to her mother's on Tuesday for a month, and I didn't want her to miss her time with her. Nor did I want to fight with her about Nikki not being back if we were out a long time.

So here I am sitting at the Wal-Mart parking lot in Irving getting ready to head to Terrell to unload at the second stop in the morning.

All in all Nikki saw a huge chunk of Texas, parts of Oklahoma and Kansas and a good bit of Colorado. Four states in five days, not too bad for a 12 year old on her first real trip away from home.

[Miles Driven Since Last Post: 2350]

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Picture Crazy

Folks have been happy with seeing things through my eyes so here are some more ...



[The Saint Louis Arch]



[Missouri Vinyards]



[Lake Arrowhead in Oklahoma]



[Crossing the Red River from Oklahoma on US69]


Monday, June 23, 2008

Pictures

And more ...


[Michigan Christmas Tree Farm]



[Fuel Prices outside the Canadian Border]



[Looking across the lake at the USA from Canada]



[Rest Area on the Canadian Side looking across at the USA]



[At a scenic rest area in Canada looking back at the USA]


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Easy Few Days

After my post from Cactus my load finally got ready at 10pm, only eleven hours late. However, due to my stunning trucker skills I got the load to the first stop on time :)

One thing I can say about that last eastward load, it sucked. One load and had four stops and took me three days to get rid of it because of the scheduling. Frankly it blew chucks of stuff I just can't describe. Delivering four stops in a 300 mile radius over three days, means small paycheck.

After I unloaded at the last stop on Wednesday in Lancaster, NY (The other stops were Forrest Park, IL; Chicago, IL; and Lansing, MI) they ran me down to Olean, NY deep in the Seneca Mountains off the Allegany River.

The load was a pickup of Native American hand cast tile flooring. Was a nice load, and the tile was just beautiful. It had two stops which were not to bad, one in Cleveland, OH and the other in Lavonia, MI.

The next run was a treat, I ran up to the Canadian Border (and even crossed in for a bit) to pickup a 44,000 pound load of frozen strawberry cream pies from Sara Lee heading back to Texas. Unfortunately, they would not give me any samples.

The drive back down to Fort Worth was very uneventful which I quite like :)

So, I'm back now at the house, and I leave again tomorrow morning. And this time Nikki is going with me.

[Miles Driven Since Last Post: 3791]

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pictures

More pictures for you fine folks.


[Iowa Corn Field]



[Downtown Olean, New York]



[Westbound on I-86 in the Seneca Mountains]



[I-86 Allegany River along the Seneca Mountain Range]



[Saw this farm outside White Cloud, Michigan and thought it was pretty]


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Pictures!

I'm still sitting here in Cactus, Texas waiting for my load to be ready. Unfortunately the load is now over eight hours past it's drop dead time. (Drop Dead Time refers to the absolute latest time the load can leave the shipper to "legally" arrive on time at it's destination.)

Today I haven't been doing much but watching a few DVD's, reading my current book and surfing the net. While doing the last I decided to download the pictures from my camera to the laptop and publish a few ... and here they are.



[Giant Bronze Dinosaur just north of Boise City, Oklahoma]


[Very small church in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Walton, Kentucky]


[Barges on the Mississippi River outside St. Louis, Missouri]


[Approaching the suspension bridge span of the Ohio River at the Indiana & Ohio border]

[Entering into the Lower Ozark Mountains in Missouri]


That's all for now, more later!

Out Again

It seems I spend less and less time at home, but unfortunately it is a necessary evil. With Melissa not working, I have to drive as much as possible so we can afford to pay the bills. It is tough, but we are managing.

I ended up having to take the 12th off because strangely enough there was no freight moving out of Fort Worth, but on Friday the 13th I was able to get a load to Affiliated in Amarillo. The trip up was pretty uneventful, and it seems the more I make the trip the faster the trip gets.

Hell, I don't even pay attention anymore on that stretch of road, and do not even use the GPS, not necessary. I'm finding that since we have pretty set routes I rarely need it, my excellent memory for getting places is still sharp and once I go somewhere once I never forget how to get there.

After unloading in Amarillo I ran up here to Cactus to pickup a load going to the northeast. Unfortunately it isn't ready yet, I've been waiting over twelve hours now and am starting to get pissed off. The due time is long past and if it goes much longer, the first of the four stops on this trip will be extremely late.

[Miles Driven Since Last Post: 429]

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ryan the Trucker

As I said in my last post, my son Ryan wanted to come along with me for a while on the road.
Now that he's been on the road with me a week, he says he wants to go again sometime this summer. According to him he's had a great time. Not sure if the trip alone is his motivation for saying this, or because he got to spend a week alone with me with no one else competing for my attention.
Ryan hopped on board Friday afternoon and we headed up to Amarillo, Texas to unload at the Affiliated Foods DC then run up to Cactus, Texas to pickup a load of beef.
Unfortunately, once we got to Amarillo we found out our load wasn't ready so we spent the night at the TA, and Ryan got to see his first lot lizard. And man was she a looker ... NOT! This one looked like she got ran over by a fully loaded overweight semi ... ughhh....
The next day after we got loaded we headed for Claryville, Kentucky a nice long trip across several states which Ryan was thrilled about. He's been to Colorado on one mission trip when he was 12, and he never payed attention to anything back then, now he was just soaking up the scenery.
It took us two days to get to Sara Lee in Claryville and then we headed up to flood ravaged Indianapolis, Indiana to pickup a load heading back to Texas.
I tell you, that state and the states around it are a mess. The farms are flooded, and you can just see how much rain they have had when you drive over the small creeks and they have turned into raging rivers. It is insane. The day before we got to Indianapolis, they received ten inches (yes 10!) in just seven hours. So much so they closed over a one hundred mile stretch of I-70. It was crazy.
After loading at ConAgra we made our way back to Texas. For Ryan it was a quick and fun seven days on the road.
We talked alot and I showed him a ton of things on the road. It is a trip he will remember forever (hopefully).
I know this was a short post, but sometimes you just can't describe everything that goes on.
In all, Ryan crossed eight states in seven days. Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. And saw some great sights including, downtown Indianapolis, the St. Louis Arch. The Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio rivers. Not to mention tons of animals in the fields, and more road kill deer than you can shake a stick at.
[Miles Driven Since Last Post: 2729]

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Shiny and "New"

Well at least new to me.

This new truck is just awesome, I can't even begin to explain how much nicer it is than the old one. Granted it is exactly the same year and model, but it has been kept up much better in my opinion and has fewer miles.

The only bad thing was the guy who had it before me had a cat, and since I'm semi-allergic to cats they had to scrub the truck heavily before I could move into it. There was so much cat hair and such in it (not to mention the litterbox smell) that it made me nearly vomit just to get into it.

Now folk who know me know I've been around cats all my life, hell, 30 of the last 39 years of my life has been around cats, at my parents house then again at mine. I never really knew till after Misha died and had seen the doctor that I was sensitive to them, and about 80% of my sinus problems have been related to them. I love cats, but now I just stay away if I can. And I almost always feel better.

I took the 1st of June off to do an hours reset and spend some time at the house. On the 2nd I headed up to the yard to begin the long process of moving my gear from the old truck to the new one. I really didn't realize how much stuff I had till I started to move it and get it installed and everything in it's place.

It took nearly five hours, which included the time to hook up my CB, install my XM Radio and other stuff. Man, now I really understand how some folks compare the inside of a truck to a college dorm room.

Still, even today not everything is exactly where it is supposed to be in my mad organization system.

Once I got at least decently setup I picked up my load in the yard and headed up to Kanasas City, Kanasas to unload. The trip up was pretty uneventful, except the sky looked horrible the whole way but it never did rain.

After KCK I headed over to Marshall, Missouri for the return trip to Fort Worth.

This trip was a quick four day out and back in, as I forgot some things back at the house and wanted to pick them up. Not to mention, that school got out today and my son Ryan wants to go on the road with me for a few days to see what trucking is like ... should be fun!

[Miles Driven Since Last Post: 1932]

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Shit Happens

Well since my last post things haven't been going so well.

After spending the night in Denver I was tasked with doing some local work around the Denver area shuttling trailers. That in itself wasn't too bad, I get paid by the hour for that kind of work instead of by the mile.

Once I was done I headed up to Fort Morgan to pickup a load of beef heading back to Texas. Which in itself is a good thing, needed to take care of a few things including paying the all mighty evil bills.

Unfortunately, this trip took a turn for the worst once I got loaded and headed out, I had an accident leaving the Fort Morgan Cargill plant.

Now let me preface by saying that I wasn't hurt, and it really wasn't an "accident" but an "incident" which the state and my company are calling mechanical failure, because basically that is what it boils down to.

As I was turning the corner from the road that leads onto the service ramp of I-76, a guy in a pickup truck ran the stop sign and cut me off causing me to hit my emergency brakes to keep from hitting him. The unfortunate side effect was that my kingpin lock on the tractor's fifth wheel disengaged and dropped the trailer off the back of the tractor into the road.

Now, unfortunately this is a known problem with the current series of fifth wheels from Freightliner I was told, and they have been recalled several times to be fixed. Mine alone has been in the shop twice to advance correct the problem. As well, I was also told that this was the third or fourth trailer the company has lost this way in two months.

The trauma of the incident alone was rough initially till it was proved that I did not do anything wrong, and that helped me out a long way.

Statistics show that three out of five new drivers have an accident of some sort in the first six months, guess I'm now part of that statistic and at least I wasn't one of the one in three who were involved in a fatality.

Once the Colorado HazMat team has cleaned up the diesel spill from the damaged reefer fuel tank, a wrecker reattached the trailer to my tractor and I took it back to Cargill to be unloaded.








Once that was done, the company had me dead head back to Texas (800 miles) to bring the trailer back to our yard.

After I got back I was told that I would be moving into a new Tractor as the insurance company wanted to return mine to Freightliner, my new one is much nicer than my old one and in better condition. And even has an aftermarket ergonomic drivers seat with lumbar supports, which is infinitely more comfortable than the factory installed seats.

[Miles Driven Since Last Post: 1093]

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Egads!

You know, I'm usually pretty good about remembering to do stuff regularly ... I didn't forget this blog, I just wasn't paying attention and didn't realize it had been three weeks since I posted.

Since my last post I've literally been running my ass off (I've lost 15 pounds, most drivers gain weight ... but not me.) and making money.

I'm not going to try and talk about everything that has happened over the last three weeks, but I will give a brief summary.

Not much bad happened other than the fact that since my last post I've still been driving in the rain. But then again we've been getting a ton of rain all over the country this month. Just like last spring the country is soaking wet.

Currently I'm in Denver, Colorado (my second favorite place to be when laid over, 1st is Amarillo). I'm not really laid over, but I ran out of hours when I made my delivery this morning to the Kroger/King Sooper distribution center in Aurora, Colorado so I headed over here to the TA Truckstop to camp out for the rest of the day and night. I like this TA cause they have IdleAire, and is the only location in all of Colorado to have it.

Over the last three weeks I have been everywhere, and I do mean it. Here is a list, in order, of all the places I've picked up and delivered to in the last three weeks (with the items I was carrying).

(Delivery) Wheeling, WV - Apples
(Delivery) Wilder, KY - Apples

(Pickup) Ottumwa, IA - Beef
(Delivery) Shannon, MS

(Pickup) Shannon, MS - Snack Cakes
(Delivery) Fort Worth, TX

(Pickup) Fort Worth, TX - General Groceries (Canned Goods)
(Delivery) North Platte, NE

(Pickup) Hastings, NE - Pork Ribs and Bacon
(Delivery) Fort Worth, TX

(Pickup) Fort Worth, TX - General Groceries (Canned Goods)
(Delivery) Loveland, CO

(Pickup) Fort Morgan, CO - Beef Trimmings
(Delivery) North Baltimore, OH

(Pickup) Ottumwa, IA - Beef Shanks and Steaks
(Delivery) Oklahoma City, OK

(Pickup) Amarillo, TX - General Groceries (Canned Goods)
(Delivery) Denver, CO

There you go, that's a very quick rundown of what I've done. In that time I've driven over 8000 miles, covered fifteen states in driving and got a lot of pictures which I'll post later.

Tomorrow morning I'm doing a local run from Fort Morgan, CO back to Denver, CO and then will pickup again in Fort Morgan, CO and head home for the weekend.

Love ya, and thanks for sticking around. I promise to try and make more regular updates, but that is at the whim of my Internet connection.

[Miles Driven Since Last Post: 8051]

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Manual Shift Commando

Things have been going pretty well since my last post, I've been running my ass off and building up my calves by driving through the mountains.

My load at AWG was ready about 8pm and the run to Amarillo was pretty uneventful. I've gotten so used to driving US287 now that I don't even pay attention to the landscape along the highway any longer. I'll probably start paying attention again next time the seasons change.

Got into Amarillo around 5am and took a break after getting fuel at the Love's, then made my delivery at 6am. Once I was done I headed up to Cactus, Texas as I had already talked to dispatch and had my load information for my trip to Syracuse, NY.

However, once I got there they said the load wasn't ready yet (it was supposed to be ready at 6am) and they would call me on my cell phone when it was. So since I was tired and out of hours I hit the rack for some sleep.

Around 1pm they called me and said it was ready, I told them that I'd get it after I finished my ten hour break. So around 8pm I strolled in and picked up the trailer and went over the paperwork. It was going to be a nice long run, with three days to deliver and two stops. The first one in Columbus, OH and then in Syracuse, NY the next day. Plenty of time ...

Now on my previous run up that way to Indy I drove through the southern part of the Ozarks, but this time I got to take the nice route across I-70 instead of on I-44. I think I like the I-70 route much more, it seems much prettier than the I-44 route. There are still the steep inclines but the road is much nicer and a severely easier drive.

The run itself into Columbus, OH was just great. Smooth and no problems, I even stopped a few times just to enjoy the view at some of the rest areas.

I stopped in Concordia, MO to sleep on the 5th, and took advantage of the IdleAir again. I tell you, that is probably one of the best tax deductible expenses I could have decided to take. Being able to keep the truck off, saves the company money on fuel which raises my MPG because I am not idling the truck.

I get TV other than my Directv which I do not hook up unless I'm going to be sitting for more than ten hours and not sleeping. The AC/Heat system keeps the truck comfortable and I get additional power instead of having to run my inverter. Almost like living in a dorm room.

After getting some much needed rest I got up and made the overnight run into Columbus, OH for my first stop. They were pretty quick getting me unloaded, however I had quite a bit of trouble with ComData and getting my ComChek authorized to pay the lumpers. Finally after waiting two hours I just paid cash for the lumpers and had the company rewrite the check to me which I could cash later to get the funds back.

I crashed out in Sunbury, OH about an hour north of where I did my partial unload and was thankful once I got there because it started to rain as I parked the truck. Unfortunately where I stayed didn't have IdleAir so I ended up having to idle the truck on and off to keep the humidity at a manageable level.

That evening the rain tapered off and I hit the road on my way to Syracuse, NY. I've never driven into PA and NY so I was kinda looking forward to it. Boy did that change quick.

All of I-90 in PA is under construction, especially around Erie, PA. Half of it is either under construction and only one lane, or needs to be. The ride itself was so rough I was popping Dones every two hours to settle my back pain to a manageable level.

And I-90 in NY, oh my God ... talk about driving hell. You would think that a dedicated interstate toll road would be a good decent road, they are in Texas, but not in New York. I guess the government there takes the toll road funds they collect and buys crack cocaine or something because they sure are not investing it in asphalt.


[Looking across the lake at Rodchester, NY from the I-90 Tollway]


After spending $75.00 on tolls to get to Syracuse I pulled into the receiver with a sigh of relief and exhausted, not to mention just barely on time.

This time I didn't have any issues with ComData so I knew I could finally cash that ComCheck the company issued me so I'll have cash again to pay for more tolls as I know that New York loves money and toll roads.

I called dispatch and told them I was done and was going to sleep. They said they were working on finding me a broker load to get out of NY and head back to Texas so I could be home for mother's day. I told them that's fine by me, I was going to bed.

Around 2pm they called me and told me they found me a load that was going to PA and then to Kentucky and would get my half way home, I told them cool beans and called the broker to get the info.

By now I was in a much better mood after getting some sleep and was looking forward to getting back on the road.

The broker told me I would be loading Apples in upstate New York and I needed to watch how they loaded me because they have a tendency to overload trucks and cause overweight issues.

So I headed up to North Rose, NY to the Apple Grower's Co-Op to load. Now, I've seen some beautiful places in my time, but this place takes the cake. The views are just incredible, and it was just overcast enough to make it even more lovely.

Once I got there I even ran into one of the Amish crop growers and had a great conversation about the orchards and the countryside. Now I can see why some folks love to live up here, it is awesome, to bad it is still yankee territory :)




[Amish Apple Orchards - Upstate New York]


After picking up my first load I headed over to another co-op in Albion, NY for the rest of my load. The area around the second pickup area was just as nice, but North Rose was much better. And unfortunately it was starting to rain again.


[Gas station in Albion, NY - Fuel prices are insane!]


Once loaded I started my way to Pottsville, PA, and after getting to Carfu, NY I decided the route that PCMiler gave me. The system has to be insane, soon as I ran the route for shortest distance it gave me every one lane road through the Appalachian Mountains it could think of.

So I called dispatch and told them I was taking the interstate even though it would put me about 100 miles out of route. I wasn't comfortable with trying to take all the backroads highways through both NY and PA in the weather I was getting.

They approved my route change, so I hit the toll road on I-90 to get to I-81. Unfortunately, even though the weather was coming in from the west and I was going east I wasn't outrunning it. By the time I got to Binghamton, NY on the PA border it was coming down.

I would imagine that the drive through the Appalachians is beautiful, however for me it was a white knuckle ride the whole way to Pottsville, PA. Between the rain, slick roads, hellacous hills and crazy drivers (some of them driving full size doubles) I was frankly terrified at times.

However, I got to Pottsville, PA in one piece just as the rain started to let up and the heavy fog settled in.

The Wal-Mart distribution center got me in and out in under and hour and that was a blessing as I was exhausted and in desperate need of sleep. So I headed over to the TA here in Harrisburg, PA for some much needed sleep.

So here I sit, biding my time. I'm pretty short on hours and I have a double delivery at 6:00am in Kentucky tomorrow. Once I get there it looks like I'll have to reset and won't make it home for Mother's Day.

But my mom understands and I'll take my two days off once I get back in on Monday.

[Miles Driven Since Last Post: 2636]

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Indy 500 with a Pit Stop

Friday morning (April 25th) dispatch called me and asked if I would not mind doing a long round trip. Of course I told them "hell no I don't mind". So they asked me to go over to AWG and pickup a load there at 4pm and take it to Midland and once I unloaded I'd get the rest of my trip info and that I was pre-planned.

I said ok, and got ready to run.

The trip from AWG out to Midland was pretty uneventful as I've made it numerous times already. The only big difference between this one and other ones was half of it was in daylight for once.

This particular run had two stops, and I got to the first one around 10pm and the second one around 11pm. Both were nice and quick unloads which is unusual for grocery stores. They have to sit around arguing for twenty minutes about where to put the crap while they get it off the truck to sort it. Not my problem, just get it off my truck :)

Once I was done with the unloads dispatch gave me the rest of my information. I was going to head up to Friona, Texas and pickup a load of beef and take it to Indianapolis, Indiana. And I had two days to get it there. And once I got there I would get another load going back to Ft. Worth, Texas.

Now, I've never been to either Missouri or Indiana, but I have been to Illinois but it has been ten years since I went there and I only saw a small part of St. Louis while there. So I was definitely looking forward to the trip, especially the drive through the Ozarks.

I arrived in Friona about 5:30am and immediately picked up the trailer and headed into town to find a place to sleep. I found this little rundown truckstop that was half closed near the edge of town and packed it in for a nap.

Well my nap ended up being a bit over ten hours of solid sleep, that happens to me when I'm awake over 24 hours.

Once I got up I started my dash to Indy, with a pit stop in Amarillo for fuel and lunch.

The drive through the panhandle was nice and even went through Shamrock, Texas (home of Bill Mack) and got into Oklahoma with no problems. However, once I got into OKC I remembered that I-44 is a toll road, and of course I didn't get any cash from the bank before I headed out because I forgot.

Not that that is a problem, the world is loaded with ATM's but I hate paying fees, even if the fee is tax deductible. I looked and looked and never could find a Chase ATM let alone a branch (that I could get into with the truck) so I had to take money off my CommData card. I just hate doing that because it comes out of my check. Yes, the reimburse the toll fees and all that, but I hate messing with my check.

I got my money and made my run up I-44 in the middle of the night, I figured it would be beautiful going through there, especially since there are only like ten exits for over two hundred miles, but I'll never know (at least not right now) because it was dark as hell the whole drive.

I got to Joplin, MO around 4am and packed it in, man I was tired, driving forty tons for eleven hours straight is tough. Once I got up that afternoon, I was ready for my six hour drive through the Ozarks, and I was really looking forward to it. Even if I was gonna have to drag my ass up the hills in sixth gear because my truck sucks on hills.



[Driving I-44 through the Ozarks]


Once I got into Illinois I was happy, running the hills is difficult because you can not use the cruise, your shifting to much so my legs were hurting and was looking forward to getting to Effingham, Il to I could sleep.

However, my truck had other ideas.

If you remember a few posts back, I've been having trouble with the cooling system in the truck, it keeps overheating for one reason or another. Well this time it wasn't overheating, but just about five miles short of Vandalia, Il the truck shut down again while going down the freeway. Talk about pissing me off, again.

I limped the truck to a literally brand new truckstop there off the freeway and called dispatch and told them the problem. They said they would call TA and get someone out to look at it.

Now, Effingham was only about forty-five miles away, but TA road service took till 9:00am (12 hours later) to show up. They went over the truck, and checked the computer and they could find nothing wrong other than a sensor error saying the coolant level was dangerously low and that was shutting the truck off.

Well, the coolant level wasn't low, hell it was full. And we tried for an hour to get the truck to shut down again but it wouldn't. So the TA truck followed me and I drove to the Effingham shop and they looked at it some more but they couldn't figure it out and said I had to go to Freightliner. Which the only one around that was close was in Indianapolis. Hell I'm going that way anyways.

I told dispatch that I was gonna make the delivery and get to the Freightliner shop afterwards to have the thing looked at, they said no problem so off I went.

It never did it again. All the way to Indy and to the receiver it was just fine, never a problem.

Unfortunately I was late to the receiver but thankfully they didn't seem to care. Hell they were actually happy about it because they had been overloaded all morning and they were able to get me unloaded in about thirty minutes.

Afterwards I headed to Freightliner and checked it there, only to find out the minimum time I would have to wait would be three days, if not four before they could even check the computer to see if that was the problem with the truck since nothing else seemed to be wrong.

Well, to hell with that I said and told dispatch that I wasn't sitting in Indy for a week. They agreed and gave me my load information for my return trip to Ft. Worth, and they said they could look at it when I got into the shop.

So, I headed out and picked up my load on the north side of town and started my run back to Texas.

I got back to Effingham, Il that evening and crashed out. I even signed up for IdleAire while I was there. I'm tired of idling the truck to stay warm or cool when resting, and that system is going up all over the country and everything I pay while using it is 100% tax deductible.

So I spent a nice warm night in the truck without having to idle at all, and even got to watch real TV. (I have a Directv receiver and dish for the truck but hadn't had a chance to install it yet).

The next morning I left early and had a nice long drive through southern Illinois, part of Missouri and into Arkansas. Now Arkansas is a beautiful state, but it is tainted because it is the home of the Clinton's. But I'm definitely not going to go into a political rant right now :)



[Bridge span over the Mississippi River from Missouri into Arkansas]

I stopped in Prescott, Arkansas for the night and since the IdleAire facility at the TA there was full, I parked on the end of the lot and took the time to actually set up my Directv dish and stuff. Ah real TV while on the road ... what a blessing. Thankfully it was a comfortable night so I didn't have to idle at all, didn't sweat and didn't freeze.

The next morning (Wednesday the 30th) I set out for Ft. Worth. Got 100 feet down the road and the truck shut down again. Dammit.

I called dispatch and talked to them about it, and since I now knew how to pull the codes from the computer using the dash controls I told them what the thing was telling me. They looked it up and sure enough the code was for low coolant.

Well it wasn't empty or low at all. We finally came to the conclusion that the sensor was bad, and they told me how to bypass it so it wouldn't go off any more. Sure enough the fix worked and the truck has been running fine ever since.

I got to Ft Worth and made my delivery around 10:00am and took the truck to the shop. They confirmed our findings, unfortunately they didn't have any more sensors in stock and would have to order one. No problem, the fix is working I'll just have to keep an eye on it myself till they get the part in.

Once at the yard they said they didn't have anything for me so I'd have to wait till Thursday for a load and I said ok, so I went to the house to spend time with the family.

Once I got home they asked me if I could leave out at 4:00am and take a load to Houston that had to be there at 11:30am. I said sure, I needed the money.

Unfortunately, I went to bed at 10pm intending to get up a 3am to start the run, but I have chronic insomnia sometimes and something about the load was bugging me. So I kissed everyone goodbye at midnight and went to the yard.

Sure enough, I got there and looked at the paperwork for it, and it was a two stop load, the first stop being due at 6:00am. Crap, I had to hook up and leave now if I wanted any chance of getting there on time.

Well, it was not to be. The drive down I-45 was pretty uneventful till I got near Huntsville where the one lane construction started. Another truck had lost control or something and crashed dumping it's load. I sat in backed up traffic for four hours and only went about ten miles.
I finally got to the first stop at 9:30am and was positive that I would be late for the second one, but luckily other than bitching about me being late the receiver unloaded me quick and I made it to the second stop with ten minutes to spare.

After I was unloaded they told me that I would have to wait as they didn't have anything for me but was looking. Unfortunately I said ok and went to a small truckstop to wait.

Just as I was settling in they called me and told me they got me a broker load going to Arapho, Oklahoma and it was due the next day. No problem for me, Oklahoma is only ten hours from Houston so I could make that trip easy.

I got to the shipper and sat, and sat, and sat. Then after three hours of waiting was told that the load wasn't processed and would not be ready till Monday because of an error with the manufacturing plant.

Dammit.

In told dispatch and they told me to find a place to sleep and they would get me out in the morning, and that since the load was cancelled I'd get a day of layover pay for it. Fine by me, not as much as the original load would have payed but close enough.

The next morning they called me and told me to pickup in La Porte, Texas and bring the load to the yard and they would give me something else for the weekend.

I've picked up at AmeriCold before so it was nothing, I got loaded and started heading back. Only they waylaid me and asked me if they could get me to do some local work in Houston for a few hours and pay me hourly.

I said fine, and shuttled and loaded trailers for three hours in the Houston area before going back to our Houston yard to grab my trailer and head back to Fort Worth.

I got into Fort Worth about midnight, dropped the trailer and went to sleep.

I got up this morning to find out that they didn't have anything decent for me, so I was going to have to run an Alberston's load tonight to Amarillo, then pickup my load in Cactus going to New Jersey (yea! 3000 mile round trip) on Sunday morning.

So, here I am sitting at AWG waiting for my load.

Sorry the post took so long, I'll try and be better about getting something up every 2-3 days.

[Miles Driven Since Last Post: 3246]

Haven't Forgotten

I haven't forgotten to update folks, just been running my ass off and my national internet access has been to slow to post. I promise I'll have something up here later today.

Love ya

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Video Blog #1

My Home on the Road


This is my first attempt at a video blog, if it works out I might do more.

Sitting and Rushing

No, I didn't forget to post ... just my wireless wasn't working to good so I put it off till today.

My load out of Cargill in Fort Morgan didn't work out the way I wanted, apparently there was something wrong with the load that they wanted to give me so instead of sitting around Cargill had a shuttle load that needed to be moved so I accepted it.

Now a shuttle load is a load that is moving from one beef plant to another plant, usually one plant is short something so another plant supplies it. In this case I shuttled a 43,000 pound load of rumps from Fort Morgan to Dodge City, Kansas. The drive was pretty easy, but I had to push it through in one trip because it was "critical".

Now, I've always wanted to visit Dodge City. Where the "Wild West" really earned it's reputation. I even got a chance to look around a bit after I dropped my load (more on that in a minute) and frankly, I don't think I want to go back.

For one thing, that town stinks. And I mean literally. I could smell the beef plants, there are two or three, and the holding pins about ten miles before I ever got to the city limits. I can't imagine living there. My sinuses were on overload the whole time I was there. Was terrible.


[Cattle Pens outside the Cargill Plant in Dodge City, Kansas]



Once I got to Dodge City and unloaded, I was given a pickup number around 1:30 am on Saturday for a load that was going to Denver when I got there, and they said it would be ready shortly so I hunkered down and went to sleep.

However, that was about all I did other than look around town a bit. I sat in that town for eighteen hours. Finally dispatch, who had been calling Cargill every thirty minutes trying to push them so I could get going on a load that was already a day late in availability when I arrived, told me that if it wasn't ready by 10:00pm to find an empty on their lot and dead head back to Fort Morgan as they had four loads there ready for pickup and just burning up reefer fuel.

Just when I was about ready to just leave, Cargill called me on my phone and said my load was ready. It was now 8:00pm and I was due at 5:00am Monday morning in Denver. That's not too bad really as it only takes about 8 hours to get from Dodge City to Denver. At least I'll be able to goof off some and save up some hours because I was getting dangerously close to my 70 hour mark.

So I only drove a few hours to get to Lamar, Colorado and went to bed, then on Sunday I headed into Watkins, Colorado about ten miles from the receiver and packed it in again. Giving me time to watch a little TV. (I would have updated the blog then, but the network was to slow to even load the blog pages.)

Monday morning I finally found the receiver in a part of Denver that reminded me of South Dallas and got unloaded.

Soon as I sent my MT call in, they told me to fly to Fort Morgan and grab a trailer that was ready to roll and needed to be in San Antonio, Texas. Yesterday!

The wanted me to try and get it there by Tuesday Morning and I told them no dice, it was a 14 hour drive and there is no way I could do it and live. So they said just get there as fast as possible.

Well, we can only do 62 (my truck actually only does 60 even though it reads 62) so going fast is not an option really.

Unfortunately, the trucking gods were not smiling on me today. Around 5pm the truck over heated again. And this time it wasn't the thermostats, it was the cooling fan.

Now, on a big truck if you didn't know it the fan doesn't run at all unless the temp gets to high. Once it gets to be about 190 degrees the fan clutch kicks in and cools the radiator. Well, the fan wasn't working at all, especially when going up hills which is when the engine generates the most heat.

Being in Springfield, Colorado at the time, the nearest Freightliner service center was in Amarillo, Texas. About 200 miles away, which means if the company had decided to tow me it would have cost about $5,000 to pull me in if not more since I was pulling a fully loaded trailer.

I called dispatch and told them the issue and then spoke to the shop manager and we hatched a plan. I decided to limp the truck into Amarillo one overheat at a time. The problem with this was I would have to drive slow enough to keep the temp down (50mph or less) till I could get through the mountains there in Southern Colorado and begin my downhill run to Amarillo.

Needless to say it took me about seven hours to limp from Springfield, Colorado to Amarillo, Texas. Once I got into Freightliner they said they wouldn't be able to even look at the truck till Tuesday afternoon. Which was about 18 hours away. I told them that wasn't acceptable at this point as the load I was under was already four days late on delivery and was their anything they could do just to get me running.

The shop manager at Freightliner said he could short out the clutch to turn the fan on, but it would run all the time regardless of the temp and would lower my fuel mileage.

After talking to my shop manager and dispatch we decided to go with that, so he did it and luckily for us didn't even charge us for it.

After that was taken care of I went to bed for a few hours then got up Tuesday morning and started heading towards San Antonio, Texas. One eye on the road and the other on the temperature gauge.


[West Texas Sheep Farming]


I actually made pretty good time and didn't really have any heating problems till I was going through the hill country on I-10. I got to the receiver around 7:30pm only to find out that they only accept deliveries between 6am and 2pm so I was stuck.

I bunked down at the Love's there in San Antonio after taking a shower and was set to be there the second they started receiving.

Wednesday morning dawned with me sitting on the worst dock in history to back into, I'm not going to go into details but it took me 20 minutes to back in because of the way the dock is configured. At least they were quick to unload.

Once done I was told to dead head back to Ft. Worth so they could work in the truck, and that is exactly what I did.

So, the truck is being worked on now and I'm home for a few days to get a reset and remind myself of what my wife and kids look like.

I'm probably going to head back out tomorrow if they finish working on the truck today like they said they would ... I'd like to spend a few more days at home, but frankly I'm broke and the rent is due :)

[Miles Driven Since Last Post: 2158]

Friday, April 18, 2008

On the Road Again

About an hour after I left my last post they pulled my truck into the shop to figure out what was wrong with it, other than the fact I knew it was overheating, it could be anything.

Sure enough, there was a heating problem ... I blew out both thermostats and the radiator seals. Something that the shop should have checked on a PM, but I'm not sure when the last time PM was done on the truck so ...

After about five hours in the shop, I was ready to go. Now one thing I failed to mention was that in the night another driver came and dropped off his trailer and took my load in to AWG for me since it would have been seriously late if I had sat on it. So I gave dispatch a call, told them I was ready and asked if they had another load out of Plainview I could go down and get so I could get back on the AWG circle.

Unfortunately they didn't, however they did have a driver who was on his way into Amarillo who needed to get back to DFW for some personal business, and his load was going to Loveland, Colorado with a 8:30am Thursday delivery time. I told them I would take it but I didn't want to be sitting in the Denver area for two days because there were no loads. I was told they had a lot coming out of all the meat plants so getting me out in a timely fashion wasn't going to be an issue.

I said ok, met the driver at the Love's on I-40 and started heading to Denver. And now is where the fun began. I knew that they were forcasting rain and light snow in Colorado for Wednesday night, but I personally think that they knew they were lying and didn't want folks to know driving at night was gonna be hell.

I left Amarillo around 7:30pm and scaled the truck in Cactus, Texas. Man was I in for a lot of work. I knew just on the hour long drive to Cactus that the truck was heavy, but was I in for a shock.

I scaled out at 81,000. The road limit in Texas and Oklahoma is 80,000, but the "Winter" limit in Colorado is 86,000 because of snow and ice accumulation on trucks. I was just hoping that the scales would be closed as they sometimes are.

So after sliding the tandems on the trailer more forward to get the weight even I started up the Raider Highway (US287) for a long slow drive, as since it was all up hill, it was going to be work.

Sure enough though, as I hit Springfield, Colorado the rain turned to snow. And man did it ever snow. Combined with a hellacious headwind in the 40-60mph range, I was driving like a 100 year old granny driving to church on Sunday. Needless to day it took a LONG time, 11 hours approximately, to get to Denver from Amarillo. If you've ever driven it yourself you know it takes about 6-7 hours tops.





[Photos from a rest area outside Hugo, Colorado. These photos do not do the driving winds and snow justice as it is a completely different perspective while driving down the road in it]


And my fuel milage suffered horribly as well on the trip, about 4.5mpg which is just over half of what I'm used to getting. You figure the math ... 81,000 pounds, up hill, in driving snow with 40-60 mph head winds; that means crawling I averaged about 40mph from Springfield to Limon, Colorado.

Luckily for me the Lamar, Colorado scales were closed ... however the Limon, Colorado scales were open.

I rolled across those scales and winced as I saw the numbers climb up, and stared at the stop light waiting for the "come inside" message on the display board. I was looking at the trooper through the window in the shack and he just looked at me, shook his head and waved me on ... YEA! No overweight ticket for me today!

Once I got on I-70 things did get better and I was able to make 50-55 mph on average. I made it to Loveland at 8:00am, an hour and a half early (their time) for the appointment.

After I got unloaded, I told dispatch I needed sleep so they asked me to drop my trailer at Swift in Greeley, Colorado so I drove over there and checked it in then crashed in the truck at the Stampeed Truck Stop in Evans, Colorado just down the road.

[The Rocky Mountains as seen from the Sam's DC in Loveland, Colorado]

That evening after I got up they asked me to pickup a load at Swift going to Maine, however it had six stops and I told them I had no desire to sit under a load for five days and that many stops. So they asked me to take the load to Fort Morgan, Colorado and swap it with another driver and pickup out of Cargil there in Fort Morgan on Friday morning.

Being the nice guy I am I decided to do it, and so that's where I am right now. Sitting in the bullpin parking lot across from the gate waiting for my load. Hopefully I'm getting the load going to Lufkin, Texas that is due for a Sunday delivery. If so, I'll spend the night at the house tomorrow, but I haven't been promised anything yet.

[Miles Driven Since Last Post: 570]

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Down But Not Out

It has been a few days, but since my last post I've been running like mad and getting the job done.

When I last posted I was heading to Plainview, Texas to pickup a load going to New Mexico. However, it was not to be.

About half way to Plainview dispatch called me and begged me for help. They had a load which was missed and was running two days late in Friona, Texas at the Cargill meat plant.. The load was going back to Ft. Worth and they really needed it taken care of.

Being the nice guy I am I told them I'd take care of it. I turned through Lubbock, Texas and headed up the back roads to Friona and got there about midnight. Luckily the load was already ready for pickup, it had better been since it was supposed to be picked up on Friday and it was now Sunday morning.

I looked at my options in regards to how many hours I had left and how far I had to go and decided I'd make a run or Wichita Falls, Texas and then camp out for a few hours and then pull it in the rest of the way.

I got into Wichita Falls about 6:30am and parked it. I had only planned on sleeping 3-4 hours but ended up crashing for a full ten hours.

Once I got up, I checked in with dispatch, took a shower and started the three hour trip to the AWG distribution center.

I arrived about 9:00pm and dropped their load, then at dispatches request I ran up to the yard grabbed another trailer and headed back down to the AWG DC to do a midnight run to Midland/Odessa, Texas.

Luckily for me when I got back with the trailer I was supposed to drop my new load was ready so I picked it up and took off just after 10:00pm.

This particular run was a two store stop and I was hoping that each stop wouldn't take that long, and good for me it was. I got into the Odessa store and even though the store didn't open for another hour once I got there they got me unloaded and I was out by the time the store opened.

I hopped down Highway 191 into Midland and unloaded the second part of the load and made my MT call. Dispatch told me to run up to Plainview and pickup a load going back to the AWG DC, and since I was out of driving hours I told them I was going to camp out in Big Spring, Texas then drive up and pick it up. No problems there as the load wasn't going to be due till Wednesday morning.

After a good sleep and a shower there at the TA I headed up to the Cargill plant in Plainview and picked up my pre-loaded trailer and started to head out.

Now, things started to go downhill from there.

I got about thirty minutes out of Plainview and the truck broke down, it had overheated going up a hill.

After going over the truck to see if there was a problem I could not find anything, I even repositioned the trailer to redistribute the weight on the drives.

I spoke with Tom on the phone about it and he suggested I head up to the TA service center in Amarillo, so I turned the truck around and limped it up there. Luckily it didn't stall out again, but then again I was only doing 50mph instead of my usual 62mph.

I called dispatch and let them know the issue and they were glad I made it to TA without having to be towed. That would have cost the company close to $2000.00 to tow the tractor and trailer the 75 miles to the service center.

I got in just at midnight and checked into the shop. They said it was probably the thermostat as I told them I didn't hear the cooling fan kick on while going up the hill as it should. Unfortunately they said it would be 3-4 hours before they could get me in the shop.

At 3:30am they called and said they were ready for me, so I moved the truck into the bay and they got to looking at it and said they were unable to work on the engine due to the configuration of the system in this truck.

So, luckily again for me there was a Freightliner dealership with a 24hour shop across the street (if I had known about it I would have gone there first!) to get it worked on.

After calling dispatch I went over to the Freightliner shop, dropped the trailer and checked in at the service bay. They said it would be no earlier than noon before they could get to it as they had nine trucks in line ahead of me for service.

I crashed out in the truck. It is now about 10:45am on Wednesday and I'm watching them move trucks in and out of the shop. Hopefully my time will come soon ...

[Miles Driven Since Last Post: 1342]

Sunday, April 13, 2008

"New" Old Truck

I got a call Friday afternoon from the company telling me that I was being assigned a new truck as the one I recovered would need quite a bit of work and the one I was getting was in good shape, and they said I could head back out again on Saturday on a Midland, Texas Albertson's run to start off my week.

It took me most of Friday to get all my stuff together and packed into the car, It is amazing how much stuff you think you need while out on the road.

Saturday at noon, I headed out to the yard to load up my truck and install all my stuff, including my CB and XM satellite radio. The whole process took the better part of five hours get it all in and get organized.

Dispatch let me know that my load, which was scheduled for an 11pm pickup time, was ready at 8pm so I headed on down to the AWG DC to pick it up. Sure enough, I was in and out in 20 minutes, nice ... wish that would happen more often.

So off I went on my second favorite road, Interstate 20 east bound for Midland.

After making my routine stops every two hours or so, I arrived at the store at 5:30am. Thirty minutes early for my appointment, which is what I like. However, it seems that the store doesn't even open till 6:00am, so I knew they wouldn't get my unloaded on time.

Sure enough, they finally came out at 7:00am and said they were ready. Took just the one guy nearly two hours to get me unloaded. Thankfully for me, they didn't have anything going back to the AWG DC, which means I don't have to go back to Ft. Worth today unless there is a regular load going that way, and we do not have any shippers out here.

So, I called into dispatch and they are going to deadhead me to Cargil in Plainview, TX about 200 miles away to pickup a load going to Albuquerque, NM.

Should be fun, I've never driven into New Mexico before!

[Miles Driven Since Last Post: 356]

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Free and Clear

Last night after Tom and I went and picked up the abandoned truck and spent nearly two hours moving my junk into it (can't believe how much I'd accumulated on the road, buying stuff in preparation for getting my own rig), he took me out for a steak dinner for a send off.

He said he'd miss having me around, and that I was the best student he'd ever had, and the one he had been the most comfortable with. As indicated by the fact that we started running teams on the fourth day out ... LOL.

So after dinner he went and checked back into his hotel because they said they would not be getting him out till the next morning, and my load was going to be ready sometime between midnight and 6:00am so I went back to my truck and parked at the Valero truck stop near the Wal-Mart.

Just to digress a bit, as I had an email asking about it; Here are the statistics for my time in training with Raider Express.

Total Days Training: 24 (Including Orientation)
Miles Driving: 5950
Time Off Duty: 241.25
Time In Sleeper: 168.25
Time Driving: 122.75 (Average MPH: 48.47) [Our trucks are governed at 62mph]
Time On-Duty (Non-Driving): 19.75
Total Hours: 552

Pretty pitiful really, students are supposed to do 12,000 miles before being released. But considering we spent five of my training days sitting, it isn't really too bad.

Ok, now for the rest of the story :)

Swift called my cellphone at 2:30am to tell me the load was ready, so I got up and drove up there from Dumas, Texas (about 13 miles south of Cactus) and checked in and hooked up the trailer.

After getting cleared out of there about 3:30am I headed towards Amarillo, Texas. I needed fuel bad, as the truck only had about 400 gallons left in it (our trucks hold 400 gallons).

Once I got to the Love's in Amarillo, Texas and fueled up I had to hang out for an hour because my EFS card wasn't working and dispatch couldn't get the thing straightened out and I ended up having to use my ComData card. Thank god we have them, or otherwise I'd been screwed and would have waited for a ComCheck transfer for over $1000.00. Ugh.

I got headed out after the fuel mess was taken care of and was ready to just push on towards Ft. Worth but it was not to be. Once I got near Hadley, Texas I stopped at one of the new Texas Safe Haven rest areas for a nap.

After three hours I woke up to the truck swinging back and forth and loud bangs outside. It appeared that the front had passed and the winds had kicked in. According to the XM radio weather service winds in open areas of Texas were going to be in the 30-50 mph range and from the south east, lovely a huge headwind. There goes my fuel mileage.

The banging was trucks being pulled into the rest area by Texas DPS DOT inspectors. They were hauling everyone in for level one inspections. Great, and they were doing it right in front of my truck.

Luckily for me, once I got up and sat in the seat a DPS officer saw me and walked over to my truck. I rolled down the window and said morning to him and he said, "no worries son, I know you were asleep so I'm not going to inspect you today. But I would like to see your logs if you don't mind". What do you think I did, yep! Handed him my logs. He spent about 10 minutes looking at the last ten days of my logs including today and said, "Perfect, good job. Have a good one." Then handed me my logs and walked away.

I didn't have to be told twice, I hauled ass out of there ... lol. And was happy about it, because that trailer would not have passed inspection, I won't go into why but it would not have.

After my near disaster with DOT and hauled ass for Ft. Worth and got in about 3:30pm and checked in with dispatch.

My replacement truck wasn't available, the one I recovered had to go to Freightliner, it needed some serious body work as it had been damaged in several places.

So I packed out all my things in to my car and am taking two days off, my new truck is supposed to be back from PM at Freightliner on Saturday morning.

Cya later!

Miles Driven since last post: 415

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Day 24, Free at Last

Well, things didn't work out as well for us today as we wanted. We hung out in our hotel rooms till check-out time at noon because dispatch didn't have anything for us yet.

We kept calling every two hours and nothing. However, at 4pm they finally made a decision, we were both getting separate loads, and I was getting my own truck!

Little background information here, back on March 28th they fired a driver while he was in Cactus, Texas while waiting for a load. I'm not sure on the whole story why, but apparently he'd been sitting a while waiting and smarted off to someone in management and they'd had enough of his crap so to speak. So he had to clean out his truck and leave it up there at one of our truck wash contract locations.

On the Saturday after that Tom and I drove by and saw the truck sitting there and told our driver manager that when we returned from Denver we'd be happy to bring the truck back, either bob-tail or pulling a load to Ft. Worth. Tom had assured them then that I was ready to go out on my own, and they were all for it at the time but they decided to just let it sit.

When we came up on Monday and saw that it was still there after ten days we told them since we were in Cactus we'd pull two loads to get it back. Seems this time they took the hint and gave me the truck as my own. Well at least till I could get it back to Ft. Worth.

They are still turning me loose once I get back to Ft. Worth on my own, Tom is going his own way. Probably to Denver they haven't told him yet.

So as of tonight when I pickup my load in Cactus, I'm free! Free at last!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Day 22-23, Amarillo by Morning

Woke up on Monday at the Yard in Ft. Worth after sleeping like a brick to find that our load had been taken off of us and we had been assigned a 3:00am Tuesday delivery in Amarillo.

However, before we could take off for that they gave me my own truck, very temporarily, so I could help Tom shuttle reefers around town to shippers. So for two hours we moved trailers and got bored.

Finally, once we were done we found out that we had a live load and only eight hours to get to Amarillo for our appointment time ... damn.

We got over to the Nestle DC and luckily for us they already have the load processed and ready to put on the truck, so we only waited about an hour before we could take off.

So at 8pm I pulled us out of the Nestle lot ready for a long haul non-stop run to Amarillo.

Now, I really hate Oklahoma roads, but US287 which we call the Raider Highway is so much under construction and there are so many little towns that you have to drop from 70 to 20 in less than a mile that traveling on it can be a bitch when your in a hurry, especially in Witchita Falls, Texas that it is beyond frustrating.

However, even though I stopped in Quannah, Texas for half an hour to use the restroom and stretch I made it at exactly 3:00am at the gate to the receiver.

As soon as I got in and pulled into my door I checked in and hit the bed.

They woke us up about three hours later and said we were ready to go, and Tom took over and drove us up to Cactus, Texas to get ready for our next load.

However, due to some backlog they can't explain we won't be getting out of here till at least Wednesday morning. So Tom and I each got a room at the Dumas Inn in Dumas, Texas just a few miles down the road.

[Beautiful downtown Dumas, Texas]

Least tonight I'll be able to take several hot showers and watch decent TV, or God forbid actually play World of Warcraft for a bit on my laptop :)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Day 20 "Continued" - 21, The Lost Wal-Mart

Tom and I met at 8:00am on Saturday at the truck and got things rolling. It was a beautiful day for a drive and I was ready for some serious wheel time after being off nearly two days.

We took off from the yard and hit the AmeriCold warehouse and headed north to North Platte, Nebraska. Unfortunately the route took us through Oklahoma but at least it was during the daytime.


[North Bound I-35 Arbuckle Mountain, Oklahoma]

The drive itself was pretty uneventful, just long. We swapped out in Phillipsburg, Kansas and Tom drove us on to North Platte, Nebraska and parked us at the Flying J for the rest of the night around 2:00am.


[Oklahoma has horrible roads, at least they are trying to fix parts of them]

I got up at 8:00am and hit the showers at the Flying J and got us on the road to our receiver. However, here is where we caught a glitch. We both knew that we were delivering to the Wal-Mart DC up there however the address we got from dispatch was to an actual store. Talk about a mess, we got to the store and of course they didn't know what to do with us. Finally we got ahold of the receiving manager and he gave us the correct address and directions to the DC.

After pissing around for an hour we finally got to the DC which was about 10 miles away and got ourselves unloaded.

Luckily for us, as soon as we sent our MT call we got another load assignment. This one was going to be a good long one.

We dead-headed 222 miles to Schuyler, Nebraska to the ConAgra meat packing facility and found out that our loaded trailer was waiting for us. So we dropped our empty and picked up the new one and took off, back to Texas :)

[The Great Platte River Road Archway Monument on I-80 in Kearney, Nebraska]

I've always said all roads at Raider lead to Ft. Worth and this one is no different. It was a multi-stop load, but we've already been informed they were going to give us another load once we got to the Ft. Worth yard and someone else would make the multi-stop deliveries.

So we are sitting here McPherson, Kansas about to switch drivers and I'm gonna get some sleep.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Day 19-20, Rest and Northbound

Well, Tom ended up taking another AWG run to Amarillo, Texas while I sat at home and did a 34 hour reset. It was nice to see the kids and my wife for a little bit, even got a chance to catch up on all my TV shows the DVR recorded.

But it's Saturday morning now and I'm about to leave the house and head out to the yard to pickup the truck, Tom should be back from his 10 hour break here soon as well and then we are off to North Platte, Nebraska.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Day 18, Out and Back

Well, we finally got loaded out a bit early and left for Midland, Texas around 9pm on Wednesday night. This was by far the easiest load I've had yet as far as driving is concerned.

I20 is a great interstate with the exception of the 10 mile single lane construction zones, those can be a pain. I swear they put those k-rails to close together to piss off truckers ;)

Once we got out to Midland around 3:30 am we started our deliveries and got both stores done by 7:00 am, then we took a brief nap till dispatch told us what we were doing next. Lucky for us we just pulled a back haul from the store we last delivered to.

Once we loaded up all their return merchandise, pallets and cardboard trash we floored it back to Ft. Worth, Texas.

In route I figured out that I was about to run out of hours so we talked about it and I'm going to take a 34 hour reset and he is going to go solo for another AWG load tonight and then take Friday night off to see his mom.

We'll head out again on Saturday morning ... supposedly I'm supposed to be getting into my own truck next Friday when Tom pulls in for a three day break. We'll see, I'm hopeful myself ... he's been telling them since the end of my first week I was ready to go solo.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Day 16-17, Raider Highway

Well, we got up and arrived early at the shipper with the hopes that we would be able to get loaded and get out early and sure enough they were kind to us and we got out about an hour ahead of schedule.

Since the load needed to be in La Porte, Texas at 8:00am Thursday we were anxious to get going so we could be on time. 1087 miles is do able in two days, but with pretty constant driving and little time for breaks. The 14 hour work rule really screws up driving schedules, every driver hope they get rid of it or modify it at the hearings this summer.

We finally got underway at noon central time and floored it for Texas, well as much as we can floor it since we are restricted to 61 mph. US287 is a good highway to drive and is a straight shot from Denver, Colorado to Ft. Worth, Texas. The only thing bad about it is about every 10-20 miles you have to slow down to 30 mph because of some podunk town, otherwise the highway is 65/70 all the way.

One thing I have noticed is we move a lot of freight on US287. On average you see a Raider truck going the other way about every hour, and it doesn't matter if you are going North or South on it. Seems like half the fleet (about 100 trucks) is on US287 going one way or the other every day. So it seems pretty natural for it to be called Raider Highway, at least that is the nickname we've given it.

Well, I decided to do a hard push and shoot for getting to Amarillo, Texas before calling it quits for the day. It took nearly eleven hours of solid driving, with only pit stops every two hours for about five to ten minutes to use the restroom and check the reefer status.

After arriving at 11pm central time I stopped at the Loves Truck Stop to fuel up and take a shower. While I was inside Tom finally woke up and stated he wanted to drive for a few hours, so I was game. We had talked earlier about pushing to try and get to Ft. Worth by noon on Wednesday so we could see if we could either pawn off the La Porte load on someone else or at least take a short evening break at the house and drive all night to get to Houston for the delivery at 8am on Thursday.

He drove till about 4:30am and stopped in Vernon, Texas to camp out till my rest time was over. I really didn't notice other than to move from the bottom bunk to the top bunk once we parked.

I got up at 9am, pre-triped the truck and took off, getting us into the Ft. Worth yard just before 1pm which was pretty good time.

While we were in the yard they took the load off our hands and gave it to another driver because they wanted us to do an Odessa, Texas multi-stop run for AWG (Alberton's) so I could get experience doing that before they hopefully cut me loose in my own truck next week.

Another reason being is we were both randomly selected for drug testing, figure the odds on that one will ya :)

Since we had to do that, it was a good time to put the truck in the shop and have the engine looked at while we were gone. Frankly, there has been something wrong with the truck since I started driving it after it went through it's quarterly PM before I joined Tom.

The truck has just about no power in it when climbing hills, we have had to literally triple down-shift just to make it up 2% grade hills at 30 mph, and the fuel economy has been in the toilet. We've barely been getting 6.1 mpg where we should be getting 7.5 or more.

After our drug screens we checked on the truck when we got back and found that two of the fuel pumps were going bad and they were going to replace them, we've been assured that the repairs should fix the problems we've been having, we'll see ...

So now I sit at the AWG distribution center waiting for our load, which won't even be available till close to midnight, then it's an all night drive to Odessa, Texas to start our deliveries by 8am.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Day 15, Stuck Again

Well, just like last time we got stuck in Denver for a full 24 hours. And it sucks!

After making about five calls to dispatch to hound them about getting out of here and on the road proved pretty pointless.

Around 3pm we decided to bob-tail to Wal-Mart to pickup some supplies so we could keep from eating in restaurants and save money in the process.

However, once we actually got unhooked and started pulling away when dispatch called us with a load. Unfortunately, it doesn't pick up till 11am on Tuesday. So that will just about make a 34 hour reset but not quite.

This load is another one going to La Porte, Texas, which we already know from previous experience that it will be another 44,000 pound load of beef hearts going to Egypt. I sure would like to know what they do with those things.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Days 9-14, Off and On Again

Well we ended up taking two full days off as Tom needed a bit more time taking care of things with his mom than he thought.

But I stayed on top of dispatch and we picked up a load of beer Thursday morning that had been T-Called on the yard and took it up to Oklahoma City, OK. Was a pretty quick run and we got that done in just under six hours. If you've ever done it you know that the run up I35 from DFW to OKC is a quick one and the receiver was a fast unload, they had us in and out of there in thirty minutes.

Once we got clear and sent in our MT call we got a quick response and dead headed up to Junction City, KS for a pickup. It was a hot load that was already ready for pickup that was already running late, and it was fourteen hours overdue for pickup once we got there. However, they didn't really seem to care *shrug*.

We got it picked up and scaled out then made a run for the KTA (Kansas Turnpike Authority) rest/truck stop at mile marker 53 just outside of Andover, KS. We got there about 2am and packed it in for a bit of sleep. Since the sausage we picked up was already late, us taking our time wasn't going to make a difference, and it was going back to Ft. Worth so we hoped that once we got there we could get a long load out of there, but as you will tell soon, that wasn't going to happen.

I woke up around 7am and got us going again heading for Ft. Worth. The drive down was very nice till we hit Oklahoma. Man that state sucks and I mean big time. The roads are just plain horrible, I35 is like riding a roller coaster the whole way, just plain rough as hell.

We got into Ft. Worth and droped the load at the receiver around 6pm and then bob-tailed over to our yard about ten miles away to pickup an empty trailer for our next load.

We got the load information in route and groaned, another pickup at Quaker in Grand Prairie going to Denver. Denver has been hell lately and getting back out has been a pain as I told you about on my previous adventure up there.

Once we got the trailer and headed over to Quaker for the pickup we found out the load wasn't due for delivery till 11pm CDT on Sunday. UGH! It was only Friday night.

So once we got to Quaker and they started to load we hatched a plan. Since I live in Irving just five miles from the Quaker distribution center we decided to spend the night at my house and start off sometime on Saturday as we had over 50 hours till delivery.

Once we loaded up we headed to Irving and parked at the Wal-Mart and called my wife. She and my son came and picked us up and we all went out to eat at Outback Steakhouse just a mile away then headed to my house. When we arrived Tom said he was going to sleep in the truck instead of our guest room cause he didn't want to leave the loaded trailer alone.

So he took a shower cleaned up and I took him back to the truck, and then went back home myself. I got up around 8am and had my wife drop me back off at the truck, I let Tom sleep and took off.

Once thing I can say about the run to Denver, it is quite easy. US287 is a nice road most of the way (except the hour you spend in Oklahoma) and is a very easy drive. We swapped out in Springfield, CO and Tom drove us on to Limon, CO where he packed it in at the Flying J truck stop.


(Sunset in Colorado from US287)


Since we were so close we both slept late, I didn't even get up till about 9am went in a took a shower and got us going around 11am. Since we had plenty of time, I decided to go to Church at Our Lady Mother of the Church Catholic Parish in Commerce City, CO not far from the TA Truck stop. It is a pretty nice parish, but they seem a bit to progressive for me, but overall it was a nice place to visit for Mass.

The fuel mileage was still bugging me so I stopped off at the TA after Church to have the fuel filters looked at again, the shop manager wanted to argue with me because I wanted them to re-service the truck under warranty since we just had it done like ten days ago. Finally he relented and they took the truck in.

Sure enough, looks like we got a bad filter. The enclosed primary filter was black where it had been completely white when they originally installed it. Hopefully now we'll get back up to over 7.0 mpg.

After the service stop, we headed on up to Longmont, CO for the drop off of our Gatorade. We decided since we hadn't eaten all day we were going to stop on the way. We ended up stopping at Texas Roadhouse in Thornton, CO for dinner. I'll say this about the place, they bill it as Texas food, and it may look like it, but it isn't. The dinner was good, but definitely not "Texas Style" like they billed.

So, now we are sitting at a truck stop just down the road from the receiver and our delivery isn't till 11pm, however they said we could go ahead and check in at 9:30pm when I called earlier and will try and unload us early (no promises of course!).


(TexasMike and his Truck in Longmont, CO)