Thursday, December 30, 2010

Everything is Groovey

Thinking about going off the grid for a while. Maybe I just need time to think. Not like I haven't had three years or more of time to think. I got nothin'. No answers (although that's no surprise). At peace with myself, for what it's worth. That's more than some can say I guess. I don't think most of my family really gets what it is I'm after. Maybe one or two people. It's not something I can put into words. There is something I want. Or maybe it's a lot of things. Or maybe it's not a "thing" at all. Trucking has seemed the best way to get at it until this year. Now I am thinking it's potential may have reached it's limites, but I don't have a viable alternative. Suggestions I've gotten recently were so far off they were almost funny if it weren't so sad how little they understood what I really wanted. It was like I was speaking a different language. I recently thought I had found someone who would get me. Now I just feel like an idiot for even trying.
No, I am not consistent. I don't try to be. Consistency is not something I value very highly. So it doesn't bother me to contradict myself. For one, I have no issues with changing my mind. Changing your mind is a good way to avoid making decisions you might regret later. Not that I am indecisive. I just hold my ideas and decisions as being "revisable." Secondly, I don't believe that I am, in reality, inconsistant. I just think that language and dialectic reasoning is too narrow to faithfully follow my way of thinking and being. There are gaps, seeming contradictions, and somethings that are just completely lost in translation. That last one is a good metaphor actually. Reality and reason are two different languages. Sometimes it seems there are parallels but there's never really a one-to-one relationship. It is important to realize that they are separate, however. Otherwise we tend to worship reason, and believe that it alone can tell us what do and think; but reason isn't what tells you that wine is good, that sunsets are beautiful, that hurting others is wrong, or that you love your spouse. Reason is useful, yes. It is not, however, sufficient for life, and if we rely on it too heavily, we will miss reality for the sake of an imagined idealized fiction - the way thing "should" be - instead of enjoying and experiencing the way things are. Sometimes it is better to take sensations, and experiences for what they are instead of trying to find meaning in them. Sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch may tell us more when we aren't looking for specific answers to specific questions. The best and brightest ideas in history manifested without the subject actively looking for them. Sometimes when you pour all you know into a pot, stir it up and then let it settle, something truly genius floats to the surface. Anyhow this ti raid isn't accomplishing anything except allowing me to stir my own thoughts a bit to see what comes out.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What are dreams?

Heard somewhere that dreams are just random firings of the brain leaving vague general impressions which our conscious mind upon waking tries to make since out of by assigning names, identities, and meaning to things. Out of this second process we get the dream, colored by the biases of our subconscious during the process of sorting and labeling done by our conscious mind.

Need to look this up and verify if this is a real theory and what it's based on. BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Read my lips: AL-LEE-GAY-TORS...

For someone as anxious to get back to the sunny warm west as I am, I sure am taking my time leaving Louisiana - the land of Kermit. I had a 34 hour layover at my last stop waiting for the next load to be ready, then got a let start today. I could have pushed on to Dallas but I know what the truck stops are like there and the chances of me finding parking this late is slim to none, so instead I stopped in Shreveport, LA. That leaves me two solid 600 mile days to go, but I'm alright with that. If I can konk myself out early enough tonight, then I'll have an early start tomorrow and all will be peachy. Wish me luck!BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Is it a game or a movie or what?

Here's a game I recently tried out that I literally wrote home to my mom about. It's called Fable III, for the Xbox system, and though I know nothing about the franchise, I was able to learn one or two things about the game. To avid gamers these may not sound that remarkable, but they tickled me a bit.

First of all, besides having an actual film score (I got a copy from iTunes) this game has well known actors voicing the characters: actors like John Cleese (of Monty Python fame), Ben Kingsley (from films such as Ghandi, Schindler's List and Prince of Persia), Naomie Harris (Tia Dahlma from Pirates of the Carribean), Stephen Fry (V for Vendetta, Alice in Wonderland, the upcoming sequel to Sherlock Holmes), Bernard Hill (Titanic, Lord of the Rings, Great Expectations) and a bunch more. The visual style might fall loosely in the category of "Steam Punk" (do a image search on google or look it up on wikipedia and you'll get the general idea). Anyhow I thought it was pretty fantastic.

The game allows you to explore the world you are in, buy sell and trade goods, as well as real estate, developed relationships with locals, put together outfits for yourself, train your dog (which is your almost constant companion and can help you find anything from buried treasure to lost children - all on his own initiative and according to how you treat him and how well you train him), and of coarse there are battles to fight with your sword and trusty flintlock pistol among other weapons. Relationships and story lines developed according to how you treat and interact with people, and your own character developed according to what kind of decisions you make. I played for about four hours and was pretty well entertained the whole time, though not in the crazy addictive way that the Sims games tend to produce. No therapy needed to quit playing.

Anyhow, I'm not in any hurry to rush out and buy it or an Xbox system to play it on, but for those interested in fantasy fiction and such, it's worth seeing at some point. I like a good story especially when accompanied by rich visuals, good acting, and a good soundtrack. Well anyways, there it is. BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Little Perspective

I know I often post my complaints about various aspects of my trucking life both on my blog and on facebook. This may make it seem like my experiences with truck driving have been mostly negative, but this is not true at all. Most of my experiences, even my dealings with my current employer, Gordon Trucking, have been mostly positive. If this were not true, I wouldn't still be here. Gordon has some really fantastic people working with drivers around the clock trying to keep freight moving and their drivers happy. No system, company, or individual is perfect however and there are delays, frustrations, misunderstandings, mistakes, bad decisions and just plain bad moods all around that ensure things are never perfectly rosie. This is the human condition. It happens with any job.
Luckily however there is a lot to like about trucking, and a good deal to like about Gordon. Would I refer other drivers to Gordon? Hmmm...the jury is still out on that one. They're not a bad company to work for, and their people - driver managers, fleet managers, driver services personnel, etc. - are certainly their strength. Gordon's tendency to actually pay drivers for what they say they will is also a rare plus.
I think I'd tell other drivers about my experience with it's ups and downs and let them decide for themselves. I certainly have some good things to say about Gordon, but I'd hesitate to tell any driver that I know for certain they'd be happy there. To each his own. Are there things I'd like to be different here? Sure. Absolutely. But not at the cost of what is already good about working here. For now, it fits. It works. I am content. BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Gordon Trucking Driver Facilities

It's still amazing to me that Gordon's main terminal in Pacific, WA has fewer and poorer facilities than most truck stops. Today I stopped by to replenish my supply of Com checks and was sent on a goose chase around the property being told, "We don't have any, I thought they were supposed to have them." In the end I had to get some from a truck stop. Don't even get me started on the walk-in closet upstairs they call the "drivers lounge" or stall showers. The Rancho Cucamonga yard, hailed as the jewel of Gordon's driver facilities might barely live up to truck stop status except for things like the semi-public showers (something I haven't had to put up with since high school), recliners with the reclining function deliberately disabled, inadaquit parking, no auto access (helps when moving in or out of a truck; something that happens frequently at Gordon), weak wireless internet which is useless to drivers because even basic services including personal email and social sites like facebook are blocked. Apparently a little comfort and social interaction is not something Gordon thinks its drivers need.
The world is changing. Trucking is changing. If these amenities - things like private showers, unfettered wireless Internet, and a comfortable place to rest outside your truck - were not available to any driver at any trucking company, that would be one thing; but the fact is they are available - just not at Gordon. BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Casual Status

Back in the truck after a nice long vacation. Took the entire month of October and some of November to recoup and it seems to be paying off. My first day back is going well. Not to say it was free of the usual bumps along the road. Spent the day hunting for empties, taking wrong turns, fighting traffic, squeezing under a low-clearance bridge (trailer: 14', bridge: 13' 10" - still not sure how I pulled that one off), being detained for 7 hours at a customer site, more wrong turns, more traffic, trying to find some oddball unlabeled trailer, cranking up stubborn rusted out landing gear, etc. The nice thing though was that none of this stuff really got to me as much as it did just before my vacation. I feel like I just had more patience and energy and that none of these things were new or surprising. In fact they are all fairly routine frustrations. I guess maybe the trick is having a break now and then. BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Safe Dance

There was a time when I felt confident enough to dance in public. What happened? I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I no longer have my dancing moral support that I had back then. I once had a close knit group of friends who all loved to dance and were so accepting of me that nothing I ever did seemed to put them off - in fact, they encouraged me to let go of my inhibitions and just be myself. It takes some pretty special people to do that - particularly people who are not inhibited themselves. Unfortunately those friends have all either lost touch or moved away. I have had one or two experiences like that since then, but only briefly and there was no dancing. I think maybe it was just so much easier to not care what other people thought of me when I had friends that I knew (from first hand experience) would love me no matter what. I miss that. BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Friday, October 08, 2010

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Music

I just watched a documentary about Danielson, the Danielson Famile, and Sufjan Stephens. It was a heart warming reminder of everything I love about making music. I hope that very soon I will be able to launch into my next project in earnest. I have almost everything I need. I think I also need to stop worrying about how I will pull off songs I recorded on my own, in a live performance, and just write and record what sounds good to me. It will be kinda fun to figure out how to play the songs later. BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Hiatus

Beginning October 1, 2010 (that's 2 weeks from today) I will be taking a break from trucking. The company I work for has agreed to put me on "casual" status, meaning basically that so long as I put in a minimum few weeks every 3 months, they will keep me on the books; they do want to know when I'll be coming back full time, but I don't have to decide right away. It's just the break I've been needing. What a relief. BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Is the end near?

I am beginning to think that maybe it's time for me to get off the road and come home. I'm not sure what I'd do but I could find something. Trucking solved the problems in my life that it was intended to solve, and that quite a long time ago. Now the weeks and months are flying past me and I am missing time that I could be spending savoring daily life with some one. Anyone. Everyone. I've had enough of being alone and being gone. I want to come home now.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Another Art Spoiler

Profile of a face


Once again I can't help but create something that could pass as a drawing - without actually drawing it. Not really. I'm just not that good. Here's how it was really done:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Zero Day

I'm calling today a personal recovery day. I'm not sure exactly what I'm recovering from, but it's been keeping me from getting done what I want to get done. It may have something to do with nutrition, my medication, or my sleep cycle. Whatever it is it puts me out of commission for 10 to 12 hours a day. I've already adjusted my diet and it hasn't seemed to help. We'll see. Luckily this hasn't effected me making my loads on time, but I have had to push my eta back on almost every load because of oversleeping or being too tired to drive, and that is effecting my average daily mileage. Luckily I have arrived manager that, unlike previous ones, cares and isn't cracking the whip. I think she knows that I really want to run harder than I am now, and I am trying to sort things out so I can. Anyways, wish me luck! BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Joe Christmas "Scrabble Girl" unofficial music video



Questions You Should Ask When Considering Trucking Jobs

It's always best to talk to drivers about their experience, but even better to talk to multiple drivers as every driver handles things differently. Recruiters, on the other hand, are paid to convince you to work for their company, and are frequently out-of-the-loop on what's really going on at their company anyway. Whatever the reason, misinformation is common when it comes to recruiters. In addition to this, they tend to emphasize benefits that are either standard for any company, not really important (but since you're not a driver yet you wouldn't know that), greatly exaggerated, not really benificial to you at all (like computerized logs), or are just plain not true (like every truck in their fleet has a refridgerator, an APU, and an onboard touch screen dispatching computer, or that you get to pick your own truck). Recruiters are however good for making travel arrangements to driver orientation once you decide to apply, and can be a great help in navigating through the application process; otherwise, take anything they say with several grains of salt.

GOOD THINGS TO ASK COMPANY DRIVERS

How long have you been driving for your company? Do you still like them?
The honeymoon period at most companies is about 6 months - 1 year.

How long have you been a driver?
10+ years and still happy with their company is pretty darn good. Veteran drivers usually have a better fix on what really matters on the road, and put up with less crap from their companies.

What kind of trucks used?
Just for general knowledge, here are some common types of trucks:
Freightliner (very common; economy truck)
Kenworth (can be good; depends on the model)
International (recent models have good reputation)
Volvo (Very comfortable, but heavy and not very powerful)
Peterbilt (A favorite of truckers; generally thought to be the best trucks on the road)

There are some others but more important are the following questions:
How comfortable are they?
How much room in the cab?
What kind of engine? (there are a lot but Freightliner trucks usually use one of three:
Cummins (red)=good
Cat (yellow)=pretty good
Detroit (green)=average

What MPH are trucks governed at?
A recruiter can tell you this, but good idea to check with drivers. The faster your truck can go, the more money you make.

Where is most freight?
Ask drivers not recruiters. This will give you a good idea of where you will be driving. A few things to consider; Flat empty places = easy boring driving, mountainous areas = beautiful but more work especially in winter, highly populated areas = traffic, and California and Oregon are 55 MPH states.

Where are yards?
A recruiter can probably email a list or spreadsheet. Look for a good spread of terminals over the area you are going to be driving in.

How many yards have laundry & showers?
A recruiter can probably email a list or spreadsheet. Talk to drivers; they can tell you what the facilities are really like.

Min. Drive time / Max home time?
Standard is one day home for every seven on the road. Companies differ on the minimum time they want you to be out; anywhere from 12 days to 21 days; also may depend on how big a region you are driving - the bigger the region, the longer you will be out. Also ask how long you can be out of the truck before they want you to move out. About 1 week is pretty standard.

Tuition reimbursement?
Drivers may not know. Recruiters usually can be trusted on this, but no one is going to remind you to get it set up once hired. You have to get on top of this or you wont get it. Most companies hiring new drivers will reimburse up to $4,000 for tuition over the course of your first 2 years working there. Some companies take longer, some will pay up front but will require you to sign a one year commitment contract.

Slip seat?
Means you share your truck with other drivers. Usually considered undesirable.

Tri-PAC? APU?
Basically a generator. Non-idle climate control and power. Don't expect to get one right off, but the company should at least claim that most of their trucks have them. Reality is usually about 50% of the fleet at most has them regardless of what recruiters claim.

Pets?
$500 non-refundable deposit is standard; some companies limit the size, breed, type, or number of pets.

Vacation pay?
Some companies offer a bonus equivalent to 1 weeks pay instead of paid vacation. Some companies just offer an annual bonus.

Log books?
Ask drivers only! Anyone working at the office will tell you that you must log exactly as it happens and that furthermore, Big Brother is watching!
First thing to look out for is computerized logs; paper logs are not hard to do and it is to your advantage to be in charge of your own log book. The less "computerized" a company's logbooks are the better. What you really want to find out is how drivers actually log; there are several ways:
1. Real; "I log it like it happens;" this is a good "clean conscience" way to log.
2. Log by milage; Miles Driven divided by Legal Speed Limit equals Hours logged. Very common way to do logs. Usually ends up being close enough to reality to be passable.
3. Re-written logs; ("science fiction" logs); maybe what you did was not quite legal, but it looks legal now! Most drivers have done this at least once or twice.
4. Multiple log books; logging more than one version of your trip; depending on who's asking and what time it is, you show them which ever log book would make what you are currently doing look ok; highly illegal. If caught you will lose your license and probably never drive a truck again.

Short haul pay?
Rare, but a very good bonus!

Detention pay?
Most companies will pay you for being held for over 2 hours at a shipper. Ask drivers if they ever actually get paid on this. Companies commonly claim to do this, but not many companies actually do.

Lay-over Pay?
Standard is $25-$30 for sitting 24 hours due to repairs or lack of frieght. Every recruiter will tell you they pay this; ask the drivers if they actually do it.

Hotels?
Usually this only comes up if your truck is in the shop. Again, many companies claim to do it but reality is a different story. Ask drivers.

Cash Advances?
Ask drivers. Chances are, until you get some money built up in your savings account you will need this benefit every once in a while. Some companies will advance you up to $150 per week and take it out of your next pay check. Others don't do advances at all. Ask drivers; recruiters may either not know, be misinformed, or make something up that sounds plausible and attractive.

Dispatcher culture?
Basically find out how respectful and considerate dispatchers (also called "Fleet Managers" or "Driver Managers") are and what the drivers experience has been. Drivers love talking about this, and if nothing else you'll hear some entertaining stories. Keep in mind that drivers and dispatchers commonly don't get along. Usually, being able to solve problems on your own, good trip planning habits, and clear professional (and well documented) communication can go along way to help that relationship. Don't even bother asking recruiters about this unless you want the fairy tale version.

Safety Rating?
Recruiters usually know this by heart unless their rating is particularly embarrassing, in which case they may make something up; you can also look this up online (http://www.safersys.org/). A good safety rating usually means good driver training and less hassle from DOT and highway patrol. There are some skeptics of the whole Safety Rating system however (if you're curious you can look up "Driver Safety Rating" on Wikipedia.com)

Common Fuel stops?
Less of an issue now that most truck stops are owned by one of 3 companies but find out if they use Comdata or EFS to pay for fuel.
Just for general information here are the common ones:

TA (Travel Centers of America):
Showers, Laundry, Places to sit, Cable TV, Repair shop, Fried food, Restaurant, Buffet, A/C & power hookups (called "Idle Air;" only at some locations)

Petro:
Showers, Laundry, Places to sit, Cable TV, Fried food, Restaurant, Buffet, Idle Air (some locations)

Flying J (now partners with Pilot and Loves):
Showers, Laundry, Places to sit, Cable TV, Fried food, Pizza (most locations), Restaurant

Pilot:
Showers, Laundry (sometimes), fast food

Loves:
Showers (most locations), fast food (most locations): some Flying J's have now been converted to Love's

Little America (AM Best):
Excellent showers, Laundry, Places to sit, Cable TV, Repair shop, Grill (Burgers etc.)

Questions? Comments? Did I forget something? Let me know!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Drama of Table Condiments

It's the midnight at a Kansas truck stop diner and I'm just finishing a meal that I don't know what to call. Dinner? Lunch? Breakfast? It's my first meal of the work day and I really don't want to think about what I just ate. Just think of the worst three things on a Denny's menu and you'll be on the right track.
All that aside I am actually feeling pretty good. I got a shower, laundry, a meal and all my paperwork done yesterday and even got to bed early enough to get some sleep in. Good thing too, because I have to leave at 2:00am to get this load to Missouri on time. The math is a little complicated, but it's also the earliest I can legally drive again according to the Hours of Service laws.
Anyways, I kinda like the idea of starting my next work week this way. It gives me a lot of flexibility.
This diner is way too quiet. The loudest audible sounds are the refrigerator running in the kitchen, the chink of the only waitress here sorting silverware, the cook's radio playing some old U2 song ("still haven't found what I'm looking for"), the creek of the door, the ice rattling in my plastic glass; all the sounds usually masked by conversation or restaurant music. Even the sound of street traffic or customers in the adjoining gas-mart is missing. Too quiet. I should go.
Crap. I still have an hour to wait before I can leave. I guess I could play with my iPhone. I just got a new app that allows me to make stop-motion animation movies of table condiments chasing each other around my table. It's amazing that something which used to require so much time and ambition has now become an idle pass-time.
Anyhow. I think I have an idea for a short film involving a spoon and a pepper shaker, so I'm gonna go. I should probably get some coffee as well.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Exciting New Sounds!




Welcome to my Over The Road trucker studio! My ensemble of instruments now includes:
Fender Telecaster
Mini Fender Twin Amp
Casiotone Keyboard (1980's model)
Acoustic Guitar
Ukelele
Glockenspiel
Child's Acordeon
Tamborine
Jingle Bells
Egg Shaker

Now just imagine what I could do with a loop pedal!

A Good Thing Gone Bad

It's really dissappointing when a shipper or distribution center changes their policies and practices for the worse. The General Mills facility in Fontana used to be such an easy pick up. It was a 7 day a week 24-hour facility, and 100% drop & hook. Check in, grab your trailer, check out. The loads were (in my experience) virtually always at legal and balanced weight, and the whole thing took about 15-20 minutes.
Recently they have cut their hours back to Monday-Friday regular business hours, and have cut their employee's work hours, and also added an on-site scale. The limited hours mean drivers have to wait until regular business hours to pick up loads even when they were ready the day before. In other words, a driver may have to wait 2 days for a load that was ready on Friday evening.
The scale, I don't understand. It should have improved things, allowing drivers to scale before leaving etc. This scale, however takes 3 people to opperate (no joke!) and somehow the loads are now ALWAYS over legal weight and have to be re-worked sometimes 2 or 3 times, taking several hours, before they can get it right. No idea why this is. I suspect it has something to do with the shippers thinking now that they have a scale, they can squeeze more freight on each load, but that's just a guess.
The bottom line is a shipper that used to be fast and efficient has now become a colossal waste of time for drivers.
Difficult to say how this will pan out. Drivers are collecting detention pay for being held over to rework overweight loads, and the shipper is charged a fee for this, but it still doesn't amount to as much as drivers make when actually driving. If the detention fees plus the extra work hours paid for dock workers to re-work loads are enough to out-weigh (no pun intended) whatever the shipper is saving by squeezing on extra freight (if that is in fact what this is all about) then maybe we will see a change for the better down the line.
From a drivers perspective it's hard to tell what will happen. Hopefully something will change. It's a shame to see a place that was once so efficient and easy become such a hassle.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Music Update

I've been using the Four-Track app on my iPhone to record music while on the road for the last couple months and it has dramatically increased my music productivity. I'm up to about 7 or 8 songs just in the last couple months. Not all of them are keepers of coarse but there are one or two gems. Mostly I have just been experamenting and learning how two work with this way of recording. The recording environment is usually pretty noisey, there is no way to add any effects like reverb, and the iPhones mic distorts easily (which can be a plus in some cases but mostly just makes mic placement very interesting). On the plus side, the four track app does have overall EQ and Compression tools, and bouncing tracks does not degrade the sound as much as a traditional analogue four-track would (although, analogue four-track veterines know this can be used as an advantage too, if you plan things right). I've also been working with a slightly different set of instruments. I finally got a ukelele (as some friends predicted I would) and have been using that a little excessively, as well as a harmonized chorus of vocals (oohs and aahs), and of coarse glockenspiel and organ. I've also finally picked up some precussive instruments like the egg shaker, a tamborine, and some jingle bells (also not suprising in my music). I've been doing so little guitar work in fact that I'm starting to get kinda rusty on that instrument. My fingers aren't as fast as they once were.
I've also noticed a definite shift from electronic beats to more organic/folk rythms. Not sure how I feel about this. I am thoroughly enjoying the folk feel but am a little concerned that influence may be homoginizing my music. I kinda want to preserve a somewhat awkward and suprising element to what I do while still writing stuff that is beautiful and has emotional content. I dunno. I guess I just I don't really think about it that much while I'm doing it (which is as it should be). In the end it just is what it is, and so long as I'm enjoying myself doing it, I consider it a success.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Houston, We Have a Problem

Driving along in the idylic baren wilderness of US Highway 95, a several hundred mile stretch of nothingness that goes from Idaho, through Oregon, and down the length of Nevada, I noticed my "check engine" light come on. Not too alarmed, I checked my gauges. Everything normal, engine sounds fine, feels fine, and smells fine. I continue driving but a moment later the check engine light is joined by the "engine protect" light. Somewhat concerned I double check my temperature gauge. Normal. Hmmm. Must be low on fluid. Should have checked that last stop. Maybe I should -
Now the engine light starts flashing. I have time enough to think aloud, "uh - that's not good."
Suddenly the engine turns of. The dash console lights up like a Christmas tree, and I lose power steering. Just coasting now. There's no shoulder to pull off onto, the road drops off steeply into a ditch. I turn the ignition on and off try to restart the engine, and it finally fires up again. I am looking around for any place to get off the road now. I see a spot but the whole thing happens again before I can get there. Luckily I am able to coast and using all my strength to turn the wheel (now unassisted by power steering) I manage to get off the road.
Under the hood, I find that the coolant is indeed low, and I soon discover why. Alerted by flecks of coolant on the fan and elsewhere in the engine, I look for and soon find a steady dribble of coolant leaking from the radiator. Time to call in the bad news.
After alerting my company's over-the-road breakdown department, I put all the water I can find on the truck into the coolant reservoir and continue driving. I keep hoping to find a fuel station or some place that will have more water, but all I find is an abandoned looking gas station with a closed sign in the window. A few miles later the engine stops again. So here I sit. Luckily there is at least phone reception here (can't imagine how or why this is so) and I am able to communicate my plight to the OTR department. Help is on the way in the form of 2 gallons of water from the nearest service station. After that, the goal is to make it 1.5 hours further to Winemucca, NV for repairs. Meanwhile the load I am carrying is getting less and less likely to be delivered on time. Oh well. What can be done is being done. Not feeling too bad about it.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Monday, May 17, 2010

Updating The Plan

Since I am awake anyway, I thought I'd take a moment to update this thing. Nevermind that I would have had a night of uninterrupted sleep if my dispatchers could make up their mind about wether they wanted me to complete this load or relay it to another truck. When I went to bed they said complete it. Then a few hours later I get woken up by a driver knocking on my door. Says he's here to relay the load. Well anyhow at least the load will be ontome and it's no longer my problem.
So, about the plan. Yes it's changed. As we approach September it would be good to let y'all know. Most likely I will be driving just a little bit longer. Here's what's going on. After much consideration and a little looking around, I have decided to pursue a cosmotology apprenticeship instead of attending a school. I won't bore you with the pros and cons. Basically it's the best way to approach it while still keeping my options open should I decide it's not what I want after all. The place I have my eye on is in Cathedral City, CA. I will have to wait for a spot to open up after I apply for the apprenticeship, so the timeline is not definate. Once I apply I will continue trucking (or whatever else I find to do) until I get a position.
The nice thing about this plan is the part about living expenses. Since the place is out in the Coachella valley desert area, it will be possible for me to just get a camper trailer (I am saving up for a Scamp, Casita, or possibly a mini-Airstream) and camp in the desert, desert rat style, or possibly on a friend's property (I have a standing offer in Joshua Tree). Either way, much cheaper than rent - and no I am not planning on staying in an RV park because, yes, I already know that's about the same as paying rent for an apartment. I have some experiance camping in the desert; I did that for a semester at the local community college. This should be much more comfortable and is even an upgrade from living in my truck. There are some cons, but then there are for everything and the pros outwiegh them for me in this case. Anyhow, I see I haven't quite cured last night's grumpiness so I'm going back to bed. Thanks for reading and for your support.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hooray for Cold Weak Showers!


Love's just can't seem to pull off the basic service of providing decent showers for professional drivers. It has been my repeated experience at many locations that the showers tend to be weak and cold. Especially cold. If you get any hot water out of a Love's shower, consider yourself lucky. You must've caught them on a good day. This frustration comes quite besides the fact that Love's frequent fueler rewards showers now expire after 1 week. This policy has sadly become common at the larger truck stop chains, but I don't think Love's can afford to charge drivers $9 per shower when they're not even providing hot showers. This is also aside from the fact that the facilities available for drivers are pretty lacking to begin with. No driver's lounge (i.e. no place to sit after Arby's closes) and at most locations, no laundry. So tell me, Love's...why should drivers stop at your locations? No hot showers, no laundry, no place to sit, and frankly I'm sick of Arbys but that's beside the point. I have no reason to stop there other than needing to park because my hours are up (which I will continue to do though I will not be a customer. Try and stop me). Fuel stops? Well my dispatcher is going to be hearing "woops! I passed my fuel stop!" any time it's Love's. Get it together Love's. Let me know when you do.

Friday, April 23, 2010

How It's Done

At the risk of spoiling any notions that anyone might have about me actually being an artist, I decided to post this little demo of how I make my comics. It's actually incredibly easy and though I like to think it takes some creativity to put together an actual composition, anyone can do it.




STEP 1: Take an interesting photo. It doesn't even have to be a good photo. It just needs to illustrate whatever is going on in this frame of the comic. It's a good idea to take several similar shots so you have options in the following steps. It also helps if there is a good deal of contrast in the photo as far as lighting and color, but even that can be adjusted later. Once you've got some photos, the rest of the process is really really easy.


STEP 2: Using a iPhone app called PhotoPaint (available on iPhone and iPad - there is a PC version but it's worthless) convert the photo into a black and white drawing. There are some simple settings to help fine tune the image, but essentially you just hit a button and the program does the rest. At this point you have the option of coloring the image yourself in PhotoPaint, but for some really fantastic results go on to the next step.


STEP 3: Here I use another iPhone app called Montage to lay the drawing over the original photo. Adjust the drawing's transparency just enough for the color to come through a little, and now you have a color illustration.


STEP 4: You can take it a step further if you want and fine tune the colors with your favorite photo editing app (I used an app called Format 126 on this one) and the all that's left is to lay it out in your strip and add text. I use Strip Design and Montage depending on what I need. Pretty easy stuff. The strip above took probably about 15 minutes to make.

An Update on the Plan

I have been really enjoying the last couple days. I had sort of a rough start to this run when I left. Freight has been slow and my sleep rythm was a bit off so I was constantly tired which just basically messes everything up. My break in Portland was grrrreat! I had enough time to really enjoy my stay and not feel rushed. I got a good dose of Portland people, food, music, books, and beer; I also picked up some environmentally friendly / sustainable apparel. I have been replacing a few essential articles of cotton clothing with wool garments and the difference is amazing. Next time I stop by home I will be dropping off about 20 pairs of cotton socks and boxers and almost as many T-shirts that have now been replaced by two pairs each of their wool equivalent. This has made life easier on so many levels, including space and showers, laundry time. Wool clothing is no doubt expensive, but so far it has been well worth the expense.
Other than that and my new iPhone - which has also revolutionized my trucking experience - it's pretty much the same deal as before. Pick this up, drive it over there, etc.
The plan to retire from trucking is still in effect but the timeline has changed a little. I found an Aveda Salon in Cathedral City, CA (near Palm Springs) that has an apprenticeship program, which means I can work my way to a cosmotology license instead of paying to go to a school. This is also fortunate because Palm Springs is a much cheaper place to live than Fullerton. It is unfortunate that this means I won't be living in Fullerton, but I will at least be around a lot more than I am now. Anyways, as I was saying this changes the timeline. Now the plan is, as soon as I have made certain living arrangements (I am saving up to buy a camper trailer - gonna live desert rat style!) I will put in my application for the apprenticeship program. There may be a bit of a wait for a spot to open at the salon so in the meantime I will keep trucking. So that's the plan. Wish me luck!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Friday, April 16, 2010

002

001

Web Comic Idea


I really want to start a web comic but I am having trouble coming up with story ideas. The easiest would be to do one about my daily life but that sounds tremendously boring. I dunno. Maybe I'll try a day-in-the-life episode as a test and see what I think.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Weekend Break in Portland

It's been too long since I got to spend some quality time in Portland, OR, especially as it is on of my favorite cities in the US, so when I saw that my next load was delivering in Clackamas, just a busride away, I determined to take a couple days off here. Originally I'd planned on staying at a hostel downtown for $25, but when I got there all they were completely full. An expensive lesson learned. I booked a room at the closest hotel a few blocks away, conveniently across the street from Powell's books (where I intend to spend most of the day tomorrow) and as luck would have it they upgraded me to a "Jr. Suite" - which is basicaly a small apartment complete with kitchen, etc. - at no extra charge. Much nicer than staying at the hostel, I gotta say. So, I spent more than I'd planned on but I am definitely getting my money's worth. Anyhow, time for bed - I wanna be up in time for the complementry breakfast!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

New Features!

The map is now updated in real time! No more wondering where I've been for the last few weeks!
Also, I now have the ability to post blog entries and twitter updates by dictating them to my phone!
Aint technology great?!