Thursday, July 03, 2014

I Should Have Had The Salad

Greetings from Atlanta, Georgia, where outdoor conditions are just about right for boiling eggs. The nights are filled with the agonized shrieks of cricketts and bullfrogs who are likewise boiling, and my belly us filled with cheap fried food which is just about all that is available at the moment. I'll admit I did consider the limp brown salad but decided to give it a pass.
Is it any wonder then that my stomach is holding a protest rally and recruiting neighboring organs to join in? Whatever happened to just signing a petition? Anyhow we are beyond that phase and I've lost a few days of driving to the necessity of having a restroom within range for suprise demonstrations from my agrieved digestive track.
There is a little more to it actually. I would only be out a day or so if I had been able to successfully deliver my cargo here in Atlanta, but I was turned away at the gate due to an unforseen technicality. It seems that this particular customer will not unload a refrigerated trailer unless it has at least 3/4 of a tank of fuel. I had only 1/2. This seems odd to me since unloading the trailer takes only a matter of hours, whereas 1/2 a tank of fuel will last days. Anyhow before I was able to acquire the requisite fuel (which due to another technicality could not be purchased at the nearest fuel station but only at an approved fuel station about 20 minutes away) I was visited by the avenging spirit of Montazuma - undoubtedly on behalf of the newly formed digestive reform movement in my belly.
Anyhow the upshot was that I was delayed at the nearest (un-approved) truck stop just long enough to run out of legal hours of service (yet anothet technicality) and so could not legally drive to the approved fuel stop and get back to the delivery point - which by this time was fine by me as civil unrest had clearly developed in my lower intestine and I was not feeling up to navigating Atlanta freeway traffic - or indeed even the truckstop parking lot. I communicated the situation to my dispatcher who offered her sympathies and prescribed rest and liquids. Feeling wiped out, exhausted, and light headed I retreated to my bunk hugging a gallon bottle of water which I nursed for the next day. As it turns out, the holiday weekend will delay delivery even further so it looks like I will be here a while. I will probably at least get the fuel situation taken care of tomorrow and maybe look for a grocery store so I can get some healthy food before my kidneys go on strike. Wish me luck!
P.S.
Believe it or not, there is food worse than McDonalds. It's called Waffle House. For those of you who haven't experienced Waffle House, burn some bacon, then throw on some frozen hash browns, top with a slice of Kraft singles, and season with cigarette ash and broken dreams. Or you could just take my word for it. Their grits are actually pretty good though. The waffles are "meh."

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Night Rider

Hello Virginia. Oh the lush green of Virginia in summer time. Oh the thick night air like a warm blanket - or like a damp pillow someone is trying to smother you with. Anywho I'm here.
There are pros and cons to driving all night in the eastern states. Pro: way less traffic. Con: What day is it again? Pro: better chance at finding parking in the early morning - slim chance in the evening. Con: trying to sleep during the day, getting your circadian rythms trying to play brazillian jazz instead of their usual conventional lullaby. Pro: getting more sleep while still making ontime delivery. More or less. Con: Catching up on sleep is not an optimal use of time for logging milage, but then again neither is falling asleep at the wheel and the consequences thereof.
Its a tough call to make sometimes but ultimately, when I'm exhausted - as I am now - if I can get more sleep in exchange for an all nighter, I'll take it. I'll get back on a normal rythm later. Meanwhile I apoligize for being out of touch as I will be sleeping during normal phine conversation hours. Don't worry though as you are all in my dreams. Seriously. It gets wierd sometimes. Like I'm usually back in highschool and can't find my pants or something. Anyways.
Until next time - adios!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Running in Circles

I just had to share this and I hope it won't be too truck driverish to be relateable. Anyways here goes.
Rewind to two days ago.
Monday.
On my way from Salem, OR to deliver a load to the northernmost region of Idaho, I get my next load assignment. It is a pre-loaded trailer to be picked up in Oregon 10:00am that very morning and delivered to Sacramento by 7:00am Wednesday. A little difficult to do since I will be delivering my current load at 4:00pm that afternoon in Northern Idaho and unable to get back to Oregon Tuesday morning. "No problem" my dispatcher says, "just do the best you can."
Ok, so no problem. I deliver my Idaho load, go as far as I can, and then go to bed.
Tuesday.
The next day, I get up and head to the shipper. Upon arriving I am told that my load is not ready and that they will be loading my currently empty trailer. I am told to wait in my truck until they call me to assign me a dock to be loaded at.
Ok. Fair enough. So I wait. For several hours. Finally I am assigned a dock and loading commences - and continues for several more hours. By the time they are finished and finally give me the appropriate paperwork, I have been there for about six hours. My dispatcher realizes this and instructs me again to do the best I can and there is some talk of relaying the load to another truck to at least get it there on the same day it was due. So, ok. No problemo. Can do.
As I am getting ready to leave however, I notice that my tail lights are out on one side. Okey dokey. Not a problem, I have a spare in my side-box. Except that its not compatable with this particular trailer.
Ok - not a problem - there's a truck stop less than a block away that will surely have a compatable tail light. Or not.
Ok, so now the Over-The-Road assistance department (OTR for short) gets called in and apprised of my situation. Is there a repair shop nearby? Um, well no not exactly since Portland is over 100 miles out-of-route, so what we need is a for a mobile mechanic to come out. To fix a tail light.
By the time this is all done and Im ready to roll again its been 8 hours since I got there. This is actually works out well because of an infrequently used exception in the federal hours of service rules but thats a little complex so I'll skip it. So anyways, I get rolling and manage to get a couple hundred miles south before going to bed, confident that I have indeed done my best.
Wednesday.
Oh did you think this story was over? Nope. Got up wednesday morning to find a few urgent sounding messages on my Qualcomm (on-board trucker computer thingy).
This next part is going to require a little explanation. You know potato chips that come in plastic bags? Ok, so you know that, besides potato chips, there's a bunch of air sealed inside those bags, right? Right. So what happens when you take said bag of chips up in an airplane or even up into the mountains? Less atmospheric pressure, the air inside the bag expands, and POP! Your sealed bag of potato chips is no longer sealed.
Well, it turns out that I was hauling about 10,000 lbs of potato chips and/or other assorted snacks similarly sealed baggies. And since the manufacturers of these goodies know about this relationship between altitude and potato chip bags, they have given instructions to someone at my trucking companies home office regarding which routes any trucks carrying their product should take - i.e. no routes involving mountain passes.
This being done they saw no need to include this info on any of their paperwork or have anyone mention this fact to drivers picking up these loads.
It must be said at this point that the information was actually passed along in a round about sort of way so that it made it into the load notes at the very bottom of the somewhat lengthy dispatch form that gets sent to dispatchers and drivers when the load is assigned. In this case however, two dispatchers and one driver (me) failed to scan all the way to the bottom and read through these notes. The result was that my dispatcher gave me a route (which I dutifully followed) straight south towards the beautiful heights of Northern California which include such breath taking vistas as Mount Shasta and other peaks. Only on Wednesday morning, the morning after I had proceded 200 plus miles down this route did she catch the mistake. Thus the urgent Wednesday morning messages.
The upshot was that I had to turn around and retrace my path 200 plus miles back up the road in order to avoid any potato chip bag popping mountain passes.
Then, once we both started looking more closely at the details of this load, some other things came to light, namely the destination. The dispatch info said this load was destined for Sacramento. The paperwork in my hand said Colton. These are not the same place. Not even close. Well, ok same state, but California is kind of a big state. Anyways this was about the time they said I should just take it to the yard in Salem and drop it for another truck to relay. Then they changed their minds becausr the next load they wanted me to pickup was in Portland and bound for Washington and there wasnt time for me to go all the way to Salem and then back up to Portland, so to speed things along they said just swap loads in Portland.
At this point I should express how grateful I am that I am a driver and not in the planning and logistics department.
Anyhow, the new load wasn't in Portland when I got there. It was still in Salem. So after informing my dispatcher that thus load too was now beyond my powers to deliver on time, I was instructed to head to Salem and again, do my best. Of coarse once here in Salem there was some confusing discussion about breaks and hours of service - again not something I am going to even try to explain here - which ultimately resulted in me calling it a day and resolving to continue doing my best tomorrow. Meanwhile I feel very satisfied that despite all the twists and turns, I've done a good days work. I did make some good mileage, even if it was sort of in the wrong direction, and I communicated pretty well with my dispatcher. I think we make a good team. So all in all I'm having a good time. I'm very happy with my job. It's nice to work for an employer who, when all is said and done, asks only that I stay safe, stay legal, and as for the rest, do the best that I can; and you know what? I always do.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

This is the speed I am getting on a supposedly 4G connection. Its possible I am still being throttled down because my "unlimited plan" hasn't been activated yet. We'll see...

New Things Coming...

I have some plans to give this blog a makeover including a new name, new look, etc. Much of this depends on what kind of internet connection I have available and how often. Lately that's been the main challenge when it comes to getting anything done online. I've been using T-mobile for internet and while their plan is great financially, their data coverage is incredibly sparse and connection speeds are often painfully slow (which is surprising because it is supposedly a 4G connection). I may have to decide in future months whether I can justify moving to a different provider. This would seem to be a bad move at the moment though because it could involve me paying more than twice what I pay now for phone and internet. We'll see. Anyhow for the time being I'll do the best I can with what I've got.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

On the Road Again?

I have a new plan, and yes, it does involve trucking. My last two attempts at leaving the industry were not planned out very well and typically involved me jumping at some opportunity before I was really prepared to support myself without my trucking income. This time I have a much more detailed plan that could have me out in a year and a half if I settle for a local job in the industry but I may benefit from going a little longer and getting set up in a job I will really enjoy. Right now that job seems to be web development, and hopefully smartphone app development. I have a passion (and I like to think a knack) for creating user interfaces. With some guidance from experienced friends and family, I may be able to get into this work with relatively little official schooling. Anyhow, it would be a new skill that would make use of my creative streak and engage my interest and I think offer a high degree of satisfaction. The next step in that direction is for me to have a computer on board my truck, or otherwise accessible on a regular basis, so that I can set up a developer environment and get started. The more I think about this, the more I think "why didn't I do this YEARS ago?" which is probably a sign that I'm heading the right direction.