Photo courtesy of Colani

Jim wants to take me up to where he works and let me drive one of the new I-shift Volvo’s that he sells.  It’s completely automatic, almost like driving a car.  You put it in drive – off you go!  As you step on the fuel or brake it automatically up-shifts or downshifts.

There’s nothing like the comfort of driving a Volvo either.  Every guy I ever talked to that drove a Volvo loved it.  Smooth was the word I heard most often.  Especially those that were running team – one person sleeping while the other was driving and then switch.  When you have to try and get some sleep on the bumpy, cracked, pothole-ridden Interstates and roads in this country, a smooth ride would be worth the investment.  I’m sure you’ve all see the Volvo commercial that came out last year with Jean-Claude Van Damme?  That shows not only how smooth that ride can be but let’s not forget the skill of the drivers helping with that stunt.  To see the full story (and the look on Jean-Claude’s face when he’s shown what the stunt is) of how and why this commercial was set up, click here.

I love looking at trucks like in the link below and wonder what it would be like to drive them.  And I am interested in how the I-shift works and would love to try it.  And if I were an owner-operator driving today, with fuel bouncing off of $5.00 per gallon, something like this would probably be worth looking into.

But, I loved the 13 speed transmission in my trucks!  I love shifting!  It was the scariest part to learn (especially going up steep hills – if you missed the gear you’d be stopped on the road, with a car right on your bumper of course – so don’t drift backwards!) but a part of driving that I liked.  Not learning to shift well is a huge waste of fuel so I can understand the “dumbing down” of trucks to automatic transmissions.  It saves on fuel and a company can recruit drivers easier because it’s now easier to drive a truck.

So, I’m rather torn about all this new-fangled technology.  I guess I won’t have to worry about it any time soon.  While I ponder the pros and cons, the article that tells all about the trucks in the picture above is very interesting and can be found by clicking here.

 

Posted by: fringe62 | November 18, 2013

Who Chooses Who

I’ve always been a firm believer that a dog chooses you just as much as you choose a dog, and as I meandered from room to room, up one aisle and down another at the Williamsport Humane Society, I peered into kennel after kennel and wondered if this would be the day I’d meet the dog that would be going home with me.

After my divorce I’d moved back in with my parents.  They would have been okay with me getting a dog while living at their place.  After all, we always had dogs when I was growing up.  The problem was that most trucking companies would not let you keep a dog in their trucks.  Now that I’d bought not only my own house but also my own truck, it was time to fill in the missing piece of the puzzle – a dog.

This was my fourth trip up here in as many months and as I ran into some of the staff members I was greeted with “maybe today?” and “check out the guy in kennel #22”.  They all knew what I did for a living and had no problem with me adopting a dog unlike some shelters I had visited where I had been told in no uncertain terms that they didn’t adopt out to truckers.  These people were glad to see me because other than wanting a medium to large sized dog that was about a year old I had no other criteria.  I had taken a few dogs out for runs in the backyard on some of my visits but it just hadn’t clicked with any of them.  Don’t get me wrong.  If I had the space and the money I would’ve taken them all.  It broke my heart to notice that some of the dogs I’d previously looked at we’re no longer there – and probably not because they’d been adopted.

I hesitated in front of a kennel that held a scrawny, short-haired pointer mix.  Her head was black with long floppy ears and a long, pointy snout.  The gray fur on her body was covered with black spots and splotches.  She was laying in the back of her kennel watching me with big, black eyes and just the tip of her tail twitching.  I read the card on the door; Sammi, approximately nine months old, 35 pounds, found as a stray.  As I knelt down in front of her kennel she sat up and her skinny gray tail started furiously sweeping the floor.  I placed the back of my hand against the kennel wire and clicked my tongue to call her.  Her long tail started thrashing the air as she bounded over to me and sniffed my hand and then gave my fingers a tentative lick as I scratched her head through the wire.

“Oh. You found Sammi” one of the staff said as she came up behind me. “Here” she said, handing me a leash.  “She’d probably love a walk out back.”

I slowly opened the kennel door and slipped inside.  Sammi’s whole body was now wagging along with her tail.  “Can you SIT” I said, emphasizing the word “sit”.  She plopped her butt onto the floor.  “Good girl” I said as I snapped the leash to her collar.

After a short run around the yard with stops for her to sniff and pee, I sat down on the grass.  She danced around me a bit but when I asked her to sit again she did and just stared at me with those big, round, dark eyes.  Then, with a soft, contented sigh she laid down beside me and put her head in my lap.  I slowly stroked the side of her face and body and talked quietly to her.  “What do ya think little girl?  Wanna go for a ride in a big truck?  Little girl, I think you may be going home today.”

No sooner had I said that when a couple of motorcycles drove down the street on the other side of the fence.  Sammi yelped as she jumped up and started howling with her eyes rolling wildly in her head as she ran and jumped and struggled to pull free of the leash.  No amount of petting or talking would get her to calm down.  I got up and started for the back door with her hopping, pulling and whining the whole way.  Once inside she strained against the leash and her nails scraped against the concrete floor in her rush to get back to her kennel.  I opened the door and once inside she ran to the back and curled up into a tiny, quivering ball of fur on the dingy towel that served as her bed.

I followed her inside, closed the door and slowly sank down to the floor with my back against the wire.  As I watched her whimper my eyes filled with tears.  I swallowed a sob, gently pulled on the leash and called her.  Finally, with her tail tucked firmly up into her belly, she crawled over to me and still shaking, curled up in my lap.  I wrapped my arms and legs and curved my whole body around her and let the tears fall as I stroked the top of her head.

There was no way she would make it in my truck.  The noise of the engine, air-brakes hissing, my reefer unit running on the trailer – she would be terrified.  How long would it take her to get used to all of the loud sounds.  What would happen the first time I had to leave her alone in the truck and some loud noise sent her into a tailspin?  Would I come back to find my truck torn apart?

“So have we finally found…” and her voice trailed off as the staff member that had given me the leash came around the corner.  I looked up and with a glance she took in my tear-stained face and the still shaking dog and ran over to me.  “Oh no!  What happened?” she asked as she knelt down outside of the kennel.

Between sobs I told her and she tried to cheer me up.  “Sammi’s a great dog!  Don’t worry.  I won’t let anything happen to her.  We’ll find someone that can take the time to work through her fears.”

I unhooked the leash from Sammi’s collar, gave her one last pat on the head and slid out of her kennel.  I could hear her tail swishing on the floor as I walked away without looking back.  “I need to get out of here” I said under my breath as I headed to the front of the building.  “I can’t handle any more of this today”.

I pushed open the front door and almost ran head-on into the shelter trainer.  I almost didn’t notice the dog she had with her.  “Don’t leave until you take this one for a walk.  He’s about a year old, streetwise but trainable and I think he’d work well in your truck” she said as she shoved the leash into my hand and went inside.

I looked down at him.  A beautiful salt and pepper German Shepherd mix.  Mixed with what I couldn’t be certain but he had short legs that made him look like a puppy.  A bit scrawny but weren’t they all?  He would probably fill out to about 65 pounds or so.  He sat calmly watching the people and traffic go by – alert and attentive – his black, slightly over-sized, pointy ears turning this way and that at different noises.  I watched him for a moment and then clicked my tongue a couple times.  He looked up at me with brown, almond shaped eyes and cocked his head at an inquisitive angle.  And then the hustle and bustle of the busy street faded and my heart jumped into my throat as his gaze locked on mine.  Just for a moment, there it was, as unmistakeable as if he’d spoken to me.

I.                  Choose.                  You.

??????????????  I have started and stopped this story many times over the last several years.  It has been very difficult to write about him.  Even though he passed away several years ago and I have a new dog that I wouldn’t trade for the world, I still miss him very much.  He was a constant companion while I drove truck and I miss not only his friendship but also for him being a part of a life that I loved and still miss sometimes.  Oh the stories he could’ve told!  But this is my version of events and the start of a series of stories about ____.  Oh, no!  You’ll have to wait for the next one to find out his name!

Posted by: fringe62 | August 17, 2013

Bridge Freezes Before Road Surface

Bridge May Be Icy

“What now” I thought as a whole line of brake lights started flashing on in front of me as I rounded a bend on Route 322 West in Pennsylvania. As I geared down to a stop I reached up and flipped on my CB radio. “Great” I said to myself as the chatter on the radio told me the road was closed due to flooding and ice on the bridge over the Susquehanna into Duncannon. I was a little more than an hour from the house and now I was stuck.

The last half of this trip from California had been the longest. I had been chasing a snowstorm all the way from Eastern Tennessee and then the whole way up Interstate 81, through Virginia and on into Pennsylvania. Earlier that day I had sat in my cab waiting and finally unloading, at Giant Foods in Carlisle, and watched the snow turn to a steady downpour of rain. I finally finished unloading around 4pm and noticed within about 1/2 hour into my drive home that my CB antennae was waving hard side to side instead of a gentle pushing back. That meant the temperature was dropping and ice was building up on my antennae – and the roads. I had also noticed very little spray coming from my tires which meant the water was turning to ice. It was going to be a long, slow drive home and now it looked like it was going to take even longer than I expected.

I could see the lights flashing on a State Trooper car and noticed there were no vehicles going over the bridge. “Oh boy, let the rodeo begin” said the truck driver several cars in front of me. The CB lit up with chatter as we watched a car slog slowly through a good foot of water over the road and start up the approach to the bridge. As water dripped from the car, it hit the elevated road surface and froze. The car fishtailed it onto the bridge and made it safely across. As each successive car pulled water further and further up the bridge approach, I could see the frozen path growing longer and wider. Each car seemed to be having a more difficult time than the last one, slipping and sliding up the ramp. I couldn’t believe the trooper was letting traffic go without a salt truck coming through first.

Then the truck in front of me pulled up to the trooper and after a short conversation, reported on the CB, “The bear says it’s our call if we want to try it or pull over and wait for the salt shaker. I’m almost home so I’m going for it.” A chorus of “good luck” and “go for it” followed him as he eased around the cars that had decided to wait . I watched as the water rose to almost the middle of his tires and his bumper pushed a rolling wave in front of his cab as he started up the ramp. He made a beeline for the right wall, since the ramp curved up and to the left.  The whole ramp and the first few feet of the bridge had a slight downward slope to the left.  The left lane and most of the right lane glowed a weird orange as the bridge lights reflected off of the shiny, icy path.

I watched as he started to round the bend up onto the bridge and his trailer started sliding sideways. It looked like the back end was trying to outrun the cab. “Whoa, WHOA!” somebody yelled on the CB as the trailer started pulling the cab down the slope and the whole unit slowly slid towards the left wall. As he rounded the bend almost sideways, he must have found dry road because the cab suddenly bolted forward. Smoke rolled from his stacks as he downshifted to gain speed and his trailer suddenly jerked back into line behind his cab.

There was a long silence on the CB and as I watched the next few cars in front of me slip and slide up the ramp I lifted the mike. “Driver, how much weight you haulin’?” I asked.

“I’ve got near a full load darlin’ and that was a bit more excitement than an old man needs this late at night.”

The last few cars ahead of me nudged forward, spoke to the trooper and either pulled over or fishtailed up across the ramp, almost sliding down into that left wall. I pulled up to the trooper and rolled down my window. “When is the salt truck supposed to get here?” I asked him.

“I have no idea” he said. They’re very busy. There’s messes like this all over the state. Try it at your own risk or pull over and wait”. I inhaled deeply and then let out a long whoosh of breath. After a moment of hesitation I decided to go for it. Even though I was empty, I just wanted to get home. The roads weren’t going to get any better if I sat here and waited on a salt truck.

I put my truck in gear and drove slowly through the small pond of water across the roadway. I could hear and feel it sloshing and banging against the floor of my cab. As I started up the ramp I geared up one – I didn’t want too much power to the wheels or I’d just start spinning and be stuck.  Like the truck before me, I aimed my wheels for the upper right lane and decided to hug the jersey barrier as close as I could.

Then, I felt it – a pull on the rear of my cab.  I glanced in my left mirror only to see my trailer sliding slowly toward the left wall of the ramp.  By instinct I grabbed the trolley valve but laughed as I quickly realized trailer brakes weren’t going to keep me from sliding on ice.  I tried a bit more fuel pedal and felt the tires spin.  There was not going to be any way of pulling out of this to straighten my trailer.  I looked out my left mirror again and as if in slow motion, and to a chorus of “whoa” and “oh shit” on the CB, the back corner of my trailer slammed into the jersey barrier in the left lane.  I kept lightly feathering the fuel pedal, hoping to feel dry pavement.  I could feel the whole rig pulling and sliding into the left lane as now the side of my trailer was dragging along the wall.  I had a death grip on the steering wheel as I kept turning it to the right, to no avail.

“I’m sunk” I said out loud to myself as images flashed through my head of my whole rig slamming into the wall, sliding and scraping backwards down the ramp.  I could hear guys yelling advice and groaning over the CB as I kept working the clutch and gears and fuel pedal trying to feel some grip on my tires.

Almost without warning, the wheels started stuttering on the half dry – half ice pavement.  I was jerked back into my seat as I geared down and caught all dry pavement.  I turned the steering wheel back to the left and with a sudden jerk, my trailer gave one last slam into the wall and then pulled in line behind me.  A cheer went up on the radio as I lined everything up in the right lane.  I pulled well up onto the dry pavement of the bridge and edged off onto the shoulder under a streetlight.  I put on my jacket, grabbed my flashlight and hopped down out of the cab to inspect the damage.  My legs were shaking so badly I used the side of the rig to steady myself.  I sucked in several head-clearing breaths of the winter air as I walked the length of my trailer.

A bunch of deep gouges in the aluminum surrounding my taillights, and the bottom edge of the back few feet of my trailer had some scrapes on it.  I was lucky.  Most of them would buff out.  As I walked back up to the cab I was shivering and not totally from the cold wind blowing across the bridge.  “That could’ve very easily been a real mess” I said to myself, picturing chewed up fiberglass on the side of my new truck.  “You were really stupid to try that.  Really, really dumb.”

I jumped into the cab and cranked the heat up as high as it would go and turned the CB off.  They had all seen what happened.  I didn’t feel like talking.  I tried steadying my hands in front of the heater vent and looked out my left window.  I hadn’t seen any more cars come by me while I sat on the bridge.  “Guess that trooper thought I almost caused a real mess too” I said to myself as I realized he had pulled his car across all lanes and shut down the road.  As I looked at the long line of headlights that snaked beside the river I thought I saw a flash of yellow.  Then another flash reflected on the side of the mountain that rose up on the right side of the highway.

“Figures” I said out loud.  “Here comes the salt truck!”

Posted by: fringe62 | July 13, 2013

A Random Phone Call

birthday picture“What a beautiful April day” I thought as I looked out across the landscape on either side of Interstate 80.  I glanced over at my dog Duke, sitting up in the jump seat.  He pawed at the window to indicate he wanted it rolled down.  So I pushed the switch and with a contented sigh he curled up on the seat with his chin resting on the window ledge and his ears flapping in the wind.  The almost warm air filled the cab and smelled as green as the grass that stretched for as far as I could see across the Nebraska plains, rippling in the never-ending breeze.

It was almost suppertime so I pulled into the Petro Truck Stop in North Platte.  I grabbed a book and my logbook, walked into the driver section of the restaurant and settled into a corner booth.  Instead of soup or a sandwich to go – to be eaten or sipped while driving, I decided that I would take the time to actually sit and eat a meal, because today, I would order dessert!

I placed my order with the waitress and buried my nose in a book to thwart off any attempts by other drivers to make smalltalk.  Even though it didn’t always work, I tried to make my whole demeanor shout “not interested in talking to you” and “leave me alone” when I ate in restaurants.

I finished my meal without being bothered by any lonely drivers, paid the bill, walked to my truck and grabbed Duke’s leash out of the door pocket.  Time for a quick walk around the parking lot before taking off again.  I snapped the leash to his collar and as he jumped down from the cab and I shut the door I heard my cell phone start ringing.  I climbed back up into the truck and grabbed it off the dash.  It was my sister.  My parents, my brother and a few close friends had all called me today.

“I guess she finally looked at the calendar” I thought as I answered.

“Hey Heathie.  Where are you?” she asked.

“Nebraska” I answered as Duke and I slowly walked the parking lot perimeter.

“Weather nice?” she asked.

“Beautiful” I answered.  “What are you up to?”

“Oh, I’m just finishing up some housecleaning while I’m waiting for Connor to get up from his nap.  Nothing much” she said.  “What are you doing?  It doesn’t sound like you’re driving.”

“I’m not” I said.  “I decided to stop and have a decent meal for a change.  I even had some pie and ice cream for dessert!”

“Well, that sounds good” she said.  “Oh, I hear him up.  Gotta go!  Drive safe.  Love ya”

“Okay” I said.  “Love you too” and then realized the line was dead.

I started laughing out loud.  I guess she hadn’t looked at a calendar after all and my mention of pie and ice cream obviously hadn’t been enough of a clue.  I knew she’d call me later, or tomorrow, and be all apologetic, especially since I’d have to call my Mom and jokingly tell her about MB’s call.  But for today, my sister had forgotten – to call and wish me a Happy Birthday!

Posted by: fringe62 | March 6, 2013

Maiden Voyage – August 10th & 11th

Tuesday – AM

Stopped at 2:: this AM in Ohio about 15 miles west of Toledo.  I was up at 8:00.  We had breakfast at 9:00 and then left at 10:10 via Route 20 East to bypass the expensive Ohio toll road.  There are many, many trucks on this road.  Heather says if we were in a hurry it would be worth paying the toll (around $25.00) but since we’re not and the speed limit for trucks is 55mph it’s not worth it.

Had supper at the Green Shingle near Erie area then headed for Schenectady, New York.  Took Route 17 all the way across as again, to pay the toll on Interstate 90 is very expensive for trucks (about $60.00).  Fueled at a tribally owned station on Seneca Nation reservation on Route 17 – .98 per gallon at 160+ gallons it was a good deal.

Rained most of the way.  Also most of this afternoon it had been raining off and on.

 

Wednesday – AM

Wake up at 5:00 after in bed by around 12:30.  It rained most of the way across Route 17 and Interstate 88.  A miserable driving night Heather said.  Heather had checked in at the guard shack and parked for a nap.  She had set her alarm for 5:00am and got up to turn on her CB radio.  They start assigning docks at 5:00 and if you  miss the call you won’t get unloaded until they get through the list.  A lot of guys talking so hard to sleep.

A loading dock at a grocery warehouse.  Side bumpers keep cold air in the trailer and building for refrigerated loads.  Flashing red light means trailer is locked to the door (hitch thing just below dock plate) and dock plate is in the trailer - don't try and pull out.  Green flashing light means it's okay to pull out.  Once trailer is backed in a button is pushed inside to lock trailer to the door using the trailer's back bumper - it's hooked by the dock lock.  Then inside at the back end of the dock plate is a recessed chain which when pulled causes the dock plate to raise straight up and as it comes back down the kick plate (you can see it just below the orange stripes) pops out and lays flat into and on the floor of the trailer.

A loading dock at a grocery warehouse. Side bumpers keep cold air in the trailer and building for refrigerated loads. Flashing red light means trailer is locked to the door (hitch thing just below dock plate) and dock plate is in the trailer – don’t try and pull out. Green flashing light means it’s okay to pull out. Once trailer is backed in a button is pushed inside to lock the trailer to the door using the trailer’s back bumper – it’s hooked by the dock lock. Then inside at the back end of the dock plate is a recessed chain which when pulled causes the dock plate to raise straight up and as it comes back down the kick plate (you can see it just below the orange stripes) pops out and lays flat into and on the floor of the trailer.  The signs are usually written backwards so the driver can read them using his side mirrors while sitting in the driver’s seat.

About 5:10 am the call came for dock 39.  Heather opened the doors – backed in – positioned the ramp into the trailer and waited.  Lumper (guy who unloads trucks) boss said $70.00 for unloading her trailer.  Heather told him she’d only paid $60 a couple weeks ago for basically the same load.  He told her the price today was $70.00 or she could unload it herself.

You can see here how the yellow bar is locked in the upright position and holding the back bumper of the trailer to the dock.

You can see here how the yellow bar is locked in the upright position and holding the back bumper of the trailer to the dock.

The lumper took a few pallets off and the inspector came and went through a few cases – one by one.  He laid a few aside and made a call – then said they were okay.  Another man from the grocery store came by and checked the temperature measuring device that was placed in the load in California – a “tattletale” Heather called it.  The tape from that read an even 35 degrees for the whole time since we’d left California.

After the inspection we went back out to the truck to bed.  It was after 8:00am until the load was unloaded.  A restroom stop – another stop with the inspector at the gate – after they look into the trailer Heather gets out and closes the 2nd door of her trailer.  We’re on our way to Syracuse, New York to pick up her next load.

12:45pm

Arrived in Auburn, NY area.  Backed into dock and was loaded in about 20 minutes – air conditioners for Chicago.

Heather is still tired and decides to sleep for an hour or so.  I have lunch and read.  She says we are five hours from home.  It will be around 7:00 when we arrive.

It’s 2:00pm

Heather had her nap and we’re about ready to roll down Interstate 81 to Lewisburg, PA.

MILTON TRUCKSTOP – at 6:00 pm – we made good time.

6406 miles in nine days!  Average just over 700 miles per day.

Home sweet home!  Petro truckstop in Milton, PA

Home sweet home! Petro truckstop in Milton, PA

Posted by: fringe62 | March 6, 2013

Maiden Voyage – August 9th

Monday – 8:00 am

Another beautiful day.  Clear and bright.  Most of the trucks are running (for heat).  Ours, only the reefer is running as Heather decided it was good sleeping weather without idling the truck for heat.  I expect we will get underway about 10:00am after a juice and cereal breakfast out of the small refrigerator Heather has in the truck.

Books I’ve read on this trip:  “Cold Mountain” by Charles Frazier, “The River Home, An Angler’s Exploration” by Jerry Dennis

Crossed into Iowa at 11:00am eastern time.  Lots of corn and beans

Iowa 80 Truckstop - Walcott, Iowa

Iowa 80 Truckstop – Walcott, Iowa

Monday – 4:00 pm

Stopped in Walcott, Iowa for a break and shower etc…  Heather got plastic step covers at The Iowa 80 Truckstop, largest truckstop in the world.  (I needed the step covers for my dog Duke – the steps are metal and have holes in them to let water through so they don’t get icy – the problem is when Duke jumps up into the truck he can catch his toenails in one of the holes and rip it out of his paw – the covers will keep that from happening)

You can find just about anything you need here.  In addition to the regular things like fuel, showers, snacks, mechanics shop, truck wash and more, there is also a doctor, a dentist, you can get a haircut in what looked like a full-service salon, a huge cafeteria and they advertise the largest chrome shop in addition to a huge store.  If you can’t find what you want here then you probably don’t need it.  In addition there’s probably parking for close to 500 trucks.  Heather says on a bad winter day when drivers are trying to get off the road, it’s hard to find a parking space even with all of that room.

Aerial view of the Iowa 80 Truckstop - the size of a small town

Aerial view (facing east) of the Iowa 80 Truckstop – the size of a small town

The land is getting more level and less rolling than western Iowa and Nebraska.  Most crops look good.  Saw some stunted corn in western Iowa.  Heather is going to sleep for awhile, then on to Chicago.  Will try to call Ray/Sally but it’s 25-30  miles to nearest rest or truck stop so probably won’t see them.

7:30 – We left after a nap.  Pulled into next truckstop for fuel.  Started again at 8:20pm.  Illinois after crossing the Mississippi River.

10:15 – Rest stop west of Chicago.  An old man is asleep on the bench in the rest area with a very neat, professionally painted sign that says, “Please – A Ride”.  He has three paper bags with him.  We saw him sitting in the flowerbeds this morning at the rest area where we spent last night.  He is moving right along!

Posted by: fringe62 | March 5, 2013

Maiden Voyage – August 8th

SUNDAY, AM
8:00 (6am central time) – Heather starts the engine. We stopped at 2:00 this morning at a road-side rest stop. It was nearly full. One spot left. She is great at maneuvering this big truck into small spots. We’re in a red-rock canyon and heading for Rawlins, Wyoming to meet her friend Ronnie for breakfast. Sign says Cheyenne is 404 miles.

New “Port of Entry” is like weigh scales in other states.  Have to pull in, park and walk in with your papers – registration, license, bills of lading and talk to the people behind the counter… “May I see your papers please?  Where are you going?  What are you hauling?”

Evanston, Wyoming Port of Entry

Evanston, Wyoming Port of Entry

It’s cold this morning – steam is rising off the water along the road.  Clear and cold, like a fall day. Heater is on and feels good.  Fueled up in Evanston – $1.18 – up .07 in four days.  Cattle – little doggies.  Lots of cattle in Wyoming.

We pass a Covenant Transport truck out of Chattanooga, TN – “It’s not a choice.  It’s a child” (is painted on their trailers).

Snowfences along highway are 12-14 feet high.  Arrived at Rawlins at 12:20 eastern time after 250 miles since daybreak.  Time for breakfast.  Had breakfast with Ronnie.  Cakes and eggs again.

It’s now 5:20pm and we just fueled up East of Cheyenne for $1.14 per gallon.  Wyoming is green and great!  Lots of cattle.  Lots of grass.

Just heard a news report that over a million acres have burned from the wildfires in Nevada.

Cross into Nebraska.  Stopped at Cabela’s in Sidney, Nebraska about 4:45pm local time.  Lots of truck parking and the store is open until 6:00pm.  What a store!  It’s larger than LL Bean and whatever you need in sports of all kinds they have it.  The animal mounts are spectacular.  Hundreds of them, from birds to pheasants and quail and deer, bear, antelope and more!  Sidney is where Cabela’s has their corporate headquarters.

A lot of taxidermy going on inside the Cabela's store in Sidney, Nebraska

A lot of taxidermy going on inside the Cabela’s store in Sidney, Nebraska

The front of the Sidney, Nebraska Cabela's store

The front of the Sidney, Nebraska Cabela’s store

Heather has been here before so she slept most of the time I was in the store.  I ate some supper at the cafeteria they have inside.  Came back out to the truck, read some of my book and when Heather woke up we began trucking in earnest.

I finally went to bed after midnight.  Heather is still going strong.  A couple of rest stops for hot water for her coffee and we keep moving.  Heather likes to drive at night.   (scales are usually closed at night – if I had gone to bed and waited until the next day there were several weigh stations to pass and they would have been open – without looking at the map or mileage I can tell I was probably majorly out of hours for driving by this time and would have had to do some creative logging 101 in my logbook to get by the scales – better to get by them while they’re closed and let my logbook hours catch up with where I am while I sleep)

I wake up and it’s 2:15am and we’re still moving.  Finally at about 3:00am, after passing a state weigh scale area, Heather pulls into a rest area and after carefully parking she said it was time for bed.  We are 20 miles from Omaha, Nebraska.  No air on – just open windows (in the bunk area the windows can’t be reached from the ground so I didn’t have to worry about anyone breaking into the truck).  It’s about 60 degrees.  Great for sleeping without the truck running.  Heather saves on fuel when possible and even on very cold nights she has a heating blanket type thing that is made to go under the bunk sheet.  It plugs into the cigarette lighter in the bunk and keeps her very warm so she doesn’t have to burn fuel to keep the truck warm.  The truck burns about 1.5 gallons per hour just idling to use the air conditioning or heater.  She says the worst part is having to jump out of bed to turn on the truck so it warms up enough for her to get dressed.

Posted by: fringe62 | March 1, 2013

Maiden Voyage – August 7th

Saturday, August 7th – AM (story continues below pictures)

Donner Lake

Donner Lake

Crossing Donner Pass on Interstate 80

Crossing Donner Pass on Interstate 80

 

Heading down into Nevada near Soda Springs, CA

Heading down into Nevada near Soda Springs, CA

Fowler, CA at 3:30am. Heather starts the truck. I’m awake. She was going to drive last night but decided to stop about 11:00pm because she was tired. We use the bathroom, wash up and left, driving in the dark. Began to get light about 5:00 as we headed up into Sierra Mountains.  Trucks using left lane make things very slow going up.  50 miles up, 20 miles across the top and 50 miles down the east side. Really steep in some places. Heather uses the Jake brake a lot. Over Donnor Pass.  Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, Donnor Lake… ten foot tall snow markers along the road. In Reno we can see snow on the mountains as we fuel. Heather adds oil to engine, air to tires and checks all of her tires (the heat across the Nevada desert is hard on tires and causes low tires to overheat and blow out). We also have an excellent shower.  Ate breakfast – eggs, pancakes, orange juice, $12.95. Put four quarters in the slots – no return.

Coming out of mountains (tree covered) and looking into Nevada it’s totally barren. Quite a contrast. Saw evidence of many fires along the highway. (During this time, due to a severe drought out west there were many wildfires over the last few months, that had burnt tens of thousands of acres). California and Nevada are both dirty around homes and farms. In San Joaquin valley all the farms are dirty, cars covered with dust from the dry soil.

5:00pm
Just passed Winnemucca, NV, about 1/3 of the way across. Heather wants to be in Wyoming sometime tonight. She is using handgrips and says her left hand fingers hurt.  (long driving days with my fingers wrapped around the steering wheel made my fingers very stiff and sore on occasion)   One large dairy on left in Winnemucca valley. Lots of irrigation on fields seeded with alfalfa. Why water in daytime – evaporation?

ON THE CB RADIO: Had a conversation with a trucker in NV that used to drive from Buffalo, NY to Williamsport, PA south over the mountain on Route 15 and down over to the rattlesnake farm. He and Heather talked for a long time. He knew Route 15 from Buffalo to North Carolina.  (My parents live, and I grew up on a town that Route 15 runs through)

FIRES – About 200 miles east of Reno, lots of smoke and fires on both sides of highway. We probably traveled over 100 miles with burnt landscape for as far as we could see on both sides of the highway. Near Carlin, NV, westbound traffic was stopped. About a mile ahead of the stopped traffic there were firetrucks on the highway and the fire was burning towards the highway. There were firemen out along the shoulder packing on their gear and walking down towards the fire.

(This is a picture memory that I will always remember and I wish I had an actual picture but there was no time as I knew our side of the highway was going to be shut down shortly. The smoke was so dense that it blotted out the sun and gave the landscape a sickly, yellow glow. The black smoke coming off of the fire, the emergency lights flashing and reflecting on the smoke and the red of the fire trucks against that black-grey background. The yellow fire suits that the firemen wore, were soot stained and dirty except where the reflective tape flashed with the turn of the emergency lights on the fire trucks. They looked extremely tired as we watched them shoulder into their air-packs, smack their helmets down on their heads and trudge down over the berm towards the fire.)

A lady(?) was inviting the truckers in to spend some time with her because she said they weren’t going to be moving for awhile.  (That is a whole other story – the prostitutes in NV)

Stopped at a rest area near the Bonneville Salt Flats. Heather got some salt for her trucker buddy class back home when she visits next spring.
We are now at a TA truckstop waiting for Jeff to pull in. He is a friend of Heather’s and on his way to CA. We will eat and then get 200 miles into Wyoming before we sleep. It’s 10:30 eastern time – 7:30 mountain (local) time.

Plaque at the Bonneville Salt Flats at the Utah - Nevada border

Plaque at the Bonneville Salt Flats at the Utah – Nevada border

Mountains seem to float because of the air around the salt flats

Mountains seem to float because of the air around the salt flats

Posted by: fringe62 | March 1, 2013

Maiden Voyage – August 6th

RETURN TRIP – August 6th – Friday:
(After loading up I normally would have cut back down and across from Bakersfield through Tahachapi, CA and back across Interstate 40. I decided however to continue up Interstate 5 and come back out from Sacramento and across Interstate 80. This meant going a few hundred miles out of my way and burning up close to 60 extra gallons of fuel but I wanted my dad to see some different scenery and decided it would be worth it.)

San Joaquin Valley as seen from the top of "The Grapevine" - Interstate 5

San Joaquin Valley as seen from the top of “The Grapevine” – Interstate 5

PM
North through San Joaquin Valley on Interstate 5 we saw thousands of acres of grapes, peaches, alfalfa and several large dairy herds of several hundred cows each. At Perlier we loaded 43,000 lbs of nectarines and moved on to a truckstop to weigh the load which was okay. Walked to the edge of the parking lot to get grape pictures and sank into the soil over my shoe. It is very sandy and without water the whole valley would become a desert.

( Here is a link to a video that shows how long and twisty “The Grapevine” is.  This video starts in the town of Grapevine and heads up the mountain [south on I5]   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhIMtkYX1ew  )  PS – I did not make this video.

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