Nov 28, 2008

To Err is Human.....

Tuesday November 25th

After awaking to a rainy morning in Long Island, I faced a brutal 3 hour commute back into Queens. You might ask yourself, 'Is this normal?'

While long delays are prevalent on this stretch of blacktop, this particular delay was the residual effect of a weekend derailment on the LIRR, which plays host to over 100, 000 rush hour commuters each weekday morning. Put those folks back in a car, and naturally you get very extensive delays.

After a quick drop in Flushing, NY, I headed off to Wood-Ridge, NJ for my next delivery. Then it was on to Carbondale, Pennsylvania. AA was just hours ahead of me, and he informed me of weather advisories. Ground is WHITE, roads are CLEAN.

But this post is not about my typical truck problems or the mundane details of my day. No, this post is dedicated to the little adventure I endured while trying to make my final delivery for the day.

Now every driver has at some point made a wrong turn, or missed a road while trying to make their destination. I have done this on a few occasions, but not often does it make me feel inadequate. But today was my lucky day.

The first turn I missed was the exit ramp for Route 6 East, a nice four-lane highway. I knew the road well, and because it went due north, I didn't even hesitate to pass the ramp which offered an east bound path. The direction, I had just come from. No problems though, except finding a place to turn around before I hit the serious snow and congestion in the mountains.

I manged to get back on track, and located the customer in a reasonable amount of time. I have delivered here a half dozen times or so, and knew that in order to unload, I would be required to make a U-turn somewhere up the road to be able position myself in their tiny little parking lot.

Here is where the fun begins!!

There is a road, a few hundred yards ahead that leads to the only industrial area in town. The entrance to this area resembles a small parking lot with an inadequate amount of asphalt barely covering the dirt beneath. Now, I had forgotten which road led me into the industrial area, as it had been over a year since my last delivery. And I forgot one vitally important instruction.

Do Not Cross The RailRoad Tracks !!

I didn't realize I had made a mistake until after I had made the turn onto the first street (my memory's only clue to where the turn around was located). I began to feel disheartened as I made the climb into the mountains, and watched Carbondale below in the mirror. I must mention that all the streets in Carbondale are very narrow and a Truck could not make these turns even if they were not restricted.

So, climb I did! Onto a snowy little trail that lead into the middle of nowhere. Up into the mountains and into the frozen tundra.

At this point, I was feeling quite apprehensive, as I had yet to find a location even remotely capable of allowing me to turn around. Eventually I stumbled upon a Y intersection and decided it was now or never. Traffic was almost non-existent, so I gingerly began to back into the merging roadway. A few vehicles popped up behind me rather quickly, and stared in wide-eyed amazement of the task I was attempting. I sat still in the roadway awaiting their departure as I did not want to risk a collision. The first spectator offered his assistance and assured me that it was indeed Now Or Never, as this roadway came to an abrupt dead-end several miles away. I instructed him, that while I was very grateful for this knowledge and his assistance, I could not allow him to block the road way for me. I would be liable if anyone rear-ended him if they popped over the top of the hill. He gave me a very concerned smile, a few words of comfort and drove off into the skyline.

Next, a school bus being piloted by a very friendly and understanding lady, drove onto the scene. Because of her vehicle's priority, she then proceeded to block the road for me. It is required to stop for any bus flashing red lights with its little stop sign protruding, so she used this to my advantage. I was then able to make the turn and head back into civilization.

Moments later, almost blizzard like conditions erupted from the sky, visibility nearing just a few hundred feet. Talk about timing!!

It has been a long time since I have felt the helplessness I faced while fearing the unknown. In fact, I believe the last time I was in a comparable predicament, it involved logging trails, cows and a missing hammer.

Nov 26, 2008

Peaceful Easy Feeling

Monday November 24th

So I made Rhode Island with plenty of time to spare. I eased into the state and made a beeline for the first available parking spot I could find, at the Welcome Center. Being that this was a load out of our Tennessee plant, I am unfamiliar with the customer line-up. But knowing New England as I do, I was undaunted. The only problem with that is I did not have directions to my first delivery, which is in Pawtucket. Not to be confused with Pawcatuck, which is just across the state line in Connecticut.

Pawtucket is very close to Providence and both are beautiful little cities with roads designed more for horse and buggy rather than 60+ foot of big truck. So, I opted to set my alarm and get up in time to begin calling customers for directions. After the Pawtucket drop, I was to move into Boston Proper....With the city ordinance of No Trucks on certain streets before 10am, I decided to play good little trucker and obey the suggestion. Therefore, I was in no rush to get to Pawtucket..

These were the only two deliveries I would make today, because my Long Island drop would close before I could reach them. So, with this in mind, I set about the day in a relaxed state of mind.

I really enjoyed the Pawtucket delivery. It was located in an old factory district. The men were shocked to see me, rather than their regular delivery man and OF COURSE, slathered me with adoration. I love those New England men!!

But the best part of the day, was the load!!!

Is that not the prettiest load structure you have ever seen me post. Talk about symmetry. Ohhh la la.

But just to refresh your memory, here are a few of the brilliant load structures I have dealt with pulling Georgia loads.

I heart Tennessee!!

Need I Say More?

Saturday November 22rd

I got extremely lucky this week, with it being a holiday. Our sister plant in Tennessee had a New England route that was not covered, so it was offered to me! But in order to make a Rhode Island delivery first thing Monday morning, I had to leave the homestead early on Saturday.

Now, this morning, I did indeed deliver a load of trees to the local Boy Scouts, but I did not do a pretrip inspection on my Truck/Trailer because I was only traveling 6 miles round trip.

Serves me right!!

When I attempted to begin this weeks journey around 1pm, I did my formal inspection and noted that I had a flat tire on my tractor.

The same tire that had been leaking air 3 months ago when the truck was assigned to me.
The same tire that was written up numerous times for leaking air.
The same tire that when inspected last week for having insufficient air pressure, and was then mercifully aired up instead of exchanged...

Come on folks, you just gotta laugh! Because of the amount of turmoil I am bombarded with when it comes to these trucks.... You really just have to laugh it off, otherwise I would go crazy.

So, I made the appropriate calls and decided to head up to Tennessee with the low tire. I was pulling an empty trailer and there was some air left in the tire, so the boss agreed that it would be easier to get a new tire at our sister plant. Our local mechanics were unreachable as they were busy chasing Bambi through the woods. The Tennessee mechanic waited for me, and managed to repair several more items... Like the bracket that holds the exhaust pipe in place. It was broken! He also gave me a new tire pressure gauge, because I flung mine into the netherworld when I noticed the low tire back in Georgia.

I heart Tennessee

Well, even with the rough start, I did manage to get a New England load!!! Yippee!!

Nov 22, 2008

Whats Wrong With This Picture?

I am getting ready to go deliver my Christmas Trees ( yay!!!) and before I venture out into the frigid morning, I notice the temperature here in Georgia is 15 degrees.

15 degrees!!!!!!!

Last night I checked the forecasts for my route next week and noticed that while I am cruising around New England (woooooo hoooooooo) the low temps in Massachusetts are only projected to dip down to about 36 degrees. I might possible run into a bit of snowfall in Pennsylvania, but still...

15 in the Heart of the South.......

36 in New England.......

Is is just me or does Mother Nature seem to be a bit confused. I hope the old girl is not showing signs of Alzheimer's....

Nov 21, 2008

Holiday Cheer

It is that time again, boys and girls....

Tomorrow morning I will arise at the crack of dawn to go and deliver Christmas Trees to the local BoyScout Troop for their annual fundraiser. This is something the Aluminum Company does for the BoyScouts every year. We pick up their load of Christmas Trees in North Carolina and haul it back home. I have been fortunate enough each year to be the delivery girl. It just makes me feel so warm and fuzzy to take part in this community oriented good deed!

See, I can post something uplifting........

Just What Makes That Little Old Ant........

Think he can move that rubber tree plant.....

High Hopes, Baby!! That's what...

But, alas, it is not meant to be. When I ventured out Sunday evening for a quick 2 hour trip into Bama, my hopes and dreams of smooth sailing were quickly diminished. Merely minutes after setting sail, I noticed a rattling noise. After unsuccessfully trying to locate it while driving, I eventually pulled into a truck stop for better perception. That is when I, and everyone else in a 10 mile radius, noticed it was coming from under the hood. So, I pulled it back and took a gander. After checking all of my belts and pulleys, I decided there was nothing I could do about it at midnight, so I headed to my first delivery. The next morning, upon firing up the old girl, the noise was perceivably much worse.....At this point, I am getting a little bit upset. I just cannot seem to catch a break!!

Fifteen minutes after leaving my morning delivery, while sitting on a two lane road that was shut down to one lane for construction, with me staring down the orange vested man controlling traffic, it finally happened. Whiz! POP! zing...... "Come on dude, turn the stupid sign around!!!!"

I gingerly ease into the throttle and the noise is gone. My next instinct is to check for any signs of smoke. Nothing there...So, I opted to head on down to Montgomery and let the shop take a look under her hood. I knew what had happened. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, my voltage meter was reading around 12.5 volts.... Not good. I fully charged set of batteries should be holding around 13.7 volts. I don't have enough juice left to crank the damn thing if it did die!

The mechanic confirmed my assumption. Belt was shredded, and the pulley on the alternator was spinning like a top. He spent the next 2 hours trying to locate parts before loading me down with four new batteries and sending me to another shop, which was located 30 minutes from my second delivery point.

I made my way into the second shop. They could not find new parts either, but lucky for me, there was a truck being rebuilt with used parts on it. So, after getting the pulley replaced and the new belt in position, we decided to tackle a few more repairs, because at this point I was already too late to make my second delivery. So, I got an air leak fixed along with a few other minor repairs. Next, I mentioned the suspension issues.

Did I tell you, both trucks had the exact same problems, both got new valves, and both still had issues. The mechanics decided I should head across the street to let the professionals have a look at it.

I get into Volvo explain the situation. They look at it and remark it is out of adjustment. So they adjust. But my dilemma of over inflation and under inflation during the course of my journey is too confusing for them to comprehend. I should only have a variation of 2-3 pounds at any given time, but NO!! my truck likes to fluctuate up to as much as 15 pounds.... After scratching their noses and picking their....... no wait..... after scratching their heads and picking their noses, they decide that my problem just does not exist because they have never heard of a truck doing that. This is at a dealership!! They were also astonished to find out that I even had a suspension gauge on my dash! Well......golly gee, lookee there!!!

So, I have come to the conclusion that I will indeed put it to rest and just grin and bear it. After all, I am not the owner of the truck, just the driver.

Next up, after finishing what should have been a 10 hour run, a mere two days later, I lucked up on a trip down into Miami to help out on the paycheck this week. As of Tuesday morning, I had only 500 miles in my pocket. Normally at this point, I should have had 1500. So I ease into the Sunshine State with the intention of bedding down on the Turnpike somewhere near Orlando. No dice!! Every time I pulled into a service plaza I had the pleasure of watching the last fellow who had passed me two miles back, pull into the last remaining parking spot. This continued to happen at each subsequent plaza. By the time I found a spot to camp out, I was nearing maximum overload. I believe I actually screamed into my windshield at one guy who passed me only a few hundred feet before the ramp to claim the last parking spot. I was furious.

Along with my anger, I was also beginning to experience the first telltale signs of the exhaust leak that was never repaired. Okay, I am assuming it is exhaust by the symptoms that were tormenting me, but I could be wrong. Excruciating headache, lips drying out, eyes burning and turning red. I could alleviate the symptoms rather quickly by rolling down my window and airing out the truck, but it was 40 degrees, so it was a battle for warmth or sanity.

The return trip was not too bad, and I was determined not to let this situation get the best of me. I actually remained in fairly good spirits throughout most of it, because I did request the swap AND my legs were no longer hurting. But I also found there were fresh rips in the interior walls where someone had drilled holes to mount something. I detest having a truck that is all ripped apart, even superficially, so this annoyed me. AND, the inverter no longer works which means I cannot use my microwave. I have a smaller power supply that I can use to charge my phone and laptop, but it is just so frustrating that I can never seem to find the light at the end of the tunnel.

Did I mention that I have not seen New England in weeks....Oh well, I refuse to give in to this completely....I am notorious for being in high spirits most of the time, and dammit, they are not gonna drag me down.....any further!!

Nov 14, 2008

The Never Ending Story

This is a tragic tale, but one that I have been telling for quite sometime. I am hoping that there is an end in sight. I have made arrangements for an alternative tale to be told!!

So this one really starts about three months ago, when I was forced to swap Trucks, due to unresolved repairs. I tentatively made the exchange.

In the course of the previous few months, I have numerous requests for repairs and maintenance. I have replaced items damaged prior to my obtaining this jewel. I have dealt with leaks and exhaust and some pretty major suspension issues. This biggest personal dilemma was the fact that I could never get comfortable in the drivers seat. In fact, the seat had multiple seams and protruding lumps which dug into my posterior. For the past 3 months, my legs have ached. They have felt numb and swollen and finally my hips started to hurt. At the end of each day, it was all I could do to walk!! The pain would actually take 2-3 days to subside, just in time for me to jump back in for another haul. This also aggravated me because I was unable to get any decent mileage from my running shoes.

So, last Wednesday, I dropped my truck off for some recall repair work. When I returned to the plant on Sunday, I noticed my truck had not been touched. I was set up to drive the spare, but when I attempted to leave town, I quickly turned back because the spare truck had major engine troubles! I then waited for maintenance to bring me a key to yet another spare....but it too had issues, so I was told to take MY truck.

The work week was not so bad in itself. I did manage to find some time to have a few repair jobs performed, but alas, my suspension issues are yet to be resolved.. Now I may not have a lot of excess baggage, but after bouncing around for the past three months, eventually even my fat began to hurt!

An air leak was repaired. The leak would allow my air tanks to drain in about four hours after shutting down the engine. After the repair, it only took 30 minutes to drain the tanks!! This is not the desired result. I should hold air for days!!!!!Grrrrrrrrrr..... I had tires replaced, recalls performed, and even more suspension adjustments.

Finally, I decided I just could not take it anymore.... I found that I could not even sit in that seat for an hour before the discomfort started taking its toll on my body. The bouncing was also driving me insane, as I just couldn't get anyone to understand that suspension is not performing correctly.. Yes, I did get a new leveling valve, but I am encountering the same problems with the new one.... Too much/too little air.

Today, I called the Boss and pleaded my case.....I wanted back in my old truck. The one with the deadly exhaust leak!! I would gladly trade the new problems for my old ones... Not to say that I enjoy exhaust fumes, but hopefully after three months, that repair has already been made. I never wanted to get out of the old truck to begin with....So, today, I made the swap and I was never so happy to see my old truck.... No mold growing in the door frames, no putrid stains in the carpeting, no half inch thick crud petrifying on the floor.....

My legs are just now starting to feel normal after this weeks ride, so hopefully next week, I will not encounter any more issues with that! As for the exhaust leak, if it still exists, I have found my new favorite repair shop and my new favorite Volvo shop!!!! So, I will be making a beeline for one of those two places for any future repair work.....

Sorry Maggie, but this time it is over for good!!!!

Nov 9, 2008

Just Two Minutes......

I just wanted to take the next few minutes of your time, and give my gratitude to you!

I want to Thank you for making a decision, and being willing to sacrifice everything you know and love for my safety.

I want to Thank you for standing in the heat of battle and protecting my Freedom!

I want to Thank you for the commitment and dedication you have shown to me by serving as my defender.

I want to Thank you for not backing down, no matter how hard the fight!

I want to Thank you for the courage you have shown, as I am not so brave.

I want to Thank you for your tenacity, as I would have never been able to even face the enemy.

I want to Thank you for your fortitude, you are truly the backbone of America.

I know sometimes it might feel that You have been forgotten, or even unappreciated. I just want you to know, that you are my Hero. You are my America and I love you for that! I do think about you often, and am continually showing my appreciation to those who are serving presently.

I am often among the first to approach a Serviceman and offer my gratitude, You might even see me driving down the highway with a sign in my window that merely reads " Thank You"... I do this for the fellows in the Military Convoys... And if you look close enough, you will most certainly see a tear running down my cheek.

I know I will never be able to show you exactly what you mean to me, so I just wanted to say Thank You!!

This post is dedicated to ALL of the men and women who have ever put on that uniform and made the commitment to defend our Freedoms. For the rest of my readers, I sincerely hope that you have taken the time to show your gratitude as well, and not just on Veteran's Day, but throughout the year. They gave up a lot for you, surely they deserve a little portion of your heart!!!

Nov 8, 2008

Scenic Byways

Well Folks, the mighty recession has finally hit home...

We received some disturbing news a week ago about the projections for the next few months. At work, that is! Originally, this did not concern me too much... The New England routes pay the most and most of our drivers refuse to head in that direction... But with our freight slowing, the potential for these drivers to suddenly feel the need to spread their wings greatly increases. Now, I honestly don't believe any of them would take MY route. They will however take the PA, NJ load, which means AA takes my route...I do not begrudge him of this... Only those drivers who force him into that situation.

It happened this week! Mr T. !! Hopefully he will be unable to curb his nasty attitude while in the area, but once again, money is a powerful motivator. We shall see.

So, this week, I am heading into Tennessee... From there, who knows! Having low miles, ensures I will be first in line for any additional runs, so that is a positive aspect... Most of our customers have opted to order on a "need" basis rather than warehousing additional stock. Our scrap pick-ups have just about dried up, as many in this industry have slowed as well. The next few months will be tight.

So what, life goes on...By the way, I just finished a 5 mile run, so I am on cloud nine with my endorphins kicking in!! Wooooooo hooooooo!! Nothing can get to me for at least 3 more hours! HA!!

Back to Tennessee..... A month ago, I rambled on about moving trailers from point A to point B. I might have even bragged about the incredible landscape that I had the pleasure of meandering through. In fact, I know I promised you a video! So here it is!

Sorry about the video's poor quality... My camera was just about to give up the ghost!