Jan 31, 2009

Keepin It Between The Ditches

As much as I am enamored of New England and bestow my love for her so eagerly, there is one predicament I must face throughout the winter months, that befuddles me to no end.

You see, while Massachusetts is very proactive during the winter months, treating the roads in preparation for any storm that might blow through. Connecticut, on the other hand, is neither proactive or reactive. They wait for nature to takes its course, and then after some period of time they might crank up the snow plows to scrap the snow into a shimmering sheet of ice. At least this seems to be true for Interstate 84.

Last week, I arrived in Haverhill, Ma, to unload my final stop. A storm was approaching which was forecasted to dump 10-12 inches of fresh powder by noon.  When I awoke at 4 am, there was not a single new snowflake to be seen. Of course there was several feet of snow piled along the edges of the parking lot from the weeks previous storm. But nothing new. I rolled over and when I answered the call of my alarm at 6am, I noticed a good 2 inches of the fluffy stuff. Steadily falling, I feared the snow might make my homeward bound journey a little more frustrating. I needed to get back for those much needed repairs. But sometimes Old Man Winter has other plans for you.

It was not surprise when I pulled out that the road before me was not plowed , it is after all a small industrial area, well off the beaten path.

Once I got back to the Interstate, it was just as I had expected. Salted and plowed, the road was ready for the morning commute into Boston. 

The further south I travelled, the worse the road conditions became as the snow accumulations showed a definite increase. So, my dilemma is this. Do I attempt to head south down I-95 and face multiple long icy bridges in Connecticut, with no weight on my wagon, and a higher volume of traffic. Or, do I head west on the Mass Pike, in hopes that Connecticut has finally taken to preparing for winters worst.

I opted for heading west, and much to my dismay, the roads continued to progressively get worse. But it was not until I hit my exit at Interstate 84, that I felt as if I might just possibly have made a mistake.  After passing through the tollbooths, it was quite obvious that Connecticut was at home with her feet propped up, drinking hot chocolate in front of a nice roaring fire, and she couldn't care less about those crazy idiots who just happened to be out driving on her roads.  Not a single snow plow has made its presence known, not a single piece of salt had braved the blustery cold. It was nothing but white as far as the eye could see.  At this point there is no such thing as maintaining your lane position. You just got to keep it between the ditches. Aim for the flat white surface.  I know, I know....this happens all over, but we don't run chains over here. If the roads are bad enough, we shut down!  I was really hoping that Connecticut had learned from previous winters just how important it was to keep the roads ready.  What was I thinking!!

After many cautious miles, I finally hit paydirt. Back to wet roads and excessive speeds!!  Woo Hooo!!  I did hear that in the end, I had actually made the right decision as there were several multiple vehicle collisions on my alternate route. Remember those icy bridges that I was avoiding...Yep, you guessed it!

A Moment of Silence.....PLEASE

I may have mentioned this in a recent post. Then again, probably not. I have been so busy and a hundred posts have been rolling around in my brain, but I have not taken the time to do much posting. You see, with the Holidays, a week at Disney World, extended work hours and finally moving all of my belongings to Bama, well, I just have not had much time. Not to mention all of the different forms of stress I have been enduring lately.

Several weeks ago, the pulley came apart on my alternator on the big truck. I was sent to 3 different shops before the appropriate repairs could be made. In order to assure my arrival at each new location, I had been given a total of 12 new batteries to ensure I would make the distance.
The final shop secured a used alternator and pulley, installed the final four new batteries and sent me on my way.

I immediately noticed that my generator was no longer working, so I inquired to my local mechanics to make sure all the cables were mounted properly. After a quick once over, I was told the batteries and cables were fine, but my inverter had taken a dump.

I set out on my route and by the time I made it into Massachusetts, the computer in my truck was freaking out. Indicating multiple problems at random, with no consistent symptoms. I did manage to find that one of the cables had not been attached to the battery post. After securing it, the truck seemed to return to normal....  for about 3 hours.

Then it started again. Completely at random, it would send false signals, initiate the windshield wiper delay and sound off warning buzzers. 

After 6 weeks of this, and having 3 different shops take a look at her, she finally lost it. The truck that is, but I was not too far behind in my mental capacity. Last week, I made an appointment at our Charlotte shop to finally get the etched windshield replaced and thought maybe, just maybe, Charlotte would be able to diagnose my problems. I was scheduled to arrive any day before 3pm, to have the repairs made. I was on track for a Thursday arrival, but was told on Tuesday that the mechanic would be in New York that day. This is when I came unglued. I was in tears, actually, because my nerves had been pushed to the limits with both the computer and the windshield. I decided to make one last ditch effort and stop at our South Atlanta shop. I was prepared to sit there as long as necessary until ALL of my concerns were addressed.

Instead, they found me a hunk of junk to use for the next few days. It was so horrible!!!  Still set to run 62mph, which we all know leads to one very irate and anxious little girl. But this was not the problem. The problem was......6th gear was about to fall apart, the transmission whined so loudly you could not hear yourself think, it had a major exhaust leak and  it would not pull a noodle out of a bowl of spaghetti. There was no way I was going to NYC in a truck that probably could not make it, but also, I could not reach the pedals in this one. Very important for safe maneuvering.

So, the Boss found a truck. My jewel has been sent to Volvo. And my mental capacity has stabilized..for now!!

Just so you get a better idea of what I was dealing with, I included a short clip featuring the antics of my trucks computer. The video was taken while I was sitting still, so for illustrative purposes, imagine actually cruising down the highway with a very annoying buzzer screaming in your ears, while the wipers are racing to and fro across the dash. You can not silence the buzzer, you can not stop the wipers, and the headlights are disappearing for up to 30 seconds at a time.

ahhhhhh......Good Times!

Jan 24, 2009

New Year, New Routine ???

I have been a little frustrated this year as my normal routine has been altered for the first few weeks of the year.

I have become quite spoiled in the previous years with the knowledge that as soon as I was empty, I was heading home, stopping only to pick up damages that were being returned for credit. If there was room on the trailer, I usually made these pick-ups while I was already there delivering. This eliminated any need for back tracking, and allowed me to get home in a very rapid fashion.

This year.....it seems there are other forces at work  preventing my from achieving my set schedule.

Week One~ I was told on Monday that I would be remaining in Connecticut until Wednesday Afternoon to pick up a water pump for the powerplant. 

Week Two ~ I was told on Monday that I would be lingering once again to pick up some conduit for the powerplant. Wednesday Afternoon.

Week Three ~ I have been informed that I will be picking up on Thursday.

This doesn't sound so horrible unless you take into consideration that I am normally back at the ranch by Wednesday night, and after each of these pick-ups, I had at least 16 hours of driving left. 

I have been arriving home a full 24-36 hours later than I am accustomed to.  Oh yeah, and did I mention that instead of my route beginning in New Jersey, they have been loading North Carolina and Virginia stops on my trailer as well. Kind of makes it hard to get all my NYC drops off on Monday, if I am starting 6-8 hours south of the city on Monday morning. 

Time to readjust  !!

Good Cop / Bad Cop

If you gave following this blog any length of time, you should already know that I have a "thing" for men in uniform.  Policemen, Firefighters, Servicemen, etc.

Along with this mild infatuation, I also have an enormous amount of respect for them as well.

With that being said...I will begin my intended post.

On way home last week, I managed to get myself trapped in the right lane behind a very slow camper. Actually, I had no intention of becoming trapped, but the other motorists saw no need to heed my turn signal indicating that I too, would love to get around this slow moving road block. After travelling at least a mile  (blink, blink, blink, blink, blink, blink) and having numerous motorists fly from behind me into the left lane, I finally saw my chance, albeit, a small window of opportunity. As I prepared to make the lane adjustment, I glanced again ( I usually look several times just to confirm the vacant spot I wish to acquire) and noticed a white SUV flying up the left lane and rapidly eliminating my opportune moment. As this point, I already have five tires in the left lane, but as I noticed the SUV was not going to slow down, I weaved back to the right to give him clearance.  I was beginning to see red, and as the vehicle begin to make the pass, I made a not so friendly gesture towards him.

That is when he braked. He braked hard. I noticed his hood take a nosedive as he slowed to my current rate of speed. About 80 to 53 in 2 seconds. He lingered at the nose of my trailer, and my frustration grew. Oh Great! Now he is going to play with me. Hold me in position behind the already crawling camper. It was then, as I turned to look him in the eye, that I noticed all the pretty shiny decals plastered on the sides of his SUV.... County Sheriff....

Yikes!!  There were two officers in the vehicle, and the driver made a point to let me know that he did not appreciate my little gesture. He had the second seat driver roll down the window as he mouthed something towards me with very visual facial expressions. I was mortified. I was ashamed, but I was still irritated that no one would let me into the left lane. As he was silently reprimanding me for the error of my ways, the camper had slowed even more. We were barely doing fifty, but I guess a County Car with his blue lights blazing does tend to frighten people into slowing unnecessarily. After he said his piece, I motioned to the slow vehicle and then threw my hands in the air.

He then proceeded to floor it. That is when I noticed the second officer. He waved and smiled in a highly amused manner, as his counterpart continued to glare at me. 

Honestly, I would never have made any rude gestures, had I known it was an Officer, but his car was unmarked on the front, and with no lights flashing, it just looked like another jackass trying to beat the Big Truck.  

The rest of the trip home, I was half expecting another unmarked to pull me over, and cite me for disrespecting an officer. But alas, I made it home with no other encounters with the men in blue!  

Jan 17, 2009

The MRS......



I am feeling a tad bit guilty. I think I have been misconstruing my true feelings about my job and how I am being treated. While reading through your comments, it has come to my attention that many of you believe that I feel as if I am being mistreated and might possibly dislike my job!

On the contrary. I love my job! I love my route! I love many things about my plant! My boss is great! His assistant is awesome too! The only really issue that I find intolerable is the mechanics at this one particular location. The other sites have very nice and efficient mechanics who will do their best to take care of my needs. 

The complaints I have been making are not exclusive to me. We all have the same issues with loads, trailers, and truck problems.

I think my true intention with these whiny trucker posts is to illustrate what horrible luck I have! It seems every week, there is a little pitfall that I am forced to stumble though, and I find it to be very amusing. I cant seem to catch a break, but it is not weighing me down. I adjust rather well and am able to move on almost instantaneously.

But then again...some of this might actually be personalized. 

Just this week, I was having MORE troubles with my truck. I had a major loss of power while traveling over some very small hills and found myself racing through North Carolina and Virginia at a speed of 55 mph. I had one fuel filter changed last week, for this very reason. I was surprised to find the second filter was not replaced. This indicated that my loss of power was only temporary. 

So, on the way home, I stopped to have the second filter replaced. That is when it was discovered that the second filter had never been tightened. It was ready to fall off the motor. No wonder I had no power.  I took it in stride that because I have such a low opinion of my local mechanics that they just quite possibly might have forgotten to tighten it.  Genuinely just forgot. I would not be surprised. A fellow driver, knowing the issues I have with these mechanics, seems to think that this was an intentional lapse of memory....

I don't know what to think. They are quite good at forgetting simple things, but then again......Could it have been intentional...I have heard through the grapevine, that at one point, they were told I have this here blog to rant about my frustrations.  They do spend an awful lot of time not in the shop, so just maybe, they are current and up to date on  my postings. That would make sense, if the filter had purposely been left loose!  Jackasses....but then again, maybe they were legitimately just being lazy.....I still don't know what to think.

But if it was intentional, then NANNY NANNY BOO BOO.... I did not lose my filter and get stranded... Hardee Har Har!! So, a little message to you guys, if you are reading this...

I know you are not stupid enough to do anything to my truck that would risk my life or innocent motorists on the highways.. Right?

Jan 10, 2009

Not So Welcome Back....

So I wasn't really expecting all the hoopla....fireworks, parade, dancing in the streets....when I returned to work Thursday morning. But, I was somewhat expecting to NOT have to deal with any mechanical issues for at least one trip.

It is a new year, and I had sincerely hoped I could delay posting about the trials and tribulations of my so called trucking life that seem to have become a predominant staple in my little weekly routine.

But..it is not meant to be.  Oh well, Welcome Back!

I had been given two gravy runs to get back in the groove. The first went off without a hitch. Pull an empty trailer 100 miles to exchange for a loaded scrap trailer. Travel 270 miles to dump loaded scrap trailer at Tennessee plant. Bring empty back to exchange for second loaded scrap trailer and rinse and repeat....

On my way north, with the first load, I was told that the front-end loader was not working and I would not be able to dump my load and there were no empty trailers. I should know better than to believe anything a truck driver tells me, but it did set the tone for the next 36 hours. By the time I arrived in Tennessee, the loader was working and I emptied with no delays. 

However, on the way back to Georgia, I lost power....Major power!! I was dropping gears on hills I had no business slowing down on at all, with an empty trailer.  Yikes!! Time for a new fuel filter. I managed to pick up my second trailer and was completely befuddled to find myself tooling around Atlanta at a cruising speed of 40 mph, uphill...It is predawn, so of course the shops were closed.

Now, when I arrived to pick up my second trailer, I was absolutely thrilled to find it was one of the newer spread axle numbers we had recently purchased...That is when it all went to hell. First, it had a low (70psi) tire...Next, it had an even lower (30psi) tire...Missing mudflap, lights not burning, and to top it off, the door would not close. After an hour of struggling with it, I finally decided to take the damn thing back to the Georgia plant and tell them all to give me another one of those kisses, once again, not on my smiling face. But I realized, that if I went to the local plant, I would not be able to get my truck repaired. 

Oh, I didn't mention this part. When I use the headlights and turn on the highbeams, the wipers come on....When I use the headlights and turn on the fourway flasher (which I was doing a lot of that night) the warning buzzers would flash as bells screamed throughout the cab. WARNING WARNING  STOP  TURN OFF ENGINE WARNING.......Also, the lights would dim to a non distinguishable illumination at random...

Okay, with that being said....After struggling with the trailer door (one heavy door that extends the entire width of the trailer), I had used my best judgement and headed back north to sleep it off at our Chattanooga shop.  I was greeted with a fresh cup of joe when I crawled out of bed the next morning. 3hours later, all repairs made, except the door issue, I was on my way to the TN plant to finish up.

Now, me personally, I think this next part is the icing on the cake!

While on  my final leg of the journey, a fellow driver called me and inquired about all of my delays. He said I should have picked up the trailer that he had dropped the previous day, because there was absolutely nothing wrong with it.....The trailer just happened to be THE VERY SAME TRAILER that I had  just suffered through the previous 14 hours with. And he said nothing was wrong with it.

This my friends, is the very reason I get somewhat intimidated by making these little gravy runs. Because we have a large number of drivers who do not attempt to perform any sort of a pre-trip.  And then I am left to deal with it.

All in all, it was a quick (could have been quicker) two days. My truck is in even better condition, and I made it home without blowing a fuse..  Amazing, huh?

Lady Liberty is calling my name, so I better get some sleep. Back to New England!!!!

Jan 7, 2009


I left Bama this evening, making my way back to the Peach State. I have not been here since December 23rd. Most of that was vacation to the House of Mouse, but I am forced now to return to work. I had counted on a full 3 weeks off, but that did not happen. 

My main intention when pulling out of the drive was to stop at Exit 310 and fuel up Sally. I always fuel at Exit 310. For some reason, when I reached Exit 325, I whipped off the interstate and pulled into a gas station. Not my normal stop. I was not critically low, and McDonalds was not calling my name, but yet, 325 is where I stopped. While pumping high octane into the Pony Cars belly, I noticed a man who seemed to be at wits end. Turns out, his daughter had just delivered his first grandchild in Auburn, Al and he was on his way back to Nashville after a very long night. She delivered at 3 am, so he looked wore out. Excited, but fatigued, he managed to leave his wallet and cell phone in Auburn. Sitting at the pumps, he counted out lost change he had scrounged to find under his seats. I noticed all the activity, and that is when I asked if everything was okay. He never once asked for money. Instead, he told me his story and asked if I knew if there was a Catholic Church nearby. Not that familiar with the area, I told him I did not.

I finished pumping my gas, and as I made my way in to pay for it, I instructed the clerk to put $11.00 on his pump. That was all the cash I had left.  While I was using the restroom, she obviously had told him what I had done and he thanked me profusely. He then asked for my address, so he could send me the money when he got home. I politely told him that would not be necessary. It was an investment.  

You see, I believe that if we do what we can to help someone when they are in need, then we will be repaid in our own time of crisis.....  

Come to think of it, maybe this is why I am never in a situation where I would require assistance from a complete stranger.

Don't ya just love these "feel good" moments.  I know I do.

Where Was I At...

Oh yeah......back to 2008.

The year finished itself off, but not with the spirit of the Holidays. Instead, the final week at work was a largely frustrating...Lies, steeped atop more lies.... I had no heart to lay this stuff at your feet, dear reader, so I clearly opted out. Let me just say that my final day at work had me ready to tell everyone just where exactly I would like them to kiss me, and it had nothing to do with my smiling face.

Speaking of work, I spent several days during my vacation packing, loading, and hauling most of my personal possessions back to Alabama..Yep, you read that right. But I have not officially made the move. My lease is up at the end of January, so I will be living a somewhat restricted lifestyle out of a bag until then.  At that point, I will begin to commute back and forth until I am comfortable enough to make this transition more permanent.  You would think that this would be very easily accomplished, but I am having second, third, and even fourth thoughts about this decision.

And since we are discussing my erratic thought patterns.. I would just mention that I am one of those who becomes depressed at the Holidays. This has not always been the case. I have only  noticed it  in the more recent years, but combined with moving, making life changing decisions, suffering through deceptions and discontentment with work issues, living out of a suitcase, relocating myself closer to someone who abuses my good~heartedness, lack of Christmas Cheer, and no shoulder to rest my head upon.... I think I have done fairly well for myself. I have not gone crazy.....yet!

As for the New Year, I intend to accumulate more running mileage...That is it!  I make no promises to myself as to making grande resolutions. Just more running, staying fit!

Oh wait....how could I forget to mention this.....

I just spent a week at Walt Disney World......and, yes, I am anxious to get back to the peaceful solitude that is my home away from home, the sites and sounds of a bustling New York City.