Feb 23, 2010

# 39 ~ Jeff

I notice you omitted Canada of your places on earth to visit. Was this a mere oversight?lol-Jeff

I see you have been paying attention Jeff!!

The oversight was definitely not intentional. Actually, one of the things I have been wanting to add to my list of "Must Do Before I Croak", is take a trip by rail across Canada. I think that would be the best way to experience Canada.

Ask me anything

For those of you who have asked me a question, I want to assure you that I will be answering them as soon as possible. I have been having a hard time getting logged on to that the formspring website..I am not ignoring you...LOL....I just cant retrieve anything at the moment..Thanks for your patience.

Feb 11, 2010

Flirting With Disaster

Finally made it home from this week's journey and it was an exciting week to say the least. Well, there were a few exciting moments, anyways.

After the initial disruption and shock of the morning, Tuesday progressed into a most usual day. I made my Connecticut and Massachusetts deliveries. By lunchtime I was sitting in New Hampshire and waiting for my 4pm appointment to unload my last stop. Knowing that another major snowstorm was on the prowl, I called ahead and asked for one of those special favors. The customer agreed to unload me 4 hours early.

I made it back to Frystown, Pa and with the snow already falling, I knew there was no way I would find a parking spot if I continued south on Interstate 81. Besides, I prefer to face treacherous roads in full daylight.

When I went to bed, there was not quite an inch of fresh snow on the ground. I awoke to a half of a foot.

Deciding that I had better get a move on, I managed to make it out to the truck stop just before a pickup pulling another fourwheeler spun out on the main road and blocked the only way back to the Interstate. I had been watching the vehicle struggle to make it out of the driveway and before reaching the entry ramp, I heard that the road behind me was blocked. Talk about timing !! If you look to the left side of the picture you can see him. Who tows another vehicle in snowy conditions ??

As I merged onto the Interstate, I had a moment of regret that I had not continued further south the previous evening. Roads conditions were barely tolerable but there was no one else to be seen, so I had plenty of room for mistakes, although I had not intentions of making any.

I set a comfortable pace and and found myself in a rather content mood. I love winter, and I would much rather be in my Big Truck, than attempting to maneuver in the little Pony Car. Upon entering Interstate 81, the traffic got thicker and the pace got slower. For the next 90 miles, all motorists were content to play Convoy in the right lane, or wherever the tire tracks were. A few drivers reported over the CB that the Maryland Stateline was closed and we should find a place to park. If you are not aware, most states now implement the 511 Road Condition/ Traffic Report hotline. I called in and the road was opened, so I trudged onward.

Upon reaching the state line, I stumbled upon the reason for the earlier proclaimed closure. Good thing the snow stopped him, because next stop would have been head first into the bridge embankment. We were able to pass, but almost immediately the roads disappeared completely. At about this time, the winds picked up and started driving the already fallen snow into a whirling frenzy.

No visible road surface, and travelling at about 15 mph with little or no visibility, my passenger side windshield wiper decided to give up the ghost. With one last swipe followed by a loud thump, the wiper fell under the edge of the hood and played possum. I was extremely grateful that it was not the driver side. However, I was having to use a common truck driver trick to keep the amount of ice on the remaining blade to a minimum, even with the defrost set on broil.

By the time I made it into West Virginia, I was a little frayed. One more quick flick of the wiper and............. the damn thing flew into the wind and disappeared forever. I guess, it was tired of me beating on it. I grabbed the microphone, alerted the guys behind me that I had to slow down. Luckily for me, the next exit ramp was only 1/2 mile away. I rolled down my window and while leaning out to literally face the brunt of the winter storm, I was able to pull off. After making it to the end of the ramp, I was able to pop the hood and finagle the blade from the useless arm and reattach it to the driver's side. Thank God for duct tape, because I had broken the clip with numb fingers while removing it from the icy clutches of the now deceased wiper arm. During the whole process, a Trooper had pulled in behind me, because it seems I had parked in a 2 foot snow drift. LOL, I really had no choice, other than to block the entire ramp and with limited visibility ( me hanging out like a dog, lapping at the snow) I had been unable to discern how close I was to the right edge. I assured him that I was not stuck, because I had tested the waters twice by pulling forward before actually setting my brakes. He then leaves quietly. What happened to helping a damsel in distress. Oh well, he was a young pup and remarked that he knew nothing about Trucks, even though I was only working with wiper blades, which I am sure most vehicles do have these days.

By the time I made had the necessary repairs, I looked like a 5' snow bunny. I eased back out into traffic with no problem, except I lost a mudflap/hanger in the snowdrift. Another 50 miles and the roads were absolutely beautiful. Blue skies emerged and the snow was blinding as it reflected the brilliance of the Sun.

By this time, Pennsylvania had begun to shut down the Interstates...Those that I had just travelled. I had no more problems the rest of the way home, and I am even more thankful that my NH customer provided that one little favor. Otherwise, I would have spent a lot of time hanging out in Pennsylvania this week...Something I try to avoid doing with an empty trailer.

Looks like Ol Man Winter took me up on my dare last week, as he was throwing some pretty good punches. Stay tuned, I hear I am in for another one next week...

Feb 9, 2010

Things That Go BUMP In The Night

Throughout the driving community, certain places are notorious for sexual solicitation. I try to avoid those areas simply because I do not want to be disturbed during my sleep. One such place is the Travel Service Plaza in Milford, Connecticut. There are two trucks stops a mile south of the plaza, so I try I sneak in there after a long day delivering in NYC. I usually do not attempt parking in the Pilot, because I have seen a lot of hood damage occur at this particular location.

Last night, I saw one of the prime parking spots available in the Pilot, so I grabbed it. It was early to bed for me because my Southington, Connecticut delivery opens at 4am. Around 1am, I am roused from my sleep by a very invasive knocking on my sleeper wall. People, theses trucks are not that thick. A gentle tapping will suffice. Now, my first instinct was that someone had backed into my truck and I had possibly slept through it, but that didn't feel right...I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and tried to focus. Then the knocking started again. It was repeated several times over the next 5 minutes, so I slowly raised up to peek and see what the disturbance was about. My second thought was that the Lot Lizards had left the service plaza and bravely invaded the truck stop.

Just as I stole a glance through the curtains, the perpetrator walked away. I was awake at this point, so I watched...It was a man, at first glance he appeared to be desperate. He continued through the parking lot and proceeded to knock on every single sleeper in the lot. Not really sure what that was all about, but I lost an hour sleep over it. Thanks Buddy!!

When my alarm went off a few hours later, I gathered my bathroom items and headed in to brush the ol choppers and grab a quick cup of joe before heading to my stop. Standing in the Ladies Restroom, brushing my teeth, I was a little shocked to watch a MAN walk in and head straight for a toilet stall. He looked directly at me, but never lost stride. He commenced to getting comfortable as I finished up, and just as I was exiting, he let loose with a few grunts for good measure...all I could mutter was "Dude, you're in the wrong room", as I made a hasty retreat.

And here I was, all this time, thinking that there are some really nasty women desecrating the public restrooms, but it all makes sense now!! I finally understand how urine gets alllllll over the toilets....Just teasing!! But there are some really filthy ladie's restrooms!!

Feb 8, 2010

The Blizzard of Ozzzzzz

While the rest of the East Coast was trembling in fear of the approaching storm, I, with my lack of good sense was eagerly anticipating the arrival of 3-4' of snow. I could not wait to see it.I left a day early to allow for any delays that would be forced upon me. I heard the word BLIZZARD so many times while watching the Weather Channel, that I was absolutely stoked!! I had other drivers confirming 39" and 43" inches ...

Thinking that with the weather reports I was hearing, I should be seeing evidence not too long into my journey. Crossing the Virginia State Line....nothing.

And much to my disappointment, this is about all I saw the whole way through. The snowbanks caused by the plows was just barely at 2', so where is all this snow?

Don't get me wrong, there was some treachery involved. The story was that DC had run out of salt, so this is what I had to endure for about 70 miles. Feels just like driving on a cobblestone street. What amazed me was that people were complaining because of the delays, and I am thinking to myself..." I don't think I want to go faster because this is too rough at even 10 mph ! "
But Interstate 95, above and below DC, was immaculate!!

Hauling Snow !!
These guys were hauling off the snow, to help keep the roads from refreezing over night.

Talk about a Rooster Tail !!

New Jersey gets a little upset if you de-ice on the Interstate. This was the only compliant driver I saw.

Of course, some of you had to have known I would pull this little stunt. I am a firm believer that in emergency situations, the left lane is fair game. The officer who past me, never gave me a second glance!! And for the record, I was on the left shoulder more than the left lane!!

So, while the definition of a blizzard is a snowstorm with wind gusts no less than 35mph, visibility decreased to .25 mile or less and lasting at least 3 hours, I just expected accumulation. Am I the only one who thinks that?? As for the inaccurate trucker reports, well, you cant believe everything a truck driver says.

And while I do realize that this was a lot of snow *smirk* and roads were jeopardized, I was immensely disappointed that it appeared to be just another snow storm in my book. Guess I should head out west and hide away in the mountains, if I wanna see real snow!!


The Beast is Back!! Good Frankentruck. I got a call from the mechanics on Friday, telling me that I was good to go. "There are just a few issues, but feel free to get back in your truck"

The issues are moot at this point. Well sort of. There are several surface scratches and scars on the brand new hood and a small place where it is cracked. Oh well!! Frankie's back in action. He also stated that the one issue I had written up concerning the new motor had not been resolved. I think there is a slight problem with the turbo because you can hear a lot of excessive "air" when you have the compression built up. That and the fact that I don't have the power I should have. This week, more "air" and less power. So they will check that again.

I did manage to get 4 more new drive tires..YAY! and a new set of wiper blades. They were concerned about me heading into the Snowpocalypse. Awwwww. So, now I have a full set of good tires!

The only remaining concern, is where do I put all my stuff. It seems I have accumulated even more crap since I have been hopping back and forth. When I loaded the truck this week, I just put all my gear on the bed. Which is a big NO NO, when you are pulling a spring ride trailer. By the time I made it through the worst roads on the East Coast, all my gear was laying in the floor surrounding me. Well, everything except the food, which is what I wanted to fall so I could grab it. I was starving by the time I got through the last of the icy patches.

But I am back in my truck, and that is what counts the most!!

Think I might even keep the hood ornament!!
You know, as I warning for any other tree that gets antsy!!

Feb 5, 2010

Even More Grateful !!

My next load landed me back on the East Coast with stops in NC, VA, MD, PA and NJ. The storm I had just conquered in Tennessee was racing me to the coast. Thankfully, it was a short week, and this weeks post, I present to you in pictures!!

Where I spent the night Sunday. It is not too often you see this much ice in Kenly, North Carolina. Thankfully, I did not have any trouble maneuvering in this mess. It was a solid inch of ice!!

First stop: Winterville, NC. Unloading on ice was my biggest concern. Even if I could get the load to the customer, they HAD to be able to get the forklift to me!!

Youngsville, NC Still in the throes of the winter storm!! Not so efficient as work conditions, but ohhhh, so very invigorating to MY soul!!

Maybe they were not properly equipped for the snow, but I give North Carolina props for a job well done.

HA!! I had a little fun in Richmond, Va. The customer's parking lot was immaculate, but this road leading in/out was still a bit slushy... While listening to "Trapped Under Ice" by Metallica, I got a little crazy. Once all the automobiles had turned off this beauty, I floored the accelerator and sent a rooster tail of this mushy slop back into the trees...I was, ummm, helping make conditions safer by clearing up the road surface...

Patterson, NJ. While it is a little but tight getting through some communities in New Jersey, the perks make it all worthwhile. I got a dinner invitation in Manhattan out of this delivery.

Tuesday Night, the snow started again so it was early to bed for me. Once I awoke and began my trek home, I was enraptured by the brightness of the snow. This was taken well before sunrise.

But daylight offered no reward. Mounds of snow and heavy fog!!

Eventually, the skies cleared off and the seduction of Mother Nature took over. I am sure I have mentioned this before, but I love Winter!!

Good thing, too. I hear there is trouble brewing in Paradise for me next week...Come on, Old Man Winter, let's see what ya got !!

I am Grateful !!

Those of you who may be new, and quite a few of you who don't really know might not understand that while I tend to complain a lot on this here blog, I am actually extremely grateful. I have such an awesome job, if you don't mind a little hard work, and I don't.

For the week of January 24th, I ventured beyond my personal restrictions and took a load heading into Chicago. I hate Chicago, and I have good reason. Years ago, I use to run into Chicago on a weekly basis and have seen 2 fatalities on 294. I just had no desire to return to the area because of the graphic memory.

So I surprised Dispatch by latching hold of this money run. With a total of 3600 miles and 15 stops, it was guaranteed to be a long week. But the week was to get longer before it even began. Back in the spare truck, and at this point, it does not even matter as long as it gets me from point A to point B. My first stop in Tennessee did not open until 9am, and was a crane unload which takes a little time. Because of these delays, Tennessee was going to be my only delivery for the day.

My route included 3 stops for Sparta, Tn; Cincinnati, Oh; Akron, Oh; Detroit, MI; Troy, MI; Flint, MI; Arthur, Il; 2 stops in Chicago, Waukesha, Wi; Schofield, Wi;Hawkins, Wi and Winona, Mn.

Tuesday morning started out in Cincinnati and even though I only expected to get 2 stops that day, I somehow managed to slip into Detroit and make that delivery as well. My day ended at 4pm and I had 9 customers left on the trailer. I was a little discouraged because I am normally on my way home on Tuesdays.

Wednesday was all about playing the odds. After making Troy and Flint, I had to make a decision. I called the next 4 customers to arrange for deliveries and confirm hours of operation. At first glance, it looked like my day was over before I ever left Wisconsin, but luck smiled upon me and I was able to get both the Chicago' drops and the Arthur, Il as well. How did I manage? All three customers agreed to wait for me after hours.

I had already come to the conclusion that I would not be empty until Friday, but I was a bit frustrated when my 14th customer asked why I was taking so long to deliver.. Seems the Customer Service Rep at my plant told the facility that they were 4th on the load and I would make delivery on Tuesday...Grrrr, they were actually 14th on the load, and Thursday afternoon would have not even happened had it not been for the generosity of the Illinois customers. But, I understand, someone has to be blamed, and a truck driver is an easy target.

Friday morning I made my Minnesota delivery and began the journey home. The only thing to deter me was the nasty winter storm encroaching my path. After making a quick call to my father, I determined I would not make it much further than Mt Vernon, Il, before the storm manifested and true to prediction, I was greeted with almost whiteout conditions just south of Mt. Vernon. I decided to call it a day in Paducah, Kentucky and quickly grabbed the last parking spot.
I awoke to several inches of snow the next morning, but road conditions were excellent. That is until I made my way into Tennessee. Seems they were a little behind schedule in keeping the roads clean. In fact the only plow I saw near the metro Nashville area was upturned in a ditch.

But Kentucky was on the ball!!

Because of all the delays, I decided to head straight for my next load. After a quick drop and hook, I grabbed a motel room and was treated to a $20 discount, plus a 15% off coupon for the steak house next door. And to top it off, the clerk let me use the "housekeeping only" laundry to wash my clothing.

I think I may have forgotten to mention that 7 of my customers refueled my coffee mug. And, there were the 5 customers who unloaded after hours. This is my job. This is my story. This is why I love what I do. In the generic freight division, it is unheard of to receive these amenities, but yet, they are offered to me on a daily basis. I truly am a lucky girl, and I am forever GRATEFUL for my wonderful customers!!

Feb 4, 2010

# 38 ~ Leah

What got you into the trucks in the first place? Family members who are drivers or the constant need to travel? Leah

Thanks Leah, for the question. I think my submergence in the trucking industry was more of a dare. I am the first and only driver in my family. It does suit me very well, as I have never felt that I really belong in one particular place and the privilege of seeing our great Nation first hand, is not something I would have been able to accomplish had I not jumped into trucking.

Aside from the typical teenage jobs, my first job was at a lumber mill. Starting at the bottom, I stacked lumber, operated a reman saw, drove a forklift, loaded trucks, and finally worked my way into an inside, salaried position. I was the shipping/receiving clerk. During this stint, I became friends with many of our regular truck drivers. There was a little dissension among the ranks, as my immediate supervisor felt he was above his position. He had married into the family owned lumber yard. He treated the drivers with contempt and disdain and even put them in jeopardy by falsifying scale weights in order to ship heavy loads. I, on the other hand, did all I could to make sure everything was accurate and treated these drivers with respect. My supervisor resented me and the attention I received from the company for my efforts. He in turn began to sabotage my work, claiming I was mishandling the business end and sending out bad loads. He would literally attach my name and reputation to his misdeeds. So, we were to be separated. I was offered another position that would have placed me in a back room at a desk, and although it was supposed to be a step ahead, I felt it was an insult to me personally, that he be left in charge of the trucks.

So, I submitted my resignation. I then walked outside and asked. "Who wants to teach me to drive?"

During the final two weeks of my employment, I was quizzed by the previous supervisor as to what my next career move might be. I told him I was going to learn to drive the Big Rigs.

The best part of this story was I actually learned to drive while hauling loads of lumber out of that very lumber mill, using their own company trucks...something they were completely unaware of at the time..

...and six months later when the head honcho called to beg my return, I politely declined his offer. I would have been given the supervisor position with a major increase in salary, but I still felt insulted by their choice to remove me from that arena to begin with. So, when asked why I refused the offer, I simply stated that I was in San Diego, California and my office view couldn't be better!

Within the next year, that particular lumber mill closed its doors for good. Something about embezzling. So, it looks like I made the right decision at that time, because had I returned, I would have lost my job within a year.

Ask me anything

# 37 ~ John II

Before driving those "ill-fated" Volvos that the aluminum company has, what types of trucks have you driven and loads you've hauls from the time you got a CDL? - John II

Oh wow, where do I start.

I actually learned to drive in an early 90's model International Cabover with NO power steering. LOL

Since then I have driven 2 Freightliner Classic XLs. A 2 stack MACK with a window in the back. One very beautiful '94 Flattop 359 Peterbilt. A 378 Pete. A Freightliner Columbia. And 2 versions of the Volvo that now tortures my existence. The first version was alot fancier, all the extras and was actually a very good truck. Well, you know the current situation with Frankentruck's particular model.

For freight, I started with lumber. Then I hauled carpet to California and produce back to the East Coast. Next I tackled the forest industry again hauling woodchips, shredded bark and sawdust. There was a brief interval where I was contracted to help out in the Bovine Industry, so I pulled a few loads of feeder calfs and kill cows (those doomed to the slaughter house) My next step had me pulling dry freight, mostly glass bottles and soda cans, with lots of Home Depot, Lowes and Best Buy loads thrown in for good measure. Finally I ended in the aluminum industry and am loving it. Been here for 8 years and if you cant tell, I usually enjoy the divisions that require a little extra oomph from the driver.

Ask me anything

# 36 ~ Amremann

Do you prefer manual over automatic transmissions and also do you float or double shift gears more often by circumstance?-amremann

I am a manual transmission fanatic!! I was given an automatic tractor to test out for a few weeks, and after the first day I was finished with it. To me , it feels like you have lost a certain amount of control over the truck. Driving in NYC as well as through ice and snow, I want to be in as much control as possible. Ironically, although I have been driving manual for 12 years, and my Mustang is a 5 speed manual, I would not be able to use the clutch on a regular basis without looking like a beginner. I have been floating gears since day one. Gotta love the synchronization of those transmissions!!

Ask me anything

# 35 ~ John II

When you were driving your truck through Times Square on your birthday, you got a citation from NYPD for operating a over length vehicle. What's the maximum length for a tractor-trailer to go through there? ('Cause you'll do it again, huh? ;D) -John II

I believe the officer told me the acceptable length is a maximum of 60' for combined tractor/trailer.A standard 53' trailer is also restricted, even with a day cab attached. You are able to purchase permits for longer lengths, but The Aluminum Co had not followed the protocol. It was only one bundle I was delivering. With my trailer being 53', the addition of the sleeper cab put me over total length giving me not 1, but 2 citations., one for over length trailer, one for over length combination vehicle. Oh, yeah, and I got a $25 parking ticket as well bringing the total fees in a whopping $1525.00

The trip you are referring to was more of a blessing in disguise than you realise. Three days after I ventured through Manhattan, they closed a portion of Broadway to all through traffic and made it a pedestrian area only. Therefore, I will not ever be able to make THAT journey again. Also due to the excessive fines, the Aluminum Company has determined that there are much more affordable means of delivering 300 pounds of metal. SO, my excursion was the last opportunity.

Ask me anything

# 34 ~ David

Are you a country girl or city girl? (Your love for NYC would lead me to guess, city...but your demeanor implies country. David

I am by all means a country girl !! I think I have moments when I wish I was a city girl, but I know I would never make it as such, I think my love for NYC is just because it feels so alive, which is in complete contrast to the way I was raised, in a relaxed peaceful atmosphere. I also enjoy too many hobbies that would be unavailable living the city life. Lets, just say I am a big fan of dirt!

Having been raised in Alabama and Texas, I am accustomed to a quieter life and cherish the relaxed pace. And being the small town southern girl also tends to leave me a bit overwhelmed with the hustle and bustle of all things Big City, but I find it very enriching to be able to experience that which is unknown to me. I have never stepped foot in New York City as a visitor, so I was really ecstatic to find myself driving down Broadway and delivering in Lower Manhattan on my birthday last year!! I suppose I should expand my statement. I love being a commercial Tractor Trailer driver in NYC!!

Thanks for the question!!

Ask me anything