Friday, June 15, 2007

Et tu, Douglas?

It has been two weeks since our wonderful time in Denver, which you can read about in the last entry.  The time has mostly been good for us, but we have been plagued with an unusual amount of downtime while waiting for appointments to be loaded or unloaded.  As I have said in past entries, if we are waiting on an appointment to have our trailer loaded or unloaded, we aren't rolling -- and that means we aren't making money.

We are in Ontario, California, now -- in the west, in Southern California, which is where we want to be.  We have been very fortunate not to have to travel very much in the northeast in quite a few weeks.  We had an appointment this morning at 10:00 am local time to deliver a load we picked up in Dallas on Wednesday.  We decided to take a little break after that and enjoy being in California for a night, get some things done, and just relax a little.  It's been a stressful week.  So we aren't leaving out until in the morning.  (Within reason, even without requesting formal time off, we can determine when we will be available.  Usually, it's right away, but sometimes, we take some extra time.)

Earlier this week, we had a load that came from southeast Missouri (45,000 pounds of cat food) that delivered to Tifton, Georgia.  On the way down, it worked out for me to spend about an hour with some of my family (my mom, and my sister and her family -- hey y'all!  Love you!), and then we delivered the load late that afternoon.

From Tifton, we were supposed to go to Douglas, Georgia, to pick up a load of pallets bound for Fort Worth, Texas.  No live load -- we just had to go there, pick up a loaded trailer, and head west.  This was Monday evening, and we didn't have to be in Fort Worth until Wednesday morning at 10:00 am.  An easy run, so we were going to take it easy and take care of some things once we got to Dallas (laundry, a run to Walmart, and other things).

Sometimes things just don't work out like you think they will.  

Douglas is only about 40 miles away from Tifton, in southeast Georgia.  It is a small town.  There should be nothing complicated about getting there and getting out.

Thinking that was my first mistake.

To get where we were going, we had two sets of written directions from Schneider and the GPS unit we use.  It should be almost impossible to get lost.


We did get to the place the directions said to go to -- there was nothing there.  I mean, literally, nothing, but darkness on both sides of the two-lane highway we were on.  There were fields and some houses, but nowhere to pick up a load of pallets in a big trailer.  Thankfully, we just had the truck (no trailer), so it made it a little easier to turn around (which we did a lot of Monday night).

At one point, we were both so tired and frustrated, we thought about just quitting until the next morning.  But about that time, we saw a Sherriff's deputy parked at a corner store.  We went over and asked for help.  Officer Thomason went out of his way to help us, even escorting us around town to try to find the place we were looking for.  (I would imagine that in Douglas, a couple of lost truck drivers is quite an exciting event.)

We finally, after several hours, found out that the place we were picking up this trailer was inside the property of the Walmart Distribution Center in Douglas.  That little bit of information would have helped save us several hours.

You thought we were about done, didn't you?  Well, this story is just starting, honey!

We got to the place only to find out they had closed at 4:30 pm that day (again, a very useful piece of information we were not privy to until after the fact).  

But, the paperwork had been given to the night shift dispatch folks at the Walmart warehouse, so we thought we were in business.  Pick up the paperwork, hook up to the trailer and we're rolling.  Five minutes, tops.  

They didn't have any record of any paperwork or any loaded trailer anywhere.

It was 11:00 pm by this time and we were at a dead end.  We'd have to come back when they opened in the morning.  

We showed up the next morning (Tuesday if you're keeping track) and talked to the guys who work with these pallet loads every day, all day.

At first, they didn't have any paperwork, either.  Finally, one of the guys in the office ran upstairs and found the paperwork floating around on somebody's desk.  Now, we're getting somewhere!

Not so fast!  The trailer number that was on the paperwork wasn't even at the facility!  We had paperwork, but no trailer -- not even an empty one.  

I thought I could hear Rod Serling's voice narrating a sequence of the Twilight Zone about now:  "Two men in an orange truck go to a small Georgia town to pick up a loaded trailer.  Little do they realize that when they pass the city limits sign, they've just entered . . . The Twilight Zone."

They fixed that problem by just giving us another loaded trailer with the same paperwork.

We found the trailer (a nice surprise by this time) and got hooked up to it.  As I'm walking around the trailer doing the inspection we are supposed to do, I find that one of the tires is flat.  And with 20 tons on the trailer, we can't go very far (safely, anyway) with a flat tire.

So, we drive 40 miles back to Tifton, where there is a place that fixes tires on big trucks.  We wait two hours, and finally, about 16 hours later than we thought, we are on the road with a load of pallets.  

We made it to Dallas early Wednesday morning, got unloaded without incident, and then had about 9 hours before we had to pick up the load that brought us here to California.

Sometimes, driving is the easiest thing we do.  And sometimes, it seems we get to do very little of it.

Until next time . . . keep the wheels rollin' . . . and don't get lost in Douglas, Georgia . . .

Also:  for those whom the title of this entry is obscure, see this link.

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