Saturday, September 8, 2007

Running hard and hardly running

Terry returns from vacation.  As planned, Terry returned to Dallas from his vacation, and by Monday morning after the last entry (this would have been August 20th), we were ready to roll.  And, as we had been told to expect, we got one of those "expedited" loads (the ones with possible escorts that you have to go 250-300 miles without stopping on and that you also have to tell Schneider every time you breathe on) going from Fort Worth up to a suburb of Chicago.

We picked up the load in Ft. Worth with no problem and (yippee!) there was no escort.  Now you're talkin', baby!

We had planned to change shifts up in Eufaula, Oklahoma, like we did last time on this load.  Several times on the way up, Terry said things like he couldn't "wait to get behind the wheel" and "I'm so ready to start driving".

It's funny how it's nice to be out of the truck sometimes, but after just a little while, it feels good to be back in the truck, too, seeing the next bend in the road.

Alison Krauss (ah, be still my heart!) has a song that sums up my feeling about driving and the road called "Gravity".  It is the theme for this part of my life, I suppose.  Great lyrics.  

About 20 minutes before we changed shifts, the cruise control went out on the truck, suddenly without warning.  We figured it was a short that we would have them look at in Chicago after we delivered our little top-secret (oh, gimme a break) load.

So we pull into the truck stop in Eufaula, change shifts, and Terry gets his wish to start driving.

For about 500 yards.  

Then the automatic transmission starts acting up, and the truck won't go any more.  By this time, we are out on the access ramp to get back on U.S. 69, and there is nowhere to go but over on the side of the road.

Just great.  

We have this load that they are so paranoid about being hijacked and stolen (I doubt they've even had anyone ever try to steal one of these loads, really), and here we are stuck on the side of the road out in the middle of nowhere.  Well, yes, I know I said we were in Eufaula, Oklahoma.  Like I said, stuck on the road in the middle of nowhere.  

One nice thing about Schneider in a situation like this is that when we do break down, we call a toll-free maintenance hotline that is staffed 24/7/365 up in Green Bay.  So we called them, explained the situation, and found out that Schneider is having a lot of problems with these automatic transmissions in the newer trucks (we have a 2007 model).   

One nice thing about us having this valuable load was that it sure got things moving in a hurry.  It still took about 3 hours to get someone out to tow us, but at least someone came.  We were still able to idle the truck with the air conditioner going, so we didn't have it so bad.  

Of course, Schneider had to decide what to do with the load we had.  Once they figured out our problem was major and the truck would have to be put into the shop to fix, they could either send someone out with another truck for us to drive (neither of us wanted to have to lug all our junk out of our truck into another truck) or they could have another team meet us wherever we were taking the truck (oh that's a funny part of this story -- just read on) and continue the load on up to Chicago.  They ended up decided to let another team meet us up in Muskogee, which is where we ended up being towed the first time.

They guy who came to get us was Dewayne, who owns D's Towing in Checotah, Oklahoma.  He also has a shop in Muskogee.  He was a nice guy and his business does lots of work for Schneider.

They had told us we were being towed to the Freightliner shop in Muskogee to have our truck looked at.  When Dewayne came to get us, he told us that he knows the shop in Muskogee and he told us they couldn't work on our transmission there because it's a small shop.  He told us we'd need to go to Tulsa to have it worked on.  

We figured that Schneider would like to know this since Dewayne knows the local shops really well.  So we called them, they thought about it for half a second and told us to go to Muskogee anyway "and we'll just see what happens in the morning when they open."  In other words, "You're just a driver so how could you know anything about this?"

We told Dewayne what they said, and he said, "Well, I guess I'll be seeing you in the morning when I come back to get you and take you up to Tulsa."

The next morning, the shop opened, and the guys told us exactly what Dewayne told us they would:  they couldn't work on it, and it would need to be towed up to Tulsa.  

One day wasted.

So Dewayne (and the wonderful calendar in his truck) came back to get us and take us on into Tulsa.

We had stayed in the truck that first night, but when we got to Tulsa the next afternoon, and they told us they wouldn't even get to look at it that day, we found a motel nearby and checked in.  

They had our truck ready the next day (day two).  There was some kind of "data link" in the computer that controls the automatic transmission (that's right:  our truck's transmission is controlled by a computer) that went bad and had to be replaced.

So we were ready to roll again.  And did we ever!

Running hard.  If you've been reading this blog at all, you know that we like running lots of miles because it gets us into a groove and the money is good.  If the wheels aren't rolling, we aren't making money.  It's as simple as that.  

After our truck was repaired, we ran non-stop for two weeks and a little more.

From Tulsa, we went down to Oklahoma City and picked up a loaded trailer that we took to Calexico, California.  That took us down on I-10 from El Paso into Arizona, and then on I-8 into California.  

Then we went back up to Phoenix and picked up a load going to Valdosta, Georgia.  Then we went to Mobile, Alabama, and picked up a load going to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Then, down to Colonial Heights, Virginia (just south of Richmond), to pick up one of those "expedited" loads going to Kent, Washington, near Seattle.  That load was our longest ever at about 2900 miles, and it took us through some of the states along I-90 that we hadn't been on yet.  

We got to go through South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and Washington state.  And it was probably my favorite run we've had so far.  I just loved going through that whole stretch, especially western Montana.  

That part of Montana was so beautiful, I'm already planning on taking my vacation up there next year, probably around Glacier National Park.  Can't wait to drive on the famous "Going To the Sun Road".  Read about it here if you want to.

By the time we got to Seattle, we were out of hours to run legally (you can only drive 70 hours in 8 days, and Terry and I both were against that limit), so we took a day to just relax and restart our hours at zero again.  

The next morning (this would have been Friday, August 31st), we picked up a load in Everett, Washington, that was going to McDonough, Georgia.  I could have stopped to see my family for an hour or two if we had been going through at the right time, but it just didn't happen.  

From there, we got loads that went up to Chicago and from there down to Laredo.

Hardly running.  Now, we have a load that's going from Laredo up to St. Louis.  We picked it up yesterday (Friday) and it doesn't deliver until Monday.  It's normally a run we could do in one day, but now it's a 3-day run because we can't deliver until noon on Monday.

So we drove from Laredo up to Oklahoma to visit with Terry's daughter and grandson, and now we are in St. Richard, Missouri, and will probably just stay here until Monday morning.  

Driving a truck is generally one extreme or the other:  running so hard, you're exhausted all the time, but making money; or, hardly running at all and having plenty of time, but not making money.  

But you know what?  In spite of those extremes, and the irritation of loads like the one we have now, I still love driving a truck as much as anything I've ever done, and to be able to drive through the country we have been able to see the past 3 weeks makes times like this tolerable.

And it's not like I mind taking a break.  That means I get to write in this blog.  

I love this life!

Until next time, keep the wheels rollin' (as long as your transmission holds out) . . .

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