Saturday, January 12, 2008

Keepin' the Wheels Rollin' -- Terry -- Politics -- The Ex-Files

Keeping the wheels rollin'. Last time I wrote, a few days ago, I was shut down in Bracey, Virginia, on my way up to Perryman, Maryland. It was a very tight load, with barely enough time to get it there when it was due. My load information said it would be a drop load, but when I got there, and saw the long lines of trucks lined up outside the front gate waiting on doors to become available, it didn't take much time to realize it would be a live unload.

All in all, though, it wasn't too bad. I was tired after driving almost 300 miles up I-95 at the time I'm normally sleeping. And, I only got about 3 hours of solid sleep (again, because it was out of sync with my normal sleep patterns), so that just compounded the effects of my fatigue. The nice thing was that starting at 1:00 am let me drive through all the major traffic areas (Richmond, which isn't bad any time usually, DC, which is bad all the time during the day, and Baltimore, which is normally congested during the daytime also) without much traffic of any consequence. Made for a nice ride.

One nice thing about driving at night is that I get to hear some things on XM radio that I don't normally hear during the day: Coast to Coast AM, other talk radio folks, the Midnight Trucking Show, stuff like that.

One nice thing about a live unload (or load) is that most of the time, you can relax and take a nap, which is what I did.

The next load I was supposed to pick up in Lititz, Pennsylvania, going to Poca, West Virginia. The trailer was supposed to be already loaded, but it was a live unload in Poca at 7:00 am Friday morning, which meant that I would be stuck driving all night again. Ugh! I hate getting off my schedule like that. Usually, there is enough time on the loads they give you as a solo driver (at least in my past experience) that you would have the flexibility to sort out your schedule to get back to whatever is comfortable for you. But on this load, there wasn't.

I was dreading it.

So I drive up to Pennsylvania, a very lovely drive, but a slow one with all the small towns and traffic on the two lane roads I was on. Get to the place, go inside the shipping office, tell them I'm there to pick up the load.

What load?

This load going up to Poca, West Viriginia. Gave the lady as much info as Schneider had sent me.

Shuffles through paperwork. Looks perplexed. Finally looks up at me and says: “It's not here. There is nothing we have loaded for Poca at all. It's possible it's already been picked up, but I can't be sure. You'll have to call your dispatcher.”

Go back out to the truck and call my DBR (what Schneider calls our dispatcher). Stay on hold for a while so Julian can check things out. Comes back on the line and tells me that the load was put on hold for some reason. There really is no load.

So inside, I cheer! Oh boy! I don't have to drive all night. I tell Julian to just show me going 60 miles away to the Schneider OC in Carlisle, Pennsylvania (near Harrisburg), to shut down for the night (I'm getting close to the limit of 14 hours I can work in one shift), and I'll be available for a load the next morning. No problem.

I get to Carlisle, go in and take a shower (note: truck drivers, more than most anyone in the world, can appreciate how nice a shower is; living on the road makes a nice shower a true luxury, one not to be taken for granted. Of course, walking into most truck stops, one also realizes how few truckers take advantage of the luxury very often.), get something to eat, and go back to the truck. Make a couple of phone calls. It's only about 5:00 pm.

But I fall to sleep right away, and sleep very deeply until the next morning. I must have gotten about 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep, and even after I woke up the first time, since it was cold, and rainy, and I hadn't gotten a load, I dozed for another two hours or so. But I woke up feeling great.

And the next load was a nice one: picking up at a Walmart distribution center up in Woodfield, Pennsylvania, and delivering to another Walmart place down in Alachua, Florida. I have been to both places a few times, and I have plenty of time on the load. It's the load I'm currently under.

I picked up the load yesterday afternoon and shut down last night in Hagerstown, Maryland. I could have driven a while longer, but I wanted to stay on my early schedule, so I shut down about 5:00 pm.

The trailer I picked up at Walmart had one tire that was going flat. The load was light, so I decided it could travel okay until I went through Schneider's OC in Charlotte, North Carolina, today.

Today was a beautiful day for driving all the way down through Virginia and North Carolina and into South Carolina: warm temperatures, sunny skies, not too much traffic (although that is relative: there is always lots of traffic on I-81, which is the road I was on much of the day). And coming over the mountain from Virginia to North Carolina on I-77 (just north of Mount Airy) is always a beautiful drive.

I'll be delivering not too far from where one of my good friends, Van, lives. He, Terry and I went to the same college in Dallas, and Van and I have been friends since we went to the same church in Rome, Georgia, over 25 years ago. My, how time flies.

As a matter of fact, it was almost a year ago that the three of us took a weekend trip to Jacksonville, Florida, last February, and that's where Terry and I solidified our plans to start teaming soon afterward.

Much of it depends on what kind of load I get after I deliver to the Walmart in Alachua. But, hopefully it will work out.

Terry's travels. The last time I wrote, I think Terry was in Ohio. He picked up a load in Ohio and delivered it to Dallas late last night. When I talked to him today, he was still waiting on a load. They had told him that freight was soft, so he might be waiting there a while. Hopefully not too long.

But he's doing fine. I'm sure he would send greetings to any of you who ever read this (if anyone does).

New dispatcher. Wednesday night, when I was shut down in Bracey, Virginia, I had finally done something that Terry and I had talked about doing several weeks ago when we first started talking about splitting up: I sent an e-mail to our dispatcher (and his supervisor) thanking him for the excellent job he did working with Terry and me. I went over it with Terry on the phone to make sure it said what we both wanted it to say, and sent it. Still haven't heard anything back from that.

But, yesterday, I received a notice on my satellite unit that I had been assigned to a new team in Charlotte, North Carolina. My new DBR's name is Angie, and I called yesterday afternoon to introduce myself, and we had a nice chat. She's fairly new, so she asked me to be patient as she learns the ropes. No problem. She seems very nice. And I'm generally easy to get along with (Terry might dispute that, but he isn't here to gainsay me. Ha ha), so I told her that she'd find me easy to work with.

What was that? “As long as you get your way.” Who said that? Did Terry sneak in the back door? Turn up the lights! Oh, it's everyone who's ever known me, out en masse. Well, you folks can just go on back home if that's the attitude you're coming here with.

Sorry for that interruption, folks. Now, where were we? Oh yes, I'm easy to get along with and all that. Chicken in every pot, jobs for everyone, handouts for all the kiddos, etc., etc. I'm the candidate with the experience and I'll bring change that we all need as well . . . oh. I'm a truck driver. Got lost in my own delusions there for a moment. Sorry.

But, since you all brought it up . . .

Politics. If you are not a political junkie, or if you don't have a big shovel to get through all this with, you can just skip it, as you wish.

BUT, if you love politics, can't get enough of it, stick around.

I have always loved politics – well, since high school anyway. And, more than any election since 1980, this year's election promises to be a landmark one on every level, for every reason.

Last week's New Hampshire primary was as exciting as any football game in its intensity and surprise finish. It is fascinating to watch the candidates deal directly with the voters, and the contest on both sides of the major parties is incredible. The stakes could not be higher, and people are coming out in record numbers (so far) to let their voices be heard.

On the Democratic side, a nice battle is shaping up between Hillary and Obama. Obama is certainly a charismatic and able speaker; his speech after he won the Iowa caucuses was the best speech given by anyone I can remember hearing in a long time. His positions on issues are almost polar opposite to mine, but he is going to be an important player on the national stage for a long time. I think he will probably end up being the President at some point.

But I still think, in the end, Hillary will end up with the Democratic nomination. In the states coming up where the Democratic rank and file are entrenched, she will do well. Will it be enough? I don't know. How much will Obama appeal enough to younger and newer voters to get them to come to the polls? And how much will he bleed off traditional support that would go to Hillary (especially among black voters)? It will be fascinating to watch.

John Edwards will wrap up his campaign after South Carolina, I think. At this point, he is just a bothersome gnat flying around Hillary and Obama. As he has been all along. He's a good speaker, and I think he's probably deeply sincere in his beliefs (that corporations are bad, and are the source of much of the problems in this country).

On the Republican side: first let's get this out of the way: Ron Paul is not really a Republican. He is a Libertarian (or libertarian if you prefer). And, I confess, I am more libertarian than anything else. However, Ron Paul's (and the Libertarian party as a whole) perspective and approach to foreign policy (very isolationist) would be disastrous for our country. But, on the domestic issues, I'm right down the line a classic libertarian. Along the lines of Ayn Rand's Objectivism branch. I become moreso as I grow older, and grow further away from the social conservative stances I held for much of my younger life.

And Ron Paul doesn't have a chance to win the nomination or the Presidency.

And, in spite of his lively showing in the last Republican debate, Fred Thompson, even if he wins South Carolina, will quickly fade back to Tennessee, in my opinion. So I'm not counting him in any of my reasoning to follow.

The Republican battle is between two distinct legs of the party: the social conservatives (the Religious Right), and the fiscal conservatives (or general conservatives). There is some overlap; many people in the Republican party are both, but there are significant numbers of folks who are in one but not the other. Those are the people who will make the decision. Whoever comes out in the biggest numbers, basically, will have their candidate win.

For the social conservatives, the fight is between Mike Huckaby and Mitt Romney. Huckaby has the momentum, and if Romney loses in Michigan, I think he will be hard pressed to win with the social conservatives. Lots of fiscal conservatives like Romney, but it's the social conservatives that Romney needs to win over. In my opinion, Huckaby wins this leg.

Fiscal conservatives are generally going to choose between John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. And, right now, McCain has the momentum. Rudy has been betting on coming into the primary contest later, focusing on the big player states like Florida, New York, and California. But, I think his strategy will prove flawed. If McCain wins Michigan and then shows well in South Carolina (though I think Huckaby will win overall here because it's the South, and the social conservatives are the majority of Republican voters in the South), then I think his momentum will push him forward past Rudy.

So, I think the final showdown for the Republican nomination will be between Huckaby and McCain. And, even with the support of the so-called Religious Right, McCain wins.

So, at this point, (you may need a bigger shovel now) I think it will come down to Hillary vs. McCain.

I hope McCain wins.

But, if McCain is the nominee, many social conservatives will probably not bother voting in the general election (just like they stayed home in the congressional elections of 2006), unless their dislike of Hillary propels them just to vote against her.

So, I still think that if Hillary wins the nomination, she has a good chance of being elected, as I said in my earlier political diatribe a few weeks ago.

The Ex-Files. It's weird, but my ex-wife, Charlotte, whom I still love with all my heart (then why . . .? long story. I'll tell you sometime.) has been calling me more lately than she has in the past year or more. I always enjoy talking to her, and there is no hint of us trying to resume some sort of regular relationship, but it brings to the front of my heart all those emotions of remembering the good times, and all the precious good things that we enjoyed in our relationship, and how much I miss them some days.

One reason she called me last week was to tell me that my ex-mother-in-law has a spot on her breast (she had breast cancer about five years ago), and that they are going to do some more testing. But it's a hard time for them.

I called my mother-in-law (whom I love and who loves me as much as we ever did; the same is true of my family's feelings for Charlotte) and we talked for about an hour the other night. She caught me up on everyone in the family (Charlotte, like her dad, whom I still miss, gives me the short version when we talk) in her wonderfully colorful and detailed way. And we talked about her own fears and anxieties about these latest test results, and what it might mean for her. As always, she is trusting her faith to see her through. I guess it's seen her through these 75 years, so it should see her through this as well

I'll keep you posted on how she's doing.

And, so, I suppose this entry will end here.

Until next time . . . keep the wheels rollin' . . .


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