Sunday, February 3, 2008

“Go East – I mean West – Young Man!”

Go East – I mean West – Young Man!” Last time I wrote in this blog, I was in Dallas taking a 34-hour restart (which resets your 70 hour clock back to 0). It was Saturday. A little more than a week has passed.

At this moment, I am sitting in the driver's lounge of the Eagle's Landing Truckstop, in Beaver, Utah (exit 112 on I-15 in Utah, about 20 miles south of the point where the western end of I-70 begins), where about 15 other guys are watching the second half of the Superbowl game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots. I am not a rabid football fan – really, not even a casual fan – but I like it when I watch it. I have been at this truck stop several times before, and there have never been more than one or two guys in this place. Now, every chair is taken, and some folks are standing.

Back to Dallas a week ago. I had told Schneider I'd be available last Sunday morning at 7:00 am. They sent a load mid-morning that had me taking the empty I had brought with me from the last load I delivered in Fort Worth and being loaded on Monday morning over in Mansfield, Texas. The load was going to Atlanta. “Go East, young man!”

So, I had another day free in Dallas. I organized stuff in the truck a little bit, and then in the afternoon, I just drove around East Dallas and went by some of the first places I lived in Dallas when I first moved there in 1983, to go to college. I lived in Dallas 9 years, until I moved to Chicago. I loved living there as much as any place I've ever lived. It still seems like home in many ways, though it's much different than when I lived there. It was nice to see some of the old places, though.

Sunday night. About 9:00 pm local time. I'm getting ready to go to sleep, because I've got to leave pretty early Monday morning to go over to the place in Mansfield to pick up the load. Phone rings. It's someone (a woman with a very nice voice – Heidi's sister perhaps) from Schneider in Green Bay (the mother ship).

She wants to know if I would be willing to help her out with a load they need someone to deliver on Monday -- “it's not pretty,” she says, “but if you'd be willing to help us out, I'll try to get you some good miles afterward.”

I say I'd be willing to help.

So, instead of going to Jackson, I'm picking up a loaded trailer at the Dallas OC early Monday morning (another driver brought it from Durant, Oklahoma, and it got to Dallas about 3:30 am). It's a load for delivery to two Big Lots stores – one down in Temple (near where Terry's mom lives – Pat if you ever still read this blog, hello! Hope you and J.A. are doing well!) and the other one down in Kerrville, about 60 miles west of San Antonio. Not too many miles, but I'm in Texas, so it's not bad.

I was supposed to be at the first store in Temple at 8:00 am, so I left Dallas about 4:45 to give myself plenty of time. Straight down I-35, south of Waco, and I was there. I got there about 7:00 or so.

The folks at the first store were really nice, and I helped them unload. It was good to be active a little bit, and it helped me get started to the next store a little sooner. It took about 2 hours to get their stuff unloaded.

The route to the next store had me taking mostly two lane state roads and ranch roads, most of which were very narrow. But at least it wasn't raining and it wasn't dark. And I got to drive through some of the beautiful Texas Hill Country, and all the places I went to until I got down to Kerrville were places I'd not been before in Texas, so it was a treat. Very enjoyable, except that I was supposed to be at the next store at 1:00 pm, and I couldn't make very good time on those roads. I got to the second store at 1:58 – literally. At least I wasn't late, as I was beginning to think I might be.

I offered to help them unload at the second store, but they told me they were used to unloading, and that I could just take it easy. I asked the guy who seemed to be the dock manager if it would be okay if I stayed there to take my break. He said it wouldn't be a problem. I knew by the time I got through at that store, I'd be almost out of hours, and the closest truck stop was about 50 miles away. So I spent the night in the back of the little shopping center where the Big Lots was. Not a bad place.

While the truck was being unloaded, I went exploring in the shopping center. There was a small Chinese buffet there, so I went there to eat and read a while. Enjoyable.

It was the next morning before I got my next load: “Go West, Young Man!” I was to drive down to Laredo, pick up a loaded trailer, and take it to Oxnard, California. Good miles, going out west, and nice driving. As I have said many times in this blog, besides Texas, I'd rather drive out west than anywhere else. It was well worth the trade-off for the Atlanta load.

The only thing I might not like about the run was that the time was tight on the load – I'd have to run harder than I have in a while just to make it on time. I'd be pushing hard and working close to the limit of the hours I could run legally each day (you can drive 11 hours max a day before taking a 10 hour break). But, to run out west, I don't mind running hard.

The first night (Tuesday), I spent the night in a little town in Texas called Sanderson (at the intersection of US 90 and US 285).

One little bit of serendipity (I love little trivial things that just happen like this): I have been reading the Larry McMurtry sequel to Lonesome Dove , Streets of Laredo . Monday night, I had read in the early part of the book about one of the characters going through Langtry, Texas, and talking to Judge Roy Bean. Well, the next day, Tuesday, I went by Langtry, Texas. I wasn't expecting it. Totally coincidence, but it was cool.

Another similar little bit of chance: yesterday, while coming into Las Vegas, I was listening to an old American Top 40 countdown from 1979 on XM radio, and just as I came in sight of Las Vegas, the countdown was playing “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers. Cool. Meaningless, but you would be surprised how easily truck drivers can be amused.

Wednesday, I made it as far as Benson, Arizona, just east of Tucson. In the truck stop, there were three women in their military fatigues from a nearby base (probably Davis-Monthan AFB). Women in military uniforms are extremely cute. {sigh}

Thursday, I was due to deliver in Oxnard, northwest of LA on US 101. It was going to be tight, no matter what. When I got to Oxnard with the load, and finally got shut down for the day after delivering the load, I had 15 minutes left on my clock.

There was only one little truck stop listed in the truck stop book I use in Oxnard, about two miles from the place I dropped. There was no other place for me to go. I got over there, and there was only room for four trucks, and all four spots were taken.

Fortunately, one of the guys was only there for a few minutes to get something to eat and he was leaving. So I waited, and grabbed his spot when he left. Talk about relieved. I don't know what I would have done. Parked on a freeway entrance ramp, I suppose.

The next morning, Friday, I got a load to pick up down in City of Industry, California, that was going to Jackson, Mississippi. Nice miles and a good load. The only problem was that when I did my trip plan, I realized I didn't have enough hours left on my 70 hours to make the load on time. So I told them when I could make delivery (one day later than it was supposed to be there).

They left me on to pick up the load, but I was to relay it at the Schneider OC in Fontana. So I picked up the load, and by the time I got to Fontana, I was through for the day. I told Schneider I'd be available Saturday morning.

The load I got next is the load I'm under right now. I picked up a loaded trailer in Fontana, that's going up to Omaha, Nebraska, for a live unload on Wednesday. Normally, that would be too much time on this load (it's about 1500 miles), but with the weather I've been in, it might not be enough time. I made it as far as Las Vegas last night, and today was planning to make it to Green River, Utah, which is on I-70, not too far from the Colorado state line.

Just into Utah, coming up I-15 out of Arizona, I ran into some really heavy snow this morning, and had to stop here in Beaver. The weather was worse further north and east, and there were some serious wind gusts. I have only about 6800 pounds on this load, and it wouldn't take much wind on slippery roads to blow me off the road. So I decided to just stop here and wait things out since it's supposed to be a little better tomorrow.

So, now you are caught up – maybe more than you wanted to be. :-)

Terry. Terry made it through his ordeal (and it was an ordeal – he now has his own NYC war story to tell) in New York City okay. But, suffice it to say, he's in no hurry to go back. There are real reasons truck drivers, for the most part, loathe going into NYC proper.

Anyway, Terry is still up in the northeast part of the country. I talked to him earlier today, and he is under a load going to Massachusetts. Lucky guy. {smirk}

Odds and Ends. Well, the NY Giants just pulled a tremendous upset over the Patriots to win the Super Bowl. Quite exciting to watch. Indeed.

But, for me, the upcoming Super Tuesday primary vote will be much more exciting than any Super Bowl could ever be.

I think that Republicans will have their eventual nominee – John McCain – after Tuesday. Very good as far as I'm concerned. But, most of the Religious Right will not be so happy. I still believe what I have said before: the Religious Right is not excited enough about any candidate to turn out in great enough numbers to defeat the Democrats. I hope I am wrong, because I do not want to see the disaster that will occur should either Hillary or Obama win the election.

That said, I have to say that Barak Obama is probably the most inspiring speaker I've heard in a long time.

I finally finished the first season of I Love Lucy and enjoyed it very much. Now, I'm watching some movies – Spiderman 2, Spiderman 3, and some other stuff. I'll probably either start the first season of Everybody Loves Raymond or The Sopranos soon.

I'm always reading several things: mostly right now, I'm enjoying the sequel to Lonesome Dove, Streets of Laredo , as I mentioned earlier in this entry.

I'm planning to take some time off to spend with my family in Georgia toward the end of the month, and I'm looking forward to it. Of course, I'm hoping to get my car from Dallas to Atlanta before then.

I suppose that's about all for now. Thanks to everyone who reads these truck driver's words. I enjoy the company.

Until next time . . . keep the wheels rollin' . . . hopefully out West . . .

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