Friday, December 19, 2008

The Longest Week

Currently. This moment, I'm sitting in my truck in near darkness. The truck is idling because the temperature is about 5 degrees above zero. We are in Hermiston, Oregon, where we have been for the past 20 hours. We have spent the last week and a half mostly sitting for one reason or another. Terry and I are both tired of sitting. Tired of winter weather. And, at times over the past week, we have been tired of each other.

The longest week. Last time I wrote, I was in Dallas, and I wrote about my adventures wearing my Burger King crown. I still have the crown, but haven't felt like wearing it lately. I have not been King of the Road since we left Dallas.

After the last time I wrote, Terry got into Dallas on Sunday night, and we were ready to roll on Monday morning. We got everything into the truck. And waited.

Finally, we got a message across the satellite: we had a load, but it wouldn't be ready until Tuesday morning. So, we get our stuff again, and drive back down to the hotel for one more night. We didn't know that that beginning was to be the theme of the next week and a half (and still counting). We have spent more time waiting than we ever have before since we've been teaming. It's just been a weird two weeks (well, not in the same way as wearing a Burger King crown, but you know what I mean).

We went about 10 miles down to Hutchins, Texas, and picked up a load that was going up to Hagerstown, Maryland. We left Tuesday morning, and by the time we got into Arkansas on I-30, we were in rain. We stayed in rain all the way across the country to Hagerstown. By the time we got to Maryland, it was turning colder, and the rain was supposed to become freezing rain or snow.

Along with waiting, bad weather of some type was fated to punctuate our next two weeks.

We delivered the load to Hagerstown, then drove south to Williamsburg, Virginia, and picked up a Walmart load going up to Raymond, New Hampshire. Oh joy. That means going up I-95 through DC, New Jersey, NYC, Connecticut, Massachusetts, into New Hampshire. Still in bad weather, we made it up there with no problems.

From New Hampshire, we drove north into Maine, up to Lincoln, north of Bangor. We always love going to Maine, and this time was no exception, in spite of the bad weather we were in. We didn't know at the time that the weather wasn't that bad after all.

The load from Maine delivered to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I shut down in New York state for a little while one morning because snow freezing on the windshield and the windshield wiper not working caused me not to be able to see well enough to drive safely. When you are in a big truck in lots of traffic, it's snowing, the roads are icy in spots, and you can't see, that is a scary feeling.

Anyway, we finally got up to Wisconsin, and picked up our next load going to Portland, Oregon. Great! A load out west, and we get to go through some of our favorite parts of the west – Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.

We picked up that load last Sunday. It is now early Friday morning, and we still have that load.

Everything was normal. We planned to deliver the load on Monday afternoon or early Tuesday morning.

Then we got to Minnesota and ran head-on into the winter storm we'd heard was coming our way across the plains from the west. We fueled in St. Cloud, west of Minneapolis. By the time we had gone about 50 miles, we were being warned about blizzard conditions, heavy snows, high winds, below zero temperatures.

We stopped in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, about midnight on Sunday night. Not long after that, things got so bad that they closed I-94 just west of where we were, and it was closed all the way past Fargo, North Dakota. We stayed there until Tuesday morning, when they opened up the roads again.

So, Tuesday morning, we are ready to go. But our trailer brakes are frozen and won't release. We tried everything we could, and finally had to get someone from the shop there at the truck stop to get them unfrozen. It cost us $28, but that was a bargain to be able to get back on the road.

Everything is fine. We fuel in Fargo. We are moving, and we are glad. The worst is behind us.

Not so fast – about 70 miles west of Fargo (or a little more), near Jamestown, North Dakota, this truck passes me. Well, most trucks pass Schneider trucks. Then the truck slows down, gets back over beside me and motions for me to pull over behind him. He was trying to tell me something was wrong. I figured he spotted a bad tire or something.

I got out of the truck, and there was oil all over the left side of the truck – not just a little bit; I mean the side of the truck was covered in oil and sludge. None of the gauges indicated anything amiss – we still had normal oil pressure and the temperature gauge was normal. But something was wrong. If that guy hadn't stopped us, we could have blown the engine because almost all of our oil had blown out for some reason.

There was a truck stop in Jamestown, so we took it over there to the shop. They determined that a blowback vent underneath the engine had gotten clogged with snow and ice and caused the oil to blow out of the engine because of the pressure. They fixed us in a couple of hours, and we are back on the road.

It's Tuesday night. Terry starts driving.

About 11:00 pm, we are in Beach, North Dakota, one mile from the Montana state line. Since Terry's been driving, we have been losing power in the engine and the fuel mileage was half what it should have been. We needed a new fuel filter (it seems like we need those a lot more than we used to) and we couldn't make it through the mountains of Montana and Idaho with the power we had lost.

Now, outside, it is 20 degrees below zero on the thermometer. The wind was blowing and the wind chill was at least 50 below. I am asleep, and Terry is outside trying to change the fuel filter. Finally, I wake up, and I go outside to mostly watch. Terry is the mechanic of this Lonesome Dove Xpress outfit.

Terry does everything he's supposed to do, puts the new filter on, and we are ready to go.

Tries to start the truck, and it doesn't start. We work on it for about 20 minutes. Still nothing. Call Schneider and they sent someone out to look at it. They can't do anything with it there, so they will have to take it into the shop the next morning.

It is now the middle of the night. The truck won't start, so there's no way to heat the truck. It is now about 30 below zero with 50 below wind chill. There is a motel about a quarter mile from the Flying J there in Beach.

One of the people working at the truck stop, Myra, offers to take us up to the motel in her personal vehicle since it's so cold.

There are still good Samaritans in this world. Never doubt that.

So, she carries us to the motel. The truck finally gets into the shop, and they call us about 3:30 Thursday morning to let us know it's ready.

By 4:30, we are rolling. We get through Montana with no problem, but there are new winter storms heading our way across the northwest out of Washington and Oregon. We make it over Lookout Pass and have to have chains going over 4 th of July Pass in Idaho.

This is an example of how sometimes Terry and I can have different ideas about things. In the situation where we needed chains to go across the pass, I would have just stayed put. But Terry decided that the weather was not going to get any better (the storm had just started and was supposed to last until Friday), and he wanted to get as far as we could. Sound reasoning. So that's what we did.

We kept having the same problem we've had before: the snow and ice freeze on the windshield wipers so they don't work, and then snow and ice freezes on the windshield making it nearly impossible to see. So every 30 minutes, Terry is having to stop and try to knock the ice off everything. And he's having to do so in below zero temps, heavy snowfall, icy roads, and no real good places to pull off the road.

We got to Hermiston, Oregon early Friday morning. I hadn't gotten much sleep because of the weather, doing the chains, and just being anxious about the fact that we were on the road in those conditions.

When we got here, I decided that it wasn't a situation I wanted to be in – driving in heavy snow on bad roads (yes, we could have made it taking it slowly) to Portland where the situation was already bad and probably going to get worse through the day. When we got here, they hadn't even started to work on clearing the roads in this area yet, so the snow was six inches or a foot deep in some places even on the interstate.

So, we have been sitting here almost 24 hours. The snow is stopped here, but is still falling heavy west of here. There are chain restrictions in place for part of the route over to Portland still (and I didn't mention that one of our chains fell off right when we got to the spot to remove them the other night, so now we don't even have a complete set of chains even if I did want to drive in that mess).

Things are supposed to clear up Saturday morning, so I'm planning on leaving in a few hours when it gets daylight (or a little before), and get as far as I can. Hopefully, we can make it all the way.

It hasn't been so bad on me waiting. I've been playing with my laptop because I installed a new operating system (if you don't know what that is, it's what runs your computer: Windows and Apple's OS X on Macintosh computers are operating systems. I installed Linux on my laptops and have been having fun playing with them and setting them up.) and that's kept me occupied, but Terry's about to go crazy.

If we don't get moving soon, he will either kill me, go apply for a job at Walmart, or put on my Burger King hat and start acting weird.

So, now you know what's been going on with us the past couple of weeks.

Reading, writing, music and video. As I've said before, I'm not reading as much as I was when I was running solo, just because of the nature of how things work when you team. However, I'm reading a wonderful book called The Shadow of the Sun, by A.S. Byatt. I'm enjoying it tremendously. I'm also reading a book about Linux I bought while I was in Dallas. And, even more slowly, I'm reading some things on my Palm when I lay down at night. Currently, I'm reading The Iliad by Homer.

Oh yes – I almost forgot – I'm also reading an excellent article on George W. Bush in the current issue of GQ magazine that I bought when we were in Missoula, Montana. I saw the cover, and thought how much I'd love that article, and so I bought it.

There is a joke here that you will get immediately if you just look at the cover of GQ next time you're in Walmart or a grocery store.

But there really is an article on George Bush.

Haven't been doing much writing lately, except journaling. I've put down the story I was working on for a while, evidently.

Music: I've started listening to all the music I have in my collection, in alphabetical order by artist, while I'm driving. I started about a month ago, and I'm in the letter D right now. I'm enjoying it because I am hearing stuff I haven't heard in years.

Video: Currently watching the first awesome season of Miami Vice. I loved that show when it was on in the 1980's, and I'm enjoying watching those first episodes again. Also, watching the first season of Twin Peaks very slowly.

Well, since the battery is running low on my laptop, I will stop this here, and just say I hope you have a very special Christmas and New Year.

Meanwhile . . .

Until next time . . . keep the wheels rollin' . . . making choices and taking responsibility . . .


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