Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Hossman on the Mend

I convinced my doc to take on Hoss as a new patient, and we went to see him today at Noon. His BP is still way too high - it averaged 170 over 115 today. Mark gave him a thorough physical check, ordered an EKG, blood work, and a urine panel. Although we don't yet know the results of the blood work, the other tests came back just fine. Mark prescribed the same BP med Hoss had been given in PA, but at double the dosage and with the addition of a diuretic. Hoss is also putting himself on a diet again. Between the two, his BP should be way down in short order.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Helga Needs Surgery

Our next pickup was in Beaufort, SC, to deliver the following day in Detroit. I don't know what we did to please the weather gods, but we didn't encounter any major snow along the way. Yay!

I loved driving I-77 as the sun came up, with half-mile dropoffs just beyond the guardrail and huge, looming mountains at every turn. Helga did quite well, despite the steep grades and the 4 tons of cargo. At one point, the most I could get out of her was 35 mph, but she still ate up the pavement without a hiccup.

Vic, I came soo close to calling you to see if you wanted to meet us for breakfast. We drove right through your hometown, but we really couldn't have visited much longer than an hour, so I decided to wait for another trip through your area.

Detroit was a clusterfark. No surprise there. The delivery went well, though.

We crashed at a truckstop south of town for the night. We had our first truckstop showers - actually, it wasn't so bad, although we need to invest in flip-flops or another form of shower shoes.

Early in the morning, we got an offer for a load from that same area to Miami. O rly? Miami? You betcha. Unfortunately, Brother Unit is in Chicago, else we'd hang with him for the weekend.

Since Helga's DOT inspection was coming up on Saturday, we stopped at a dealership near Cleveland to have an inspection done on our way out of town. This was not the best timing. Helga has apparently suffered an oil leak for quite some time, and needs a new seal. Major work. Crud.

The dispatchers are in a panic. The shipper is in a panic. After a few hours, it becomes apparent Helga is out of service for several days, the load will most definitely be WAYYYY overdue, and we're stuck in Ohio.


Enter Mindi, our boss and Helga's owner. Despite being in the midst of very stressful personal business plus dealing with her mom who was suddenly hospitalized and very ill, Mindi directed the dealership's repair plan, arranged for us to transfer the cargo to another trucking company for delivery, then hopped in her car and drove to Cleveland - to deliver keys. Knowing we were stuck without transportation, Mindi offered us the use of her spare car to drive home until Helga is ready. The problem was that she had the keys with her in New York. She immediately jumped in her car and drove 7 hours to give us the keys to her spare car. Unbelievable. She's really a wonderful person.

So, we packed up what we'd need and drove back to Syracuse for the next several days. It's nice having free time to get things done around the house, but I'd much rather be driving and making money.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What's Next? Locusts?

Apparently, a rather sizeable portion of North Carolina real estate abruptly gave up its quest to resist gravity and planted itself firmly in the middle of I-40 Eastbound. While I'm happy that it didn't wait for our arrival at that very moment to effect its relocation, I'm still not especially pleased with the resultant 100+ mile detour.

Wait - do we get bonus miles for rock slides? Hmm.

Caleb, we're driving through Johnson City. Now think for just a moment how much smaller your tuition bills would be if you'd taken that scholarship instead of going to FU. I know. It hurts. Sorry, honey, I succumbed to a mommy moment.

Hoss is thrilled that he now has two - count 'em! TWO! - NASCAR track sightings in just a week. Gateway, in St. Louis, of course, which was cold, barren, and in not such a lovely part of town. And just today, he saw the Actual Physical Interstate Exit for Bristol. I know all you fellow racing fans will understand why he can hardly contain himself.

We stopped at a Cracker Barrel in Fugglesville or Buckfart or somesuch Appalachian Cosmo inspired moniker for lunch. I had the chicken fried chicken, with mashed, green beans, and carrots. Cracker Barrel produces the best tasting burps. Oh, c'mon! As if you've never had such thoughts yourself. Sheesh.

Well, we haven't even finished the detour, let alone gotten close to our drop site, and another load offer came over that takes us back to Central Indiana. With Helga needing a DOT inspection by Saturday and Hoss needing a BP inspection with his doc ASAP, this load will severely restrict our time slot to arrange a load back to NY. Eh, what the hell. Let's do her. :)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Laundry Day

I'm learning that nothing brings in load offers like a washer full of wet clothes.

We got an offer in the laundromat for a 300 mile run, but the deadhead (meaning empty and we therefore pay for the fuel to get there) was more than half of the paid miles. We politely turned it down.

An hour or so later, another offer came in: Southwest Missouri to South Carolina. Roger that.

We saw two foxes romping across a snow-covered field, and we kept an eye peeled for wild boars, but didn't see any. Just talking about the possibility of seeing one got us started on a Great White Hunter ramble that had Hoss decked out in a pith helmet, khakis with a wide leather belt, and Teddy Roosevelt glasses. I laughed so hard I think I peed a little.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Poor Helga needed a jump start today when we checked out at Noon - we'd left Paisan in the sleeper to avoid making her adjust to yet another temporary environment, and we left the sleeper heater on. Apparently, twelve hours of running the heater is too much for Helga to handle. She started right up, though, and has been a happy truck ever since.

We put ourselves back in service and found a nearby Walmart to park and wait.

Someone emailed me and wanted to know what's up with our fascination with Walmart parking lots. There's method to our madness, honest, and it's two-fold. First, Walmarts and Sams Clubs are wonderfully supportive of truckers and RV-ers. Unless restricted by local ordinances, almost every Walmart and Sams will let trucks and RVs park overnight, without charge, without a hassle, without being towed. That can mean a good, restful sleep for a trucker who's too broke to fund a hotel or too tired to continue on to the next truck stop. It also saves campers a boodle when they're in between scenic stops.

Secondly, when you're in line with dispatch waiting for a load, where you wait can make or break your chance to get a load offer. If a customer has a hot load, you're more likely to get that offer if you're within city limits as opposed to 40 miles out of town waiting at a truck stop. That strategy has worked well for us so far.

So we rented a couple of movies from the handy dandy Red Box and munched on cheese and crackers for a light late supper. By the way - if you haven't seen District 9, I highly recommend it. It was MUCH better than I expected; the premise includes aliens, but it really isn't a sci-fi movie. Just do your best to get past the mandatory Humans Are Evil message. *rolleyes*

Saturday, February 13, 2010

St. Louis

Waffle House. YUM. At last, good biscuits and gravy.

We put ourselves out of service after delivery and checked into a La Quinta for some R & R. The first order of business? The longest, hottest shower in hotel history. Afterwards, there was a week's worth of receipts to scan, as well as five loads and two dry runs to write up and submit. The drudgery of paperwork called for a few glasses of wine. ;) The front desk was kind enough to drive us to the local Harrah's casino, where we feasted on steak and crab, and even won a few bucks at poker.

Friday, February 12, 2010


~sigh~ Snow. Dallas got several inches, and we saw snow as far south as Waco. But we made our delivery to Samsung in Austin - we unloaded circuit breakers the size of coffee tables, by the way - and before we were completely unloaded, we got another load offer from Dallas to St. Louis. We'd planned to go out of service and get a room for the night, but the load pay was very good, so we took it. We stopped at a small BBQ joint named Cowboys BBQ for a chopped pork sandwich, then continued on to Dallas (actually North Richland Hills) for our pickup. We hit the road right after that for St. Louis.

Oklahoma. When I lived in Wichita, Oklahoma was good for one thing - beer sales on Sunday. How many times did I make that 45 minute drive down I-35 to the State Line bar to pick up a couple of cases of beer for me and my hungover friends?

I drove us through to Joplin, then we napped for a few hours in a truck stop. Hoss let me sleep when his alarm went off, but as sleepiness set in, he tried valiantly to wake me up - even going so far as reach behind him and whack the bed with the windshield squeegee. But alas, I was dead to the world. Oklahoma wore me out.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Paris in the Spring

We got a few hours of sleep, then hit the local McDonald's for breakfast. I'm not sure if my Southern buddies realize this, but only the McDonalds' in the South serve biscuits and gravy (and did you know in the Northeast coastal towns, you can order a lobster sandwich at McD's?).

Note to self: never, EVER order McD's biscuits and gravy again.

We made our delivery and immediately got another load offer from Selma, TN to Austin, TX. Uh, Texas? Land of warmth, sunshine, and BBQ? Yep, we're on it.

After some serious justification, we decided to buy an XM radio for the truck. It's a business expense. Honest. We'll listen to weather on it. And the occasional Big East hoops game. We stopped at a Best Buy in Jackson, TN and went shopping. Hoss was able to find a portable model we can take with us for $79. Woohoo! I took a nap in the sleeper while Hoss installed it and had fun goofing off with it.

You'll never guess what we ran into in Arkansas. Yup, snow. Lovely. By the time we were a couple of hours into it, every truck stop, every on and off ramp, every rest area was packed with trucks sitting it out. Helga handles well in the snow. Good thing, because it snowed all night.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Back West

9am. We've made our delivery in New Castle, but we're still sitting at the consignee's. A flatbed tried to maneuver a turn onto this narrow street, but got hung up on the snowbank to his inside. The consignee sent out their bobcat to clear some snow away from his rig, but he's still trying to rock his way out. No luck so far.

We took this time to wash up and change clothes, brush teeth and hair, etc. Now all we need is more hot coffee and breakfast.

I had an "aww" moment yesterday. Since I met Hoss, he has opened and closed the car door for me. Every time, whether I'm driving or riding. I must admit, it took me MONTHS to get used to it. It struck me as unnecessary, it required me to change, it sometimes made me impatient, but I realized this was an important gesture to him so I sucked it up and accepted it. It's a gesture he hasn't transferred to the truck - until yesterday. We stopped at a rest area for a bathroom break, and he walked me back to the passenger seat, waited for me to settle in, then carefully closed the door for me. Hoss has never played the gender games with me, has never stopped me or tried to dissuade me from doing "man tasks", has never doubted that I can, and have, lived independently and self-reliantly without a man in my life. He knows that I CHOOSE to have him in my life, rather than need him. Yet I'm very aware of his need to take care of me, to protect me, to support me. I welcome and appreciate these acts of manly caretaking because it's his way of showing how much he loves me, not that I'm weak or dependent. And by the same token, he's not threatened when I get out the tools and fix the toilet or deal with the car mechanic myself. It's a marriage of mutual respect and admiration, and I am so very lucky.

4:15pm. I got Hoss to a clinic this morning and he was given a month's supply of BP meds to take until he can get home to his regular doc for monitoring and more treatment. It's still very high. I'm worried.

We took a load from Franklin, PA to Paris, TN. It snowed throughout PA, and began to taper off in Ohio. I took the night shift, as I usually do. The last 20 miles were a 1 1/2 lane country road with the trajectory of a satanic rollercoaster. I was exhausted and loopy, but we made it. Wish I'd taken a few pics of the road signs warning of upcoming curves; they were classic. We parked at a Walmart and got a few hours of sleep.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Wow, we slept like logs last night! The Webasco (sleeper heater) kept us nice and toasty, and the cat managed to sleep on top of me or wrapped around my head all night without stepping on my face. Niiiice.

Shortly after breakfast, we were offered a load from the nuclear plant in Waterford, CT to Philly, but it was canceled just as we got under way due to the weather. Apparently, Philly is going to be hammered with snow yet again tonight.

We continued North to a truck stop for fuel and were debating where to park for the day when another load offer came in: Hoboken to New Castle, PA. Score!

We arrived at the shipper's at 1pm and they loaded 10 enormous doors that were being returned to the manufacturer. The sky began to get dark near some berg named Allamuchy; a quick check of the radar showed we were driving right into the mess. Joy.

Shortly thereafter, we got another load offer for the next day: Franklin, PA to Paris, TN. We'll drop in New Castle in the morning, get some breakfast, then drive the roughly 45 miles to Franklin for an afternoon pickup.

We parked at a Walmart near New Castle and ran inside to forage something up for dinner. We tried a Steamfresh chicken and roasted garlic dinner. Gack! I managed to eat a few bites, but I won't be buying that again.

Time to settle down for the night and watch it snow through our cab attic window. :)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Wash, Spin, Rinse, Spin

So what's it like to sleep in a moving truck? I think Hoss summed it up well when he emerged from the berth in his skivvies, sat heavily in the passenger seat, waved his arms in frustration, and announced "IT'S LIKE TRYING TO SLEEP IN A FUCKING WASHING MACHINE!!"

We arrived a few hours earlier than our drop and parked in a truck stop on I-95 for a nap. At 7am, we grabbed a cup of coffee, then started toward our drop location. Not two miles out, we were pulled over by - dun Dun DUNNN!! - Connecticut DOT. Dammit! Helga's last team lost the license plate a couple of weeks back (the owner has one on order) and in the meantime, we're driving with a cardboard replacement. Which, frankly, is a virtual advertisement to anyone with a summons book. He inspected our logs and documentation, then did a level 2 truck inspection. Helga needs a new license plate light socket, but we got through without any tickets.

We were, however, 20 minutes late for our first delivery, although the consignee didn't seem to give a hoot. ~shrug~

We found a nearby Walmart to park at and whiled away the afternoon by finishing paperwork, moving rarely used items into a large tote secured in the box, and rearranging the sleeper to make food prep more convenient. After dark, we settled down in the bunk to watch a movie on my laptop (the Star Trek prequel) and munch on popcorn. It was nice.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Velcro is Our Friend

We have one of those plastic drawer units near the foot of our bunk to hold and organize a few cans of food, paper and plastic goods, cat food, etc. And although we (I, actually - I'll take the blame for it) set it up about 1/2 inch higher in the front to keep the drawers closed, it appears the heavier items seem determined to escape. To keep the drawers closed, I affixed some Velcro to the sides of the unit, wrapping around to the front of the drawers, and voylee! No more imminent Chef Boy Ar Dee escape attempts when Helga makes a right turn. Of course, now it takes both hands, devoted concentration, and raccoon-like dexterity to retrieve a single godforsaken plastic spoon, but at least we won't be clobbered in the head by a can of ravioli.

We watched both the SU game and the Superbowl at the neighb's, and feasted on pizza and wings. At 11pm, we closed up the house once again, loaded one extremely disappointed cat into the sleeper, then hit the road. Stamford, here we come.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Trickin' the Truck

Hoss has been planning how to maximize Helga's storage space for several days, and after we ran a few errands - in the truck, remember, we can't leave her unattended - we came home and he began to fit her with closet racking for shelves. Obviously, we can't screw and hammer and bolt at will, but with sturdy 1x2s and ratchet straps, Hoss was able to install a very tight and secure shelving system that gives us twice the storage area over the bunk, and much more headroom, to boot. Very clever, that Hossman.

The neighbs came over to visit and chat, and we ordered Chinese delivery for dinner. It was very relaxing and nice.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Columbus to Stamford

Shortly after 9am, dispatch called with an offer we liked - an afternoon pickup in Columbus, with a delivery in Stamford, CT on Monday morning. This meant we could drive our personal car home and sleep in our own bed another night or two.

It started to snow just north of Columbus, and by the time we arrived in the city, there were three inches of sloppy slush and snow on the streets, with lots more on the way. The load was categorized as High Security Surveillance, which means the box lock is sealed with a uniquely numbered tag and one of us needs to remain within 100 feet of the truck at all times.

Yes, we knew what was in the load. We could tell you, but then we'd have to kill you.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

First Load

Helga needs a lot of love. Love requires Walmart. We dropped another load of cash on the Walton family, then began to bling out our new beast. Our plans were to go In Service at 2pm, which would give us plenty of time to catch up on laundry and finish packing the truck.

At about Noon, Hoss received a call from dispatch, asking us to pick up a load in Cleveland and deliver it in Alabama. NICE load. Big money. Unfortunately, Helga was a jumble of boxes and bags at that point, and I had two loads of laundry going. We couldn't guarantee the 2pm pickup, so we lost the load. Mindi was a bit disappointed, but completely understood. We still can't figure out how dispatch thought we were In Service, but it worked out in the end, as Helga was ready a short time later and we sat on the Toledo board waiting for a load.

The next offer was a dud - the deadhead to loaded miles ratio was too high for it to be very profitable. We decided to wait for another. And another came, this time to Coffeyville, Kansas, but it was cancelled by the shipper just as we got underway. We moved to a Walmart south of Toledo and spent our first night in ol' Helga.

The bunk is somewhere between a twin and a full sized mattress, and I was worried that we'd be too crowded. The rear wall is padded, though, so I have a nice snuggly space between it and my Hossman. It's pretty darned comfy. Helga has a sleeper heater that runs on the diesel in the tank, so we don't have to idle to keep warm - and that little bugger kept us plenty warm.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Seven of us had hazmat endorsements, and we were scheduled to view a training video before class began at 8:00. I sooo miss sleeping in.

The morning was spent going over a few last document training sessions, then we hiked to the office building next door to meet a few more key people in the organization. Again, despite their level at the company, all were very approachable and friendly, and they all encouraged us to contact them at any time for any reason.

In the afternoon, Helga was inspected and Hoss and I had our road tests. All three of us passed.

It was my birthday, and although we'd planned a nice dinner and cake for dessert, I was just too doggone tired. We decided to try the roadhouse connected to our hotel for some bar grub and a beer. It was karaoke night. Midweek. At a rather seedy, rundown old roadhouse next to a motel used primarily by truckers. When it began at 9pm, a grand total of 15 people were in the bar. Two were well over 75 and already staggering, a few were locals getting a bite to eat, and the remainder were the karaoke draws - regulars, I suspect. The first, a youngish blond, sang a country-western number and actually did pretty well.

The next contestant did not.

Another blond, bearded cowboy (they must grow them in bulk out here), wearing a black hat, a long black duster, and the ubiquitous boots approached the mike. Ohh, let's guess! Hank Jr.? Garth Brooks? George Straight?

No. AC/DC. And badly, at that.

You would think a man who struts about like God's gift to women would be somewhat aware of rhythm and timing and hitting the mark (well, they ARE transferable skills). But, no, this poor man sang most of the song at least a half stanza behind the music, couldn't quite squeak out more than a three note range, and noticably forgot the words (duh, dude, they're right there on the monitor) on several occasions. He was horrible. And I had the giggles.

We had to leave, it was that bad.

But -- the dude's got more nerve than I, I'll have to give him credit for that.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Meeting Helga

Another long day. Attend orientation class, gather paperwork and documents, run errands at lunch and after class. Today, Mindi gave us the keys and we introduced ourselves to Helga, a 2008 Hino. Why 'Helga'? It seems to suit her. She's large, sturdy, and more handsome than pretty. Although she has only 153k miles, she's been ridden hard. The sleeper is smaller than I'd hoped, but it'll do. Between Hoss and I, we'll figure out how to make it a home on the road.

Several people from the office building were brought in to class to train us in their specialty - safety & compliance, driver logs, insurance - and then we went to the garage to meet Butch, the head mechanic, who went over securing loads.

Every employee we've met has been very down to earth. Most wore jeans and a sweatshirt or sweater, an intentional dress code meant to put the drivers at ease and foster communication. And each of them freely hands out their cell phone number and promises to answer your call, no matter the time or day. They live and breathe to support the drivers, and it's obvious that they all really do appreciate them.

There were 17 in our orientation. Not surprisingly, there was a variety of characters among us: a lean and lanky blond cowboy teamed with a short, stubby, dimwitted sidekick; a man as old as dirt, with long yellow-white straggly hair and who had spent so much time on the road all he wanted to do was talk, talk, talk; a man of about 40, dressed in camo and missing his front teeth, but smart as a whip and quick witted, too; a husband / wife team with three sons, all Marines, and one of whom was killed in Iraq last year - they'd decided it was time to try something they'd always wanted to do; a quiet and friendly man with greying hair and a wide smile, who was a dead ringer for 'Chief' in 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'; and an astoundingly stupid fuscia-haired middle aged woman who left her two teenaged sons at home to join a MUCH younger new internet boyfriend on the road.

Good gawd, I got lucky when I found Hoss.

Monday, February 1, 2010


We arrived an hour early to meet with Mindi before orientation. She's exactly what we expected - a petite bundle of energy and sharp as a tack. We sat in the kitchen and talked while the coffee percolated nearby and other new drivers straggled in. Some were quite, uh, colorful. More on them later.

Hoss has sweated his DOT physical for over a week. At his last exam, his blood pressure was high in the normal range, and he's put on a few pounds since then. So he's eschewed salt for a week, taken low dose aspirin, niacin, fish oil, etc., and although we don't know if it's helped lower his pressure any, he did manage to lose 12 pounds in a week.

After lunch, the doctor-nurse tag team arrived and we pee-in-a-cup participants queued up in the hall for the festivities. Hoss's BP was, indeed, high - stage II, in fact. He has three months to get it under control. Guess we'll need a weekday back in Syracuse soon so he can visit his doc for meds. For the first time since I was pregnant, my BP was high, as well. The doc retested it after a few minutes, and it dropped enough to get me back in the normal range, so I got a pass this time.