Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Due to legal issues, Helga has been called back to the barn and we await word from the owner.

In the meantime, we're catching up on paperwork and taking care of a few things around the house.

We'd rather be out on the road, though. ~sigh~

Monday, March 22, 2010

More Pics

Here's Helga!

Somewhere over the Florida panhandle:

The Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland:

So pretty and peaceful, we wanna move here (Morristown, TN):

A laminated phone pole? Really?

Ah, probably because they don't have trees near Detroit:

It's striking, if nothing else:

Hoss Update

A follow-up appointment with the doc resulted in great news: Hossman's BP is down to 128 over 90. Still somewhat elevated, but definitely an enormous improvement. He is to continue on his current med and keep working on his weight, but he's clear to drive for another year. Yay!

And I'm soooo relieved he's healthier. I want every moment I can with him.

Booted in Atlanta


Duluth, GA is one of Atlanta's suburbs that is home to several private "parking management" companies who troll business parking lots at night in search of parked vehicles. As soon as they encounter one, they apply a boot to immobilize it. If the car is abandoned, they'll call a tow truck to have it hauled away. If the owner returns before the tow arrives, or if the vehicle is occupied, as in the case of an RV or truck, they will demand a cash fee to remove the boot. If the owner refuses to do so, or can't come up with the fee in cash, the vehicle is towed and the owner then has to pay both the boot and the towing fees.

Without state laws or local ordinances to rein them in, these businesses are free to operate without a criminal background check, charge whatever fee they choose, use whatever tow service they prefer (likely a sister business), and generally conduct business however they'd like.

Helga was booted two weeks ago in the parking lot of a Walmart Supercenter in Duluth. The thug who booted us at 3:30 am on a Sunday morning demanded $500 in cash to remove the boot. When Hoss told him we don't carry large amounts of cash, he suggested we call our trucking company for a Comcheck - a money transfer system used primarily by trucking companies to advance funds to their drivers for fuel and repairs, etc. If we didn't do so, he would have it towed and we would have to pay a $650 towing fee in addition to the $500 boot removal fee.

All together now, SNL fans: "Welll, how conveeeenient!"

Athough thoroughly steamed about the situation, we wrangled a Comcheck from our owner and Hoss was driven 50 miles roundtrip to a truck stop to have it cashed. The thug removed the boot, gave us a receipt, and went on his merry way.

With more sleep no longer an option, we drove until we found a cup of coffee, then reviewed the receipt, only to find the owner - who apparently sits at home and dispatches and manages his thug employees from there - had chosen to categorize us as a semi, which, of course, incurs the maximum fine.

Even an idiot can see that Helga isn't a semi. Hoss called the owner to point out that despite the fact that Helga clearly has two axles and six wheels, Boss Thug had skipped over the "2 axle 6 wheel" truck category and went straight for "semi". Hoss politely requested a refund. Guess how that went.

So, while we were home for a few days over the weekend, I printed off a letter or two, complete with several attachments, including photos. And mailed them to everyone from Boss Thug to the Georgia Attorney General, local Magistrates to Walmart's corporate headquarters.

We shall see who gets booted in the end. Muahahahaha.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Just WTF is That Thing?

Something told me we'd get a few questions about The Thing. Here's a wider shot:

Liquid carbon dioxide is apparently used widely in manufacturing. Who knew?

And a pic of a similar assembly without the thick layer of frost:

Although this one is refrigerated liquid nitrogen, the steel tubing structure to the right of this tank is - I think - close in shape to what's under The Thing.

But now that you've seen what's under The Thing, the original pic just doesn't hold the same appeal, does it?

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Trucking Version of Begats

A few folks seem to be getting a kick out of asking "So, where are you now?" Most of the time, we can answer in terms of the state and if we're particularly on top, we may be able to say which quadrant of the state we're in. Just don't ask us what day it is.

Yep, we've been busy. That's a good thing, of course - loaded miles are how we make coin. But the extent is somewhat surprising. Here's a list of the loads we've had just in the past two weeks:

Toleldo, OH to Armada, MI to Lansdale, PA
Philadelphia, PA to Waterford, CT
Biddeford, ME to Warren, OH
Cleveland, OH to Morristown, TN
Cookeville, TN to Orlando, FL to Atlanta, GA
Gainesville, GA to Dubuque, IA
Madison, WI to Thomson, GA
Cheraw, SC to Romulus, MI
Napoleon, OH to Maxton, NC
Selma, NC to Fort Wayne, IN
Whitehall, MI to Hampton, VA

Or 7,344 loaded miles. We've delivered medical devices, lawn mower transmissions, industrial lighting, packing foam, steel bearings, printed labels, and forged gears. Among the most interesting sites, we've delivered to a nuclear plant, the Orlando airport, and a Campbell's soup factory. Life is a blur of driving, coffee, naps, sandwiches, paperwork, shipping & receiving docks, and the occasional shower. And it's fun as hell. :)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Day in the Life

02:06 - Christian County, Kentucky. I took the wheel at 22:15 in Faring, IL, as we fueled at a truckstop. I take the overnight driving shift, while Hoss drives during daylight hours - it's a labor division that works the best for us and our individual driving habits. Therefore, Hoss is snoring in the sleeper and I'm listening to Coast to Coast. The XM has made my night drives much more pleasant. I don't get to see as much pretty countryside as Hoss does during the day, but traffic is light, construction is at a minimum, and I can usually make good time. I've read a lot about personal safety concerns associated with night driving, but I can't say that I've been in a position yet where I've felt unsafe. I'm attentive and wary, yes, but no one has approached me or made me uncomfortable, despite being alone and in venues that might make others nervous. It helps to know Hoss is only a loud yell away, of course.

03:30 - Nashville, TN. I-24 is quiet and the cityscape is striking. I spied the "Bat Building" and got an intense pang of deeply missing Annie and all the fun we shared there and in NYC. Hoss is still snoring away in the bunk and the cat's collar bell tinkles now and then, which indicates that she's probably parked on his chest tonight. I'm on my 2nd cup of coffee and am halfway through an enormous PayDay bar. The best way to stay awake when night driving is - what else? - EATING, and the truck stops make sure you have plenty of choices. I'm going to end up fat again.

04:55 - I'm getting sleepy. All the truckers have run out of hours and the truck stops and rest areas are jammed. Finally, a space on the shoulder of a rest area off-ramp appears, and I get a quick nap before Hoss takes over around 6 am.

07:00 - Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz... It's taken a while, but we're finally getting accustomed to sleeping while the other drives. Helga rides rough (imagine a 19th century buckboard hurtling along at 70 mph), and especially when she's empty. I have made air on numerous occasions while sleeping and yes, I woke up clawing at the covers and cussing. Parking for the night brings different sleeping challenges. Helga runs a DPR regen (cleaning cycle) every 15 minutes or so while idling, which abruptly changes the engine sound and vibration; in the beginning, this startled me awake with a jerk, but now I rarely notice it. Trucks starting up and lumbering past just inches from our sleeper doesn't wake us anymore, either. I suppose you can learn to sleep under any circumstances when necessary.

12:40 - Thomson, GA. We drop a load of molded packing foam at a facility in the country, then head to a WalMart for a few groceries. It's raining heavily; Hoss picks up new wipers to replace the badly worn ones we've dealt with all morning. We're #1 on the Atlanta and Greenville boards, but being unfamiliar with the area, we place a call to our Fleet Coordinator to see if moving to another board would result in a faster load. He recommends we stay put, so we deadhead to a Pilot truckstop 25 miles away for a hot shower and a nap. Of all the major truckstops, Pilot has become our favorite. The coffee is outstanding and reasonably priced, and the showers are decent. I'm still not used to showering with flipflops on, but I feel so cruddy by the time our load schedule allows a shower break that I'd wear hip waders if necessary.

16:15 - We were just beginning to snooze when a load offer comes in for a 682 mile run from Cheraw, SC to Romulus, MI. Yep, we're on it. Our pre-trip routine begins: accept the load via Qualcomm, scribble a summary of the load in our driver's notebook, update the driver's logs, fill out a freight bill, open a TripPak envelope in which to collect the paperwork and receipts, program Trixie, secure everything in the sleeper, calculate fuel advance, fill out the Comcheck, then head out. The cat pouts and crawls into her private "cave" behind the upper bunk.

19:07 - Cheraw, SC. I got in a short nap while Hoss drove to the load site, and I'm sleepy-stoopid as I crawl in the front seat. It's raining and foggy here, and it has that rich earthy smell that reminds me of digging worms.

19:31 - We arrive at the plant to load. Cheraw is a very small town, yet this facility is huge. The guard gives us the usual ambiguous directions with the required arm waving, and as expected, we end up precisely where we aren't supposed to be. I strongly suspect this plant has a dock door for every man, woman, and child in this town. Hoss tracks down where we're supposed to load, and I jump out to secure our passenger side hazmat placard, which has lost a clip and has flashed a random peep show of "FLAMMABLE", "EXPLOSIVE", "CORROSIVE", and "RADIOACTIVE" diamonds for most of SC. Which, come to think of it, might explain why we got through Columbia rush hour with such a wide berth.

22:47 - Hoss is back in the bunk and I'm in search of a good cup of coffee along our route. There are areas of the country where you can't round a curve without finding a truckstop, and then there are others in dire need of more. I recommend getting used to drinking cold coffee, because if you're smart, you'll buy two at once. And while I'm on a roll, let me give a shoutout to all the contractors who build women's rest rooms: I don't give a shit what the blueprint says, there is no good reason to mount a toilet paper dispenser a mere 10 inches above the floor. I can deal with the occasional dirty bathroom, I can wash with unheated water, I can even overcome the chapped hands from using that godawful pink industrial degreaser in the soap dispensers, and although I'd prefer to wipe my cold chapped wet hands on your project punchlist than use an electric hand dryer, I'll even do that with minor complaint, just DON'T MAKE ME STAND ON MY DAMNED HEAD TO RETRIEVE A FEW SCRAPS OF TOILET PAPER. Seriously, we're not all 4 1/2 feet tall. And to the facilities designer of Indiana's rest areas who managed to put together a women's room with both sinks and dryers that - I am NOT exaggerating - come to precisely mid-thigh: Screw you, pal. ONE sink and ONE dryer at wheelchair height should be ample. And the reason you didn't win the Annual Interstate Bathroom Design Award is because your stupid design caters to the one in 712 bathroom visitors who happens to be wheelchair bound. The remaining 711 get a friggin backache from bending over to use them. Pfft. Moron.

00:09 - We haven't encountered snow for about 10 days, but we've sure found fog. The mountains of NC, VA, and WV get pretty socked in at night. At times, I've had to slow down to 35 mph, which just kills our delivery schedule. Hoss pops his head into the cab every couple of hours to check on me and monitor our progress, then gives me a kiss and goes back to bed. It takes a great deal of trust to leave your partner to drive alone for many hours at a time while you sleep, knowing that they're tiring and bored. We agreed early on - we promised each other - that we would stop the truck and switch, if our hours allowed it, or just park and blow the delivery deadline. Risking our own lives is bad enough, but we feel deeply obligated to keep the other one safe, too. A load offer comes in for the next afternoon, but the weight is just over our limit of 6 1/2 tons. I'm not complaining, but I'm wondering if this year is starting out much busier than predicted; we're constantly on the move.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Pics From the Road

Ah, ye of little faith. You thought I'd never post pics, did you? Ha!

In a post about one of our first loads, I described a flatbed that got stuck and held us up by over an hour. Here are the accompanying pics (yeah, I know, they don't hold nearly the same intrigue a month later, but I do mean well):

Bonus!! These were taken of a small suspension bridge on our way back from that very load:

Now, weren't those worth the wait? Hah? Hah??

Whaddaya mean "No"?

How about ... (shuffling pictures) ... The St. Louis Arch!

But it was taken at 60 mph through Helga's dirty windshield!

Jeez, youse guys are hard to please.

Okay, here's a pic taken of a verrry nice bridge in Detroit:

Doesn't that make you feel happy and light? The soft, flowing lines, the playful shapes in the ironwork --


More? Can do. Here's another verry nice bridge in Toledo that virtually dances as you drive over it:

You see, it's a vertical-on-center suspension bridge that appears to be just a large single monolithic shape as you drive toward it, but it unfolds and expands as you continue --

What?!?? I'm in a truck fercrapsake, expediting, no less (that means hurry / rush / step on it), it's not like I can stop and take great pics of cool stuff at will like some tourist. Yes, yes I do take pics of things other than bridges. Here, for example:

The pic doesn't do it justice - it was early on a cold morning and this, erm, thing, was covered in a thick sheet of sparkling frost. At 8 feet tall and 2 feet in diameter, it was impossible to not take a picture. You're welcome.

Shortly thereafter, we took a delivery to Beau-something South Carolina, where, along the back roads, were old-timey Southern country coastal dwellings and peaceful country roads such as this:

There were many other photo ops in the area, but frankly, things haven't been the same for us Yankees down South since "Deliverance". With the echos of dueling banjos in our heads, Hoss developed a serious case of leadfoot and the rest of the pics I took in that area are but a blur of pine trees and kudzu. *shrug*

And in keeping with the theme of Brotherly Love, here is a series of pics taken on a recent delivery to North Philly:

Makes you all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn't it?

My little Nikon bites when it comes to long-distance low-light shots, but I sometimes get interesting effects such as the blurred lights of the George Washington bridge driving onto the island:

And this shot of Manhattan from the bridge, looking south:

I think that's my favorite southern view of all.