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.

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