Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It was late and I was tired!!!!!

And that's my story and I'm sticking to it.  Okay, I forgot Alaska.  We have not been to Alaska.  It would seem that I have managed to block Alaska from my mind since all the election hoop-a-la.  I understand you can see Russia from there and that made me nervous!

Thanks to those of you who e-mailed and commented.  I will respond quickly.  I'm glad to know you were reading all along and I just didn't know it.


It has been a full year since Tony and I finished our training and started out together in our own truck.  I used to send out a group e-mail to an assortment of friends an family.  From the response I got, everyone seemed to like that.  When I switched to writing a blog, lots of folks didn't make the switch with us.  
To celebrate our first anniversary, I sent out a final group e-mail and invited everyone to come and visit us here.  
So, welcome to all who came back. Go through the archives (there aren't that many posts) if you are curious about where we have been this last year.  Otherwise, just start here and go forward.  And please drop me an e-mail or leave a comment and let me know you were here. 
 I missed communicating with you!

 Oh yea . . . we have managed to make it to 45 states (haven't been to Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and of course Hawaii) and 2 Canadian Provinces (British Columbia and Toronto).  Not bad for 12 months! 

Monday, January 26, 2009

Miles for 2008

My dad kept a running tally of the miles we traveled last year. 

Here is what we did:
January 15,439
February 19,516
March 20,921
April 17,900
May 17,110
June 15,990
July 21,075
August 21,722
September 15,291
October 21,571
November 17,394
December 17,258

Listen to this . . .

When I drive, I have 11 to 12 hours to listen to the radio.  We have XM in the truck, but even the gazillion channels on it get stale after awhile.  My iPod provides a nice change.  We have a transmitter that sends it to the radio and it plays through the speakers.  
I listen to my own "Groove" Playlist.
(I'll share the goofiness of my playlist in another post)
I also listen to podcasts.  
They are one of the newest things to hit the web, and one of my favorites.
If you do any amount of driving, dishwashing, gardening, walking, waiting around, then podcasts could be for you.  You don't even need an iPod.  Any mp3 player will work.  I think there are some relatively inexpensive ones out now.  You could also download to your computer and burn discs.  I did that before we got our iPods. 
 iTunes is a great way to find out about podcasts.  All of mine come from the iTunes store, but there are lots of others out there too.  I just find so many on iTunes that I'll never listen my way through all of them!
So, here is a list of my favorite podcasts along with a brief description:
(Hang on a sec while I hunt down my iPod)
A Way With Words - this one is all about the usage, origin and pronunciation or words.  Very entertaining, actually.
The Splendid Table - mmmmmm, this one is about food.  Can you tell that I am a foodie?
The Story - This is done by American Public Media and is hosted by Dick Gordon.  This may be my favorite podcast.  I think he does one each day.  They are always timely and usually I learn a new way of looking at something.  Even if I don't think I'll be interested in an episode from the title, I have learned to just listen anyway.  I am almost always glad that I did.  If you don't try any of these other titles, try this one.
Travel With Rick Steves - This is probably my other favorite.  I don't do much travel outside of the United States, but Rick Steves takes me to the most wonderful far flung places.
Backstory - With the American History Guys - This is really a great podcast.  These guys take a current hot topic and spin it through the last 3 centuries of American History.  

I have a bunch of other podcasts, but these are my favorites.  These are the ones that I look forward to listening to.

Do Not Call List

In February, cell phone numbers will be released to telemarketing companies.  You might start to receive calls AND you will be charged for the calls.

To prevent this, call the following number FROM YOUR CELL PHONE:  888-382-1222.  This is the National Do Not Call list.  It will block your numbers for five years.  Remember, you must call from the cell phone that you wish to have blocked.  

I just did this and it doesn't take too long.  
I think it is well worth it!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Whirl Wind of our Days

note:  I tried really hard to make this neat and orderly.  I apparently don't know the super secret undercover password, because I can't get it to line up when it makes the transition from the composition to the published form.  Please try and read though - it is a pretty good look at the whirlwind of our days.

I love my job.
No, really, I LOVE my job.
We are in Alabama headed to North Carolina and the weather is wonderful.  In fact, life at the moment is wonderful.
I know I sound PollyAnna'ish, but I can't help it!

I'm going to open my logbook and write down the names of the places that I have logged so far in just 2009.  I think we'll be surprised and amazed.
Here we go:
1/1 Little America, WY (really nice truckstop with a very nice hotel/restaurant). Ended the day in Oregon. 450 miles (these are just my miles, not Tony's)
1/2 Portland, OR over to Aurora, OR where we stopped.  149 miles
1/3 Took over at Canyonville, OR after a lovely lunch of Duck and Spinach Salad.   Cruised through the Cascade Mts. and over Mt. Shasta on into California.  421 miles
1/4 Tony took us on through to Phoenix where we stopped for the day/night.  Ate great Mediterranean food, discovered Trader Joe's and found a neat re-sale shop.
1/5 still in Phoenix
1/6 Cline's Corner, NM (just East of Albuquerque).  Drove through Texas and on through Oklahoma City and ended up somewhere West of Tulsa.  659 miles.
1/7 Richmond, IN through Ohio and on into Pennsylvania. 502 miles
1/8 Still in Pennsylvania, but headed West now, back through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and ended the night at the Iowa 80 Truck Stop in Walcott, IA.  I remember it was snowing really hard this night. 615 miles
1/9 Big Springs, Nebraska (still blowing and snowing) across the Great Plains through to Kimball, NE where I had to stop for 2 hours and wait for the wind to die down at sunset so I could make the run across Cheyenne, Wyoming and on to Laramie where I fueled and caught my breath.  There were some scary moments on this run.  Ended the shift in Echo, WY at 539 miles.
1/10 Tony took us into Utah ( I think it was Salt Lake Cit), but I got to take back over in Evanston, WY where I drove back into the wind again.  Stopped at a rest area on the Continental Divide and thought the truck was going to blow over.  It was so windy (60+ mph) that the wind blew me into the bathroom.  Had a hard time negotiating the ice/snow piled up with the wind throwing me around! Finished the night in Gothenburg, Nebraska with 611 miles.
1/11 Rest Area in Illinois - took us down to Rantoul, IL where I docked and we spent the night waiting for an unload the next morning.  Snowing ALOT! 165 miles.
1/12 We were tucked in at a Con-Way terminal in LaSalle, IL.  A great blow of a snow storm blew through.
1/13 Tony broke us out of the snow in Illinois, and I took over in Joplin, MO as we head South.  Yea - great weather and wonderful driving.  370 miles ending in our terminal just south of Dallas - Lancaster, TX.
1/14 Tony took us down to Laredo, TX (another terminal) and we stopped and shopped.  I picked up our load and headed us back up I-35 to the Lancaster, TX terminal.  415 miles.
1/15 Took over in Newton, Kansas headed up to Denver.  Got there and docked to be unloaded at midnight.  490 miles.
1/16 We are headed over the Rockies to California.  Yipeee.  I took over about half way through the Rockies in Colorado and took us down to St. George, Utah.   440 miles
1/17 Spent the afternoon in Las Vegas where we got to see a movie (Gran Torino - wonderful) and have a nice Sunday Buffet at a casino.  I left Las Vegas late in the evening and took us down to Four Corners, CA (just West of Barstow).  195 miles
1/18 Tony took us into Kettleman City, CA where we dropped and hooked and headed out for LA.  We stopped there waiting for our load the next morning - I got a day off!  We snuck off to Trader Joe's again and then spent some down time watching videos and tv.
1/20 Tony took us out of LA and into Arizona.  I took over in Eloy, AZ and drove through New Mexico and down to Marfa, Texas.  558 miles
1/21 Tony drove us from Marfa to Laredo where we dropped and hooked (got a little shopping done). I took us out 1-35 then 1-10 headed East through Houston and on toward Louisiana. 400 miles.
1/22 We are now somewhere in Alabama ( just South of Montgomery I believe) and will head up around Atlanta and on to Marion, North Carolina tonight.

Is your head spinning?  Did you even make it through all of that?  That would explain why when I talk to some of you on the phone, I don't actually know where I am, where I am going, or where I have been.  
It all becomes a blur!  
But what a great blur it is!!!!!!!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Yawning Chasm of Death

Each time we go through Joplin, Missouri we are asked to take our truck and trailer through the "INSPECTION BAY'.  I could say that we had never sailed through Joplin on I-44 waving merrily at the Glass House (that's what we call our HQ . . . cuz its a big building with alot of glass), but that would be a lie.  Sometimes we are just too tight on time to be able to stop.
In addition to taking the rig through the Inspection Bay, we also take on fuel and if we really have time to waste/spare, we get the truck washed.

When you pull up to the INSPECTION BAY, the doors are shut and you have no idea what lies behind them.  I can tell you this, because my trainer (Chris) deliberately did NOT mention what was behind those doors.  The first time he and I made it back through Joplin, I pulled up and stopped at the little stop sign outside the bay.  Then the door opened and I saw this:

Luckily, one of the guys saw the look of stark terror on my face and walked to the top of that yawning chasm waiting to swallow my truck and started waving to guide me in.
I have to tell you that I almost passed out with fright.  Seriously.  I know I turned white (Chris regaled me with these details later) and had such a death grip on the steering wheel that my hands hurt for days.  I had to go on manual override of my flight or fight response and take over control of breathing in order to stay conscious.
So . . . I start inching forward - left foot jamming the clutch into the floorboard, right foot not wanting to come off the brake, right hand sweating on the gear shift trying to find the safest gear (there isn't one) and left hand steering into the Valley of Certain Death and Mayhem (at the very least the end of my trucking career).  Here I go . . .

Yes, they really do expect a professional driver to be able to do this.  You can't see it, but there is about a 1" curb on the inside of each of the lanes.  That is all.  In some shops, there isn't any curb.  NONE.  The outside curb is about 2".  I think there is about 2-3" of wiggle room on this whole maneuver.  I'm sure some GUY (Tony) would tell you there is lots more, but on that first time, there wasn't . . . I swear . . . they made them larger with more room to move after I went through  . . . yeah, that's the way it was!!!!!

This is what we look like after we are all the way in.  It is nice to take a break while they inspect and / or repair the truck and trailer.  Our shop does a really good job.  It takes 10 - 15 minutes and then . . . you have to drive on out.   Over the yawning chasm of death.  Surprisingly, it is much easier to do if you aren't looking at it.  On the way out, there are just yellow lines painted on the cement that you need to stay inside of.  That is really easy if you remember to breath and stuff.
I do it easily now.
Leo even likes to watch now as we go in.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

absolutely nothing of value here . . .

Sometimes, I feel like I should post a new blog entry just to let you know that we are alive.  But then, I get online and open up my blogger dashboard and face this nice empty space waiting for my new words.  That is when I often discover that I have absolutely nothing of value/inspiration/importance to offer.  

We are just busy doing our job - delivering important stuff to important places - all over the country.  On Monday afternoon, we were in a great whiteout of a snow storm in northern Illinois.  By Tuesday afternoon we were in Texas headed down to sunny Laredo.  We ate at a great seafood place here in Laredo and got haircuts.  See, just the regular stuff of life - not enough to write about.

So there it is.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Groovy Zone

There are most certainly times when I wonder why I wanted this job/lifestyle.  Those are the times when we have to do things like back down a steep, curving hill to a loading dock (AND it was just beginning to rain!).  Then there was that time we had to go to the meat packer for hides (so nasty it was surreal).  

But then there are those sweet days when one of the main reasons we chose this job comes shining through.  We chose this lifestyle because we had been holed up in that extremely isolated desert extravaganza known as Telingua (also known as The Stinking Desert when temps top 115 or so).  One of our greatest pleasures with this nomadic life is finding new places to eat, shop and enjoy.

Typically, Phoenix is not one of our favorite cities.  The traffic here is brutal - no, make that brutish.  The drivers on the city's freeways are so bad that the local law has installed speed monitoring cameras every mile or so.  These things are called "Photo Enforcement Zones" and they take your picture and send you a ticket.  What a great idea!!!!!!!

Anyway, we don't usually spend any more time in Phoenix than required.  Tony will chose to go around it if he is driving - especially during week days.

Yesterday, we came in to make a delivery and ended up having an entire day to wait for our load heading out to Pennsylvania.  So, we dropped our trailer at the Con-Way yard (where we will return later to wait for said load) and I used the handy laptop to find out where the local "groovy" zone was.  I knew there was at least one Trader Joe's here and so we zeroed in on that.  Sure enough, we found it and headed that way.

To our delight, we did indeed land in the Groovy Zone.  

Long ago, Tony learned that it was expensive (not to mention space consuming) if I went into a grocery store hungry.  So, we opted for lunch at the Cyprus Grill.  Delightful.  We had some delish homemade hummus with warm pita quarters.  Lovely fragrant  dolmades (grape leaves stuffed with rice) and lemony dipping sauce.  Then we had some succulent pork cubes on skewers with luscious yogurt dill dipping sauce.  What a great lunch.  Tony has never been a really adventuresome eater, but has been a good sport at trying new stuff.  And almost always, he likes it!

And, this was next door to the Trader Joe's!  So, we headed there.   We must be the last old hippies in America to visit this mecca of all things organic and wonderful.  Much less sterile and big boxy like Whole Foods can be.  I especially liked that the aisles were set on the diagonal and that they were really wide.  In fact, there weren't even very many aisles in the store.  The store was actually rather small.  I don't know if all Trader Joe's are like that or not.  But I really liked this one.  The produce section wasn't huge either, but had some of everything.

The checkouts were another treat.  Small and personal.  This was our cashier - I don't remember her name, but she shook our hands and was absolutely delightful.

  I know that I must be the only person in America who drives around the country and gushes about the grocery stores that they encounter.  But I just can't help it.  I want to move here just so I can go to this grocery store every day!  Of course, there is that lovely store in North Bend, Washington too.  Oh well, guess I'll just keep visiting them instead.

If all of this wasn't enough groovy goodness, there was a great re-sale shop called My Sister's Attic in the same shopping center.  I'm pretty much set with clothes right now, but decided to go look anyway.  What luck.  What a find.  And find I did.    I found a beautiful sage green leather Coach handbag on sale (on sale at a thrift/re-sale store is really something!) for $14.95.  I had found a great little red leather Coach purse at another thrift (Goodwill in Joplin) and had been using that one for 6 months or so.  But, it seemed too small these days and a new purse is such a "pick-me-up".  I never in my life imagined that I would have a Coach handbag, much less two of them!

So, we are off to Pennsylvania in the morning . . .

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Result of Alignment

They did line up . . .  and the result was great.  
We did indeed get to stop at The Creekside Grill, located at the Seven Feathers Travel Plaza (ex 99, I-5, OR) for lunch.  Tony had a great looking bowl of "Texas Style Chili" with an amazing hunk of cornbread.  I couldn't help myself and had to order the Duck and Spinach salad.  Once again, they managed to serve some deliciously moist and flavorful duck!  Yipeeee.  They just serve it on a bed of fresh spinach leaves with a marion berry dressing, toasted almonds, and sweet dried cranberries.  This salad is just perfect to start a day of driving.  I'm so glad that I didn't go for the chili.  Tony ended up too full to even sleep!  Now that's full.

We are out of the cold and cruising through the desert in California, headed on into Phoenix this afternoon.  I hope we can unload this load of paper before our midnight appointment.

As always . . .  I'll keep you posted. 

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Culinary Alignment - Maybe?!?

As you know from the Mexican food posts, we have several favorite restaurants around the country.  In order to eat at any of the fav spots, several planets and stars have to be aligned perfectly.  We both have to be awake and hungry.  That might sound trite, but if it is, 10:00 a.m., I have just awakened and may or may not have even had coffee yet.  Tony, on the other hand, is ready for dinner.  We must also be in the vicinity of one of the favored eateries.

I'm not sure, but I think all star/planet alignments may fall into place for us to eat at one of those spots in Oregon.  This restaurant has 2 strikes in it's column, but managed to make me say, "WOW", the last time we ate here.  Strike one:  it is a truckstop -  'nuff said there.  Strike two:  it is a casino - they tend to be "buffet heaven" which we usually studiously avoid.  We wandered in one day a couple of months ago and decided to eat.  Nice seating, no buffet in sight, courteous staff AND the most wonderful salad of Roast Duck Breast and Spinach.  It was wonderful and moist and crisp and just plain yummy.  Tony usually turns his nose up at duck, but I had to smack his sneaking fork on this one!  

So here's the scene . . .  we are 50 miles down the road.  We are just finished fueling, the dog has been walked and treated , and I have had my coffee and am ready to face the day.

I'll keep you posted.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Cheyenne to Rawlins

People often ask us where our favorite part of the country is.  That is hard to answer - I have my choices narrowed down to 4 or 5 spots!  All of them interesting and lovely and possible places to spend more time.

No one ever asks what the suckiest part of the US is.  
That one is easy: I-80 through Wyoming.  Now, don't get all twitchy if you live in or love Wyoming.  It is a nice enough state.  I happen to think it looks a lot like a colder, lonelier West Texas, but that is just my own little bitty no-count opinion.  No, the real problem with Wyoming is crossing it on I-80.  And even more specifically, the little bit between Cheyenne and Rawlins.  

There, I've said it.

We often get stuck in Cheyenne waiting for the winds to die down enough to scurry across.  If we are heavy (25-40k of freight), we can go if the sustained winds come down to around 25-30mph with gusts up to 55 or so.  If we aren't very heavy (10k of freight or so), we try to wait for the winds to get down to around 20 mph with gusts around 30.  Once, we sat for 2 days in Cheyenne waiting to do that 2 hour bit of driving.

Really, that's all it takes . . . just 2 hours or so. 
But they can be the 2 hours that cost us our jobs if we are foolhardy.  

We had come in from Memphis the morning before to howling gusts and decided to stop and assess things.  Since it was New Year's Eve as well, we decided to hunker down and see what the morning brought.
That night as we were tucked in with all the other trucks in the Flying J lot, our truck shook and wobbled so much I wondered if it would stay upright.  Really.  I could picture the domino effect as one of the outer trucks slowly tipped over onto the truck beside it and the slow crash as it hit the one beside and on and on and on until they got to our snug little truck.  That nasty oldstyle Freightliner with it's tarp covered load sitting just beside us suddenly became the menacing enemy.  Not to mention the tanker that sat on the other side.  Which way would the blow come from?  Luckily, sleep took hold and I didn't have to lay awake too long!

When we got up New Year's morning, we found that we had a small window of calm before the next storm system came though.  Well, calm is a relative term here.  Sustained winds of 25 - 30 mph with gusts 55+.  It was REALLY WINDY!!!  We made the first part of the run heading West out of Cheyenne toward Laramie.  There was some shaking and wiggling of the truck, but Tony was able to keep us mostly in our lane.  We did opt for driving in the left lane so that we had some extra pavement to our right (where the wind wanted to blow us!).  Whizzed through Laramie and decided to push on to Rawlins.  Once we ran that stretch, the winds typically die down considerably (gusts below 30 mph) and we should be on our merry way.  

Off we go.  

It was in this stretch that we came upon the blown over truck.  2 trucks had already stopped to assumedly help, so we pushed on.  We were able to see that it wasn't a Con-Way/CFI trailer, but still felt bad for the driver anyway.  The headlights were still on and the wheels still spinning - could have been us!?!?!  No way to know what kind of load he/she was trying to come through with - weight is the real factor here.

After we made it to Laramie and took on fuel and food, Tony and I were able to talk about the run and each admit what had been going though our minds on the way through.  I had decided that I should get out of my jammies and have shoes on as well.  I also put on a vest and had my cell phone in my pocket.  Holding Leo in my lap felt like that would be his best shot if we went over.  Tony admitted to having many of the same plans and thoughts.  Sure, we could laugh about it then - no one lost an eye or anything!

So, that's the suckiest part of the US for us.  We have to run it often.  We see blown over trucks on that stretch.  Often.  As we sit in Portland, Oregon waiting on a load, there is a 50/50 that we will turn around and head back in that direction.  Yipeeeeee.  The good news is that the dangerous wind isn't so bad if you are running East.  At least, I think so.  Hmmmm - I don't remember that it has ever been a problem for us going East, has it?  Something new to worry about . . . . . . . . .