Friday, February 20, 2009

But, Officer . .

We had a run from El Paso up to Columbia, Missouri.  
This is almost the only run that we do that requires us to spend a couple of hours on a US highway instead of an interstate.  In a car, I would always choose smaller lines on the map over the big ugly interstates.  Not so with a truck.  Interstates are our friend!  Really.  As lovely as they are, US highways and state highways are full of twists and turns and ups and downs.  They are also rarely divided and usually have tiny little shoulders.
After much counting of miles and looking for other routes, we decided early on that US 54 running the length of New Mexico would occasionally have to be part of our lives.
The first time I ran it, I ended up in Trucker Time Out.  
The second time for me to run it was Tuesday. 
 I got stopped for speeding.  
I don't speed - EVER.  
Tony and I had noticed that since the states have run into budget troubles, we are seeing lots more vehicles pulled over with flashing red and blue lights involved.  
Lots more.  
Makes sense, those patrol units need to generate income now, more than ever.
We tell each other all the time to watch our speed - typically we are not in a hurry any more.  We are often the ONLY vehicle on a stretch of road driving the speed limit.  Autos and trucks flow around us like we are tugboats in a yacht race.  Never a problem for us to accept.
If we get tickets, it could cost us our wonderful jobs.  
We love our jobs.
We don't speed.  
So, imagine my horror when I took over after lunch in Tularosa, New Mexico on lovely US 54 and was flagged over by a flashing patrol unit.  I was absolutely dumbfounded.  I have wondered how I would react the first time I was pulled over in the truck.
Now I know.
I cried.
I tried really hard not to, because after all, "There isn't room in trucking for tears!"
I just bawled like a baby.
The trooper stood on the ground and looked at me.  Finally, he said, "Take a big deep breath and then hand me your license, med card, truck papers, log book and load papers."
I explained that I had never been pulled over before and he smiled patiently and asked if I knew why I was being pulled over now.
"Not a clue" I said between hiccups and tears.
"I clocked you doing 64 in a 55 mph zone."
A look of complete horror must have crossed my face, because he added, "There are signs posted blah blah feet behind you and every blah blah miles on this highway."
The piece of highway we are on is the only double lane wide open piece for many many miles.
I had assumed that since the town was behind me and open road was in front of me that the speed limit had gone up from 55 to 65.
We all know what assuming makes us . . . 
Nope, the speed limit is really 55 here.  "In fact," he explained, " it is 55 all the way to Vaughn."  I burst into tears again and explained that I really didn't know it was 55. 
He told me to try and breathe deep and compose myself and he would be back in a moment.
So, there I sat - my wonderful trucking career crumbling before my eyes.
I read yesterday that there are 120 new Con-Way Truckload drivers waiting for trucks.
Now is not the time to screw around and lose a good job like this one.
Hungry sharks are just schooling, waiting for a chance to drive my truck.
More tears and sobbing.
I know my face must have been a lovely shade of red with delicate (NOT) blotches and messy tear tracks.
After 4 or 5 hours (well, it seemed that long . . .), the patrolman came back to the truck.  This time, he climbed up on the running board.  I guess he wanted to see those tears up close.  Good thing I burst into them again.  As he started handing back all the papers and notebooks, I managed to joke, "at least I keep a neat logbook."  "Why yes, you do" he replied.  "Take another deep breath, I have 3 options to discuss with you.  I want you to think carefully about which one you choose."
"Are you ready?"
"Option 1 is that you acknowledge the offense and send in a check for $70 and be done with it."
"Option 2 is if you wish to go before the judge - in this case, we will make a court date."
"And finally, Option 3.  I want you to listen carefully to this option before you decide.  In this option, you read this line carefully and then sign here."
With a final sniff and deep breath, I carefully signed the "Warning Notice" line and smiled at the officer.  "I won't speed on this piece of highway ever again."  
You can bet on that.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Day and Night

We came over the Rockies yesterday.  The sky was brilliant blue with lovely wisps of clouds way up high.  Snow covered the mountains and skiers skittered like ants down them.  The highway (I-70) was dry and absolutely clear of snow and ice.  It was a delightful drive.  Tony drove about half way and I drove the second half and on into Denver.  We had a nice lunch that Tony put together for us from groceries picked up in Foodtopia (Asheville, NC) and just really had a nice time going over.
Compare this with those other times when it is dark and cold and wet and icy.  Crossing the Rockies under those conditions is truly a truckdriver's nightmare (or at least THIS trucker!).  Unfortunately, it feels like we cross under less than ideal conditions more often than not.
We have been sent empty (deadheaded) from Denver to Kansas City where we assume there will be some freight available.  Deadheading doesn't bother us at all, it pays the same.
Can't even begin to guess where we will go next.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Back on the Road

We spent Tuesday doing all the laundry and repacking to get back into the truck.  I swear we have to stuff twice as much into this truck as we took out of it.  I usually end up sleeping the last night in the truck so that I can stay up late putting things away and getting the sleeper "ship-shape".  Tony usually turns in fairly early in the hotel room and then gets up early to get us back on the board and wait for the dispatch.  We got sent from Asheville back west to Memphis, Tennessee and that is where I am sitting now.  We pick up a Con-Way load early in the morning and head out to sunny Blythe, California.  
It is always nice to settle back into our road routine.  Leo, especially, likes to get back into road life.  He really loves riding in his co-pilot seat.
I still have stuff to write about with regards to our Asheville stay - just too busy right now to do it.  Mostly, we ate great food, had wonderful acupuncture and spa treatments, and reconnected with a dear friend from old Castelon/Terlingua days.
More later . . . 

Friday, February 6, 2009

Dinner out on the Town

Downtown Asheville was very lively tonight.  We enjoyed walking and window shopping.  We also enjoyed stopping for drinks and snacks a couple of times.  The first place we stopped was the New French Bar.  We had seats at the window bar and indulged in some people watching while sipping our drinks.

This was a crispy creamy CaramelAppleTini.  It was really good.  I managed to limit myself to just one.  Tony had a beer and we had a delicious cheese and fruit plate to munch on.  I couldn't get the picture to come out, but the brie on the plate had been grilled over wood of some kind.  It was smokey and melty and gooey . . . mmmmmmm.

We had dinner at a subterranean place called Zambra.  The local literature said the food was Spanish type tapas with interesting wine and beer lists.  We followed the advice of a couple of reviews and made a reservation for one of the pillow filled booths.  Oh yeah!  Lots of pillows and a cozy private booth.  Our waiter was very helpful with ordering and he was cute to boot!

This is actually a 1/2 bottle of wine.  It was a nice pinot noir from the Willamette Valley area.  It was a good choice for all the different foods to come.

We started with a delightful salad of grated crisp apple, spinach, walnuts and a local goat cheese that they called "cana de cabre".  It was a great start.

Then we had this savory plate of grilled scallops w/butternut kimchi, clementine-honey sauce and crispy rice noodles.  The scallops were sweet and succulent and the butternut kimchi had some explosive sour heat to set it off.  Luckily, the clementine-honey sauce brought it all around to a nice balance.

We also had a dish of Poppyseed gnocchi w/fresh crab, preserved lemon butternut sauce.    The gnocchi were melt-in-your mouth tender and the crab pieces were large and sweet.  This dish was flavorful, but not especially attractive.
Our last savory dish was one that Tony was really unsure of.  Luckily,  he trusts me and is always willing to give new things a try.   So, the dish was described as East Fork Farms rabbit and smoked pork jowl gumbo.  Can you see the look on Tony's face when I told him this was the next dish?  Can you also guess that it turned out to be his favorite?  It was smoky and thick with rice underneath a generous ladleful of Cajun goodness.  Alas, it was not at all photogenic, but this was - 

This is not just regular cheesecake.  Oh, no . . . it is made with that lovely goat cheese, "cana de cabre"  It almost had a blue cheese thing going and was really dense.  To balance, the topping was sugared pepitas.  And the raspberry puree made it all sing.

One of the coolest things about this restaurant is that they change the menu every day.  Reread that sentence and think about it.  The menu tonight had 16 tapas choices.  I will look forward to coming here again.  Wanna join us?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

First day in Asheville

We did make it to Asheville and are settled in for a great week of relaxation.  We also decided to do some nice things for ourselves - massages, a facial for me, acupuncture, maybe haircuts.  
So far, I have reconnected with a wonderful friend that I haven't seen in 17 years,  been to and had lunch in an absolutely heavenly grocery store (sounds weird, but if you follow this blog you'll understand my love affair with grocery stores), had  a great 2 shot latte with locally roasted coffee.
If that isn't enough, Tony and I tried to go to one great local restaurant, but ended up at a wonderful Greek restaurant instead.  We chose to go authentic and had the Souvlakia (pork medallions marinated in red wine and served with Greek pilaf) and Spanakopita  and split them between us.  They came with a Greek salads as well.  Lots of good food.  The Spanakopita was light and crispy and cheesy and dense all at once.  
And, of course, I couldn't eat without taking a photo of something.  This is a Greek pastry called KATAIFI

It came to the table looking like a giant sized Shredded Wheat biscuit.  But, oh what delightful sweetness.  The waitress described it as finely shredded phyllo wrapped around  a filling of ground walnuts and honey.  I would guess it is then soaked in honey.  It was really similar to baklava, but not as cloyingly sweet.  
I am now blogging while sipping on a glass of Zinfandel Port from California.  
Oh yeah . . . life is good!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A week in Asheville

We are heading to Asheville, North Carolina for some much needed rest and relaxation.  Yipeeee.  I'm going to dig out the camera book and work on taking better pictures.  So far, we are going to take the tour of the Biltmore Estate, do a segway tour of the NC Arboretum, go to a meadery for a mead tasting and eat at as many wonderful non-chain, non-truckstop restaurants as possible.  We might even try snowtubing at one of the area ski resorts.  There will most assuredly be some fun going on for the Faulks!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Glowing Snowscape

I have not spent much time driving in snowy landscapes.  As a kid, I lived in KC, MO and we had snow there.  I didn't drive much at 12, so my frame of reference was much smaller. 
 This month has had a lot of snow driving.  A LOT.  Not all of it has been coming down at the same time as the driving.  In fact, mostly I have driving through landscapes with lots of snow, but not much on the roadway.  
At night, the snowy landscape seems to have it's own light - it almost glows.  Since the trees and bushes are stark and slender, there is nothing to block the view of the ground.  Add to that the white blanket of the snow and it really starts to get interesting.  
In addition, snow seems to be the great equalizer of the winter landscape.  Small yards full of junk get covered up and turned into charming cottage scenes.  Add a fireplace sending out puffs of smoke and some golden glowing windows and what was squalid in the summer is now cozy and inviting.
I had a bad case of "Soup on the stove" yearning last week.  Thanks to my Mom, I did not get any farther than looking at properties on the internet.  Craigslist has been removed from my favorites until I can learn to "look responsibly".  Did you know you can get down to google street level and check out a property really really well?  One place was a corner house that we could even go around the corner and check out the back yard!  I really had it bad at one point and totally had visions of living a happy life in this darling house on a corner in a small town in Indiana.  
Never mind that we are totally happy and successful in this job precisely because we do not live in a happy little house in Indiana.  No mortgage and no need to go home are why we can stay out on the road and make such a good go of this!
So, my Mom talked me down and I was able to take a couple of head clearing breaths.  
Thanks, Mom!
We went to Canada this week from Detroit and came out through Buffalo.  I like that trip - it's like skipping a space on a board game.  We are heading out of Memphis to Augusta, Georgia.  We might actually be heading for some time-off and a mini vacation of sorts.  Asheville, NC has been calling to us for some time now.  We are going to visit the Biltmore Estate and do some groovy art gallery window shopping and just enjoy to winter landscape in the Smokies.
Leo might even get to do some snow snorkeling.  It requires lots of fresh powdery snow that has not fallen around a truckstop!  He loves it.