Thursday, April 21, 2016

Done with the Road?

Well, it looks like I'm done with driving over the road, so I probably won't have much more to say on this blog, but I don't want to shut it down, for the memories.

I had a blast for the five years I was out there, and I don't regret a thing - but I sure am glad to be home now. I get to have a garden for the first time since we headed out, and it is so pleasurable to get my hands dirty with soil again. I look forward to a healthy harvest.

If you like the way I write, I do have an ongoing blog, which is home to book reviews, musings about the books I'm working on, as well as news about my writing in general.

I would love for you to visit:

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Remembering 49 States

Upon hearing me boast (yepgot busted boasting!) that I had been to every state in the Lower 48, someone recently challenged me as to whether I could come up with a meaningful anecdote from each state.

I accepted that challengealthough I don't remember who issued it as it was a friend of a friendand I have been working on it. I've got 16 of them covered, so far. It's going to take a while.

I've found it's a good exercise both for my memory and just creativity in general.

Here are the results:

Anecdotes by State –
Except where noted, all memories are as an adult, between 1992 and the present.

Alabama – Got lost in downtown Mobile once, trying to get to the docks. It’s kind of a cool-looking city. Saw more than one sunset from the bridge coming in. The freeway going through tunnels right at the city is pretty cool, the way they go way down deep under the channel, then back up. Farther north, driving by Birmingham and seeing signs of destruction from tornadoes that had recently struck. Also, spotting the statue of Vulcan from a distance.

Alaska – Only state I haven’t been to, yet.

Arizona – Oh, where to start?
  • Spent a day and a half exploring Tombstone, including being invited to John the bartender’s wedding at Big Nose Kate’s, which happened right out in the street in front. Sadly, he was waaay drunk. Cool ‘reenactments’ and buying 1880’s clothes. Window shopping the souvenirs.
  • Highway 60 through the White River Canyon—scary and gorgeous. Seeing cars that had gone over the sides and were left because it was impossible to get them out.
  • Of course, the Grand Canyon. Three times, once as a kid. This last time going in stormy weather, standing on the rim with my hair standing straight up from the electrical charge. Walking parts of the South Rim trail, ending up having to catch a shuttle back in a downpour.
  • Exploring Flagstaff on foot. Nice shops. Nice people—we talked to several, in shops and on the bus. Driving rental car to Grand Canyon, and also to the Two Arrows Casino east of town.
  • Driving the Virgin River Gorge several times, but once with the moon rising and making the canyon walls look super cool—which they do anyway.
  • Picking up copper plates at a copper mine/smelter in Hayden in +100 degree heat. Seeing (from a distance) the molten copper being poured out of giant kettles and marveling that the workers could stand the heat—noticing how they all moved really slowly.

Arkansas – Picking up steel beams in Blytheville and Osceola. (I know: Yawn.) Also repeatedly long traffic snarls due to bridge work closing one direction of the freeway and everyone having to squeeze to one lane. Driving north on I-540 through Fayetteville, up and down hills and around curves in crappy weatherwind and rain and wondering if there was a tornado in there somewhere.

California – Lots here, too. Here’s the best:
  • Delivering a load to Avila Beach, spending the rest of the day walking on the beach, talking to locals, having dinner in a nice restaurant, watching the sunset over the boardwalk, and then falling asleep to the sound of the waves right outside the truck window.
  • Driving down the Grapevine with a heavy load the first time. I stayed slow, so it was fine, but I was nervous.
  • Being part of a convoy of trucks delivering solar farm parts to a remote location near Santa Margarita. Road was so curvy they had to close it to traffic coming the other way so trucks could clear corners without worry.
  • Driving into a huge electrical storm near Barstow while hauling a load of coiled rebar.
  • Several trips over Donner Pass, a few in crappy weather. Views when stopped on top at the rest areas. Once waiting for highway to open, we had a great lunch at a tiny café in Applegate.
  • Delivering a load to a construction site just near Crissy Field, and exploring the beach on the Bay, with the Golden Gate Bridge in the near distance.
  • Delivering reclaimed/recycled wood materials to McCloud in a snowstorm. We had parked just outside their yard that night, and had to chain up just to get into their yard so we could deliver.

Colorado – Spending a day in Englewood with Collin’s sister and nieces. Driving US Highway 550 by moonlight between Durango and SilvertonCoal Bank Pass. Driving over ‘the hill’Vale Pass, etc, in all kinds of weather. Getting passed by a Schneider truck with smoking brakes going west down from Vale. Glenwood Canyon is cool to drive, with the gorge narrowing and the interstate having to be on stair-stepped bridges and tunnels just to fit alongside the river.

Connecticut – getting stopped by a State Trooper because he couldn’t see our IFTA sticker. When Collin hopped out to talk to him, the trooper instructed him to get back in the truck, stating, “That’s a good way to get yourself shot here in Connecticut.” And of course, the traffic! Gah! Lots of cool architecture (seen from the highway)notably churches in Hartford and Waterbury. Driving I-95 along the coast.

Delaware – One of our first loads, we were picking up some freightplanks from old pickle barrelsfrom a tiny place and had to stop for the night because it was storming so bad and it was pitch dark. The truck was rocking all night from the wind. Then driving in to the town in the morning (I think it was Millsboro) with the whole landscape drenched. The people we were picking up from brought coffee out to us, and they were very nice. They were metal artists, and they had lots of cool yard art everywhere. On another trip, picking up ramp parts for the X-Games double loop stunt to take to Los Angeles. (Parts were still being painted, plus they were oversize and we had to wait for permits.)

District of Columbia – Saw an accident, with a guy in handcuffs sitting on the median and cops all over. Didn’t spend too much time actually within the borders of DC, but experienced a LOT of traffic going around it.

Florida – lots, here:
  • Spending the day with my uncle and his wife exploring Tarpon Springs, an old Greek community of sponge divers. Neat aquarium. Got to ‘pet’ snakes and little manta rays.
  • Visiting Kissimmee, watching the show at Medieval Times, walking around exploring, seeing a ‘gator farm.’ Shopping for souvenirs.
  • Delivering a load of rocket parts to Cape Canaveral—actually out onto the base. Saw where they launch the shuttles from. Then spent the rest of the day at the beach by the port, watching dolphins escorting the passing cruise ships, seeing manatees, sea turtles, and other wildlife.
  • Breaking down in Vero Beach and ‘having’ to spend a couple days there. Walking on the beach, drinking great piña coladas and eating at Waldo’s, visiting with locals.
  • Making a delivery in Miami, arriving late and parking on the street outside the receiver, and having a woman knock on the door at 2am, ostensibly checking out where we were delivering, but probably selling drugs or herself.

Georgia – Exploring Augusta on foot the weekend before the Masters; walking the river trail, meeting locals. Visiting Collin’s nephew and his family in Fort Benning, seeing the Infantry Museum with them. Driving up I-95 watching for tornados.

Hawaii – went as a kid. Snorkeling from a catamaran. Helicopter tour of Kauai. Exploring the Napali Coast in a Zodiac boat. Getting seasick and ‘curing’ it with fresh pineapple. Hanging out at the condo on Kauai and the hotel in Honolulu, hoping to meet boys. Picking up a tiny lizard from the wall in the condo, only to have its tail break off in my hand.

Idaho – Some old memories, some new:
  • Coming down Fourth of July Pass and seeing the beautiful vistas. Same with the Idaho side of Lookout Pass.
  • Driving US 12 between Missoula (MT) and Kooskia. (Done it in a car and in the truck.) Beautiful vistas, mountains, valleys and rivers.
  • Standing at an overlook of Lake Coeur D’Alene with rags of fog blowing across the lake.
  • McCall, seeing the boats in the marina at the lake, at sunset.
  • Arco and the Craters of the Moon State Park – very otherworldly landscapes.
Illinois – Some old memories, mostly new:
  • Walking from the train station to Shedd Aquarium and having a very nice gentleman ask me to have coffee with him. (I turned him down, since I didn’t have much time to spare.) Same trip, seeing Chicago from the top of the Sears Tower.
  • Driving through downtown Chicago in the semi, both on the Interstate, and on surface streets; traffic so bad it felt like we were backing up on the Interstates, and wondering if we were going to end up faced with a low overpass or nosed into some impossible situation on the surface streets.
  • Waking up late at night to find Collin had stopped to help at the scene of a rollover semi accident near Joliet, flagging vehicles around it.

Indiana – Stopping at the Warm Glow Candle factory for their Spring Tent Sale, spending lots of money on candles and wine and window-shopping all the knick-knacks. Many many many trips down US 30 in all kinds of weather and traffic – avoiding the toll road.

Iowa – Stopping at the “World’s Largest Truck Stop” and wondering what the fuss is all about. Driving I-80 into the teeth of a storm with tornado warnings going off on the radio, wondering if we were going to see a funnel cloud. (We didn’t.)

Kansas – Exploring a bit of Syracuse, Kansas, the setting for my novels. Having my first blowout on a back highway and having to drive 30 miles to the nearest town to get a new tire after hours. Picking up a load at a Rubbermaid plant in Salina that was closing down, talking to employees there.

Kentucky – Driving a back road in Eastern Kentucky, past the birthplace of Daniel Boone, seeing signs for Harlan, and thinking how old the country seems. Having the feeling like maybe I lived in the hollers in another lifetime. Hard to explain. Staying at a Super 8 in Florence and talking to folks who lived in the hotel, telling us how the police regularly raid the hotel due to drug activity. (Yikes!)

Louisiana – Delivering freight to a school in New Orleans that was being repaired after Hurricane Katrina, seeing signs of other buildings that had been damaged by the storm. Driving along I-10 through the Atchafalaya Swamp. Visiting the Louisiana Purchase Zoo in Monroe, where we took lots of pictures of several unusual animals (and some ‘normal’ zoo animals) and walked around in a park across the street, while we waited for it to open.

Maine – Picking up several loads of bagged mulch from the Scott’s plant way up in Medway. Eating a lunch of Shepherd’s Pie at a truck stop. Watching for but never seeing any moose.

Maryland – Besides being stuck in traffic going around Baltimore, we delivered freight to a tiny town out in western Maryland, I think near Hagerstown, at a motocross race park. Got there late and night and weren’t sure at all that we were in the right place. Oh! I also saw an Orioles game at Camden Yard, their baseball stadium, while Cal Ripkin was still in his ‘most consecutive games started’ streak.

Massachusetts – Driving on the freeway which goes underground through much of Boston, with exchanges underground and everything. Crazy. Also, driving the Massachusetts Turnpike from end to end, singing James Taylor—(“Well the first of December was covered in snow. So was the Turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston. Ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go...”) Also delivering a load to Logan Airport.

Michigan – Delivering freight to the construction site at the Four Winds Casino outside Grand Rapids, then going to a shooting range across the street from the next pickup and borrowing a pistol to use for target practice. Also seeing the saddest town in Michigan—the name escapes me, I think it was Warren—but it was the most run down town I think I’ve ever seen. Driving on roads with the stupidest left turn scenario I’ve ever seen. (Go past the light to a U-turn lane, and have to cross two to three lanes of active traffic to get to the right turn lane, and make a right turn.)

Minnesota – A few memories. Here are the best:
  • Stopping at a rest area overlooking Duluth and Lake Superior. Very pretty.
  • Delivering emergency bridge materials to Ray, up almost to the Canadian border, in the dark and pouring rain, and getting a flat tire from the yard. Coming back down and spending the night on the edge of a lake we couldn’t see until morning. Beautiful, under-populated country that feels almost forsaken, in a good way.
  • Hanging out much of the day in Garrison, then watching the moon rise over Mille Lacs Lake.

Missouri – getting the truck stuck in the ditch outside the cemetery where my grandparents are buried. Putting flowers and solar lights at their grave. Getting lost in St. Louis, more than once, due to road construction on the Interstate. Spending an afternoon in Oak Grove, having lunch with my cousin from Independence; also dinner (Kansas City BBQ!) on another visit.

Mississippi – Spending Fourth of July weekend in Vicksburg, gambling at the casinos, staying in an historic hotel, eating at a seafood buffet, talking with locals, including a very nice taxi driver. Discovering the cheapest fuel at Space Age Truck Stop in Meridian and making that a regular stop.

Montana – Many memories. Here are several of the best:
  • Visiting Little Bighorn National Monument (twice). Standing where Reno & Benteen hunkered down to await reinforcements, and thinking I had been there before. Listening to accounts of the Battle that were vastly different from what I learned in school—thankfully.
  • Visiting good friends in Helena, having dinner with them, letting their kids play on the flatbed.
  • Seeing the big hole in the ground that is Butte, Montana.
  • Seeing the 500’ tall Anaconda copper smelting tower—and later seeing it from 30,000 feet as I flew east, heading to Great Britain.
  • Exploring the Lewis & Clark caverns with Elaine. Having a bit of a hot flash when they turned off the lights.
  • Getting detoured 200 miles (RT) off I-90 due to flooding on the interstate, wondering if the roads we were diverted to would stay open long enough for us to get back on track—weather was wild and woolley. Ended up buying a favorite pair of slip-on shoes in a store that I would never have been to, otherwise.
  • Driving by Glacier National Park – beautiful country.
  • Stopping at the $10,000 Silver Dollar trading post several times, mostly to buy knives.

Nebraska – For whatever reason, this is my most boring state to drive through on I-80. I recall listening to the soundtrack of the Les Miserables 10 year celebration in an attempt to stay awake. I do, however, recall stopping once in Alliance, where we watched a parade of motorcycles going by. They were escorting veterans who were on their way to see the Veterans Memorial in DCwe were given flags to wave. We also got quite familiar with Northern Nebraska on US 20, as we had a ‘special back way’ to get from Minnesota to California, that involved several backcountry roads through South Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming.

Nevada – Several visits to Las Vegas, walking the Strip, gambling and hanging out on Fremont Street. Also enjoy gambling in Wendover. Spent rather a lot of time in Reno and Sparks, too. Enjoyed taking a boat ride on the Colorado River in Laughlin, and the water taxi over to Bullhead City in Arizona, where we often parked the truck. Gambled a lot in various casinos and walked along the river quite a few times. Even considered moving there (Laughlin).

New Hampshire – This may be the toughest one. I remember Collin wanted to look for marble rocks to bring home to the yard, so we were keeping our eyes open for likely places we could pull off and look for some. Never did find any. I also remember keeping my eyes open for moose. I’m not sure we ever picked up or delivered a load in this state, just drove through parts of it two or three times.

New Jersey – Driving on the New Jersey Turnpike many times, singing the immortal lines from “America” by Simon & Garfunkle. ("Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike and they've all come to look for America...") Getting lost more times that I care to think about in the greater Jersey City area—once looking at where we were on the iPad and seeing the roads all tangled up like a pile of spaghetti. Unloading a container at Port Elizabeth and looking across the Hudson at Manhattan.

New Mexico – Delivering insulated panels for Spaceport America in Truth or Consequences. Driving past the Very Large Array of radio telescopes off US 60. Spending a day exploring Old Town Albuquerque, talking to locals, including proprietors of a specialty Olive Oil store, and several jewelers. Gambling at the Route 66 Casino with our trucker friend, Leon. Spending the night in Bernalillo, gambling at the casino there.

New York – Quite a few memories here:
  • Delivering a load out to Long Island, running out of hours, and parking on the side of the road, where we got a flat in a pothole. Lots of time rubbernecking while in traffic going over the George Washington Bridge.
  • Exploring Niagara Falls with my cousin. (Twice now, once with Collin, once earlier.) Taking the Maid of the Mists boat ride right up into the mist of the falls.
  • Missing our exit off I-94, having to turn around, but not able to easily because we had to turn around due to a low clearance bridge. When we got back on track, got pulled in to a roadside inspection and got ticketed for hours of service violations.
  • Picking up a load of jetskiis in Champlain, way up by the Canadian border. They were going to be delivered in Laredo, Texas.

North Carolina – I didn’t think this one would be so hard. On our first trip across country, we picked up some boards that had been salvaged from a school’s bleachers in Greenville. Backing up into their driveway was a trick. This was the same trip as the Pickle barrel planks from Delaware—they were all going to McCloud, California to a place that makes specialty items out of recycled materials. I remember driving the interstate and noting the near absence of billboards. I think they have a rule about how high signs can be. I know we’ve been through several times, and picked up loads near Raleigh, but I’m not coming up with anything else that was memorable.

North Dakota – Delivering oilfield pipe to an area outside of Williston, and construction materials to a housing development in Fargo. Talking to locals in both places about how the area is booming due to the oil business, but as a result, housing is hard to find and super expensive, as is the cost of living. Driving across the state several times—often in such heavy winds that we worried about getting blown over. Stopping at a rest area and getting a brochure about Nokota horses, learning about them and getting involved enough to make some good friends, and putting the breed in my books.

Ohio – Driving through Cincinnati while people were going to see a Redsox game, seeing them crossing the highway by walking on the overpasses. Spending a night in Gallipolis, at a Super 8 very near the bridge, where the owner (a dentist) lived on the top floor in a custom suite he’d built. Walking along the Ohio River and around town. Spending Fourth of July weekend in Mentor, walking around the mall, got haircuts at the JC Penney’s; talked to lots of locals.

Oklahoma – Driving past Lake Eufaula and making myself laugh with jokes about pronouncing the name: “I’m going down to the Lake, Eufaula, OK?” (say it like ‘you fallah, okay’.) Gambling at the Firelake casino outside of Shawnee. Picking up flint gravel near Picher, a town that was closed due to poisoned water supply from the lead and zinc mines. Seeing the giant piles of chat (flint rubble) that were left behind. Wondering now how safe it was to be hauling that bagged flint away, as it was essentially part of what led to the town being a superfund site.

Oregon – too much to share: home state. Suffice to say I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

Pennsylvania – Visiting the US Army Heritage Museum, where we met and talked to a ‘reenactor’ for a long time. Stopping on top of I-81 before heading down into Scranton, to tarp some wood because it had started to rain. And Pittsburgh, the town I love to hate on. It is so old and...dirty. The roads are very narrow and steep, and full of crazy traffic—not a fun place to drive a truck. Getting lost going to the US Steel mill not once, but twice. Seeing it after dark with the lights reflected in the river and thinking this is the best aspect of Pittsburgh I’ve ever seen. Going through one night, trying to avoid the Turnpike, and having our way blocked by the freeway being flooded.

Rhode Island – Visiting my cousins in Westerly for a long weekend, walking on the beach, having a nice dinner at their house.

South Carolina – Picking up steel outside of Charleston, watching the sunrise over the Atlantic. Driving through Columbia–nice looking town. Having dinner with old family friends (the Eades) outside of Greenville.

South Dakota – Family Reunion at park on Lake Francis Case, near Wagner. Going to a casino for the first time to play 21 with my cousin Ann. Watching a heat lightning storm in the distance. On same trip, visiting the Black Hills, camping at Flintstone’s Bedrock City, seeing the Badlands. Standing at the Wounded Knee memorial and getting an eerie feeling that I’d been there before. Collin has stories about I-29 being shut down due a blizzard, and waiting it out in a truck stop.

Tennessee – Killing time in Loudon. We were delivering a load across the river, and wanted to find something to do, so we bobtailed into town and explored on foot. Had a great meal at a nice restaurant—the Riverwalk Grill at Carmichael Inn, and talked to locals, including at an indoor swap meet. And the joy of driving through Nashville during rush hour. Those people know nothing about driving at a steady speed, but jam on the brakes relentlessly. There are three major interstate exchanges in about 6 miles, so it is understandable, just annoying.

Texas – Oh boy. We spent rather a lot of time in Texas:
  • Delivering multiple loads of hay to the Mayor of Boyd. Very nice guy. Almost claiming one of the puppies born there. (If it had been old enough, we may have done.)
  • Delivering load of jetskiis to Laredo—hurrying to get in and out of town before dark, as we had been told it was not a safe place to spend the night.
  • Waiting for a load out of El Paso—spending the day exploring the Cielo Vista Mall, noticing how well behaved the children were, and how relaxed the parents were.
  • Delivering wine equipment to new vineyards in the Texas Hill country around Johnson City. Ran into an overhanging branch and damaged one of the pieces. Receiver was very understanding.
  • Spending the night in a truck stop near Denton, listening to the thunder and lightning all night long, pretty sure there was going to be a tornado. (There wasn’t.)
  • Getting frustrated first time trying to drive through Dallas on the freeway during rush hour and missing our exchange at least twice. This was the inciting incident that convinced us we needed a GPS.
  • Visiting Collin’s sister in Killeen twice. Once to give her our dog, Buddy, who didn’t like riding on the truck, once to visit him after.
  • Seeing the Gulf Coast while delivering to Brownsville, watching flying fish at the port we delivered at. Driving by Corpus Christie, and considering how flat everything is and what it would be like if a hurricane came through. Same trip, getting stopped by Border Patrol checkpoint, forgetting to remove my sunglasses, and having to open my door so a drug dog could sniff the entry.

Utah – Truck broke down in Provo once, had to get towed out of US 89’s canyons. Spent the night outside the tow-truck’s shop. Great people. We actually considered moving to Provo or Ogden—we like the way people walk around in town and get out and about. Got out and messed around on the salt flats at a rest area in western Utah. Loved driving through Moab—beautiful sights. Stopped once on a back road to look at a rock/hill that was very similar to the beehive sigil on the state highway signs; parked on the side of the road and walked up to see the ‘cave’ which was really just an opening carved into the side, not very deep.

Virginia – Driving over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge at night, remembering the story from my childhood about my sister freaking out because the bridge goes into tunnels that go underwater. Getting lost in Virginia Beach trying to get to the bridge—this was before we got the GPS. We went up and down I-81 so many times. Spent the night in a hotel in Wytheville; walked around and shopped.

Vermont – Delivered a load of panels for the bank’s vault in Manchester Center. We got to town a day early, and spent time walking around town, including the cemetery. Talked to locals, one woman who was walking her dog in her pajamas. There was an old grist mill next to a millpond that was being developed into a restaurant. Got some cool reflections photos. Sweet town. Also delivered a load in Burlington, and spent the night in the K-Mart parking lot. Driving up there was kinda surreal to think how relatively close we were to New York City, and yet there is hardly anything up there.

Washington – Several here, since it is close to home:
  • Spending Memorial Day weekend camping on my brother’s property in Pacific Beach—in the pouring rain. (My dog Dodger wanted to go home so bad he jumped into the trunk of my car when I was loading it.)
  • Driving around Mt. St. Helens post-May 18, 1980 eruption—several times, now. (Once as a kid, more times as an adult.) Exploring the Ape Caves 3-4 times, walking both the upper and lower sections. Seeing what’s left of Spirit Lake.
  • Going to see the King Tut Exhibit in Seattle as a kid. Having lunch in the Space Needle.
  • Driving over Snoqualmie Pass in the snow.
  • Stopping at a farmer’s market in northeastern Washington—I want to say Chewelah. Buying jam and fresh bread and having a picnic lunch of fresh treats.
  • Delivering a load in Everett and having time to kill, so we went to the Saturday Market at the docks, bought fresh fruit. Ate dinner at a restaurant overlooking the marina and talked to lots of people.

Wisconsin – Spending a couple nights in Lake Delton, gambling at the Ho Chunk casino there.

West Virginia – Driving the I-77 toll road up and down and up and down...under a heavy load. What a chore! Also, going through the tunnel in Wheeling to avoid the big hill on the bypass. Only suggest doing that at night in a truck—during traffic it would suck.

Wyoming – several memories, here:
  • Getting “GPS lost” near Lovell and getting directed across 10-15 miles of dirt road in the snow, when we could have turned right and gone straight to the load out.
  • Driving up US 20 from Shoshoni to Thermopolis, passing Boysen Reservoir and going through narrow canyons where the road has to tunnel through outcrops. In the snow. Beautiful.
  • Camping with Elaine on a spit of land sticking out into Boysen Reservoir.
  • Seeing a Moose near Fort Bridger. Also near Fort Bridger, picking up a couple motors from windmills at the wind farm, standing looking out across the mountains and feeling the emptiness.
  • Driving in strong winds between Laramie and Cheyenne, and between Laramie and Rock Springs, hoping the truck doesn’t blow over.
  • Stopping for fuel for Elaine’s Bronco in Sheridan, and getting more water than fuel. Getting stuck for 5 hours while the fuel tank was removed and dried out. Having a HUGE thunder, lightning and hailstorm pass over us. Then, back on the road, driving through the same storm. Stopping in Casper to call Elaine’s friend and having the storm blow over us again. Then driving through it again, singing the lines from U2’s Bullet the Blue Sky (“And the rain poured through the gaping wound, pelting the women and children...) and having it roll over us again while we stopped to see Elaine’s friend. (Coming in to camp in the Black Hills, seeing folks setting their tents back up and in the morning drying out sleeping bags—if we hadn’t been stopped by the fuel fiasco, we would have been there with camp already set up, too, when that same storm came through.)
    Additional Notes: I haven't mapped it for sure, but I'd be very surprised to learn I haven't traveled on at least a segment of every interstate in the countryand a high percentage of US Highways.

Monday, April 28, 2014

On Being a Sick Truck Driver

I've made a few small posts about this already, and I don't want to come across as whiny, but it really does suck being sick on a truck.

I mean, it's not even really a bad cold, just stuffy head, sniffles, and aches, but oh, the things I take for granted when I'm sick at home.

One thing I like to do for a cold is drink tea and/or orange juice. Well, on a truck there is no readily available bathroom, so fluids intake is problematic.

Another thing is a good night's rest, and in general just lazing about. I've been lucky so far, since Collin has felt better and I needed to reset my hours, anyway. Except that trying to rest on a moving truck is not easy, or restful. Especially here in the east after a crappy winter has roads that were already bad, have been torn up even worse.

Even though we spent one night in a hotel, where I got to dip in the hot tub, I still woke up this morning feeling like I'd been in a sparing match with Hugh Jackman. (Think 'Real Steel')

I thought I'd at least be able to get some writing done, but my attention span is only equal to about 15 minutes. 20 on a good streak. Like I'm already losing interest in writing this....

It may just be the cold, but I also feel like I have no nerve for driving in this east coast hustle and traffic. Usually I'm able to just let Collin drive, but I've spent the last two days holding on to the OS handle and hollering at other drivers to stay in their lanes. Not like me at all!

The good part is that Collin and I have been chatting while I ride shotgun, which we don't seem to get to do, much. (I know, you'd think working together 24/7 we'd have said it all....) We've hatched a plan to pay off the house by 2016, so maybe we can go back to working local and hang up the Ball & Chain and our OTR miles in favor of a nice, simple life at home....

Sounds really good about now.

I know I'll be better in a day or so, but I hope we remember our incentive to pay down the house, so we can get this stage, this means to an end, behind us.

We can figure out what exactly the 'end' is later.

Okay. It's hot here in Miami, and we're waiting on the side of the road for our next load, and my attention is falling on napping more than writing this blog.

Thanks for reading! There will be more, later. ♡♥♡♥♡

Sunday, April 20, 2014

On Being a Truck Driver Who Writes

(Or: On Being Tired and Out of Touch)

So I've been on the road for three weeks, now, and we have been back and forth across the USA -- not quite coast to coast.

Let's see: Mill City, OR to Sisseton, SD to Watertown, SD to Mason City, IA to Faribault MN to Seattle, WA to Ferndale, WA to Clearfield, UT to Spanish Fork, UT to Blaine, MN to Stewartville, MN to Spokane, WA to Swedesboro, NJ to Fonda, NY to Chino, CA.... Well, we'll deliver in Chino tomorrow morning. You get the picture.

That's over 13,000 (yes thousand!) miles.

I won't say I'd forgotten how tiring non-stop travel can be. But I had forgotten the reality of feeling that tired.

But it is funny because I've actually written more out here than I expected I would. Feels like more than I wrote all winter. Almost. I think the reason for that is because I can't get online at a moment's whim like I could at home. So when I'm not driving or sleeping, when I crank up the laptop, there's really not much else to do except write. Not much signal across Montana and South Dakota, never mind Wyoming. At least not a quality signal that doesn't have me pulling out my hair.

Oh, there is the never-ending receipts that have to be entered in the computer, and the husband who wants to implement a 5 year plan so we can go back to being local, which requires budgeting, which I can geek out on for hours.

But I'm getting the writing done, too. Plus, there's not much to do other than think of plot lines and conflicts and back story while driving. Inspiration is surprisingly abundant while I'm watching what little traffic is out there in Big Sky Country.

And you know what? The Google Keep app has pretty good voice recognition quality, so I can dictate notes into my phone hands free, at least well enough to know what idea I was trying to impart.

So, surprisingly, it is working. Which is what I should be doing now. Except I wanted to update folks on what it is like out here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Brokedown in Utah (Again)

Not saying I'd rather be elsewhere, but the people at Larry's Towing in Provo Utah are very nice. If we have to break down in this part of the country, this is a much better solution than Mountain West Volvo.

So, what happened? you wonder. We had just gotten loaded in Spanish Fork and were heading up Highway 189 when we heard a clang like a spring breaking, and then a rattle that slowed down as we did. We got safely pulled over and looked for the problem. Turns out the cap came off a u-joint. We didn't lose the driveline entirely, but we were stuck.

The folks at Larry's Towing came and brought us back to Provo last night, and have it apart. There is no damage, we just need a new u-joint. It is taking a little longer than anticipated, but we hope to be on the road soon.

Larry's crew are upfront and thorough, so we are more than willing to take the time to fix it right now, rather than having the same problem down the road because they didn't notice a small part that was ready to fail.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Starting Out Again

So, we kick off another year of trucking with a resounding thud.

Since I last blogged here, we changed our system so that I take a few months off in the winter, which does a lot toward preventing the need to save our marriage. See, things slow down enough in the winter that we would just be butting heads and going stir crazy.

But come April it is time for me to get back on the truck.

So last night (after pushing like crazy to get everything packed into the new truck, which has much less storage) we headed up to Vancouver Washington to pick up a load of brewing vats headed for Fargo North Dakota. Now, the vats themselves would fit on our trailer, but not with the ladder hooks and braces -- it was too big!

So we drove up here for nothing.

We had breakfast at the Cascade Grill at the Jubitz Truck Stop and have been sitting here pretty much all day. All the alternative loads haven't offered any good pay, but it looks like we're going to take some lumber out of Mill City headed for somewhere in eastern South Dakota.

Hopefully once we get off the left coast will get back to where there is good paying freight.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Reely Spooly

Drove to Malvern, Arkansas to pick up 5 reels of cable bound for Oregon. Four to be delivered in Prineville, one to be delivered to Portland. An opportunity to go home and put the truck into the shop for some pressing work that needs to be done.

It took better than 3 hours of waiting before we could get our reels loaded, but we got them chained down - again we have the 'one chain short' issue we will have to remedy when we get home. Because of the lateness of our departure, and the Prineville customer not being ready, we won't deliver until Thursday after lunch there, and in Portland on Friday morning. We should be home Friday afternoon.
After a crazy night of driving over the Blue Mountains in a pretty significant snowstorm, and then winding our way past John Day on Hwy 26, we arrived in Prineville about four hours later than we planned, but still three hours ahead of schedule. It was good that we had pushed on, given how slow the going was once we got into Oregon.
Delivered four reels to PacificCorp in Prineville, OR to a job site that turned out to be a new data center for facebook. It took a while for them to be ready for us, since it had recently rained and made the unloading area a soggy mess. They had to spread more gravel and grade it in order for us to get in without getting stuck.
While we were waiting, we happened to be sitting across the street from a place that makes custom tarps. They happened to have a set of nine foot tarps in yellow that a customer had failed to purchase after ordering, so we got them on sale. A nice case of being in the right place at the right time.

After we got unloaded, we drove over Mt. Hood in minimal snowfall, and spent the night near a mill in Boring, Oregon, before heading in to Portland to deliver the last reel to General Electric on SE 17th.

On the way home we crossed the Woodburn Scales and got pulled in for a random level one DOT inspection, which we passed, including the logbooks. A good thing for our SMS score.

We were home by noon. Ah!