Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Round Trip dispatch

Our first dispatch took us from NC to Laredo, TX.  On our way we stopped just south of Houston  to visit.  We met up with some bee-keeping-soap-making friends of and ours, and their warm hospitality surrounded us and was a welcome change of pace to our road life. Their house and gardens were amazing and they had chickens and several charming cats and two dogs.  It was the kind of house that makes you just want to curl up with a good book and melt into the woodwork.  Thank you so much Steve and Sarah and Jane for such a wonderful time in your home.

Laredo was hot.  There is alot that can be said about Laredo but my patience with  this jiggling computer screen is wearing thin. 

After Laredo, we picked up Toyota parts in San Antonio, rejects, and took them to Kentucky.  In Kentucky, we were loaded at the same dock with the replacement parts and are taking those back to San Antonio.  Interesting to be dispatched on a round trip delivery!!!  The Toyota plant was impressive.  Huge, well maintained and very organized.  It was  good to finally be back on the road again.  I had two days of down  time, just sitting in the truck while Zy drove and met with shippers and while we waited.  I've had two 34 hour resets just since getting back in the truck last Friday.  Zygote has had one.  I was ready  to drive last night and did over 600 miles with only  one stop and no caffeine.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Paper Logs and Telephone dispatch

Headed out this morning from home.  Picked up an empty trailer in Hendersonville and are going to Mt Holly, NC to get a load going out to Laredo.  We have no driver tech at all now...this is the computer that we use to communicate with the company and that they use to send us dispatches and directions.  We are getting an education now in trucking the old time way, paper logs and dispatches by phone.  At least we don't have to pull over to use a pay phone!!!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice

Summer Solstice finds us home at last.  As much as I thought I would enjoy returning to the nomadic life is as much as I have needed to come home after this last 7 weeks on the road, first with my trainer and then with Zy.  It seems that with the attempts to settle into a brand new life, and hence brand new routines, there are never enough hours in the day/night to get it all done.  Slowly some of the newness of every single task is wearing off and we are working together more and more.  The biggest challenges of the first two weeks have been getting enough sleep and not killing each other in such a small space.

I have chosen to take the night shift, so my typical day was arise around 1100am, eat my breakfast while Zy drove, make lunch for him, get him whatever he needed, since he'd been driving all night, familiarize myself with where we were and where we needed to be, gather my things for my driving shift and then settle into the passenger seat to sightsee and help navigate until 2pm.  At 2pm, I took over the driving, Zy then tended to his things, prepared dinner for us, got me whatever I needed, planned the next leg of our mileage/stops and then he went to bed, usually around 6 - 7pm.  I would drive until 1 or 2am, listening to XM radio or just enjoying the views.  I had some amazing sunsets, spectacular landscapes and a big beautiful full moon several nights.  By 2am, I was looking for a place to shut down, not always an easy find at that hour of the night, as most truck stops are full by then.  What we found is that the rest areas in most states have truck parking, and that not many drivers use them.  I would pull over in a quiet rest stop and get a few hours of sleep before Zy got up around 5am and started us down the road again.  This schedule seems to work well for us when we are on the long trips.  The challenges come in when the day consists of sitting at the shippers, unloading, dropping and picking up trailers, etc.  Then my sleep time from 5am - 11am is interrupted at best, or possibly completely gone.  Many days I was functioning on 3 hours of sleep.  This will be a glitch that we will have to figure out as we get more proficient at this whole thing. 

Having not seen most states, travelling out to California and back via Washington was a wonderful experience for me.  So far the state I was most drawn to was Montana.  I really enjoyed my evening of driving across I-90, seeing the full moon rise in front of me over the Bitterroot Range and marvelling at the snow capped peaks in the distance.  One of the most perplexing sights for me was Salt Lake, Utah.  I passed the Morton salt plant on the shores of the lake; then, I drove for miles and miles through the Bonneville flats wondering at this bizarre place with its 'overdose' energetic field and it's long prehistory, seemingly frozen, awaiting the next cataclysmic earth event to jossle it into the next eon.   The Grateful Dead XM radio station worked for the perfect backdrop to my pointless and random musings.  Palm Springs was aberrantly interesting to me for some reason.  It may have had something to do with the fact that we were hauling WATER to them.  The entire landscape is whirring with hundreds of windmills, as far as you can see, super-imposed over the imposing horizon of the Santa Rosa mountains.  The desert clime adds to the eclectic techno-insanity of the windmill vibe.  I ate at a Del Taco for the first time; the counter girl told me that there is a woman that flies in on business every so often and orders 40 tacos to take home to her husband because there is no Del Taco where they live in Michigan.  Although their tacos were good, I was not so enchanted as to need to order 40 of them.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Home Time

Sorry for the long gap in posts, but these last 2 weeks have been a challenge. After finishing a shift of driving, neither of us had the energy to post.  We are home now in Black Mountain, we arrived early Saturday morning after dropping a load bound for Georgia at the company's Lexington, North Carolina terminal.

We have had  many adventures out for our first 2 weeks. The driving consisted of runs from Georgia to Ohio, Ohio to Northern California, from Northern California to the desert in Palm Springs, navigating LA in bumper to bumper traffic, a run to Seattle on Interstate 5 from southern California, then out to the Olympic Peninsula to get a load bound for Evansville, Indiana.  From Evansville we picked up a priority load from Indianapolis to Dulles International Airport in Northern Virgina. Finally we picked up a load in Danville, VA (only a few hours from towns where we both lived as children) and took that load to the Lexington Terminal.  It was hard, fun, exciting, terrifying, tiring, and a bit overwhelming. It was as tough as we expected and worse, and better all at the same time.

We are relaxing now and plan more detailed posts. For now I leave you with some of my favorite pictures taken on the trip.

 Willow driving on our first day out
 Mountains in the Cumberland Plateau on the Tennessee Kentucky border
 Elk Mountain from a rest stop in Wyoming
In the foreground you can see that animals under the influence of illegal substances
are strictly prohibited , this is a common practice at most rest stops
 Rock Formations on I 80 near the Wyoming and Utah border
 Prairie Dog at a Rest stop north of Salt Lake City, Utah
 Incredible Canyon on I 80 coming from Wyoming to Salt Lake City
 Panoramic shot of that canyon in Utah
 Nice Home with Garden on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington
 An arm of Puget Sound with part of the Olympic range peaking through the clouds
 Tacoma narrows bridge in Washington
 Cascades in Washington on the way to Snoqualmie Pass on Interstate 90
 Suart Range in Washington from the rest stop
 Trucks at the rest stop with the Suart range in the background. Can you play find our truck?
Bee on a flower in the woods near the restop
 Cute girl on a child leash made to look like a monkey. Its Monkey Girl!
 Mountain in Montana off I 90
 Badlands in the distance in South Dakota. I swear I did not take this picture while driving.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

California, Here We Come!!

Score!  Our second load is going to California! 

We did pretty well on our first load to Ohio.  There were alot of things that we needed to work out between ourselves as to our routines, who does what, who drives when, etc.  To Zy's credit, he's put up with alot of bitching from me as we worked to merge the two different ways that we were trained into one viable working plan for how WE want to do thiings.  And for now, I've had to put up with the woman in the GPS machine that talks to him while he drives, and I've been sworn not to machine gun her down or plot to have her killed YET.  She may be in for a surprise sex change operation under the cover of the night shift...on my watch she will have her vocal chords severed.

So far the worst part was that I had to drive well into the night on my first day/night.  Between 1am and 3am I was really struggling with the 'swing shift' effect of having been up the whole day before and having little sleep the night before.  That was the night that the shop came and woke us up banging on the side of the truck at 3am for us to move it into the shop. They worked on it from 3am until that next afternoon.  As I had suspected, trying to find a place to park a truck at 3am is impossible, as all the truck stops have long filled up by that hour.  I kept going even further and found a spot at a closed weigh station.  I slept a few hours before Zy started his driving and the GPS woman woke me up.

The best part was driving into Cincinnati in the middle of the night headed  north on 75.  The interstate winds down a hill-a low mountain- into the downtown of the city.  As you come around a bend in the road, the whole city lies ahead with it''s beautiful array of interesting architecture and it's bridges strung with lights like glittering necklaces.  The road was deserted and the interstate snaked through the city going over bridges and under bridges, through tunnels and over water. There I was driving a semi through the ultimate hot wheels city constructed as a child in the back yard under the holly bushes, only this was real.  One of life's perfect highs.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Leaving on our first dispatch now! On our way to Ohio.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

the Tunnel Hill tunnel

Zygote and I did some more sight-seeing today and found the tunnel that gives Tunnel Hill, Georgia its name.

The story as posted on their website:
  Construction began on the tunnel in 1848, during which the city of Tunnel Hill sprung up from people moving here to supply accommodations to the railway workers. The tunnel, which spans 1,477 feet, was dug through the base of Chetoogeta Mountain.

On May 9, 1850, the first Western and Atlantic train passed through the mountain tunnel and the new town of Atlanta became one of the railway’'s major hubs.
The tunnel became part of several historical events during the Civil War, before heavy railroad traffic and larger train cars getting stuck in the tunnel led to the building of a larger parallel tunnel, ending the use of the tunnel in 1928.


UpGrade Complete!!!

I completed my upgrade testing on June 2nd.  The upgrade was a multiple question test, a road test, a backing test and a simulator test.

The simulator was a giant video game type machine that gave you the opportunity to drive in winter weather and inner city conditions to test your driving skills.  I was on it for about 20 minutes and it made me viciously nauseous.  When I got up from the chair, my legs were weak and wobbly and my vision blurry and felt awful.  I had to go out and sit for about 45 minutes before the sensations  passed.

I did well on the backing test and learned even more about backing from the man who tested me.  I have a "place" that I always seem to get myself when doing a 45 degree back that he gave me a perfect formula for getting out of that I used even on the test itself for the first time and it worked really well.  The backing test was one 45 degree back and one 90 degree back.  The road test was given on an automatic, so I did not have any shifting issues to deal with.

After the upgrade tests were done, I had to wait around for a test on the electronic logs to show them that I had a satisfactory understanding of how to use them.  All of our time will be logged electronically by the computer on board the truck.  We will not be logging on the old school paper logs at all, unless our computer ever craps out, and then we would use paper instead.  I finished that up at 4pm and was told to wait still and our truck would be issued.  But we were still in the driver's lounge waiting at 6pm, so they got us a motel room for the night and asked that we come back at 930am.  I was so relieved to be in a motel for one more night.  I was exhausted by the day's testing and just wanted to enjoy the fact that it was over before we moved on to the next phase of the adventure.  To celebrate we went to see Pirates of the Caribbean.  Woot!!!

By 1030am that next morning we had our truck!!!  Ain't she purty?  A 2012 Freightliner Cascadia 10 speed.  Brand spankin' new...has only 325 miles on it!!!  As my sister says, it's very RED.
The best part about getting the truck yesterday is that yesterday was my birthday, so essentially I got a Freightliner for my birthday.  Does it get any better than that?  I think not.

Zy also brought me a Kindle and my sister in law gave me a gift card so that I could put a book on the Kindle right away.  I bought a historical fiction book called "The Kitchen House".  Then I bought myself a new outfit - a Walmart special...high style, yes.

Today we are waiting for the truck to be outfitted with an inverter for our fridge and microwave and computer to run off of.  The shop is a little backed up right now so we are in line.  We also have an issue with our driver-tech onboard computer that is being worked on right now.  There are some electrical issues with the interior lights, and the driver seat needs to be moved up one bolt for me to reach the clutch fully.  Once we get out of the shop, we'll be ready to be dispatched.  Meanwhile, we have made several trips to Walmart getting things we need to get the interior space set up with our things.  We've made great headway and are already  quite set up and functional in this short period of time.  I've spent my time organizing our food/clothes/gear and tools and Zygote has registered us for every possible cool service you would ever want like trucker GPS updates, XM radio, a bluetooth headset for our phones and an onboard company scanner (for sending our load info in to payroll without having to stop at a truck stop to do so).  He's also managed to spill laundry soap twice already in the truck and a half a gallon of water.  LOL>  oh, living in this space with him is going to be such a JOY!!!! LOL.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Willow's Upgrade

Willow finished her training yesterday, and we are at the terminal south of Chattanooga for her to do her complete her upgrade testing.When she gets done we should get assigned a truck and be on the road together, finally. It has been a long journey but the first and hopefully hardest part is nearly over.

I am looking forward to us working out our own system and methods out for driving.We have seen how others have done it. Now its time to take the good, leave the bad, and work together to figure out how we are going to do things.

Stay tuned for more updates.