Friday, August 10, 2012

The Waiting Game

Trucking is definitely a hurry up and wait proposal.  It seems like every time you are running short on time to get home or pick up a load, someone needs you to wait.  Loading and unloading are the where this occurs the most.  The majority of shippers and receivers are only concerned with their time and schedules and driver's needs factor in not at all.  That is hard to deal with considering the regulations that limit how long you can drive in a given day and the demands of load and unloading appointments. The pressure is all on the driver, you are told you cannot be late for an appointment, show up on time, and then sit and wait well past that appointment  for a gate to even be opened for you so you can unload. Or you arrive early and sit and sit while nothing happens, your load sitting in the dock waiting for someone to get back from break or lunch to sign your paperwork, which ends up happening well after your appointment time.  Or you look at how a run is scheduled, see an issue and report it to dispatch, and no effort is made to correct the problem, it is all up to you to adjust.

All that would be easier to take if anyone spent half as much effort as you have to in order to make things work.  I don't expect shippers, receivers, dispatchers to jump every time I snap my fingers to make life easier for me, but there is generally no visible effort or even sympathy to ease this burden on the driver. Hell, fake concern would go a long way to cut down on driver resentment. Every where I go it is one of the main complaints I hear from drivers.

So, here I sit in Danville, Kentucky.  I was early for my appointment, the load was ready but the paperwork was not. As I wait to even back in the dock to be loaded my time allotted for driving ticks away. In a couple of hours I will not have enough time to get home before that time runs out. That means finding parking and taking a 10 hour break before I can drive home. This is my last load until Sunday and getting home Friday night is important because it allows me to reset my weekly driving hours and get a fresh start when I head for Massachusetts. Getting home late means less time for my break and a hard choice between starting late on Sunday and struggling to find parking late at night or starting early and rolling over my work hours each day struggling to make my appointments with restricted driving time. 

We will see what happens.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Looking for Chowdah

On the outskirts of Boston this evening, at a service area off I-95.  I deliver my load to the shipper in Bedford, MA at 10 am. Got here early just to be close and not to have to spend a bunch of time fighting traffic tomorrow morning. After being unloaded in Bedford I will take my way to Westborough, MA to pick up a load of cellophane film bound for Marion, NC. This is the first time I have been to the Boston area in the big truck. Like many big cities free parking can be hard to find. Sometimes you have to be creative. I squeezed in next to a couple of trucks at this service center's McDonald's drinking a water and using their free Wi-Fi.

I drove up I77 and I81 through North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland to Carlisle, PA yesterday and then up I81, I84, and I90 through Pennsylvania , New York, Connecticut , and Massachusetts.  The company's route had me going through New Jersey and New York City on I78 and I95.  They will probably route me back through that way. I really do not want to deal with New York City traffic so I will likely head back the way I came, it is only 20 miles longer and will be faster without a doubt. The only traffic issues I ran into was stop and go on I90 in MA for about 10 miles due to an accident on the other side of the freeway and rubbernecking on my side. The accident was totally clear  when I went by but the amount of traffic going in and out of Boston led to residual slowness for hours after the accident itself.

I love driving through Pennsylvania and New York State on 81 and 84 it is very pretty and traffic is not heavy except for around Scranton. After months going to the Midwest where drought has been severe this year the lush green here was noticeable.  It was also cooler and less humid than the last couple of days in Ohio and Kentucky.  The rolling hills into  Connecticut and Massachusetts were pleasant as well. I had only been through this part of New England at night and by plane before so it was a new experience for me.

I should finish my week up with a run from Marion to Cincinnati OH and then be back home for a day and a half. We are still figuring out what Amy will do, her neck pain is still bothering her and we are both concerned about it being made worse by getting back in the truck.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Anguish and Art

Two weeks ago, late into Willow's shift Friday night, I woke to her crying and struggling to shift gears as we neared our drop off destination in Marion, NC.  She sobbed, "My neck and shoulders are killing me,  I don't know if I can do this"  I got up and with Willow operating the truck we go unhooked from our load. Willow wanted to continue driving, there were a couple of hours before I usually started my shift.  After 30 minutes or so of driving through hills and having to shift  as we climbed she could not continue. We switched out in the parking lot of an strip mall near Marion.

That week had been hard, Willow's neck and shoulders had been bothering her since Tuesday and I had been helping with the loads on her shift. I would do the out of the truck tasks and Willow would drive.  We had tire issues with a trailer coming out of Chicago and were in danger of losing our last load of the week.  We were just back from our week off and wanted to get as many loads in that week to make up for short checks from being off the week before. Willow began to have extremely painful muscle spasms. Her pain would get near unbearable and then she would rest and it would lessen enough to drive again. We kept pushing on.

Finally,  it was just to much. Resting in the sleeper was not helping anymore and she could barely sleep. I had never seen her in so much pain. She could not move her head and was in pain with every bump in the road. We were both exhausted. I did as much of the driving as I could, and we ended up limping home on Sunday afternoon, very late in our week and unable to get in a mandatory 34 hour break before our first load on Monday.  Willow was going to see her chiropractor and possibly her doctor that Monday so we informed our Fleet Manger we would not be able to work on Monday.

I went with Willow to the chiropractor and it was awful.  There was little that could be done with that much pain, any attempt at adjustment left her in agony.  It was clear she needed to see her doctor.  We arranged that I would go out solo that week while Willow tried to recuperate and arrange appointment to find out what was going on.

Willow did the medical dance that week, while I headed out on the road.  After a number of visits to the doctor and an MRI she found that she had a bulges in several vertebrae and in places her vertebra are pinching the spinal nerve. She has been written out of work for the next month, at a minimum, while she sees specialists to further diagnose her issues.  She has applied for short term disability while she is out.


 In other major news Willow  has been working on publishing her book about hiking the  Appalachian Trail.  It will  be coming out the 28th of September. I have been witness to her preparing for this for the last few months, she has been working very hard.  I am really proud of her. She has been doing this while we are on the road and it is no easy feat.  Top that off with the events of the last few weeks. It is amazing what she can do. You can check out her book web site here and like her book page on Facebook here.






Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Lake Fontana, NC

A couple of weekends ago, Zygote and I decided that the daily grind was getting to us. We get one day off each week, Sunday. On that day, Karl empties our food bins, cleans out the truck and does the laundry. Later in the day, when I get up (I drove the night shift), I put the clean sheets back on the truck bed, do the grocery shopping and food prep and load the food into the truck fridge. In other words, it's not much of a day off. We leave the following morning long before the sun comes up. We are actually only home for about 28 hours.

On this particular summer Sunday, we decided to rent a pontoon boat and go out on Lake Fontana for a few hours, just to get away from 'truck stuff' for a bit. It was a gorgeous day. My oldest son, Joseph came with us.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Arkansas Rice

This week we've been asked to go to Mountain Home, Arkansas instead of our regular route to Chicago. It's been a much welcome change of scenery. I suppose the Indiana corn will continue to grow whether we are driving past to watch it or not.



 

Arkansas crops account for about 48 percent of U.S. rice production, according to the Arkansas Rice Federation. The state is the world's third-largest exporter of the grain.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sunshine Daydream?

Indiana Corn

According to NPR, the corn crop this year is expected to be the largest ever. http://www.npr.org/2012/05/03/151929846/corn-farmers-hope-cautiously-for-a-bumper-crop

May 5th
Watching the fields change each week has been an interesting insight into the mono-agribusiness of large scale farming. Despite the GMO nature of our nation's corn crop, it is still pretty seeing it grow.
May 25th
June 11th th

Friday, May 25, 2012

I-75 Landslide

This picture is an aerial view of the landslide on I-75 Southbound. It's posted on the monitor at the KY rest stop Northbound.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Clinch Mountain Lookout Restaurant

Our route on I-75 South fell off the mountain a few weeks ago. One evening I came through and noticed a deep buckle in the pavement that I did not recall ever being there before, and the next time we came through the side of the mountain had caved, taking part of the interstate with it.

The detour on US 25E in Kentucky takes us over Clinch Mountain. Zygote discovered an amazing old-style diner at the top of the mountain that has become my latest obsession. They serve vinegar pie--a mountain traditional substitute for lemon meringue!! Can you say "Oh, yeah!"

This is the kind of place where the vinyl tablecloths don't match, they bring you the salad dressing in the bottle, breakfast is served all day long, and the food is so very homemade and divine. There is even free wi-fi and truck parking. When we stop, I eat lunch there and get something yummy to take with me for dinner too. Last time, I ate soup beans and cornbread with a country ham biscuit to go; this time it's vegetable soup and a salad with homemade chili to go.

Mostly I just love the spirit of this place--a remnant of America before fast food, before chain restaurants. Ya'll come back now, ya hear?



Cherokee Lake-the view from Clinch Mountain

Friday, May 4, 2012

Storm

Traffic was insane today in Indianapolis and Chicago. Usually, because I drive the evening shift, I miss most of the insanity, but somehow I hit both cities at their craziest this time. Indianapolis is the one city where traffic just comes to a halt, for no visible reason. It happens almost every time I come though there and it perplexes me every time. At least most traffic hold ups have visible causes...merge issues, stalled vehicles, policemen, construction, but on the 465 loop around Indy its like everyone is on the same Remote Control or something. For no apparent reason traffic will just come to a halt for about half a mile everyone will creep along at 35mph and then everyone decides that's enough of that and they pick up speed again and go on their way.

In Chicago traffic on the TriState Tollway is always fast and mean on the south side. Walls of trucks side by side come down 4 lanes at once and heaven help you if you're in a car. I'm always glad I'm one of the big rigs in Chicago. For some reason, I actually like the traffic there; it makes me feel like I'm part of something way bigger than myself, a pulse of humanity humming along the arteries of this great city. I like to drive the tollway with the window down, of all things. It's so horribly loud, but it's exciting loud, like Nascar...ok, maybe I am actually a redneck.

As I jostled my way out from in between several trucks I managed to snap a photo of the drama that was unfolding in the sky above the city. As I got further north, the sky turned a lurid green. I had the radio on in case there was a tornado warning issued but there never was. By the time I was 20 miles south of Waukegan, the sky was so green that the very air I was driving through seemed to be green. The storm was massive; I was under it for at least 20 miles and the sky behind me was a deep purple from it as well. The entire system had to be 50 miles across or more. I've never seen anything like it. The rain poured down for a brief 5 miles or so and then I was north of the worst of it and just watching the lightning. Luckily, the shipper location was north of the storm and I did not have to get out in the downpour. I tried to snap some photos of the lightning-as it was so incredibly frequent. I took about 20 shots but only captured some heat lightning, no vivid bolts like what I was seeing. After my drop and hook, the journey south on the same TriState tollway took me right back into the storm. By this time it was off the road and more over the city. I watched THE most spectacular lightning show I have ever witnessed. Being from the southern Appalachians, I'm accustomed to storms coming from the west and moving right on through. I've never experienced a storm that just sits in one place with lightning that just lasts and lasts and lasts. Whenever I would see this in the movies where they used lightning in the background all the time to make something more spooky, I thought it was just a Hollywood effect and that lightning didn't last for hours like that. But, for an hour and a half-bolts of lightning every 3-5 seconds lit the sky above and around Chicago. Incredible towering thunderheads back-illuminated by heat lightning and then spectacular cloud to cloud bolts ripping between them at the same time. Then darkness for a few seconds, then no heat lightning and only a cloud to ground spear that pops. Then darkness. Then heat lightning that lights the upper regions of the sky bringing to light the outline of the grey mass of clouds hovering against a sliver of light on the horizon. Then darkness. Cloud to cloud lightning --simultaneous bolts like a child's scribbling in the sky, that sear a lasting image on your retina still visible seconds afterward. . . .

The storm began to die away and I entered the Twilight Zone. At the next shipper, the guard told me stories about fake coyotes that are supposedly scattered throughout the grounds of the plant to discourage actual coyotes from scavenging there. The next thing I knew, I was in line at the fuel stop in Gary, Indiana behind the slowest SWIFT driver ever, waiting for an indeterminable eon only to see him finally emerge from the cab of his truck to begin punching numbers on the fuel pump, realizing he hadn't even BEGUN to fuel yet.... and waiting. Taco Bell closed while he fiddled around at the pace of a snail and cost me my dinner. The man in front of me in line while I waited to buy mango juice and a cookie discussed the installation of a tv hookup for his truck endlessly with the clerk. The machine wouldn't take my bank card. And the night slowly unravels on the bumpy road out of town on the wake of the storm. C'e la vie.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Zygote's Goes Over the Hill

Zygote's Birthday Celebration included a wonderful box of necessities for heading 'over the hill' from his sister: a tube of BenGay cream, Fix-a-Dent, Adult diapers, and hair coloring.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Hat Envy

This past Christmas, one of my gifts for my snowboarding son was a "sock monkey with a mohawk" hat. A few weeks later, low and behold, if Zygote did not show up with crazy hats for the two of us, under the woefully misguided assumption that I would wear such an unfortunate item.

To honor his bravery, I did give in and wear the hat once. We both walked into an independent truck stop in Corbin, KY wearing our hats. No one spoke. I guess they didn't see the humor.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Other tandem

Recently Zygote had his bicycle fixed. Since then he's been riding all over our small town on our days off. You would think I was killing him if I suggest that we walk to the restaurant less than a mile from our house but give him a bike and he's in the next county before you can blink.

This renewal in Zy's interest in bicycling has spawned numerous conversations about putting bikes on the truck and random musings about folding bikes. While folding bikes would be way cool, they would ultimately be more of a pain than they were worth if you didn't actually use them very often. But, then again, how exactly does one strap a bike to the back of the cab of a tractor while not "modifying" the company's tractor in any way? Months ago, when I was sent a survey questionnaire by our company, one of my suggestions was for them to stock and allow drivers to request bike racks to add to their tractors. No response. For the last few weeks, we've experimented with a load bar extended between the ferrings on the back of the cab, thinking that if you could trust that it would stay put, you could then strap the bikes to the load bar. But, the more I think about this, the more I think your bike would be covered in diesel grime and road dust every time you went to ride it, not a very appealing thing to consider straddling.

Zygote has repeatedly threatened to get a tandem bike for us to ride together. This particular means of torture does not appeal to me at all. We already live in tandem in a moving, vibrating box the size of a closet; I don't need to try to pedal a bicycle with him also. That is just not an option; it's just not.

So, back to the folding bike idea. Considering one could be hefted into a cab, I suppose we could make room for it in the top bunk or ?under the bed? I don't know. A cab is already a very small space for two people to share. The hefting part I'd have to leave up to Zygote, I'm sure, as they weigh anywhere from 27-32 pounds. Whereas, I can easily carry a 38 pound backpack, swinging a backpack onto your back is a whole lot easier than swinging one up to about eye level. (I'm short, ok.) Ultimately, all this hemming and hawing around is probably just high level avoidance technique on my part, as bike-riding has never been my thing. I just don't like the way people stare bike riders down, or worse yet, try to run them over. Roadways seem way too dangerous for bike riders, in general.

In any event, having a bike to ride in towns we go through would be fun and convenient. Much easier than navigating small towns in an 18-wheeler.

Here is the folding bike I would get as described here: http://www.citizenbike.com/default.asp


A sophisticated premium folder, with cruiser comfort.

The BARCELONA Citizen Bike combines classic styling with a consciously plush design and premium technology. The handsome result is a unique folding bicycle that's a pleasure to ride. It's a folding bike for going and being human.

The BARCELONA Citizen Bike features a specially designed low, step-through, alloy curvedkframe. This design allows for an easy-on and easy-off riding experience. The cushioned grips and cruiser saddle complement the relaxed, upright ride for a supremely comfortable experience.

(I like that "being human" part!)

Another interesting article about the increasing political debate surrounding bicycling in general is here:
http://www.alternet.org/story/154806/the_bicycling_community_is_becoming_a_political_force_to_be_reckoned_with_--_and_that's_great_news?page=entire

Friday, April 13, 2012

Cultural tidbit for Spring

My sister recently enrolled in several classes to learn the art of Pysanky. Rather than trying to explain this and not explaining it correctly, I'm pasting excerpts from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pysanka) that I found particularly interesting. Here are two pictures of eggs she painted.



A pysanka (Ukrainian: писанка, plural: pysanky) is a Ukrainian Easter egg, decorated using a wax-resist (batik) method. The word comes from the verb pysaty, "to write", as the designs are not painted on, but written with beeswax. The word pysanka refers specifically to an egg decorated with traditional Ukrainian folk designs

The oldest "real" pysanka was excavated in Baturyn in 2008, and dates to the end of the 17th century. Baturyn was Hetman Mazepa's capital, and it was razed in 1708 by the armies of Peter I. A complete (but crushed) pysanka was discovered, a chicken egg shell with geometric designs against a blue-gray background.[3] The pysanka is currently being reconstructed; when completed, it will allow us to see what sort of ornamentation was in use in pre-1708 Ukraine.

In modern times, the art of the pysanka was carried abroad by Ukrainian emigrants to North and South America, where the custom took hold, and concurrently banished in Ukraine by the Soviet regime (as a religious practice), where it was nearly forgotten. Museum collections were destroyed both by war and by Soviet cadres. Since Ukrainian Independence in 1991, there has been a rebirth of the art in its homeland.

The Hutsuls––Ukrainians who live in the Carpathian Mountains of western Ukraine––believe that the fate of the world depends upon the pysanka. As long as the egg decorating custom continues, the world will exist. If, for any reason, this custom is abandoned, evil––in the shape of a horrible serpent who is forever chained to a cliff–– will overrun the world. Each year the serpent sends out his minions to see how many pysanky have been created. If the number is low the serpent's chains are loosened and he is free to wander the earth causing havoc and destruction. If, on the other hand, the number of pysanky has increased, the chains are tightened and good triumphs over evil for yet another year.

Many superstitions were attached to pysanky. Pysanky were thought to protect households from evil spirits, catastrophe, lightning and fires. Pysanky with spiral motifs were the most powerful, as the demons and other unholy creatures would be trapped within the spirals forever. A blessed pysanky could be used to find demons hidden in the dark corners of your house.
Pysanky held powerful magic, and had to be disposed of properly, lest a witch get a hold of one. She could use the shell to gather dew, and use the gathered dew to dry up a cow's milk. The witch could also use bits of the eggshell to poke people and sicken them. The eggshell had to be ground up very finely (and fed to chickens to make them good egg layers) or broken into pieces and tossed into a running stream.
The cloth used to dry pysanky was powerful, too, and could be used to cure skin diseases. And it was considered very bad luck to trample on a pysanka–God would punish anyone who did with a variety of illnesses.
There were superstitions regarding the colors and designs on the pysanky. One old Ukrainian myth centered on the wisdom of giving older people gifts of pysanky with darker colors and/or rich designs, for their life has already been filled. Similarly, it is appropriate to give young people pysanky with white as the predominant color because their life is still a blank page. Girls would often give pysanky to young men they fancied, and include heart motifs. It was said, though, that a girl should never give her boyfriend a pysanky that has no design on the top and bottom of the egg, as this might signify that the boyfriend would soon lose his hair.


Pysanky are typically made to be given to family members and respected outsiders. To give a pysanka is to give a symbolic gift of life, which is why the egg must remain whole. Furthermore, each of the designs and colors on the pysanka is likely to have a deep, symbolic meaning. Traditionally, pysanky designs are chosen to match the character of the person to whom the pysanka is to be given. Typically, pysanky are displayed prominently in a public room of the house.
In a large family, by Holy Thursday, 60 or more eggs would have been completed by the women of the house. (The more daughters a family had, the more pysanky would be produced.) The eggs would then be taken to the church on Easter Sunday to be blessed, after which they were given away. Here is a partial list of how the pysanky would be used:
One or two would be given to the priest.
Three or four were taken to the cemetery and placed on graves of the family.
Ten or fifteen were given to children or godchildren.
Ten or twelve were exchanged by the unmarried girls with the eligible men in the community.
Several were saved to place in the coffin of loved ones who might die during the year.
Several were saved to keep in the home for protection from fire, lightning and storms.
Two or three were placed in the mangers of cows and horses to ensure safe calving and colting and a good milk supply for the young.
At least one egg was placed beneath the bee hive to insure a good harvest of honey.
One was saved for each grazing animal to be taken out to the fields with the shepherds in the spring.
Several pysanky were placed in the nests of hens to encourage the laying of eggs.
Everyone from the youngest to the oldest received a pysanka for Easter. Young people were given pysanky with bright designs; dark pysanky were given to older people.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Glamour Truck

Spring photo ops
Woodland Bells
Wild Cherry Tree in full bloom
Lavendar

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

With Spring Comes the Plow. . .& Baby Cows

Along I-75 in Indiana, our country's farming heritage is alive and well. Many farms stretch for miles on both sides of the highway, and as the seasons roll by, watching the farmers at work is a small way to remain connected, at least in spirit, to the ever changing cycles of the earth.

In fall the harvest machinery whirred ceaselessly, long into the twilight hours, shades of yellowing greens gradually maturing to a tawny gold and finally embracing winter in pale, dry browns. Dark, rich manure was spread across the fields mid-winter, lending sharp contrast to the snow dustings. I watched carefully for the white form of a snowy owl hunting in the open but never saw any--NPR had reported sightings this winter as far south as Indiana and Ohio. The radio clip had stated that the owls stand about two feet high and prefer to hunt from low perches in the middle of wide open spaces, such as a tree stump or a small knoll. With spring comes the plow churning the manure under, blending the colors into shades of cocoa, malt and sand. From this palette, beneath the lengthening rays of sunlight, a new array of color will sprout in just a few short weeks.

Today's farmers must be ever inventive and adaptive to the changing and fickle food industry. Fair Oaks Farms have carved a niche for themselves from the Indiana landscape. Their advertising milk tankers are parked in their fields, visible from the interstate touting their dairy products, farm tours and gift shop. According to their website, one can also attend the Milk Cow Music Festival on the Second of June this season and have a mooo-velous time111 30,000 milk cows. That's a lot of milking! and 80 calves a day being born!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Brandywine Creek Steak House & tavern

Near the border of Tennessee and North Carolina on I-40 is a small mountain town called Newport. If you are ever in the area, it's worth a stop at the Brandywine Creek Steak House & Tavern. Brandywine has a bright yellow billboard on the interstate that you would see if you approach from the west. It says "Home of the Throwed Rolls".

This originally caught my eye because throwing biscuits at the table was a family tradition from my grandpa. He sat at the head of the long dining table and would ask each of us grandchildren if they wanted a "cathead" and he'd then throw them a biscuit. I was so enthralled with this billboard essentially advertising what I thought was our obscure mountain family tradition, that Zygote had been talking about this steakhouse that he wanted to visit for four solid months before I ever saw the words "Steak House" on the sign. For some reason, one night as I passed this sign for the 672nd time, I suddenly realized that this was the steak house he'd been trying to tell me about all this time. LOL--living with me is great fun, just ask Zygote!

So, I pulled into the rest area and woke up "the man". There is no self-respecting male who would say 'no' to a steak dinner, especially if your trucker wife is waking up you up to tell you we'll be there in 15 minutes. I just hoped their idea of "truck parking" as advertised matched my idea of truck parking. One never knows.

Truck parking was real truck parking plus they also own the empty lot nextdoor to the restaurant and said that truckers can also park there if needed. The food was really good; the steaks were so tasty that we didn't even use the steak sauces that we had asked for. And yes, the waitress tossed the rolls to us! as grandpa would have said, "well, blow me down!"

If you want to go:
I-40, exit 432B, turn right at end of exit, restaurant on the right


http://dininginthesmokies.com/_menus/sev/brandywine_creek_steakhouse_and_tavern_newport_tn_menu.pdf

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Missing Truck Driver Alert Network

The Mooresville Tribune reported on March 27th that a body had been found at a Wilco truck stop in Troutman, North Carolina. The body was later identified as William Herbert, a truck driver who had been reported missing by his family in December. His truck had been sitting at the truck stop since then, unnoticed by the truck stop employees as having been in the same spot for three months. Police claimed they had searched for the truck; the trucking company used trucks with no satellite communication on the roof; the truck being reported as stolen was what finally succeeded in locating both the man and his "missing" truck. WSOCTV out of Charlotte reported more later-
ARTICLE
http://www.wsoctv.com/news/news/local/man-found-dead-truck-wasnt-moved-months/nLd3k/

Much speculation and commenting has occurred online about the incident. Without entering the foray, and leaving each of you to draw your own conclusions, let me offer this:
We all are a part of this web that is Life. We all use products that are shipped from far away and require much sacrifice from many individuals to arrive at our doorstep, whether it be the hardships endured by migrant workers in crop fields or the long hours behind the wheel of the truck. Appreciation for each piece of this giant puzzle involves respect for each other every day, every person we encounter, regardless of creed, race, color or what kind of vehicle they drive. A great misfortune occurred that this man died alone and unnoticed by his trucking community. We must, as truckers, as humans take from tragedy a call to better ourselves, our game, our community.
My condolences go out to the family of Mr William Herbert.

Missing Truck Driver Network was formed after another similar tragedy occurred-- a useful resource for us all.


www.facebook.com/groups/MissingTruckdriver/

The story about the formation of this group is located here: http://www.examiner.com/trucking-in-tampa-bay/missing-truck-driver-alert-network

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Georgia on my mind

I spent a day in Georgia this past weekend at a friend's wedding arriving in the dark the 
night before.  The air was muggy and warm when I opened the door of the cabin where I had 
slept.  A soft rain pattered outside the screened porch.  The fact that I'm rarely awake 
before 11am, since I drive at night, coupled with this being my first glimpse of the 
Georgia landscape in daylight made for a surreal feeling.  Spanish moss draped from every 
live oak; huge pines towered over the screened porch.  Several hundred yards down the 
hill from the cabin was a pond, its flashes of silver glinting between mossy tresses in 
the subdued morning light.  I gathered my things and left for town to execute an errand 
for the bride and to forage for breakfast and coffee.

Valdosta, Georgia, is a quaint southern rail town with a vibrant downtown area.  I had no 
trouble finding the florist where I was to pick up the flowers at noon, so I parked and 
window shopped.  A local bar was open with someone setting tables out on the sidewalk-by 
this time the rain had stopped and the skies were a mottled gray.  The bar was offering 
coffee and free wifi.  I settled in to catch up on emails and some reading.

At noon I picked up the flower arrangements and then drove outside of town, across the 
state border to Florida and onto a dirt road leading to the Alcyone Plantation.
 
 
The plantation house is a rambling southern home, typical to most towns in the area. Six 
live oaks, all beautifully covered in spanish moss graced the front lawn, and tall pines 
lined the drive. 
 
 
 
 
 
The Front Hall is flanked on each side with large rooms: sitting room, formal room, dining room and kitchen.
A second set of rooms are behind the first, each opening to the other through grand sliding doors. 
 
All the rooms sport ornate moulding at the ceiling and wainscot.  The dining room sparkled 
 with twinkling light from a splendid chandelier. Much of the furniture was  
antique reproductions, however, the kitchen was modernized with an island and a gas stove; 
it was large with a dine -in table, a window settee and a sitting area on the opposite end  
with a fireplace.  The wide porch spanning the back of the house was lined with rocking chairs.   
The back lawn stretched downhill to a lillypad-rimmed pond.  
The wedding, of course, was beautiful.  The skies cleared early in the afternoon, after a 
customary spring downpour, and the sun shone on the festivities. 

After dark I slipped away to begin my 8 hour drive home.  Walking away under the shadow 
of the live oaks and looking back at the glow of the house and all its glory, it was easy 
to imagine it 125 years before but difficult to fathom all the sacrifice and hard work 
that would have gone into creating such opulence during those times. This view of the 
house from afar would have been the view that the people who made the plantation tick 
would have seen.  Not the view from inside.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tandems, and Fifth Wheels, and Heavy Loads. Oh My!

We picked up our truck from our company's Duncan, SC terminal yesterday, where it had been for its routine maintenance. I got up at four AM and confirmed our load was ready, Willow got up and into bed in the truck, and we were at the shipper by 6 am.  When we got our load's paperwork I was surprised to see that its weight was 45,661. Normally our loads are between 42,000 and 44,500 pounds.  44,800 is about the max we can carry without some adjustments in the amount of fuel we carry and or the 5th wheel of our truck.  I knew that more than likely getting 45,661 pounds to weigh legally would involve some combination of moving the 5th wheel and not filling up on fuel completely.

For those not in trucking, the maximum legal weight of Tractor and Trailer without additional permits is 80,000 pounds. On interstates generally you can have 34000 pounds on each of your double axles known as tandems ( the drive tandem is the 2 sets of wheels on the truck and the trailer tandem is the 2 sets of wheels on the trailer). On interstates you may have a maximum of 20,000 pounds on a single axle, like your steer axle (those at the front of your truck), but most states limit this to 12,000 pounds on state roads and highways. Truckers can manipulate how the weight is distributed on these 3 sets of wheels by manipulating the sliding trailer tandem or the sliding 5th wheel.  If you are unable to get your weight legal, it is back to the shipper for them to redistribute the load or take some of the load off the truck. Going back to the shipper always delays you, sometimes hours and even days in some horror stories I have heard.

The trailer tandem is the easiest to set; it involves setting the trailer breaks, unlatching the pins that hold it in place, and moving the trailer while attached to the truck backwards and forwards. Moving the truck and trailer backwards move the trailer tandem forwards which removes weight from the front of the trailer and the truck that it rests on, mostly from the drive tandem set. This movement puts that weight on the trailer tandem..  Moving the trailer forwards moves the trailer tandem back and moves the weight off of the trailer tandem and on to the truck drive tandem. Moving the trailer tandem affects the weight on your steer tire axel as well , but it is a much smaller amount compared to how this movement affects your drive and the trailer tandem weights. Each hole on the trailer tandem slide is generally about 200 to 250 pounds on most van style trailers, depending on the weight and how the load is distributed.

The fifth wheel attaches the trailer to the truck, on many trucks it also slides. This involves activating a switch inside the truck (for those lucky enough to have an air activated 5th wheel slide) to unlock the 5th wheel slide, setting the trailer brakes, putting the trailer landing gear down to remove the weight off the truck and moving the truck forward or backwards  while still attached to the trailer. Moving the truck backwards moves the 5th wheel forwards towards the cab and takes weight  off the drive tandems and puts it on the steers. Moving the truck forwards moves the 5th wheel backwards putting more weight on the drives and taking it off the steers.  This movement can also affect your weight on the trailer tandems but too a much lesser degree.  Its a bit more involved than setting the trailer tandems, so mostly truckers get the 5th wheel set and try to move it as little as possible.

The final factor is fuel, fuel added to the truck will increase the weight on the steers and drive tandems.  On our truck the way the fuel tanks are place generally puts just a but more weight on  our steers compared to the weight added to the drives. For simplicity I figure half the weight will be added to both. This weight comes off as you drive and burn fuel.

This morning I weighed before fueling and we were at 79180 pounds. This gave me only a mere 820 pounds for fuel.  With only a quarter of a tank of fuel in a 200 gallon tank, I figured the most I could fuel was 110 gallons based on a fuel weight around 7 pounds per gallon.  That would bring us right up to the legal limit.  I was around 11,300 on the steers, 34500 on my drives and 34300 on my trailer tandem, I knew it would be "fun" balancing out the trailer tandem position and our 5th wheel to be legal. So I fueled a 110 gallons worth. Moved my trailer tandems two positions forwards to move weight off the drives and on to the trailer, and then the 5th wheel 2 positions forward to move more weight onto the steers and off the drives. After re-weighing I was at 12120 on the steers, 34020 on my drives, and 33820 on my trailer. Our total weight was 79960. YES!!! 40 pounds to spare. We were a bit over on the steers and slightly over on the drives, but all of our driving from that point on was on interstates and we would burn off the extra weight.  Experience with our consistently heavy loads and previous advice from our trainers and other drivers led me to think I would not have any trouble at the weight stations we were passing through.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Oh Solo Meo

Willow was sick and I was out solo  for the first half of last week and part of the week before.  She had not been feeling well all week and Thursday before last she woke up and told me she needed to see the doctor.  Rather than have her struggle with driving on top of not feeling well, we opted to have me run alone and deliver one of our 2 loads for that half of the week. I called our Fleet Manager, who was able to get the other run covered.

Time management is always important on the truck, but even more important when running by yourself. You have no one to take up your slack if you start running behind, and you have to make your appointment times.  The later it gets in the evening and on until early morning  parking spaces become a premium as the rest and truck stops fill up and stay full until drivers begin to wake up and head out.  I mixed up parking at rest stops and truck stops this week. The truck stops offer additional services like TV, restaurants, and showers.  While rest stops tend to fill up later, offer a quieter environment, and offer less temptations in the form of junk food.

I really missed Willow on these solo trips.  There are definitely benefits to being solo, I got to sleep with the truck not moving, I could mess up the truck and clean it at my leisure.  I blasted heavy metal, rap, Sonic Youth, and Tom Waits with all the truck speakers on and at extreme volume, rolling down the road during the wee hours in ecstatic sonic overload. But I was lonely, and her absence made me realize even more the benefits of having a partner to share the journey with and to help "carry the load" of long hours out on the road. So in absence of human contact I cozied up to AFLAC Duck ( a stuffed duck  acquired from my friend Charles from my last job that when shaken emits the famous catch phrase) and Valentine Dog, the cheesy rose-in-the-mouth stuffed dog I got for Willow on Valentine's day. They were a poor substitute for my wife and I worried about her home sick and mostly alone.

I had some additional adventures during this solo time.  On Friday after I passed through northbound, Tennessee Department of Transportation closed southbound Interstate 75 due to an earlier landslide that undermined both lanes of the highway south of the Kentucky state line. On my way back home from Chicago I had to consider dealing with the detour around it, down two lane windy US 25 W, or finding another route.  After talking to several other truckers I decided to take an alternate route on US 25 E, a 4 lane road that passes through  a tunnel at the Cumberland Gap. I had to run in at night as I was finishing up the week and running out of my allotted hours.  While the detour was actually 30 miles shorter, it took about a half hour longer as it passed through several towns and wound around, up, and down the mountains of southeast Kentucky and northeast Tennessee. There was not a lot to see at night, but I looked forward to driving it again during the day.

 I want to thank the WalMart driver at the Loves truck stop in Corbin, Kentucky,  who offered to let me follow him through the detour. Though I declined because I needed to get on the road before he was ready in order to get home and not impact my hours the next week, it made me feel good that there was some of that old tucker code of helping each other left out in the modern world.

I was able to get 2 round trips in the 6 days that we can do 4 round trips as a time, while Willow made the rounds to traditional and alternative health care providers. On my second trip I ran through the 25 E detour during the day. There was more traffic, but I actually got to see what I was driving through and it was very rewarding The scenery is fantastic with deep river gorges and rugged mountains. About halfway through the trip 25 E turns off  to the right to go around a town and a bridge that is off limits to trucks.  The previous run at night I had no problem following the route as it diverged from the roadway at a traffic light. During the day I got confused and made the right turn one light too soon, about 100 yards from the actual turn.

As soon as I made the turn I knew I was in for some fun. The road was tiny and immediately curved down into a tight hollow. "Oh boy", I said to AFLAC Duck, " I just made a major wrong turn".  The GPS urged me to turn left, into an even smaller road and a tiny neighborhood.  "No way I am going to get turned around down there.". AFLAC duck  offered no sympathy.

Down the road at the bottom of the hill I saw a gravel lot with old trucks and trailers. I might have been able to manage to use the lot for a turn, but it would have been tight and a kid was riding a four wheeler in it. Just as I was about to try it, down the other side of the hollow came an 18 wheeler hauling a rock load. I knew he had to come from somewhere and likely I could turn there. I headed the way he had come. Shortly I came across a quarry with an easy turn around and made it back to the main road.  Safe. I gave AFLAC duck a relieved shake, he replied "Aflac.....Aflac........AAAAAFFFLLLLAAAACCCC" as we drove away.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

43 thousand pounds of food gone awry

This guy was having a bad day!  Story was that he felt the trailer start to break when he was driving.  He pulled into the rest area and parked.  He said that the break had gotten worse while he was there. The rest area personnel had placed the cones around his truck to keep others from parking too closely-preparation for the disaster to unfold.  When you think you're having a bad day, just think of this!!!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Zygote Solo

Our next run to Chicago and back also took longer than usual.  No breakdown's, but we did have to wait for a live load, which is not usually the case.  This coupled with the 12-13 hour delay from the first load and we did not arrive back in NC until Thursday afternoon, when we are usually there on Wednesday night. 

I've not been feeling well for over a week, so when we came through our hometown on Thursday, I got off the truck at our house so I could go to the doctor.  Zygote took the second load on down the mountain for delivery and picked up our 3rd load on his own.  He'll have enough hours left this week to finish the third run solo; he's super excited to finally be running by himself.  I'm sure he'll have lots of stories to tell!




Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Breakdown

Our week has been filled with delay after delay. We spent all day Monday sitting at the truck stop across the street from the shipper waiting for various asundry reasons. First our load was not ready, which is rare. Then, when it was ready, the trailer had no brakes. All four trailer brakes were bad, some cracked, some worn completely away. Breakdown sent someone out to assess the situation but did not authorize him to replace all four. The repair man tried to reach them, couldn't get through; we tried to reach them, couldn't get through, so the repairman left. When we finally did reach breakdown, they wanted pictures. I don't know what a driver with no computer or internet on his truck would have done. Zygote took pictures and emailed them. Breakdown wanted us to drive the trailer to the repair shop. This was after Zygote had repeatedly told them that the trailer was completely unsafe to drive. So, they simply gave up and told him to talk to his FM.

Our FM, who had been up on the situation the whole time, totally took care of us. He had us bring the loaded trailer back to the plant to be unloaded. They put our load into a different trailer. We again, waited across the street. By this time, Zy's shift was over. He'd spent his whole shift driving 30 miles to get to the shipper and then dealing with the breakdown the rest of the time. I took over.

I called to see if the load was ready; it was. I picked up the trailer and looked it over. Missing marker light, on the top right corner. Tandems operated by air pressure button and they were stuck. I fiddled with it some but had never moved tandems on one with an air pressure button, so I had to get Zygote to help me. We both worked on the tandems for another 30 minutes. Finally we got the pins to retract.

The secret (in case anyone ever needs to know this) was to bleed all the air out of the air lines and then let them fill completely back up again. When I had hooked up, because the trailer had super singles, the air pressure had mostly gone to the tires and did not have enough pressure in the lines to retract the tandem pins all the way.

We headed across the street and weighed. Tandems adjusted, we should have been on our way but...I was not feeling it with the marker light missing. They way our luck has been going lately, this missing marker light could cost me points against my CDL. I called breakdown again while I started out for the truck stop where we were authorized to fuel. They arranged for the same guy to come meet me there. I figured by the time I made the drive there, waited in line, fueled, pulled up, etc that he would be there. Was he? No. Then I had to go through the hassle of parking at a full truckstop, which I managed by parking on top of a NO PARKING HERE sign painted on the pavement. Clever, huh? While I waited, two other trucks parked with me on top of that same sign. I went and talked to one of the guys in a gorgeous Peterbilt. He said he was not moving from that spot for the rest of the night, no parking sign or not. LOL.

After another 45 minutes, the repariman showed up, put his ladder against the trailer and within 15 minutes was done.

Finally, I was on the road. It was now 1030pm and our day had started at 6am.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mushroom & Clam Pasta

1 Small can of chopped clams

1 package sun dried tomatoes, sliced thin

3 to 4 small cloves of garlic, 2 to 3 large cloves.

2 tbs Butter

16 oz Mushrooms, sliced

2 tbs Olive oil

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup non alcoholic Sparkling grape juice or wine if not in the truck (optional).

1 package of fresh pasta-(found in the refrigerator section of the grocery)--we use linguini shape usually, but recipe is also good with angelhair

In a sauce pan or electric skillet, at medium heat, add chopped garlic butter and olive oil cook until garlic aroma fills the truck, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Add mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes, cook until mushrooms are tender, usually 5 to 10 minutes.

Add clams with juice, for optional additional flavor add sparkling grape juice or wine (if you are not in a truck). Bring to boil and reduce heat to simmer.

A tip for cooking fresh pasta without a pot. Use a steam kettle to bring about 4 cups of water to a boil. Place your pasta in a bowl, pour water over pasta, covering it. Put a lid on the bowl. You can then place the bowl in the microwave for 3 to 4 minutes for thicker pasta or just leave the noodles in the hot water for 3 to 4 minutes for thin pasta like angle hair. This method can be used for dry pasta but you should microwave for up to 10 minutes until the pasta is cooked al dente.

After noodles are done, drain. You can use some of the water to add moisture to your sauce if needed.

Pour sauce over hot noodles and serve.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Aftermath

Coming back from Chicago yesterday we encountered some of the damage in Kentucky caused by Friday's tornadoes  . There were several places where tornadoes crossed the highway. In Critenden, south of Cincinnati; trees had been uprooted and tossed around, a good quarter mile of roadside was strewn with debris, and on the northbound side a truck had been turned over and forced off the road.  My aunt and uncle live a few miles from the highway, I had called them earlier in the day, leaving a message.  My concern for them grew at seeing this damage so close.  My sister and I were talking on the phone as we drove through and I asked her to get Mom to call to make sure they were OK.

An hour or so later while listening to Lexington public radio it was reported there were three deaths in Kenton country near Critenden. I called Mom again. No answer. Turns out she was on the phone with my Uncle. Everyone is fine; but they had windows blown out, had damage to the roof, and all their barns and a detached garage were destroyed. Down the street a brick home was completely destroyed. We are so glad that they were not hurt

We switched out for Willow to drive the last leg of our trip back to North Carolina. As we passed Richmond, where she barely made it past a storm on Friday night, more damage was evident. Trees were down and homes on both sides of the road were destroyed. We figure 10 or 15 minutes later on Friday and we would have been caught in the tornado, it had clearly crossed the highway. A bit further down the road as we began to enter the foothills and mountains of the Cumberland Plateau, there was another tornado crossing and a semi down in a ravine on the northbound side of the interstate. All this was definitely sobering, had we been delayed at all things would have been ..... interesting.

I feel for everyone that was affected by these storms, they are so random and so ferocious. Some homes were untouched or lightly damaged, when next door there was complete destruction. 

A definite credit to Willow's driving skills, I slept like a baby through everything last night. She continues to take the brunt of our weather related drama and has been handling it like she has been driving a big truck for years.



Saturday, March 3, 2012

Tornados

645pm: I drove north on 75 through Kentucky, Zygote slept. The sun setting through the gathering clouds made for a beautiful scene over the mountains. Strong winds had rocked the trailer all afternoon through Tennessee and now into Kentucky.

Around Berea a hue of orange and green tinted the very air rather than being a mere color in a pretty sunset, the sign of an approaching tornado. Scanning the clouds for funnels, I noticed two fingers starting down out of one cloud to the east of the highway, undeveloped. I turned on the radio and the ringing sound of emergency broadcast filled the cab. Behind me, I noticed a huge black entity taking over the sky to the southwest, moving fast. On my left was a suburb of Richmond, Kentucky. The emergency broadcast ringing stopped and the announcement stated that a tornado warning was issued just moments before for Richmond, Kentucky and surrounding counties and towns. As the truck passed Richmond, warning sirens blared, the air reverberating with the repeating wail. The wheels of the truck pounded a steady rhythm on the pavement at 65mph; the wind hit the side of the truck like a freight train, rocking the trailer and pushing the tractor to the far east side of the lane; the wall of blackness behind me engulfed entire sky. The repeating tornado warning demanded that everyone seek shelter NOW.


A fading orange sunset lit the sky ahead and to my left; in front of me the sky was blue; behind me the sky was as black as night. As our truck sped out from under the roiling clouds, I felt a sense of dread for the people left behind. My prayers go out to those communities tonight.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Random Tips for Cooking in a Truck

*Butter storage-a butter bell works great for storing butter in a moving truck. If you have the butter out of the fridge for easy spreading, the container of the bell keeps melting butter from getting everywhere.

*Papertowels-a bungee cord strung between the shelf supports in the top of the cubby makes a perfect papertowel rod.

*Spices-magnetic spice containers organize spices on the side of the refrigerator and microwave

*Hanging bags-two cloth bags hang from the ratchetstraps that secure the refrigerator-one for breads and one for fruit. Hanging fruit this way keeps it from bruising from the motion of the truck. Even a banana will turn black in one day if it is laying on a surface in the truck due to the vibration.

*Menu-plan menus one week at a time for shopping and food storage. A magnetic clip on the fridge holds the week's menu for easy reference-six meals.

*Purchase milk in one serving boxes that can be stored outside the refrigerator. Keep one or two in fridge and store the rest in your food bins to save fridge space.

*Easy breakfast items
fruit, yogurt, cereal, instant oatmeal, ham biscuit, frozen waffles, cinnamon raisin bread

*Healthy snack or lunch items
fruit, cheese sticks, yogurt, raw veggies with hummus, peeled-cooked shrimp & cocktail sauce, pasta salad, potato salad, coleslaw, tuna salad sandwich, granola bars, trail mix

*Keep a tupperware full of raw veggies for dipping: carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, snow peas, celery. The container can then be brought up front with the driver. Another variation is to divy the veggies out into ziplock bags for the week.

*Purchase head lettuce and shred it for salads and store in a tupperware. Your lettuce will stay fresher longer this way rather than in plastic bags that it comes in from the store. Another option for keeping lettuce fresher longer is to buy the hydroponic heads of buttercrisp with the roots still on them. These keep the longest.

*From my trucking friend, Anne: wrap the microwave glass turntable in a towel to keep it from rattling when you are not using the microwave.

Sample menu

Crock Pot Salsa Roast with Rice
BBQ Sandwiches
Pork Chops and Quinoa with Green Beans
Grilled Cheese sandwiches and Tomato Soup
Hamburgers
Clam & Mushroom Pasta

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Refrigerator drama

Two weeks ago when the electrical issue blew our refrigerator, we replaced it with one that was slightly deeper. The freezer was not separate but had a door inside the fridge itself-a separate compartment but you access it through the fridge. This refrigerator lasted one week with us and we ended up exchanging it. I don't recommend these types of refrigerators for the truck. We found that having to open both doors to reach items in the freezer was very inconvenient, as the fridge is located on the top bunk-in our setup. We lost all our frozen food, as the freezer compartment is not cold enough to keep things frozen solid. Soupy ice cream anyone?

Typically, any meat I bring along to cook, I keep frozen until I am ready to use it. Before I go to bed at 3am, after my shift, I set it to thaw in the fridge. Using the freezer space like this not only keeps the food fresher, but maximizes the refrigerator space for fresh veggies, our large salad container and cold drinks.

The refrigerator that we ended up with is the same brand as our old one-Fridgidaire, same size, but has extra storage compartments on the inside of the door-which really helps with things like condiment bottles (and kitkat bars!!) The one drawback to consider about this kind of fridge is that the compressor rattles; the one on the other fridge was very quiet.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pork Chops and Quinoa


This meal only takes about 30 minutes to prepare and is healthy and homey in hot or cold weather.

Thin wafer boneless pork chops
Cajun Seasoning from Penszey's Spices
Near East Quinoa-1 box
Fresh green beans--or canned veggie of choice
Water

The meat will only take a few minutes on high temp to cook, so you want to have everything ready before you begin cooking.

Prep:
Sprinkle Cajun seasoning on both sides of each wafer; set aside
Remove seasoning packet from box of Quinoa-measure out amount of water according to package instructions; set aside
Snap beans (or open canned veggies)
Set electric skillet temp to 375

Cook:
Lay wafers in skillet - cook thoroughly but not so long they dry out
Turn and cook on other side. Remove chops from skillet-set aside.
Place green beans in skillet in meat juices and saute briefly. Remove and set aside.
Add water and seasoning packet to skillet and place lid on-bring water to a boil.
Add quinoa. replace lid. Set temp to 325 and cook for recommended time on quinoa box.
During last 2-3 minutes of cooking time, add green beans and pork back into the skillet to warm.

Eat:
I serve this meal in a bowl, as it makes for easier eating in a moving truck.

When I prep a meal, I lay a handtowel out on the bed as my "counter". This makes for easy cleanup also. The electric skillet stays set up in one cubby of the truck with the controls facing out and the plug hanging down for easy access. I also keep a towel over the surface of the cubby for easy cleanup as well-the cubby's typically have carpeting over the surfaces. My spices are kept on the side of the microwave and refrigerator. They are stored in magnetic spice containers-available at Walmart or some larger grocery stores. I keep garlic cloves, Himalayan salt, chili powder and Cajun seasoning all the time; other spices I rotate according to what our menu will be for the week.

Crock Pot Salsa Roast


beef (or pork) roast-any cut you prefer
1 jar of salsa
Rice

This recipe, if you can call it that, is BAR NONE the most wonderful meal for hungry, busy people. Just put the roast in the crock pot, dump in the full jar of salsa and turn to crock pot on high for the first two hours then low for another 5-7 hours, depending on how big your roast was and how much time till dinner. 15 minutes before you are ready to eat, put the rice in the rice cooker. Serve the meat and sauce over a bed of hot rice. I have also served this over egg noodles, which works just as good, but we prefer rice. This also works with venison, if you're into that sort of thing.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Thornton Quarry

On our way through Chicago, we drive over the land bridge that spans the Thornton Quarry. These pictures were taken from a moving truck, so they're not that detailed or clear, but you get the idea.

Wikipedia -- abbreviated excerpt:


Thornton Quarry is one of the largest aggregate quarries in the world, located in Thornton, Illinois just south of Chicago. Work at the quarry began in 1924 by Colonel Hodgkins, and since 1938 has been operated by the Material Service Corporation. The quarry is 1.5 miles long, 0.5 miles wide, and 400 feet deep. Gallagher Asphalt Corporation has been operating on the grounds of the quarry since 1928. A dryland dike carries Interstate 80/Interstate 294/Tri-State Tollway over the quarry.
As part of the Chicago Deep Tunnel project, both Thornton Quarry and McCook Quarry will serve as reservoirs to reduce the backflow of stormwater and sewage from Chicago area rivers into Lake Michigan.

The quarry contains Silurian reefs which formed when the Michigan Basin was covered in sea water more than 400 million years ago.