Archive for October, 2009

Home At Last

Even getting home turned out to be a story.

After making my delivery in El Paso I went to the terminal there to wait for my next trip. It came through in a few hours.  A load of medical equipment going to Georgia but the route passed through Dallas and I was able to arrange a “t-call.” That is I could drop it there and have someone else take it while I got something that would get me headed home. I got to Lancaster early in the afternoon and decided to go meet Krissie, my driver manager. We had a pleasant talk and I thought “OK maybe things will be better now.” The next morning I was told to deliver a truck full of spaghetti sauce to a Walmart distribution center in New Caney, TX. This is just north of Houston and certainly closer to home. My Projected Time of Availability (PTA) was also set to 11:00 PM on the first which sounded to me like I got to go home after making the delivery.  However I needed more than three days, or more precisely, 72 hours at home.  Especially since I had been out for six weeks.  When I brought this up I was told, sorry company policy is that you have to give up your truck if you take more than three days off plus put in a “personal leave” form.  Not sure what the point of the form is since there are no real vacation days. I finally said to hell with it and agreed to give up the truck, she then tried to get me to leave it in Lancaster instead of the terminal in Houston.  I said “no way, I am going to take it to Houston.”  That way Liz and I could be driving towards each other instead of my sitting around waiting for her plus I would get paid for 200+ miles. Just as I was shutting things down in Houston I noticed a call from the head of driver services, Krissie’s boss.  He left a message apologizing for not getting back on a call from two weeks ago.  Turns out his voice mail had been screwed up.  It was too late to call him then so Liz and I unloaded the truck and headed home.  Friday morning I called him and gave him the entire story.  He apologized and said that while policy was three days a DM can work with the drivers and that since I had been out as long as I had and had clearly been moving freight he would sort it out. Monday Liz and I are going to Houston to pick up a newer truck to bring home and get set up for driving. I am “off” until the fourth and don’t have to worry about any personal leave forms.  Hopefully Krissie will have learned something from all of this but at least I am not currently thinking about changing home terminals.

By the way, Walmart spaghetti sauce is apparently made by Ragu.


Trip down memory lane

The trip really started last week when I crossed from Maryland in to western Pennsylvania. I have never actually been on US-220 or I-99 before but they go through western PA where I was born and where my family is from. This is one of many beautiful parts of our country but it has a special place for me and calls to me in my bones. After dropping and picking up cargo I headed north towards I-80 and passed through State College. I spent a day there when I worked for The University of Texas and that day lead to a week in Bermuda supporting an experiment to measure ocean temperatures. Dirty job but someone had to do it.

Then I headed east and eventually hit the Delaware Water Gap, another stunning place especially when the leaves are turning. This brought back memories of a week long canoe trip I took in high school on the upper Delaware.

Then in to and out of New Jersey near Hoboken where John Wiley and Sons books has offices with which I have spent many an hour on the phone in my previous life.

Next back on I-80 headed west. This time all the way across PA past signs for Pittsburgh, were I was born, and New Castle, where my grandparents had a farm and I have some of my earliest memories.

The next day I hit Ohio and exits for Cedar Point, a most excellent amusement park, as well as Hiram where my older brother went to college. After those were Fremont and Port Clinton, again areas in which we lived.

Next comes Indiana and Valparaiso. I didn’t live there but my parents and younger brother did for several years.

Turned north towards Chicago where I saw a sign for the Museum of Science and Industry, my favorite museum. My oldest grandchildren went there recently.

Then Milwaukee. We lived just north of Milwaukee in Bayside the summer before I entered the Air Force. I remember seeing The Band and Leon Redbone at the bug summer festival they had on the lake front and also going to see Gene Roddenberry give a presentation on Star Trek. Later I headed west on US-151 past The House on the Rock, a very cool place to visit.

Tonight I am in Roswell, NM. No memories here for me and most of those between Wisconson and here are fresh and related to learning to drive the truck.

I have actually traveled part of this road before, again when I worked for UT and we were going to and from Alamagordo a lot. Tomorrow I’ll go through Ruidoso and then down to Alamagordo and in to El Paso. The trip down 54 I have made several times. Hopefully after that I head back to central Texas and home.

Company Love & Support

Tomorrow, the 22nd, Liz finishes orientation and will be ready to go out on the road. Plan A had been for her to go home and I would also come home and we would roll out on Monday. Well requesting home time was unclear to me and I did it late. Did my DM offer to fix it for me one time, no.

As you may recall I had to practically beg to get to Memphis for the class and once the class was over did they start to steer me back to Texas, no. Instead I got sent to western Pennsylvania and now I am in northern New Jersey with no load out of here in sight. At this rate I’ll be lucky to get home on the 30th as I have requested.

Speaking of New Jersey it was quite an experience driving on highways and then city streets in North Bergen at night in the truck. On ramps are almost nonexistent in many places and of course no one moves over. Lots of fun.


So here I sit near Roaring Springs and Duncansville waiting to go to Bellwood in the morning. I have passed within 70 miles of where my parents live but had no good way to go visit them. After I make my delivery I go to Altoona to pick up a load of stuff made from foam to take to North Bergan, NJ. Almost into New York City. That should be a challenge.

Speaking of challenges. The GPS receiver told me how to get to a truckstop in Duncansville that didn’t exist where it and Google Maps think it does. I ended up in a neighborhood. Drove across a bridge with an 18 ton limit twice and almost got stuck on a road with no outlet. Fortunately there was some sort of business with a large gravel parking lot where I could turn around. Also a bih thanks to several nice people who got out of the way and let me make some massive sweeping turns using up all the lanes and still almost taking out a fence or two. This made my trip through downtown Lexington, KY yesterday seem like nothing. That one was my fault as I exited southbound instead of northbound.

New Friends

While going through school Liz made friends with a young lady who was going to be team driving with he husband. They hit it off pretty well.

While I was in Memphis for class her husband was too. We hit it off pretty well and had dinner together.

Looking forward to getting together next week and hope we will see each other on the road occasionally.

Good to meet you Steve and Angie!

Getting to Memphis

When I last posted I was in Phoenix and I needed to get to Memphis for a class on Thursday (five days later). The assignment I got sent me to Laredo, TX which was at least in the right general direction and it was only Sunday so I had plenty of time. The trip was uneventful and I spent the night in Van Horn, TX.

The problem with Laredo is that we take a lot if stuff down there but don’t bring a lot of stuff out. I was carrying beer destined for Cancun, Mexico. It is now the 12th and it takes two days to get to Memphis. I need a load but drivers who got there before me should go out first. Late in the day I got an assignment but it was to North Carolina. That does not get me to Memphis on time. The schedule was also very tight for a solo driver but I want to be a team player so I took it. Fifteen miles down the road I get message on the Qualcomm. For safety reasons I am unable to read it while in motion and can’t just pull off to the side of the road. I had to drive another 15 miles to get to a place I could read the message. It told me to bring the load back. I double checked with my driver manager (DM) by phone and she verfied, so back I go. Another message on the way back. I pull in to a rest area and the message is basically “we changed our minds, take the load.” Naturally I called again and was told to take it back to the terminal as the schedule was too tight. So now I am still in Laredo and I have wasted several precious hours of on-duty and driving time. Later in the evening I get a message to get an empty trailer and drive to a Walmart distribution center in Baytown, TX to pick up another trailer and drive to Chicago. I made it to Baytown with just barely enough time to get in, swap trailers, and get to a truckstop to sleep.

Parking a truck is challenging enough but it was night, the ground was wet and the place was not well lit. Not to mention I still need a lot of practice backing up. Probably took me an hour to park. Fortunately at 4:00 AM no one was watching.

The next day Liz pointed out that I would be driving through Memphis so why not see if I could arrange to drop the trailer there and have someone else take it to Chicago. Smart wife I have. I contacted my DM who was getting testy by this time and informed me that Memphis was out of route. I reminded her I was going to Chicago, not North Carolina and I would be going right through Memphis. Giving the timing I would have been sleeping in Memphis actually. She arranged the relay or “T-call” as we say.

I arrived here at 1:15 AM and spent another 45 minutes parking the trailer, turned in my paperwork and went to bed as my class was at 7:00 AM.

About 5:45 I get message from my DM telling me I should take the simulator class I need. I reminded her that I was here for another class that was a little more important to me.

Before class I took my truck to the shop as I had some problems and having them fixed while I was in class would be a great time saver. The maintenance people here are great. I told them I had a 7:00 class and the got me in the bay quickly and I went off.

Class got out at 2:30 and my truck was not ready. Turns out the A/C problem was more than just needing some coolant. By 4:30 though everything was good but I was exhausted. I reset the time I would be available to early in the morning so I could get some sleep.

At 6:30 in the morning my DM messages me about the simulator class again. I called the proper person to see if there was space. When I told him I was in the parking lot he said “run” as a class started at 6:45. I was still in bed at the time but got there pretty quickly.

Both classes chewed up hours and left me in a position where I didn’t expect to get a load. That would normally be fine as I needed to go to the store but not getting out of here on Friday means I may be stuck until Monday which will start another mad scramble to get back to Dallas by Thursday to pick up Liz.

What a stress free lifestyle I have chosen.

Place Names

We really are not too original with place names in this country. I have been to Omaha and Normandy, both in Texas. Omaha is near Atlanta and Naples. Of course we have all heard of Paris Texas but there is also an Italy. Every Texan knows there are two Colorado rivers but I have also crossed the Little Colorado. I have been over two different Red Rivers as well and I can’t tell you how many Springfields I have seen.

I have been on Alum Creek Drive in Ohio. I live just off of Alum Creek Road in Texas.

I have crossed Goose Creek in Oklahoma (I think). My oldest son and family live in Goose Creek, South Carolina.

My favorite one so far though is Kitty Joe Creek in Arizona. My mother’s sister is my aunt Kitty and her husband is my uncle Joe.

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