November 20, 2009

Pass the Salt, Please?

Near Salt Lake City, UT - 10:00 am

Greeting from SLC! We're rolling north towards northern Idaho, and along the way we'll be passing through western Montana. But I should tell you about getting here before I tell you where we are going.

We had, shall we say, a rather unpleasant time in California this trip. It really had nothing to do with the roads, the traffic...though we did pass through the LA area right at "goin' home time" which is always a joy...or with the people of California. After we delivered our load of pearlite in Escondido, we drove the 160 miles or so to Brawley, CA. We drove through most of the night, pausing for a few hours to nap, and arrived at National Beef around 6:30am.

Now let me digress a moment to say that we frequently load at kill plants. In fact meat and bone meal, along with poultry meal, make up a good percentage of our loads. And we load at kill plants in multiple states. This was our first trip this year to National Beef in Brawley, but last summer we loaded there numerous times. There is nothing like a kill plant and 120 degree heat...aww the aromas (more like gagging stench!). The other kill plants generally get us loaded and out within an hour or two. We never spent less than three hours at Brawley and often more. We soon learned that nothing has changed except that the temperature was lower and it didn't stink quite so bad.
I just felt you needed that tidbit of info. so you'd be set up for the continuation. So we arrived at National Beef at 6:30am. Malcolm went to check in. Malcolm came back. The truck that was currently loading had started loading at 2:00am and wasn't half way done. The truck waiting to load in front of us had been waiting to load since 10:00 the previous evening. It was going to be a LONG day!
We were all eventually overcome with the monotony of it.
Skipping all the dull details of the day, I'll skip to the end of Wednesday and tell you that we finally finished loading at about 6:30 that evening. We had made a quick run into town that morning for a quick breakfast and then for dinner we had a granola bar and some stale cheezits. Upon finishing the loading, Malcolm went in for paperwork. Alas, the paperwork guy had just left for his 1 hour lunch break. Two hours later Malcolm went in and pitched a fit and they found someone to print out some bills of lading for us. How nice of them to trouble themselves.
Needless to say it was an all-nighter to get to Traver, 450 miles north. I finished the second half of it, navigating through fog so dense I could see the end of the hood and not much more. Once Foster Farms opened for delivery, we got the meal dumped off and done by 9:00am Thursday morning.
Now at this point, we were tired and hungry, having not slept much on bumpy roads and not eaten a meal since the morning before. On top of that, we hadn't showered in almost three days because when we had time, there were no showers, and when we were near showers there was not time. Needless to say, our spirits were dampened, our mood was becoming foul, and our "vacation" for Thanksgiving was looking better and better.
And then we talked to our broker. Loads were in short supply, everything slowed down for some reason, he could only come up with one way to get us home for the holiday, but we'd not get home till Tuesday and we'd have to leave Sunday morning to get to Illinois. Not what I wanted to hear. And then the real clincher....we had to drive 800 miles EMPTY to load west of Salt Lake City, because there just wasn't anything else that would work. We haven't driven that far to load in over three years.
Once the shock and disappointment wore off, things started looking OK, or at least we just accepted that it was the way it was and there wasn't anything we could do about it. So we drove to Ripon, CA, showered, ate at a Mexican restaurant we like, and then treated ourselves to Starbucks before we headed out of California.
Anyway, its over. We're loaded and heading out and we'll be home Tuesday and I've been plotting since 2:30 this morning ,when I got up to drive, how I'm going to manage my time and get everything done that I wanted to get done while I'm home.
We loaded salt this morning, thus my title. Bet you were wondering what salt had to do with anything I've talked about so far. Well it didn't, but it will from here on out. Took long enough to get there didn't it?
Its about 111 miles across the salt flats of Utah on I-80, and about a third of that is within sight of the Great Salt Lake., or at least a lot of shallow water along the road as well as the salt pits which are...we'll get to that in a minute.
Often its breezy out there, and the shallow water along the roadsides is choppy, but this morning it was calm and the water was like glass.
To harvest the salt they dig out these huge, shallow beds that are almost like really big rice patties, fill them with water, and then let the water evaporate out of them, leaving the salt behind.
Not too good of a shot, and my zoom wasn't strong enough, but I still wanted to include it so you could see them working. I don't know if they were harvesting salt, or making another bed to fill with water. Those are bulldozer type thingies out there.

Off the interstate and 8 miles down a gravel road, we arrived at our destination, multiple piles of salt waiting to be used.
Just to give you an idea of how big a pile of salt that is...
...and here they are waiting to load us as we weighed in.
And then... after driving 800 miles to get there....they told us we were in the wrong place. We were supposed to be here instead.
And so we headed back out the way we came, 8 miles across the salt pits...
...making a total of about 16 unnecessary miles added to the already ridiculous 800 empty miles.
And then we arrived at our destination.

Now we're loaded and rolling north. Not too happy that we have only 750 miles to go between now and Monday morning when we can deliver. VERY happy that, since we only have 750 miles to go between now and Monday morning when we can deliver, we're stopping in Idaho Falls this evening and tomorrow I intend to spend the ENTIRE day at the mall, Barnes and Noble, and whatever else I can find to do there. Very, very happy about that! There is also a large army surplus store that Malcolm has wanted to go to for the past three years, so I think we'll do that too! And since I get to do all that tomorrow, that's one less thing to try and squeeze into our shortened Thanksgiving holiday.
(In case your wondering why 5 days off was a depressing thought and we were feeling that wasn't enough time when all our breaks are usually about a week long...consider that we've been at the house for one day in the last SIX weeks when normally we stay out only 4 weeks or so! Five days sounds very short!)


Beck's Country Living said...

I hope you have a good Thanksgiving and fly fly only if in you dreams I will be think of you and yours this week go home safe and have a good week

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

hah! Yes, I know about those short visits home all too well. John was home last week for 2 days, but before that he hadn't been home since the middle of September and visit was only for a few hours. He's been working for England now for over 5 months and if I added up all the days total he's been home, it would still be less than a week.

He missed my birthday, his birthday and will miss Thanksgiving, too. He MIGHT be home for Christmas for a couple days, we shall see. They just keep him and his partner so busy. They deliver mostly food, and much of it for Walmart. So, it looks like there won't be any shortage of work, which is good.....and not so good. :P

Anyway, your photos and stories are always so interesting and fun to read. Your puppy girls looked so pitiful and sweet. I bet it's great comfort having them to cuddle when you are out on the road.

John has been dealing with a few rude folks at loading areas lately, too. Why is that some of the folks working in loading and unloading just seem to think that truck drivers have lots of free time to sit around and wait all day? bah!

That was fascinating seeing those huge mountains of salt. Do they wash or sterilize them before being sold?
Also, I'm curious as to how they create idodized salt, too.
Suppose I should just Google it. lol!

I hope your Thanksgiving holiday is a wonderful respite from your days on the road. Enjoy!


Janice said...

What an interesting post. Hope you have a great Thanksgiving.