May 22, 2011

More Onions...and more...and more

I've been meaning to post since Wednesday, but just haven't been in the mood when I had the time, and when I was in the mood to blog, I was busy driving or trying to sleep. For the record, I compose amazing blog posts in my mind as I'm trying to fall asleep, or when I'm driving, but they never seem to make it to the keyboard when I'm on the computer.

When I left you we were waiting to unload onions in Oregon. The days that followed that post have been somewhat repetitive of the days preceding that post. We unloaded on Monday morning and reloaded with corn just west of the delivery. We got a last glimpse of the Columbia River before turning south to head off through Oregon's mountains on US97.
the bridge at Wasco, OR with Washington on the other side
We delivered the corn in Modesto, CA on Tuesday morning, and then reloaded fertilizer in Lathrop, CA. The load of fertilizer went to Casa Grande, AZ which is just south of Phoenix. We were there by Wednesday morning.
After unloading the fertilizer in a hurry, we put the petal to the metal and headed west for a 250 mile empty bounce, most of it through the picturesque Arizona desert.
A few hours later, we were sitting in the onion patch again. We loaded another load of onions in Brawley, CA. Loading onions is a little different from loading things like fertilizer and grain. Those type products are loaded by our pulling under a chute and the product is poured into the top of the trailer while we're parked on a scale or near one so we can weigh and know how much to put on.

Onions are loaded as they are harvested. We weigh in at the public scale in town and then drive out to the onion fields, which ever field they are harvesting that day. Loading involves our driving across the bumpy onion field alongside the tractor as it picks up the onions. We have to use our air gauges to estimate how much weight is on each axle. Its not entirely accurate, but it usually gets us close to where we want to be.
A lot of guys don't have these air gauges and its purely guess work, but Malcolm put them on our truck, and they frequently save our bacon! The one of the left is telling us that we have about 12,700 pounds on our steer axle, where we're allowed to have 14,000 lbs. The center gauge is telling us we have 33, 100 pounds on our drives, where we're allowed to have 34,000. And the gauge on the right says we have 34, 200 pounds on the trailer axles, where we're allowed to carry 34,000. We're a little over on that axle, but I took this while we were driving down the road so its not an accurate reading, and also we can get away with being a little over because of the line of work we're in.

So, we loaded in the field off our air gauges and then drove back to town to weigh out. The field we loaded in on Wednesday was 10 miles from town. So we hoped we were close enough on our weight that we didn't have to go back to the field. Unfortunately, at the scale we discovered we were 4,300 pounds over weight! So we had to go back to the onion field to dump some off.
Another ten miles back to the field, and then its guess work as to how much to dump. If you dump too much then you end up with a light load, which means less $$. If you don't dump enough, then you have to drive the ten miles back to the field again, to dump more! Malcolm stood looking at the other piles that other drivers had dumped trying to estimate how big a pile to unload from our trailer.
By the time we had returned to the onion field to dump off some, the crew had quit for the day and were pulling out to go home. So we were alone in the onion field and it was up to us to figure out how much to unload. Thankfully, Malcolm is really good at what he does, and we unloaded pretty near the perfect amount. Back to town to weigh out and get our weight ticket, and then we headed north, back to Oregon!

It was an uneventful trip through Nevada's most remote areas. Malcolm drove through some snow in the middle of the night and on one hill it was pretty slick. The truck in front of him was having trouble getting up the hill and there were a few intense moments I guess. I slept through it all.

In Oregon, most of the flooding we'd seen the weekend before had dried up, but it appeared it had all drained into the town of Burns, OR. The town was surrounded on the east side by a lake that used to be pasture and hay fields. There was more than one house sitting in a shallow lake, barns standing in water, and the main road was closed. I heard later it had washed out, but don't know if that was accurate. We had to take a small detour to get north and on our way.

We got to the delivery early in the evening and parked in line. We were the 4th truck. The previous Monday we were the first truck in line, but when we got up to unload on Monday morning, at least 15 trucks were lined up behind us with more coming in every minute. So we knew to make sure we were early every time we deliver there. It takes about half an hour per truck to unload, if things go well.

After unloading the cycle started over again. We jumped over to Palouse, WA and loaded pearled barley.
I had trouble getting a good picture of eastern Washington. "Tiss the season" for bugs on the windshield, and I'm not complaining because that means its warm! But it also makes it hard to get a good clear picture! My camera likes to auto focus on the bug splatter and who wants to see that? But take my word for it, eastern Washington is beautiful, and if you want to see more picture of it, I have a few posts labeled "Washington" and you can see more of it in those.
The picture above was take just outside Palouse. The town is in a lovely setting. We loaded the barley on Friday and its bound for San Francisco. Its been a leisurely weekend because we can't deliver till Monday morning and we'll not be going any where NEAR San Francisco till up to the very last minute! Once in town, there is no where for us to go or park, so we wait till delivery time to show up.  Tomorrow morning's mission will be to get in, get empty, and get OUT as fast as possible, and hopefully avoid most of the nightmare they call morning rush hour. We'll see if it works.

After that, we don't know for sure yet, but we do know we're working our way back to the onion field. So you can pretty much figure this week will be very similar to the last two. 

In the mean time, we're relaxing in the warm-ish Oregon mountains, taking in the fresh air and soaking up some sunshine! We're happy that warmer weather is finally here to stay (we hope)!


Michaele said...

I just love reading your posts. You are like my travel channel since we don't watch TV. I like hearing about all the challenges of truck driving also. Who knew!

Frugal Canadian Hermit said...

You guys probably don't need to put onions on the old shopping list any time soon, hey? I can just see you and Malcolm cruising down the road eating onions like they were apples, no? Just kidding, but ya know, it could possibly keep the DOT away. It's interesting to follow your journeys.

Vintage West said...

I never knew so much went into loading onions :) I hope the good weather holds out for you!

Dreaming said...

You have written a new definition for 'busy'!
I laughed at your comment about composing great blog posts while doing something else... whenever I'm out cleaning up the paddock my mind tends to play with possibilities for the blog!
Can't wait to read about and see pictures of your next few adventures. I loved the picture taken outside Palouse. I wanted to crawl into it and take a nice walk through the fields!

Cynthia Eloise said...

at some point you are going to have to put your photos and observations together in a book. looks like you travel mostly in the west?

Leigh said...

Interesting about the gauges. Dan's tractor doesn't have them but then he's not an O/O. Company trucks don't have the luxuries! Interesting about loading the onions too. I love onions and those piles look lovely to me.

Sarah said...

thanks all for the comments. Life is interesting as always. @ Cynthia, we do seem to do most of our stuff in the west and mid-west. We get on "freight lanes" and stay in the same general area for a while, but then it changes. Mostly west mid-west but we do go to the southern states on occasion and even had a journey to Vermont this past winter. Thanks for visiting!