August 28, 2011

First Week Back on the Road

Just a little over 3600 miles this week. Not really very good, when you consider that we aim for a 4000m/week average, and usually get more than that! Yes, our first week back on the road was a bit of a disappointment, but maybe that was for the best. I guess maybe it was better than leaping back in on the run and wearing ourselves down when we've gotten out of practice.
Monday morning, we left the house around 10:00, and made a short run, hauling a load of canola seed from Regent, ND to Velva, ND. Upon arrival at Velva, we found ourselves in line behind about 30 other trucks, all waiting their turn to deliver. It was several hours before we were out of there.

Unloaded, we headed to Devil's Lake, ND and arrived around midnight. We were out of there by 2:00am with a load of pea starch, an ingredient that they needed at a mill in California where they were making horse feed. I drove out of Devil's Lake and through the early morning hours, which meant I got to enjoy the sunrise, something I often miss, due to the way our favorite driving shifts fall. Tuesday morning dawned chilly and foggy in central North Dakota. It felt and looked like fall.
 We drove through the day, all night, and arrived at our destination south of Sacramento on Wednesday morning around 10:00, where we were told our load wasn't scheduled for delivery till Friday and they
couldn't unload us. It was discouraging to say the least. So we sat there, all day Wednesday, and all night, and Thursday morning we woke up to find another truck had arrived, and wouldn't you know it? They were going to unload him first, because of the appointment schedule. Malcolm called our broker, who is marvelous at his job, and within a short time, we were pulling into the unloading area while the other truck waited. 

A short 30 mile hop down to Stockton, CA to reload fertilizer, and we were headed back out of California, slipping through Sacramento before afternoon traffic really picked up.
this is about as empty as I've ever seen this stretch of I-80
We had an 850 mile run to northeastern ID, with plenty of time to get it done. We stopped in NV to eat and shower and still got to ID a couple hours before they opened Friday morning in Sugar City.

Seemed like the week had salvaged itself a bit after our 24 hour layover in CA, but then it turned out that CA had messed up our chances for a decent weekend load. After a couple hours, the broker called with the best they could come up with from our position, a 450 mile load from Pocatello, ID to Valier, MT. Not good news going into the weekend. That was way too much time for that short of a trip.
But that's the way the cards were dealt this week. So we heaved a few sighs of frustration, loaded our fertilizer in Pocatello, and headed north.
approaching the ID/MT border on I-15
 It was still in the high 90's in Idaho so I just kept going till it had cooled off some.
Just across the border into Montana, we ran through a  little rain storm, which worked like a charm. Got the bugs off the windshield and cooled things off considerably. At one point it dropped down to 61 degrees! There's hardly anything between Idaho Falls and Butte, MT in the way of food with truck parking. So I drove all the way into Butte, finishing off nearly half our trip before the weekend had even gotten here!

The scenery along that empty stretch of I-15 is lovely. Like an introduction to Montana's mountains, the interstate meanders along between the smaller ranges, through ranching valleys, and as you near Butte, the terrain becomes more and more hilly, working you into the larger mountain peaks.
 We spent the night in Butte, and slept in Saturday morning. No point in rushing things. We only had about 250 miles left and two days to get it done. So we settled in for a relaxing weekend.
We headed north towards Helena, about a 70 mile trip from Butte. Once you leave Butte, the mountains close in a bit more. Normally, the mountains are really crisp, but as usual in the summer time, there are a number of fires going on in our state, and things were pretty hazy this weekend with the smoke that's in the air.
 Montana has not been spared the damages caused by pine beetles and other blights. Once the awe of the scenery wears off and you start looking at details, its almost depressing. Most of the hillsides between Butte and Helena look like they are just waiting for the perfect lightning strike. It's no wonder we have fires every summer!
 We stopped in Helena for breakfast at a truck stop we'd not been to before. I'd looked them up in our truck stop book, and glad I did. The cafe there served up a really good meal! We lingered over coffee, killing more time, and then headed north to Great Falls.
 Western Montana is considerably dryer than our eastern region! They obviously haven't had the rains we've been blessed with this summer!
 Just north of Helena, the mountains close in again and become quite rocky. I love all the formations, and patterns, and layers found in the rocks.
 Here, the interstate runs alongside the Missouri River, through the mountain passes...

Closer in towards Great Falls, the mountains start backing off a little....
 ...and pretty soon, they are opening up and your looking at a great expanse of grassland, interrupted only by the occasional butte or stray peak.
 The haziness made it difficult to capture what its like up here, but its really pretty!

We hit the mall in Great Falls, did a little window shopping and actually found a couple things we treated ourselves to. Then we killed some time browsing at the farm supply store, which is always fun and interesting.

And it just so happens that Malcolm's sister and her husband recently moved to Great Falls, so Saturday night we were able to meet up with them for dinner and a visit.
This morning we were pretty much slept out, so we got up and went and had breakfast, and sat around reading magazines over coffee as long as we dared without frustrating the waitress. Then we killed a little more time, went to Walmart for some groceries, had pizza for dinner, and then left Great Falls to finish off the last 80 miles to Valier.

North of Great Falls its a gently rolling terrain, nearly every inch of every acre planted to one kind of grain or another.
I like the mountains, but there is just something about grassland that appeals to me. It's pretty up here, though there is a difference between these grasslands and those at home. I'll always love eastern Montana's prairies most of all!

The mountains are still hovering on the horizon to the southwest of us, and we'll be back in them tomorrow, as we reload and head for Spokane, WA for a Tuesday morning delivery. This was an easy week. Too easy. I guess it was a good way to break us back into trucking, but we're sure hoping we get to run our wheels off in the days to come!


small farm girl said...

Beautiful pictures! I want to visit MT one of these days.

Jake said...

Boy you guys can put some miles on. I've never seen the I-80 that empty either.

TexWisGirl said...

wow. lots of beautiful scenery in this post. a whole week's worth! :) even the blighted areas still look beautiful because of the rocks and hills. but i do feel their pain for drought and other ills.

Growing Up A Country Girl said...

Sure enjoy your traveling posts - the pictures are always beautiful and just fun to see the countryside!

Dreaming said...

Ohhhhh....I'd be so mad if I had a load to deliver and was told I couldn't unload for two days - arghhh! Does that happen often?
It sounds like your broker has a way with words!

Louise said...

You had some lovely runs. The land around there is so different from what we see here that I'm always fascinated by it. Here's hoping that you pick up some solid loads, with decent run times, this week.

MTWaggin said...

Did you get to eat at the Early Bird Cafe by chance in Helena? In the old (now reopened) truck stop on Hwy 12. Great food! If not, stop next time you go thru! Hope for more miles for you this week! Give those naked girls a hug for me!

Mike said...

I love reading about your travels! Hope you had fun in Spokane, that's where I live

Meagan said...

Happy to see safe travels, and a picture of the girls! :-) Love you sister!

Amish Stories said...

Wow an interesting blog from behind a big rig. Love the images and in your business you should be able to get lots of great pictures from every state.Richard

Valerie said...

I love when Malcolm drives and you take pictures!