February 16, 2012

This Week So Far

Wedding pictures are forth coming, but I thought I'd break up the "vacation" posts with a trucking update.

After delivering our load of wheat screenings in Shreveport, LA on Monday morning, we headed over to Rusk, TX to pick up a load of iron ore.

 As you can see it was a wet and dreary kind of day. Everything was soaked pretty good and the iron ore was full of water.
For the duration of the trip, whenever we stopped we'd return to the truck to find little rivers of water running out of the trailer and across the pavement.

For the duration of the trip....
It was a relatively short trip from the east side to the west side of Texas. It took almost 2 days. Here's why.

After loading, as we pulled forward, there was a loud bang, the kind you know isn't good to hear.
As Malcolm stopped and got out of the truck, I was sitting in the passenger seat hoping it was one of the other trucks or a piece of equipment there that had made the noise, all the time knowing that it was too close to be anyone but us. And of course my first assumption was that it was a tire.
It wasn't a tire, but we did have a problem.

Have you ever noticed when you drive past a truck, that some of the trailers will say "air ride" on them? Our truck and trailer ride on big black airbags. It's an air ride suspension system that acts as shock absorbers. There are 4 on the trailer and they look like this.
Normally, but one of them looked like this...

Now, here's the thing. You think just one bag is blown, so you just drive to a shop and get one. But a leak or blown airbag means the air is dumped out of the whole system. Try riding in a vehicle, a large one, on a rough road with no shock absorbers and and make sure to hit every pot hole and bump in the road that you can find. Now multiply the beating you get by 10. That's probably about what it felt like in here for the next 130 miles! Pretty miserable.

We spent a lot of time on the phone, or rather Malcolm did. We must have called every truck repair service and shop between Rusk and Dallas and beyond and no one had the air bag we needed. Malcolm finally got in touch with a shop in Dallas that could get the air bag for us, but not till the next day. So we had to call the broker and post pone delivery. Driving very far in that condition is really hard on the trailer frame and other parts.

We spent the night in Van, TX and the next morning after giving Dallas traffic time to cool off, we drove into Irving on the west side and squeezed into the ridiculously small shop lot for the repair. Malcolm had told the guy it was for the trailer and he said no problem, but it was clearly a trucks only kind of place.  Regardless, my talented husband maneuvered his rig, backwards, into their parking lot and after an unnecessarily long period, they finally were able to remove the busted air bag...
...and replace it with a new one.

And then we were on our way. We arrived in Odessa, TX around 8:00 that night and delivered the iron ore to the cement plant there.

Before anyone from Texas fusses at me....there are two or three bloggers in Texas relatively near the Dallas area that have mentioned wanting to get together, and yes I know being stranded near Dallas for almost 24 hours would have provided the perfect opportunity. I did think of you. BUT it was raining and dreary, I had a bad head cold that (trust me) you didn't want me to share with you, and neither of us were in high spirits. So I figured we best remain hermits this time around. We'll try on a better day under better circumstances.

From Odessa, we made a 600 miles empty bounce to Sanders, AZ where we loaded another load of drilling sand. Last time we took the AZ sand to the Montana oil field. This time the sand went to Idaho to a trucking company that takes it across into Canada to their oil field, I assume.  We were about 160 miles away from our destination when Malcolm gave out and had to get some sleep. You see, while I had recovered from my cold, mostly, sometime between Monday afternoon and Tuesday night, Malcolm had caught it. It's hard to avoid sharing things when you live in a fiberglass box. Poor guy. The cold had come onto my gradually, but he acted like he ran into a brick wall at 75mph. Wednesday morning he told me his throat felt funny, and a couple hours later he was asking me to please run over him with the truck so he'd feel better.

Anyway, so he stopped and we slept on an interstate ramp's shoulder for a couple hours. When he woke up to finish the trip, the truck wouldn't start.

 The shoulder was sloped, but he hadn't thought the fuel would all drain over to the tank on the off side. But that's what it did. And then there was something plugged and something pressurized and so it wouldn't drain back. And so even when he managed to level us out some, the engine was still sucking air and unable to start. It was 26 degrees and we had no heat, we're both in some stage of illness, and hungry and it was just the perfect way to start the day!

Malcolm called a mobile truck repair service and they came out and pumped the fuel back into the empty tank. $230 and I don't think they even had to drive 20 miles round trip. We're in the wrong line of trucking!

Anyway, we arrived at our destination in Idaho, about 2 hours later than planned, but still arrived! We've delivered to this business a number of times, and the way it works is they run an auger under our truck and load whatever we're hauling onto one of their trucks. Doesn't take too much time as long as the auger works well.
During our brief absense, they've built a mountain. We were impressed!

I love this set up! We've only seen it a handeful of places, but it's wonderful! Basically we drive up on top, while an empty truck pulls in below....
then we open our hopper doors.....
 and....WHOOSH.....we're empty and the other truck is loaded! Five minutes tops! It's brilliant!

After that it was a sit and wait game, and kind of still is. Not a lot moving around up here at the moment load wise. There were a couple of options, but nothing definate. We're taking a load of wheat to Ogden, UT,  a little short 200 miles trip to fill time. From there we're looking at either a load going to North Dakota (and a weekend at home), or a bounce to Arizona for more sand. We hopefully will know within the next hour. Either way works for me. One means home time and the other means money. After this week, I'm kind of leaning towards the money.

I had a couple more questions shot my way about trucking.
Michaele wanted to know why Idaho needed Arizona sand. Guess I kind of answered that in this post.

The other question was from Nikki, who wanted to know how we have internet on the road. We have wireless internet through Verizon wireless. There is a small card that plugs into one of the USB ports on the laptop and pretty much as long as we have cell phone service, we can get internet signal too. It's been a life saver as far as our sanity. It's a major source of entertainment, but also we use it to check weather, road conditions, keep in touch with family and friends, and stay up to date with the news.

Since our current trip is so short, 200 miles and more than 12 hours to get it done, we're going to go shower and have a leisurly dinner in Idaho Falls. Here's to a better second half of the week!


aHunkaHunkaBurningLove said...

Sarah, ive seen trucks parked on the off ramps many many times, and it looked sooooo tempting to do that myself. But I know the troopers wouldnt allow a ford escape to do that no matter how tired I was lol. Do truckers ever get told not to park on them?

Michaele said...

Sarah, you would have made a great teacher. But I am just glad you are a blogger and all I have to do is come here for a great education. I also love hearing how you guys just deal with the frustrations and carry on : )

Badlands said...

I have an iPhone with Verizon and we use it to check weather, update airport info, and check pireps and notams while we are flying.
Would hate to live without it!
Hoping you are both feeling better and that your luck is changing for the better!

TexWisGirl said...

thanks for explaining those air shock absorbers. i'd have never thought that the whole system would be compromised if one went bad.

Muffy's Marks said...

I'm glad to hear things are running smoothly after your streak of bad luck. Happy trails, and thanks for sharing your trucking stories!!

Charade said...

Gravity can be your friend - or it can be frustrating when it does something like drain your off tank. Too bad they don't give you the choice of draining or not with some sort of manual switch. Hope you're both well soon.

Jake said...

Hope guys are feeling better! I know how Malcolm feels that normally how it happens for me.

Dreaming said...

Yup... I've seen that "air ride equipped" sticker before, bot didn't realize what, exactly, the air ride thing-a-ma-bob looked like. Yeah... your's looks popped!
What a pain! I'm glad you go it fixed.
The fuel thing sure sounds scary.

Shirley said...

Boy, that was a rough haul, especially getting sick on top of all the other frustrations. The mountain setup works great, it's like what they use at grain elevators in Alberta; drive up a ramp and off load into a portal in the floor that goes to a conveyor belt that moves the grain to whatever bin they need for the type of grain.
Hope your next haul has no worries!

MTWaggin said...

Nothing like some drama on top of illness to make a trip SUCK! You two are major troupers and I sure hope you get some rest, over your colds and the truck and trailer are now in tip top shape!!! Thinking of you though - always.


Pure Prairie Soap said...

This is better than any "reality" show on TV. The Kardashians got nothin' on you two. I really enjoy your blog.