March 22, 2012

Cheap Thrills

We are blessed in that our girls, unlike real children, are easy to entertain. And a lot cheaper. Whenever we have a long weekend and the weather is nice, we try to find a place to pull off the road and let the girls run. Their preference is to find a place with nice grass, not too prickly, not too wet, not too thick, not too dry, but just right.
 The temperatures should be, preferably, over 70, over 90 is even better. Sun shine is the favored condition.
 This past weekend, we knew we were going past a nice rest area on the Washington banks of the Columbia River. We've stopped there before. They have a nice large patch of near perfect grass for running.
 And there's not a lot of traffic so we mostly have the rest area to ourselves. We set them loose and watch them go.
 The girls also prefer that the wind is calm. Wind is not one of their favored weather conditions. Carlie and Ella try to overlook all but the strongest of breezes, but the princess does not "do" wind of any strength.
 She has also outgrown the thrill of running. Running is beneath the princess. She prefers snooping. But on this day, though the grass was soft, and not too wet, and not too prickly, it was only just 50 degrees, the sun was not shining, and the wind was too brisk for princesses.
 She snooped for about 5 minutes and then took up residence inside my jacket where she snuggled in to observe the peasants running. Good thing for princesses that they are small enough to fit into the jacket. Peasants wouldn't fit.

Eventually, even peasants begin to tire, though Carlie Jean could probably run all day long and be completely happy in an exhausted state if we'd let her. But the other two get bored waiting for her to wind down, so we shut her off earlier than she'd like.
 While we watched the girls run themselves out, we also took a few minutes to take in the view, which along this stretch of road, never gets dull.
I said our girls were easy to entertain. And they are! I didn't say they weren't picky though. Perfect grass conditions, perfect temperatures, perfect moisture, no wind.....well there's no such things as perfection, but we do our best. They still enjoyed it, and I hope appreciate our efforts.

I told you in the last post that we would be home last weekend, but then a change of plans. We found out we could deliver on Friday after all, and so we went through the night to Spokane, and then took a short load to just south of Portland for the weekend. And then this week.....well your lucky I'm blogging, because I'm about dead on my feet and half starved. We went from a lazy 350 mile weekend into a week of driving straight through the night, every night so far, and every day as well! From Oregon to Iowa, back to Utah, and on, we started Monday evening and haven't stopped going yet! Looks like things are winding down for the end of the week though, so some rest tonight and then another lazy weekend. It has been tiring, but feels good as well because it makes up for the poor miles the week before.
Hope it's a good and relaxing weekend for all of you as well!

March 15, 2012

Trying to Stay Busy

This time of year, freight slows down a bit. This effects things in a good and a bad way. First the bad: we do more sitting, less driving, and the paycheck starts to reflect that.
The good: we sometimes manage to get more home time because we have a wonderful broker that is really good at routing us past the house when things are slow.

Last week was the shortest so far. We were home the 3rd through the 5th. We left the house Tuesday morning (March 6), drove to Billings and to get Malcolm's CDL renewed and to reload. 
the Wasatch Mtns and part of the salt lake in Utah, Wed. March 7

We were delivering in Utah on Wednesday morning, reloaded, delivered in North Dakota Thursday morning, reloaded and were home by Thursday late afternoon.
a full moon rising over southern Idaho fiels
 We had a load going to California, but couldnt' deliver till Monday.
So we spent the weekend at home, and it couldn't have been a more beautiful weekend! The temperatures were in the 60's and though it was a little breezy on Friday, it was still a gorgeous day. We spent lots of time outside.

For Malcolm's part, he stayed busy with a project. His dad needed some land leveled for a new shop that they are going to build. So Malcolm got to spend practically the whole weekend playing with his bulldozer.

I made multiple trips to the corral to visit the horses, and then decided to take the plunge. Fancy, who joined us in November, was reportedly a former trail horse. However, she's just  been a broodmare for the past 4 years, and I hadn't put her memory to the test yet. But Friday I decided, with a little encouragement from Malcolm, to find out what she could do. It went really well, in that she didn't throw me off or anything of that sort. She was really frustrated over leaving her herd, and she seems to have forgotten how to steer. But I think  with some regular riding (hadn't figured out yet how that's going to happen) it will all come back to her. I can't speak for her, but I thoroughly enjoyed being in the saddle, even if the whole ride was a battle of wills in directional heading. I think I can speak for her when I say we were both rather sore the next day. We're both out of shape from a lazy winter and a lengthy break from riding.
someone ate her forlock. I havn't discovered the guilty part yet. But I'm disgusted with them.
We left home bright and early Sunday morning...
south of Three Forks, MT
... and were sitting at our destination south of Sacramento first thing Monday. Pea flour is a very powdery product. It makes a mess when you unload it. It also covers Malcolm from head to foot.

Our next load was a piddly little 150 mile trip from the Sacramento area to just over the mountains in Sparks, NV. That's just outside Reno. It had me worried for the week's profitability. I mean it paid decent for such a short load, but it was awful early in the week to already be trying to fill gaps. And that load was basically a gap filler.

Got that delivered and then reloaded Monday night in central Nevada. We drove all night long, or rather I drove all night long. We left the shipper just before midnight, and by sunrise I was on a little 2 lane road, north of the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

as you can see, I still haven't gotten that little speck of whatever it is cleaned out of my lens. I think this camera is going to have to make a trip to the doctor soon. It ruins good pictures!
The entire process of the sun rising over the mountains was breathtaking. Because of our preferred driving shifts, I usually get sunsets, not sunrises. So this was a real treat.

We arrived at our destination around 9:00am. Lewiston, UT sits about 4 miles off the Idaho/Utah border. At first there was some confusion about delivering. They were not expecting our kind of trailer and had the pit we'd dump into under construction. They tried to say we were supposed to deliver somewhere else. Our wonderful broker convinced them otherwise, explaining that "somewhere else" would cost them. We had to sit for several hours and wait, but they eventually figured out that they could get the pit operational and unload the product.

This was a load of ground limestone. It's an interesting product because it is basically powder. But as we drive to our destination, it vibrates and settles and pretty much turns back into as close to solid rock as it can be again. Only at that point, it's in our trailer. And solid rock does not go through hopper doors very easily. Malcolm has to beat and chisel at it the entire time. With enough agitation, it turns back to powder, one handful at a time. It's a long and messy process....

...and it is not one of his favorite things to haul, for multiple reasons.
for the record, he's wearing a yellow shirt and a red hat (um...it's an earthy tone of yellow though)
He went through a lot of laundry this week, with all the powdery things we hauled.

After that we got a load of fertilizer to North Dakota, and we just finished unloading pea hulls in Minnesota.

Now we will try to get reloaded today with sunflower seed. If not today, then tomorrow, but hopefully today. This is our weekend load. We'll go home with it and then deliver on Monday morning north of Spokane, WA. .

Products we hauled this week:
1. pea flour from ND to CA - an ingredient for a horse feed mill
2. wheat from CA to NV - an ingredient for a pet food mill
3. ground limestone from NV to UT - an ingredient for cattle supplement
4. 1152 fertilizer from UT to ND for a farmer
5. pea hulls from ND to MN - a pet food ingredient
6. black oil sunflower seed from MN to WA - an ingredient for a bird food mill

From leaving home last Sunday to arriving in Spokane, WA on Monday morning, we will have driven about 4800 miles.
This will be our third weekend home in a row. And this weekend the temperatures are supposed to hit mid-70's with sunshine! You know where I'll be!

March 13, 2012

Florida at Last!!!

Weeks ago, I promised you pictures from the Florida wedding. I've been a bit slow in following up on that promise, but today's the day! And I can just feel the excitement building in you! :)
But first, an introduction!  A little over 10 years ago, when I first met Malcolm, I also met his parents and sisters. Both his sisters became good friends as my relationship with Malcolm grew. About a year after meeting, we were married. Malcolm's sister,Rachelle, was one of my bridesmaids, and his other sister, Justine, was our flower girl.
Move forward in time 10 years, almost to the day. Our wedding was in July, and this past July, Justine and her boyfriend,  Rob became engaged! Justine was very excited and immediately started putting her dream wedding together. Within days of her engagement, she was asking Malcolm and I to be in her wedding. We were honored.
I have always appreciated the relationship Malcolm has with his sisters. He has an unusually close bond with them both, which I think is so wonderful.  And when he and Justine are together, there is never a dull moment. They are two peas in a pod.
by the way, make sure you ooo and awww over how good he looks in teal and khakis! He was adament that he only wears jeans and dark earth tone shirts. He was rather horrified at having to wear teal, especially after we showed him what color it was.
Being in the wedding, was an honor, but Justine also asked me to take some pictures, and I was both honored and overwhelmed. I've played with photography, but only for fun. This would be my first experience taking important pictures for a purpose. Fortunately, she also had a professional photographer and several other family members that took lots of pictures, and that took the pressure off.

I was nervous at first, but it quickly became fun, especially since I didn't have to worry about her not having any good pictures if I messed up. So I played with the camera while the "real" photographer was working.
And took a few shots at the reception.

And then after the reception, Justine and Rob wanted to go back to a place on the beach they had found a few days prior to the wedding. It wasn't the sight of the ceremony, but they wanted some pictures made there, with the lighthouse and the rock jetty. They are both very photogenic and had an eye for location! It was just me and Malcolm and the bride and groom. It was fun just being the four of us, and relaxing after a busy day.

We took over 100 pictures, but I won't subject you to all of them! I just pulled out a handful of my favorites.

I'm not bragging on myself, because I know there is tons of room for improvement, but I was pretty pleased with how the pictures came out. And it was a lot of fun taking them. I'm still not sure I'd want to be solely responsible for capturing an important event like a wedding ceremony or such, but I sometimes play with the idea of pursuing this photography thing further. It might be a nice little hobby business to consider for the future.

March 6, 2012

Home for the Weekend

It was sunny and lovely this morning when we got up. Too bad it didn't stay like that. As we were loading in Billings this morning it clouded over, and has been snowing steadily for the past several hours. Looking at the weather channel, things look whiter the further west you head, and that's exactly where we're heading. We'll be leaving Billings here in another hour or so and heading towards Idaho. Should be fun driving down through Yellowstone this evening! I actually like it when the weather is wintry going down through there. It makes it more fun and interesting, not to mention scenic!

While we were home, we got a lot done. Our living room has been more or less a storage room since we moved in June. Malcolm's parents had a piece of furniture stored there waiting for their basement remodeling to be done. We didn't see any need for them to move it and crowd themselves when we're hardly home anyway. So we had just stacked some things there as well and left the room with a little seating and the TV and then the rest of it was storage. The remodeling job is coming along beautifully in the basement and they had reached a point where they could move their things from our space and into theirs, and so we helped transfer from point A to point B, and then got all inspired to work on putting our room together. The end result was ceiling fan and light fixtures changed out to the right ones, entertainment center put together, and a room that actually feels homey and looks like a normal living room! Everytime we walk it, we both kind of pause and think "wow!"
It's still just temporary. Eventually a new room is going to be added to the house and that will be the tv room. This one is going to be my space for my library and whatever else I want to do with it. But this is great in the mean time. It was refreshing to walk through and see everything more or less in a normal place!

After it was all together, I had fun dusting the house (it was WAY over due), and putting out nick knacks in the cabinets, as well as organizing our DVD's and VHS tapes that had been living in moving boxes. It always feels good to get another box emptied and broken down!

Upon arrival at home, I was pleased to see a bud on my Christmas cactus! Granted, it's not Christmas, but my cactus rarely blooms on schedule with it's name.

This is actually the first bud my cactus has had in three years. The primary reason for it's lack of blooms would be my four legged children, mainly Paris and Ella. When we lived in Billings, I discovered that they were snacking on the cactus when I wasn't looking, and though I tried to keep them out of it, it was a loosing battle. There wasn't really anywhere to put it out of their reach. By the time we left Billings last June, my cactus was basically a cluster of 7 inch sticks.

Most people would have just thrown it out at that point, or sooner. But Malcolm gave me this cactus on our first Christmas together, 10 years ago. He had heard me talking about wanting one like Granny's, and on his way home from work one day he stopped at a florist shop and bought me one. So it is too special to give up on. At our home in Baker, there's a little area behind the sink that seems to have been made for my cactus. And it is VERY happy there. It has tripled (maybe more) in size, since last June when we moved. And now, after all this time, it's feeling well enough to make a flower. I'm so glad it's going to make it!

We did spend a little time outside. The weather was decent, pretty warm though also pretty muddy, and Sunday was windy. Malcolm had to change a tire on the trailer where the side wall had gotten a hole in it last week. He had patched it but technically your not supposed to do that when it's the side wall. However, he knew we'd be home in a few days where he has spare tires.  It's hard to justify spending money on tires out on the road, when we have a stack at home. So we made it work till we could get home.

And also he had to feed the cows Saturday and Sunday mornings. That was, after all the reason we went home, to feed while my father-in-law was out of town! Malcolm's dad has a hay buster which basically grinds up the hay so that none of it is wasted. I never realized there is a yummy part of hay and a blah part. But apparently, left to their own choice, the cows and horses will just pick out the dried leaves and yummy tid bits and waste a lot of the stems and stuff. BUT, if you grind it up, they don't have a choice, and it all gets eaten. No waste and tummies filled. I didn't get pictures, but he grinds it out into long rows and the cows fall into line behind him. It looks like a giant version of the Pied Piper leading the mice.

While he was feeding I was down in the lot saying good morning.

Everyone was happy to visit, as usual, though they were a little distracted. They kept looking up the driveway. Guess they knew what was coming! Our horses get to spend the winter in the lot, which is a big corral, with the bulls. I used to wonder if the bulls would pester the horses, but after a few visits and some observations, I came to the understanding that it might be the other way around. I've caught a couple of my ponies bullying the bulls. Poor guys! They just head the other direction when they see my herd coming. We'll have to work on lessons in sharing, but that's for another day.

On this day, we were visiting, and then the tractor arrived with breakfast. I had no idea breakfast was such an exciting event! I had to let the tractor into the lot, and then me and the kids continued our visit, but suddenly had a lot more elbow room. Notice in the background of the picture below, behind Gemma, that the grownups are all about the business of getting to breakfast!
And a few moments later, the kids realized they were late. Sky, the big lovey boy, was the last to realize what was going on (or maybe he just wanted that last private moment with his absolute favorite person in the whole wide world), but he wasted no time getting to it when he was ready. And now I know that horse can RUN!
Food has always been his biggest incentive. Wonder when they grow out of that bottomless stomach?

After that, visiting was a lost cause, and since it was so muddy and windy and a generally crummy day to be out. I decided to take a video of the celebration and then leave them to enjoy the meal. Truly,breakfast must be a wonderful thing! They were rejoicing for quite a while before they settled in.

Almost forgot!
A few have asked, over the past few months, for a picture of me driving. I don't like pictures of me, but just to make you happy....
...and give proof that I actually do drive this big rig.

March 3, 2012

Wyoming Wind and Tennessee Twisters

This week has ended with a lot of wind. Let me explain.

We had a mission to get home for the weekend. Malcolm's dad was going out of town and he had asked Malcolm if we could come home and feed the cows for him while he was gone. Gladly!

From Texas we loaded poultry meal and took it to a pet food plant in Phoenix, AZ, delivering on Wednesday. Surprisingly it wasn't as warm as I expected. It stayed down in the low 70's, cooler than west Texas had been a couple days earlier. Later I'd remember to be thankful for those balmy temperatures. (not that I wasn't already)

Our broker was having a really hard time getting us headed back towards home. This time of year our freight slows down significantly, and Arizona is never a good place to be for reloading, but even worse in the spring. Not much that goes out of there, at least not for our type of trailer.

The only thing he could come up with that worked for our schedule needs was a load of road salt. Unfortunately, we had to bounce over 500 miles into Utah to pick it up. And then it was only a little over 500 miles loaded, and not that great of a rate, considering the empty miles. Basically, it paid for our fuel to drive from Arizona to home. Just the way it works sometimes.

We were loaded Thursday morning and headed towards Casper, WY. I-15 north through Utah and at Salt Lake City, we turned east on I-80. At Rawlins, WY we jumped off the interstate for a little short cut on 220. It's about 120 miles from Rawlins to Casper, give or take a few.

One of the things about Wyoming is that the wind is more or less a constant. Love it or hate it, it doesn't change anything and if you go to Wyoming, you can't avoid it. Wyoming is windy. So given that, you can have the most gorgeous day, but even in dry summer weather, the wind might knock you off the road. And in winter, the sky can be blue, but the roads might be icy from blowing snow. 
 On this day it wasn't too bad and only the first 30 miles or so had patchy ice and snow. After that I was on dry roads and enjoying the scenery.

 Wyoming is far from flat, but you can still see for a long way from the right vantage point. I like cresting a hill and seeing the road disappear into the horizon.
 Getting nearer to Casper, the road gets closer in to some bigger hills.
 And goes right past Devils Gate, a historical point on the Oregon Trail.
 The snow on the ground had thinned out a bit, but probably it had just blown away to another part of the country.
 We pulled into Casper, WY around 5:00 in the evening. It had been in the low 20's the entire day.
 We finished dumping our load of salt for the road department and were headed north towards home within an hour.
 Home was about 350 miles or so. We took a little bit longer route for the sake of staying on bigger roads. A winter storm had gone through earlier in the week and we knew the bigger roads would be easier to handle with an empty trailer, as they would have been cleaned more. Contrary to what seems logical, an empty trailer is harder to handle on ice and snow than a loaded trailer. We need the weight for traction. So pulling an empty trailer on icy roads...it's not that fun.

The other reason we decided to take a round about way to get home was because we could go through Belle Fourche and get Paris in to see her surgeon. Our "60 days of no jumping" were over, had been for a week, and it was time to see if her leg was doing what it was meant to do. I was really nervous that it was going to be bad news. Paris hasn't exactly followed her doctors orders. We've done our best to keep her still and quiet, but she's done her fair share of jumping and tumbling and wallowing in the blankets, her favorite. So we dropped her off and an hour later came back and her surgeon took me back to show me the xrays. He had them all lined up from her initial break to the ones he'd just taken and showed me all the stages of healing and we had a nice long chat. I LOVE her surgeon! He is great to talk to and really friendly and personable. But I digress.....the point is, he said she was pretty much 99% good to go. There's one little spot that hadn't sealed, but he said it should be fine and she can run and jump to her hearts content! She has wasted no time getting to it!

That was yesterday, Friday. Friday was a big day! We got our great news about Paris, and we got to come home. But not all was grand about Friday. Prior to taking Paris into the vet's, I'd checked the weather and noticed that Tennessee wasn't looking too hot! Mom had mentioned to me earlier in the week that they were supposed to get some bad storms on Friday.

While we waited for Paris, we went and had breakfast and the weather was all over the news on the TV at the cafe.
So after we had Paris, and while Malcolm was driving us the 2 1/2 hours left to home, I was on the computer reading facebook posts and checking news websites from Chattanooga and Nashville. I was really concerned for my sister and her family, because they live north of Nashville, an area that was apparently slotted to get hammered. And Chattanooga was in the process of having some really bad storms. And then people I knew back home started posting things on facebook like "get in the basement if your in this or that area!" It was a little nerve racking to say the least. It was like last April all over again.

Last April I sat and read the same kind of posts from friends who were hiding in closets and basements, and at the end of the day the school I had taught at, the one Mom still teaches at, and the little town it serves had been leveled. That was last year and a town 20 minutes from home. This was now and it was happening in my home town. So close to home, that students at my high school were crouched in the hallways.

I checked in with family and did so again this morning as last nights storms were supposed to be worse than the ones earlier in the day. So relieved to hear that all were OK and no one had any damage. At least none of my family did. But they came close. In fact, my Dad told me this morning there were some very intense moments and at one point my brother and his employees were in the walk in cooler at the restaurant because it had gotten so bad. Malcolm's cousin said it looked like a strobe light was on outside her window down near Atlanta and Dad said the wind was incredible. They ended up with a tree across the driveway, but that was the extent of the damage, and my sister and her husband were spared the worst of it, as the storms didn't play by the pattern the weather service had mapped out exactly, thank the Lord!

I wish I could say the rest for Ooltewah, my home town. On the other side of town from where my parent's live, there are residential areas that were destroyed. As far as I know, "town" wasn't severely damaged, but homes were. Dad said it was a miracle no one was killed, probably saved lives that everyone was at work. Last I read there were 14 injuries serious enough for hospital treatment, but no deaths. Again, thank you Lord!

We have always had storms, and tornado watches weren't uncommon, but I sincerely don't remember them ever being considered a real threat! In my 34 years I have never had to go to the basement for protection. Seems like all of a sudden, the storms are a lot more severe than they used to be. North Alabama always got tornadoes, but I don't remember our area ever getting them! They were always north or south or west of us. So I don't understand why it's like this now. Global warming I suppose or some such explanation. All I know is that a couple years ago, when Mom said they were expecting some storms, I'd tell her to sit on the porch and enjoy them for me! We used to love to sit on the porch and watch the storms. But after last year, she'll tell me they are expecting bad storms, and I feel on edge and anxious till I know it's over. I spent most of the day yesterday checking my computer every few minutes for updates and texting Mom and my sister to see how things were going. I was very glad to wake up this morning to sunshine and then hear from Dad that all was well and they were going about normal Saturday activities!

Whew....didn't mean to go on so long about that! We are grateful that our loved ones were spared the difficulties, and our hearts go out to all those who did not have it so easy.

Back to Montana.....So, the plan is chill here at home till Monday night, drive to Billings, get Macolm's CDL renewed on Tuesday, load, and deliver near Boise, ID on Wednesday morning. I'll be back in touch with you at some point after that.

A CNN video of damage in my home town. One of those times you don't feel honored to make the national news because it's due to tragedy instead of great things!