February 23, 2013

So Long California

Back in September, unexpectedly, we found out we were on our last trip to California. We were actually on our way out of the state. And it was actually only an hour after learning Malcolm's grandfather had passed away, that we were informed we were no longer welcome in California. It was a traumatic day, you might say.

At first, we were more than a little disturbed. We were already in the midst of an upheaval as we were preparing to leave the ranch and trying to figure out where we were going to go and how we were going to get there.

And then CARB (California Air Resources Board) drops the bomb on us and denies us entry to the state. In fact threatened to write us a $1600 ticket, but settled for a total banishment if we would leave right away and not come back.

We were disturbed because, as I noted before in a previous post, about 70% of our loads were going to or coming out of California, or working us to one of those loads. So to suddenly learn that we won't be going there, we were rather concerned about the potential for disaster with our income. First and foremost on our minds was what this was going to mean for our loads. If we can't go to California, will there be enough good paying loads to keep us running with Northwest, or were we going to be forced to look elsewhere for our loads, something we really didn't want to do. We are very attached to Northwest, our brokerage firm.

Mt Shasta near Weed, CA

The reason California kicked us out:
Several years ago, California started passing laws regulating emissions from vehicles. At first it was just nuisance stuff, like passing a law forbidding truck drivers from idling (letting your truck run while parked). Spring and fall it's no big deal, but temps in California get high in summer and when your sitting in a fiberglass box, well the interior of these trucks get pretty hot without the truck running. Not to mention freezing in the mountains in winter.
There were other things they decided we had to do too, and then a while back they started weeding out the older trucks. If you get around trucks close enough to read the stickers on their door, you'll start noticing that some of them have a round sticker somewhere around the door that say Certified Clean Idle and has a picture of the state of California in the background.

The sticker gives evidence that the trucks engine meets CARB emission standards. The only way to have that sticker is to buy a new truck or do a $20,000 upgrade on the engine of an older truck. Our gray truck was a 2010 and had the sticker.
They set up a schedule for compliance and each year moved forward in the age of trucks allowed in. Our new truck is a 1999. We new, when we bought it, that we'd have to be out of California by the end of 2014. But that was ok because it fell into our plans to be off the long roads within a year and working locally around the ranch.
What was hidden in the tiny tiny print, that we missed, was that in order to keep trucking in California till the end of 2014, you had to have your truck registered with CARB by March of 2012. Not only did we not know this, but we didn't even buy the truck till April.

the hills near Los Banos, CA

So when the CARB officials set up at the Sacramento weigh station and pulled us around back, we didn't realize there was going to be a problem. When they told Malcolm to rev the engine so they could watch the exhaust, we thought it was odd. When they asked Malcolm to get out and open the hood and then started getting ugly with him and accusing him of lying to them about not knowing he wasn't supposed to be driving the truck there, and on and on and making nasty threats of big fines and such, we were flustered. And then they dropped the bomb and told him that they could right us a ticket for $1600 but instead,  since we were headed out, if we'd leave right away they'd not write the ticket, but that we were not to come back into California with this truck, and if they caught us in there, there would be hell to pay.

So we left and didn't look back.
a train winds through the mountains east of Bakersfield, CA

Except to wonder how we were going to make a living without California.

Our broker was less than pleased to hear the news. I won't repeat his exclamations. But then, after he vented, he said we'd work something out and they'd just start shopping for long haul loads in other parts of the country. He promised us we'd figure something out.

After the initial shock wore off, we started feeling better about it. Honestly, we never liked going to California that much. In fact we complained about it a lot. Of course, once you realize you'll not go to a place again, you start thinking of all the things you did like, the drives you enjoyed, the places you liked to eat, the scenery in special places, and you start to feel a little sad that you'll never ever go to those places again.
the dry deserts of southern California

Things have worked out so far. Since September, and of course we took off quite a bit of time for the move and for the holidays, we've been doing well for the slow time of the year that it's been. We've had some slow weeks, but it's hard to say if that's because of the California deal or because this is just a crappy time of year for freight. And listening to our friends talk, we're thinking it has nothing to do with California. All our trucking friends are complaining about too much sitting and too low rates. Next month is the month that things start to pick up, and then we'll be able to determine to what extent this will have changed things for us. But just judging from the past weeks, I don't think it's really going to have that big of an effect.
traffic jam in the Sierra Nevadas near Donner's Pass

Now, changing gears a little bit:
You know, back in September when we were working on finding somewhere to live in Tennessee and planning our move, we were both facing the likelihood that we'd not be seeing nearly as much of the house. Living in Montana, we were getting the occasional loads that passed us by the house over weekend and holidays and it was nice to get those unplanned home times. But we only went to Tennessee when we asked to go. I can only think of one time when we stopped at my parents for a weekend because we happened to be passing through in the last 5 years.

Given past experience we did not expect to see the house often.
And then we got kicked out of California.

I'd call it one of those situations that we, as humans who can't see the big picture, look at and think is a really bad thing.

But God, who knows what the future holds, knows what's best. And looking back, I would never have thought being forced out of California was a good thing.
But as it turns out, one good thing has come of it. Because we don't go to California, we're getting more loads that head east. In fact, since we moved to Tennessee, we've passed by the house on a load 3 times already, and been able to stop for a day or two. I wonder if perhaps allowing us to be banished from the west coast was God's way of providing for us to be able to still have those random weekend trips home that have always been such a balm to our road weary souls.

We went back to work January 10th, after a lengthy Christmas and New Year break. We've been home two weekends since, one in particular that was unplanned but provided me the chance to say goodbye to my grandfather, who passed away a few days later. If I'd been driving the west coast, I would have missed that. Those two weekends at the house were the breaks we needed to get rest to heal from our illnesses, and to mentally recoup from life on the road. Those random breaks are what help us to stay out for 5-6 weeks at a time, or longer. So I'm glad that we didn't lose them after all, as I had feared.

God provides for all our needs and more, and He does it in ways we never expect, even in allowing things to happen that we think can't possibly be beneficial to us. In the long run, they are, and He knows.

I don't miss California.


aleisethefunny said...

Very interesting. I didn't know California was so rigid. Of course, out of all the states they would be the ones. I hope it doesn't affect you too much. :)

Michaele said...

I just love a good "when one door closes...." story. Thanks so much for seeing the flip side.

MTWaggin said...

Let go and let God, yours is the second story this week that proves that. You won't miss CA and He will take care of you and your income! Now we need photos of the girls!

Muffy's Marks said...

I am so glad things are working out for you guys. You are right, it is for the better!!

thecrazysheeplady said...

I'm glad at least some good has come of this.

Jake said...

California is one messed up state!!Sorry to hear the DOT giving you guys a hard time. Glad you can look on the bright side. :)

Dreaming said...

We just finished "Camp Freightliner" in Gaffney, SC. This is an owner's course for those of us who have motorhomes with Freightliner chassis. It was very interesting. The instructor spent a bit of time showing the changes required in diesel engines to meet EPA guidelines and the gradual changes in emissions that were called for. So, I have a better understanding of CA and their stringent requirements.
How wonderful God is in providing!

Meagan said...

I am always amazed at the way God works things out! :-) It always reminds me that He know what is going on and He is in control. :-) I am glad that it's working out that you get to go home some and REALLY glad that one of those trips allowed us a good visit! ;-)