January 30, 2009

The Big Shuffle

Loading in Yuma middle of the night on Tuesday we were awakened from our nap by a crash and a lurch. Turns out the guy pulling out next to us didn't get his doors on his trailer latched and it had bounced its way up the trailer and crashed into our truck, crushing our ferring and denting the back of the sleeper. Fortunatly, Malcolm was able to get up and out in time to get the guys insurance info. But still...that was frustrating. Now we are no longer cosmetically unflawed.

Got home Wednesday morning. We were home for a day and a half. In that time we shuffled a lot of things around. First we moved furniture, including Malcolm's million pound gun safe. We were making room for our new things. We moved an antique cabinet to the basement living room, my hope chest to its real home upstairs in our bedroom, all the living room furniture around and around because we just can't seem to get it how we want it, and on and on.

This was Wednesday afternoon. By 6:00 that evening we were tired, hungry, and not done. I had caught Ella eyeing Malcolm's deer and antelope which to this point had still been lying on the floor waiting to be hung. Figured we'd better get them up before she decided to try them out as gigantic rawhide chews. So we hung them both up, and since we were doing that we hung a few pictures too.

Then the UPS guy had shown up with our kennel that we had ordered, so we put that together and moved the girls in. It was just getting TOO crowded in the bed, queen size or not.
Wednesday night found our house filled with 5 traumatized individuals. Malcolm and I felt like horrible people. It was really really sad. But....we slept really really good too. And in the morning when I went to get the girls up, they didn't seem that upset. They came excitedly hopping out of their kennel and we went outside, and they must not mind it much because they spent the day going in and out of it everytime I was in the laundry room.

Thursday afternoon some of our new furniture was delivered. Specifically my chairs and ottomans for my library, the TV stand, and an additional bedside table. The bookshelves that I have coveted for so long turned out to be unavailable. Curses....

So we got our money back and have taken a huge leap of faith and ordered some on-line. They'll be here end of March. Please pray with me that they are acceptable!

Back on the road. We delivered in Salt Lake City this morning and are re-loading in Idaho bound for....drum roll........TEXAS! Dallas to be specific. Steve got the tire account back which means occasionally there is a load of tires coming from Dallas to Billings and we get brokered loads to get down there. We're taking potatoes to Dallas.

So something new and different, and you all know how much I like Texas. I think its because Texas is a cross between my two favorite regions. Its a southern state, but its western too. Its like a little bit of both my homes.

January 26, 2009

Three Days Off

We got home last Wednesday morning around 6:00 am, and needed a break. So we told the guys at the office we'd be ready to leave Saturday.

Here is how my three days off went:


After getting the truck unloaded, getting cleaned up, and throwing a load of laundry in, we went for breakfast and then ran errands in town. The biggest item on the agenda was ordering bookshelves for my library. We ended up not getting home till 8:30 that night. I think we went to every furniture store in Billings, but finally got the job done. That back wall in my library is 18 feet long and a little less than 4 feet high and the whole thing is going to be book shelves. I also ordered two chairs and ottamans as well as a side table. Can't wait till it all gets here!While we were out I also stopped in B&N and picked up a birthday gift and the Organic Dog Biscuit Cookbook for the girs, as well as took Malcolm to Wild Birds Unlimited to show him the neat feeder systm they have. I had bought the beginning set, but there are all sorts of attachements you can get. I was hoping he'd get interested and he was really into it! He even ordered a feeder he liked that they were out of stock on and bought a heated bird bath that mounts to your porch railing, but he's going to make a post for it and put it in the yard.


Thursday morning we had to go to the grocery store because we never made it there Wednesday while we were out. We also, finally, went to a bank in Billings and opened an account, something we'd been needing to do for quite a while.

Afterwards, we went home and while Malcolm was working in his shop I made sweet potato chews for the girls by slicing sweet potatoes and putting them in the dehydrator. I also made "Apple Cinnamon Muttins" out of my new cookbook. The girls loved them.
I also did what felt like 300 loads of laundry....I was a little behind, plus all our bedding from the truck had to be washed as Ella had had a few accidennts, plus she'd had an accident in our bed at home the night before. Well, all those sheets and blankets can easily feel like 300 loads of laundry.
While I worked, the girls played and then camped out in front of the wood stove. I got them a new bed. Carlie and Paris don't know how to use it correctly, but Ella figured it out and demonstrated for them.

Also Thursday morning I was delighted to discover that after a month of frustrated waiting, the birds had finally found my feeders. Granted, it was just a bunch of sparrows (about 30-40 of them) but maybe if they found it, the others will soon come too. I was thrilled. I had to take pictures to prove to myself that I had birds at my feeders, and I unknowingly took this shot of a bird in flight. The spring feeder in the lower part of the picture is my new addition that I picked up the day before at Wild Birds. It has whole peanuts in it, and then in the spring, you can put nesting material in it for the birds to take.


Malcolm returned to his shop to work, and I began the project I had set this day aside for. I spent the whole day, practically, working on my little Valentine quilt project. Its just a small thing for hanging on the wall or laying on a table, which was perfect for me because I'm not very good at this yet. Anyway, I was very proud of this project because this was my first time ever cutting the fabric without a coach there to help me. I did it all by myself. And while not all my seams met up exactly where they were supposed to, it was pretty close and I am very happy with the outcome. I still have to applique the heart and then of couse it needs quilted and binding, but I had a lot of fun and it was fast and turnedd out pretty.


Saturday we wern't leaving till in the evening sometime, so the day was spent getting things together, finishing laundry, and doing a little relaxing in front of the TV. I wanted to share a couple of my new favorite things for breakfast.

Malcolm's mom fixed this coffed at Christmas and it was really good. I thought it would be too strong, like McD's coffee, but its actually quite yummy.

Also on the menu was my favorite 7 Grain Cereal from Wheat Montana. You can order this online. Their oatmeal is also good. I usually throw a handful of dried cranberries into the boiling water just before I add the cereal. Its really yummy. But today, I had an opened jar of applesauce (leftover from my "muttins" for the girls) and Malcolm said it was good in the cereal. So I stirred a couple of spoonfuls into my bowl along with a little brown sugar and it was SO yummy. Give it a try if you havn't had it that way before. I bet it would be good in oatmeal too.
And then one quick little romp in the snow before leaving. There is a photo contest on a dog bakery website. You win half a pound of their organic dog biscuits. This months theme is "winter fun" and I can't decide which of these photo's to enter. What do you think? I'm leaning towards the bunny kisses because I zoomed in more.

January 24, 2009

Just a Note

We are sitting in Steve's parking lot waiting for someone to come down and fix a blunder. Someone parked a truck in front of the trailer we're supposed to be taking to California. Kind of makes it hard to hook up to it and roll!
After arriving back in Billings early Wednesday morning, we took a few needed days off. And I had such a good time. I had three days of total Martha Stewarting! I'll tell you all about it later. But for now, I'm tired, so you'll have to wait to see all my little projects.
It was so nice Wednesday. We got home and the snow was all melted and it went all the way to 60 degrees!!! Heat wave!
A short one. Actually its been kind of balmy lately, around the 40's and 50's, but it was a short lived break. It turned off cold again Thursday evening and that night we got around 2 inches of snow. Cold yesterday and right now its 5 degrees and snowing tiny little random flakes. It feels like winter will never end, and the truth is its barely begun.
Well, the guy is here to move the truck so we can get rollin'.
Hope you all had a great Saturday and that Sunday is all very relaxing and nice.

January 19, 2009

A Brief Introduction to the World of Trucking

The other day my sister asked what "reefer" means. I had mentioned in a previous post that we had been moved back onto a reefer from the cow haulin'.

Well, I've been thinking for some time that I might do a post on trucking terms, but just kept putting it off. However, presented with Meagan's question, I've decided that I'll go ahead and do this because some of the terms are entertaining, plus its educational for all of you as far as getting an inside view into what we do.

Some of these are general trucking slang terms, and some of them are CB chat terms. The idea or source of the words make sense on some. Other's I don't really get, and I'll go ahead and tell you some of them probably have vulgar origins, but naive as I am, I don't get it, and those that I do, I'm not going to go into detail explaining. Just keep in mind that its mainly a man's world out here and therefor...well you can use your imagination.

So let's begin.

Sarah's Guide to Truckin' Talk:


freight shaker - a slang name for Freightliner trucks

KW - Kenworth

Pete - Peterbuilt

(notice that the Freightliner name is kind of deragatory...in the trucking world Peterbuilts and Kenworths are like your mercedes and jags, while Freightliners and Volvos are like your hondas and volkswagons. Thats the best way I can think of to make it relevant for you.)


reefer - a refridgerated trailer

stick wagon - a trailer used for hauling logs

bull rack, bulll wagon - livestock trailer

skate board - flat bed trailer

parking lot - trailer used for hauling cars (I think that one's cute.)

General Terms:

lot lizard - truck stop prostitute

pickle park - rest area (I still don't get this one)

bear, smoky bear - law enforement agent

full grown (smoky bear) - DOT law enforement agent

one with a customer - a law enforcement agent with a car pulled over on the shoulder

one with a big truck - a law enforcement agent with one of us pulled over

local; city kitty - any law enforement agent other than a DOT officer

chicken coop, coop - weigh station

your coop's open/closed - the weigh station you are approaching is open or closed; this is announced by opposing traffic for your benefit

Those are the main ones and the only ones I can think of.

The trucking world has its own hierarchy. Or perhaps it would be more appropriatly called a food chain, seeing as how those on top often feed on the bottom dwellers, at least in the joke and ridicule department.

Generally owner/operators, or those who own their own truck are at the top. Under them are other types of drivers and companies at various levels. Also, generally, at least out west and from what I can tell, cow haulers seem to be reverred, probably because they follow few rules often giving themselves the "green light" and "blowing" past scales, ignoring speed limits, and generally doing whatever the **** they want to. (or at leats a lot of them do) Beneath them are probably flat bedders, then tankers. I think these three are higher in rank because they are more specialized and because the dry vans and reefers are a dime a dozen. The majority of freight is shipped in those two type trailers. And as far as companies go, owner operators are at the top, then general companies fill in the middle. But definatly companies such as Swift, Schneider, Covenant Transport, JB Hunt and a few others are the bottom dwellers but mostly Swift who is the butt of MANY jokes. And the reason for this being that they train drivers, I use that term loosly, put them on the road with little experience and within a rediculous matter of time they allow their drivers to train, again I use that term loosly, other drivers. Seems like at least half the time there is a truck in the ditch, its a Swift truck. So steer clear of them! We do.

So there you go, a brief introduction to the world of trucking.


Today Ella is 4 months old. She's growing so fast. She's gone from a cute little clumsy puppy to a long legged young lady. I've started considering her "show career" and trying to decide how and if I'll pursue that.

The older girls have gotten over their disgust with me for getting another dog, and accepted Ella as their sister. She is the baby sister, you know....the one they think Mommy favors, the one that gets held all the time, the one that gets to go out twice as much as they do, the one that always gets them fussed at as she sits in Mommy's lap pretending that she got hurt. But they do love her.

She and Carlie Jean are especially fond of each other. They LOVE to play rough and tumble. They are each other's wrestling partners, until Carlie gets carried away and Mommy has to rescue Ella.

Saturday she took time out of her busy schedule to pose for a few pictures. And since Carlie Jean was wearing her new outfit, she got to be in a couple of shots as well. Paris was naked becuase she hates clothes and I took pitty on her even though she was shivering a little. Also she was in a crabby mood, so after one shot of Carlie and Ella snuggled up together and Paris sitting to the side looking miserable, I dimissed her from the project and told her we'd do shots with her another day.

So here is Miss Ella modeling for her 4 month shots.

This modeling stuff wears a girl out!

January 17, 2009

Loading in Fairview

We're almost to Yuma, AZ at this point. We left Thurdsay night, and after delivering in Salt Lake City Friday morning, we reloaded and delivered this morning in Casa Grande, AZ.

Not sure what the plan is after this. I'd like to go back to cows, but I guess Steve told Malcolm Thursday morning that there wasn't much moving right now. So I supposed they will leave us on reefer for a while, and I should be greatful. There are an aweful lot of truck drivers sitting without a load right now. Our friend Brandon was in Texas for three days waiting to re-load and I guess there were quite a few flat bed trucks there at the truck stop that didn't have loads and didn't expect to get one anytime soon.
Here are a few pictures from last week when we loaded in Fairview, MT.

January 15, 2009

The Poisonwood Bible

I just finished this book on my iPod. For anyone with an iPod that has audio book capability and likes to listen to books on tape, I highly recommend a membership to Audible.
Malcolm bought me an iPod last year for my birthday (in '07) along with a membershipt to Audible.com. I have gotten so much enjoyment out of that gift. For $14.95 a month, I get one credit, which basically amounts to one book, plus discounts on other books. I rarely use the discount, just download one book a month, and I know its not exactly free, but considering most of the books are $25 and up, I still consider it a deal. I have listened to a number of books, that I wouldn't have known of otherwise, including Rhett Butler's People and Before GreenGables. I found both these just by brousing for something to read, and love them both.
Anyway, I got off track a little. I knew of The Poisonwood Bible before, but had never read it. I ran across it in my browsing on Audible and decided to listen to it after calling Mom to see if it was worth while. I really enjoyed it. I finished it this morning as I drove north through Wyoming. How very different to listen to descriptions of the steamy Congo jungle as I rolled, and a one time slid, my way over the snowy, icy plains of Wyoming, lol. Truly I recommend this book to anyone. The story itself was very entertaining, but to me there was a lesson in it as well. I have seen with my own eyes the way a person's faith can influence others to seek Christ. And I have also seen how a person's religion can push others across a line away from God and leave them with no desire to cross back and walk towards Him.
The Poisonwook Bible is a great story, though sad. Please add it to your list if your keeping one or looking for something.
Incedently, Barbara Kingsolver, the author of this book, also wrote Prodigal Summer, which I read several years ago, and remember enjoying. If I recall correctly it was also a very good book. I need to go back and re-read it.
Back from the Congo and into reality, we just delivered another load of steers last night in Wheatland, WY and are back in Montana, God's country. Malcolm is washing out the trailer before we drop it off at Steve's. They've asked us to take a reefer load to Salt Lake City, so we'll be leaving with that tonight and gone on reefer for a few days. I'm sad to leave the cow haulin, even for a few days, but it does get us the afternoon at home, and probably at least a day at home when we return early next week. Maybe after that they'll send us back out on cows.
Oh yeah, with Audible, you also get a free audible subscription to The Wall Street Journal and New York Times. I havn't utilized either one, but probably ought to get the Times, since I so rarely see any news. Anyway, thought I'd throw that little tid bit of info in as well.

January 13, 2009

The Chain Gang

That's what I'm going to call Malcolm and the guys from last night. That chain they were using to pull us out kept breaking. It broke over and over and over again. When they finally got us out, they two trailers which were backed up to each other were only about two feet apart. That's how short the chain was. But the point is that we got out. Malcolm stayed to help the other guys load. They had driven a long way and were exhausted. The two went to sleep after that, but John was going to the same place as us, 307 miles, so he left with us (at 2:00am) and Malcolm chatted with him on the CB to help him stay awake.
Just wanted to let you know we got out.
Oh I almost forgot! We stopped to fuel in Miles City, John went on trying to get to Ballentine to deliver, and I took over driving. I was just past Forsyth and out of the shadow's of darkness I suddenly realized there were two HUGE bull elk standing right on the shoulder. They were amazing! I've seen them before but not this far east! It was exciting. A few more miles down the road, I caught up with John who had pulled over for a 20 minute siesta. He pulled out behind me, passed me, and then I kept up with him and we chatted a bit. And wouldn't you know, a cow elk ran out and across the road right in front of us! They must be coming east for food is all I can figure! I never saw them over here last year.
We are very tallented in the area of time managment...sometimes. After unloading our truck and John's this morning (everyone, at least the good ones, stay around and help each other load and unload) we flew home. The road was icy so we didn't even try to back in our driveway. Just parked in the road (hope the neighbors don't start complaining). In less than an hour, we drove 17 miles to the house, both of us showered, threw my clothes and some things in a bag, and left again! Talk about out of breath. And worse, I have three VERY disgruntled girls to deal with. They were extatic to be home. Went absolutly wild. But when I started stashing things in a bag, Paris stopped mid game and just stared at me. She knew! Its was sad. Anyway, Ella's ok. She's too small to realize this isn't normal life. But the other two are in the bed, under the covers and I havn't seen them since we left, except for the brief time I drug them out to shave their little faces. Talk about insult to injury. They may not speak to me or Malcolm for days. Oh well..such is life.
Another hour later, we had had the steer tires replaced, grabbed McD's for brunch, and hit the road for Forsyth.
See, we use time well. Get a lot done. And then we sat in Forsyth for an hour and a half waiting for the buyer to call us and tell us to come to the corrals to load. Oh well..Malcolm took a nap, I shaved dogs and read, and caught my breath from this moring. All in all it was hectic and stressful, but just being clean makes it all worth while.
Of course then I got cow poopy slung on me when some cows got stubborn and I went to help cause it was just Malcolm loading. But they were just little flecks. Could have been worse.

Good Greif! Here we are in Miles City to get the other half of our cows, and what do you know. We're stuck on the ice! Malcolm just asked a truck from North Dakota to help out and he's backign up to our rear to give us a little shove. This is getting ridiculous! And its not working. But I'm getting whip lash from him bumping us...that got it! We're free!

January 11, 2009

Sitting in Snow

We got into a drifted bank...isn't that the line in "Jingle Bells?"

Its Tuesday officially, but barely. As I sit here in Williston, ND at 12:30am, Malcolm and some of the other guys are back standing in the parking lot looking around.
We had just finished loading our cows bound for a scant few miles from home when three other trucks of Steve's pulled in and parked on the snowy parking lot, awaiting their turn to back into a chute to load. We pulled out, they tryed to pull forward, and discovered that two of them were stuck on the snowy icey pavement, tires just a spinnin'.
So Malcolm, loaded and much heavier, backed up to the one truck and chained to him and commenced to pull him out. Worked great! Malcolm and Sarah to the rescue. But in the process of backing up to the second truck, and maneuvering around the dark parking lot, we kind of apparently went a little too close to the edge, and now we're sitting in a foot of snow, not going anywhere. And so nice, we're the loaded ones, which means no one has a chance in you know where of pulling US out! Don't know whats going to happen...we'll see. All I know is I'm watching the clock tick away my chance of a shower at home and grabbing some clean clothes before we have to reload at Forsyth. Ahh...the adventures!
Anyway, here are a few pictures from our little jaunt to Sidney, MT the other day. Remember I was typing in route? Well it was pretty slick. In fact, we went about 40-45 all the way there, where as we usually drive 65-70 on that road. And several times our drive tires were spinning out and sliding sideways, but we got there fine and loaded, and headed east to cleaner happier roads. Since then we've been to Fairview, MT (just 5 miles north of Sidney) to re-load and took those to Alliance, NE and then back here to Williston (just 30 miles or so east of Sidney) to re-load going to Ballentine, MT just east of home. Its snowing gently. I'm going to start using these terms to describe snowing as they are more appropriate for this part of the country. Instead of lightly, I'm going to say gently, and instead of hard, I'm going to say its snowing violently! Don't you think that sums it up a little better?
Take care and stay warm. Looks like we're in for another little arctic snap. (aka - cold snap)

Icy roads heading to Sidney, Mt. This was seriously like a solid sheet of ice, literally. But we wern't the only ones out there, and most of them stayed out of the ditch, unlike the unfortunate driver in the picture below.

This had happened before we came along. The driver was already gone. But, it made an interesting picture. This is what happens if you drive carelessly and too fast on ice. This or worse.

"Loaves" of hay. Don't they remind you of loaves of bread? Not many people are putting hay up this way these days, at least not that I've seen. But I think its neat!
And finally the streets of Sidney, MT.
Update - 1:15 - They loaded one of the trucks we pulled out so he'd be as heavy as us, backed up to us, chained on to us, and are now attempting to pull us out of the snow bank. We've moved a few inches, but not enough yet. Have to keep trying. Picture a tractor pull, but with loaded semi's and bull racks instead of John Deere's and Internationals, and in the dark, on snow and ice, without the spectators....well there are a handful. Personally, I'm rooting for the other guy to win!

January 9, 2009

South Dakota at Sunset

After a couple days at home waiting for a load, we were dispatched to haul cattle. It was an early morning call on Wednesday that left us rushing to throw our things in the truck, and in my hast and concern that I get all the girls things, I left my coat hanging by the back door. Nice move!

We drove to Steve's office where we got the pleasant instructions to hook up to a triple axle trailer. You see, these bull racks come in tandom, like a normal trailer and thats all we've ever hauled. The guys like to tease us about hauling the baby trailer. Its all in good sport, but its a dissappointment too because the bigger trailers haul more weight which means your making more money. The other options are triple and quad axles or a spread axle and most of the other guys haul the 3's and 4's. No one could ever figure out why Steve didn't have us on a bigger trailer, but that was his choice and I guess he had his purposes.

So its back to the cattle trail from various points in Montana to various points in Colorado and there abouts. We loaded east of Billings and took fats (feedlot cattle) to the kill plant in Fort Morgan, CO.
It's good to be back on cattle. I like it. I like the country we travel and I like traveling with people we know. Yesterday on our way back north we traveled with three guys we'd delivered with. We all stopped to eat together and fueled together, and even when there was no one talking on the CB, it was still nice to see the truck in front and the truck in back and know that you were traveling with buddies. Its a nice way to be.
From Bowman, ND they all went north to Dickinson, but we were sent west to Miles City, MT where we ran into another buddy, Doug, and parked next to each other and breakfasted together. I guess the down side of this cow haulin' is we don't see the house as often and its more tiring because its more constant driving. But honestly, for now anyway, its worth it. And round about the time I'm getting burnt out on it and wanting to get a shower more often and do some laundry, things will die down again and we'll be sent home and back to reefer more than likely.

Cows are supposedly going to be moving good till the end of the month and maybe into February.
As far as the weather goes....its weird, and thats my personal opinion. Yesterday was balmy, in the 50's actually! Talk about a thaw! And of course when things thaw it gets all mushy, wet, muddy, and nasty. So that part was a pain in the you know where when it came to taking the girls out. I was reduced to taking them one at a time just so I could hold their muddy feet away from me so I wouldn't get dirty.

We came north through Nebraska and South Dakota because the wind was bad in Wyoming and too risky of a blow over. So we all headed that way, and it worked out nice cause we were able to stop in Belle Fourche and meet Malcolm's parents and sister on their way to Rapid City to run errands. Rachelle had brought her new cat, Luna, with her so we could see her. She is SUPER neat! Can't even begin to explain how neat. She's one of those Sphinx cats, the hairless ones, and if you ever get a chance to go see one, please do! Its worth it.

Heading back north it was questionable what was going to happen the next day. Reports from other drivers, called in to our traveling companions cell phones and such, said that it was "raining like hell" and twelve degrees in north-eastern Montana. Didn't sound good for western North Dakota where we were heading. But for the time being, it was open country, open road, and a glorious sunset in South Dakota.
The sunset as seen from the passenger side mirror. We were heading the wrong direction to have a frontal view, but it turned the surrounding area, with the snow and sage, all pink and purple wich was just as beautiful.
The open road. Driving north on Hwy 85 in South Dakota you can see ahead of you for miles from the top of each rise. Thats Crow Butte ahead in the distance.

Looking east across the plains you can see Bear Butte standing out in the mist of evening. There is an indian legend that connects Bear Butte with Devil's Tower in Wyoming, but I can't remember the exact story at this moment.

Arriving at Bowman, after our traveling companions had come and gone, we called in to Steve to see where we needed to head. By that time it was 43 degrees and drizzling rain. The other three, who had left us in Belle when we stopped, had gone to Bellfield and had called in to Steve that it was nothing but black ice up there. So we were sent to Miles City where we were supposed to call in and maybe go to Malta in the morning to load. We got there around 8:00pm and parked next to Doug who was asleep. Steve said head for Malta, so we ran into McD's to get a snack for dinner, and just as we were leaving, Steve called and said hold up there for the night. The wind was blowing in Malta and the shipper didn't know if he could get the cows in.

This morning it was 12 degrees when we got up, and all that drizzling rain and melting snow had turned into a nightmare in the parking lot. It was "slick as snot" as Malcolm often says. We had breakfast with Doug, who was told to hold up there for the day (so he's going home to Shepherd because its only 120 miles and he's ready to be home for a day to see his kids) and we were told to head to Sidney, and then to Dickinson....yes thats right, back to where the other three guys were going yesterday. The road....well the interstate is a little slick, left lane iced over pretty good, but the right lane, the one we're in, is just patchy. Nothing out of the ordinary. I checked the internet and up there around Sidney (the area where it was "raining like hell" and 12 degrees yesterday afternoon) its supposed to be "no unnecessary travel". I've learned that many things don't apply to cow haulers, such as stop signs, speed limits, and most other road and traffic laws. And so off we go to travers the "no unnecessary travel" roads. And what I've also learned in this business is that often the road conditons are over exagerated, plus we weigh lots more than common cars, so we'll probably just be fine. You just take it slow, don't make fast moves, and don't be foolish. When it gets too bad you stop and call and tell him its too bad, and he is understanding and tells us to use our judgement and not take risks.

It was stupid, all this traversing the country side. We took a very round about way to get to Dickinson, and that stinks because in the cow haulin' part of this job, we eat the empty miles. Its just part of it though. We're always going the round about way, avoiding wind in Wyoming when we're empty, dodging storms and such like last night and this moring, and going to loads that get canceled mid-way there and having to change directions. Just part of the game we play.

Its a world of men. Among all our cow haulin' buddies, I'm the only woman. They are nice to me, these rough and rowdy guys. They tone down their language, most of them, and seem to mind their manners a little more, and so forth. I know because when we first started last year a lot of them didn't know I was in the truck and they'd get to going on the CB and one of them that did know I was there would get on the CB and holler at them to "tone it down, there's a lady present." And they arn't all rough and crude. Some have a tough exterior and are just really great guys on the inside. Some are weathered gentlemen, and then some are rough and crude, adn some are clean cut and clean mannered. They are, despite their rough ways, good guys, most of them anyway. And basically the only people I know in Montana other than family, so I'm kind of attached to them. There are stories there....another post for another day.

January 3, 2009

Another Run In With The Law

We were bad. We were very very bad. I'll admit it and he admits the guilt too.
BUT....we were only going two miles to our next pick up! And we got CAUGHT!
Maybe I shouldn't have been bragging about the great safety rating. I was bragging after all....just a bit. But barely an hour after I had finished typing all that little story up, we got pulled over. Mr. Super Trucker didnt' have his seat belt on and got caught. But like I said we were going maybe two miles if that.
Oh, the drama! The guy was kind of gruff to start off with and gave us the "seatbelt" speech, and scared me by telling us that under federal law commercial truck drivers went to jail for not wearing a seatbelt and he was within his rights to take Malcolm in and I'd have to drive over to...where ever....and bail him out. Yikes!
Strike two....the medical card. He was disgusted with Malcolm for not having the medical card, and disgusted with the officer in Las Vegas for letting it slide. Another mild lecture.
"Are both of you drivers?"
"I need to see her license, medical card, and log book also. Do you know why?"
"Yes sir, I do. Because I was in the cab of the truck."
Strike three....I was sitting up front while we drove over to the next stop. Who wouldn't be, and I'll be honest. We brake this law ALL the time, because its DUMB. If I'm in the cab, I have to be logged, whether I'm driving or not. Well I'm sorry, but who's going to sit in the sleeper half the day. For one, its uncomfortable to sit back there, and I'd never get any blogging done! So I told him I wasn't logged, hadn't been logged since the 31st because thats the last time I did anything.
He looked at my loggs and tisked...and now I need to give a little explanation.
Our computer logging program carries the line over to the next day everytime we change duty status. This is hard to explain without a picture to illustrate, but none is available. Anyway, because I hadn't done anything since I went off duty at 5:00pm on the 31st, thats where the line stopped.
Mr. Arizona Officer Man said that was a 7 day log violation because I wasn't up to date. He was going to shut me down for 10 hours.
By this time I was near tears, and he told me not to start crying. Ok, like I have control over that at this point. It was just too much. And he was being nice about it, and he was impressed that we knew the things we knew, like that I wasn't supposed to be in the front seat. Apparently other driver's don't know that, or claim ignorance.
Anyway, he took all our papers, and Malcolm back to his car. And I waited and waited and finally Malcolm comes back and gets in and hands me a stack of papers. Turns out the rough exterior was covering up a nice guy (plus he saw our safety rating). He wrote Malcolm a ticket for $28 for not having a seatbelt on. He also wrote up the medical card and log violation in his inspection report, but didn't write a citation for it. What a relief. The whole thing only took an HOUR!
And then Malcolm went to start the truck to leave and....it was DEAD! Could this day get any worse! Don't know what was up with that, but he was able to hook some jumper cables to the reefer unit on the trailer and then to our batteries and get her rumbling. And we were out of there. And since then I've been cowering in the back, and occasionally sitting up front with my logg book showing me sitting up here, wasting my hours, and fussing at Malcolm for not putting his seatbelt on right away cause I figure the guys out there lurking around watching for us. We were, after all, the 5th truck he'd pulled over that morning and we were going to be the third one he shut down.
Just so you know....
we are sticklers for seatbelts. We've seen too many accidents, and too many BAD accidents where the drivers walked away ONLY because of seatbelts. The ONLY time we don't wear them is when we're going between stops that are just a few blocks apart...and sometimes on the roads around the ranch, cause its just different somehow. So don't send me a dozen emails lecturing on seatbelts. We always wear them. He just caught us on a bad day. Seriously...the guy could have met his monthly quota just on us and been done for the month of January just on the second day. He was REALLY nice and forgiving!

January 2, 2009

Losing a Medical Card

Before I begin my story, let me share that as we are sitting here in Yuma waiting to load there is a bright yellow and blue hot air balloon floating through the air above the cooler. One year when we were driving through Yuma, there was a sky full of hot air balloons. It was so pretty. Maybe they'll do that again today. I'll have to keep my eye on the sky.
Ok, as we were heading south on Wednesay morning, we were approaching Las Vegas. Just north of there, the NV DOT has an inspection station which I have never seen open, but that morning it was. They were randomly pulling trucks in to inspect. Lucky us, there were no other trucks passing by at the moment, so we got pulled in.
Now, a little lesson in DOT inspections and weigh stations:
When a truck rolls across a scale or into an inspection, the first thing they do is punch your DOT number, which is displayed on the side of the truck, into their computer. This pulls up all the company information like location, number of trucks and drivers, your safety rating, etc. The safety rating is based on the number of "incidents" your company has had in a certain amount of time,the results of previous inspections (level 1, 2, or 3 explained later) as well as other factors like your saftey inspection, which we did last January where they look at all your paperwork, your logs, how organized you are, etc.
After they pull your number and info, they ask for your license, medical card, log book, vehicle and trailer registration, bills of lading, and any other piece of relevant paperwork. If they just check your paperwork its considered a level 3 inspection. Level two is when they do a walk around and inspect the truck as well as your paperwork. Level one is the most indepth. They literally crawl under the truck and trailer and inspect the brakes, tires, air lines, EVERYTHING, in addition to your paperwork. I've had a level one done in California once, but mostly they just do level 3 inspections.
Back to the present. This was a level two inspection because they were checking for bombs, so as Malcolm got our paperwork together, the DOT officer walked around the truck and checked it, and then came back for the paperwork. Its at this point where things went down hill. Malcolm couldn't find his medical card. He did have his old one, which was really odd, and let us to wonder if perhaps he hadn't mistakenly thrown out his new one instead. We hadn't been inspected since May and he'd gotten his new card in June, so there was no way to look in our records and see if he'd shown it to anyone since getting it.
And here's where the saftey rating came in to save the day. The DOT officer took Malcolm to the his car to go through the paperwork, and discuss the medical card. He had been super nice up to this point and fortunatly his happy demeanor stayed in place. He told Malcolm he wanted to show him something on the computer. He said the lowest safty rating he'd ever seen was an 11. He'd seen lots of elevens. He said "You have a safety rating of 10." (by the way, the low scores are good scores. High scores indicate a lot of "issues.") Then he said "Oh look...I forgot to check the medical card and I've already gone on to the next page." He told Malcolm that with a safety score like that he wasn't worried about it and for us to take care of the medical card and have a safe trip.
Update: Malcolm just talked to Dale and instead of our going to Calgary, we are going to load this trailer, then switch with a guy down here, load his trailer, then go to Billings. It means two days (really three if you count yesterday) in Yuma, and then we'll be off a couple of days in Billings, but it also means no problems at the border and a garuntee that I'll still be a US citizen. Sounds fine to me. And in the mean time maybe we can get in touch with the clinic in California where we got Malcolm's DOT physical done and get a new card, or I can find his "long form" which is just a sheet of paper from his physical at home. In addition I had left Ella's vaccination and rabies paperwork at home. She's still under 5 months so I don't think the border inspectors would have given us a problem, but now I can get them in the truck and have them in case we get sent up there again. I was, in a very small way, looking forward to seeing Alberta. I've heard it's pretty. But I'd rather do it under less stressful, more legal, circumstances! So...no trip to Canada this round. But a couple days at home and a couple days to chill in Yuma. I'll get lots of reading and maybe some movie watching done.

Old Resolutions for a New Year

Actually I make the same two resolutions every year, and usually fail at them miserably, usually within the first week. They are:
1. to live a more healthy life, loosing some weight while I'm at it
2. to spend more time reading my Bible, praying, and maybe even get to church on occasion even though this life style doesn't really cator to that idea

Wednesday, after delivering in Fullerton, CA which is south of LA, we headed for Yuma, AZ where we would be loading on Friday. Wow, a whole day and a half to go 200 miles. Hmmm...needless to say, we took our time. So we relaxed our way into the new year. No rush, no pressure, just chillin. We drove about 120 miles to Coachella where we stopped to get the truck washed. It was in bad need of it after its little mis-hap before Christmas. I don't think you heard of that one. We had stopped to have the oil changed somewhere on our way north. I was driving, and it was about....well I don't remember but it was the middle of the night and Malcolm was sleeping and I went through the Idaho weigh station. Pulling out of the station, an alarm went off and the check engine light came on and since it had done this for about 2 seconds earlier (which I had written off as an electrical problem cause I didn't want to wake up Malcolm) I decided that I'd better look into it, which meant Malcolm needed to get up and get out in the cold to check the engine for me. Turns out the cap to the oil had blown off due to being stripped out and the pressure of heated oil and all, and the dip stick was DRY! I'd blown out about 3-4 gallons of oil. Oops!
So needless to say, with oil blown out down the side of the truck, and the dirt they spread on the roads when they are icy, we were NASTY! So we stopped to get the truck washed in Coachella. And drove another 15 miles and decided we didn't really feel like driving more, so we stopped and this puny little truck stop in the middle of the California dessert that just happened to have a Starbucks in their parking lot! So New Years morning we started 2009 off right with Malcolm's traditional Vanilla Latte and I had a Gingersnap Latte. And I forgot to ask for skim milk. So much for resolution #1.
After that we finished our trip to Yuma. Upon our arrival we slid into the parking lot at PetSmart. I had packed my usual amount of doggy food for our 4-5 day trip. But Dale, one of our dispatchers, had called the previous day and asked how we felt about taking this load on into Canada. More on my feeling about that later. Obviously, 4-5 days of dog food wasn't going to get it, especially since my girls had already finished about 1/2 my supply in less than 2 days. Hmm....someone must be growing. So I decided Ella needed some socializing and took her in the store with me. She was very alert, but overall did well. And she got LOTS of cooing over by one particular lady who just went on and on about how beautiful she was and how wonderful her coloring was and so on. It just makes you feel so good when someone goes on like that about one of your kids. Carlie Jean had come in with us also for some much needed socializing. Carlie thinks everyone is out to get her and is terrified of everything strange. So she sat in the buggy seat and shook like a leaf the whole time. But I was proud of her. She didnt' growl and bark, and even let the people who were captivated with Ella pet her some, though with cation. After that we let the girls play some in the parking lot, and relaxed. Then we walked over to Famous Daves and had BBQ chicken and rib tips for New Years Eve dinner. I know...we didn't follow tradition. See its traditional, at least in my family and it must be a southern thing, to have black eyed peas and collard greens on New Years Day. Something to do with money and good fortune, but I can't remember exactly what they represent. Sorry, but they just don't serve black eyed peas and collard greens in very many places west of Mississippi! So we settled for BBQ chicken and baked beans. We did get some sweet tea though and that was nice and refreshing!
We spent the night in the PetSmart parking lot and then, this morning, we were the first customers at yet another Starbucks, where I ordered a tall Caramel Machioto in honor of my sister as its her favorite drink. Faliure on resolution #1 again. Oh well...it was good though!
Now we're sitting here at Advanced Cooling waiting for them to open so we can make our first pickup of the day. We have five of them.
Turns out loads are kind of scarce, so instead of having us drop this in Billings and then sit, they want us to take it on into Canada. This load goes to Calgary in Alberta. There is still a chance that they will have us switch with another driver at the border. That might be easiest because of the dogs, and Malcolm has a hand gun in here because some places are kind of sketchy if you know what I mean, and also because...Oh I forgot that part of our trip down! I'll have to do a post on that for tomorrow. Anyway, Malcolm has lost his medical card, which basically means we'll get shut down if anyone asks for it and chances are they'll ask for it at the border. And its reportedly harder to get back into the US than to get into Canada. I can just see us trying to come home and them asking for his medical card and there we are...temporary residents of Canada till further notice. I don't think so!
So that's our new year, and my resolutions which I have thus far failed at miserably! Wow...I can tell 2009 is going to be so different from all the previous years. I sure wish I had more self-discipline!
Hope you all had a great 2008 and a better 2009. I'm going to go write up the medical card story, and then go play with my girls. Ella is needing her mommy.

PS: The blog post below this one was posted today also. I just wanted to get up to date so I posted two so I could be current.

January 1, 2009

Christmas Snow

Doesn't he look content? I can't remember which of the cats this one is, but mosied up from the barn one afternoon and spent a few hours sunning on the porch.

Christmas afternoon I took the girls out to potty and while we were out there, I noticed a flock of grouse in the tree row behind the house. So I went back in and snatched my camera and went to take a few pictures.
They were pretty co-operative, but the trees got in the way so I didn't get the great shots that I was hoping for.

While I was stalking the grouse, I spooked up this guy, and I'm really happy with his photo.

He only went a little ways away, conveniently right to where the grouse were browsing. So I got a few pictures of the jack rabbit watching me, with the grouse watching him and me.

When I went in I told them I'd been taking picture of a flock of grouse in the tree row, and Peggy said they usually do that when its going to storm. Prophetic words.
The next day the wind blew and it snowed. The forcast said 6-8 inches, but who can tell. With the wind blowing like that, everything was drifting. When Boyd and Michelle and the kids left, you could see about a half mile, but visability came and went that day. At times you couldn't see past the gate, at others you could see almost a half mile or so. The girls were miserable and hardly pottied all day. Who can blame them. Ella didn't have any problems. She, as usual, went wherever she pleased, but the big girls wouldn't go out in the storm.
The next day dawned bright and clear and messy. There were drifts in front of the gate, drifts in the yard, drifts everywhere. Malcolm's dad came back from feeding and said there was a large drift of snow, around 6 feet, somewhere down at the barns, though I never went to see it. I should have though. That would have been neat to see.
Here are a few shots of drifting snow.

And later that day the grouse were in the front yard and I got an easy, great picture without leaving the warmth of the house.