May 30, 2009

Sense of Smell

If you haven't traveled far from home, you may not have noticed something. I was making this observation a few days ago as we traveled between Southern California and Washington.
As it turns out, just as individual homes have unique smells, so do states. California has a distinct aroma, very different from Oregon. It has been of interest to me for several days.

So, this evening, when I crossed the state line into Montana for the first time in nearly a month, I happened to have the windows cracked and was overwhelmed by the aroma. I hadn't thought of it, wasn't even waiting to notice it. But shortly after crossing into Montana, the truck was filled with Montana's scent. Don't call me crazy! Seriously, it smells different from Idaho, which I had just come out of! And apparently my brain has associated Montana's scent with wonderful happiness, because as soon as I smelled it, my heart just swelled to nearly bursting. I had missed that smell so much!

So a little while ago, when I woke Malcolm up to switch drivers, I was telling him about this. His response was, "You just haven't driven at night. Oregon smells great at night, like pine." So something about the night air brings out the wonderful smells.

But then, he was going to check the tires, and he opened the door, stepped out, started to close the door, and all of a sudden he threw it back open and said, "Wow, it smells really good out here!"

See, told you so!

May 29, 2009

Nothing New

Just thought I'd drop a note for no reason. There's nothing new to tell or show. We took another load of meat and bone meal to the same place in California, picked up fertilizer at the Port of Sacramento again, and are now loading apples in Washington again.

I guess two points of interest I can mention are:

a. my TWIC card finally came in, though Malcolm's wasn't ready. So we were able to go load at the port on our own without having to get another driver to drive us in. I just had to "supervise" Malcolm the whole time since I was the one with the card.


b. this load of apples goes to Michigan for a Monday morning delivery, so as soon as we get out of here we're high tailing it to Shepherd. Hope to be there by midnight, spend the night at home, mow the grass, pick up the mail, and get my hair touched up, not to mention do laundry, give the girls another bath, check on the house, visit with Brandon and Jessica, put a part of the tractor so we can mow.....I'm out of breath just thinking of it all....and all to be done before we have to leave Saturday evening! The neighbors will hate us. We might be out mowing before sun rise!

We haven't been by the house since May 5th. Our neighbors to the west of us called and said they were keeping an eye on things, they couldn't get the key to work in our door, and that our yard was doing very well despite it being so dry. I took that to be a hint that we need to mow badly. We'll see when we get there. At least they did say that the mustard weeds are really tall.

So, I guess I'll have more to say on Monday. I'll let you know if we could find out house among the weeds, and if the post office gave up on us and sent all our mail back to the senders.
Have a great weekend!

May 26, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend

I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend! This holiday of remembrance always has been a favorite of mine. For as long as I can remember, my mom's family has gotten together at my Grandparent's house and celebrated with North Carolina style BBQ (which is different from what most people think of when they hear BBQ and second only to my Dad's for favorite on my list!) brought straight from Selma, NC by my grandparents or made at their house. There'd be lots of other good food, topped off with several varieties of home made ice cream. All that yummy food and surrounded by family all day always made it an extra special day.

Last year we were able to get a load going to TN and joined them for the celebration. But this year, circumstances prevented the gathering, and we wouldn't have been able to make it anyway. Instead, having a load to California and three days to get it there (the entire trip was barely 800 miles), we took it easy. We stayed the night at a rest area just 60 miles from where we picked up. Saturday morning, after breakfast we drove a grueling 280 miles, stopping in Redmond, OR along the way to do some grocery shopping at Walmart, and at Best Buy to have the geek squad check out our lap top. It was behaving strangely and I suspected another virus problem. I was staying off line till I could get it figured out, so that's why I haven't been around. Fortunately the Geek Squad guy tweaked my Internet Explorer and that was all that was needed. He said probably a virus had attempted entry, but our spy sweeper had blocked all its components so it wasn't able to operate and that's why Internet Explorer was acting strange. What a relief...and service free of charge! That's the third time those guys have saved the day for me! I love the Geek Squad!

We stopped for the day in La Pine, OR and treated ourselves to a hotel for the afternoon and evening. It was one of those little roadside deals you see, the left over hotels from when there weren't any interstate mega-hotels. It was clean, charming, a little run down and out dated, but that kind of added to the charm. It wasn't any worse than a truck stop shower, so we dealt with any inconvenience, like no AC but it wasn't hot anyway, and a tiny shower.

We watched TV all evening and just kicked back. I did get the chore of giving the girls a bath done. They were in need. Even naked dogs get a bit of an odor after three weeks with no bath! And it was a chore as the shower was so tiny. I had to stand them in the shower and use plastic cups of water from the sink to wet and rinse them. One hand on them to hold them there as they thought no tub side meant easy escape, and then bending back and forth between sink and shower to wet them down and rinse them off. You might wonder why not just use the shower, but I didn't feel like getting wet and it was splashing water everywhere. I consdidered just getting in with them, but then they claw you to death when you try to hold them under the shower. Anyway...it was a challenge, but worth it. Nothing better than a clean fluffy headed cresty to snuggle with...except maybe three of them!

Sunday morning we were up earlier than we had planned, but when you get up at 5:00 or so every morning, its hard to sleep in. We took our time getting ready, and then walked across the road to a little cafe we've stopped at before. After breakfast we drove on down to Chiloquin, OR where we stopped at Collier State Park. They have a logging museum there and Malcolm had been itching to go, so presented with a good opportunity, we decided it would make a nice break from the norm.
The park included a large picnic area and playground, along with fishing in a stream. Across the road was the logging museum. It was all outside, which was nice as the weather was just warm enough to be pleasant but not too hot. The equipment was huge and included pieces from pre-1900 to things they used in the -70's and later. Malcolm was in heaven...boys and their toys you know.

The stuff was huge! I think this was used to load logs on train cars.

This, I don't remember what it was for, other than moving logs around or something like that.

For laying railroad tracks.

This little guy is a Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel. There were about three hundred of them running all over the equipment and grounds, making meals of pine nuts and other things. This one enjoyed playing a game of "peek a boo" with me and my camera.

This is an old explorer's cabin. It was retrieved from some place near the park on a stream. Its authentic...and short! I hope he didn't do much walking around in there, because if he did, he'd have had an awful back ache from stooping over all the time. It was quite a bit more rustic than the settler cabins I'm used to seeing at parks down South.

Malcolm's leaving trucking to "ride the rails." I don't think it will be as profitable!

He reportedly "needs" one of these. Its a road grader. He's "always wanted one."

I think the phrase, "watch your fingers" is an understatement with this one!

This was one of my favorite things.

I call it my history tree. This tree was born in 1240. It is 769 years old. The plaque on the other side explains that the tree, which was located near Seaside, OR was 200 years old when Columbus discovered America. The diameter of the tree at the base was over 15 feet, and it towered 200 feet into the sky. This cross section was cut from a point 38 feet above the ground. It was the world's largest Douglas Fir, which is also the state tree of Oregon. All those green markers on the tree indicate points in history. They mark things like the establishment of the Oregon Trail, the American Revolution, when Marco Polo left Venice, and when the Black Plague began to spread in Europe. This tree lived through a lot of history! It fell November 25, 1962 after being weakened by the Columbus Day Storm.

It was a really nice weekend, fun to get out and do some things. We delivered yesterday afternoon in Delhi, CA, and we're now sitting in Sacramento waiting to load at the port. Its another one of those deals where another driver has to drive our truck in because our TWIC cards aren't ready yet. So, the girls and I are blogging and Malcolm is next door talking to a salesman at Western Star. For my non-trucking friends, that's another "brand" of truck like Kenworth or Peterbuilt. Our truck is getting up there in its miles, nearly 500,000 now. So we'll be trading it in sometime the end of this year. We were just going to get another Kenworth, but we've been looking at Western Star's lately and I really like them. They are tremendously roomier inside, and they have a wider bunk option that we like. So we'll see. I went to see the truck, but I'm not interested in all the "numbers" talk that follows, so I came back over to our truck to blog and keep the girls from feeling left out.

May 21, 2009

The Story of an Onion

Once upon a time there was an onion.

He was an ordinary red onion. His life started like so many others. He and all his onion friends started their life in a field in El Centro, CA.

One day, as he was basking in the sun, a man in a tractor came and before he knew what was happening, his long leaves had been chopped off, along with all the others.

At first he was very upset, but after a while he got over it, and went back to basking in the sun.

One morning, he and his friends were just getting started in their sun bathing, when suddenly there was a rumble and the ground started to shake. This time it wasn't just a tractor. There were other large wheeled things coming with it.
They stopped at the edge of the field and waited there for a long time, keeping the onions...and themselves impatient to see what would happen next.

Finally, one of the trucks drove out into the field to meet the tractor. It was a massacre! The ground shook, heavy steel burrowed under he and his friends. The little onion's fright was so severe that he fainted, and the world went black.

After a few moments the onion regained consciousness. Slowly he opened his eyes and looked around. But he was all alone. His friends were gone. He'd been left behind.
Across the field, he could see the truck and the tractor stopped. They stayed there a long time. He wondered if they were coming back to get him. From a distance he could hear the men talking. He heard phrases like, "dead battery," "hydraulic hose," "won't start." The little onion realized that they wouldn't be coming after him any time soon. When the engine on the tractor started again, the men and their machines continued down the rows ahead of them.

The little onion looked out across the field he had called home all his life. It was complete and utter devastation.
But just as he was beginning to feel hopelessly lost without his friends for company, he looked closer. All around him, there were other's that had been left behind. He wasn't alone after all. They had apparently been judged too small by the big machine the tractor pulled, and not worthy of anything, even though they were as big as a small apple or bigger. The onions weren't sure if they were grateful to be left behind, or insulted to be considered inferior and left as waste.

As they lay there contemplating their fates, whirlwinds came through the field clearing away the red leaves of onion skins that littered the ground, filling the air with a shimmering curtain of red dancing onion skins.

In the distance, another farmer burned his wheat field to clear it,...

flowers bloomed at the edge of the field,..

and the day went on for the rest of the onions in the field across the road, basking in the sun, and ripening in the 110 degree heat of Southern California.

The End

May 19, 2009

The Columbia River Gorge

Following yesterday's "woe is me" post, I decided I was going for a walk, regardless of heavy traffic. So I threw on shorts, a tank, and my sneakers, and set out for a brisk walk to rid myself of frustrations. A few minutes after starting, I decided that road was way to motorized, so I took a side road and ended up hoofing it through a forested neighborhood with the roadside covered in wild flowers, lovely landscaping in the yards, and several horse stables. It was nice, good exercise and just what I needed. I've had intentions of walking for exercise for months now, but there's just something rather intimidating about setting out into unknown territory on foot, by myself. I guess, though, all I needed to do was take the plunge. After the first few minutes of awkward discomfort, it was rather enjoyable. In fact, we arrived at our destination at 6:30 this morning, and having an hour to wait, I pulled on my yoga pants, a jacket and sneakers and set off again. I walked for 30 minutes through this town of Grandview, WA, through side streets lined with quaint little houses, and through the old down town area. It was silent except for the occasional car, and I'm sure they thought I was crazy to be out walking at what was only 5:30 their time. I enjoyed it, had more confidence in it this time, and hopefully I'm going to make this a habit. I'd like to not only get back in shape, but its a great way to see some of the areas we're in. I'll have to find a pocket camera to take with me. I saw some gorgeous flowers and adorable homes yesterday, that I wanted to share.
We're loading organic apples this morning. As I sit here and write, we are parked in a dirt lot. There is just enough room in here for our truck and the fork lift that is loading us. We are surrounded on three sides by wooden crates of apples stacked taller than our truck. Malcolm slipped a couple of apples from the crates (with permission from the loaders) and I just finished snacking on mine. It was delicious. And can you even begin to imagine how it smells? The aroma of apples is almost overpowering. These are going to Sebastopol, CA where we took a load of apples last summer. They make organic apple juice and sauce.
After getting our tarp replaced yesterday, washing out the trailer in Portland, and grabbing dinner at the truck stop salad bar, we headed east on WA 14. If you'll recall in yesterday's post, the first one, I told you the Columbia River Gorge was a beautiful drive, especially from the Washington side. And WA 14 is that very road I was referring to. Its quite windy and hilly, but with an empty trailer its not too bad. So we drove along and I snapped pictures when I could.

The Columbia River Gorge

The Bonneville Lock and Dam

The Hood River Bridge

There are over 70 waterfalls on the Oregon side of the river.

About 6 miles before we turned north on WA 142, we pulled into a little rest area to let the girls out to potty and run for a minute. We ended up staying for a half hour or longer. The yard was well groomed, so the girls had a blast running around in the soft green grass, and it went right up to the edge of the cliff over looking the river. We enjoyed watching them run and play with the river gorge in the back ground and the evening light turning the sky pinks and purples.

A river barge heading towards Portland.

The remaining 100 miles were not so enjoyable, though adventurous still. We turned north on WA 142, knowing by looking at the map that it was a bit twisted. Well....imagine if you will trying to draw a straight line in the midst of a catastrophic earthquake....that's what 142 is like. Its full of squiggles, twists, turns, hairpins, double backs....its was interesting to say the least. And it was dark by the time we were getting to the serious twists and turns. And then we came through this little village, went up a hill, and all of a sudden we both realized at the same time that the center line was gone from the road, and we were more of less on a one laner. We started to wonder if perhaps trucks were restricted from this road, but I checked the map, and it didn't indicate such. We were zipping along at 30 miles an hour around turns on the mountain side, rock mountain wall on the driver's side....me....I was hanging off a cliff with no guard rail or anything on my side. And then out of the blue, as we going around a bend in the road, the bus driver from hell comes zooming in from the opposite direction. And despite the fact that we're taking both....well all of the one lane to get around that turn, and despite the fact that my side of the truck is so close to the edge that I can't see the edge, only air, the bus driver keeps coming. Malcolm stopped, and thankfully the bus did to, and then began to back up. He had to back quite a ways, and Malcolm the whole time is saying "this ain't happening" which is his way of saying its not going to work. It was a little stressful. We finally got around the bus without falling off a cliff and plunging hundreds of feet into the valley below, and then quickly made our way off that road to US97 before the state police, which we were sure someone had called in on us by that time, came and found us. It was a relief to get back to a "real" road, and though I'm sure that drive down 142 is absolutely breathtaking...in the daytime....I for one will never ever take it again unless I'm in my personal day tripping car. Never ever ever again with anything pulling a trailer. OK, I need another relaxing picture to look at after thinking about my near plunge into obscurity.

May 18, 2009

Pitiful Pouting

Every once in a while, we need to confess. I think sometimes if I tell someone something, it kind of gives me a kick in the pants to do something about it.

We're not loading till tomorrow morning, and so we swung into this place here in Vancouver, WA to get a new tarp put on the trailer. Another $700, but we needed one badly.

So here I sit, far from anything, on a road too busy with traffic for a walk...and I'm sulking.

I confess to you that even though I got to go to Starbucks this morning and have a white mocha, even though Malcolm's in a great mood, even more so than usual, even though I got two new followers today (and welcome and thank you and please don't stop following me because of my depressing post)....even though its a good day with good weather and things are looking up...I'm sulking.

Sulking because today I don't want to be here. Today I want to be sitting on my screened in porch, the one I don't have, sipping sweet tea on a break between milking my dairy goats that I don't have and working with my horses that I don't have, and watching my chickens that I don't have. I want to be planning the really yummy dinner of recipes I just browsed through in a magazine that I'm going to cook with the produce of my garden...that I don't have, and I want to be....I want to be doing a lot of things that are at least two years down the road.

On a normal day I'm feeling like "two years is nothing, and think how nice it will be then."
But today....today I'm in a pouting, sulky, poor pitiful me mood. I hate it when I do this. I've pouted all morning, till Malcolm finally asked what was wrong. And I lied and told him nothing. And now that I confessed all this to you, I'm going to go and try to find something to take my mind off my "I don't have/can't do it" list and find my reasons to be happy where I'm at.

Thanks for listening. In a world of trucks, truck drivers, and only my husband, dogs, and strangers to talk to in person, sometimes its hard when I need a girl-friend and they are hundreds of miles away. But I know each of them would have taken me out today for some girl time, exploring unique little shops. We'd have had a light lunch at some little adorable cafe somewhere, laughed, shared, and indulged in dessert, or maybe just sat on their porch sipping sweet tea. And the first week in July when we go home to Tennessee to visit my family, that's exactly what I'm going to do.

Over the Weekend

I took a break from blogging this weekend. I just kind of felt like it. Might be that it was a bad idea because I read instead and finished my book in two days. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but here's the deal. I brought 4 books, one book for each week we planned to be on the road. So if I run out of books, I'll either buy one (spending money I shouldn't) or be without something to read.

We finally got unloaded Friday. It took all day for our turn to come. Did I post on this already? Maybe I'm thinking of an email I sent. Anyway, finally our turn rolled round and their auger broke down. So we had to wait for them to fix it. One of the guys there was MAD too. You should have heard him cussing and slinging things around. Well, maybe you shouldnt' have heard him. It was a little...just a LITTLE....ridiculous. Malcolm said he thought maybe someone turned on the auger while the guy was down there working on it. So I guess he had reason to be so mad. Still....it was a little extreme.
While we were unloading, a process that took two hours at this little rinky dink run down mill, there were about 20 quail running around. I had a hard time getting a picture. They are timid little things. I'm going to post the best one I got, but they are still hard to see. They blended in with the ground really well. The male is more visable than the female because of his black marking on his face.

Fifty miles down the road in Wallula, WA we spent the night, and then reloaded first thing in the morning. More meat and bone meal going to Foster Farms in CA. Same drive as before. A skip over to I-84, then 60 miles down the road we dropped south on US97 all the way into CA, where we picked up I-5. In these pictures we're not quite to I-84 yet. This is the Columbia River which runs between Oregon and Washington. Driving the gorge all the way to Portland is a lovely drive. I prefer the Washington side, because its a two lane instead of an interstate, and its views are more impressive.

the Columbia River near Wallula, WA

the Washington side of the river. I love the terraces in the cliffs.

A lot of trucks use this road as its a shortcut into Washington, and it also avoids two weigh stations.

Avoiding weigh stations is something we all do. Even though Malcolm and I are legal in all respects and have nothing to hide from them, its still second nature to avoid them when possible. Its kind of like when you pass a cop, and you feel nervous or have a guilty concious, even though you havn't done anything. Ok, maybe I'm the only one that does that, and now you're all going to think I'm some kind of under cover criminal. I'm not...but do you know what I'm talking about? So we avoid scales. But in this case, we were simply taking the shortest route to the interstate.

We delivered in Delhi, CA on Saturday morning, grabbed a bite to eat, and reloaded at Livingston, two miles down the road. This time it was poultry meal from Foster Farms going to Northwest Pet Products in Woodland, WA. We didn't have to be in Woodland till this morning, so we drove about 350 miles a day, stopping to have a nice dinner at a Mexican resteraunt in Weed, CA (I love that town's name...too funny!) and letting the girls out to play. We also went to bed early Saturday night and slept in. Talk about two lazy truck drivers.

Yesterday afternoon we came through Portland. For some reason, there was a terrible traffic jam crossing the bridge into Washington. I never saw any accident so I assume it was just people going home from a weekend in Oregon. Regardless, as frustratingly slow as traffic was, it did give me an opportunity to snap this picture between the bridge supports.

How about an afternoon of sailing on the Columbia River with a snow capped Mt. Hood in the background? Sounds like a lovely way to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

Overall it was a nice weekend, warm...in the 90's (havn't felt that kind of heat in months), sunny, relaxing, just right. Malcolm slept a lot Saturday, and while I was driving I day-dreamed about my future enterprises with my future Morgan horses, French Alpine Dairy goats, and chickens. I also planted a lovely flower and veggie garden and a number of fruit trees in my imaginary farm. One day.....one day....

May 15, 2009

My Experience with Florists

Randomly.....I'm craving something really salty, really good, really bad for me. I don't have a clue what it is though! I just know I NEED it badly!

For Mother's Day this year we did flowers. Meagan and I had a bouquet delivered to Mom at work by Ringgold Florist. Mom said it was beautiful and everyone at her school talked about it. I've used Ringgold Florist a few times and they never fail me. I actually ordered it online and the lady called me because they didn't have the vase featured in the arrangement I'd ordered. She spent a full 30 minutes of her busy day on the phone with me trying to figure out something. So I highly recommend them....if you need to send someone flowers in that area.

Malcolm wanted to send his mom flowers too. Living so far from town...well the local florists don't really drive 45 miles into the country to deliver 1 arrangement, or any for that matter, so I looked into sending some by mail. I've never done that before so it was a new experience. I ended up using FTD, just because I'd heard of them, where as others were unfamiliar to me, or didn't have arrangements that could be mailed. They were all delivered by local florists. (wonder what they would have done if I'd ordered one of those. Recon they'd of had the florist deliver them? Probably not.)

Her arrangement was delivered promptly, as scheduled. Kudos to FTD for that accomplishment. In an area where mail is delivered only three times a week, we worried that the FedEx guy would be put out for having to drive all the way to that area just for flowers. Hopefully he had some other deliveries to make out there...but if not...tough luck. He's not that nice anyway. Kind of grumpy, from what I've heard.

Anyway, her flowers arrived on time, but wilted and one stem broken. I was not a happy camper at all. How disappointing. However, I called FTD yesterday and they issued me a full refund, no questions asked. So, they did redeem themselves somewhat. I'm sure the broken stem easily happened in route. But the wilting....I can find no excuse for.

In my search for a florist, I got to thinking...what a neat job! Maybe I'd like to do that. So, we'll add "florist shop" to my list of future businesses I plan to have. I will now run a coffee shop, bake shop, book store, florist shop, horse barn, farm, ranch, and also be a stay at home house wife. Whew! I think I have my work cut out for me. Did you read truck driver in that list anywhere? No? I didn't think I saw it there either! Hmmm.....well....Johnson Trucking is probably going to have to finance all those businesses of mine, so I guess I should put a little more time into it. It's only fair, right?

Does anyone know of a reliable source for mail order florist arrangements? I'd like to try it again later, but not unless I know my special someone will receive a lovely, intact, flower arrangement to warm their heart and day.

May 14, 2009

Over and Over Again

That's what this week has been like. We're now at the end of our 5th trip between central California and central Washington! I think the last time I posted we had just delivered our load of peas to the port in Stockton, CA and reloaded fertilizer going to Washington.
We delivered our fertilizer in Othello, WA, took meat and bone meal to Delhi, CA, reloaded feather meal two miles down the road from there and are waiting our turn to unload in Prossor, WA. We're reloading somewhere near here, sometime after mid-night, and taking that to Delhi, CA, delivering Saturday, and reloading near there. Then we'll take whatever product we get there and bring it back to somewhere here in Washington!

So that lovely drive I was telling you about on US97....I've got it memorized now. I know when the weigh stations are open and when they aren't because I've passed them at all hours of the day and night. I know where the cops like to hide....they don't. I haven't seen but maybe two the entire week down through there. And also I've chosen which little towns I'm going to stop in when we get time and which stores I'm going to browse through...when we get time.

Yeah, its getting old. I'd like to travel a new road, so I don't loose my love of 97. You know...too much of a good thing. However, its good miles, really good miles, so I'm not going to complain. If this keeps up we'll have had a super month, so I'm going to drive up and down I-5 and US97 as many times as they ask me to!

Last night after loading in Livingston, CA we stopped at a truck stop near there to get a little fuel. I walked next door to a Starbucks. Thought I'd get a little pick-me-up, since I'd been up a little while and wanted to drive long enough for Malcolm to sleep good. I decided to try something different...different for me anyway. I had a white chocolate mocha...and loved it! I'm looking forward to stopping there again and having another, just as soon as we get our next load delivered.

May 11, 2009

Kicken Back for the Weekend

We had a very relaxed weekend. Weekend's pulling a hopper are often pretty laid back. Most of the places we deliver to aren't open on the weekends, so we frequently have two days or more to go what should only take a day or less.

Friday afternoon we loaded cull peas, which is basically the broken bits and imperfect dried peas, in Spokane. They were destined for Stockton, CA where we unloaded them this morning at a storage warehouse on the port. The trip was 931 miles. We stayed the night just west of Spokane, and then Saturday morning we headed south, covering about 450 miles a day.

If you ever get the chance to drive US 97 through Oregon, please do. Its a really pretty drive through mostly rural areas of the Oregon high desert. You are surrounded by open rolling hills, but to the west you can see the peaks of Oregon's mountains, Mt. Hood, the three sisters, and many others, all snow capped and hiding their tops in the clouds.

We stopped Saturday night in Redmond, OR where we went to Wal-mart for bottled water, Shipton's, a farm supply store, for some piece Malcolm needed for his grease gun, and dinner. Sunday we finished the trip, stopping in Chemult at a little cafe for breakfast. Their Mother's Day special was a Belgium waffle with berries, or berry crepes. I went with the waffle, then later saw the crepes at someone else table and wished I'd taken that route, though the waffle was really good.

We stopped at a roadside pull off a few miles from the interstate and let the girls out. We were in the shadow of Mt Shasta in northern California. You can see this mountain for miles and miles and miles. It's incredible.

We ended up staying there about a half hour or so, letting the girls snoop around. They were intrigued with the large pine cones, and also chased bugs that did "fly by's" every so often. This morning we unloaded and then waited there are the port for reloading. This is confusing and makes little sense to me as to why we were able to go in to unload, but not reload. We had to apply for a "TWIC" card, pay $132 each, get fingerprinted, photographed, etc. and that takes 6-8 weeks to be processed etc. Anyway, we weren't allowed to drive in the port to load because we didn't have that special card. So, conveniently our broker, Mark, had another truck in the area loading and that driver happened to have a TWIC card. So after he got his truck loaded, he met up with us and drove our truck in to be loaded. We were allowed in, but couldn't drive. Does that make any sense? I realize its a security thing, but like Malcolm said, for all they know we could be holding a gun on the guy. Anyway, I guess the main thing is we got reloaded and are heading north to Washington again with a load of fertilizer. I guess the good thing about having that TWIC card, when we get it, is that we can use it to get into any port or refinery. So that will come in handy, at some point.

On a "neat oh" note. The port warehouses, offices, etc are on an old navy base, so we got to drive past the old buildings, and actually drove into one of the warehouses to unload. I took a picture, but you couldn't really see anything past all the bug smears on the windshield. Seriously they were so thick, my camera wanted to auto-focus on the bugs, not the interior of the warehouse. I would have washed the windshield, but didn't want to draw attention to the fact that I had my camera out. Some places have strong feelings about photography. But I operate on the principle that if they don't have a sign posted....the sky's the limit for me and my camera, though I still use discretion and try to not be conspicuous.

Don't accuse me of playing favorites. I love all three of my girls, but my little beauty queen is just more appealing for the lens. So I know I end up with more picture of her, but isn't that the way it always is with the baby, verses the older children?

May 8, 2009

I Love My Mom

As Mother's Day draws near, I've been thinking about what I could do special for her from 2000 miles away. My mind also strayed to all the things she's done for me. I was blessed with incredible parents. I couldn't have asked for or expected a better childhood, and as an adult, she is one of my best and closest friends. She has given me so much in life, and there is no thanks great enough. I love you Mom! You've taught me so much, with intention and also just from watching you.

From my Mama I learned:

  • to share

  • to love

  • the meaning of friendship

  • a love for God's creations

  • the beauty of a garden

  • that reading is fun

  • to respect myself as well as others

  • to be proud of who I am

  • that I am special and God loves me

  • the joy of raising chickens

  • that piano music is beautiful

  • to sing praises to my God

  • that being a mother and wife is the greatest privilege in the world

  • to ask forgiveness of those you hurt

  • to never assume anything

  • that there are always consequences of our choices

  • that an active relationship with God is important

  • that the best place to spend a summer afternoon is on the porch with a glass of tea and your mom

  • that families love each other no matter what

  • the joy of cooking

  • that you have to clean up the kitchen when your done

  • that exercise is more fun with a friend

  • the joy of watching birds eat at your feeders

  • that traveling to new places is always an adventure

  • the importance of pampering yourself once in a while

  • that my Daddy is even more amazing than I realized

  • pride in my southern heritage

  • an appreciation for desserts

  • the rewards of personal sacrifice

  • that there's no place like home

  • that being different is a good thing

  • that craft shows are really cool

  • that sister's make great friends

  • that I am loved beyond all comprehension by my mother

May 7, 2009

The Relationship Between Coal and Sunflowers

I remembered this morning that I forgot to post the pictures I took at the feedlot in Shepherd. So I've added them to my post about our break down from yesterday.

Yesterday was an uneventful day, which was fine. I think we needed one after Tuesday's crisis. We drove straight through the 730 mile trip, stopping to eat in Forsyth, MT, then again to fuel and get something for dinner in Jamestown, ND. We drove through Fargo. I know the flooding is old news, but even in the dim twilight hours, it was obvious they were quite soggy. Poor folks. Flooding is not fun.
We pulled into Crookston, MN last night around 9:30 and decided to stop there, leaving the last 25 miles for this morning.
Up at 5:00 and pulling into Anderson Seed Co. in Mentor, MN at 5:45, we were second in line to unload.

There are a number of coal mines in southeast Montana and northern Wyoming. I thought a load of coal was interesting. I was of the impression that no one uses it anymore, other than there are some power plants that are still fueled by coal, and I thought all the coal from these mines were for that purpose. As it turns out, there are a number of uses for the stuff. What we hauled was called Stoker Coal. Its small stuff, and Anderson Seed Co. uses it to heat their sunflower seed dryer. They get two loads of coal a month. They must be drying a lot of seed!

There are three common ways to unload a hopper trailer. Most often we pull across a pit in the ground and open our hopper doors over the pit door, letting the product down into the pit where it is augured into its appropriate storage area. We have also dumped on the ground, driving along slowly as the product siphons out, leaving long trails behind us. Then the guys who bought the stuff will use a front end loader or tractor to push/scoop the stuff into a pile for storage. The second most common method of unloading is this one.

A tractor attached to an auger is pulled up next to the truck. The high end of the auger is positioned over the top of the storage bin. The other end of the auger is beneath the truck. The tractor PTO powers it, and as the product slides out the hopper doors, it is augured up and dumped into the storage bin. This is the coal falling into the auger. See the red spiraled pieces? That's what the tractor PTO powers. They turn and basically move the coal, seed, fertilizer, or whatever product it is, up into the bin. As luck would have it, a pin on the auger got sheared just as we were starting, so we had a brief pause while they fixed it. But overall we were unloaded very quickly. I think there is something beautiful and artistic about grain elevators and silos. Anderson Seed Co. produces seed for use in wild bird food.

There are about a million sea gulls here. The ones with black heads and black wing tips. Not really sure what they are doing in western Minnesota, other than enjoying the bounty of harvested sunflower fields. But their are clouds of them in the sky, and hoards more in the fields. We're done unloading, and they are graciously letting us use their power washer to washout the trailer. See why I like this so much? The people are so nice and friendly and helpful. You'd never see a produce warehouse saying, "Oh sure! Help yourself to our washout facility. No there's no charge. Hey, you missed a spot. Let me get that for you." Nope....they'd laugh in your face if you even asked.

And as soon as he's done washing, we're reloading right here at Anderson Seed Co. How convenient! We've got a load of sunflower chips that are going to Mead, WA. That's just north of Spokane. A little over 1200 miles. We'll be there before noon tomorrow.