December 21, 2010

I'll Be Home For Christmas

In fact, we'll be home by this evening! Hope you all have a really wonderful Christmas. Stay safe and warm and surround yourself with those you love most.
I'll be back to visit some more in 2011!

December 16, 2010

From One End of the Country to the Other

Since the beginning of the month, we have run this country from one end to the other, or close to it. And believe me when I say it feels like it to. I'll be interestedd to see the months total miles, and if its not an higher than usual total, I'll be surprised.

On Dec. 2 we loaded fertilizer in San Diego, CA. That's the end we started on.
and after crossing these very rocky hills east of the city,

and the desert in southern CA, we delivered in western Arizona.

The next load was over on the east side of the state, in Wilcox. We drove over there after unloading and picked up 50,700 pounds of Granny Smith apples.

Who would have thought they grew apples in southern Arizona? They were quite tasty. We know because we got to eat a couple of them. The rest went to a little plant in Sebastopol, CA where they make organic cider and vinegar.

From there we headed to new territory, or at least its been long enough since we were there (4 years) that its kind of like going for the first time, especially since we've only been once before! We took a load of ground limestone from Nevada, all the way to northern Vermont.

We had smooth sailing until we reached Cleveland, OH. We were greeted there by evening rush hour and some sudden lake effect snow. It was quite a mess and ate up about an hour of our time. By the time we got through the city, we had realized there was a bypass of sorts that would have helped us avoid all that mess, and it was almost too dark to get a picture of Lake Erie. Between the snow and the dim light, and the traffic and a chain length fence, I nearly didn't manage. This was the best I could do of the little light house sitting out there on the point.

All the way across New York on I-90, the snow came and went, making it slushy but otherwise not interfering with our travels. By the time we got to leave the toll roads and enter Vermont, we had spent over $160 in tolls. Just one of the many joys of traveling in the northeast!

We arrived in Vergennes, VT early in the morning and couldn't see much, but sunrise revealed a precious little town that I would have loved to explore. Vergennes was established in 1766!
The age of the towns and farms in New England always have left me in awe! I know they are like babies compared to European history, but for North Americans, these towns and farms are ancient!

and so picturesque!

Vergennes was not far from the state line, so we had an excellent view of the Adirondacks in New York as we drove back south.

Just a scant 20 miles south of Vergennes, we got out of the snow, and Vermont looked less like a Christmas card, but still quite lovely.

We reloaded in Albany, NY, another beautiful city with tons of history! Oh how it killed me to not be able to take the time to explore! But these were rush in/rush out trips to get us back west where the freight paid good.

We delivered wheat mids in Mount Joy, PA which is just south of Hershey, PA in Lancaster County. Sadly it was also the middle of the night when we delivered, and we had to rush 350 miles west to Ohio. So Pennsylvania was toured in the dark. Just as the sun was coming up the next morning and I thought I might get a chance at a picture of rolling Pennsylvania hillsides, it started to snow, obliterating most of the view of the hills.
By the time we reached the bridge at Wheeling, West Virginia it hadn't improved much.

And the sun didn't appear till we were well into Ohio.
In Ohio we loaded, of all things, crushed glass. That was a new one for us! You already heard ALL about the blizzard adventure of this weekend. If not, check out the post below this one for an update.

Finally released from the clutches of old man winter, at least for the time being, we made our delivery in Keystone, SD on Monday morning, wind-rowing out the glass onto the ground.

There is so much snow in the glass its hard to tell what it is in these pictures. It had snowed on the pile of glass where they loaded us in Ohio, and of course it didn't have much of a chance to melt while we traveled through the northern frigid country!
While we were unloading, I enjoyed the sunrise over the Black Hills and a really nice view of Mount Rushmore.

The place in Keystone grinds the glass up and ships it to China where they use it in car part molds. I thought that was interesting and such an unusual product to be produced in a tourist trap town like Keystone!

We took a load of sunflower seed, after thoroughly washing out of course, to Texas. Ahhh...sunshine and considerably warmer with temps in the 50's! Then we reloaded with cotton seed to Idaho. That was an all night run and involved another winter weather adventure, though a much shorter one.

In western Wyoming I encountered icy roads with a little snow on top. It wasn't too bad, just took it slow and easy. But shortly they put the chain law up, and I had to wake Malcolm. We had switched drivers and were making our way, along with a number of other trucks, to the truck stop at the top of a hill, when the truck in front of us stopped. So we stopped, of course. What choice did we have. Except the truck in front started creeping forward again, but we stayed in place, tires spinning on ice.There had not yet been a place to pull off and chain up so we were on naked tires so to speak, and so there we were in the middle of the night in the middle of I-80 with trucks creeping up behind us, and two other trucks already parked behind waiting. Malcolm set the brake and got out to check out the situation and just as his feet hit the icy pavement....the truck began sliding backwards down the hill!
It only got away with a few inches before Malcolm was able to leap back in and stop it. In fact I hadn't even realized what was happening before it was almost over. But what a horrible situation that could have turned into! It was VERY uncomfortable for a while after that!
We had to chain up, while other trucks crept around us on one side. It was kind of embarrassing, but could have happened to anyone and in fact happened to several others across that section of I-80, forcing the DOT to close the road going west. We scrambled to put on the rest of our chains, turned back east 10 miles and cut north on another route we knew, just as they closed the east bound side.

The northern route was only 40 miles longer and hadn't gotten iced up as bad. And as we were unloading at noon the next day in Idaho I checked the road reports only to discover that I-80 was STILL closed both directions in Wyoming. We had gotten out of there by the skin of our teeth and were grateful that we were able to do so!

The northern route took us through some pretty mountains in Utah. The combination of ice and snow creates nightmares for driving, but it sure does make things beautiful! These are part of the Wasatch Range near Logan, UT.

Reloaded in Idaho, drove over night to Sterling, CO, getting to use the faster I-80 route as they had conveniently re-opened it in the afternoon, and delivered this morning. We're already reloaded again and heading north to Washington. We get to pass through Billings tonight, and will be crying as we drove by without stopping. Washington to Minnesota to Great Falls, MT and then, fingers crossed, HOME, a place we have not seen since November 15th! HOME...a sight for sore eyes! We are looking forward to it with much anticipation!

December 12, 2010

Changing Plans in Iowa

This is not the post I had planned for today.
This is not what we had planned for our weekend.

We loaded in eastern Ohio Friday morning and are delivering south of Rapid City, SD on Monday morning. It was roughly 1200 miles and we had almost 3 days. It was going to be a leisurely weekend. A long hot shower, real food instead of fast food, a stop at Cabelas for Malcolm and I was contemplating hitting the mall when we got to Rapid City.

We drove almost 600 miles Friday and stopped south of Waterloo, IA for the night. We woke up to rain. Still planned on a leisurely weekend, and yes I'd checked the weather, but the parts of Iowa and Minnesota we were traveling through were only forecast to get a couple inches of snow..

I didn't get the part of the weather forcast about the wind. And if you've been in the midwest, you know what wind can do to a couple inches of snow. Right before we got to Minnesota we ran into signs stating that I-90 was closed. It wasn't too bad really, just snowing and slushy. So we jumped off on an Iowa highway to cut across to South Dakota. But as you can see, things changed quickly.

We finally managed to get pulled off the road into the parking lot of a Pamida in Estherville, IA. Our friend who goes through there on occasion said there was a McDonalds across the road and room to park at the Pamida.
We think this was a bank, but who really knows. Its all we could make out from our parking spot, and only after the security lights came on that evening.

The only reason we had found the Pamida was because the snow cleared for a mini-second just as we were passing the sign by the road. We never did see the building, not once through the long afternoon and night. And we figured the McDonalds would be closed, but it was worth calling to see. And unfortunately we were right. So it was crackers and oranges for dinner, the only meal we had all day long. And my next Walmart stop will be to put in some winter food supplies!

The scenery is a little different this morning. For starters, we could see the Pamida when we unzipped the curtain. They have some digging to do before they can open this morning.
In fact, most of northwest Iowa has some digging to do this morning.

and its cold! Registering around zero, but the winds still blowing a bit, so you know its chillier than that!

The road is mostly clear, but there are still a few trouble spots, one or two where there's just the one lane open, and others where they've already been working with the snow plows. 

 And I keep thinking, if it was this bad here where they were just getting a few inches of snow, what was it like in the western side of Iowa and Minnesota, where they were supposed to get lots more?
We're 45 miles from Sioux Falls. Surveying the damages, on a personal level, in the middle of the blizzard, trying to find somewhere to stop, our truck suddenly dumped all the air out of our air supply and wouldn't rebuild pressure. After Malcolm stood outside looking under the hood and talked to Kenworth on the phone, it was decided that a part on the air compressor had gone out. We thought we were stranded out in no man's land. Then the truck suddenly decided that it didn't want to stop there, and miraculously started building pressure back up, allowing us to make it to the Pamida 10 miles away.

In attempting to get there, we were making a turn and Malcolm couldn't see out the mirrors, so I had to open my door and look back to make sure the trailer was making the corner and not sliding off. And then my door wouldn't latch closed. So for the next 10 miles I was holding my door closed against blizzard winds while snow sifted in around us coating me, the computer, and the floor. And then when we got parked, I had to take the girls out (a whole other issue) and when I got back in, the door closed like normal and latched. Needless to say, we're both using the driver side door till Malcolm can look at the other door and figure out the problem.

The girls...bless their hearts....braved the storm (under force) one at a time to potty. Ella had to go twice because she wouldn't do anything the first time. Ella thinks she can't go unless there is grass, and quite frankly I wasn't going to go hunting for some. She did finally take care of things the second time out and the rest of the night we stayed in and thankfully no accidents. They still were not thrilled this morning, but at least they weren't in danger of blowing away.
(thawing out)

And now, as if all that wasn't enough, there is something wrong with the suspension. Malcolm aired it up manually with the air hose, but it not a permanent fix. Another project for today, but for now its good enough to keep rolling.

Other than that we're still alive and we all have all our fingers and toes. So, no worse for wear, and we'll be in Rapid City in a few hours. as long as mother nature cooperates.

November 30, 2010


People's experiences on Thanksgiving are different and its always interesting to hear about the differences, or see them.
For instance...

Thanksgiving in Wyoming -

Thanksgiving in Tennessee -
(picture compliments of my cousin-in-law Tiffany. Sorry for the blur. It was a facebook post that I enlarged, but that's Queen Anne's Lace, my favorite wild flower, blooming on Thanksgiving day!)

We actually did have a fine Thanksgiving, despite the blowing snow on Elk Mountain. We loaded Thanksgiving morning and stopped in Laramie for a decent, if not home cooked wonderful, Thanksgiving dinner, before heading on east.

Malcolm was feeling under the weather and with some kind of bug he'd picked up the previous weekend, but he seems much better today. And despite the weather, the illness, and the being at work instead of at home, I still felt we had much to be thankful for. God has blessed our life in tremendous ways. We are blessed with unique experiences, material goods, and wonderful relationships with others, including you, my blogging world friends.

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and found just as many reasons to be Thankful!

November 24, 2010

South Georgia and Oklahoma Cotton

This is Ella's way of saying, "Mom, will you PLEASE hold me?"
And of course it works every time. I've ruined her!

Monday morning, after delivering south of Macon, GA, we headed towards the southwest corner of Georgia and a little town called Blakely. Central Georgia is SO populated, really just one gigantic metropolis and suburb of Atlanta. I think just the very outer edges of Georgia can even be considered agricultural, but this is just my opinion. I'm not a fan of big city life and scenery, as you may have guessed from reading this blog. And because of this, and the fact that we drove through in the dark hours of morning, I did not photograph Atlanta and its surrounding area.

Rural Georgia, though, is quite picturesque and I enjoyed  that part of our trip very much.
South Georgia is much flatter than the northern part of the state where I have had most of my Georgia experiences. Its mostly agricultural with the majority of the land seeming to be cultivated in pecan groves (which are beautiful but hard to capture in the picture),

peanuts (this field had been harvested already),


and cotton.
Most of the cotton had been harvested already. I always marvel at the huge bales of cotton waiting to be transported to the warehouses and the gins.

On the way to Blakely we stopped at a little pull off so Malcolm could clean the trailer out, and me and the girls got out and walked around a bit. I wanted to see what this field was planted in.

I'm still not sure what it was. I was hoping peanuts, but I don't think it was. And then because there was shreds of cotton all over the ground, I thought maybe cotton, except cotton plants turn dry and dead when the cotton is ready to harvest, and all the other fields were at that point or beyond.
So it wasn't a cotton field, but the tufts of cotton on the ground had to be investigated.

I'm fascinated at how much waste is involved in harvesting cotton. Half the fields that have been harvested, look like they were never touched, so much fiber is left on the plant. And there is tons of fiber lost on the ground, like the wad of cotton in the picture above.

And inside every bole of cotton, there are several cotton seeds, like this one.
They are about the size of large raisins. And let me just say, trying to extract the seed from the fiber without wasting the fiber...that's a challenge! Makes a person really appreciate the importance of the invention of the cotton gin! I used that in a student teaching lesson once, when we were studying the Industrial Revolution. The students were really impressed because its HARD to clean the seeds from the cotton fiber!

In addition to cultivated fields, Georgia also has lots of old architecture to enjoy. I love old houses and towns!

Where as most western tows were built with businesses facing each other along a main street, many southern towns grew up around a courthouse square. I think they are very charming.
That is the Blakely courthouse above, and in that town we loaded something I'd never heard of before. I enjoy peanuts, but I've never even considered what happens to the shells. Once again I was shown that our civilization is not as wasteful as I imagined it to be! It turns out peanut shells do have a use!
We loaded peanut hull pellets. They grind the shells up and compress them into pellets, then sell them as livestock feed. We took them to a feed company in Oklahoma.

On Tuesday we delivered and then went 30 miles west to reload. I was grateful for my interest in the cotton fields from the day before, because we loaded cotton seed. So I had picture from the field on Monday, and Tuesday I got pictures at the cotton gin in Hollis, OK.

I was in the truck the whole time pulling forward and back so it was hard to get good pictures. Cotton seed is light stuff and its fluffy because even the gin doesn't get all the fiber off. Therefor its a long process loading, dumping buckets in, and then it has to be stomped and shoveled down so that we could get enough weight on to make it worth while. We did manage to get our usual 50,000 pounds, but the trailer was so full Malcolm had a hard time getting the tarp to close over it.

I wanted SO badly to go inside the gin. But they weren't overly friendly, and besides, I was busy helping load. SO...here's what I can show you. First trucks bring in the big bales that had been out in the field. These bales were just delivered and are on some kind of conveyor waiting to go into the gin.
Inside the gin, through some mysterious process that I really want to see some day, the seeds are extracted from the fiber. Then the seeds are blown through a pipe and are deposited in this pile outside.

A closer look...
The man in the bobcat in the first picture was scooping it up and dropping it in the auger...

...and then it was carried up the auger and dropped into the trailer.
The air was absolutely full of cotton fibers floating around and stuck to everything ( one reason to be thankful I was stuck in the truck b/c I'm sure it wouldn't have been good for me to breath) . It was a very fluffy place!
As fascinating as I found it, the girls were apparently bored.
Once the seed is extracted, I assume the cotton is cleaned somehow and then packed into bales, wrapped in plastic and loaded onto trucks to be transported to mills.
The seed, as it turns out, is used for animal feed. Apparently its not only very nutritious, but critters reportedly devour it like candy. I can vouch for dogs not finding it appetizing though. There is a handful of seed on the floor of the truck that got tracked in and no one has shown any interest, and believe me, they are quick to lick up anything tasty that comes in on our shoes. They always check when we get in!

Unloading this morning in Wiggins, CO. Its even more work to unload the seed than to get it loaded.
Once its in the trailer, it doesn't like to come out. Its all stuck together by the fibers and it takes a lot of man power to get it to fall out of the hopper doors under the trailer.
Fortunately we got there last night, were the first in line this morning, and are now well on our way to Green River, WY while the 2-3 trucks that pulled in after us may very well still be trying to unload.

Its COLD and WINDY but at least the sun is shining and there is no fresh white stuff falling...for now!
Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Despite a hard year and less than favorable economic conditions and all the other things that could be different in our world, we all have a lot to be thankful for!