April 29, 2010

Weather Permitting: update

8:30am - Thursday morning

They just opened I-40 in Arizona and we are rolling as fast as we can to get through to Flagstaff in a hurry. Rumor has it (via the DOT) that when the wind picks back up around noon they are going to close it back down.

The wind is still blowing like crazy, but as long as they keep the road open, we're hammering down.

Really didn't expect to sit there in Holbrook all night long. Malcolm kept getting up every 3 hours to call 511 and see if they had opened it. We were parked from about 5:00 yesterday afternoon till this morning.

No way we'll be getting to Helm, CA before they close, so we'll deliver in the morning. And I don't know what's happening with the next load. We were scheduled to load in Stockton today and deliver in Quincy, WA in the morning. Obviously that's not going to happen now.

April 28, 2010

Trucking 101: Weather Permitting

I think we get comfortable and feel safe when winter is over, or mostly over. One starts to think that all danger of weather related road issues are over. Alas...not so!

We're in Arizona...parked.

Since early this afternoon, I-40 has been closed due to a dust storm. The wind is blowing strong down here, and while its sunny and clear where we are at, it is apparently bad enough to warrent closing the road on west of here.

We've been pushing against wind all day long, since early this morning in Texas. I checked the wind advisory and the high wind warnings are up till 10:00 tonight, advisory till 7:00pm tomorrow. (I've not shared that part with Malcolm, seeing as how I'm holding on to my faith that the road will be re-opened soon.)

We've been here in Holbrook, AZ since around 4:00pm. I guess I'm going to try and get some sleep, though I don't have much hope. Its not my sleeping shift.

700 miles to go and we need to be in Helm, CA in the morning. There's still plenty of time, so long as they get the road open soon!

Wish us luck!

April 26, 2010

A Walk on the Shores of Lake Michigan

A chilly and rainy weekend.

After delivering in Amherst, WI on Saturday morning, we drove over to Appleton and parked behind the Walmart. We just relaxed, napped, and had dinner. We needed a rest after driving all night long.

Sunday morning dawned another chilly and drizzly day. After grabbing some breakfast, we headed out to finish the 50 miles that were left to our reload.

On the way we drove around Green Bay, WI. We've never been anywhere near this part of Wisconsin, so it was all new territory with lots to take in. Green Bay was not nearly the size I expected for a city with a professional football team.
On over at Casco, WI where we were to load this morning, we parked at the mill there and examined our options for the afternoon. Casco, while a nice town to look at, only offered a pub for vittles and not anything else. However, I had made note that the shore of Lake Michigan was a scant 10 miles further east. And so, after a little persuading of the non-site see-er in our small touring company, we unhooked the trailer, and "bob-tailed" over to Algoma, WI.

It being a Sunday afternoon, most everything was closed here as well. It was almost spooky how deserted the streets were. We practically had the entire town to ourselves! All the little shops may have been closed, but the boardwalk and waterfront park was open. I'd never been to or seen the any of the Great Lakes before, other than a quick glimpse in northern Ohio as we passed by on the interstate a few years ago. I was amazed. Add some surf, seagulls, and a light house....it felt just like being at the beach...in winter.There were even some shells mixed in among the piles of pebbles that had washed up.The water just goes on and on, just like the ocean. Only difference is, Michigan's on the other side instead of Great Britain.It was very breezy, which is evident by my wild hair. The whole experience was worth it, but I have to tell you, I had some work getting all the tangles brushed out when we got back to the truck.Two more brave souls braved the cold and wind to do a little fishing. I enjoyed the walk on the beach, but I don't know that I could have done any fishing in that weather. They must be very dedicated...or desperate!After our walk on the shore, we drove through town and found an eating establishment that was open for business. Kind of an odd name for a diner in Wisonsin, but we fit right in with all the penguin decor inside, with our frozen fingers and toes. Fortunately it was toasty warm and we enjoyed thawing out over a yummy cheese pizza and cherry pie.This morning dawned clear, beautiful, and a little warmer with less wind. We were loaded and rolling by 6:30 (one benefit of coming east is the time change. It works against us, but in loading it works in our favor, giving us a head start on the day.) We're almost to Madison where we'll head south. We're going 40 miles out of route to avoid driving through the heart of Milwaukee and Chicago. While it would have been fun to see those cities up close and take pictures to share, we opted for making time and avoiding the gazillion toll roads around Chicago. We have to be in Nacogdoches, TX in the morning.

April 25, 2010

Sunday Stills: Barns

I need to go back and look at when the last Sunday Stills was that I posted. I know its been a while.
We were in Wisconsin this weekend, with nothing to do, but drive the scant 115 miles to our reload for Monday, and take in the scenery. Lucky me...two days to kill in Dairyland USA. There is no shortage of barns here!
This last one is from my files, but I have to include it. This was taken last summer in Longstreet, LA. Another weekend with nothing to do, so we rented a care and drove from Arkansas to Louisianna to see the old family farm in Longstreet, something Malcolm had wanted to do for a very long time. It was a very special trip, finding the old farm, and then exploring it while on the cell phone with his 90+ year old grandfather who lives now in North Carolina. Nothing much was left but some piles of rubble and a the leaning barn, which probably won't see the end of another year. Malcolm's grandfather and great-grandfather built this barn so very long ago. The right word escapes me now to explain the feelings that went through both of us. Once a small but thriving cotton farm that was the pride of a family, has now crumbled and given in to the pressure of trees, brambles, and time. So much love and work into a place, only to have it return to the earth after the people are gone. Makes one think about what all we work for here on earth, and what we make priority.

April 23, 2010

One Potatoe, Two Potato, Three Potato, Four

I went through a bit of a slump on my blogging motivation, and while I'm still not where I should be, I felt compelled to post something and not leave completely for an extended time.

So here's a recap of the past week. I think I left you with a load of potatoes going to North Dakota. And then we were supposed to reload, but didn't know the details yet.

We found out later that we weren't reloading till Monday. So it was looking like a long weekend sitting in Steele, ND with nothing to do.

But things have a way of changing quickly in this life.

We delivered our seed potatoes on Saturday morning, and while we were unloading, Malcolm and the farmer got to talking. It pays to be friendly, you know?

Farmer asked Malcolm what we were doing when we got unloaded, and Malcolm told him we were going back to the truck stop in Steele to wait for Monday. So Farmer asked if we'd like to go back to Nebraska and bring him another load of seed potatoes. He was running out and needed more so they didn't have to stop planting. They did a little figuring, and after the farmer said he'd pay us what our brokerage service was getting, and Malcolm figured even with the empty miles we'd clear around $1000 profit, we headed out for the 500 mile drive to Nebraska.

Wasn't the weather sublime last week? I know the girls and I enjoyed the warmth and sunshine in Nebraska.
And on the way to Nebraska and back, we passed through these badlands south of Murdo, SD. I'm always fascinated.
So we brokered our first load for ourselves, and I deposited the check on Tuesday. So far it seems to be a good one. I haven't heard from the bank. That's the danger in getting your own loads, and the main reason we don't. Too many nightmare stories of not getting paid, bad checks, etc.

Even without that last load of potatoes, we had the most profitable week we've had since hauling cows over a year ago. It felt awesome to total up the weeks work. For the first time I can almost start to believe what they are saying about things getting better being true.

It was good that it was such a profitable week, because while loading on Monday morning, Malcolm found yet another trailer tire going bad. The steel cord was punching through the rubber. It was the straw that broke the camels back where the super single tires were concerned. We shouldn't have had to buy new tires for another 4 months, but they just weren't wearing right. The center was fine, but all the outside edges were worn down into the secondary rubber already. Maclolm called Mark, the broker, asked if we could delay delivery in Idaho till Wednesday, and after confirmation of that being acceptable, we planned to stop in Billings and get things fixed.

On the way there, we passed through the southern edge of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, another version of badlands. This is the area where President Roosevelt had his ranch in his pre-presidential days.

Before stopping in Billings we took a short detour at Wibaux, MT

and headed south to Baker where we met Malcolm's family in town for dinner.

Please disregard the bug splatter in the above pictures. You'll be seeing a lot more of that in the months to come. It goes along with warm weather. We mix ammonia in the washer fluid and it works wonders, but its still difficult to get the glass completly clean or keep it that way for long.

We got to Billings Monday evening, and slept at home...delightful! Bright and early Tuesday, we took the truck down to our local tire place, and after several hours of work and an unexpected problem that cost us more but was managed, we pulled out of the shop...once again an 18-wheeler instead of a 10 wheeler.

Yep, we kissed the singles goodbye and we are back on dual wheels. Honestly, lots of people are running those singles and claiming all sorts of savings, but we just weren't seeing it. If anything, they were costing us more, and the weight savings weren't paying for it.

We delivered our organic canola meal to the dairy in Idaho yesterday, reloaded fertilizer and delivered that last night near Bozeman, MT, and this morning we re-loaded there near Bozeman. We have another load of seed potatoes. These are bound for central Wisconsin, where we are expected sometime tomorrow around noon. After that, we'll rest on Sunday, load up on Monday and head to Nacogdoches, TX and then zip up to Mount Pleasant, TX for another load of feather meal going to California.

FYI: While chatting with the farmer in North Dakota, Malcolm asked the guy why everyone buys seed potatoes from other parts of the country instead of saving their own. According to the farmer, seed potatoes planted in the same soil they were grown in are significantly less disease resistant. He said even for your small personal garden, its best to buy seed potatoes rather than save your own. So, I guess that finally explains why these potatoes are being shuffled around from one end of the country to the other. Putting it that way, it does make sense to me. I found that interesting. I also find it very interesting to discover that potatoes are grown in so many different areas. So far we've seen potato farms in: Washington, Idaho, Nebraska, North Dakota, Montana, and now Wisconsin. And for the record....these seed potatoes are going to a farm in Wisconsin, but apparently we are off loading them directly onto another truck that is taking then to Canada. So we'll add that to my list of places also, even though I didn't see it first hand.

Totally off subject here....and putting me back in the mind frame of "what is wrong with this picture" even though we solved the potato question.

We're heading east on I-90 in Montana and we just passed a truck going west...hauling a train engine. Why are we trucking a train engine? If it needs hauled, can't we haul it on a train?

Nap Time...We've had this doggy doll for a year now, and no one has shown it the least bit of interest. Now suddenly its one of the favorites. I have no idea what changed.

April 16, 2010

Potatoes and Skyscrapers

This has been one of those weeks where our loads have made me question how our system operates. Maybe you can make more sense of this than I can.

Wednesday afternoon, we delivered in Mount Vernon, WA and then drove north to Lynden, WA and loaded seed potatoes.

We drove all night long to get to Ashton, ID where we delivered the load yesterday.

Then we drove 7 miles down the road, loaded seed potatoes, and drove all night long to Wallace, NE where we just delivered.

Now we are zipping over to Alliance, NE where we are loading....ready?....seed potatoes, and taking them to North Dakota, northeast of Bismark.

My question is, why are these people not saving their own seed potatoes, since they obviously have enough in the are to sell to someone. At least buy them from local surplus. I realize if people actually did this, I would have been out of a job this week, but please!

And we wonder why things cost so much! Its shipping!

On our run to Washington from California, we ended up stopping for a few hours sleep in Oregon instead of driving straight through. As a result, I was able to get a few pictures of some skyscrapers, both natural and man-made.

Have you ever had the frustrating experience of believing you got some great shots on your camera, only to discover later that they are less than what you desired? I'm sure you all have had that pleasure.

Well because most of my pictures are taken while Malcolm is driving, I don't have time to adjust the exposure, etc. I thought my pictures looked good on the little tiny screen on my camera, but upon loading them on the computer I discovered that they were too bright, and it was a hazy day too so that didn't help.

Regardless, I'm posting what I got.

We reached Portland around noon. Unfortunately, I was busy reading a blog and didn't realize we were there, until we had passed the picturesque part of the city. So no Portland pictures, only this...

For the first time ever, we had to wait in traffic on I-5 while the draw bridge over the Columbia River was raised and lowered.
We were fortunate enough to be near the front of the line. But as we sat there, for at least 5 minutes, maybe longer, I considered the amount of traffic on I-5. Can you imagine how far it must back up during 5 minutes of a total stop? So glad we were near the front!

There appeared to be a lot of boats also waiting on the west side of the bridge...or maybe they just like to do their boating there?

I had a picture of Mt Hood in the distance, but it was so hazy that in the picture, you can't even see the mountain.

On across the river, as we headed north, Mount Saint Helens (I think) peaked at us from across the tops of the trees. It was actually visable from Portland, but I couldn't get a clear shot of it. I'm glad I waited, but even this picture was a miracle. Too many trees in the way, thought they did set the mountain off nicely. 8,365 feet

A couple hours later, Mt Ranier raised its peak up and gave us a peek at it as we neared the Tacoma/Seattle area. 14,411 feet

The size of these peaks always amaze me. I don't think they are that much larger than my Montana mountains, but I guess because they stand by themselves, they are more impressive to me, more noticable.

The area between just south of Tacoma and on northward of Seattle is really just one long city. All the suburbs just melt into each other. I can't say where one city ends and the next begins. But the actual "downtown" city areas make their presense known.

near Tacoma, Washington -

After 4 years of driving I can probably count on one hand the number of times we've been up here. We just don't get to this area of Washington...ever! The few times we have, we've headed south or east without nearing the famous skyline of Seattle. We also seem to always hit it after dark.

So to come through Seattle, during the day, on a clear and beautiful day I might add, was a treat. And we stayed on I-5 instead of taking the 405 so we went right by huge skyscrapers.

I'm not a fan of city life and I can't say that I was sorry to put the traffic and congestion behind us, but I will admit that it is a pretty city, that its skyscrapers were more appealing in appearance than most, and that I could see why my Mom enjoyed her visit so much a few years ago. I could see a visit to Seattle being a worthwhile trip to make one day, but I still enjoy God's skyscrapers more than man-made ones.

By the time we loaded the seed potatoes and headed south it was past "rush hour" which was a blessing because we had to go back through part of the city congestion and it was my turn to drive. All night we rolled, with my shift ending around 2:00am. The city was beautiful, but there is nothing in the world better than unzipping the curtain between the cab and sleeper and being greeted by a glorious Montana morning.

near Anaconda, MT just west of Butte

The area of Idaho we delivered and loaded in was just south of Yellowstone, and directly west of the Teton Mountains. These are the Three Tetons. We used to drive this road 4 times a week through the Yellowstone area and down through eastern Idaho on our produce run from California to Billings. I'm rather attached to that road. It feels like coming home.

13,770 feet

We'll be in North Dakota in the morning and from there...who knows. Mark, the broker, has our next load already to be picked up tomorrow, but he hasn't given us any details yet. I figured our miles for the week so far. By tomorrow morning in Pettibone, ND we'll have racked up about 4400 miles, and we'll still have another trip to add to that. Looks like we'll be making up for last weeks shortage.

Before I go, I have a two things to share, and a question:

First I'd like to thank Missy for featuring Between You, Me and the Fencepost on her "Follow Friday" blog post. It means a lot to me that random strangers find my ramblings worth reading and even sharing with others.

Question: My blogger has an issue. For the past week I've been unable to click and drag pictures to get them arranged in the post. Its a long tedious task to move them down a little, then move scroll a little and move the picture a little more. What is up with that? What button have a clicked without knowing. Please advise...its really annoying!

And last, but most certainly not least, is John Beckett. Thank you for your continued prayers. He was taken off his respirator on Tuesday and is breathing on his own, and I believe his mom and dad got to hold him yesterday for the first time in days. Now it is just a waiting game to see what damage was done to his brain while he was without oxygen. If you are on FaceBook, his parents and family members are posting updates on his progress, and thousands are sharing prayers and encouragement with his family. Praying for Jon Beckett Nelson