June 27, 2010

Just Enough

This past week was one of those weeks I'd like to forget ever happened. I was glad to see Sunday morning dawn and thus the start of a new week, a fresh start, with all that went on last week behind us I hope.

I won't go into detail but lets just say there were dissappointments, heartaches, and frustrations on multiple levels including personal and business.

It was just enough to push us both to the end of our ropes.

We've spent the last day and night sleeping a lot, recovering, and healing and trying to regain our sanity.

The one thing I can share with you involves our laptop, and the reason why this blog post will be the first in a week and a brief one too.

Wednesday evening the screen in our laptop went out. Talk about frustrating. We had just finished loading and were supposed to take the potatoes from Bakersfield, CA to Hermiston, OR. Kind of hard on us to drive without laptop abilities b/c we do all our logs on the computer. So we drove to the nearest Best Buy where the Geek Squad there filled us in on the issue, suggested a new computer, and thankfully they were able to save all my pictures, files, etc onto one of those external hard drive (for $300) so that I'd still have it all to put on the new computer. Our old computer wouldn't cooperate so they ended up staying and working on it till almost 11:00, even though the store closed at 9:30. I thought that was really generous of them. They don't have to do that kind of stuff. Still I think we got ripped off a little bit, and even though they saved the log files, I can't get them loaded onto our current computer which means I've lost 2 months of logs. BAD news if we ever get audited. That's what I get for being lazy and not printing them off daily like I'm supposed to.

Anyway, since we had a new computer we decided to buy an updated version of our GPS system b/c what we had was three years out of date, plus we didn't have the old software with us. So we stopped at a truck stop and grabbed that. I proceeded to install it at which point we discovered that it wasn't compatiable with our new computer.

So the next day we drove on to Modesto, where we found another Best Buy. We knew we had 14 days to return/exchange the laptop we'd bought. Turned out NONE of the computers in the store were compatible. The GPS requires a 34 bit system( whatever that means) and all the new computers are 64 bit. The Geek Squad guys and the MAC rep. there suggested buying a MAC, and said they could basically transfer my old computer onto the MAC so I'd have both computers and the ability to run the GPS. Sounds really confusing, but they said it wasn't that much so. Whatever...just do it. It was supposed to take 3 hours. FIVE hours later it still hadn't worked. Apparently the old computer had currupted files.

At this point we were in a bit of a panic. Technically we didn't have a delivery appointment till 7:00 the next morning, but realistically we should have been in Oregon already and on another load, but we were still 800 miles away and it was already 6:00 in the evening. Crunch time.

The alternative they told us was to buy a regular PC (they suggested the Gateway for what we needed to do) and then over-write the current Windows 7 (which was a 64 bit program) and install the 32 bit Windows 7 so our GPS would work, but even then they only gave it a slim chance of actually working. And I would have to do it because we really had to get on the road.

So we decided to take a chance. We returned the MAC, bought the Gateway and the software, and hit the road running. I took a deep breath and plunged in, being very nearly completly technically illiterate! Scary!

BUT...miracle of all miracles...I did it! And it worked! Our GPS is up and running, the log program is in order, and I re-loaded all my pictures, though to my great frustration they are no longer in files, but just one big file of over 3000 pictures, three years worth. So that's my current project...getting all those re-organizes. So it took two Geek Squads and we basically owned 4 different laptops in a 24 hour period, but what matters is that we're back in action.

And all this was going on in the midst of a bit of a family crisis, along with work stress, we'd been out long enough to need a lengthy home visit, and it was just enough to drive me close to the edge like I said.

We made it to our delivery only 15 minutes late...thanks to Malcolm driving like a bat out of hell through Oregon...glad we didn't get caught and add to the strain of the day.

Then to beat it all and top it off, the next day I was trying to put the laptop back in the computer stand after installing a CD, and I lost my grip on it. It didn't fall to the floor, just landed on the stand, but as I dropped it, my fingernail caught the "z" key and ripped off the key cover. So now I have no 'Z", only the little button that sticks up and it takes concentration to hit it just right.

And also I can't type on this laptop. My palms keep brushing the mousepad and moving my curser to various places in my writing so that about every other sentence I have to go find where its at, and erase what I typed in the wrong place, and then re-type it in the right place.

So...this post actually ended up longer than expected,, but I'm stopping here.

We'll be in Riverside, CA tonight, and deliver in the morning. Then we ought to be making our way to Tennessee to celebrate Independance Day next weekend with my family.

Take care and have a great week! I'm hoping ours will be easy and calm. We could use it.

June 21, 2010

Home Time with a Twist

Back on the road and back to blogging! Hope you all had a wonderful weekend and Happy Father's day to all the dad's in the world!

Grab a cup of coffee or whatever you favor and sit back. This one's kind of lengthy.

It was so nice to be home and for the tail end of my birthday too! After driving through horrendous wind all day in North Dakota (and only getting 4.63 mpg...ick) it was nice to finally get out of the truck. It was dreary and a cool 52 degrees in western North Dakota, but once we got past Miles City, MT it warmed up to low 60's and the skies cleared for us to enjoy the evening.

We got home around 8:00 and spent the first few hours mowing the yard. Actually I did a little mowing but Malcolm used the bush hog and tractor on most of it, finishing around 10:30 by using the headlights on the tractor. Some make think its crazy too jump right into that kind of work as soon as we get home, but its nice to do it while its cool, plus...there's just something about getting up the next morning to a look out on a "manicured" lawn, and not have that job waiting for you!

Saturday it was still a bit breezy, but not bad. Malcolm's parents and sister's ended up coming over and we went out to eat to celebrate Father's Day, did a little shopping in Billings, and then had banana splits at our house before they left to return home. Saturday evening was so nice! It was warm, but comfortable and the wind was just gone. It was unbelievably calm! After Malcolm's family left we walked over to the neighbors to say hi, and ended up sitting out in their yard till 11:30 that night enjoying a little "camp fire," good conversation, and the wonderful still evening.

Sunday morning was going to be my "work" day. We had found out we weren't delivering till Tuesday so we had put the truck in the shop (it was still having some throttle issues) and I had put my work off till Sunday since I had the extra time. But instead of digging into laundry and dog washing and the other little things I was supposed to get to, I watched my recorded episodes of So You Think You Can Dance, and then mossied outside to enjoy the morning. It was a beautiful morning! Clear skies, no wind, a bit warmer than was comfortable, but still nice.

The coolest thing happened to me during my walk around the yard! My feeders have become intensely popular with a flock of red crossbills, particularly this feeder that sits by our little cottonwood tree.Me and the girls were just wondering around and I was actually watching the ground looking at the little wild flowers when I looked up and realized that I was standing within 4-5 feet of the windmill feeder and there were still 4 Crossbills on it watching me. I just stood there, but the girls were walking around under the feeder and the birds didn't seem to care. I quietly yelled for Malcolm to get the camera and come onto the porch and take a picture. While he was coming, 3 of the crossbills decided that was enough...I'd crept a little closer...but one of them stayed and just watched me. He even took a little bite of seed now and then while examining this stranger in his yard. While Malcolm took pictures I decided to see how close I could get. Please excuse my appearance. You're getting to see me in my "lazy lay around the house on a Sunday morning" look.
My new friend finally decided that was enough and flew to a branch in the cottonwood above me. So I thanked him for the experience, and then reminded him that he was supposed to be wild and not a parakeet and he'd better be careful who he trusted.

The rest of the day was relaxed, and I did get some work done.
By late afternoon, it was still a beautiful day, but in a different way. Around 3:00 in the afternoon, Malcolm decided to touch up the yard where the mower and bush hog hadn't gotten it quite even. There were some heavy looking storm clouds to the north of us, but that's not unusual and we new they'd probably pass on by and miss us as they usually do. I always enjoy watching the storms as they pass. We seem to be in a pocket and they always go around us, but we have a great view of all four horizons as we're up on higher ground than the rest of Billings and Shepherd.

After a while it was obvious it wasn't going to storm on us, but probably rain. And then the clouds suddenly changed in appearance, looking a lot more threatening. They were still passing well to the west of us, with just a few sprinkles falling, but Malcolm told me to go ahead and pull the tractor and my car back into the barn in case it hailed. It was about 4:30 and we were expecting Brandon in an hour for dinner. The clouds were fascinating, and I stood on the porch watching and taking pictures, and wishing my husband would get off the metal lawnmower and come in as it had started lightening. But you know men...he had to finish the yard.
I actually got a bolt of lighting in this picture! First time ever. Its not really clear, so I cropped it and blew it up a bit. Malcolm finally finished, and right about that time the neighbors called to find out what it was doing out where we live. They were in Billings for dinner and said it was hailing and were worried about their horses. Malcolm told them we had some sprinkles but that was all that was going on. Then he went upstairs to clean up. Shortly after he went upstairs, Brandon showed up...along with some harder rain. And even though it was only 5:00 in the afternoon, it suddenly looking like late dusk as dark as it was outside. It was obvious that the storm that had been heading towards the southwest had turned around and was coming east now.

Within just a few minutes of his arrival, a friend called Brandon from town and told him there was a tornado on the ground in The Heights (which is the east side of Billings and about 15 miles from where we live). Right about that time it just broke loose where we were. Wind blowing hard, hard rain completely sideways, and there was a little hail mixed in.

The lightening wasn't extreme, but the thunder was loud and with each burst of thunder, the neighbors horses that were staying in our pasture would take off running. The three across the road were doing the same. I was a little worried they'd end up running through the wire fence, but fortunately they stopped before going into it.The rain was hitting the side of the house so hard that it was seeping in around the edges of the window on that wall, and I had to throw some towels down to keep the water from soaking into the wood.
You couldn't see much of the neighbors houses through the downpour!
After what seemed like a pretty long time, but was actually only maybe 15-20 minutes it had stopped and the storm was moving on to the east of us. Lots of rain, some wind, minimal hail...that's all it did, other than make me feel nervous for a while.

But in The Heights....it was a different story.
This picture was taken by a friend of Brandon's and sent to his cell phone, then passed onto us.
After the storm had cleared, Brandon got another call from a friend who told him about the damage in town. Normally I'm one of those people who stays home like a good girl so the emergency response people can do their job without my being in their way. But this time....well there just wasn't much to do at home, we were super curious, and besides...I needed pictures for my blog. So the three of us loaded up in the pickup and headed to Billings. I know I know...shame on us! But its done now!
From a distance, it looked like a peaceful Sunday evening in Billings.
But the closer we got to Metra Park, it was more and more obvious that it had not been as peaceful as it appeared. There was reportedly about 2 inches of rain dumped on the city during the storm, and there wasn't anywhere for it all to go in that short amount of time.
The damage area was actually kind of small, but plenty of damage was done just the same.

Those would be the bleachers in the "nose bleed" section of the arena. If you haven't figured it out...you shouldn't be able to see them from the street!
The picture below was sent to Brandon's cell phone. I don't know who took it. Since its been distributed so broadly, I'm taking the liberty of using it myself. This is what it looks like inside the arena now.

Tornado's fascinate me...how they are so random. There is no logic to it! A roof ripped off, trees splintered, and yet in the midst of it all, the bronc rider statue remains standing unharmed. It makes no sense!
On up in The Heights, there were several other buildings damaged.

Even the "Golden Arches" weren't spared.
We weren't the only ones out seeing the sights, so I didn't feel so bad. I mean, in all this, what's one more vehicle? And there wasn't any cleaning up going on yet. The police were just standing around blocking entrances and monitering the "tourists."
After we drove past the Metra, we drove up on the Rimrocks where the airport is to see the view of downtown. We'd heard there was some flooding, and sure enough...right there in the middle of 27th street we could see the water. I guess though maybe you have to know what your looking at to recognize what's out of sorts, but even if you can't find the water...well there's Billings if you've never seen it before.

And there's the water...can't miss it now!
Amazing how much can be destroyed, what terror can fill the air, and a short time later its like nothing ever happened. The clouds cleared in time for another typical (not that you can ever call them that really) Montana sunset.

Later that evening, Malcolm and Brandon retired to the basement to watch TV and discovered we hadn't gotten off so easy as we had thought. Apparently the basement window leaked too (it was on the side of the house that the wind was hitting) and the sheet rock is all puckered and bubbled up. Really though, we can't complain, given what others were dealing with. The tornado only damaged that one area, but they had major hail all through The Heights, damaging cars, homes, and stores.
OK, so I have to ask this cause Malcolm and Brandon couldn't see it. I see a picture in the wall damage above. Do you not see a monkey on the right and a bull on the left? Please tell me you see it, cause they just laughed at me, but seriously...its there! And the monkey is mad I think (or maybe I am)!
Below is a video of the action at the Metra. There are several out there now, but this one is kind of neat b/c they show what's going on on the ground as well as in the sky, and its the only one I've seen that actually shows the Metra building. The others are just the debris in the air. However, there is a little language, so if that offends you, turn the sound off on your computer before playing it.

And just in case you were wondering...the truck was at the shop in Billings throughout all this. A tiny itty bitty part of me kind of sort of hoped that it had been whisked away...but not really. Anyway, we drove past to make sure it was ok and though we couldn't see it anywhere, nothing else there was damaged. This morning we went in to pick it up, and the guys at the shop told Malcolm that when it started to hail, they pulled it into the work bays so it wouldn't be exposed. They're good guys down there, and they take care of us.

June 17, 2010

When I Met Malcolm and Montana

I'm writing this on Thursday because I'm not sure how tomorrow is going to go, whether I'll have time or internet signal. I'll forewarn you, this one might be a touch long. I have been waiting to tell part of my story, and this post is the one.

Tomorrow, Friday June 18th is my 33rd birthday. I was looking to this birthday just being another ho hum day, which is fine. It is, after all, just another day. But then Mark the broker called, gave us a schedule for the rest of the week, and it turned out we'd be going past the house Friday night and not needing to leave till Sunday afternoon. For the first time in almost 4 years, I was going to have a birthday at home (almost). Really hoping that works out, but just now the auger broke down where we are unloading, and with us only having 1000lbs of product left on the truck. How frustrating. Hopefully they can get things going again so we can get unloaded, reloaded, delivered again and then reloaded for a weekend trip. Its a race with the clock between now and Friday afternoon, but hopefully it all falls into place, because I would surely enjoy a day to kick back and relax (while doing lots of fishy laundry).

Birthday's make me think back over life...what I'm proud of, what I wish I'd done differently, and just remembering big events. What stands out in memory this year, probably because I was recently looking at pictures, is a warm week in July almost 9 years ago when I met Malcolm and Montana.

The story of how I met Malcolm and Montana actually begins many years ago in 7th grade. That's when my friend, Ethan, enters my memory. Ethan and I went to school together, but my main memories are from church. Throughout high school we spent many a Sunday morning sitting in the balcony visiting, discussing life, relationships, and such, while the minister delivered his sermons. Not exactly how church service was meant to be spent, but I still remember if fondly.

We entered college and Ethan and I kind of took different paths, but we still stayed in touch, saw each other in church on occasion, and one day Ethan wanted to introduce me to his girlfriend, Tiffany, who soon became his wonderful wife, and one of my dearest friends.

Tiffany became a big part of my life, even though she and Ethan were living two hours away while he was at law school. She was a support when I was confused about life, a friend when I was lonely, and pretty much just a huge blessing to me. About a year or so into our friendship, she wanted me to meet her brother, Michael Paul, thinking that we would hit it off. And we did. Michael Paul and I became good friends and since he lived in Chattanooga and we attended the same university, we got to spend quite a bit of time building a friendship.

About a year into my friendship with Michael Paul, Tiffany called me one day to say they were going with their parents to the family reunion in North Dakota and going early to spend some time on their uncle's ranch in Montana. Would I like to come along?

Need you ask what my response was? I had never been across the Mississippi, but I'd always had big travel dreams and very itchy feet. I jumped at the chance to spend a week with my two dearest friends and see new territory at the same time.

Tiffany, me and Michael Paul when we took a break to stretch our legs and see the South Dakota badlands near Wall, SD.

The road trip to Montana was long, my not being used to being in the car that long. Looking back now I kind of laugh. That drive is nothing to me now, takes no time at all. How truck driving can change ones perspective. There was lots of visiting, laughing, and story telling going on in the car. At one point we were discussing what we'd like to do with our future. This conversation stands out in my memory with shocking clarity. When it was my turn I shared my dream of one day living on a farm or such. Michael Paul turned around from the front passenger seat and jokingly said "I know! You can marry Malcolm!" My response..."who's Malcolm?" Later we were kind of in awe of that conversation. How prophetic it turned out to be, though none of us had a clue at the time.

I met Montana first. Because of the location of the ranch, we came in on a tiny side road that was gravel, my first experience of the rugged Montana landscape and transit system. I thought it was enjoyably quaint and rustic, had a suspicion already that I was going to fall in love with Montana. When I saw the state line marker, a board with "MONTANA" proudly hand painted on it, I just went all mush inside. I fell in love with Montana on the spot. Little did I know, an even bigger love was waiting for our arrival a scant few miles down the road.

At the time of our trip, I was getting over a "crush" I'd had for some time. So when I met Malcolm and his family, my mind was not really in the "romance" mode. I couldn't help but make note that he was a good looking guy, bushy beard and all, super nice, and fun to be around. But my romantic interest didn't really go past there. I was just out there to have fun, see the west, and make some memories. And boy...did I ever!

Malcolm and Michael Paul standing on top of one of the many rocky hills in eastern Montana.

We spent the week playing and having the time of our lives. A lot of time was spent bouncing around the countryside in Malcolm's jeep.

We did some target practice while thinning the prairie dog herd, killing two birds with one stone. Having never shot a gun before, I was surprised to discover I have a pretty good aim.

We also did a lot of exploring on four wheelers, but since there were only three four wheelers, we had to double up. Most of the time I was behind Michael Paul, while Tiffany and Rachelle doubled up, and Malcolm and Justine (who was 9 at the time and tagged along on many of our excursions) rode together. For some reason about half way through our visit, one day we switched things up a bit and I rode behind Malcolm. That was the day everything changed.

We were out ahead of the rest of the group, and paused to wait for them to catch up. We'd been chatting a bit, but not a lot as it as hard to talk over the noise of the four wheeler and wind. But throughout the week, we'd enjoyed each other's company and gotten to know each other a little bit. While we were stopped there waiting, Malcolm turned to me and asked if I thought it would be ok if he wrote to me and we exchanged letters to get to know each other better. I was surprised at first, kind of didn't know what to say, but then suddenly I liked the idea a lot.

The rest of the week flew by, with me primarily behind Malcolm on the four wheelers now, instead of Michael Paul. At the end of the week, we headed to North Dakota for the family reunion. It was actually for a different side of Michael Paul and Tiffany's family, but Malcolm and Rachelle tagged along. While we were in North Dakota we went to see the badlands there at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, where this group picture was taken.

Overall it was just the most amazing week of my life up to that point. Definitely left Montana knowing my life had been seriously impacted in more ways than one. The goodbyes were sad, but lasting friendships had been made and old bonds strengthened and rekindled.

Back home in Tennessee, I still had a few weeks before my final year at college began. It was very frustrating, trying to find ways to fill the time, while feeling like I was missing something, that I was wasting time when I could be getting to know Malcolm better. A letter arrived from Malcolm just a few days after I returned home, and I had already put one in the mail, but I think we both felt like letters just weren't enough. There hadn't been hardly any time together it seemed, to truly get to know one another. And yet in that brief time we had, we both knew that there was something more than ordinary between us.

Finally I decided that it was silly to sit in Tennessee twiddling my thumbs and going insane waiting for school to start, when I could be waiting for the same thing while in Montana. So I made some phone calls, packed my bags and my sister (who came along with me because my parent's didn't like the idea of my traveling so far alone) and we hopped on a Grey Hound and headed west.

My sister is not exactly the farmgirl type. She loves the country, but she's never been one to get really dirty. A favorite family story is of her, after her first game in softball at the ripe old age of 6 or 7 telling my Mom and Dad "I don't like to fweat (sweat)." Needless to say, while I think she was interested in the whole trip and had a good time, it was not exactly her cup of tea. But she was such a trooper, and I enjoyed having her there with me. Just knowing someone close to me had seen first hand all the things that I was bubbling over with since returning from my first trip to Montana felt good.

She met a baby antelope that had been adopted in the brief time between my trips to the ranch.

Was taught how to shoot Malcolm's rifle. Shortly after this picture was taken, Rachelle stumbled across a rather large rattle snake. We let Malcolm take care of that one. Mine and Meagan's aim wasn't quite that good yet.

Meagan even took a turn at milking the cow.

While Meagan and I were there, the family acquired a new horse. Ruey was a good sport and put up with all of our attentions when he got to his new home.

It was another great week spent making new friendships stronger. Meagan and Rachelle, who are only two months apart in age, hit it off and the four of us girls enjoyed each other's company.

But for me, the biggest part of that second week in Montana was receiving doubtless confirmation that this cowboy, who was still practically a stranger to me, was indeed someone worth keeping in my life.

I returned home to Tennessee at the end of that second trip with a new vision of life. Up to that date I'd just been floating through, without much of anything in the way of a definite direction. But after I met Malcolm and Montana, I had a new focus and purpose.

Sixth months later Malcolm would move to Tennessee. I graduated with my bachelors degree in education the following May, and after that we were married on one hot but beautiful July day. That was almost 8 years ago, and life has been an adventure ever since.

June 16, 2010

A Warm Mississippi Welcome

After our "adventure" in Oklahoma (read the post below this one for details if you missed it) we enjoyed the southern hospitality of Alabama and Mississippi, though not the traffic. Not that the traffic was really that heavy, but we're just so used to these open western highways with lots of elbow room.

We delivered Monday morning north of Birmingham, and then high tailed it to a town in northwestern Mississippi, trying to get there to load before they closed.

Northeastern Mississippi was pretty and reminds me a bit of middle Tennessee with its rolling, forested hills.

It was 88 degrees at 9:00 that morning so we new it was going to be a bit warm! However, even knowing its going to be "warm" and that Mississippi is a humid state, still doesn't quite prepare you for it when you've been out of the southern heat and humidity for almost 4 years as we have! Lets just say by Monday afternoon everything in the truck was rather sticky, including us. I got sweaty just standing at the edge of the parking lot waiting for the girls to go potty. Ahhh...a warm Mississippi welcome!

We were headed to a town called Sunflower. Isn't that just a perfectly sweet name for a town? I looked forward to seeing what it was like. But first we had about 250 miles to get behind us. Once we crossed into Mississippi, one of the first towns we passed through was Tupelo.

Have you heard of Tupelo, or know why its famous? Tupelo is the birthplace of Elvis Presley.

I went to his childhood home a few years ago when my mom, sister, and I were visiting my aunt and uncle, who at the time were living in Oxford, another small but famous Mississippi town. Oxford is where Ole Miss is located. It was an adorable town, if I recall correctly. We drove past Oxford on Monday too, but the highway kind of bypasses the scenic part of town.

I was enjoyed the scenery as we rolled through the countryside, including the clouds. I suspected by the way they were mounding up and getting that really tall puffy look, that there would be some thunder storms by evening.
As we crossed into western Mississippi, the land leveled out and there was more farmland visible.

Along with my "taking in the sights," I also enjoyed seeing some of my favorite's from my southern days, first and foremost...roadsides full of Queen Ann's Lace and Black Eyed Susans.

The Crepe Myrtles were in full bloom and so pretty. These are ornamental "shrubs," but more like small trees, that lots and lots of people use in their landscaping. I always liked the brilliant pink blossoms.

Another pink blossomed beauty, though many would also label them pests, are the mimosa trees. They are very nearly a pesky weed. One of those lovely ornamental plants that people planted and then they went hog wild and took over the world. You know the type. I tended to over look them as a common weed tree when I lived in Tennessee, but now I see them and have nostalgic memories.

Speaking of pesky plants that take over the world, do you know what this one is?

This lovely green vine is called Kudzu, also referred to as "the vine that ate the south." Kudzu, if your not familiar with it, is an awful vine that someone thought was pretty and ornamental and now it is almost quite literally eating the southern states alive. There was an old running joke that if you left your car parked too long (like 5 minutes) near a kudzu vine, it would get covered with the pesky stuff. It is quite literally nearly impossible to kill, get rid of, destroy....its immortal. Really its quite lovely the way it efficiently covers and takes on the shape of whatever it grows on, BUT it is a serious problem.

We finally got over towards Sunflower in west central Mississippi. I was disappointed to see that they don't actually grow sunflowers in Sunflower, MS. Instead its primarily corn and rice.

Sadly we didn't load corn or rice. That would have been much more pleasant. We loaded fish meal. Actually we'd brought salmon meal from California to Alabama and in Mississippi we loaded just regular fish meal, but I can assure you...it all stinks. And we're not talking the general fresh fishy smell that's slightly unpleasant but bearable. We're talking about the putrid rank fishy smell that makes you gag every time it hits your nose. Sadly...every time we got within 15 feet of our truck, it was the putrid fishy smell, and it smelled like it inside and even Malcolm's clothes smelled like it. And we'd been smelling that fishy smell since loading in California Friday morning! I've had my fill of fish for a while. After loading in Sunflower, we headed west towards Arkansas. It was getting dark, so pictures started getting difficult to get clear, but I was holding out hopes of at least one shot of the Mississippi river. I was pleasantly surprised to get stopped at a red light right in front of the Mississippi welcome center, which to my delight was built to look like a river boat. And it was all lit up for the evening. I think this was one of the absolute best welcome center's I've ever seen as far as creativity and depicting the state's character go!Finally we reached the bridge to cross the river... ...and I got one shot, only slightly blurry, of sunset on the mighty Mississippi.

We delivered our fishy fish meal south of Houston, TX on Tuesday morning, and reloaded near the port east of Houston. We are hauling a special sand used for drilling and it's going to the oil fields in western North Dakota.
I enjoyed the time in Mississippi and the south, but with the heat and humidity combined with the traffic and Sunday's experience, I was relieved to cross into Kansas early this morning (like 2:00am) and when I stopped north of Wichita to go to bed, it smelled like hay and was much cooler and wonderful!
Today we've been traveling in Nebraska and South Dakota, and now we are just a few miles from North Dakota. Its WONDERFUL to be back in our part of the country. I love my southern roots, they will always be a part of me, but this country just feels right.