October 28, 2010

A Peaceful Autumn Gone Wild

I was thinking this morning, as I was planning out this blog post, "Why is it that hurricanes get named, but we don't get names for these wild ride winter storms?" Think about it. When we say "Hugo" or "Andrew" pretty much everyone knows what the person is referring to. So when I'm an old lady sitting at the cafe with my friends enjoying coffee, why shouldn't I get to refer to "Blizzard Bob" or "Wind Storm Winny?" Its kind of not fair!

In my opinion, winter came roaring in like a lion this year. Does anyone have a different opinion? Monday we were enjoying the beauty of a Tennessee autumn day...

...and 24 hours later I"m shaking in my boots from the cold and wind and trying to stay dry while its snowing and getting icy!

We weren't blind to the storm. I don't think anyone got to be ignorant about this last one. I'd been keeping an eye on the weather for a couple days, especially since we knew we were headed to the Fargo area after we finished in Tennessee. After loading up in Columbia, TN we took a last look at the big picture, and made some routing decisions. The shortest route would have taken us up through Illinois, Wisconsin, and across Minnesota, but that area of the map looked really ugly. So we took a little longer route, across Missouri and up through western Iowa and eastern S Dakota and N Dakota. It avoided almost all of the rain and tornadoes, etc, but we couldn't dodge the wind. Monday night between Sioux Falls and Fargo, I passed at least 4 trucks that had blown over, and there were a few times I wondered if we might be the 5th. It was sure blowing out there, and the snow that got added into the mix in northern South Dakota gave us a little warm up on our upcoming months of winter driving!

Tuesday morning it was still blowing pretty good, and still snowing lightly. We delivered just across the line, southeast of Fargo in Comstock, MN.
And it was WET! We didn't have a very good morning unloading at the farm. We were hauling something called "TN Brown," basically some kind of mineral dirt, and that sort of thing at a farm is usually wind rowed out in a field. But like I said it was soggy, and the product was wet and didnt' want to come off the trailer. Usually to unload this way, Malcolm walks next to the trailer and hammers on the hoppers while I slowly pull forward. The situation yesterday called for some creativity, and some worrying about our equipment in the process.
Malcolm stood by the trailer and hammered, while the two farmer's sons were inside the trailer shoveling and breaking the dirt up (as seen from the driver side mirror)... 
...while I pretended to pull forward when Malcolm indicated to do so. But the truck was so heavy and the mud so thick, I had to have some help, so...
the farmer had his big John Deere tied onto the front of the truck and pulled us along.
Fortunately it all went smoothly, the dirt unloaded, and the truck and trailer didnt' get torn up. And the farmer was generous enough to let us wash out the trailer at his shop. So though it got off to a rather unpleasant start, it ended all right.

We reloaded near the SD/ND line and after a quick lunch in the local cafe, Malcolm decided he'd drive north to the interstate before going to bed. Normally he'd have just let me do this, but the wind was still blasting out of the west, and trying to go north with the wind hitting you from the west can be an adventure. It can turn a truck into a really big kite if your not careful! 
He was steering straight in the above picture, and we were going straight, even though the steering wheel looks like we were making a left turn. You pretty much had to hold it in that position to go straight north.
Finally got to I-94 and it was still blustery. The only advantage of getting to the interstate is that we would be driving into the wind instead of having it hit us from the side. Less of a fight to drive, but it still wreaks havoc on the fuel mileage. While we were in the wind, I was getting about 3.92 miles per gallon. (we normally get around 6 which is considered good)

And then just past Jamestown, ND, there was more snow on the ground and the wind was blowing the snow across the roads. It alternated between slushy roads and mostly dry roads all the way to Bismarck.
And then west of Bismarck it turned to a solid sheet of ice almost all the way to Dickinson. Needless to say it took a little longer than normal to get across the great state to North Dakota. It amuses me that in these states that see serious winter weather every year, the drivers still need one or two good storms to refresh their memory on how to drive on snow and ice. It was a little slow going for a while.

Just east of Dickinson, though, I crested a hill and the road turned dry, the sun came out and then promptly set, leaving us with a beautiful sunset. It was kind of like the rainbow at the end of the storm.

We're in Great Falls, MT this morning waiting to unload, and while its still chilly (35 degrees) its a beautiful and calm morning. When we're done here we'll reload next door and head to Billings.

So this is where I come to the goodbye. We're going home for a week or more. Time for some official time off to do what we need to do, instead of what the truck needs us to do. Got some plans for relaxing, playing, and working at home. There's even going to be some traveling, but not our usual kind so it ought to feel like a break even though we'll be on the road some. I don't intend to blog, so I'll catch up with every one's goings on when I get back. Here's hoping winter's wrath gentles down for a few weeks. I'd like to be outside a little while we're off.

October 27, 2010

So Typical and SO WRONG

While the information in the following article doesn't surprise me at all, its still makes me very angry.
Unless Smucker's comes back with a reasonable explanation (and it will be hard for them to do) I'll not be buying any more of their products. They were totally out of line and over the edge when they did this!

Its a short article so please take the time to read it. And like I said, keep in mind this is very typical behavior of a warehouses treatment of drivers. Many won't let driver's in to use the bathroom or anything, but this was just ....  really words can't describe how mad I am right now.


October 23, 2010

Sunday Stills: Fall Folliage

Most people know Montana as "Big Sky Country." What many may not know is that prior to having this nickname, Montana was known as "the Treasure State." It received this nickname around the turn of the 20th century "because of its status as the country's foremost producer of metallic treasure." (Montana Official State Travel Site)

There were other state nicknames mixed in over the years, but Big Sky Country and the Treasure State must be the most popular because they are the only two I've ever heard used.

And what, you ask, does this have to do with Sunday Stills or Fall Folliage? Well I'll tell you.

Montana's reserves of precious metal may not be what they were in their heyday, but in the fall the Treasure State produces showers of shining glimmering gold.

The Crazy Mountain Range near Big Timber, MT

cottonwood trees along the Yellowstone River

 a Golden Eagle with golden cottonwoods in the background and golden grasses below

October 22, 2010

Weights and Consequences

I was going to post a picture of the Rocky Mountains covered in snow, but I can't get blogger to load pictures. It says my "cookies" is disabled and even though I've gone in and enabled it, as the instructions said to do, I still can't load pictures.

Until the issue is resolved, I'll just go with the other intent of this post, which was to answer a question that farmgirl_dk asked in her comment on yesterday's post.

"...what would have happened if the DOT scale had shown you to be overweight? Fines and fees? A citation? Would you guys actually be responsible, since the farmer didn't have a scale? I don't blame you for being nervous!"

The answer is yes, we'd still be held responsible if we were over weight, even though the farmer didn't have a scale to weigh the load on. Its our load and we're responsible for staying within the law, regardless. Once we sign the bills, its our baby.

The consequences would have been a fine of some sort, and possible a citation also. I can't say for sure how much. We've never been fined for weight. We were caught one time in North Dakota in a random roadside inspection. But he didn't fine us. He just sold us a $10 overweight permit. Talk about a slap on the wrist. 

Each axle has a legal limit. Generally the trailer and drive axles have a limit of 34,000lbs, while the steers have a weight limit of 12,000lbs. The whole truck has a limit of 80,000lbs. (this is general...if you have more axles you can weigh more, or you can permit for a little more in some states but that gets complicated to explain)

On occasion you can be within your 80,000lb limit, but maybe there is more on one of the axles than there should be, and in that case, the DOT can require the driver to go shovel the load over onto another axle until your legal. We've never had to do this. In the case of refer and dry van trailers, they are capable of moving their axles further back on the trailer or forward as needed to redistribute the weight. But a hopper trailers axles are fixed in place so we're not able to do that.
Also, if you are relatively close to where you loaded, they can make you go back and fix it by taking some product off. We've never had to do that either.

These weights and consequences are standard for all types of trucking, generally.

Malcolm believes, and I can believe it based on our lack of DOT harassments, that they tend to be lenient on hoppers and also cow haulers, depending on the state, but most western states seem to be really lenient. Our product isn't in pre-weighed boxes on pallets that can be strategically placed in the trailer so that the weights are just so. Its just dumped in and many times its near guess work as to exactly where the weights are falling. There seems to be about a 500lb grace given to us, because we usually are overloaded by about that, and they've never bothered us. But when we're more than 500 lbs over and know about it, we get a little nervous because we're not sure how far we can push the limit without something being said about it. Hopefully we never find out.

My fears were confirmed about loading in LA on a Friday. We're finishing up here in San Bernadino, CA and are loading down near Long Beach. Initially our appointment was to load tomorrow afternoon at 2:00, but when I called for directions, I asked if it was possible to get it done earlier. He said if we can be there by 3:00 this afternoon he'll load us today.
This means that we'll have the ultimate pleasure of competing with what must be the entire population of Los Angelas as they exit the city for their weekend get aways. Its a nightmare. However, the alternative is trying to find somewhere to park and spend the next 24 hours in a crowded, dirty, and not always so safe city (no offense to you Californians, but I've heard a lot of stories of truck drivers getting shot and stabbed while they parked in odd spots waiting for their appointments and I don't relish the idea).

We can't deliver in Nashville till Monday night, but at least if we can get out of LA tonight, we can get some sleep and then have a not so strenuous 2000 mile drive to my home state, and then hopefully dinner with my sister as a reward for doing battle with the Californian's and their mad dash for escape from the city.

October 21, 2010

Sunflowers in Sacramento

We loaded sunflower seed on Monday. We were just northwest of Sacramento. In fact, standing in the sunflower field, I watched combines on one side of our truck...
(did you notice all the neighborhood homes in the distance)

...and on the other side of the truck, I had a nice view of Sacramento's sky line.

We delivered the seeds in Fargo, ND yesterday morning. They were for human consumption and the factory where we delivered them gave us a whole arm load of little packets of their honey roasted seeds. They are "free sample" type packets. They are also YUMMY and made a perfect snack for me last night as I was driving.

The east side of North Dakota is quite a bit different from the western side. There are more trees, more water, and quite honestly, it looks a lot like Minnesota, which makes sense considering that's the next state just a few miles east.

We reloaded about 100 miles west of Fargo in Tappen, ND. It looks more like the North Dakota we picture in our minds.
We loaded on a farm, which I always enjoy doing. The only problem with doing this, is that generally Farmer John doesn't have a scale at his farm, and usually there isn't one nearby either, as was the case yesterday morning. In this type situation we load using the air gauges in our truck. There is one for the steer, drive, and trailer axles. But its not a sure thing. Just gives us a good idea of where we are at on weight.

Its a little nerve wracking not knowing for sure, especially when your husband tells you he thinks we're about 1000 pounds over gross, and then goes to bed. And so off I went down the two lanes of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska, making my way to Colorado. There was only one scale to worry about, a little one just north of Pierre, SD. And wouldn't you know, as I crested the hill, the only truck for miles of course, the sign said open. Moments like this always make me nervous and I usually send up a quick prayer for them to please leave me alone.

I'm not sure how God feels about me praying for Him to help me break the law. I imagine he doesn't honor those requests. But maybe he gave me a break this time. As I was pulling my front tires onto the scale, the DOT officer walked out of the scale house, waved for me to go on, got in his van, and drove away. I passed him a few miles down the road where he had pulled off to turn the scale sign to closed. Thank you God and SD DOT! I appreciate it.

Other than that it was an uneventful run. We delivered this morning in Platteville, CO and are now loading beef meal in Fort Morgan, CO. Back to the smelly stuff.

We'll be in SanBernadino, CA tomorrow morning and I'm hoping the reload isn't going to be anywhere near LA. But I have a sinking feeling it will be, and I'm not excited about going there, especially on a Friday.

There is one very bright point about taking beef meal to California from this location. The shortest route takes us right through the Rocky Mountains on I-70. A gorgeous drive that Malcolm hates, but I love. It goes through Vail, and many other famous points. So I'm looking forward to this afternoon very much. I just have to get through Denver and then the rest of the day should be very pleasant.

I can't remember if I posted this picture yet, so I'm going to put it up as a parting shot. The other day, on a chilly morning, Malcolm got out of the truck to do something. While he was gone, Carlie Jean and Ella realized there was a vacant, pre-warmed seat available in the sunshine, and so they made use of it till Malcolm returned to the truck. Those two are each other's shadows.

October 18, 2010

I'll Take the Peas, Please.

Of all the products we haul, peas are probably one of my favorites. I have a brief list of reasons, but I won't go into all of them. It would probably bore you. I will, however, share a few.

For starters, peas unload easily and leave the trailer clean, where as many loads Malcolm has to beat on the trailer to get the stuff to come out and then climb in and sweep it when its empty.

Another reason, probably the most important on my list, is that 90% or our pea loads come out of Clarkston, WA, and from that location they either go to Illinois or South Carolina. On either route, we drive through Montana, often with time to stop at home, and on the South Carolina run we often stop at my parents in Tennessee for a brief visit. That's my number one reason for liking the peas.

Another reason, less important but just as enjoyable, is that it doesn't matter what route you take to get to Clarkston, WA, its going to be a beautiful drive.
We most frequently take US195 south out of the Spokane area. Its about 100 mile drive to Clarkston from Spokane.

Eastern Washington is not as most would picture. I think the average person imagines what they've heard of the Seattle area as being the norm for the state. In contrary, the vast majority of the state is rolling grasslands mostly void of trees. It gets more dramatic over on the eastern side of the state as you near the mountains. I think its lovely.

This is grain country. Every square inch of every acre is planted in wheat, barley, or some other grain. All but the steepest hill sides are cultivated, and I admire the gutsy farmers who climb into their giant machines to plow, plant and harvest these hills!

The farms are picturesque, nestled into the hollows between hills...
...and the small scattering of towns are dominated by generations of grain elevators and bins.
I could find hours of entertainment studying the designs and patterns of wheel marks in the grain fields.

The end of the road brings us into Lewiston, ID and Clarkston, WA, two towns that sit so close to one another, they practically merge.
I've never stopped at the scenic overlook before, but since I was driving this time, I took the liberty. It pays to stop at these places. In addition to getting breath taking views, you learn new and interesting things. Such as....Lewiston was the territorial capital of Idaho Territory which included Montana and Wyoming, back before Montana became its own territory and Wyoming was added to the Dakota Territory. I found that interesting.

Once we were loaded with peas, we headed east across these hills, along the Clearwater River, and through the mountains of Idaho and Montana. Another gorgeous drive that I posted about last summer. (see the above link) 
This was all last Monday! I've been holding onto these pictures and had meant to post earlier, but things just kept getting in the way, mainly driving round the clock, and a good book. That load of peas went to Illinois, where we reloaded with hominy going to Texas, and then grabbed a load of feather meal, taking it to California over a very long and boring weekend. But I won't get into those dull details after looking at beautiful scenery in the above pictures. Dull details and beautiful scenery don't compliment each other.

We delivered this morning, and are now on our way to load sunflower seed near Sacramento. We will be taking it to Fargo, ND. What? Not enough sunflowers in North Dakota you say? Yeah, that's what I thought too. There are many things about this world that I don't understand.

There were a number of comments posted about the last picture of my Sunday Stills post yesterday. Many were concerned and wanted to know what happened, if the pick up finally fell off the truck. After Malcolm couldn't get the driver to answer on the CB, he drove up next to him and shook the CB mic at him so he would turn his on and we could warn him. The driver ignored us. This rubbed Malcolm the wrong way, and since the guy was about to endanger lives, AND was making truckers look bad, Malcolm called the California Highway Patrol and alerted them. They pulled the driver over about 30 miles later. I imagine he got a hefty fine for not securing his load, and maybe more.

I found it particularly ironic that Sunday was the first day of the CVSA's Operation Safe Driver, even though the focus of that campaign has nothing to do with the above described offense. All the same, it amused me. For more information on Operation Safe Driver, you can visit this link.  It might be of interest to you, as they are not just watching trucks, but also how YOU drive around trucks.

October 17, 2010

Sunday Stills: Cars

This weeks challenge was Cars. Simple enough...

This morning on CA-99 near Bakersfield. You'll never see fewer cars than this on this stretch of road. Normally, its very busy, but I guess everyone was sleeping in.

Cars can be rolling down the road without physically touching the pavement. This is one type of trucking I wouldn't want to be involved in. I'd be too afraid of ruining a whole load of brand new vehicles. Guess you'd have to have some amazing liability insurance!
A different kind of car, rolling across the grasslands near Belle Fourche, SD.

That's it for me this week.

or not....I'm adding one! Another Car picture, only somethings not quite right here. Can you see it?
Just passed this guy on CA-99. The cars were trying to get his attention and Malcolm even gave him a holler on the CB. No luck. The driver of this truck is currently in front of us about to loose one of his cars. The chains are dragging the pavement and with each bounce in the road the pickup shifts more the left. And the driver is ignoring everyone. Hope no one is behind him when it goes.  We're exiting in 2 miles so it won't be us!

October 10, 2010

Sunday Stills: Billboards

I'm getting my Sunday Still's post up late today. We've been home since Friday night and are just now leaving the house.

I pass many many many billboards during a day at work, and believe me...they, along with power lines, are my arch enemy. They seem to work against me in my every attempt to grab a photograph of something I want to share with others.

I was trying to think of a billboard that would be interesting to share along the routes we were traveling last week. And then on our way back to Montana from Fargo, I remembered a certain location near Dickinson that has some interesting signs.

Maybe you won't consider it a billboard, but I think it could be a member of the category, by a stretch. It is advertising something after all.
And since I showed you the billboard, I'll go ahead and show you what its advertising, on down the road. You might say this is one of western North Dakota's tourist attractions. Its marks the exit for the highway that is known as the "Enchanted Highway."
I've never actually been down the road, but from what I can gather, there are a lot of metal sculptures along the road...I'm guessing.

So...that's that! We're just pulling out of Billings and have to be in Spokane by 8:00 tomorrow morning. (its currently 8:00pm) Plenty of time really, but we've been up since 7:00 this morning and so I can already feel my energy fizzling. But the extra hours at home were worth it, I think.

October 8, 2010


Along with reading, I have other hobbies, one of which is quilting. I'm not too good at it, but I'm learning. My biggest frustration is that I'm not home to do it much. So projects are slow in getting completed.

This is my latest, one I started last Christmas.
I finished it, finally, the last time we were home for a couple days.

The problem with a project lasting that long is that I was sick of it and had to force myself to sit down and finish it.

But now that it's done I'm happy I finally got it stitched up. Now to get it off to the quilters. I think part of the problem with my motivation to finish it was that my original intent for it was changed, and I didn't have a clue what I was going to do with it. But now I have a little idea niggling at the back of my mind.

Anyway, there you go...another tidbit about me. Another project complete.

And now....I'll be hitting the quilting stores and websites. I've refrained from buying any more projects till I finished the heart quilt. It was hard, but the shopping frenzy is going to be sweet!

October 6, 2010

There's Nothing Better...

...than a good book on a lousy day.

Well that's an exaggeration of course, but I do love to read and I love it when I discover really good books by accident, the ones that become members of my "treasures" bookshelf.

As many of you know by now, I spend a significant amount of my time reading. I do, and always have, loved to read. And as much as I get disgruntled over being a truck driver sometimes, I have to readily admit that there are few professions that would allow me to get paid for lounging in bed reading for hours on end. Trucking, at least, has that going for it!

I love to read, and after Malcolm bought me an iPod and membership to audible.com for my birthday a couple years ago, I have learned to love to listen to audible books as well. I'm able to listen to books while I drive, and its amazing what a difference it can make sometimes on a long dull night of driving. These days I've usually go 2-3 books going at the same time. I love to read...did I mention that?

Spirits are higher in the truck this week, thank goodness! Lots of contributing factors, but one of them has to have been that I re-read a book that I love. I'd like to share it with you!

I picked this up off the bookshelf at the store over a year ago. I liked the cover and that's why I bought it. I love it when I take a chance on a random, unknown book and it turns out to be a wonderful experience.
I really enjoyed this story so much! I have a few ways of judging a book and deciding if its goes on my "favorites" list. One of those methods is to read it twice. If I like it just as much the second time around, if it keeps my attention and gives me just as much enjoyment, it hits the favorites list for sure. This one was already on the list. And then last week I saw it on the library's audio book list, downloaded it, and Oh....it was such a pleasure to listen to! Its now in the top membership of my "favorites" list.

Even if your not a "horsey" person, I still say this is a read worth picking up. I loved the author's writing style. I got attached to the characters, and I enjoyed the multiple stories within the main story. The horses are not the main characters, but its more about their owners and a young woman who breaks horses. Its about relationships and growth. Its a story, but there are deep thoughts about life between the lines. And I love that you can read it for just a story and ignore the deeper thoughts, or you can really think about it if you want. Its just a great read and I also saw the potential for some wonderful book group discussions...if I had a book group to discus it with!

I'd not heard of Molly Gloss before, but after my initial introduction to her writing I dug around a little and found another of her books, The Jump Off Creek. Loved it as well. Wildlife, another of her titles, I had a little more trouble getting into and in fact didn't finish, but that could have easily been due to the onset of my sour mood, as I was trying to read it just a couple weeks ago. I'll try again later.

Regardless....The Hearts of Horses is a great book. I highly recommend it. And go ahead and get The Jump Off Creek too. Both books are set in the early 1900's in rural Oregon. Wonderful stories, wonderful writing style. I like this author and her work!

PS: Thank you all again for the encouragment and support. And for those who mentioned that home time by might be the cure for our blues...bless you!!! I don't know what magic you worked, but we're less than 100 miles from home. We have to wait to deliver in Fargo till Friday, so we're stopping at the house till tomorrow sometime. From Fargo, we're heading to Spokane, but can't deliver till Monday so we're stopping at the house for a day and a half on Saturday. And from Spokane we're headed to Illinois but can't deliver till Thursday so we'll be home again on Tuesday for a day and night. The moody blues are gone. My spirits are soaring!

October 3, 2010

Sunday Stills: Green and Red

Wasn't feeling motivated lately and so Sunday Stills fell to the wayside. However, last night driving across the Oregon mountains on our way to Woodland, WA I had a bit of inspiration. So here is my contribution to this weeks Sunday Stills challenge which was to photograph the colors red and green within the same picture.

The dash lights in our truck. Notice the speedometer and take heart. I wasn't driving when I took the photo. Even though I was pretty excited about the challenge and eager to try it out. I have had little luck getting night shots with lights in them so I knew I had to wait till the truck was stopped before trying for it. It was hard to be patient, but its best that way. Might have given some of you a heart attack if the speedometer said something like 65mph!  (and since I was in Oregon that would have also indicated that I was speeding...which I never do!  ;)  

Feeling better today, a little more upbeat. Thank you all for the encouragement yesterday. I think that helped me quite a bit! Part of my problem was feeling a bit lonely and your words of friendship and encouragement boosted my spirits. I love my blogging friends! Wish we could all get together and meet in person. But I'm working on that, one blogger at a time!

To see more Sunday Stills contributions for this weeks challenge visit this link.

October 2, 2010

Looking for my Smile

The mood in the truck is still low. I've spent the last three weeks looking for my smile but still can't seem to quite find it. I'm hoping it will show up soon.

We've been across the country and back, stopping at the house for two days in between. There was a glimmer of my smile that showed its face while we were at home, but then it hid itself again after we left.

We took a load of peas to South Carlina and then turned around and high tailed it back west. We're in California now getting ready to load poultry meal and head to Washington.

Can't really explain why I'm feeling so low. Just one of those things. But I haven't got any desire to blog, or do much of anything but read my book when I'm not driving. So, sorry to say, you might not be hearing much from me for a bit longer. I just can't force myself to blog when I don't have anything interesting to share.

Today I'm feeling a tad bit higher than my usual low, and I did have a couple of pictures of some things that made me smile a little bit so I decided to share them before my blogging friends decide I've dropped off the face of the blogging world.

It was, oddly enough, storming yesterday as we crossed the desert in California between Barstow and Mojave. We don't usually see rain in that part of California, especially this time of year! It was a splotchy storm, with hard rain and wind between patches of clear sky and bright evening sunshine. Which is the perfect combination for this...
And then as we entered the mountains that cross over into Bakersfield, it cleared just enough to provide an impressive desert sunset.

This morning its warmer than its been in this part of California for a while, at least when we were here. It was 73 when we got up at 6:00am! Ick! We slept with the truck turned off last night. We had the fans going, but it was still stuffy. I was tired enough to sleep anyway though.

Where would I be without my girls? What is it about our dogs? How do they know when we need a hug the most? Two of my girls joined me this morning to wait for their man to return to the truck. And instead of jostling for space and who could sit closest to the lady like normal, they peacefully shared the space and Ella leaned into me like she does. Its just like a hug.
Princess Paris was in the back. She slept in this morning. She had a big day yesterday with it being her 4th birthday, and so she needed the extra rest today.