September 26, 2011

24 Hours Near Heaven

We just spent 24 hours in the closest spot we can get to heaven without actually going there. HOME!

We drove ourselves all night and through the day, stopping in Billings for a few hours that I resented but were necessary. The truck has been sporting a lovely orange check engine light for the past week so we needed to get that checked out. Fortunately it turned out to be a broken wire causing communication issues for the truck computer. Easy quick fix once they had time to get to us. And then it we had two errands and a stop at Walmart for truck groceries (we were out of EVERYTHING in here) and then the last miles to home. We arrived at 10:00 on Saturday night.

I look forward to the day I get to go to heaven! It will be wonderful and God can take me there whenever He's ready. But for now, home feels pretty close to being there, and I'll enjoy every moment I get.

 During our 24 hours near heaven, we:

Slept in our bed for 6 whole hours! Which was not near enough! But it sure felt nice!

I washed 5 weeks worth of dirty laundry ,plus all the bedding, utilizing both our washer and my in-laws! It took the whole day, and both my and my mother-in-law, but I assure you, the interior of the truck smells much better now and we have a plentiful supply of clean things to wear!

Malcolm went with his dad to an auction in the morning, and of course they found treasures to bring home.

And then in the afternoon we all met down at the summer pasture to move the pairs that were there closer to the corrals so they could be worked today.

I didn't take the camera out with me on the 4wheeler b/c I'd taken my Nikon instead of my little Cannon Elph. So no cow moving pictures. Maybe next time. I also forgot to take along my allergy medicine, and so once again I'm suffering the effects that a large herd of cows stirring up dust and pollen seem to create for me. When will I learn?

Afterwards, we went into town to eat, and then home to throw our stuff in the truck and hit the road. We left the house at 10:00pm.  Call us pathetic, but we only made it to Wibeax before stopping. That's only about an hour and a half. Malcolm had already layed down and I was going to drive as far as I could before stopping. I didn't make it far. But I wasn't going to go any further and run the risk. I was just too tired. So we slept there a few hours and then finished the trip to Fargo early this morning.

Now we're unloaded and headed to reload a short trip to South Dakota, then we'll grab a load and go to California, where we're slotted to reload sunflowers and come back to Fargo, probably by Friday.

Amid all our rushed and hurried home activities, I did manage to squeeze in some hurried quality time with the horses. Lucky me, they were all standing together, even though they are in two different pastures, so I didn't have to travel to say hello to everyone. Malcolm's parent's had told us that Gemma had darkened up considerably, but WOW!

This is Gemma in August, about 6  weeks ago. She was just starting to show signs of turning color in a few places.
And this is Gemma yesterday! Talk about a difference! It was expected, but still amazing!
She is quite the character. Still finds me a little intimidating, but if I sit down or kneel, she's immediately over to me to visit and get a scratching, and she's slowly getting used to the tall version of me. Give her a break. She doesnsn't get to see me that often!
I discovered during this visit that she likes her belly scratched as much as the dogs do, and if you scratch her rump, she'll practically sit down in your lap from the pleasure of it!

With her standing so close, its easy to see all her markings, and she has some neat spots on her legs. She wears bracelets on both her front legs. I think they are cute!
While I was busy visiting with the girls...
...the boys were in a huddle on the other side of the fence trying to figure out how to get me and that bucket over closer to them.
I did go over and visit and handed out cookies, and discovered that all three of them had been rolling and rubbing their heads in something very sticky. It was not a pleasant petting session so I ended it early. And when they realized that was all they were getting, they finally got bored enough to go on about their business of the day.
 The fall colors are starting to make their appearance. I love this time of year!
 It was kind of hard to leave home after such a short visit. We weren't real pleased about it. But we've committed to staying out till the end of October. Calves ship on Halloween, and we'll stay out till time to go home to help with that and do some other things, and rest up for another round of trucking. It is so tempting sometimes to just throw in the towel and forget it all and go home permanently, but that's not realistic. Until the time comes when we can do so responsibly, these short breaks will have to do. And we'll take as many of them as we can get.
Anyone want to take a guess at what color Gemma is going to finish up as? Originally I said buckskin, but I'm leaning more towards Grulla for now. I guess only time will tell. What do you think?

September 22, 2011


It seems like whenever I've reached the end of my strength, energy, or patience, God creates a situation to give me a boost. Today was such a day. I was beyond tired, worn down, dragging my feet, and not expecting to make it much longer. I need a break. And though one is not visible as of yet, other things, it seems, can pick me up and get me going again. Things like incredible beauty and a visit with friends!
This morning we delivered a load of pears in Vancouver, WA. Vancouver is just across the state line and the Columbia River from Portland, OR. As we crossed the river into Washington, sunrise was just finishing up its show. It was looking like it would be a really pretty day on the Columbia River.

if you look close you can see Mount Hood in the haze on the horizon
 We had to wait a little while to unload because some of their equipment was broken. But after a while they had it repaired and were able to unload the pears. They use a conveyor to pile them into wood crates. These pears were for juicing.
Afterwards, we skipped back across the river to Portland to washout the trailer, and then another jaunt across the river for the third time today to hop on US14 and head east towards Pasco, WA.
I know I've shared again and again about driving along the Columbia River Gorge. Its just one of those scenic drives you never get tired of. At least I don't, and so I hope you don't get tired of seeing it.

Mount Hood viewed from US14 near Vancouver, WA
 You can't drive along this river and not gape at the scenery. Whether its foggy, windy, raining, sweltering hot, or icy....it doesn't matter. There is always something to admire. And my favorite spot is a break in the trees that provides a spectacular look at the gorge and all its glory.
The pavement and the railroad twist and wind along side by side, sharing the space on the banks and matching each other tunnel for tunnel, though sometimes the railroad tunnels aren't as dressed up as the roadway's. But I actually like them better in their rawness. I'd like to go in one and see it's insides.

The entire morning was very enjoyable. We are tired and drained and don't have a break anytime in the immediate future, but something about the morning seems to have energized me a bit. I think it had to do with the beauty of the day, the delights of God's creations...

...and probably a big boost to my mood was a visit we had about half way to our reload.

As it turned out, the farm girl of Critter Farm, her husband, and her faithful farm dog, Roxie, were finishing up what sounds like a marvelous vacation at a delightful little spot along our route! I can't wait till she gets home and posts about all their fun! It sounds like it was just what I need! I'll just have to experience through her blog posts. Anyway, they were out there camping near our route, and since our paths were crossing, we couldn't just drive by and not say hello. Plus I had to meet Roxie!
It was a  very short (basically long enough to let the girls out to potty and hug Danni and Roxie) but wonderful little visit. I just think the world of Danni and her husband and her critters! She is such a delightful lady! And as if her great company wasn't enough, she is so thoughtful. She brought Malcolm and I a couple of cool drinks to enjoy and a baggie of cookies for Roxie to share with the girls. We were touched by their thoughtfulness and generosity!
We couldn't stay and visit near as long as I would have liked. The sooner we get over here to the Pasco area to load, the more likely it is we might have a few moments to park and sleep before delivering. And when I say moments, I mean mere moments, if that! So we rushed our visit and then hit the road in a hurry. But Danni certainly boosted my spirit and energy just in those few moments of shared time. Her energy and enthusiasm is infectious!

If your not familiar with her blog, you MUST visit, and be sure to check out her most recent post about her hen Honey, and the little vacation she's taking while the Critter Farm owners have been on their own excursion! Honey had me and Malcolm chuckling and breaking out in grins even in our tiredness of the morning.

 After our visit, we skipped over the river to the Oregon side to finish the last leg of our trip. And on the Oregon side, we passed beneath the rocky hillsides that seem so steep you'd think nothing could be there but grass and rocks. But on occasion we see some surprising critters there, and this morning there were a number of them grazing on their favorite rocky slope, and Malcolm spotted them in time for me to manage to grab the camera and get off a shot, though it came out a bit furry.
 We'll skip back across the river again here in a bit and load in Washington. Let's see...that makes 5 crossings of the Columbia River today! And actually it will be 6 by the end of the day, because once we're loaded, we'll cross it again and head south. We'll deliver in Sacramento in the morning, and then its another sunflower load bound for Fargo, ND!
I don't think we've worked this hard in years! We're both feeling it too, weary doesn't begin to describe. But the payoff will be well worth it. I just hope there is a bit of a break somewhere in our future. I'm not sure I can keep going at this pace for another 5 weeks! And that's how long we plan to stay out before taking another home time leave!

September 18, 2011

The Last Week of Summer

This past week was the last full week of summer. Evidence of the season is seen in all my pictures this week. Mostly in the form of bug splatter on the windshield. It is an ongoing irritation for me, and one of the many reasons I look forward to cooler weather! There are few things more frustrating to me than thinking I've captured a great picture, only to discover upon loading it on the computer than there was a bunch of bug splatter captured in the shot. And this week seems to have won the prize for the most.
Tuesday morning near Denver, CO: I rarely have seen the day when the Rocky Mountains are clear and pristine behind the city of Denver. Whether from summer haze, smoke, or smog, the mountains seem to be always and forever more shrouded and dim. But even under cover, they are still impressive in size.

We had thought we'd get another load of drilling sand after delivering in Fargo last Monday morning, but it turned out different. Instead, we took a load of sunflower seed to Colorado, and then reloaded with the wheat screenings I told you about in the previous post. That load was picked up northeast of Denver, and then we hit the road for a hard drive to get to California in a hurry. I like the drive on US287 from Fort Collins, CO to Laramie, WY. Its short, but scenic, before picking up I-80 and heading west.

From California, we reloaded and headed to Sugar City, ID with a load of fertilizer. Then we reloaded in Idaho Falls, a load of malt barley being moved from this plant, to their other facility in Colorado.

We took a different route to leave Idaho than we have in the past. US26 cuts over to the Idaho/Wyoming state line where we had the pleasure of driving through the Bridger Teton National Forest, just south of Teton National Park and Yellowstone. More beautiful scenery, disturbed by an abundance of bug splatter.

Friday morning we delivered in Fort Collins, CO and then headed up to a little place west of Cheyenne, where we loaded at a quarry. We loaded 3/4" rock that was headed to a road project in Nebraska.

That was just a short load that went to a town south of North Platte, NE. We took our time getting there, because we didn't have anything to do until Saturday evening. So we stopped in Cheyenne for several hours to have some things tweaked on the truck, and then parked at a stop in Nebraska and slept for a number of hours in a PARKED TRUCK! The best sleep I've had in weeks! And then delivered the rock on a very foggy Saturday morning.
In fact, about the whole day in Nebraska looked like this. So I didn't try to take pictures. Yesterday was a very misty, damp day. We dumped out the rock, drove to a town north of Lincoln, and last night reloaded there. We are now loaded with......drilling sand! Loaded up in a different spot than the loads before, and its going to a different spot, almost. We'll deliver this afternoon at a town just east of Williston, ND.

Today the fog lifted once the sun came up. Malcolm started driving around 5:00 and I got up at 7:00. Its a gorgeous fall day! We're in South Dakota now, and will be at our destination sometime this afternoon. Malcolm took some pictures this morning while I was sleeping. He wanted to show me the spillway, still flowing, at the Missouri River crossing on the NE/SD state line. The Missouri River sure has acted up this year. Normally the water would be much lower by now.
That about sums up our week. By this afternoon, we'll have hit about 5,018 miles.

Another slammer week, but at least we got a little sleep this weekend. We'll need it because from the sounds of it, this coming week is going to be another doozy! At least its starting out strong, and that usually sets the trend for the rest of the week.

Do you mind if I vent a little bit? I've been very frustrated lately with being gone from home and not helping my frustration at all, were some reminders in my trucking news e-letter just how much we, the truckers, are unappreciated and disrespected, and quite frankly discriminated against! There was an article one day telling about how some organization is recommending to the powers that be that cell phone use, whether hand held or hands free, be outlawed for truckers while driving. Really?
Now I know my vehicle will cause a lot of damage if I hit someone. But does that justify this type of action? And just because my vehicle is big, doesn't mean I'm an unsafe driver, or any more unsafe that any other driver on the road with a phone. That would be like telling SUV drivers that they have to use hands free devices but those that drive those little eco cars can hold their phones, hell they can even text while driving! Do you think SUV drivers would take that sitting down? I think not! Why should truck drivers? And its little crap like that all the time. I'm sick and tired of it!

We are constantly subjected to ridiculous stuff like this from the government and general disrespect from the public. How many times have I gotten dirty looks, and dirty gestures, sent my way when my only guilty act was to be the one sitting in a truck instead of a "normal" vehicle. Cut off, cussed at, flipped off, and don't forget the Oklahoma Unwelcoming Committee that blocked our way, threatened us with a 2x4, and spit in Malcolm's face! I try hard to forget him, but I can't.

So last night when we were driving through a small Nebraska town and some kids THREW ROCKS AT OUR TRUCK, we had reacked the end of our rope. We couldn't let that one slide.
Malcolm hit the brakes and threw the truck in reverse. The kids ran of course, into their home, and we parked on the shoulder and Malcolm went to the door and asked for the parents. The kid that had the guts to come to the door said he didn't live there and no parents were home. Malcolm came back to the truck and called the local police, who showed up in less than 5 minutes, about the same time "mom" pulled into her driveway. The kids of course tried to lie, and then one of them broke down in tears when Malcolm told them they were lying and suggested he go get me from the truck to come over and tell my version of what I saw. She fessed up to lying to the police officer, something he wasn't too happy with them about, and to throwing rocks at our truck. The parent was upset of course, and the kids were terrified, and our feathers were smoothed a bit after being so rumpled. Not that we wanted to cause problems, but a point needed to be made there, and I think it was done. Probably those kids will hate truckers the rest of their lives, but quite frankly I don't care. I just hope they use some common sense, and maybe, just maybe, have a little respect for the next trucker that drives past their yard. If not respect, then at least the decency to behave appropriately. Cause let me tell you, there were a couple cars that went past the same time we did, and I didn't see any rocks aimed at their vehicles! They just picked the wrong trucker to aim at.

September 14, 2011

Trucking 101: Cleaning Out

Good morning from California! Obviously we didn't go load another load of drilling sand! At least, not yet. We are in Petaluma, CA. Petaluma is on US 101 almost on the coast and just north of San Francisco. To get here, we took highway 37 around the north edge of San Pablo Bay.
I haven't done a Trucking 101 post in a while, and so today I thought I'd share with you about the challenges of getting the inside of our trailer cleaned! We haul all sorts of products in this trailer. Often people ask what sort of things we haul, and my answer has become, "anything that can be dumped in the top, and then sifted out the bottom."

If you've been reading the blog for a while, you've probably noticed we haul quite a variety of products. For this trip, we hauled wheat mids, or wheat screenings. Basically this is what is produced from cleaning the wheat. Its pretty much dirt, chaff, and bits of broken wheat berries. It looks and feels a lot like sawdust.
Wheat mids are used for feed. We deliver this stuff most often to dairys. This load came to a mill that I believe is making dairy feed. And in order to load this product, we were required to wash the trailer out.

We don't always have to wash the trailer. For instance, we hauled the load of sunflower seed to Fargo, ND, and then we loaded another load of sunflower seed south of Fargo and took that to Colorado. Since it was the same product, we didnt' need to wash. Malcolm just climbed into the trailer and swept out any stray sunflower seeds left in there from Fargo. If we hauled fertilizer, and then we go load pearlite, we can just sweep out really good.

But say we haul a load of crushed glass, like we did last December, and then need to go pick up a load of sunflower seed...
...or perhaps we have a load of poultry meal and then need to load organic apples...
...then for obvious reasons we need to get the trailer washed out.

Sounds simple enough, but it can actually be quite a challenge. There are a number of truck wash chains out there. Its not really that hard to find a truck wash.
not my picture
But a number of the truck washes out there won't wash out a hopper trailer! They site liability issues as the reason, because to wash out a hopper trailer, you have to climb up on top and into the trailer. Its understandable, but no less frustrating.

We have pinpointed as many truck washes that we can find that will still wash out hopper trailers and we try to frequent them for all our washing needs, to encourage them to continue servicing hoppers. They are becoming fewer and fewer.

We found one near Denver that will wash us, and so that's where we went to get washed out for this load.
Some truck washes use hoses with high water pressure to wash us out, kind of like power washing. In fact that's what most seem to use. But we've run across a few, one in particular in Sacramento, that charged us $80 to wash out the trailer, and then proceeded to get up their with their garden hose and take about 5 minutes to spray us out. I highly doubt that the trailer was actually clean after that.
Most washouts cost us anywhere from $25 and up. They tend to be on the lower end of the scale, but you do get those that take advantage of the situation. They know we can't argue The washout in Denver yesterday cost us $63.

We were told recently that the one and only truck wash in Spokane that will washout a hopper is going to close its doors next month. They said they just aren't doing enough business to warrant staying open. This creates a big problem for us. We frequently haul birdseed to Spokane and we almost always have to get washed out in order to reload our usual loads from that area! We're running into this situation more and more.

Another problem we encounter frequently involves our deliveries to rural areas. Say we take a load of fertilizer to the local co-op, and then we're going to load barley 30 miles east of there. There are two towns. One has a bar and a post office, the other has more to offer but its really only a one intersection type of town. Do you think they have a truck wash? Right!

And so the solution is...
A surprising number of self serve car washes have a spot for trucks. Well most of them are intended for campers or such, but we happen to fit into them. And a number of them do actually indicate that trucks can use them. You should see some of the looks we get though, when we have to get creative!

Malcolm does the washing, while I stand by and pop in the quarters every time the machine starts beeping for more money.
Its actually a lot cheaper doing it this way. We usually can get through it on about $15 or so. We keep an empty Gatorade bottle in the truck and dump all our quarters in it. And since we've run into car washes that didn't have change dispensers, we've learned to stock up on quarters when we do find a change machine.
It's a wet slippery job. He has fallen and hurt himself before, and he always comes out mostly drenched, but the trailer is always 10 times cleaner than it ever gets at the truck washes!
We've also found some livestock washouts that we can use, and on occasion the place where we deliver will have a spot where they wash out their equipment and they will sometimes allow us to use their facilities. But usually we just find a car wash somewhere.

We don't have to washout between every load, but when we do need to, it can be quite a challenge to get the job done.

Jake asked how often we have to change the oil in our truck. We try to change the oil every 20,000 miles. It generally costs about $230 each time. We also get the truck and trailer greased every 10,000 miles. In fact, we had that done on 9/3 and its time to do it again. We're stopping this afternoon to have that taken care of. It costs about $40 each time. Malcolm said he could do it himself, but he most times he just doesn't feel like crawling under the truck to do it. I feel like its worth $40 for him to be able to supervise someone else do it, while he takes a break.

We are unloaded now and heading to Stockton to reload. We're getting fertilizer and taking it to Idaho. Since its just fertilizer, a good sweet out is sufficient, so we won't have to go to the livestock sale barn down here and wash out. Sweeping out still involves climbing into and around inside the trailer. Its not an easy job. But at least Malcolm won't have to wear soggy clothes this morning.

September 12, 2011

A Little Bit of Everything, and a Lot More Miles

It would appear we're setting a trend for this time out on the road. An increase in our mileage every week. Its a nice trend, but I don't think it can continue. I don't think we could survive it!

This week we drove through the prairie, the mountains, the desert, the lake (almost)....We did a little bit of everything this week!
And the grand total for the week is: 6,464 miles!

Last Monday morning we were pulling out of Williston, ND and heading to Minnesota for another load of drilling sand. We ran two of those loads last week. Along with the 2 loads from the previous week, that made 4 loads of drilling sand, every time bouncing back to Minneapolis to reload and then driving to Williston, ND to deliver.

There is road construction everywhere. Tis the season! In Tennessee, where I grew up, road construction was a year round thing. But I've learned out here, where there is actually a winter worth speaking of, road construction gets crammed into the summer months and the closer to fall you get, there seems to be a mad scramble to finish up projects or at least get to a good stopping point. Road construction signs are almost a constant part of the landscape lately. But this one, in Minnesota, caught us off guard a little.
Interesting! And it wasn't exaggerating, though I'm not really sure what work in the sky had to do with what was going on down on the road. I'm still not sure what prompted them to post the sign, but it did serve to get our attention, so we didn't miss this...
You couldn't pay me enough to do their job! That's just a little too high for me! Can you imagine how that must sway in the slightest breeze?
No thanks! I might could handle the other guys position better....
It looked like they were using the chopper to drag the lines between poles and attach them.
And that was the highlight of our drive through Minnesota!

Well, that and these flowers that were very cheery on a nice, almost autumn day!
After our last drilling sand load was delivered, we bounced 150 miles east to Velva, ND where we loaded canola meal. This is a byproduct of canola, after the oils are extracted. We hauled the canola meal to the northeast corner of Utah. It was just barely in Utah, only about 10 miles across the line. We arrived there on Friday morning just before the feed mill opened so we would be quick to get unloaded. And everything was going just as planned. We were wind rowing the product out onto the floor of a storage building. Dump it out in a long row, then close the hopper doors, and pull out of the way so the guy in the loader can scoop it out of the way. Then we back up and dump another row. Over and over again until we're empty. And all this was going smoothly, until at one point, when we were pulled forward waiting for the guy to clear the floor. Malcolm was out of the truck watching, and suddenly there was a bang and the truck lurched.
The loader had backed into the rear corner of our trailer, denting and scratching it. Some of you know my husband personally, and so you know how particular and meticulous he is in the care of his equipment. He was not happy!
But what can you do at that point, aside from filling out insurance claims and accepting apologies? Which is what we did, after finishing unloading. Shrug it off and wait till we have time to get it fixed. At least the trailer wasn't damaged in a way to make it unusable!

And since it was still usable, we headed south on I-15 a short way to Ogden, UT.
Interstate 15, in the northern region of Utah, ambles along bordered on one side by the Great Salt Lake...
...and on the other side by the Wasatch Mountains, which are so tall it takes a stretch of the neck to see the peaks. They are lovely, and I always enjoy driving along and looking at them.
In Ogden, we loaded pot ash, and after loading we dropped south to Salt Lake City, and then headed west on I-80. As we were leaving SLC in our wake, storm clouds were hovering and I was watching rain showers and lightening in the mirror.
It's roughly 120 miles from Salt Lake City to the Nevada state line. For the first stretch of that, I-80 skims along the southern shore of the Great Salt Lake.
And at times, it seems like I-80 runs through the lake itself.
There is little development when you get much past Salt Lake City. Some salt mills, a few truck stops, one or two small towns, and then miles and miles of nothing! You have passed civilization and entered the expanse of the Great Salt Lake Desert. It's about 100 miles to the next services! It takes about an hour and a half. Its lovely, amazing, white, empty...
It was dark by the time we had crossed into Nevada, and daylight found us in central California on Saturday morning. This is where the extra miles came in. The load of pot ash wasn't scheduled to deliver until Monday morning. The plan had been to deliver Monday, bounce north and reload, be in Fargo by Tuesday afternoon.
But our broker told us we should see if they could unload us Saturday, because they had told another truck they would be there Saturday. And sure enough, they were going to be there till noon and told us to come on it.

Since we were going to be empty on Saturday, the guy who was supposed to load us on Monday, agreed to go ahead and load us Saturday afternoon! So as soon as we were empty, we got washed out and headed north!
This is the Sacramento Airport. We did not load at the airport, but we did load in a field within sight of it. I watched a few planes land and take off while waiting for them to finish loading us.
We pulled into the field of sunflowers and were delighted to see that they had already harvested part of the field and had it sitting there in hoppers waiting for us! Last year at this load, we had to wait while they were combining the sunflowers. It took some time. This year, we were loaded and out of the field within an hour!
So Saturday night found us crossing Nevada in the dark again, and heading north into Idaho, and then east, and then north, and as the sun was rising, I was just a few miles shy of the Montana state line.
This has always been one of my favorite drives! US191 turns north out of the town of West Yellowstone, and slips up the side of Yellowstone National Park, just within park lines. Its the only road trucks are permitted to take within park boundaries.

 Its only about 20-30 miles actually in the park, but the rest of it is national forest land and its all beautiful! Plus its in Montana, and I never dislike driving in Montana!
We stopped at a pull off on the north boundary of the park to stretch our legs, and let the girls out to do the same.
Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day! It was about 54 degrees when we stopped, but in the sun it felt warm enough that even Paris didn't complain. The wind was calm, the sun was shining, and it smelled like fall. Malcolm took the two "tomboys" to go play in the river...
...while me and the princess enjoyed the sun and took in the views. I could have stayed there all day. I think we all would have been willing to do so. But, we still had miles to go!

We drove all day, stopping in Miles City, MT to eat and get some groceries. And this morning we are in Fargo, ND, unloaded and waiting to find out what's next. There's a possibility we may be heading over to Minneapolis for more drilling sand. Or we might be doing something completely different. We should know in about an hour. You'll have to wait a little longer to find out.