January 29, 2012

Traveling New Roads

What started out as a very frustrating week, has turned into a wonderful time of travel, relaxation, visiting, and seeing new sights. Our travels this week took us down "new" roads, something I always enjoy!

Having not heard from me since last week, you might be thinking we're still sitting in Reno waiting with that load of corn!
Rest assured, we did get to deliver the corn, though not where we were originally told to take it. After California denied us access to the state due to the fact that the corn we were hauling hadn't been inspected for a certain kind of bug, we sat in Reno waiting for further instruction. If you missed that story and want to catch up, it's here in last weekends post.

We started our wait on Sunday afternoon. And we waited, and waited, and waited, until finally, on Tuesday late afternoon, the powers that be finally decided to sell the corn to a dairy in Idaho and we were finally back on the road! We discovered that unless you want to drink and gamble, there really isn't a whole lot to do in Reno. We became bored quickly and were relieved when the call to move finally came in!

We dumped the corn off in Idaho on Wednesday morning, reloaded some wheat nearby, and made a quick trip to Lehi, UT where we delivered to Lehi Roller Mills. The old mill was really neat, and afterwards I wished I'd taken a picture, especially after I read their history. They've been in operation since the early 1900's and supply flour to several famous name brands, including Kentucky Fried Chicken, Mrs. Fields, and Archer Farms.

After the wheat was delivered, we began an empty bounce of several hundred miles down to Sanders, AZ. Our drive took us through the canyon lands of eastern Utah. It's an off the interstate drive with some amazing scenery. Unfortunately, we did it all after dark, (meaning no pictures), arriving in Sanders at 3:30am to load drilling sand.

Malcolm loaded and I woke up around 7:00am to take over driving at Gallup, NM.

New Mexico is a state I really enjoy driving through. I like I-40 better than I-10 in the south. It's just beautiful, open country! 
I spotted some hot air balloons in the sky over Albuquerque. One day I promise myself I'm going to be passing through when they have their hot air balloon festival. Wouldn't that be something to see?
 I love the diversity of the landscape, the friendliness of the people, and their great food in New Mexico! For this trip, instead of staying on I-40 clear across like we usually do, we actually turned north at Albuquerque onto I-25. Believe it or not, in 6 years of driving, we've only driven this stretch of I-25 a couple of times, and both times it was in the dark. I discovered that we've been missing out! Northern New Mexico is amazingly beautiful, and my new favorite part of the state to drive in!

Shortly after leaving Albuquerque, it became hilly and forested with cedar type shrubs and trees. Santa Fe was a short drive north, but past that city, there were very few towns, and even fewer places with truck facilities.
 And then, once the hills leveled out, the very north of New Mexico turned into wide open plains. The whole time we were driving through this area I kept thinking of northern Montana. There were a lot of similarities.
 Funny that it reminded me of that area, because that's exactly where we ended up. After leaving New Mexico, we continued north on I-25 straight up through Colorado (barely missing the nightmare called Denver rush hour traffic) and into Wyoming. Half way through we cut off the interstate, hit the back roads, and pulled into Sidney, MT at 5:30am to deliver our load of sand.

That was Friday morning. Our next load was 800+ miles from Malta, MT to Spokane, WA. A load of red millet to deliver on Monday. With all that time to get the job done. I started wheeling and dealing with Malcolm. For several years now, when we've been headed east or west across MT, I've tried to get him to take Hwy 2 across instead of the interstate. He's never wanted to do it. It's almost the exact same miles, but of course 2 lane roads and so you make better time on the interstate. But there were no excuses this time, with plenty of time to get to Spokane. I wanted to see parts of Montana and Idaho I'd never seen before and probably wouldn't get the chance to see again. And to my delight, he decided to amuse me.
 They call this the Hi-Line, to my understanding due to the railroad line and US 2 that run across the northernmost part of Montana. It's several hundred miles of open prairie and little towns. Right up my alley!

 I finally got to see towns whose names I've heard over and over, but never seen. We passed through Malta, where we loaded, and spent the night in Havre, which was much larger than I had expected. On Saturday we drove through Cut Bank, and from there, the mountains were close enough to see clearly, or would have been if not for the weather.
 I had checked the weather! I promise I did! And it had been a good report! Malcolm had made sure of my checking the weather before he agreed to take this jaunt! But as we know, weather is prone to change suddenly up here. And just because snow isn't falling heavily from the sky, doesn't mean that it's staying in place, thanks to Montana winds!

At this point I wasn't very popular with my driver because it wasn't looking too promising, and we weren't even in the mountains yet.
 The landscape changed so dramatically from being snow bare (we've had an amazingly open winter in Montana this year) to being rather deeply snow covered.
 Clearly, the fine weather reports were not accurate for the mountains! Thankfully it was just snowing lightly, but the wind was picking a lot of it up and blowing it around in lovely swirls and clouds.
 This is Glacier Country! This is up where we loaded at that train wreck last Spring. So we'd been on this stretch of the road before. However, I hadn't realized it actually went through the park! So this time, when I saw the sign, I made note of it. And now I can say I've been to Glacier National Park...I've driven through about 4 miles of it!
 Once we got into the mountains, the wind died down, and the snow was so light, it didn't really impact our travel. The roads just had patchy ice and snow pack. It was pretty easy going after all. I was back in good standing with my driver, and we journeyed on westward towards our destination.
 Out of the narrow mountain passes, we were back into open valleys between mountain chains. We passed through more towns I'd been curious about. Kalispell is well known, but I'd never seen it. It wasn't really what I had pictured. And we also drove through Libby, which I found quite charming. We crossed into Idaho just before dusk, and parked at a truck stop just north of Bonner's Ferry, where we had a dinner date planned.

We had dinner with some very special people who I was thrilled to finally meet! If you participate in Sunday Stills, you probably know Shirley of Ride a Good Horse. I've been reading Shirley's blog for some time and we've swapped emails and messages. She's become a good blogging friend as well as a horse training mentor. But we'd never met in person. That is until last night!
She and her husband Ted drove down from their home in Canada to have dinner with us and a lengthy visit over dessert. And as you can see, Merle got to come too and meet our girls. For the first time ever, my girls were the ones acting intimidated. I think they weren't sure about a dog smaller than them with so much fur! He's a doll though, and I didn't mind visiting with him at all! Shirley and Ted were delightful and we all had such a good time, finding so many common interests to chat about. I love meeting my blog friends! Malcolm thought he was driving the Hi Line one time so I could see it, but I think he realizes he'll be going up there again next time we have time to do so. And maybe by then I'll have our passports so we can go across to Shirley and Ted's side of the border and visit them on their home turf. I think that would be fun, and I'd like to meet all of Merle's buddies at home!

This morning we slept in, and then drove south the last 100 miles of our journey. Along the way we took in the scenery and counted Bald Eagles. I have the hardest time getting pictures of them though, and still don't have one I'm satisfied with. This was the best I could do, and it's cropped so the eagle is visible. I think we saw at least 10, maybe more, in the 60 or so miles that I was watching for them.
 Further down the road was a large lake with an odd concentration of ducks. I'm not sure what was going on. Maybe they were having Sunday services.
 And a little further south, the lake was frozen, and there was a different kind of gathering.
These were just a few of the people out on the lake this morning. They were spread out, and pretty much using the entire lake surface. Nothing like doing a little fishin' on a Sunday!

So remember I said that my drive across the Hi Line, the length of highway 2 all the way across and into Idaho was part of a compromise?

Today is the day I pay up. I got my drive, and today guess where I'm sitting?
I'll give you a hint. There's a little piece of "heaven" in Post Falls, ID. He's been in there for about an hour so far. I told him to take his time. There's nothing to do till tomorrow morning anyway. And me and the girls are happy to blog, snuggle into our blankets and read a good book while he's having his fun!

Tomorrow we reload west of here in Moses Lake, and then head for Missouri! Time to head south for that special family event I hinted at a few weeks ago! By this time next week, we'll be on a beach in Florida!

January 22, 2012

Malcolm in Heaven

We have driven 1,158 miles since loading on Friday in Colorado. It's been an easy weekend, except for a few moments of nasty weather. There was the wind in Wyoming that I told you about yesterday. And then last night, right at dusk, we ran into some of the nasty snow that's been in the weather reports. This was just across the Nevada line after leaving Utah.

Today, we've been relaxing in Reno. We had breakfast, showered, went shopping at an outlet mall, and then Malcolm went to heaven. (I'll explain in a bit.)

After he was done in heaven, we headed on west to get across the Sierra Nevadas. We were put out a bit, because they had reinstated the chain law and we were going to have to put on the snow chains, or "throw iron" as another trucker friend of ours says.

There are two ways of looking at what happened. On the one hand, you could say "well at least you don't have to put on the snow chains now!" On the other, you might say, "well sh**!"

At every entrance to California, at least within 50 miles of the border, all vehicles have to go through an agricultural inspection station. They look to see if your hauling any fruit or house plants or such with you. And if you are, they take them away. For us, they check our paperwork and take a sample of our product. And as it turned out, and this is our first experience with this scenario, they needed some papers we hadn't been given by the shipper, and so they won't let us in!
Yep, California has kicked us out of the state, sent us packing, tails tucked back to Nevada!!!

Malcolm has made some phone calls and we have to wait till tomorrow to see what happens now. I figure it will be one of three possibilities: either they will work out the details and we'll go across the border tomorrow and make a late delivery (provided the road is still open b/c they are supposed to get a ridiculous amount of snow tonight in the mountains) - or -  we'll be haulin this corn back to Colorado - or - they'll sell it to someone else and we'll take it wherever that may be. HUGE inconvenience and irritation, but never fear...we get paid, regardless, for all miles no matter where we end up going with it. It just is very irritating and a waste of our time.

Anyway, I was going to explain heaven, Malcolm's heaven at least.

Having been ousted from California, we are now parked in the parking lot of the heaven in Reno. There are, in truth, 34 heavens in North America, soon to be 37! They are adding three more sometime soon! More are added every year.

this and the following pictures were taken at the Lacey, WA store
 We're talking about Cabelas, folks. The Mecca for all hunters and outdoors men! There are 34 Cabelas stores in the country. I counted.
We have been to 15 of them. Malcolm has set a personal goal to get to as many of them as he can. Guess trucking is good for some things after all!

Have you ever been to a Cabelas store? If not, your missing out.

They have thought of everything and everyone! Outside the stores they have provided facilities where your dogs and horses can relax in comfort while you shop...

...and inside they've even put consideration towards those of us who are not hunters, fishers, or serious outdoors men. It's pretty darn interesting to go in and  take a look around! It's not just about men! They have thought of the hunters prettier counterpart and have stocked some nice items that appeal to the interest of the wives!
Ok, in all seriousness though, they do have a pretty nice clothing department and I've found some pretty sweaters and nice jackets and such there.

Outside of clothing, they have all sorts of camping supplies, including stuff for cooking at camp. I like to look at that too.

For Malcolm, the draw is the guns and such. He's big into reloading ammunition and shooting it too. Guns are kind of his thing. All the stores have a wide selection of new and used guns, and most stores have a special room for special guns, and if your a special person who has lots of money, you can buy one of these.
In addition to the gun library, all the stores have a "general store" where there are lots of goodies for sale to tempt the taste buds...
...including a large supply of various fudges, all of which can be sampled free of charge. I love free samples!
And if your hungry now, many of the stores have a grill inside where you can order buffalo burgers or roast elk sandwiches. They specialize in sandwiches made from specialty game, pretty much anything from buffalo to ostrich to elk. After several hours of browsing, the grill comes in handy!
Here's one of the things I do really find interesting to go into the store and see. Each store has a display of mounted game. It's usually pretty interesting, and usually displays animals from the region, though not always.
I grew up with family members that hunt, and I'm married to a hunter. I'm not bothered by it as I know some are. And these pictures might bother some of you. But I support hunters and believe it has it's merits and is part of wildlife management. And I think these displays have educational use. There are plaques for each animal telling what they are and a little about them. It's very tastefully done, and there are usually some really nice pieces of taxidermy work.

All the mounts have been donated to Cabelas, or purchased by them, from hunters or estates. None of these were just randomly shot for the purpose of decorating the store.

And a number of the stores, particularly the ones in regions where fishing is a great interest, also have a walk through aquarium where the regional fish are on display.

 Always fun to walk through there and watch the fish at face level.

Cabelas....sportsman's paradise. In Billings, the guys at the gun library are on a first name basis with my husband. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not. Hmmm...

There are 34 Cabelas stores in the country and my husband wants to see them all. He's seen the 15 he's gotten to on multiple occasions. We've been to this one here in Reno, where we're parked now, at least a dozen times. I don't resent his time at Cabelas. It's one of the few recreational activities he really enjoys. I don't go in much anymore though. For me, once you've seen it, you've seen it. But if you ever get the chance to go to one of the stores, go in and take a look around. Don't just sit in the car and read a book while your honey is shopping. You might just find some cute sweater, or a coffee mug, or a camouflage bikini you can't live without. At the very least you'll get a free sample of fudge!

And after you've gone to Cabelas a handful of times, then come join my new campaign. I'm going to petition them to start building Barnes and Noble bookstores next to every Cabelas! That way Malcolm and I both get to spend some time in heaven!

January 21, 2012

Pushing Wind in Wyoming

Last Saturday morning we delivered a load of sand in Sidney, and then headed home to camp out a couple of days waiting on the next load.

Well, a couple days turned into several because the farmer was waiting on paperwork. So we took care of some home chores, played and relaxed, and tried to stay warm. Saturday and Sunday were nice, but by Monday the temperatures had plummeted into the frigid ranges. On Tuesday, Malcolm and I went out to get some bulls in who had gone wandering onto a neighbors land and we went ahead and brought in the adult horses too. All the water holes in that pasture had frozen due to the extreme cold, so there was no use in them being out there.

Everyone looked pretty good, but they were all happy to get to the water tank and then the hay. Dawn, much to my consternation, still has milk! I weaned Gemma more than 2 months ago, and thought surely Dawn would be dry by now! There's not much of a bag though, so hopefully she's getting close.

Reba, my sweet girl who loves me, does NOT love the other horses. She seems to have assumed the roll of "mom" to Gemma, even though Reba herself is not yet 2 years old. She doesn't like other horses to come near her "baby" and also wasn't too thrilled with them being in her castle and eating her hay or drinking from her water tank. I still had Dawn on a lead when Reba decided to let Dawn know she was getting to close. I wasn't even thinking, and that's my fault. I should have been watching and expecting it. Anyway, Reba suddenly whirled around and feet flew. She wasn't aiming for me, but my arm got in the way. And I'll not be making that mistake again. It's true that experience is the best teacher.
and this is 4 days after the kick, so it's faded a bit
We finally got the go ahead to load on Thursday. This was the closest load we've ever gotten from home. It was only 36 miles to the southeast. We took a load of organic wheat to Platteville, CO and delivered Friday morning. Then we spent the better half of the day trying to get reloaded with organic corn about 60 miles away.

We stopped last night just shy of the Wyoming state line, and slept. Then got up and had breakfast in Laramie before heading west.

We're taking our time getting to CA, kind of hoping the storms over the Wasatch and Sierra Nevada ranges blow themselves out before we get there. We'd prefer not to have to chain up this weekend! In the mean time, it's still a little slick in spots out here in Wyoming...
...and as usual the wind was blowing going over Elk Mountain. No surprise there. I think it always blows on that stretch of road!

It makes for some challenging driving at times. Gusts suddenly shove us from the side and Malcolm has to hold the wheel at an odd and uncomfortable angle almost the whole way across, fighting to stay in our lane.

Today was a good day though on Elk Mountain. Despite the strong wind, we only saw one wreck and though it looked really ugly, it didn't appear there were any serious injuries.

I had a fun surprise waiting for me this morning when I opened my email! Dreaming, Doc and Pippin over at Living a Dream awarded my blog the Liebster Award! I am so honored that she selected my blog as one of her 5 to pass the award to, and also touched that she feels like we've become "dear" friends through blogging! I feel the same way about her and several others. Blogging has opened a world of friendships for me and I hope it's done the same for you! .

Liebster means “dearest” in German, and the award is intended to help up-and-coming blogs get the attention they deserve. Here are the rules:

1. Copy and paste the award on your blog.

2. Link back to the blogger who gave the award.

3. Pick five favorite blogs with less than 200 followers, and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have received the award.

4. Hope that the five blogs chosen will keep spreading the love and pass it on to five more blogs

I'm passing this along to these five dear bloggers whose blogs have touched and enriched my life.

1. Michaele at Sprout 'n' Wings Farm. She is always up to something fun, whether it be crafting, cooking, or playing with her critters. And she and her lovely daughters are always off on some fun adventure!

2. Valerie at A Garden of Thoughts.  She is another of my dearest blogger friends, and would be even if she wasn't my mom, because her blog is so much fun to read! Gardening, chickens, and wonderful recipes! (plus a little peak at what's going on with my family back home in TN).

3. One of my newest buddies whose real name I still don't now, but her blog is MTWaggin. Three main reasons why I enjoy her blog so much: (a) she's in Montana, (b) she has naked dogs like mine as well as a beautiful standard poodle, (c) she posts lots of beautiful pictures of her naked dogs and her poodle having the time of their lives in Montana!

4. Shirley at Ride a Good Horse. I'm bending the rules a bit for Shirley because I'm supposed to pick blogs with less than 200 followers and Shirley has 208. However, she definitely fits the "dearest" description. She his been a consistent commenter on this blog for a long time, a great horse mentor to me, and now also a good facebook friend. I first "met" Shirley through Sunday Stills, and continue to admire and enjoy her photographs of her Canadian Mountains and her beautiful horses.

5. Meagan at My Lens On Life.  Lots of wonderful recipe ideas, beautiful pictures, and she's always up to something fun!  This is my sister who is a new mommy, a wonderful cook, a self taught photographer who does some beautiful work, and all around cool person to know and read about!

January 13, 2012

A Loss and a Gain

On Wednesday, January 11, I lost something precious, but gained something of even greater value.

We loaded pecans in Willcox, AZ and proceeded to make our way back to central Texas on Wednesday morning. We drove as far as Las Cruces, NM and stopped for some lunch. The welcoming committee was standing at his station waiting to greet visitors from the west.
This is a large metal sculpture of a road runner that stands out by the interstate as the road begins its descent into Las Cruces.

And this is Las Cruces.
It is nestled up against those snowy mountains, which are noticeable for miles and miles, especially since they are situated in a fairly flat environment.

After lunch we crossed the border into Texas and drove through El Paso. We don't get here very often, but I am always fascinated to look across the Rio Grand into Mexico. The difference is astounding, even though those buildings and the Texas ones are separated only by a narrow shallow river and a train track. It never fails to leave me overwhelmed with grattitude for the blessing of living in this country.
We stopped to fuel in El Paso, and then proceeded on east. We were about 10 miles out of the city when I felt a sharp barb on my wedding ring. (I sit and twist and fiddle with my ring all the time. Just one of my unconscious habits.) I thought how odd it was that there would be a rough spot. There was a reason for the roughness. Somewhere between Willcox, AZ and El Paso, TX one of my diamonds had fallen out. I am not a happy camper!

Logic says there is a high probability that it's in this truck somewhere. But we've both looked to no avail. Between the grit and lint and sand and pebbles that get tracked into this truck, it's like looking for a needle in a haystack even though I had just cleaned the floors. We only looked for a short time and then decided we might as well accept that it's gone. At least it was one of the smaller ones. And it can be replaced, but in the mean time, the hole is rather obvious and unattractive.

I may have lost a diamond, but on the same day I gained an even more valuable jewel in my life. My sister's baby was born on January 11 in the evening. She weighed 7lbs 6oz and was 20 inches long. I say was, because she's 2 days old now and I have no idea if she's already grown or what. It stinks being so far away from "home" at times like these more than others. Anyway, I'd love to introduce you to Miss Ava Grace Hooper. Now I have 4 beautiful nieces to love and spoil!
I can hardly wait till February to see her and my sister. It's hard not to turn this truck east and head in that direction right now.

However, my responsible side is keeping this rig heading in a north-westerly direction. We loaded in Oklahoma last night and pulled out at mid-night. Right now we're heading out across Kansas, where there's not much in the way to block the view...
...but then there's not a lot to view either...
...which for me is part of the attraction. I do love big open spaces with not a lot in them!

We're hauling drilling sand bound for Sidney, MT. We'll be delivering that tonight and then heading to the house for a little break till Monday morning. Malcolm's going to take the opportunity to put new tires on the trailer, and I'm going to get the laundry done and play house wife for a while. We're looking forward to a little tiny break. They always make it easier to stay out a long time.

January 11, 2012

The Southern parts of the Southwest

During a winter as mild as this one is turning out to be, it's interesting that we finally end up running into snow and yucky roads in south Texas! But that's exactly what happened Monday night south of Abiline, TX. The roads had about 3 inches of thick wet slush all the way to south of Odessa and it was coming down hard in big, fat, wet flakes. I'd say the ground off the road had to have had at least 5-6 inches of snow and it was still piling up, even though it never went under 33 degrees.
I quit while it was still snowing and let Malcolm take over. It's kind of tiring driving through that mess, especially in a part of the country where people aren't as used to it, and therefor do foolish things. I was glad to let Malcolm take control of the wheel, and I went to bed and slept surprisingly well considering it was in a moving truck, something I still struggle with even after all these years.

Malcolm woke me up at 6:00am in New Mexico. He was tired and so I took back over. We were traveling on I-10 through the southern parts of the southwest.

We stopped in Tucson, AZ to shower and eat. There is a truck stop there called the Triple T. If you ever are through Tucson, it's a good place to stop and eat. It's been in operation, by the same family, for about 45 years. There aren't a whole lot of the old family run truck stops left. So many of them have closed up, many put out of business by the big chain truck stops. So we like to give our business to the ones that are left when we can.
After breakfast, it was two more hours or so of driving, passing into the area of the state where the famous saguaro cactus grow...
...and then into Phoenix where we delivered in the afternoon.

It took till late evening to get unloaded because technically we weren't scheduled to deliver till this morning at 10:30. But they worked us in, thankfully. So often our loads are scheduled to deliver according to the time it would take a solo driver to get the job done. But since both of us drive, we get there in half the time. Usually places are pretty good about working with us, but occasionally we have to sit and wait till they have room for the product. That doesn't happen that often though.

Since we were unloaded on Tuesday, we were able to drive back east towards our reload and get that done this morning. We parked for the night in Casa Grande, AZ, and finished the trip to Willcox this morning. Malcolm got up to drive and I stayed in bed a couple more hours. But I woke up just in time to enjoy a spectacular sunset over Arizona's rocky hillsides.

We just finished loading up unshelled pecans here in Willcox. This is the first load of pecans we've ever hauled. I asked Malcolm if he knew he was hauling gold, since pecans have gotten so expensive. We'll be pulling out here shortly and on our way to a central Texas delivery for morning.

On the home front in Tennessee, today is the big day! Ava Grace apparently gained another pound last week, so my sister's doctor decided they'd just go ahead and get the job done before she grows any more. They induced this morning at 5:30 central and I'm waiting to hear the announcement that she's here! Happy Birthday Ava Grace!