July 31, 2012

Monthly Chores and a "Tour"

 The end of July. Can you believe it? I know it's been asked a million times over the ages, but....

Where did this month go? For that matter, what happened to 2012? It flew by when I wasn't looking!

The end of the month brings with it a paperwork job for me.

Every month, at the end, I have to print off our trip sheets that I've created at each delivery.
We have to report to the government how many miles we drive in each state, keeping record of the odometer reading as we enter and leave the states to prove the mileage we report.

In addition we have to report the gallons of fuel purchased and the amount spent on fuel in each state during that month.

I have to match up each trip sheet with the fuel receipts that go with that trip.

And then we mail them, or drop them off if we're passing through, to our prorate service.

Our prorate service is wonderful. They take care of all our permits, vehicle registration renewals, and calculate our fuel taxes each quarter for us. Then they just tell us how much we owe. I'll gladly pay them to do all that, so I don't have to worry about getting it done correcly. I've heard it's easy, but they are good and they are afordable and I am happy to let them do it for me. One less thing!

Another age old argument.....
If we fought for freedom from England in part due to their taxing taxing taxing (without representation I know), then how on earth did we get to this point where we are taxed taxed taxed?

We pay an annual "Heavy Highway Use" tax of $550 because we drive on the roads and cause wear and tear. But then we also pay a quarterly tax based on how many miles we drove in each state and how much fuel we bought in that state, and so on and so on.....(rolling eyes and heaving sigh of irritation).

I'll stop the complaints because regardless of all those frustrations, we still have a TON of privileges compared to other countries and I wouldn't trade for a million trillion dollars. I just hope we can hold on to all those privileges. But I'm not going to get on a political soap box here, so don't worry. You can keep reading and not get preached at.

For the month of July, we drove roughly 19,000 miles and spent somewhere around $13,000 on fuel. Last year, third quarter IFTA was a light bill because we basically were home for most of July and August helping to hay. This year, there is no hay to cut, so we'll be on the road all of third quarter, racking up miles and fuel expenses. We'll see what kind of impact that has come tax time next Spring.

This morning, we're in Sunnyside, WA. Isn't that a delightful name for a town? We've not been here in over a year, which is a real tragedy on the culinary experience. We found a little hole in the all Mexican restaurant here a couple years ago, that we really love and we've missed it! So last night I had tacos and Malcolm had Carne Asada and then we enjoyed Fresas con Crema for desert, because we've not found a place that makes it to compare to this one.

As soon as we're unloaded here, we'll head to Boardman, OR to pick up potatoes. But on our way out of Sunnyside, we'll stop at the dingy little truck stop that happens to have the best ever taquitos. I'll have one with chicken and cheese, and one (I can't wait!) with cherries and rolled in cinnamon sugar! Yes, we do love this little town of Sunnyside. Wish we passed by more often! Breakfast is going to be good!

As I was in the back working on my paperwork, I realized I've never given you the official tour of the new truck, and someone even requested it! I'm sorry! Let me show you around.

This truck is a 1999 Kenworth (I think it's a 900L?...but that's more Malcolm's knowledge and he's not in here).

You've already seen the outside, but here's a reminder photo.
Some have asked, or wondered but didn't ask, why we've bought an older truck with less room and more miles. There are three good reasons:
1. it's Malcolm's dream truck
2. the payment is SOOOOOO much smaller than the newer trucks
3. more than likely (unless I change my mind so don't hold me to it) Paris, Ella, and I are abandoning ship come the end of the year (or next Spring) and Malcolm and Carlie Jean are going out solo. So we figured we could live with being a little cramped for a few months so that he can have his dream truck with the smaller payment.

As far as the cab goes, there's about the same amount of room.

Unlike the old truck, where the cab had a rubber mat covering the entire floor, this one is carpeted all the way through. In addition, the exhaust system crosses under the truck right beneath the seats. The girls quickly discovered that this set up means they have a heated AND carpeted space to lay on. And they all three take advantage of it frequently, especially Paris, the sun/fire worshiper.

The sleeper is where we got a little crunched. This truck is what is referred to as a "flat top sleeper." It looks cool! It looks classic. But it means we lost some space. Regardless, it was fairly easily managed. We left some things at home that we hardly ever use, like the TV and DVD player and I don't carry around so many books and magazines. I have my Kindle now and that solved that issue.

the home office and clothes closet
We have to store the dog food and water bottles in the side box and access them from the outside of the truck, but that's not a big deal. It's tight, but cozy, and we adjusted quickly and are pretty comfortable.

the rest of the home office, clothes closet, and food pantry. I found those woven buckets at Bed Bath and Beyond and they fit perfectly! Works good since there aren't any doors or curtains on these storage spaces like in the former truck.
The flat top sleeper also means we lost a bed! The other truck, which was the traditional modern style, had bunk beds in back. Top bunk for me and Paris, bottom for Malcolm and the other two girls. Now we're in the flat top, with one bed, a slightly larger than average twin size bed I might add, which makes for forced snuggling. The girls have been ousted and now sleep on a blanket pallet in the floor, something they were not to impressed with at first, but have adjusted to. And in the mornings, as soon as Malcolm starts to get out of bed, they all three waste no time in reclaiming their spots under the covers in the bed.
one perk is we lost a bed but we gained a window. This truck has a window on the back wall with a lovely boring view of the front of the trailer. But is sure does let in lots more sunshine and us girls like that. He'll just have to wait to live in a "man cave" till three of us have moved out.
Our girls are not early risers. It was 7:50 when I took these pictures and we'd been up since 6:15. Don't see the girls anywhere in these pictures do you? Look closer. See the lumps under the covers?
The running joke in here is that Ella is always saying that she doesn't sleep so good on the floor. So as soon as we've abandoned the bed, the girls move in, and catch a few more moments of sleep. Eventually they emerge, more rested I supposed.

Paris was first this morning. She must have been warm and happy because she immediately started bouncing and wallowing all over the bed, which disturbed the beauty rest....

another lump rises
....of Ella. Ella is funny. Of the three, she is the biggest (literally and figuratively) sleepy head. She doesn't "do" mornings. If we get her up before 7:30 to go potty, you can almost certainly count on her being half asleep for the job and immediately returning to bed when we get back in. She is never fully awake and energized till at least 8:00am.
And now it's an hour later, 8:50am, and I have yet to see Carlie Jean. She's still under the covers. She hasn't emerged yet. Ella and Paris have curled back up for another nap, but they are at least on top of the covers now where they can see what's going on. They like their pillow piles, especially Paris.
Sorry for the blurry images of the girls. Without the flash, any movement from them almost always makes the picture blurred. But, smart girls, they have figured out that when the flash is on, there is a sensor light on the camera and when they see that light up, they turn their faces away. It has ruined many a cute moment. So I try to leave the flash off and accept blurred ears and tails.

Yesterday we delivered sunflower seed chips to a bird seed company north of Spokane.
Then we drove south to Pasco and loaded meal which we brought over here to Sunnyside. Now we're just about finished here and heading just across the border, about 75 miles, to pick up some potatoes in Oregon. And tomorrow we'll be back in North Dakota, and then heading home for a few days, maybe a week. Maybe longer, we'll see. Might possibly have a local job to do, if the timing is right and if that's the case we'll stay a few extra days to get that done.

PS: If your curious and missed it three years ago (?????THREE YEARS AGO????? REALLY????) here's a link to when I gave the tour of our then new, but now "old" truck. You can compare and see the differences. I like the new truck better. It feels more western, more cozy, the colors are prettier, and so on.

July 27, 2012

What's Cookin'?

Nothing yet, but when I get home, hopefully lots of yummy things!

Y'all know I like to cook and I like cooking things. And I like Pampered Chef products to cook with.

Last year I hosted a blogger Pampered Chef party. It was kind of fun, and maybe a first in the blogging world, for all I know.

I just "hosted" another catalog show because my host discount was expiring. Time to get it renewed since it's good for a year from your show. I didn't blog about it because I've been a slacker blogging lately and didn't feel right saying "hey I know I haven't been blogging much lately and kind of abandoned all you, my dear blogging buddies, but come buy something and help me out."

Just didn't feel right.

But, my consultant just told me I'm one order away from reaching my goal. Technically the show ended today, but she opened it back up till Sunday. And I figured, "what the heck. It's good stuff and maybe my good bloggy friends won't feel like I'm using them."

I had a really hard time finding a Pampered Chef rep. when I moved so I know it can be hard to get a hold of one. So, if your interested, here's a link to our party.

Lots of good stuff and the guest special this month is a free ice cream scoop for all orders over $60.

No obligation, I just wanted to share the opportunity. And if you do order I really appreciate it!

Thanks for letting me use my blog to promote this, and I'll be back in a couple days with another travel post.

PS: Last year we learned that my Canadian friends can't order from my American party. They have to go to a Canadian consultant to order. I'm sorry! But thanks for being willing.

July 26, 2012

Pleasant Days

This has been a good week with a good start and a good end, so far. We've been in some of my favorite states. I love travling in the mid-west and always feel happier when we're doing that. And we've also had some pleasant experiences and surprises. I'll tell you all about it.

Last weekend was one of the best we've had on the road in a long time. We had another load of barley to haul from western Montana to eastern Minnesota. We loaded on Friday morning and could have gone home for the day on Saturday, but instead we decided to take an easy weekend and just putter our way across.

It was a great decision. Malcolm has been so tired and stressed out, and I knew if we went home, he'd spend the whole day working on the truck or other things, where as if we just took our time getting to Minnesota, he'd get to sleep in several mornings and get some rest.

In addition to his rest, we had some fun experiences. It started Thursday evening when we had dinner with his sister and her husband in Great Falls. Then Friday morning, after delivering in Fort Benton, Malcolm drove us down onto the main street along the river and we found this neat little coffee shop where we sat out on the deck and enjoyed lattes and waffles with blueberries. We also walked a short bit of the river walk they have there and read the historic markers the town has put up.

Finally we decided we'd been dragging around long enough. Time to get loaded. So we drove the whopping 14 miles to Carter and loaded up our barley. We puttered our way across 200 miles of scenic Montana two lanes, and stopped at a rest area for the night, waking up late in the evening to a magnificent lightning storm and down pour, which made the air smell so good and cooled things off quite a bit too.

Saturday we drove all of 350 miles to Bismarck, where we spent the evening telling stories and laughing the night away with Malcolm's other sister and her husband. They took us to a neat ice cream place for dessert and we stayed till almost closing. Then they took us back to our truck and we drove 30 miles to a quite rest area and turned in for the evening.

That had left 600 miles or so for Sunday. I expected it to have less of a weekend feel to it having so far to go. After a leisurely breakfast, we buckled down to business and headed east. I was glad we were getting past Minneapolis on a Sunday. I've never been through there when traffic wasn't thick and sluggish. But it flows kind of smooth on a weekend, and we got through with only one hang up.
still west of Minneapolis. Minnesota's rolling hills are pretty.

Our destination of Winona wasn't too far south of the big city. The previous weekend when we'd hauled this load, we'd gone across South Dakota on I-90. This time we came across North Dakota on I-94, thus having to deal with the big city, but also adding a new point of interest to our trip, though at the time, I didn't know we were going to see it.

We were south of Minneapolis, driving along the Mississippi River when I glanced up from my book just in time to see a billboard and all I caught, before it disappeared behind us, was the word Pepin.

Little alarms were going off in my brain. Pepin! Really???? So I snapped the book shut and zipped into planning on the GPS and typed in Pepin, WI.

Sure enough! We were almost into the city limits of Lake City, MN and Pepin, WI was just the other side of the river. I was thrilled!
Now, does anyone have any idea why I was so excited to be there?

hint: it has to do with a rather famous "little house."

Pepin, WI is the home town of my very very dear and beloved friend, Laura Ingalls Wilder! She was born in the "big woods" near the town of Pepin!

Lake Pepin was the lake that Pa drove across the frozen ice in the wagon to go to town, the lake where Laura picked up so many pretty pebbles that the pocket ripped off her dress and Ma had to scold her for being a greedy little girl. And Pepin is the town where the store was and the nice store owner who gave Laura and Mary each a stick of candy and Mary licked hers slowly to make it last, but Laura just ate hers because it was so good. At least I think that's the way she told me it happened.

Anyway, I think I've completed nearly all the main home sights......at 65 miles an hour. We've driven within 6 miles of De Smet, SD, passed the exit for Mansfield, MO, and now I've seen Pepin, WI....from across the lake. Maybe one day I'll get to actually go to these places!

At Lake City, the town on the Minnesota side of the lake, we were hungry, and I think Malcolm had noticed that I'd gone from bored to alert and glued to the window, so he found a parking place along the street, across from the marina...

apparently they like to sail on Lake Pepin

...where we were the only truckers in a crowd of summer tourists, our vehicle standing out like a sore thumb. But who cares!

We walked across the road to a little pizza joint that was run by a husband and wife. They were doing a booming business in delivery, but we had the dining room to ourselve,
and so we relaxed and enjoyed a really yummy cheese pizza and visited with the husband between his delivery trips. He was a very friendly fellow.

Look how patient he's being with me and my camera! He was really trying to indulge me. He even offered to take the pizza across the road to a picnic table, even though it was 95 degrees outside and we'd found the humid side of the country. That was really generous of him, but I was happy in the AC and quiet, so we stayed there.

After dinner, we packed up our left overs for a later snack (large cheese pizzas are perfect for meals and later snacks or second meals!) and headed on south. A few miles later, we were passing the south end of the "lake," which is just a widened section of the Mississippi River (Laura never mentioned that to me). And across the lake, through the summer haze, was the town of Pepin, WI. I waved as we went past.
By the way, did you know that aside being famous because Pa Ingalls drove across it with his wagon in Laura's book, it has two other claims to fame? Apparently, Lake City, on the shores of Lake Pepin, is where water skiing was invented. And also, Lake Pepin has it's own lake monster. Seriously! His name is Pepie. Laura never told me these things either. I think maybe she's been holding out on me, but I'll forgive her because I love her that much.

It was only maybe another 45 miles or so to Winona, where we delivered our barley right along the river, that evening. As we were leaving to head back north and to our morning pickup, we got to enjoy seeing a barge up close. As I said in last weeks post, this place was so close to the river that if we rolled too far, we'd fall in and drift over to Wisconsin.
We stopped once we got to the other side of Minneapolis. We were tired, but had wanted to get back to the west side of the city so we could skip Monday morning traffic. Our reload was on the eastern side of Minnesota in Benson. We loaded wheat there in the morning and headed out towards Colorado.
I can't for the life of me remember where I took the above picture. Somewhere between Minnesota and Colorado, and since it pretty much sums up the scenery for most of the trip, I posted it. South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and eastern Colorado = fairly flat and grainy (like corn, wheat, etc).

Sheridan Lake, CO is right on the Kansas/Colorado border, more or less. That's where the wheat went. And then we hopped 30 miles east to Marienthal, KS to load more wheat, organic this time, and took it to a mill north of Denver. That was an easy 250 mile trip and we were loaded and empty the same day. We got there 30 minutes before they closed.

Emptied out, we headed north towards Mitchell, NE, as scattered storms moved into northern Colorado.
The storms were just the ticket to get things cooled off, and we were able to sleep with the truck turned off and the windows open. We've been managing to do that a lot lately, which is nice because it's quiet and saves fuel.

We loaded great northern white beans in Nebraska and headed off for our drive to eastern North Dakota. The skies have been really pretty the last couple of days.
Scottsbluff National Monument in Scottsbluff, NE
pretty blue skies over the South Dakota prairie. That black area is what's left after a grass fire. There was a black scar for miles to the horizon where the smoke was still billowing up into the sky. Guess it was still burning it's way across the grasslands.
this morning in southeast North Dakota.
All those little puffy clouds have spent the day gathering together and now I'm sitting in a parking lot in Wahpeton, ND admiring tall billowing clouds with dark gray bottoms. It's also dropped in temperature to 75. A few more degrees and we'll shut the truck off for the day.

We delivered this morning west of here, and tomorrow morning we'll load sunflower chips across the state line in Minnesota. They wouldn't load us till morning though, so for now Malcolm sleeps and I'm catching up on a few things and trying to entertain myself.

Lucky you. It means I didn't have an excuse to put off blogging, which I've kind of done this week. I've been enjoying being in some of my favorite states and also had my nose buried in another good book. So you got neglected. Hope you don't mind.

We'll probably stop at the house on Saturday and then drive to Spokane, WA on Sunday where we'll deliver. So from last Monday to this coming one, our week will have looked like this.

I'm still trying to perfect my technique when taking pictures of the computer screen, got to get around that reflection somehow, but for now...the green lines are roughly the routes we took and the flags our destinations.

Sprinkles on the windshield! I would really enjoy a good storm right now! But a rain shower will work too.

July 20, 2012

Western Travels and A Story of Devoted Friendship

in Illinois on Monday
 I snapped that picture just as we were leaving Illinois on our way west. Funny how sometimes my "quick snap it and cross your fingers" pictures turn out to be my favorites.

Right after that we crossed the mighty Mississippi River...
...and entered a very famous and historic town in Missouri.
Do you recognize the name of this town and why it's famous? Hannibal is the boyhood home of author Mark Twain, as well as the setting for two of his most famous novels, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn! We didn't get to see much of the town, because it's not right on the main highway that we passed through on, but it was still neat to be in the area, and we did get a glimpse of town as we crossed the river.

We drove all night and all the next day and reached Reno by midnight Tuesday to deliver.

The next morning, we headed south into Nevada's vast and rustic wilderness. For a while we were on the main highway that cuts between Reno and Las Vegas, where we were traveling with other trucks and tourists, though not too many.
 After a hundred miles or so, we cut off onto a more obscure road and headed over towards a little place called Silver Peak.

Silver Peak is one of the oldest mining towns in Nevada. Silver was discovered in the area in 1863 and the town was established the following year. We didn't get to actually see the town, or what there may be of one still, because we had to leave the main road just north of town to go out to the Heart of Nature mine where we picked up a load of gypsum.

Of all the types of trucking you can do, I think maybe this one gives you the most diverse experiences and takes us to the most exotic places.
The mine wasn't an underground one. It was a big pit, with just two men there working.

They had a pile of pick axes and other debris they had gathered as they ran across it. The mine had been in operation since the 1800's so they were coming across lots of old and interesting things.

The gypsum went to Idaho, taking me on a long drive diagonally across Nevada's outback on highway 6. It was an awesome way to spend the day. I think I only passed 15-20 vehicles the entire day, and it was about 250 mile across there! I love driving around in Nevada's empty spaces!

love this! It's the never ending road!
We delivered in Soda Springs, ID the next morning,

I always admire this old homestead lost in a vast wheat field. Everytime we drive by it draws my attention.
 and from there we went to Pocatello and reloaded fertilizer. Then we headed north to Fort Benton, MT. We stopped last night in Great Falls and had dinner with Malcolm's sister and her husband. We hadn't seen them in almost a year and it was so much fun to get to catch up over pizza with lots of laughs and stories to share. Hope we can do that again soon.

After dinner, we drove the last 40 miles to Fort Benton, where we are unloading now.
The fertilizer place is up on one of the hills overlooking the town, so I've been enjoying the view, the cloudy weather (hope it rains for them!), and the cool breeze. It's in the mid-70's which is just comfortable enough to have the truck turned off and the windows open.

We are parked along the rail road tracks here...

 ...and across the tracks, as we pulled in last night, we noticed an odd monument on the hill, all lit up by spot lights and over looking the town.

it's over on the tip of the hill to the right

Malcolm asked about it this morning, while we were waiting our turn to unload, and then came back to tell me the story and have me look it up. Turns out the monument is the grave of a locally famous sheep dog.
a picture of Shep, from the website linked to below
I know many of my blog friends are animal loves, and there are many dog enthusiasts among you. I had to share this story with you because I was so touched by it. You simply must take the time to go read Shep's story here. There is also a statue in the town square that I would love to see, but we won't be able to. This truck enables me to see so many sights, and also restricts me in my touring. It's a bitter sweet thing for me! But maybe one day I can come back and go to the square so I can see the wonderful tribute this town has made to a good and faithful dog, as well as many others. And if you still have time, you also need to go read the Eulogy on the Dog that is on the website. I found it very touching and even almost teared up a bit, thinking of how every word of it is so true. God did an amazing thing when he created dogs and gave them a love for us. I think He knew there would be times when we would need a friendship that another human just couldn't provide.

We're reloading south of here. Another load of barley headed to Minnesota for the weekend. We're thinking we'll just take a lazy weekend to get across. A few miles one day, a few more the next, a trip to get groceries and supplies, and maybe dinner with Malcolm's other sister in Bismarck.

July 18, 2012

A Few Favorites

sunset in Malta, MT on June 29

We've covered too much ground to catch you up on where we've been and what we've been doing for the past few weeks, at least in any great detail. So I thought I'd just share some of my favorite pictures from that time period and then we'll all be up to speed.
descending out of the Bull Mountains south of Roundup, MT. Billings is down there on the horizon somewhere.
We've driven through a number of the states out here, our first two trips going through Montana. From there we headed to California and then Utah. We've also been to Arkansas and Missouri,  passing through Nebraska on July 4th. They were combining grain there, about two weeks earlier than usual according to a friend who lives there, because it's so dry.

Storm clouds were gathering over Sidney, NE as we entered the western side of the state on I-80.
Those clouds didn't really produce anything, but later in the evening, over east of North Platte I drove through a really nasty storm with strobe light effect lightning and literally horizontal rain. It was really intense there for a few moments.

After delivering in Arkansas and reloading in Missouri, we headed to Washington. Wyoming was the picturesque state on that tour. It was a good day to be in Wyoming with a camera!
the hills between Cheyenne and Laramie

Elk Mountain hiding it's tip in the clouds

a storm moving in near Rock Springs

in northwestern Wyoming near the ID state line on US30
From Washington we went to Oregon and loaded corn which went to California. I always enjoy the drive down US97 through Oregon, passing along the eastern edge of the Cascade Mountains.

north of Madras, OR
 And then back up to Utah, crossing the Salt Flats at sunrise. After two weeks of cloudy air, the haze was starting to clear, which was a big help for pictures.
After delivering in Utah, we loaded wheat in Idaho and went to Montana where we loaded barley. And that brings you up to date. The barley load scenery was shared in my last post, Crossing the Midwest.

Today we're in Nevada about to load gypsum. Then we'll head to Idaho. Don't know where we're headed after that, but glad we're moving along at a nice pace, and hope the loads keep rolling in like this.