December 19, 2012

Racing the Storm in Arizona

We had a load to Indiana which we delivered last Tuesday. It's been a while since we had a load on that side of the country, unless we were trying to get home to Tennessee.

After delivering we had a wait till the next load came in, but it didn't take too long. Just long enough to give us time to eat and take a nap, which was appreciated after driving all night.

Wednesday morning found us even closer to home, as we delivered in Guntersville, AL, about 90 miles from the house. It was hard to turn west instead of east, but it was too early to go home for Christmas break. So we headed to Flagstaff, AZ with a load of chicken meal for a pet food place.

Three things of concern with that load. The delivery appointment wasn't till Friday evening, which would leave us sitting in Flagstaff for the weekend with no load. Also, we'd be arriving on Thursday afternoon, and sitting for a day with nothing to do till we could deliver.
And finally, Flagstaff was supposed to be getting a snowstorm Thursday night.

Normally that particular place is difficult to get an appointment changed, but luckily this time they worked with our broker and allowed us to deliver on Thursday at noon, which meant some hard driving to get there. We didn't exactly get good fuel mileage, but we did make it on time. And we dumped that stuff out and high tailed it north to get ahead of the storm.

The scenery was absolutely gorgeous going north towards Utah. Highway 89 scoots just east of the Grand Canyon, and you get to enjoy a taste of what it might be like if you were to go on over to the park, which I will do one day! It was late afternoon, with an amazingly blue sky, the perfect light for photography, and the way it was hitting the red rock cliffs....well, it was just perfect!
We've been on this road before, almost always going south, and almost always in the dark. So it was a real pleasure to drive through here in the daylight and see what all we've been missing.
We'd been missing out on a lot!
I've known for some time that I want to come back to this area as a tourist one day. I think that's going to have to happen pretty soon.
It was almost all straight roads, until we came to a sharp turn and then started climbing into the sky.
And we didn't feel like we'd climbed that far, but a look back at the valley floor make it clear we'd come up quite a ways.
Once we crossed the hill the land leveled out and we were on a plain of sorts. There was hardly any indication that there had ever been any canyon walls or stone spires.

We drove till dark and a little after, crossing over into Utah. We were tired. It'd been a long hard drive to get to Flagstaff in time, and since it was 53 degrees and we felt like we'd gotten far enough north that we shouldn't have problems with the snow coming in, we parked and went to bed.

When woke up at 6:00 the next morning, we discovered that we'd made a mistake. We hadn't gone quite far enough north. There was about 2 inches of snow on the road, which normally wouldn't be that big a deal, but we had some hilly country to go through, and, an even bigger issue, our trailer was empty. That's about like pulling around a big sled that has a mind of it's own. The load is what helps give us traction on slick roads and without it, things can get interesting. We were spinning tires and sliding around a bit, but we made it over the mountain and onto I-15 where we found nearly dry roads for the remainder of the trip.
We weren't completely problem free at that point. We'd picked up about 1000 pounds of snow and ice that was stuck all to the trailer and the frame of the truck. Malcolm and I got out and beat on it with a hammer and scraped with a hoe, trying to dump the weight off. We were on our way to load and carrying around 1000 pounds of snow meant we'd get loaded shy a 1000 pounds of product and get paid less. Fortunately it was just hovering at freezing and so a lot of our snow fell off be the time we got to the shipper.

We're leaving the shipper in Utah now and will be delivering in North Carolina in a few days and then going home for the holidays. By the time you read this, I'll be a home visiting family and playing with the horses and sitting in my favorite chair in front of our fire. I decided to do a few posts in advance and schedule them to post next week, since I don't have internet at home.

So this will probably be the last you hear from me till we go back to work after the turn of the New Year. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas surrounded by your closest loved ones and dear friends.

In case I don't manage to get back on here:
Merry Christmas! And may God bless you all in the year to come!

December 16, 2012

The Other Side of South Dakota

A couple weeks ago, I shared some scenes from South Dakota with you, pictures that I'd taken while driving through eastern South Dakota. Well last weekend, we spent Saturday morning driving through western South Dakota, and I thought I'd share some scenes from that part of the state with you today.
Last blog post, I left you in Fairview, MT where we had just loaded Safflower seed. It had started snowing by the time we were loaded and it was still frigidly cold, so even though it was late evening, and we only had 600 miles to go by Monday, we decided to go ahead and drive south a ways.
We went as far as Bowman, ND and stopped there for the night. We got up really early and headed south. Our destination for the day was Rapid City, SD, only about 3 hours away.
Highway 85 goes south out of Bowman and drops down into South Dakota. We're very familiar with the route, as this is back in our old stomping grounds when we lived in Montana. As the crow flies, we were probably only 30 miles from the ranch, if that.  
They'd had snow out there, which on the plains makes it very easy to see just about everything.
With snow on the prairies, if its not something white, it stands out, often dramatically.
I have always enjoyed this drive. And since Malcolm was behind the wheel, I spent the time enjoying the scenery and playing with the camera.

Bear Butte on the horizon
I love the sky in this one

one of my favorites, for obvious reasons
 Around mid-morning, we reached Rapid City. We had to stop at Kenworth and buy a part. Then we played at the mall. Malcolm went to Cabelas. We had some good food from a favorite restaurant. And then in the evening, we went to the movies. We hadn't been to the theatre to see a movie in at least 8 years. We watched Skyfall, and had a great time.

When we left the theater, it was 4 degrees and the wind was blowing. The girls didn't much appreciate being taken out of their warm truck to potty. But afterwards, we made it up to them by letting them snuggle in the bed with us for a while to warm up. And then we tucked them into their bed and we all got a long, much needed rest.

Sunday, it was still bitter cold. We drove south into Nebraska and on into Colorado. We stopped in Sterling and met up with another married trucking couple we know from Iowa. We hadn't seen them in probably a year, though we stay in touch. Our paths just never seem to cross lately. So we enjoyed a good long dinner with them and a long night of conversation. And then the next morning we delivered in Akron, Co, reloaded in Otis, and headed east across Kansas and beyond for a Tuesday morning delivery in central Indiana.

That was last Monday. We had a good strong week, the first after several slow ones. In fact, we drove through the night every night until Thursday, when we made the mistake of parking.

But that's another story.

December 14, 2012

Catching Up

Since our visit to the house at Thanksgiving, time has been dragging. Freight this year has slacked off significantly, or at least it seems to have. Probably a person would think that it was the holidays causing it, but really, we've kept moving through the holidays in years past. And talking to other drivers, we're hearing the same complaints. Slow freight, low rates, and boggled up loads.
Overall, it's working out alright, but we've hit a slump here and there that left us bored and cranky. We had a couple of loads rejected too and that's always frustrating because it wastes our time, even though we still get paid for hauling the stuff.
And we had a couple days, both Monday's actually, where a decent load couldn't be found and we wound up sitting all day twiddling our thumbs. Something we're not used to doing.
With all that, my motivation for blogging was down. You'd think with all that spare time I'd have been on it. Something to entertain myself with! But given the blah mood it brought on, and the fact that I've had my nose glued to my Kindle during every spare moment lately, as I've stumbled across some really good books, the blogging got neglected.
So it's time to play catch up.
Two weekends ago, we headed north out of Phoenix, spent the night at Las Vegas, and the next day drove up US93 through eastern Nevada.
There's a lot of vacant land out there. US 93 goes up through the Great Basin National Park. We take a short cut and go off 93 for a bit in order to stay going straight north instead of swerving east. So we miss the park itself, but the scenery on the rest of 93 is still admirable. I think the most striking things about the region are...
...the almost absolute emptiness. We passed through about 4 "towns" in about 300 miles.
And also the patterns in the mountain sides are quite interesting. With a lack of trees and really much any kind of vegetation, you can admire the geology of the area from your car window. There was a lot of activity here eons ago. You can tell the ground was busy moving around.
fascinated by that black stripe of rock running through the mountain

its hard to tell what was going on here. Earthquakes? Floods? Those swirling lines of rock could keep you guessing for quite a while.

We delivered northeast of Boise Idaho on Monday morning (Dec. 3) and then sat all day long waiting to see what would come up. And the answer was nothing. Finally, Monday evening, we got directions to head to Caldwell, ID (near Boise) to load apples in the morning.
So Tuesday morning we loaded up apples...
...and headed to an unexpected location. The times in the past that we've hauled apples, they either went to Petaluma, CA or to Wisconsin. But these apples went to a town near Grand Junction, CO.  There was, to my great surprise, several wineries, vinyards, orchards, and this little juice making company where we delivered. I never would have thought the arid climate in western Colorado could have supported fruit, but apparently it does.
From there, we bounced down to Monte Vista, where we were a couple weeks earlier, and loaded canola.
Back to Idaho, near Rexburg, for a Thursday morning delivery and then we went down to southern Idaho and loaded fertilizer.
Interesting frustration occurred in Colorado. Out of the blue, I got wrapped up in a massive allergy battle. Violent sneezing, itchy watery eyes, sniffles......in Colorado....in December! I was very aggravated, as the winter is supposed to be my time of allergy liberation. What was up with that? The allergies followed me all they way to Idaho and persisted in annoying me throughout the day on Thursday.
winter skies near Soda Springs, ID

In fact I didn't find relief until I climbed into the mountains of the Yellowstone area near the MT/ID state line. My allergies cleared up right about the time the tires started slipping and sliding around on icy roads. And by Yellowstone the freezing rain had turned to snow, and I was breathing clearly. I guess there was just enough dust and garbage in the air to make us allergy victims suffer. Clearly, it's a dry winter following a too dry summer.
Crossing into Montana was like flipping a switch. All of a sudden we found winter, and it's been following us around ever since. We were on snowy roads almost all the way to Billings, and past that, though it dried up, it was still bitterly cold.  By the time we got to North Dakota Friday morning with our fertilizer, it was 6 degrees and a heavy fog was just lifting, at least the fog that hadn't frozen to every surface available.
Frozen fog can be messy, but it sure is pretty!
Since the load of apples, things had run smoothly, but we hit another glitch in North Dakota. After unloading, we were going to take a load of flax to Ohio. But the trailer had to be washed out first which presented a huge problem.
First and foremost, the closest place to washout was 160 miles away, in the wrong direction, from our reload, which was only 20 miles away. And a bigger issue was that even if we could find a place to wash out, at 6 degrees, the trailer doesn't wash. It freezes. The broker asked if we could just sweep really really well, but they turned that request down. No washout, no load.
So we sat around in northern ND for most of the day, and finally towards evening we got a load of safflower from Fairview, MT and headed south towards Colorado. 600 miles and the whole weekend to get it done. So we took our time, played some, rested lots, and made the best of it.
I'lll tell you about the weekend in the next post.