February 23, 2013

So Long California

Back in September, unexpectedly, we found out we were on our last trip to California. We were actually on our way out of the state. And it was actually only an hour after learning Malcolm's grandfather had passed away, that we were informed we were no longer welcome in California. It was a traumatic day, you might say.

At first, we were more than a little disturbed. We were already in the midst of an upheaval as we were preparing to leave the ranch and trying to figure out where we were going to go and how we were going to get there.

And then CARB (California Air Resources Board) drops the bomb on us and denies us entry to the state. In fact threatened to write us a $1600 ticket, but settled for a total banishment if we would leave right away and not come back.

We were disturbed because, as I noted before in a previous post, about 70% of our loads were going to or coming out of California, or working us to one of those loads. So to suddenly learn that we won't be going there, we were rather concerned about the potential for disaster with our income. First and foremost on our minds was what this was going to mean for our loads. If we can't go to California, will there be enough good paying loads to keep us running with Northwest, or were we going to be forced to look elsewhere for our loads, something we really didn't want to do. We are very attached to Northwest, our brokerage firm.

Mt Shasta near Weed, CA

The reason California kicked us out:
Several years ago, California started passing laws regulating emissions from vehicles. At first it was just nuisance stuff, like passing a law forbidding truck drivers from idling (letting your truck run while parked). Spring and fall it's no big deal, but temps in California get high in summer and when your sitting in a fiberglass box, well the interior of these trucks get pretty hot without the truck running. Not to mention freezing in the mountains in winter.
There were other things they decided we had to do too, and then a while back they started weeding out the older trucks. If you get around trucks close enough to read the stickers on their door, you'll start noticing that some of them have a round sticker somewhere around the door that say Certified Clean Idle and has a picture of the state of California in the background.

The sticker gives evidence that the trucks engine meets CARB emission standards. The only way to have that sticker is to buy a new truck or do a $20,000 upgrade on the engine of an older truck. Our gray truck was a 2010 and had the sticker.
They set up a schedule for compliance and each year moved forward in the age of trucks allowed in. Our new truck is a 1999. We new, when we bought it, that we'd have to be out of California by the end of 2014. But that was ok because it fell into our plans to be off the long roads within a year and working locally around the ranch.
What was hidden in the tiny tiny print, that we missed, was that in order to keep trucking in California till the end of 2014, you had to have your truck registered with CARB by March of 2012. Not only did we not know this, but we didn't even buy the truck till April.

the hills near Los Banos, CA

So when the CARB officials set up at the Sacramento weigh station and pulled us around back, we didn't realize there was going to be a problem. When they told Malcolm to rev the engine so they could watch the exhaust, we thought it was odd. When they asked Malcolm to get out and open the hood and then started getting ugly with him and accusing him of lying to them about not knowing he wasn't supposed to be driving the truck there, and on and on and making nasty threats of big fines and such, we were flustered. And then they dropped the bomb and told him that they could right us a ticket for $1600 but instead,  since we were headed out, if we'd leave right away they'd not write the ticket, but that we were not to come back into California with this truck, and if they caught us in there, there would be hell to pay.

So we left and didn't look back.
a train winds through the mountains east of Bakersfield, CA

Except to wonder how we were going to make a living without California.

Our broker was less than pleased to hear the news. I won't repeat his exclamations. But then, after he vented, he said we'd work something out and they'd just start shopping for long haul loads in other parts of the country. He promised us we'd figure something out.

After the initial shock wore off, we started feeling better about it. Honestly, we never liked going to California that much. In fact we complained about it a lot. Of course, once you realize you'll not go to a place again, you start thinking of all the things you did like, the drives you enjoyed, the places you liked to eat, the scenery in special places, and you start to feel a little sad that you'll never ever go to those places again.
the dry deserts of southern California

Things have worked out so far. Since September, and of course we took off quite a bit of time for the move and for the holidays, we've been doing well for the slow time of the year that it's been. We've had some slow weeks, but it's hard to say if that's because of the California deal or because this is just a crappy time of year for freight. And listening to our friends talk, we're thinking it has nothing to do with California. All our trucking friends are complaining about too much sitting and too low rates. Next month is the month that things start to pick up, and then we'll be able to determine to what extent this will have changed things for us. But just judging from the past weeks, I don't think it's really going to have that big of an effect.
traffic jam in the Sierra Nevadas near Donner's Pass

Now, changing gears a little bit:
You know, back in September when we were working on finding somewhere to live in Tennessee and planning our move, we were both facing the likelihood that we'd not be seeing nearly as much of the house. Living in Montana, we were getting the occasional loads that passed us by the house over weekend and holidays and it was nice to get those unplanned home times. But we only went to Tennessee when we asked to go. I can only think of one time when we stopped at my parents for a weekend because we happened to be passing through in the last 5 years.

Given past experience we did not expect to see the house often.
And then we got kicked out of California.

I'd call it one of those situations that we, as humans who can't see the big picture, look at and think is a really bad thing.

But God, who knows what the future holds, knows what's best. And looking back, I would never have thought being forced out of California was a good thing.
But as it turns out, one good thing has come of it. Because we don't go to California, we're getting more loads that head east. In fact, since we moved to Tennessee, we've passed by the house on a load 3 times already, and been able to stop for a day or two. I wonder if perhaps allowing us to be banished from the west coast was God's way of providing for us to be able to still have those random weekend trips home that have always been such a balm to our road weary souls.

We went back to work January 10th, after a lengthy Christmas and New Year break. We've been home two weekends since, one in particular that was unplanned but provided me the chance to say goodbye to my grandfather, who passed away a few days later. If I'd been driving the west coast, I would have missed that. Those two weekends at the house were the breaks we needed to get rest to heal from our illnesses, and to mentally recoup from life on the road. Those random breaks are what help us to stay out for 5-6 weeks at a time, or longer. So I'm glad that we didn't lose them after all, as I had feared.

God provides for all our needs and more, and He does it in ways we never expect, even in allowing things to happen that we think can't possibly be beneficial to us. In the long run, they are, and He knows.

I don't miss California.

February 20, 2013

Crossing the Line

Yesterday we crossed the Mason Dixon line. Perhaps in our modern age of few who care about history, many of you may not know what I'm referring to. But for us historians, especially those of us who are southern historians, the Mason Dixon line is well known.
The Mason Dixon line has played a role and symbolized many things in its history, but for me, crossing the line means I'm either entering "enemy" territory (the land of the yankees) or coming home.
We've crossed the line three times in the past two weeks. After 5 years of hardly ever going into the northeast, we've had two trips in two weeks into eastern Pennsylvania. Last week we went to Allentown, and then reloaded at a little town north of there and so far east that I spent the afternoon watching the Delaware River and glaring at the New Jersey shore with dread.
We used to run in New Jersey and into NYC and beyond, back in the beginning days of my driving. I don't have pleasant memories of that period of driving. If you, my dear reader, happen to be from that area, I hope you won't take personal offense. There's plenty I'd like to go visit and see in New England and the Northeast. But in a truck, it is a miserable experience.
And also don't take offense to my calling your part of the country "enemy territory." I think a small part of all us southerners thinks of you that way, but for the vast majority (myself included) it's just a phrase. We harbor no lasting hard grudges and hateful feelings towards you. The war ended 148 years ago.
So I sat glaring at New Jersey because I feared we may soon see the day when we have to cross the Delaware (it will be easier than when Washington did it now that we have bridges and such) and travel around in those tiny states with tiny roads and way too many cars.
But not yet, and according to our broker, not any time soon or ever unless it really really pays. 
After loading, we hurried south to the Pennsylvania border, back across that symbolic line. Then 13 miles through Maryland, 22 through West Virginia, and then a couple hundred through Virginia into North Carolina, where we delivered the next day. And it was all in the dark and I didn't get a single picture. I was disgusted, because I could have actually blogged about that. Something new. Something different. But hard to capture in the dark.
So last Friday when we got a load from Texas to Hazleton, PA, I figured I'd just been handed a second chance. We loaded Monday morning in Texas, and we crossed the Mason Dixon line around 10:00 Tuesday morning.
It was soggy and 35 degrees with light flurries falling.
Which changed to heavier flurries the further north we went.
One of the neat things about driving around in the northeastern states is all the history. I mean the really old history. And I understand that it's not really old compared to European history, but as far as American history goes, this is where we started. This is old history! 
When I think of Pennsylvania, I think of incredibl barns and houses (many of them built of all rock)...

...lots of dairys and farms....

...and some tight squeezes because these towns were established a long time before cars, and especially before trucks of our size.
Shippensburg, PA established 1730
Southwest of Harrisburg, there was a backup on the interstate and we found out in time to be able to jump off and go around it on the side roads. Turned out, it probably didn't save us that much time. Between having to slow down to go through Shippensburg, and also slowing down for the other traffic on the roadway...
....we didn't make that good of time. But the scenery was enjoyable and so I didn't mind.
Back on the interstate we crossed the Susquehanna River at Harrisburg...

...and from that point I-81 moved into some really hilly terrain. Also the snow had picked up considerably and we were once again slowed down by slow moving traffic and a number of snow plows that were out doctoring the roads.
Our thoughts were that it would be best to get to Hazleton and get unloaded and back south before the temperature started dropping for the night. We didn't quite make it, as by the time we left Hazleton it was dark and had restarted snowing in random spurts of hard wet showers of big fat flakes. Traffic was really slow heading out of the mountains. Right about the time the snow would let off, there would suddenly be this incredibly heavy fog bank that forced traffic to a crawl. This happened over and over again until finally we got back down out of the hilly country and to Harrisburg. From there it was smooth sailing into Virginia.

This morning we're loading in Timberville, VA and heading on a short load into North Carolina.
The last two times we passed through Virginia, it was dark. So I enjoyed the scenery this morning. The Shenandoah Valley that I-81 runs the length of is really a beautiful part of the state. If we can get loaded and get going before too late in the evening, I'll try and get some pictures.
As to why we're crossing the Mason Dixon line more often, and why I expect to be seeing more of this part of the country...
California kicked us out and told us not to come back.
Frankly, our feelings weren't that hurt. There are some things we'll miss of course, but California has just gotten to be a pain to deal with (again if your from that part of the country and reading this, please don't take personal offense). But since September, we've been banned from California, and since coming and going from that state made up about 70% of our freight, well....it's changed our loads and regular stomping grounds around a little.
I'll tell you about it later.

February 18, 2013

Long Time Gone

We didn't get lost. We didn't fall off the side of the road. In truth, I'm not sure what happened other than January and the beginning of February were rough weeks. Malcolm was sick with whooping cough and as a result, we're just now getting our first nights undisturbed rest since Christmas break. And right about the time he started showing signs of recovery, I came down with a week long fluish thing.
So heap exhaustion on top of a period of lagging interest in blogging, and I just let you slip. I apologize.
Even now I'm not feeling real motivated, but I had three friends contact me (within a two day period) via the blog to ask if we were OK and what was up with our being a long time gone.
And so I figured I needed to drop in a note to say I'm a long time gone, but not gone forever. And I didn't want y'all to worry and how touched I am that you cared enough to notice. I lvoe my blogging friends!
Illness, winter time blues, and such are the culprits, but they will all be clearing up soon.
We take a break in March. I'm looking forward to being home, spending time with my horses, and exploring what all is growing and blooming there. And I just bet I'll feel more interested in blogging after that, when I have some new things to share.

So hang in there. I know I've not felt like blogging, but I also know I'm not ready to give it up. I'm not leaving you yet.