I wouldn’t have dreamed so many things could go wrong. Let me count the ways (forgive me in advance for the SHOUTING):
- Started out with a local short run. I HATE short runs. I especially hate short runs with live loads or unloads. I picked up a loaded trailer at our Houston drop lot and took it less than 25 miles to NW Houston. It took more than FIVE hours. The pay? $40!
- Went back to the lot and picked up another loaded trailer, this one bound for a receiver just north of Tyler, Texas. When I stopped to scale the load in New Caney, it was OVERWEIGHT! Overweight on the gross! No amount of tandem sliding would or could fix it. I was instructed, AFTER AN HOUR(!), to take the load back to the lot and leave it for somebody else. Almost four hours for a little over $30.
- They dispatched me to a paper mill northeast of Beaumont. I’d picked up an overweight load there before. Would I get my second of the day? Not this time, but by the time I dropped and hooked I had less than three hours left on my clock. I got as far as a Walmart in a small town in east Texas where I spent the night. I had to drive almost three hours the next morning before getting my caffeine fix.
- On the way north my CD player finally revealed itself as definitely broke. On my last trip I had trouble with the last couple of audiobooks I listened to but blamed the problem on the CDs. It was NOT the CDs but my player which decided, on its own, that it didn’t have to track every last word of a book but only the passages it deemed fit. That just don’t work. In the long run, this would be the most crippling of all the bad things that would happen on this tour. I get so tired of listening to music or talk radio. Now that’s all I would have. Serious BUMMER! But wait! Maybe I could get routed to or through one of our terminals staffed with service techs. Maybe they could make the repair or replace my audio equipment. Naaaaah.
- I delivered the eight gigantic rolls of paper weighing almost 40,000 pounds to our Grand Prairie terminal and was sent to a shipper in Sunnyvale. This would be a drop and hook heading to MAINE! Yippee! But after checking into the shipping office I was told that since they didn’t have an empty Roehl trailer, it would be a live load and the warehousemen were all at lunch. It got worse. They told me it would be up to seven hours before they could get me loaded. They made it happen in only five. Whereas I had hoped to get past Little Rock or even West Memphis, I barely made it into Arkansas.
- The next morning I had one contact lense that was irritating the daylights out of my right eye. When I finally stopped to fix it, I pulled out half a lens. The other half was still in my eye and it was not pleasant. I drove as far as Knoxville that afternoon with only my right contact in and my left eye watering like crazy. At the Knoxville TA at Exit 374 (remember that exit number) I fueled up and then took my stuff in to get a receipt and handle my personal hygiene for the evening. I tried to dig out the lingering piece of contact lens and even got one of the fuel desk clerks to check out my bloodshot eyeball. (it was the little clerk covered with tattoos). The other one just said “Ewwww” when I asked if she could perform a little visual optometry on me. Although my eye was still sore, she could see no plastic in there anywhere and pronounced me “Cured.” I had evidently flushed it out in the men’s room.
- The following morning, my eye was still sore, but improved. I pulled out of the TA at 5:30 a.m. The first traffic light light came to turned yellow as I was shifting into seventh gear, and I quickly made the judgment that trying to stop would take me into the intersection, so I gunned it on through. I sensed a FLASH as I hit the midpoint. I’m pretty sure I got nailed by a dreaded “red-light-camera.” Super! Another ticket! My only question was whether it would be a points ticket or just a fine. Either way, the company would be notified because that’s where the
a$$holesnice staff from the KPD will send the notice. So I have that to look forward to. My only hope is that a rational person looks at it, figures “Hey, it’s dark thirty on Labor Day morning, nobody else was near the intersection, and this big heavy truck would have caused more problems by stopping than by doing what he did.” Yeah, right.
- I take this break in my litany of woes to recount the only good thing that happened on the trip. I stopped in the Petro at Exit 205 on I-81 in Virginia to see if they had the shaver I had left in the shower room five months earlier. This was the honeymoon suite of truck stop showers. It had a double vanity (?) and at the far end of the vanity the counter sunk to a bench level sitting area (where the honeymooners … er, you know) and that’s where I had put my old Braun shaver. I called a couple hours down the road and nobody could find it, but the next day I got a call saying the shaver had turned up. Eureka! But when I stopped in the next time I was in the neighborhood, two months later, the shaver could not be located. One of the clerks was pretty sure it had to be someplace and offered to ship it to me when it turned up in the elite ladies leg shaving room. Never heard a thing. And by that time I had told my wife that I threw the shaver away because it just didn’t hold a charge for very long (which was mostly true). Low and behold, when I stopped in this time, the dude behind the desk said, “So you’re the shaver guy.” He called everybody in the place to come over and look at me. I was a legend. They sent a guy to the admin office to retrieve my shaver and I was on my way again. After an 8 hour charge, the thing seems to work just fine. It has an especially good neck shaving feature. And while my wife’s suspicion that I was a lying SOB was confirmed, I count this as the Labor Day miracle of 2014.
- There was one nightmarish event that occurred on I-84 in Massachusetts, and it had nothing to do with fueling. I was tooling through downtown Worcester (pronounced Wooster, if you’re interested) and heard an explosion. A BOMB had gone off, and it was close. As I hunkered down in my seat I scanned the scene. I immediately saw the source of the KABOOM. A dump truck that had just passed me blew a tire. Who knew it could be so loud? I then saw a byproduct of the explosion, the entire tread of the blown tire had separated from the body of the tire and then broke into two pieces. Both pieces were cartwheeling up the freeway as the dump truck maneuvered to the shoulder. One of the pieces was flopping (it almost seemed to be walking) right into my lane. I already had my foot off the the accelerator and I now lightly braked while checking the traffic around me. I didn’t pull into a different lane but the “alligator” settled down right in front of me, laying on its edge, so I drove right over it. Upon later inspection, I found no damage to my tires. Phshew!
- What started as an uneventful day after Labor Day turned eventful when I got an email from my dermatologist. As a walking / talking basal cell carcinoma there were a couple of blemishes I had been keeping my eyes on. I got them checked out during my hometime. Well the labwork on the biopsies was in. Both spots were malignant. Super! More outpatient surgery (small time procedures, really) so I had that to look forward to when I get home. I spent that night at a Maine Turnpike Travel Plaza close to Kennebunkport (I saw neither George W. nor George H.W. Bush). It did have a neato moose sculpture and a Starbucks. What more could a driver ask for?
- Disaster struck at my delivery to a flooring distributor in Augusta. Two of the door latches on the trailer were especially balky. In trying to open the first one I had to use all my strength to get it almost open. There were only a couple more inches to the fully released position. So I got a running start and as I kung fued it, it gave way ever so freely and the tip of my middle finger on my left hand was crushed against a metal piece on the door. I uttered a not very nice word and looked at my finger. No blood. And then, in slow motion, the blood started oozing from beneath the flap of flesh that had been torn loose from its neighboring flesh. It HURT. I reached into my truck and grabbed a couple of tissues. I held the tissues tightly against the wound with the thumb of my left hand and finished opening the doors and backing my rig up to the dock. Then I got a bottle of peroxide, a tube of polysporin and a bandaid and went into the warehouse hoping they would have a relatively modern restroom that I could turn bloody. They did. The finger tip was ugly, but I managed to get it cleaned and coated with the antiseptic ointment. I was, however, having a major problem getting the bandaid on. I have a rather noticeable tremor which was at high ebb after my injury. I had to find a warehouseman to help me get it onto the wound. I found a big, burly guy, with fingers as big as my wrist, who took charge and wrapped that bandaid around my fingertip like it was a tourniquet. The pad got pretty red, pretty quickly, but I thought I had sufficient coagulation to avoid a trip to the emergency room. As I write this my finger is still pretty tender, and I am amazed how involved the middle finger is in a whole variety of actions, even if not in a leading role. I’ve only banged it hard a couple of times and three days later, I didn’t think I was going to lose the finger. Maybe only the finger nail. I was pretty much afraid to look.
- After picking up another load of (guess what) PAPER. Bound for (guess where) WISCONSIN. From a delightful paper mill only 30 miles from the nearest freeway I started wending my way west. I was to hand off the load at our terminal in Gary, Indiana. Of course I ran out of hours and had to stop about an hour east of Gary where another driver met me. He thoughtfully provided me with an (unswept) empty trailer and I bestowed a load of PAPER on him. (The upside was this load was due in Wisconsin by 10 p.m. and this poor sap would have to drive through Chicago on a Friday afternoon in order to make the delivery. A single ray of sunshine in an otherwise dark and gloomy world.) After only four hours of waiting, the genius planners finally found another load for me – a relay I would pick up in Dayton, Ohio, a mere two and a half hours southeast. Since I was out of hours. I packed it in for the night. Bright and early the next morning, meaning dark and foggy at 3:45, was awake and getting ready for my drive to pick up a load that would take me back to TEXAS! Our rendezvous was scheduled for 8:45 a.m. and I rolled into our drop lot at 8:35. It was then that I learned that the other drive had not made the pick up. In fact, he wouldn’t be able to make the pick up until MID-F*#&ING AFTERNOON!!!!!!! After a little more investigation, I found that the load was originating only an hour and fifteen minutes from where I started the morning. The genius “planners” and / or weekend dispatchers (generally speaking, the dispatchers who had to take the short bus to work) knew this whole relay was jacked for the beginning and yet didn’t deem it necessary to communicate that information to me. If they had thought about it for a millisecond, they could have called or even messaged me to NOT drive to Dayton but to drive directly to the shipper and pick up the load to Texas myself. Instead, I would have to wait more than NINE STINKIN’ HOURS for the load to arrive after which I would have just over an hour of driving time left to get it started towards Texas. Words cannot describe …
- (Lucky 13. Cute.) After dropping my load a day and a half later in Durant, Oklahoma, I had the pleasure of waiting another three and a half hours for my next load that would take me home. Have I mentioned at any point in the past that I HATE WAITING! After all this time, when I was repeatedly informed that it was “tough this time of year,” “just not many loads out there.” and we have “everybody working on it, including management.” After all that time with no loads out there they hooked me up with a load that picked up FIVE MILES FROM MY DAUGHTER! I could have …
- Words STILL cannot describe …
After this tour from hell, I did get to spend some time with my daughter and her family. She ordered Pizza (Mr. Jim’s. Very good.) and let me take a shower. After a night at the Pilot not two miles from my daughter’s place, I drove to the shipper to pick up my load. I even managed to scoot around a major accident that resulted in a freeway closure south of Fairfield. A kindly driver told me about a flambe wreck as I was fueling at the Loves and another kindly driver pointed me to the best route around the wreck. I got back to our Houston drop lot, parked the loaded trailer and my tractor, and tried to forget the total misery of the preceding 12 days.