We left Hammond in the wee hours of the morning and traversed the southernmost tips of the Gulf states on Interstate 10. We found sunrise in the Florida panhandle with Dudley at the wheel.
You see, during training I am not allowed to drive during the danger hours of 3:00 to 7:00 a.m. Dudley got us to Wildwood, Florida where it was my turn to drive. A few miles into my part of the journey we turned onto “Florida’s Main Street” (the Florida Turnpike) and I took us to a Love’s truck stop in Fort Pierce. It was only mid-afternoon but Dudley was running out of hours and it would only be a two and a half hour drive to our first delivery just north of Miami.
As we did our post trip inspection the skies were threatening. We saw and heard the occasional flash of lightening and rumble of thunder. And then it seemed to clear up. Dudley decided he was going to walk to Wal-Mart which was at least a mile away, back on the other side of the freeway and north a piece. He needed a couple of shirts and some other provisions. I thought about walking along until less than a block down the street I eyeballed how far it was to the freeway. I thought the little Mexican-looking chicken place at that corner would be a great place to have supper so I bid Dudley a good walk and ducked in for some chicken. It was Central American (I think) chicken and it was spiced quite nicely. The unique thing about the restaurant was that instead of a condiment bar, it had an onion bar. Diced onions were offered in four different styles, I chose the creamed onions with little chunks of tomato. Over the fried plantains, it was excellent.
It rained while I was eating. I picked a lull in the action and hustled back to the truck stop. The skies opened up. I hunkered down in the Arby’s and watched the light show to the southwest. Dudley better be inside someplace. Alas, when he finally got back to the truck he was wet, which probably washed away the sweat, because it was still 90-plus degrees hot and very humid. But he had his shirts and provisions.
Our delivery was scheduled for 11:00 a.m. so it only made sense that we leave at around 5 o’clock(!). We hit minimal rush hour traffic and got to the Winn-Dixie distribution facility waaaay early. We first parked along the street outside the facility along with a dozen other semis and started walking towards the front gate. After a quarter of a mile on foot we saw that we weren’t even a quarter of the way there so we went back, got the truck and drove it closer to the gate where it was evident that we could just pull into the line of semis and wait our turn to enter the yard.
We walked up to the gate, showed them our papers and were instructed to go back to the truck, tune our CB to channel 12 and wait for instructions. Perhaps 20 minutes later we got the call and made out way to the designated gate. Dudley executed a neat pre-park, we got out to open the trailer doors, and he backed the rest of the way into the warm embrace of the hermetically sealed door. We chocked the trailer wheels and walked into the warehouse offices. Given that we were carrying a load of beef that had been maintained at 27 degrees, obviously, the warehouse was freezing too. I had put on long pants this morning but was otherwise wearing a short sleeved golf shirt and no cap.
(If I haven’t mentioned it earlier, allow me to mention it here: I found it ironic that we were transporting processed beef from California to Florida. I could only guess at how many thousands of beef cows this truck passed on its way here. My guess would be many, many thousands. AND, if I remembered my college geography classes correctly, on the list of beef producing states Florida ranked THIRD. Why were we moving meat thousands of miles to a state that produced copious quantities of meat? Sounds like job security to me.)
Dudley conversed with the receiving clerk through a hole in the window (the clerk’s office was heated), learned the bill for the unload (some warehouses charge shippers to unload their trucks), and back we went to the cab where Dudley prepared the T-check for the unload. Two and a half hours later we were heading out the gate. One reason it took so long to unload was that this Winn-Dixie warehouse only took part of the shipment. The rest would be delivered to Orlando tomorrow. Sometimes, the shipper does not separate the shipments neatly and the receiver has to take what they need from multiple pallets and repackage what’s left for the next stop. It’s possible that’s what happened this time, but there is no way to know for sure since we were in the truck and they were in the trailer.
Speaking of which, it’s a bit weird to be sitting (or laying) in the cab of a truck while the hea995vy lifting is being done in the trailer. There is a lot of bucking and rolling and loud bangs. Nevertheless, when the lumpers (truck unloaders) were done, a clerk came out to the truck, told us we were done, and gave us the paperwork that would get us back out the gate.
During this time, we got a message that we were going to swap loads with another driver. He would take the rest of our meat to Orlando (where he would take a couple of days off) and we would take his produce and nuts to a McDonalds food distributor in Pompano Beach for a 4:30 delivery(!!!). Of course Dudley would get there two and a half hours early. Of course, the receiving clerks would tell us that 4:30 means 4 stinkin’ 30. And of course we couldn’t just park there. He directed us to a farmers market a couple of miles away where we could park it for a spell. We found the farmers market, but it was on the left side of the road and there was no turn lane across the median boulevard. So we had to take a five mile scenic tour to get us back onto the right side of the road so we could bop into the farmers market and hang out for awhile.
It was a strange place, at least at this time of morning. We got to the back end of the property and there were perhaps 50 big rigs parked neatly in two rows, all sleeping. It was like a trucker’s tent city. We found us a parking spot, backed in, and crashed for the better part of an hour. When we got back to the warehouse, we were directed to the appropriate door and the unloading took less than minutes. We had ONE PALLET. It was barely 5:00 a.m. and we were on our way north on I-95.
The good news in this repower was that we picked up a new plan for our next run. We would be picking up a load of orange juice in Lake Wales, Florida, and delivering it to Portland, Oregon. Dudley had requested a run to Portland and by gawd we had it. We stopped in a Flying J on the north side of Fort Pierce to wash out the trailer. which was a requirement. Dudley decided to wash the tractor as well. We also grabbed a quick breakfast at the Denny’s inside the truck stop. And I took it from there.
My driving skills were improving but I was still working at the shifting. I was starting to get a real feel for floating the gears, but anytime I had to shift outside of a nice straight shot from a dead stop, I was having a time finding the right gear to be in and the right rpms to get me into that gear.
We arrived at the OJ yard in Lake Wales and I handled the entry through the gate, the parking of the empty (and now clean) trailer and went to the shipping clerk’s office to get the paperwork for our load. A nice (ancient) slender lady helped me through the process and then it was time for my first coupling. It went pretty smoothly but we had to move the tandems under the trailer up a few holes. That done (it wasn’t as easy as I am writing, but this post is getting pretty long) we left the yard and st started looking for a scale so we knew what we had. Dudley’s map had a scale back at the last major intersection. Heading back south, I got into the turn lane that would take us to the service station with the scale. As we sat at the red light, it was apparent that there was no scale. So I effected a car-like maneuver and managed to go straight through the light and under the highway we had just come in on. There was no scale at that service station either.
So we were headed out of town and would have to find a place to turn around. It was a nice four lane divided highway but Stevens has the dreaded NO U TURN rule. A mile or so down the road we found a half occupied set of commercial buildings so I turned in and found some streets and parking lots that allowed us to make the turnaround. Getting back on the highway headed north was somewhat of a challenge, but I got us headed in the right direction. About 15 miles up the road we found a truck stop with a scale and learned that we weighed, with only a quarter tank of fuel, 79,280 pounds. We were 720 pounds away from being illegal. We would have to watch how much fuel we put in the truck.
- 1. taking the cloverleaf from I-75 onto I-285 westbound on the south side of Atlanta,
- 2. navigating the truck stop five miles from I-75 in Marietta on the north side of Atlanta, and
- 3. getting through some mild rush hour traffic in Nashville.
We got into the south side of Kentucky and stopped for the night at Huck’s truck stop in Kuttawa. We had a nice dinner at a steak place across the street (dutch treat – my burger and steamed broccoli were EXCELLENT) and I slept like the dead.
Dudley’s hamburger, which he proclaimed to be excellent, did not agree with him however. More on that in my next post.