August 25, 2012 – Waking at a semi-reasonable hour in Ogden I did my PTI and set off on the last leg of this itinerary. Okay, technically it was the second to last leg since we wouldn’t be making the delivery until tomorrow, but it was the last significant piece of driving on this trip. It was my birthday, kind of a milestone birthday if I was financially secure enough to retire, and I received an early text from my younger daughter encouraging me to drive well and be safe.
Well that was a curse. I almost immediately stalled out the truck when, with parking brake engaged, I let the clutch out while I was still in gear. Scared the crap out of myself and my trainer who was outside the truck. I apologized profusely.
Almost immediately I was challenged with downshiftable ascents and Jake Brakeable descents. I thought I was hitting them pretty good but had a number of instances where I just didn’t nail them. I had the most trouble with upshifting on a downslope. I could get the right gear or rpm for the speed.
We worked our way slowly up in altitude before we hit the “summit” at Cabbage (legitimate name: Emigrant) Hill where we stopped to perform a brake inspection. This was going to be a descent that I would get credit for and it would be without the Jake Brake. I pulled out after the inspection and my palms were sweaty. I was still a couple of miles from the downslope and I wanted to slow down. Dudley instructed me to keep my speed up, so I did. At the crest of the hill I downshifted to fifth gear and then fourth. Before you know it I was barreling along at speeds ranging from 11 to 14 miles an hour.
I steeled my resolve to make it down the hill alive. Actually, I wasn’t scared as much as I was embarrassed. I was being passed by every car, pickup and semi on the road along with old women, the short bus from the county school district, broken down RVs, Asians (!), and I think I even saw a Rascal go flying by me with the driver / rider flipping me off for good measure.
After we got on quasi-flat ground again, Dudley got a call from corporate saying they had received a call saying a red Stevens truck was stopped on the highway. He thought it was probably a smart ass driver from another trucking company. He assured safety that we were not stopped but weren’t going very fast.
So, one hill down, two more to go.
A mile or so from the base of the hill I pulled into a sparkling new AmBest truck stop on the eastern side of Pendleton, Oregon, to refuel and change drivers. I’d put in my almost 10 hours and had logged 515 exciting miles.
Two more faux pas (goofs) at the stop. I did another let out the clutch with the parking brake on and the truck in gear, but didn’t kill it. Then, instructed to put only 76 gallons of diesel in the tank(s), I was distracted by washing the windshield and looking at the wrong numbers on the pump and filled it with about 120 gallons.
What a birthday. I offered to make arrangements for a bus ticket to take me home, but in a rare show of sensitivity, Dudley said, “Hey, it’s only been a week. You’ll be okay.”
I was glad to have Dudley take over so I could just kick back and watch the scenery over the last few hours of our trip.
Pendleton wasn’t much to see, at least from the freeway, but I noted that it was the home of Pendleton Woolen Mills. I used to own a Pendleton shirt. I must’ve gotten it on sale because I noted on their website that they sell for $110!
Another hour down the road and we came parallel to the southern bank of a very wide river. It was at least a mile across and there were steep, barren cliffs on the other side. The Maps program on my Droid told me it was the Columbia river and that was the state of Washington on the other side. The tops of those bluffs were line with hundreds, probably thousands of windmills with their props turning slowly in the wind. Even though I am not a fan (no pun intended) of windmills, I have to say that I was captivated by the view. They look so stately and elegant converting the breeze into kilowats. It was almost enough to make me forget the vast amounts of money, mostly government money, that most wind farms waste.
The closer we got to Portland, the darker it got, but I could still sense the Columbia guiding us to our destination. We were less than 50 feet above the surface of the river and the huge void to my right / north told me it was still there.
At about 10:30 we pulled into the TA truck stop in Troutdale, Oregon. Dudley had made plans to have his former student and current friend, Aaron, meet him, and they arrived shortly after we did. After some chitchat at the truck, we went into the restaurant for a quick snack. I was amazed at the number of tattooed freaky people, who surprisingly didn’t look like truckers, who were hanging out at the place. This was one of those truck stops that had EVERYTHING, including a night club, barber, doctor, hotel, barber, etcetera, etcetera.
As we were sitting down to eat, Aaron’s girlfriend said she was in the ladies room and a couple of skanky women were sitting up on the row of sinks talking about shooting heroin. She said she was going to go back and see how it turned out. Alas, they were gone.
After I finished my clam chowder (very good) I excused myself and let the remaining three get caught up with each other. I went back to the truck and was quickly asleep. Our delivery wasn’t until 11 o’clock the next morning and since I was making the drop, I wanted to be well-rested.