Waking at a totally-unreasonable-in-anyone’s-book midnight thirty we got ready for our trip back to Miami with bleary eyes. Well, mine were bleary anyway. Dudley is some kind of nocturnal creature. He eats up 3:00 a.m. alarms (he chose the klaxon alert tone on his smart phone) and while he apparently doesn’t make a habit of scheduling deliveries around midnight, he embraces them with the affection a Hun raiding party shows a slumbering village.
We were on our way and believe me when I tell you we did NOT encounter any pre-rush hour traffic. A few bar closing freeway weavers, maybe, but nothing that slowed us up. We navigated our way to Pompano Beach and mazed our way to the warehouse. Dang it if a 3:30 delivery time doesn’t mean 3:30. At least that’s what the receiving clerk said. We had more than an hour and a half to kill. And we couldn’t drink. The receiving folk directed us to a farmers market a couple of miles away. We found it but since there was no way to get a big rig around a median to get to the entrance we had to put a few extra miles on to get us to the appropriate driveway pointing in the right direction. We found our way to the back of the property where we found sixty or so semis with their heads down and eyes closed. They were all sleeping. The noise of their diesel engines or APUs represented collective snoring. It was surreal. It kinda reminded me of the scene near the end of I, Robot when Will Smith goes to the deserted side of town where all the abandoned robots live in deserted industrial containers. It was spooky.
An hour later the klaxon roused us and we returned to the warehouse. Dudley proficiently backed up against the designated door and within 15 minutes a lumper came round to break the seals and open the trailer doors. “One pallet?” he asked incredulously? Apparently so. After another 15 minutes we were on our way. We headed a little ways north of Fort Pierce where there was a Flying J truck stop with a Blue Beacon truck wash. The rule is that once a load is dropped, the trailer gets washed out. Sometimes it’s okay to sweep it out but the trailer has to be relatively clean for the next load. This is especially important when the load is 40 pallets of leaking stinky beef or chicken. Dudley got the tractor washed as well. Scarlet, the name I gave his Freightliner Cascadia, was a red beauty again.
Before we hit the road we stopped in the Denny’s attached to the Flying J for some breakfast. (Dudley bought. Cool.) Then I got behind the wheel and took us to our pickup in Lake Wales. The trip went okay until we got to Lake Wales where I had to navigate through town and deal with navigating into the orange juice staging yard. Finally got there and I dealt with the security guard at the gate. He told us where to park and the trailer we were to pick up. I made my first back up into a nice two trailer opening. I only took up one space, of course, but it was nice to have the opening on one side. Dudley guided me every step of the way and made sure I got out of the truck before every back up. Then he talked me through every step of moving the tandems to the back of the trailer and uncoupling. And it was HOT!
From there I drove the tractor up to the offices. Inside and upstairs I introduced myself as a first timer and a kindly, skinny, older lady helped me with the paperwork. Upon seeing that the load was going to Portland, Oregon, she reminisced about how she had been there many years ago. I’m guessing it was at least 40 years ago. She made it sound like right after WW II ended but it couldn’t have been that long. Could it? After using the men’s room, I drove the tractor to the already loaded trailer and set up for the coupling. Went pretty good. As we were heading towards the security gate another driver was having trouble backing into a space. It was a woman, and the guard said that although she said that although she’d been driving for several years and was a good driver in other ways, she just couldn’t get a handle on backing. He chuckled. I did too, outwardly, but on the inside I was already worried about my next backing exercise.
Heading out the gate with another heavy load Dudley wanted to get weighed sooner rather than later. One of our maps showed a scale back at the main intersection in town. We were in the turn lane at a stoplight when we both decided there was no scale at the station so I had to squirm my way back into the through lane and we drove south out of town to find a place to turn around. In this company there are NO (ABSOLUTELY NO!) U-turns allowed.
We found a little office park where Dudley fretted us around a building and we got back onto the highway headed north. There was a scale perhaps 20 miles ahead. Getting there, and the next 30 miles up Highway 25 would be the longest two hours of my life – so far. There were dozens of stop lights and turn lanes and shopping malls that belched out impatient drivers by the hundreds. The weighing went okay, except that I parked too far away from the speaker. It was a tight turn getting back out of the truck stop but we made it back to the highway and after a couple of rain showers we arrived at the Florida Turnpike heading north. By mid-afternoon we reached Wildwood, Fl, where we packed it in for the night. And not a minute too soon. I was whipped.
One last back in, again into a double parking space at the truck stop, and I got ready for bed. I slept like the dead. While I had driven less than 150 miles, it seemed like fifteen hundred. I would drive a lot farther tomorrow.