After dropping my load at Jack in the Box, I got a Pre Plan for a load out of Bettendorf, Iowa, back to Forth Worth. I had to deadhead up to the Quad Cities and make the pickup in the morning. No prob.
Along the way I stopped at a Loves to TransFlow the paperwork required to get paid. TransFlow is a kind of trucker fax. All the Pilot, Flying J, and Loves truck stops have them. You collect all the appropriate paperwork: bills of lading, labor receipts for loading and unloading, and other receipts for trailer washouts, scale fees, etc. You complete a cover sheet with your particulars and feed it into the scanner. The UPC code on the cover sheet tells the system where the information needs to go and the newly digitized information disappears into the ether. I’ve already received three paychecks so it evidently works and I haven’t made any major mistakes. Yea!
This is how it would work from here on out. No more automatic paychecks every Friday. That would be a good thing because $350 a week just wasn’t cutting it. However it could be a bad thing too. I would only get paid for the miles I drive. If the company doesn’t give me miles, I might make less than $350 a week. I’ll be thinking good thoughts.
As I lit out of the Loves I realized it had been a few days since I showered. It was time. I got out my Droid and called up the Trucker DAT application. I asked it to find me the truck stops between me and Iowa. I had a freebie coming from AmBest, and there was an AmBest along the way. Well, it wasn’t exactly along the way. It was in Morton, Illinois, and required a trip of maybe three miles east on I-74 from where I was to head west on I-74 from I-155. WASTED MILES! THE HORROR! Oh, that it would have only been a six mile diversion. In taking exit 102, and not seeing the truck stop until I had already committed to exit 102A, I was on the wrong side of the freeway and couldn’t head the other way. So I had to make a large loop to the south, then east, then north, and then back west to get to the truck stop. This took me through, wait for it, another residential area. I was a quarter of my way through the scenic route at the edge of town and was about to take a left on a road that would take me north across the freeway, and who should I see at the four way stop? A policeman. I waited too long for him to turn in front of me. It was important to have him go first. If I did, he might have decided to follow me and find out what I was up to. He made the turn and headed from whence I had come. I made the turn onto the skinny two lane road. Looked like I was home free.
In fact, on the way back to the AmBest, I passed a big, new-looking Wal-Mart. I couldn’t see where I might park, and the truck stop was kittycorner across the intersection so I just parked at the truck stop and figured I’d walk from there. The shower was GREAT! One of the nicer ones I’ve experienced. Then I walked over to the Wal-Mart and picked up some snacks for me and cleaning supplies for the truck. Probably should have done the walk before I showered but it was pretty cool and I didn’t pit up too bad.
Refreshed and restocked I got back on the road and got to Bettendorf at maybe 8 p.m. There were no truck stops just short of my destination so I had to overshoot by six miles or so. I pulled into an Iowa rest stop and got one of the last slots available. I would have to wake up a little early and sweep out the trailer before I picked up my load. The truck stop was adequate and I got a nice night’s sleep.
After sweeping out the trailer with the little broken broom I had found in the truck. The bristles on the big push broom I had just bought at Wal-Mart were too stiff to get down into the grooves on the trailer floor. So by the time I was done with the cleanout I was sweating and my back hurt. Well I stayed fresh for half a day anyway.
I made the pickup of frozen food with no problems. I had picked up a couple of load locks along with the trailer I was pulling. (Load locks are extendable pipe thingies that ratchet out to each side of the trailer and thus hold the load in place.) The last trucker had just left them laying in the trailer. Happy at first, I learned that one was broken beyond repair and the other one was missing the rubber pad on one of the ends. Rather than hassle with them, I surreptitiously dumped them behind the trailer while I was waiting for a dock assignment. I later found out I could have taken them back to Stevens and they would have swapped them out for good ones. Damn! Well, I still have four which is all I ever need anyway.
My trip plan had me heading west to Des Moines, filling up at a Loves, then heading south through Missouri to Kansas City, then Joplin. The daylight part of the drive was gorgeous. Farmers were out picking corn like crazy. Beautiful farmsteads along the freeway. I saw a bald eagle soaring overhead, and it made me think of home. We have a pair living in our subdivision. The other out-of-the-ordinary event was a stretch of perhaps a hundred yards where I saw half a dozen hawks perched on fence poles. I’ve never seen more than a solitary hawk every mile or so otherwise. Maybe it was a hawk cult. I didn’t see any weird feather cuts or tambourines though. Strange.
I did have problems fueling up. My fuel card / truck odometer readings still weren’t right. A call to Stevens fixed the problems. I was only on hold for 45 STINKING MINUTES! Jeez!
The trip to my overnight at a no-name truck stop in Lamar, Missouri, was otherwise uneventful. It was close to midnight and I parked, peed, and PTIed. The next morning I treated myself to a $4.00 breakfast special at the Denny’s inside the truck stop. It was a surprisingly delightful experience. There was a big table with a bunch of 70-something year old dudes. It looked like this was a regular gathering. They were talking politics. I sat down and ordered my bacon and eggs and asked if they could substitute fruit for the toast. Not only did she happily make the substitution for me, the little fruit cup she put together for me was worth four bucks all by itself. Then she asked if I really didn’t want some toast too. I said sure. She didn’t even charge me extra! I have a much better opinion of Denny’s because of this simple positive experience.
The next morning I continued south and then southwest through Oklahoma Indian territory. Casinos every few miles, don’tcha know. I made it to my fuel stop by mid-afternoon and since I was less than an hour from my drop the next morning, I packed it in for the day. I treated myself to another shower and slept like a baby. Waking at about 4 a.m. the next morning I found my way to the drop, dropped, and got a pre plan headed to Houston. Whoopie!
The new load was back at Taylor Farms. I’d be picking up at 11 p.m. that night. I made my way to the Pilot at exit 472 on I-20 and knocked around, gave my empty trailer to another driver, and slept a bit. The trailer I’d been pulling had an issue, an air leak. When I would shut down for the night, the trailer brake would be popped in the morning. And it would take awhile to pressure the system up. It had always come back but even with my limited experience I knew it was taking longer than it should have. So I told the driver who was taking it. This scared him. He didn’t want a defective trailer. Hell, I thought that was the way things worked. I had already picked up three piece of crap trailers and nobody had alerted me to any problems. But he called in and evidently got instructions to take it back to The Yard. Oh well.
At about 9:30 I cranked things up and headed over to Taylor Farms. The truck was loaded but it’s such a busy place the already loaded trailer was buried. The yard dog dug it out and I put my load locks in and sealed it up. As I was about to leave and finishing my Loaded and Rolling QualComm message I realized I didn’t have all the information required. Nobody could give me the information. So I fudged it. Then, in putting my meat lock on the back doors, one of the TF workers came down and started griping that I was blocking the driveway. Nobody was coming but I nodded and struggled to get the meat lock in place. They can be tempermental little pieces of steel and things have to be lined up just right for the key to work. Also, the trailer tandems were most of the way back and I wanted to move them up a few holes. Well, I wasn’t going to sit there blocking things anymore so I got the meat lock wrestled into place and headed down the road. I stopped at the same Pilot I had spent the day at and weighed the trailer. It was so light I think I could have pulled it with my Volkswagen Passat. But I did get the tandems moved and headed towards home.
I was delivering produce to the Wal-Mart distribution center in New Caney, Texas. It was less than 25 miles from my house, but I would have to make the drop and then drive an hour farther south to a secure lot where I could uncouple from the trailer and stash the truck. The delivery was once again uneventful, and I called my bride tell her she could leave to come and meet me at the secure lot in east Houston. She’s always appreciates being called before 6 a.m.
Now the problems began. I found my way to the general area where the secure lot was supposed to be. But it sure as hell wasn’t at the address they gave me. It was hassle enough just getting to the general area. The nav chick took me down some dark and dangerous residential-looking streets. I was having to make left turns onto very busy streets. And when I pulled into the driveway at the designated address, I didn’t see any other trucks. This was not right.
So I called into Stevens. I was like the 12th caller in line and after 20 minutes I remembered one of my training compadres had made a truck recovery in the area. I realized it was probably from the same lot I was looking for. So I disconnected from Stevens and gave Davey a call. Thankfully, he answered. He had told me what a pain it was to find this place, and he had been wandering around in the middle of the night in a taxi cab!
He knew just where I was and told me that the street on the other side of the building I was looking at would take me to the promised land. Five minutes later and I was working my way through the gate and security guard. It was still dark.
In the meantime, my wife was making wrong turn after wrong turn, but getting closer with each correction. I decoupled from my trailer, parked my truck, and finished packing for my first time off in more than three months.
Home at last. Seven glorious days with no driving,no deadlines, no hassles with The Yard, or America’s Worst, or dying trainers, or anything else related to diesel. Cool.