After my week off, which was delightful and relaxing (for the most part), I had to return to the crappy gravel secure area to get started again. Would I have to be retrained? Time would tell, and it would say I had retained enough driving skills to at least get started. I had a new coat, new work boots, a few bags of food and a few more sweatshirts and some rain gear and was ready for the colder, wetter weather that was coming.
Shortly after getting all my extra stuff loaded onto the truck I got my first dispatch. I would be picking up a load in La Porte, Texas, and taking it up to a Walmart Distribution Center in Clarksville, Arkansas. I got to the shipper at about noon and was loaded by 2:30. Not bad. I would be able to get into Arkansas for my first night’s sleep. The drive through east Texas was kinda rough. I had made the drive many times before on trips to see my daughter while she and her family still lived in North Little Rock, but it a big rig, of course, it was different. It was dark, dark, which of course is darker than dark. A lot of four lane roads but north of Nacogdoches, I encountered a number of two lane roads. Evidently this was the truck route. I found a convenient place to park at a Loves in Prescott, Arkansas, and knew I could sleep in and still have plenty of time to get to Clarksville. My delivery appointment wasn’t until 3:15 a.m. a day later. I was hoping I could hook up with some old friends from my own time living in Little Rock. That didn’t work out so I got to a little truck stop in Clarksville just off I-40 by mid afternoon the day before my delivery. I’d be able to get a 10 hour break in and get to the Walmart DC, which was less than two miles away, in plenty of time to make my delivery.
Fortunately, the little truck stop in Clarksville, was adjacent to a bit of civilization. I went for a nice walk, toured a western store (didn’t find any steals), and found a “theatre complex” that was playing the latest Bond movie. I use the quotes because the multiplex building was perhaps the size of a standard McDonalds and contained four theatres. While the prices were right, as you would expect at an itty bitty place that did NOT have stadium seating, on Saturdays they didn’t have matinees and I didn’t want to start a movie at 7 p.m., get back to the truck at 10 p.m. and have wake up at 2:30 a.m. to make the delivery, so I just lollygagged in the neighborhood a little longer.
I found a “club” that looked like it would serve decent food and stopped in. I knew the club meant they served liquor, this being a dry but I would not be imbibing, and would therefore not need to actually ‘join.” Wrong, Scotch-breath. The rule is, in order to breathe the air in the club, whether you drank liquor or not, you needed to pay the temporary membership fee. The good news was, that fee would be deducted from whatever your tab ended up being. Since I was going to be ordering less than $1o worth of grub, I couldn’t do that to the club so I walked a short distance across the parking lot to a diner where I had a nice $6.50 dinner of hamburger steak and vegetables. Even had leftovers!
I walked back across the freeway to my truck and whiled away a couple of hours on the world wide web and packed it in for the night.
My phone woke me at the appointed hour and I drove the four minutes to the Walmart DC. The drop went pretty well. The good thing about a Walmart delivery is that they are pretty tightly scheduled and as long as you are on time they take something less than three or four hours. In this case less than three. The other good thing is that Walmart has an account with Stevens or whomever so you don’t have to get a cash advance, or cash, to pay the lumpers. It’s all handled electronically. So I sent in my “Empty” macro and hoped I’d get another dispatch soonly. By the time I was rolling out of the DC, in the dark, my Qualcom chimed indicating I had a new message. Since I COULDN”T READ IT WHILE MOVING, I pulled into a different truck stop that was a quarter mile from the truck entrance of the warehouse complex. (I would have to remember that for next time.) I had a dispatch.
The pickup would be at 6 p.m. a mere 11 hours away. Great! I had another day to kill.
I drove down to a Pilot in Russellville. During my seven hours there I napped, strolled through the mall across the street, checked out deals at a Staples across the other street and watched the weather roll in and over us. I almost took a two mile walk to the gas company offices to see if I knew anybody there before I remembered it was Sunday and there wouldn’t be anybody there. Phshew!
The highlight was probably the weather. The radar matched up nicely with what I was witnessing. Along about an hour before sunset I turned on my Thermo King reefer and hit the road. It was raining lightly. A couple of miles down the road I noticed that the indicator light on the reefer was showing me the red “K” and not the white “T” which means something was wrong. I had to reboot it once before after leaving La Porte ands hoped that would be the end of it. It was not. I was supposed to me at minus 10 for the load.
I pulled over into a Loves truck stop in Merrillton and tried defrosting and rebooting. Neither worked, although the unit was cooling the trailer. Maybe a sensor was malfunctioning. I called Road Rescue and after 20 FREAKIN’ MINUTES I finally got to talk to a live person. Who told me, if it seems to be cooling, “Go on ahead and pick up your load.”
Back on the road, the rain came harder. I found the shipper, the producer of Eggo waffles with only one wrong turn. Fortunately, there was a wide cul de sac that allowed an easy turnaround. When I got to Der Waffelmaker, it looked dark and closed. I went to the keypad at the locked gate and without talking to anyone, the gate magically opened. A hundred yards inside, I saw the three doors, the middle one of which was open. Not much room to maneuver a back in, I thought. I found someone inside the door to the warehouse and he directed me to back on into the middle door. After half a dozen pull ups, with four GOALs (Get Out And Looks), in the pouring rain. Fortunately I had my rain jacket on along with my Duckhead waterproof hat. A genius job of packing, I would say.
By the time I got backed in two other trucks had arrived. I got there just in time.
While they were loading me up, the other two drivers and I talked and compared notes. They both had better-sounding gigs than mine. Of course, the one who lived in Texarkana bragged about how his gig was so sweet because he could cheat his noogies off on his paper logs. He said he spent three days on the road and four days off every week. He probably would have needed at least five days to make his three day trip legally. I found out later he was also a tax and welfare cheat. He lived with his ex-wife to whom he was paying no alimony or child support and who was getting AFDC and food stamps.
But I cut him some slack because he went out to my reefer with me to try and troubleshoot my problem. The temp was holding at about ten below and he simply showed me how to erase the error message. Easy peasy. I got a shiny white “T” and that nasty red “K” stayed retired for as long as I had that trailer. Phshew again.
The other driver just seemed like a good guy from Ohio who liked his job and his company, which was a regional.
I might mention that this plant was only two miles from where I lived for eight years in Maumelle, Arkansas. Wish I would have had the opportunity or the means to take a tour of my old haunts. But I didn’t. Plus it was a dark and stormy night. And did I mention that it was cold and windy?
It got worse.
I got onto I-40 just in time for the skies to really open up. It stayed dark and stormy all the way to West Memphis. Plus there seemed to be construction for half that distance and only one lane open for half of the construction. I believe I had a couple of inch es on each side of the truck and did not always maintain a 55 mile an hour speed. I hear other truckers complaining about how slow traffic was moving but nobody mentioned Stevens so I don’t think they were complaining about me.
West Memphis, if I haven’t mentioned it before, is another truck stop heaven. Three fair size truck stops at the first exit west of the Mississippi. Since I was slated to and did fuel up at the Loves, I decided to stay there if I could. After topping off I made two circuits around the lot and attempted a back in on each loop. It was just too shallow and narrow and I was tired and impatient. Plus, it had been raining enough so some of the trucks already parked had water levels up past their first step. So I found a guy who had invented his own new parking area by angling in behind the last line and angle parked right next to him. I was throwing up significant waves in the parking lot / shallow lake as I parked. Fortunately, when I was fueling up, I pulled my 12 inch rubber boots out of the side compartment. Good move. Before I got out to walk to the Loves store to get my fuel receipts and get ready for my night’s sleep, I slipped on the boots and my feet stayed nice and dry as I slogged through the four inch deep water. A genius job of packing I would say.
Glad that day was behind me.