My alarm went off for the second morning in a row at 1:40. I had already been up about an hour earlier and even though I had barely slept since then, I guess I was asleep because I was in the middle of a dream and my hands fumbled to turn the alarm on my Droid off. I was at a TA, in Bloomfield, Pennsylvania, and had less than 350 miles to go to my drop in Andover, Massachusetts.
Knowing that I was heading into what was being hyped as the Storm of the Century, dubbed Nemo by the Weather Channel, I made a last minute decision that I should stock up before I got there. Since there was a Walmart across the freeway that I had been too lazy to walk to the evening before, I gave them a call to see if they were 18-wheeler- friendly. No problem, they said. Just park over by the garden center.
I got my roast pork, frozen veggies, some protein bars, a six pack of protein drinks, a package of precooked pork links, an eight pack of Coke Zero, two bananas, two trays of on sale Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and hit the road for Massachusetts. I’d put myself about 30 minutes behind schedule but I didn’t want to be stranded at some roadside rest and be without my daily [gluten-free] bread.
It was dark, I was still a bit groggy, and before long I was seeing mist on my windshield. That’s not good, I thought. And while I thought I might be able to make up some time once I got on the road I had forgotten how mountainous eastern Pennsylvania is. And that carries into downstate New York and even Massachusetts. There were numerous times I was in seventh(!) gear struggling up hills. After a stop at a fake Pilot – it had NO parking and NO coffee other than at the overpriced Dunkin Donuts in the store – and having to get another truck out of my way just so I could make it around the fuel island, I spent about 20 minutes climbing a mountain from a dead stop. But for that little break, I might have made my drop on time.
At my last bio break in Connecticut, I stopped at a turnpike plaza to take care of some serious business and even with an attendant actually in the men’s room I picked the stall with no toilet paper! When I visited the McDonalds to get a “$1.00 any size coffee” I had seen advertised on a dozen billboards on the way in, I was charged $2.25. You see, the dollar coffee isn’t valid at tollway plazas. Who do they think they are, the government?
Well at least the roads were now dry and I would only be 15 minutes late for my drop. I called ahead and they said no problem. It was snowing very lightly as I pulled into the refrigerated warehouse. Although I went to the wrong side of the house first, I got to the correct set of doors expeditiously and was even met by a lumper on my way to the receiving office. He directed to back up to Door 17 and they’d get me unloaded quickly. “Who are you, really?” I asked, “and do you work here?”
He smiled and nodded and I got backed into Door 17. Within 25 minutes they had me unloaded and ready to roll. I already had a pre plan for a pick up 42 miles north of there in New Hampshire. The address was 1 Chocolate Way, so I was already thinking samples.
I called ahead to make sure they’d be there and that it would be okay to come early since it was 10:30 and my appointment wasn’t until 2 p.m. No problem, he said, they’d be going home at 2:00. So with the snow picking up a bit, I hit the road north. The snow started falling heavier and there were only tracks on the roadway. About five miles out I called again to make sure they hadn’t been dismissed because of the weather. No, come on, they said.
I found my way to the end of Chocolate Way, Lindt and Sprungli was the only business on it surprise, surprise, and located the shipping office with the help of a plow guy. Yes, it was snowing harder with each passing minute. I was directed to Door 11 and informed they didn’t do samples (dang!). But it was a nice crew and they had me loaded within an hour. I ‘d identified a TA truck stop less than 10 miles away. My Nav Chick wanted me to go back roads but the geography guy at Chocolate Way (a native of East Africa, interestingly enough) suggested getting back to the tollway. I shoulda listened to him.
As I approached the main road outside the industrial park, I programmed Nav Chick to take me to the TA. As she was “Finding Route” I took a left on the back road and thought, this isn’t so bad. After a mile or so, Nav Chick had not found the route and there was no place to stop to try again. So I mushed on.
Things were going swimmingly, or should I say sleddingly, until I crossed the tollway and came to a stop sign. Cars were lined up behind me so I figured I should keep moving. I knew I had to take a left, and then stay to the left where the road forked about 30 yards up the road. I made my move. There was a moderate incline on the road I would be taking so I got my momentum up. As I hit the bottom of the hill, I felt my drive wheels slipping to the right.
Scheisse! I was using German profanity and I don’t even speak German. I had a mental image of me and my big rig sliding slowly into the ditch and not being able to drive out. I was estimating how much the wrecker bill would be and thought, I can’t afford that!
So I kept my foot on the accelerator and tried not to spin the wheels too much. I was glad I only had a 15,000 pound load. I willed myself slowly up the hill. As soon as I was flattened out again, I saw the “No Trucks Except for Local Deliveries” sign. Scheisse, wieder!
I was committed now. Onward. I meandered through a rural residential area and eventually crossed the tollway again. I looked at the map on my QualComm and saw that the roadway kept getting farther from the tollway. As I was passing through the southern side of what I thought was Greenland (New Hampshire, not the country) the houses were increasing in number and getting closer together. A county road plow was approaching from the other direction so I stopped, right in the middle of my lane (I counted eight vehicles behind me) and put my hand out the window. He was almost past me when he noticed and stopped. He rolled down his window.
“Friend, can you tell me if there’s a TA up ahead?” I hopefully inquired.
So I got to the TA, found a nice drive through spot – it being only half full at the moment – and set the parking brake.
Phshew! I don’t how long I’ll be here, it’s 24 hours later and the show has stopped, but I got my spot and the restrooms and restaurant are but a short walk through the snow. In fact, I made the short walk at about 4 p.m. and partook of the all you can eat fish special at the Country Pride Restaurant. I consumed more food in one sitting than I had in a long, long time. Back in the truck I booted up my laptop, called the family, perused the internet and discovered that I could get live video feeds on the Weather Channel website. So I caught up on the progress of the storm and how long we could expect to be pummeled.
The communications signal was so strong I was able to watch a movie on Crackle with a minimal number of burps. “Vacancy” with Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale was a scare the pants off you flick but I managed to finish it before I ran out of gas.
The plows were working until I shut down at about 8:30. I didn’t wake up until 7:30 and although there was less snow than I was expecting the lot looked to be full. I didn’t venture outside until about 11:00. I didn’t see a truck moving or even a human being until about 10:30. I got fully dressed, put on my parka and tall rubber boots and ventured outside. It was 18 degrees, but it didn’t feel particularly cold. Maybe my Minnesota bred blood was reclaiming my system.
Inside, I got a cup of coffee and, the place being full of truckers, listened to the conversations. Couple of guys predicted we wouldn’t be out of here until Tuesday (it’s Saturday now). And that was only IF the second storm (second storm?!?) heading our way, didn’t arrive early.
Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut had all roads shut down, except for emergencies. Maine wouldn’t be reopening their highways until 7 p.m. at the earliest.
So here I sit in Greenland, New Hampshire, waiting until the roads reopen. Hope it’s tomorrow and not Tuesday.