I am referring to my trip from Los Angeles – Ontario, actually – to Salinas, about 80 miles south of San Francisco. I was empty so the climbs up the mountains allowed me to pass dozens of other trucks as they were struggling up the 4 – 6% grades. And the descents were a breeze since I didn’t have 40,000 pounds of cargo forcing me down the hills at potentially breakneck speeds.
Before I get to the geography lesson and the photos, let me recap my arrival in California. I finally got to Greater LA after the tools at TA Phoenix finally got my APU fixed. The downtime actually allowed me to score another 34 hour reset so I had lotsa hours to play with.
About 30 minutes after I was fixed I got a message saying that my delivery appointment had been pushed back 24 HOURS. Nobody could tell me why. I now had two full days to drive 54o miles. Since that was double what I needed I messaged in for a repower. Knowing that an electronic repower request alone had never once gotten me a new load, I followed up with phone calls. A NUMBER of phone calls. I think I made my fill-in Driver Manager cry once.
Be careful what you wish for. After I got to L.A. and was on I-20 about halfway through the metro area, I got a repower. I would have to backtrack 40 miles and do a local delivery, but at least I would be off my load and ready to pick up another one the next morning, so I found my way back to the Kenworth dealership in Fontana where the other guy was getting his truck repaired. I saw the other rig waiting near the service driveway.
The driver informed me that he was all fixed and would be able to complete his delivery. After listening to my expletive-laced response, he reevaluated, and decided we could go ahead and swap.
So we switched trailers. Turns out the trailer I was giving him had a flat, but other than a moment’s guilt, we completed the swap. Not wanting to wait for the official electronic instructions for getting to my new delivery, I just loaded the address on the Bill of Lading into my QualComm navigation. That was a mistake.
I was guided through a nice little lower class residential neighborhood to the back end of an industrial park. “We’re here,” said the Nav Chick.
I was stopped on the paved road and looked down the gravel road to the back end of a large industrial building more than a quarter mile away. I thought a minute and decided I had been down worse roads and turned onto the gravel road and went until it was clear that it would NOT lead me to a delivery. Sigh.
I called the receiver and got the correct address. It was 13.4 miles away. I told him I’d get there as soon as I could.
I got out of my truck and looked through the cloud of dust back up the gravel road. No way to turn around. Did I mention the gravel road was right next to a railroad track. So I slipped the transmission into reverse and backed up to the road, got out again and looked up and down the paved road, and backed across the paved road. I took a deep, dusty breath, let a car and a school bus pass (of course the school bus had to stop at the RR tracks and open its doors), and got started for the correct destination.
Delivery made (there was a $222 late fee – not my fault, the load was late because the other driver had broken down), I sent in my “Empty at Final” message and made my way back to the TA in Ontario. This was the same TA where I had called 911 for my trainer who was just sinking into his diabetic coma. My hope was that I would get a load before I was parked for the night.
Silly boy, silly boy.
There was no preplan. Nor was there a preplan in the morning. Nor was there a preplan at noon. I had had several direct conversations with the fine Stevens personnel in Dallas. My DM, who had been on medical leave for the last month, was his typical non-helpful self. “Freight is slow,” he messaged.
That led to several emails to the Lead Counselor who I had begged to release me from the company. My begging was for naught, but I promised that she would be hearing from me again.
I wrote,”If freight is slow and I’m not driving, it obviously means you have a surplus of drivers. You can ease the surplus by letting me drive off into the sunset.” I reported the lack of miles and all the BS they were shoveling my was. “Awww. That’s too bad,” she thoughtfully replied.
That made my first phone conversation with my newly returned DM rather heated. If his stitches weren’t fully healed, there might have been some seepage from his incision.
At about 2 p.m. I got a load. I talked to produce and hit the road for Salinas shortly thereafter. I would get the actual pick appointment time the next morning. So I had a delightful drive. I’ll tie up this trip to and from hell below but for now, check out the photos:
A few miles down the road, I saw where the helicopters were coming from. They were sucking up water from a lake and transporting it to the fire. I continued north of I-5 and hit the flatlands. Another 50 miles up the road and I was routed off the freeway and a onto a sometimes 2- and sometimes 4-lane highway west.
I saw fruit trees, almond trees, large fields of undetermined vegetables, and a huuuuge cattle feedlot. While I would have expected free range cows, and saw a lot of them, this was one big feed lot. I hit the recirculate button on my A/C just in time and avoided the stench.
And then I came upon another surprising sight:
I continued west on CA 46 and got into some serious wine country. It was getting dark so the photos just didn’t work. Paso Robles was as far as I went on 46 and it was beautiful and jumping. The two RV parks I saw were packed. More than 90 percent of the occupants were tipsy from all the wine tasting, I’m sure.
I reached Salinas just before 10 and found a slot at “The Big Dirt Lot” a quarter mile north of the produce processor I would be visiting in the morning. Good night.