This is the concluding segment recounting my saga of the long and choppy trip from Houston to Florida to New Hampshire to Wisconsin and back to Houston. If it isn’t a perfect square it’s at least a lopsided box.
As I wended my way from Connecticut to Wisconsin, I got as far as a TA in Barkeyville, PA, just 29 miles from the Ohio border by the end of the first day. I stopped at a Flying J along the way for a shower. The next day I got to our Gary terminal. My favorite! Not. While I hate stopping at this outpost located at the end of the worst mile of city streets in the country, I was able to replenish my supply of motor oil and coolant. After a 30 minute break I continued on to Wisconsin. It being early afternoon Sunday, July 6th, I was hoping I could get through downtown Chicago with a minimum or traffic issues. I mostly succeeded.
As I drove north from the city, I did feel bad for the people heading heading south from Wisconsin. Traffic was stop and go for miles north of the Wisconsin / Illinois border. I had scoped out a Petro in Racine as the pace I would stop for the night. Downside was the ramp directly to the Petro was closed due to construction so I had to snake my way down well-marked frontage and back roads to finally get there. The upside was this location had a buffet in their restaurant so I dined on a nice balanced to-go meal for the first time in almost a week. A minor downer was a men’s room with air dryers instead of paper towels.
I was driving to my final in Oshkosh before the sun came up and after a scenic diversion through the industrial park (bad navigation), I found the receiver who got me unloaded very expeditiously.
I was next directed to pick up a relay load from our Neenah terminal that delivered in Plover, WI in an hour or so. Another crappy short run.
They too got me unloaded pretty quickly and I was directed to a Del Monte plant within three miles for a load that I would drop at our Marshfield, WI, terminal for a relay to I forget where. Yet another hour long load. They were killing me with all these short and highly (lowly?) unprofitable (for me) runs.
The human interest in this pickup was the fact that I got to drive through the whole operation before I found the right office. The plant was in the middle of green bean season and semis were streaming in with their hoppers full. It brought back memories of the summers I worked at a Bird’s Eye plant in Waseca, Minnesota where I worked peas and then corn. The equipment, the employees and the smells had me back flashing back from the time I got there until the time I left.
Once I found the right dock I went in the warehouse to track down the shipping personnel. I saw hundreds of pallets stacked with hundreds of thousands of empty cans. This load would be a light one. Cool. Only trouble was, they loaded me up with collapsed cartons which meant the load would be a heavy one. Not cool.
After I was loaded I directed myself to the onsite scale and learned how heavy I was. Real heavy. After a tandem adjustment I set out for Marshfield. Heck, it wasn’t even 2:00 p.m. yet. But I had a date at the terminal and didn’t want to be late.
The date was a little maintenance on my truck. I usually have pretty good luck getting my truck service in Marshfield so I was pretty confident they would finish what they needed to do before the end of the day. I knew I wasn’t going to be going any further that night, but I didn’t want to have to stay up past my bedtime waiting for them to get my truck back to me. I needn’t have worried.
After I dropped my loaded trailer I scooted around to the truck wash bay to get my tractor all spiffy and clean. Since there were trucks behind me I then looped around to vacuum station to clean out the interior. Before I had even finished the driver’s side a technician walked out to tell me he would be doing the maintenance on my truck and to inquire when I might be able to turn it over to him.
Dang! That is SERVICE! I told him I could have it in his bay within five minutes. He was agreeable.
He and an associate took care of everything there was to take care of within two hours. It gave me time to Transflo in my paperwork for the last three loads and to make myself some lunch. I even snagged a shower in the terminal’s less than impressive locker room. I also got my next assignment which was – wait for it – another crappy short run, this time an hour’s drive up to Wausau,WI.
The techs changed all my filters, topped off my fluids, aligned my wheels. checked out my funky wiper and replaced both blades, AND made a repair I hadn’t even told them about filling in a star on my windshield. I don’t even know where the crack came from, but I noticed it a month or so back. It was low and on the passenger side so I didn’t give it much thought. To be honest, the repair didn’t do much. I can still see the star. But it’s the thought that counts and maybe the patch will keep it from spreading.
After getting my truck back I hooked up to the loaded trailer I would be taking to Wausau and weighed it. I had actually talked to the driver who brought the load in from Alabama in the driver’s lounge. I mention this because when I weighed the load it was at least 1,500 pounds over legal on the drive axles. The dude had driven more than a thousand miles over the weight limit. Lucky it was Independence Day weekend because there weren’t many scales open. I certainly didn’t get pulled into any.
Maintained, loaded and showered I had a nice night’s sleep, was up before sunrise (again) and made my way to Wausau. This was a receiver I had delivered to before. It’s one of those places where you have to back into the covered dock through a door. As they unloaded my truck I hiked back about half a mile through their warehouse to use the men’s room. By the time I got back to the receiving office he was pulling the last paper roll off the truck and within two minutes I had my signed paperwork and was pulling away from the dock. Very efficient.
I had my next preplan which was a pickup in Rothschild, Wisconsin, the next town south of Wausau, bound for Garland, Texas. It wasn’t taking me home, but it was a nice run and it was getting me closer.
The routing provided had me running back through Marshfield where I was to top off the tank. Now why would they dispatch me out of Marshfield without topping me off then. I could’ve blown by Marshfield without stopping. I took advantage of the situation by waiting to weigh my load until I got to my terminal.
Quick Refresher: When you weigh at a truck stop you have to pull onto the scale, click the intercom button and give the clerk your truck number and whether it is a first weigh or a reweigh. When they have your weight, the clear you to come in to get your paperwork and pay for the service. First weigh (at CAT scales, at least) costs $10 and unlimited reweighs are only $2 apiece. When you reweigh you have to give them a four digit number that appears on your original weight slip.
THEN, you have to pull off the scale. You can either pull into a legitimate truck stop parking spot or – my personal favorite if the fuel island isn’t too busy – loop around and pull through the fuel pump station up to the pull-ahead line and head in to take care of business. Jerks will often just pull off the scale and off to the side. Some truck stops allow space for this move. At most truck stops this move just inconveniences everyone else.
You then have to get out of your truck and run in to pay and get your weight slip. If the place is jumping, you may have to wait in line. If you have to reweigh, you get to rinse and repeat. Of course, you will have to adjust your trailer tandems before reweighing. Odds are your total weight is okay, but you may be heavy on your drive axles or your trailer axles. This will be important to remember later in this post.
So I get the weight distribution right on the first pass. Even a blind squirrel … Yay!
I get to Texas without incident and stay at a Flying J in Anna. Early the next morning I roll into the greater DFW metroplex and my navigation system decides it wants to take the scenic route. I call up google maps on my smartphone and find a more direct route. Only a mile or two was posted “No Trucks” but I made it to the receiver who unloaded me in no time flat. I cannot say the same about the “planner” who took his or her sweet time finding me a load to Houston. I sat for more than 90 minutes before they found a load I could be late for. Truly. They take more than an hour to find a load that has probably been available for at least half a day.
I get to the warehouse in Arlington just in time to get in line behind 10 other trucks to pick up a load of beer. And they made the line a snake starting at the doors at the back of the facility, around the side to the front where it slithered down the building before it u-turned back to the office. And by the time they got this conga line organized I wasn’t even at the tail end. An hour and 15 minutes later I was backed up to the door where I had the privilege of sitting for another 40 minutes before they started loading. And it was hot enough that my bunk A/C was barely keeping up.
Another 20 minutes and I had my paperwork and was out in the street trying to balance my very heavy load of Corona which was to be delivered to a distributor in Rosenberg, TX, southwest of Houston by 8:30 the next morning.
I weighed my load at the scale at a TA on I-20 south of Dallas. The spot I would normally have parked in order to run in and settle up was already occupied by two truck so I had to go to their traditional lot. I then had to walk about 500 yards in the heat to the fuel desk where I’d get my weight slip.
GREAT NEWS! They were training in a new clerk. Six people in line and the experienced clerk was letting the trainee run the cash register and talking her through every step. TWICE!
I called on my inner reserves of patience which was somehow deep enough that I was able to avoid popping an artery before I got the bad news. Turns out I didn’t do such a good job balancing. I was 1,400 pounds heavy on my trailer tandems. So I fastwalked back to my truck, moved my tandems and reweighed.
The good news was I was able to find a temporary parking spot a lot closer to the fuel desk. Of course, the training was still going on, but I managed a fast recharge of my patience reserve and the line wasn’t quite as long. The bad news? I was now about 800 pounds heavy on my drives.
So I reweighed AGAIN. Found another close spot to park but when I got back to the fuel desk, the line was longer and evidently the trainee was evidently” trained.” No trainer. She may have been trained but she was by no means speedy. While I waited, with drivers getting in lane behind me, another experienced-looking clerk walked through the area to a computer where it kinda looked like she was clocking OUT.
I couldn’t help myself. I said in a rather loud voice, “Is there NOONE who can help this new employee handle this crowd?”
The experienced clerk looked towards me, paused a moment, then went to another cash register and started dealing with customers. The guy in front of me, obviously fearing for his safety and well-being, waved me to the front of the line where I finally got the good news that I was legal.
All this wasted time meant I would NOT get to Houston before my hours ran out. I would NOT be spending the night at home. Dang.
I got as far as Huntsville, about 40 miles north of the truck stop near my house. Double dang. Since it was still relatively early, and I had a shower credit burning a hole in my Pilot/Flying J loyalty account, I decided to shower and get the sweat and grime of the day (actually two days) off of me before I turned in for the night.
More great news. As I ran (and ran … and ran … and ran) the water just to wash my hands before I took my contact lenses out, I found that the water wasn’t getting too hot. So I cranked on the water in the shower. It stayed decidedly cool. With my dirty clothes already on the floor and me wanting to get clean and back in the truck for the night, I bit the bullet and took a cold shower. Not fun.
On the way out, I stopped at the front desk and instructed them to credit my account for the shower since it didn’t live up to my expectations. He didn’t blink. When I asked why they didn’t put out a sign saying they had no hot water, he responded with the simple statement, “They wouldn’t let me.” I kid you not. They were evidently afraid the news would set off a riot.
Too shocked and too tired to respond, I shook my head and, as the skies let loose a nice rain shower (which was warmer than the shower I had just taken), I walked back to my rolling palace.
Up early the next morning, I made it through Houston before the traffic got ugly and arrived at the beer distributorship an hour early. I was expecting an adult beverage fantasy oasis. And while it was an orderly-looking place with cases of beer and other malt beverages stacked to the ceiling, it smelled like a New Orleans gutter. Ah, well. I was on my way to our drop lot back in Houston within 90 minutes.
This was a circuit around the country I do not care to repeat.