Coffee heat rising

Adventures of Connie the Trucker

Black Dog, Naked Russian
May 2020

by Connie Graham

I was on my way to Moultrie, Georgia, with a load of frozen food and was planning on stopping for the night in a place called Cherokee Nation Truck Stop. In Roland, OK, it’s pretty much a mini mart next to a casino off Interstate 40. I don’t gamble, but I did need to do some laundry. And this place has a couple of secret parking spots I KNOW will be available, no matter how late it would be when I got there. Yes.

As expected, it was late when I pulled into the lot. But there were only two other trucks. How incredibly odd. I expected the usual 25 to 30. I backed into a spot next to a red Kenworth, said hello to the driver (he had a heavy Russian accent) and headed off toward the mini mart. Then I saw the sign on the store door.

Crap.

CLOSED BECAUSE OF COVID.

I can handle the camping in the truck thing, but I needed to fill my water jugs to be able to spiffy up before bed. Ptooey!

It was around midnight by the time I’d finished my paperwork, feeding the cat and dog and walking said dog up the road and back again. It was dark and creepy on that road. No street lights. But the Cherokee place had the parking area lit up. I was, thankfully, parked next to one of the light poles.

After resigning my surly ass to having to wash my face with drinking water, I  noticed a rubber hose on the ground next to one of the fuel pumps. It was attached to a spigot.

Aha! Water!

I filled two jugs and headed back to the truck. But something was moving behind the light pole between my truck and the red KW. Oh boy.

It was the Russian dude, totally naked, peeing on the ground on the other side of the light pole. What to do. What to do.

I ignored him and proceeded to get into my truck. Which, now that I think about it, must have seemed odd to him (not much odder than lurking around a light pole naked, I guess).

I used to drive a truck with no passenger seat. It was so much easier to get in and out on that side because there isn’t a steering wheel to stab you in the side when you are sliding in. So I was entering the truck on the side with the naked Russian situation going on when I didn’t have to. Ha! At any rate, we were successful in ignoring each other.

The next morning, after feeding dog and cat, and walking back up and down the hill (not so creepy with the sun out), we were on our way south toward Georgia. I stopped at a Love’s along the way for some sort of food-like substance and caffeine.

Hell. None of the usual hot-dog-shaped goodies were on the grill. Why? Plague, of course. And drivers are no longer allowed to fill their own containers. At Love’s, there is now an employee to get your coffee for you so that you don’t infect the whole place with your trucker cooties.

This is a challenge in several respects. The person who is wearing the mask that prevents you from hearing anything they say, really doesn’t want to be there waiting on your sorry ass, and really really doesn’t want to be wearing a mask in the first place. You, the driver, have to yell over the top of tables and displays which are stacked up around the coffee area to protect the Love’s employee from your Covid spittle. You also have to order two or three times before the message is properly received, and what you get is in the wrong sized cup with the wrong amount of cream, etc.  It’s a wonderful experience for all involved.

I was already irritable enough, but the Love’s chick pushed it to a new level. When she filled the medium-instead-of-large cup with Colombian instead of House Mild, I let it slide. All I wanted was to put the correct amount of cream in myself. Is that too much to ask?? She refused to give me the creamers and instead poured about half a cup of cream from a dispenser into a second coffee cup. What was she doing for Pete’s sake? Then she walked over to me, around the fortress of protection tables and began pouring the cream into the coffee kind of up in my face. I tried to grab the cream from her before the tsunami ruined my coffee, to no avail.

Didn’t I see this on an episode of Seinfeld? Surely I did.

I made it to an out-of-the-way place that night. Another one of my go-to truck stops that most drivers don’t or won’t frequent. It’s all about parking these days. And I can usually find parking in one of these hole in the walls.

Yes, electronic log devices suck.  Hours-of-service rules suck as well. But the absolute worst change in the entire trucking industry is the fact that with the implementation of those two things is a free-for-all every single day around 4 and 5 PM.  We are all, at the same time, LOOKING FOR A PLACE TO PARK!!

IT REALLY SUCKS!!

Anyway…

The town we stayed at that night is called Hickory Flat. In Mississippi.

Not to be confused with Pollard Flats, the really cool cabin-looking place near Mount Shasta, California, with the naked lady mannequin in a bathtub that scares unsuspecting patrons using the bathroom for the first time.

But I digress.

I always think of Elvis when driving through the area. Tupelo isn’t too far away.

Anyway, off we go, still south, toward this town I’ve never heard of in Georgia.

About 40 miles into the trip, I saw an animal on the right side of the road, running north toward the traffic. It was a black dog. And it was really booking it. My first thought was that the dog was lost. Then I realized, we were not near a town. Someone had dumped this poor creature and driven off. You see it all out here.

I pulled off to the right on an exit ramp  that appeared as if by magic. I had traveled about 150 feet from the place where I had seen the dog. Could I catch up to him? Do I have time for this? No. But I don’t care. I told Silver and Monster that I would be right back (yes I did) and began trotting back towards the area of the dog sighting.

After less than five minutes of “running” with lead in my ass, I realized that with the dog running in front and away from me, my chances of catching up with the beast were zero. Drat. I stopped at the top of a hill. Traffic was zooming by blowing my hair all over the place. Drat. What do I do? I am spent. Track star I am not. Not. Not. Not.

The highway curved around to the left and out of sight. I didn’t see a dog anywhere. My heart sank. Poor little black doggie. I can’t save you.

As a last resort I cupped my hands around my mouth (does that do anything?) and yelled as loudly as I could, “Puppy!! Come here puppy!! Here puppy!!!” over and over. Which was dumb. I could hardly even hear myself over the traffic noise.

Nothing. Of course. So I started walking back to the truck. Wondering if I would ever get a stray dog to come to me. It’s only happened a few times. They usually run away when you call them or get too close. Sigh.

I had walked back down the hill toward my truck about 40 feet when I saw something to my left. Something black and low to the ground.

It was black dog!!! He was a she, and she came back all that way! How did she hear me over the traffic noise?

It took a bit of coaxing to get her close to me at all. She kept running to me and then running away. Several times she ran out onto the highway and scared the hell out of me. It was hard to get her to come back. I told her as matter-of-factly as I could, that she needed to come with me and I began walking back down the hill again. She followed! And when we got to the truck (passenger side, of course) I climbed in and said “come on!” and she jumped in! Wow.

Now what??

I can’t have two dogs and a cat in a truck. And Silver is not impressed with this interloper. This sweet as pie little black doggie had ticks on her ear and neck, which I removed post haste. Eeewww.

I called several numbers. No humane society or shelters of any kind were answering their phones. Why? Because of the damn virus. Shit!

I resigned myself to having two dogs and a cat at least for the day. I was now running waaaay behind schedule. Time to proceed down the big road, as they say.

When I got to Birmingham I needed to get fuel. A Pilot was a designated stop on this trip. And it was a real dive. Old. Hard to get into. Small. More like a gas station really.

I turned on the AC for the animals and jumped out to fill my tanks. When I was done, I got back in to pull the truck forward, out of the way, for the next driver. But there was shit on my seat. And shit on the floor. And on the bed. What the hell? This new black doggie must be sick. She might have Parvo!!

Oh, what have I gotten myself into?!

I tried calling the humane society again. Again no answer. This can’t be happening. Then I realized that it was Silver who let loose all over the truck. It was all over her and she was on the bed…  oh my.

It gets worse. The refrigeration unit on the trailer was not running and the temperature of the load was too high. This was not happening.

Not. Not. Not.

Now we are on our way to the Thermo King dealer in Birmingham. Extra dog, upset dog, dog poo and all. Oh boy!

(Monster the cat was chill this entire time. What a good sport she is/was.)

When I arrived at the Service Dept. of the Thermo King facility I made sure to ask if anyone was aware of an animal rescue group anywhere. Or anyone who might be able to help with little black dog. Nope.

I walked out to the truck with one of the mechanics (Mario) to show him the dead cooling unit. He asked about the black dog as she was looking out of the driver’s side window near where we were standing. I explained the situation and I’ll be dipped if he didn’t volunteer to take her. His German Shepherd had died 2 years ago and it was time for his broken heart to mend.

There is a God. This man actually took the rest of the day off to take black dog home with him. And he lived on a ranch.

It has been a month since black dog was found running along the interstate and I think about her all the time. Is she OK? Did she like her new dad? Did she get scared and run away? I had to know…so I called the Thermo King place today. The Service Advisor lady who was friends with Mario answered the phone. At first she didn’t know what I was talking about. I then mentioned that a mechanic took a black dog home. Didn’t she remember? Oh yes! She did. And black dog “has fixed herself to Mario’s six-year-old and they are inseparable! She is very happy at her new home. You can be sure of that!”

So another chapter closes.

Life is good. Covid and all.

And with that, I say goodnight.

Connie on the Road: Travels with an Escape Artist

By the end of April, Connie the Queen of the Big Rigs is headed back home (Phoenix) for a five-day turnaround. Silver the Ingenious Weimaraner refines her plan to take to the road — not on 18 wheels, but on four feet.

Oklahoma on My Mind…

Buffalo exhibit next to the boot store
Buffalo exhibit near the boot store
Old wagon by the boot store
Old wagon near the boot store
Big puddle next to the exit ramp... by the boot store. Noooooooo!!!
Big puddle next to the exit ramp… by the boot store. Noooooooo!!!

Fine Dining

Going home in a couple of hours. Done here at Sysco Foods.

This is the kind of “food” I’ve been eating for a couple of days. I have run out of my stash of “healthy provisions.” Does this give me “junk food foodie” status?

10 Junk food machineConnie’s Best-Laid Plans…

11 Dog DetentionMy attempt at keeping the doggie from escaping.

Covered the door handle by hanging a towel over the window.

12 Dog DetentionThis is how it looked when I came back from dinner. She sure tried!

April Turns to May…

Was home for 5 days. Too many projects! (still have not done my taxes – yikes)

In Nogales again picking up watermelon. Woohoo!

Found this in the paid parking lot on the ground under someone else’s trailer at Danny’s Truck Resort when I went to pick up the truck Monday. That enough prepositional phrases for ya?

No, I did not show it to the cashier. I had actually overpaid for the spot but didn’t feel like trying to explain it to anyone at the “resort.”

12A bill

Mother’s Day

Happy Freakin’ Mothers Day to all you mothers out there!

This day has turned out to be a mother.

I used to make Puke/Emote lists in high school so I could remember what was going well and what I felt I should be worrying about.

You know, like, did I have anything to wear? Were we going to float down the river that weekend and was I too fat to wear a bathing suit? Did I get a good grade in (yuck) German class? Did the cute guy who sat near me in Algebra say hi?

In honor of Mothers Day, I am going to share my Puke/Emote list for the week. Will make it up as I go along…

Please note that this is in no way all-inclusive and is subject to revision at any time.

Will start with Puke, so I don’t have to end this post on a sour note(!)

Puke

1) My iPhone will not hold a charge. The ATT store manager in Phoenix said it could not possibly be the battery because they are “integrated” with the phones now. I am not believing this but go along. I just want my phone to work, dammit. He sells me two chargers and is sure both of mine have to be bad. Because, again, it CAN’T possibly be a bad battery.

2) I swapped trailers with a guy in Phoenix and did not notice the bent bumper until just now. Hope they don’t try and blame it on me.

3) After being gone a day I notice my phone will still not hold a charge.

4) Saw a Facebook post with a horrible picture of Donald Trump’s son holding up a body part from an animal he killed. I fear it is not Photoshopped. I am now traumatized! There are no words that would describe how much I loathe people who kill for fun.

5) I was asked to do the broker of this load a “favor” and deliver it one day early. WTF? Of course I said yes as I am new to this company and, well, if they are really in dire need of my watermelons who am I to judge?

I was already tired from my time “off” at the house, and in order to drive the required miles in the shortened time span I did what has always worked in the past. I ATE my way across Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and 100 miles of Minnesota. Three large cups of coffee, one cheeseburger, three chocolate protein bars (choc caramel, choc coconut and choc pnut butter), 1/3 of a container of peanut butter pretzel nuggets, cheese popcorn, and an entire bag of XXX Red Hot Cheetos got me as far as the IA/MN border. Now I have heartburn and my pants are too tight.

6) I arrived at Russ Davis Warehouse in Eagan, Minnesota at 5 PM on Saturday, May 7 AS REQUESTED only to be told by the Receiving Clerk guy that they did not need the watermelons early. Could I just come back tomorrow?

7) Drove 60 miles out-of-route (unpaid miles) back to the Flying J truck stop to chill out. I tried calling friends to vent but all you mothers were busy!! I did get to vent to new roommate who has major issues with his insane boss at work. This helped.

8) Got up early the next morning to get in a much-needed shower. Was hurrying to make sure I did not miss my original delivery appointment. Dropped a glass bottle of face make up (brand new, of course) onto the tile floor and it EXPLODED when it landed. It was everywhere. In the grout cracks, on the walls and all over the side of my boot and crispy clean jeans.

9) I scurried back out to the truck after cleaning up the mess and did not see Silver’s happy face in the window to greet me. The drivers side door was open. She had decided to escape out of the drivers side door since I cardboarded up the one on her side. NOOOOO!!!

Ran around the parking lot and woods calling frantically. Lots of people in the car and truck parking lots said they had seen a “hound dog” running around. Ten minutes into it a woman pointed into the woods to tell me someone spotted the dog back there and I called out Silver’s name again. She came zipping out of the woods with wet/muddy paws – barking as she ran toward me in a total panic.

10) Now the door panels of both doors are scarred up with scratches from the dog trying to claw her way out of the truck. I got an estimate to repair the damage: $350 per door.

11) I got unloaded at the organic produce place around noon. The forklift driver came out with my signed bills and informed me that nine of the 54 bins of watermelons were rejected and put back in the trailer. I am now parked near an off ramp waiting for the broker to tell me what to do with them. I know what I’d like to tell him to do with them.

Emote

1) I have two great new roommates and they each have a little doggie of the small terrier sort’

2) I still have a job!

3) The weather is 65 degrees here in Minnesota today and all the trees have greened up.

4) My Peterbilt still looks cool and it still has a chrome visor and bumper.

5) I don’t live in a trailer down by the river.

6) Have not had a zit in quite some time.

7) It’s Sunday and I have time to finish all my paperwork before I go to the office tomorrow.

8) My dog is awesome.

9) The world is my oyster.

13 rejected melons
Rejected watermelons
14 silver
Riding shotgun

My wild child enjoying the Minnesota flowers – next to the highway ramp!

15 silver

What is one of the most disgusting things on this planet?

Yes. A tick.

Silver must have picked one up on her romp through the woods this morning. Found it on her stomach while I was giving her loves just now. Total freak out…because I am so mature.

16 tick

Silver made another friend at the evil watermelon rejection company today.

18 Silver & pal

Arrived at Destination: Need GPS to Find Door

This might not seem that annoying to the average person, but when such a large part of the day is spent following signs at places and on roads you have never been to/on before, an accurate sign really means a lot.

Can you tell by looking at this sign where the Receiving office is?

17 receiving door

The Saga of Connie and Silver…

Westward from Albuquerque
Flying Low across the Country
El Paso
Along the Border
Eastward Bound

On the Road with Connie: Westward Bound from Albuquerque

While I’ve been diddling away my life editing and indexing other people’s golden words, Connie the Queen of the Big Rigs has crossed the continent twice, accompanied by Silver, her faithful (and slightly neurotic) sidekick. Let’s catch up with her in New Mexico.

Heading Home from Albuquerque

There is the flag, apple pie, and US FOODS in Albuquerque. This place is about a mile away from the evil Ben E Keith company.

Look at the size of their lot!!!

1 Albuquerque truck lot

When I was assigned to drive this cool truck, I was surprised to find there wasn’t much in the way of shelving in the bunk. Specifically, next to the bed, there is no spot to put an alarm clock, hand lotion, phone, book or whatever. ACK. Was I supposed to put my stuff on the floor???

I hadn’t much time, but quickly found 3 small boxes and a couple of empty food containers to strap-tape together. I McGivered myself a shelf!

2 nightstand

4 silverSilver is doing her imitation of the Flying Nun. Noticed the angst on her face because I left for 5 minutes to get the paperwork. Poor kid. So emotional.

3 Silver

Found my notes from my first visit to Ben E Keith.

5 notes

I was passing by the ultra cool Whiting Bros sign on Interstate 40 in New Mexico today. There is no place to park to get a decent picture and I wondered if I might be able to find one online. And I did.

It was on this particular stretch of highway a few weeks ago that I noticed a little lumpy thing on Silvers neck while I was scritching it.

At first I thought it was my imagination. I kept up with the scritching and there it was again. I am not a fan of icky bugs, fungus, boils, rotten anything, etc. But for some reason, ticks creep me out the most.

I took the first exit off the highway, made a u-turn on the side of the road and proceeded to search frantically for the offending parasite. I could not find it!! I kept up the search for another few minutes (what if it got loose in the truck for Gods sake?) until I heard a voice say, “Ma’m, why are you parked here? Do you know you are blocking the frontage road?”

I looked out the drivers side window to see who this person could be and …. surprise! It was a DOT officer.

I could not think of a plausible lie so I just said, “Well, I’m looking for a tick and I can’t find it?”

I guess I was hoping he’d say, “Well, in THAT case, you just take all the time you need little lady. I have dogs myself and I truly understand your plight.”

But he didn’t. He wasn’t impressed in the least and suggested very strongly that I move along and get the ass end of my trailer out of the road. Oops.

6 frontage rd

§

Crap. I just went into the Little America truck stop in Flagstaff to wash my hands. Gone less than 5 minutes. Silver was in the back lot looking for me.

Now to bed. Gotta get up at 3AM to drive into Phoenix.

Missed Connie’s earlier adventures?
It’s never too late!

Flying Low across the Country
El Paso
Along the Border
Eastward Bound

Connie on the Road: Flying Low across the Country

Chapter 4 in the Adventures of Connie Queen of the Big Rigs…

Hurry up!

by Connie Graham

Oh man. I thought this morning’s CF was over. But noooooooo

Didn’t get much sleep the past two days because the truck and trailer were in the shop at different times. Left me with WAY too many miles to cover yesterday. Totally caffeined out, stressed from phone calls from dispatch and the broker asking when I would be at Super Valu in Minneapolis. Warned not to be late…fines impending, etc. Silver is bored and wants to get out and play. I want to take a shower!! And sleep!!!

Second Monster drink down…almost there…gotta pee bad…

Got to the exit and I have exactly 15 minutes to find the guard shack or I’ll be L A T E.

Sign at the street where I am getting ready to turn says “NO TRUCKS”.

This is starting to become a habit. Why was I not warned about this???

I have no phone number to call the Super Valu people. Perhaps this is because if I actually had their phone number I would have unloaded on them. Flames were coming out of my ears.

I had to find a way to get off the f-ing freeway to turn around.

I called dispatch at Hensley after getting stuck in a Honda sales lot while trying to turn around. Scott answered the phone and guided me to the Super Valu building.

All was well… sort of. I got there with 5 minutes to spare!! Checked in to receiving office and was told to back into door 30. So I did. About 20 minutes later a guy from the warehouse came out to ask me if I had a “roll up” door? CRAP I backed into the dock without opening the trailer doors!! Nice.

SuperValueTruck

What Makes Dogs Happy?

SilverInMudWe are back at the Hensley yard in Osakis. Silver saw my friend Melanie standing by the shop with her Chihuahua and went berserk. The whole place was a mud bog as it has been raining and the place is not paved. I decided to go ahead and let her run around in the mud. So she did.

She also decided to share her enthusiasm with me by bouncing off my leg.

Decoration courtesy of Silver the Truck Dog
Decoration courtesy of Silver the Truckin’ Dog

 The Magical Mystery Sound

April 19: I have a truck question. Please, if anyone out there can help me with this….

I just got my truck out of the shop. Everyone has gone home and the 3 people I have phone numbers for are not answering.

Here is my problem:

There is a beeping noise coming from the bunk in my truck. It goes off every 30 seconds. Sounds like when a smoke detector needs a new battery. I can’t find the source of the noise. I haven’t the faintest idea what it is or how to make it stop!!

Ideas please?

A long series of suggestions was emitted by members of the peanut gallery. All wrong. Nary a one of them fixed the problem.

* * *

April 20: O.K. The mechanic at work looked under my bunk and pointed to a silver box that looked like a big stereo amplifier. It’s called a power inverter. Plugs into the truck batteries and allows you to plug things into an extension cord on its power. Or something like that. I’m tired.

So this power inverter started beeping because the mechanic unplugged it from the batteries while working on my APU yesterday. So all the second guy had to do was flip a switch to reset it. GEEZE. No more beep!!!!!!

Back at the Ranch

ConnieElPasoGuy1
Her (not-so-) secret admirer

I enjoyed my calm repose in the drivers’ room at the Hensley yard. Brian, the guy who had lost his wedding ring (and found it in the dirt), came in to give me ribbing about the security guard in El Paso who had been asking about me. Remember the older Mexican dude in the cowboy hat? Oh noooooo! He had been asking other Hensley drivers when I was coming back.

I should have seen this coming. When I took his picture to put on Facebook, he decided I must be in love. Blew me a kiss as I was driving off.

This all got back to my boss who, thankfully, just thought it was funny.

Kaleb (mechanic) came in to ask me about the truck service he was about to do. He also said the boss was real happy about how nice the place looked after I cleaned the drivers’ room last week (I was bored) and said he (boss man) left a care package for me. I began looking around for a pretty basket containing potpourri, tasty candies, hand lotion and a gift certificate to Starbucks…

I turned around and found a black milk crate full of cleaning supplies and a hard hat with my name across the front written on duct tape. Ha! These people are so cool.

Brian had to go wait outside because his daughter’s boyfriend was coming to the shop to ask Brian if he could marry her. Before he left he told me I should stop by the Dairy Bar and try out their sloppy Joes. Turns out the owner of this Dairy Bar place is his daughter’s teacher and he runs the fast food joint on the side during the summer.

I hosed off my muddy dog, tossed her in the truck and went in search of the sloppy Joe purveyor. I just ate two (gave some to Silver, of course) and can hardly move. Now if I could just get rid of that blasted beeping noise in the bunk I could call it a night and get some sleep.

Passenger as Escape Artist

I was wondering how I could have been so absent minded yesterday. I came back to the truck after eating at the diner in Sauk Centre (the one with the crappy food) and noticed the passenger side door was wide open!! Oh man, how could I have been so forgetful?? Silver was sitting in the seat looking absolutely horrified!! I thought perhaps someone had broken into the truck to steal her and she must have fought them off!! But then I realized that was dumb and scolded myself for the screw-up.

Tonight we are in York, Nebraska. I took Silver on a nice long walk and let her sniff and pee all she wanted. Had a little time to kill…. Then, like yesterday, I went into the restaurant to eat. After dinner, as was leaving, I saw a large muddy dog running back and forth on the other side of the glass drivers entrance doors. WTF??? OMG!!! It was Silver — SilverInBunktotally spazzing out. I went outside and threw my arms open — she jumped all over me. She was wiggling around like a fish and I could not keep a hold of her. So off we go toward the truck, and there is the door wide open again.

I thought she was locked in when I locked the door. Apparently she figured out how to push down the door handle to escape. Just for an experiment I locked her in again and went back into the building to get some water. Yep. She was at the doors waiting for me.

How Can I Tell You? Let Me Count the Ways…

TurnSignalWarning

 Navigating the 21st Century

I was driving in the rain through a dozen small towns in Minnesota a couple of nights ago trying to stay on Highway 23. I was going out of my mind over the lack of signage. In one particular spot in a town called Willmar, the road came to a “T.” The sign at the “T” had no freakin numbers or words – just a double arrow pointing to the left and right. Like a driver can’t figure that part out? Oh, let’s see…should I turn left or right or into the tree?

GPSI did not know if “23” was still around, or whether south would be a left or right turn. SURPRISE!!! I guessed wrong. I turned right and drove a couple of miles until I saw a sign that said I was now on 70 North.

Fast forward to me parked on the side of the road calling anyone who might know the area to tell me what happened to 23. My two very good friends, also women drivers, both strongly suggested I stop what I was doing and figure out how to use the GPS on the truck. I couldn’t figure it out several times before. I am not such a great figure-outer. Never have been. But I made myself look at the damn thing, and after 20 minutes I had it figured out.

I will still be getting lost once in a while, but I know if I ever find that blasted sign with the double arrow, my GPS will say “Turn left in 20 feet and remain on highway 23.”

In the Can’t Win Department…

Dammit!! Finally got a shower after FOUR days (remember the dog-opening-door problem?) and I put on my crispy clean jeans only to spill coffee all over my lap.

LidThis is caused by the plastic lid design of the coffee cups sold at Petro Truck Stops. If you are not accurate in your sipping with this lid, coffee ends up collecting along the edges. At a certain point the thing becomes one of those inventions from yesteryear called the “dribble glass.” Funny ha ha. Anyone who tries to drink out of one of these gets it all over their shirt or lap.

Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

Onward from Des Moines

Made it through Des Moines yesterday during rush hour. It’s nothing like LA, Atlanta, Chicago, or Phoenix during that time of day but it is no less challenging. I’ve never been a fan of generalization, but indulge me for a moment. Those people are NUTS and they DRIVE like MANIACS!!!

I was dodging crazy kamikaze four-wheelers coming at me and zipping around me from every direction. Absolutely amazing.

After surviving this, Judy in dispatch (Hensley) called to inform me I would be swapping trailers with another driver in Iowa and asked where I would like to do that. This plan was to get me a load going back to Phoenix as I have not been home for “time off” in over a month.

I chose Dows Junction truck stop because it is in the middle of BFE and there is ALWAYS a place to park.

SwitchingTrailersWhile at Dows waiting for the other driver I spent some time trying to figure out how I could go into the truck stop for a shower without my dog, Silver, escaping from the truck and getting stolen, lost or run over. One of my conclusions about the whole thing was that, knowing the breed, keeping her in by covering up the door latch would only traumatize her further (she’s a rescue). Somehow I needed to figure out a way to make her WANT to stay in the truck.

I was not successful in coming up with anything that would work short of contacting The Animal Planet to see if they wanted to send over a trainer and do a bit for the show. Lame, I know.

I was running out of time and decided to talk to the drivers in the trucks parked next to me to see if they could dog-sit for thirty minutes. No dice. They were all getting ready to leave.

Hell with it. I looked Silver in the eye, and with all the doggie communication vibes I could muster up asked her to please please please stay in the truck long enough for me to take a much needed shower.

As I marched across the parking lot I heard a few drivers calling after me, “She’s already out!”  “Your dog got out!” There she was. Running across the lot like she was on her way to a fire (as they say).

I left Silver on the entryway and searched out an employee so I could explain my plight. Several of the clerks and a manager all agreed that she would be OK if I just took her into the shower room with me.

This worked well! She had muddy paws from tromping through a puddle, and I could get her as well as me cleaned up.

SilverWantsOutSilver did not like the shower experience at all. I had to drag her in under the water to clean her up, and I am pretty sure she was not used to this kind of thing.

After the shower we got high fives and congratulations from all the people at the truck stop. And free coffee. It was very nice.

And I was clean!

The other driver (Denny) showed up within minutes. We introduced each other and swapped trailers and paperwork. I made the comment to him that it was too bad that I had to keep getting these Jennie-O Turkey loads to get me toward Phoenix because the receivers kind of suck.

The worst one, I explained, was called Ben E Keith in Albuquerque. Their docks are too short and you can’t even leave until the guy next to you leaves first. It’s a mess! By the time you leave there you feel like you are part of brotherhood of drivers who survived the ordeal. You get the strange sensation you should have gotten their contact information so that you could start a support group for the survivors.

Denny assures me that Ben isn’t one of the stops. I open the envelope to see where I am going and the first entry says “Ben E Keith,” 5:00 AM. I’ll be dipped in shit.

The good news is…I went back into the truck stop to grab an Arby’s Beef n Cheddar and Silver stayed put in the truck! The shower experience did the trick! At least for now…

How Good Government Rules Go Bad…

It was bound to happen. Since I came back to driving OTR (over the road), I have now had to spend the night parked on an exit ramp. I spent months locating a company that does not have computerized logging* installed in the trucks. I am not forced to stop driving EXACTLY the moment I hit 11 hours of driving for the day. And I don’t have to sit and stare out the windshield waiting for my truck to allow me to begin driving again EXACTLY 10 hours after I stop. However, the other 90 per cent of the drivers out here do not enjoy that freedom.

Last night I experienced one of the results of our country’s idiot DOT “Rules of Service” for commercial drivers.

These “rules” have changed periodically over the past 25 years. However, in 1995 (ish) someone or a group of someones decided the evil drivers** HAD to be STOPPED from their evil driving, and the biggest chokehold ever (like ever) was rained down upon us in the form of new “Hours of Service.”

This colossal cluster fuck restricts any driver of a commercial vehicle to driving a maximum of 11 hours in a 14-hour window. Period. End of story. Since shippers and receivers load and unload trucks between 5 AM and 5 PM ( generally), all the blasted trucks are on the highway at the same time. Also, after a driver reaches the 11 hours of driving, remember that he must not MOVE the truck for TEN hours.

So… Trying to find a parking place at a truck stop or rest area after 9 PM and actually finding one? PRICELESS.

Try spending 10 hours on an off-ramp. Nice.

Oklahoma is waaaay behind in creating parking places. I found that out last night. I drove from midnight to 2 AM before I even located a fucking OFF RAMP that had an open space for me to park and spend the night.

Congrats US Dept of Transportation. You have completely jumped the shark and screwed the pooch on this one. You have failed to make the highways SAFER as you claim as a result of your overly zealous ridiculously stupid idiotic pile of horse dung you call the New Rules of Service.

*All companies that employ commercial drivers will be required to install computerized logging systems in their trucks by Jan 2017.

**Evil Drivers: not to be confused with “evil doers.”

The Off-Ramp Motel, brought to you courtesy of Our Benighted Leaders
The Off-Ramp Motel, brought to you courtesy of Our Benighted Leaders

Americana in the Midwest

FakeIndianOklahoma. So mired in the past and so still authentically Oklahoma.

What would happen if the entire state was to suddenly be forced to follow all the politically correct touchy feely mumbo jumbo?

No more of this to be sure!!

TradingPost

And really red dirt!

RedDirt

* * *

Just a thought.. Bureaucrats passing laws to make constituents happy is (we ALL know this) about money, control, and profits.

However, when well-meaning individuals actually attempt to pass legislation to improve things, they will fail in the attempt if they refuse to study the situation in depth beforehand.

This includes seeking out anyone and everyone who might be affected by said legislation, etc. I am specifically referring to the trucking débâcle.

When a surgeon is scalpeling (technical jargon) around a heart he needs to be EXACT in his methodology. One millimeter to the left or right could be curtains for the scalpelee. Passing laws willy-nilly can have an kickback similar to someone walking behind the surgeon in the middle of his cut and bumping him in the elbow.

* * *

Blimey! A lot lizard. I have not seen one of these in ages!

LotLizard

Albuquerque

BenKeithI am traumatized. I am trying not to over-react to this Ben E. Keith place but it has me chewing my fingernails and eating donuts.

It sucked the first time I was here. It sucked worse today.

This time, my dog Silver decided to follow me through the parking lot to the receiving office. I was halfway there when I heard her doggie tag jingling. Oh shit. I thought she had stopped doing that!!

I could not address this problem as I did not want to be LATE (trucking Cardinal sin #2) so I took a deep breath and…pretended she wasn’t my dog.

TrucksatBenKeith
Trucks at dawn

There were 8 of us standing in line in the the tiny receiving area. Those of us who had been here before had the stone-faced demeanor of someone waiting for their death sentence to be carried out.

We grumbled and mumbled and discussed how awful it all was while the newbies listened in horror.

Every time a dock employee opened the door to show up for work Silver tried to sneak in. I finally had to confess it was my wacky dog and that this was a new problem for which I had yet to find a solution.

We were all given a dock number and instructed to take turns backing in. As you would expect, the driver assigned door # 1 would go first.

For some unexplainable reason, the drivers who had not been here before were unable to follow directions.

We were also told, “Don’t park in the lot or you will block in the other drivers. Wait outside the gate until it is your turn to back in.”

I was to back into dock #3. Easy peasy. All I had to do was wait for trucks 1 & 2 to get into their docks and it would then be my turn. ‘Twas not to be.

The new guys all drove into the lot and parked just inside the gate, blocking the entrance. This made it impossible for me to back into dock #3 when it was my turn.

Twice I had to ask one of the BEK employees to shoo the drivers away and twice, as soon as they did, some other nitwit drove in and parked there.

I was parked in the street with my flashers on this entire time. I kept getting back into the truck to prepare to enter the facility only to see another truck driving past to block me in.

Obviously I made it in or I wouldn’t be posting about it. But I am worse for the wear.

I polished off a package of mini donuts and chewed my thumbnail down to the quick during this experience.

In conclusion, the lot is TOO SMALL. WAY too small. It is just too small for what they want to use it for. There are too many drivers not quick enough on the uptake for this to work. Also, the smallness of this lot (did I mention the lot was SMALL?) creates such a tight fit that once you are done getting unloaded the truck next to you has to detach from his trailer to let you out.

I’m done here now. On to US Foods. They have a giant lot. Now I just have to figure out how to keep Silver in the truck.

Did I mention the parking lot is too small?
What part of “too small” is hard to understand?

Don’t miss Connie’s earlier adventures:

El Paso
Along the Border
Eastward Bound

Connie on the Road: Eastward Bound

Another installment from Connie the Big-Rig Pilot and her navigator, Silver:

New Mexico

by Connie Graham

Along the Way…

Highway 54 in New Mexico — I wonder how many people drive by here without noticing the wild flowers.

Wildflowers&Dog

Alamagordo

One of the office people at Hensley (trucking) in Minnesota asked me to look for a giant roadrunner on the side of the road when I drove through Alamagordo, NM.

WeirdRoadrunner

She said her brother made it.

Roadrunner&Sign

Follow Connie’s posts…

El Paso
Along the Border
[More to come!]

 

 

Connie on the Road: Along the Border

Here’s the second installment in the illustrated adventures of Connie the Big-Rig Jockey and her pal, Silver.

Southern Arizona

by Connie Graham

Nogales

NogalesStreetSceneI was here in Nogales 20 years ago when working for Anchor Foods. There was only one truck stop at the time and I was trying to figure out where it was.

It’s still back there…but it looks just like what’s left of the sign.

BustedSign

BensonToNogo2The drive through AZ on hwy 82 from Benson to Nogales is gorgeous! I’d never taken that route before, as it is a bit too windy curvy and “Not recommended for trucks.”

Lots of cyclists along the way.

Benson to Nogo

What Truckers Think About…

SilverPassengerSeatI fear I am doing my trusty dog Silver a disservice of sorts. If something were to happen to me it would be challenging for the new parent of this dog to figure out what she knows.

For instance, “Let’s go!” means “come!”  “Sit your ass down” is for “sit,” and “hold on to your underwear!” means turbulence ahead. She has these down pat.

§§§§

Waiting in line at the scale in Nogales…

Scale at NogalesSomething else you can do with binder clips.

BinderClipsWillcox

WillcoxWillcox has changed quite a bit since I lived there in 1978. The only good memories I have are from the dances at The Cattle Rest (where the bull haulers really did rest their cattle) and of a really lively fight between a couple of Cowboys (spurs and all) in a bar called Rix Tavern. During the scrum, one guy broke a cue stick over the back of the other. It was fantastic!

I have always had a thing for a snug-fitting pair of Wranglers…

I ate breakfast in the restaurant at the TA truck stop in Willcox this morning. Apparently there was a rodeo going on this morning. If you look closely, you can see part of the sign on the back of one of the diners.

 

Follow Connie’s posts…

El Paso
[More to come!]