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July 29, 2016
Foreword: I am moving old posts from my former wordpress site to Goingwalkabout.blog. I have never found a way to do this in “Bulk” transfer so it is bit-by-bit and provides a stream of “new” posts that readers may not have seen.
Fonda, New York (We decided it was named for Henry, not Jane)
The phrase “in irons” is used in sailing. I had a sailboat once. Actually, I had two. The first was an 18 foot boat on a trailer that would not fit in the garage. I spent a lot of time, effort and money on this boat and got a few hours of pleasure out of it. It would have been far cheaper and far less trouble to rent a boat every few months for a few hours of sailing. Unless you live on a lake where you could leave the boat in the water and unless you are comfortably retired and can spend some time actually sailing, I would advise you to do the same.
The far better solution for wannabe sailors is to have a friend with a boat. That way you can make day trips on a sailboat or maybe even spend a weekend, sleeping in the tiny little guest bunk, while the owner enjoys the Captain’s cabin. He’s entitled to the luxury, of course since he has to pay for and maintain this white elephant. I had a friend with a boat and it was a bit of fun. He was dating my wife’s friend and the four of us spent a few days hanging around the boat in dock and we made a day trip on Galveston Bay… before Hurricane Ike. With the insurance money, he bought an apartment on the Seawall in Galveston. Notice he did not buy another sailboat. He learned his lesson and went looking for a friend with a boat, as well.
Where was I? Oh yes – “in irons”. As you may know, sailboats can “sail close to the wind” by tacking – actually moving opposite to the wind direction at about a 45 degree angle. By reversing in a zig-zag fashion, the boat can move upwind. After the “zig” the sailor will turn by 90 degrees and the boat will turn to swing around and, having passed directly into the wind and then, carried by momentum , it will “come about” and the wind will fill the sail on the opposite side (the zag).
If, however, the helmsman is slow off the mark and does not pull off this maneuver sharply, the boat can wind up pointed directly into the wind, having lost all momentum. Steering is now useless, because there is no moving water for the rudder to bear against and turn the boat further. The boat is now “in irons” and will slowly begin to be pushed backward, losing the progress made by tacking. It is something that is difficult to remedy. Much progress can be lost. At the end of this post, I will tell you the secret to getting “out” of “in irons”.
Now, I went through all that to describe why I am where I am now. I am learning that shipping industry has participants that demonstrate the worst qualities of humanity. They are hostile and vindictive. They are petty and arbitrary. They can be that way because they represent a lot of business to the freight companies. The freight companies will put up with this abuse for the business. Or, rather I should say, they will allow their drivers to be abused for that reason.
This cannot be assigned to companies in general, it has more to do with particular installations. I arrived early at this particular receiver and was turned away because that is what they do. Now, I have to go park at a truck stop and wait. Unfortunately, the Federal Regulations say I have to stop driving before I will be welcome at the receiver. So I try to arrange a new time. The management at this installation prefers not to do that, but to sarcastically call me a “no-show”.
So, I terminated that conversation and reported as “late” (while I was still early) and requested a “repower” on the satellite communication unit. A repower is where someone could come and get my load and take it to the installation on time. That did not work and that is understandable, because there are only so many trucks in the company and besides, they operate with a skeleton crew at night and things seldom happen then. So, finally, “dispatch” tells me to go in the morning to the same gate. When I arrive, the gate guard makes a call and sure enough they can use this shipment to put meat on the shelves on the weekend. So they assign a door for unloading. But…one last check shows that the order has been cancelled. I guess it is more important for the management to punish a driver for being early than to put product on the shelves for the weekend.
So, I am “in irons” making no progress and no money for at least 19 hours more. I took this opportunity to scan in my trip sheet with the previous load (with 8 days of hotel expenses – you can’t sleep in the truck while it is in the shop) so that some money will actually come in next week. Breakdown pay is only $25 per day, so that is welcome.
I also taped up the frayed and bared cable on the satellite radio/computer that sends assignments, swept out the truck, made some instant chicken soup and cleaned all the glass and mirrors very well (yes, I remembered Dad).
And then, of course, I wrote this for y’all.
Oh, wait! How to get “out” of “in irons”
To review, you are in your sailboat which is pointed directly into the wind. You are making no progress and in fact are beginning to drift backward. What you need to do is go and push the boom. That is the horizontal pole at the bottom of the sail.
Someone asked me once why they call it the boom. Well, what you were trying to do when you got ”in irons” was called “coming about” you were going from zig to zag by passing through an attitude directly into the wind by momentum, carrying over to tack on the other side. The other way to turn is downwind. Your sail will be on one side of the boat, going downwind and when you turn through the direct-downwind direction, the sail will suddenly go from one side to the other. Now, that pole at the bottom of the sail will whip from one side to the other very suddenly. This is called making a “jibe”. The pole, generally speaking is right about at head level for people riding in the boat. So the “boom” is named for the sound it makes when it collides with your skull. This is called “onomatopoeia” where words are made directly from sounds. Other examples of this are “wham” and “hiss”.
By the way, there is usually a rope-and-pulley system between the boom and the base of the mast to cinch the boom down tightly and make better speed. It is called the “boomvang”. Once, back in my Geophysicist Days, there was a seismic project called “Boomvang” and nobody else in the company knew what the heck that meant.
Where was I?
The boom…to get out of “in irons” you go and push the boom to one side to “back wind”. That pushes your boat backward. At the same time, you put the rudder over to the other side, which turns the boat until wind can again fill the sail and you can tack once more on the “zag”. This is easy on a small boat or on a big one when you have a crewman. Otherwise, it requires agility and creativity.
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Once, I accepted – without examination – the idea that human activities might cause Global Warming.
A Geologist colleague did not debate me, but rather challenged me to research the topic and come to an informed conclusion.
He was right and I am a Geophysicist with the tools, talent and temperament to do such research. That was over twenty years ago and I have since “done the math”, “paid my dues”, “done the due diligence” and examined the facts.
My conclusion is that the idea of Man-made climate change is a political fiction.
If I can get people to sit still and listen to me present the facts for an hour or so, I can show them (with facts, charts, graphs, data, references and quotes) exactly how I came to that conclusion. That has happened a few times. But, most people do not or will not willingly sit in a room and listen to a lecture. It’s too much like going to school and they spent a large fraction of their youth doing that and most of them don’t want anything to do with further such activity.
So, I have come up with this idea. Take ONE FACT about the subject and present it with clarity and completeness. Then, do that again with another fact.
*Millennials: Ask a Boomer what that means. 😉
The entire Alarmist Fraud of Global Warming is based on computer models that predict that temperatures will rise catastrophically as Carbon Dioxide emissions from human activities continue. This is absurd on the face of it, because:
None of these, however, is the One Fact that we are here to discuss, which is:
The computer models that the Alarmists have come up with have been proven WRONG by REALITY.
As the title states these are 44 computer climate models all predicting warming of more than one degree Centigrade by 2025. The blue and red lines are plots of actual experimental temperature measurements made by satellites and high altitude balloons. Please notice that with the exception of 1998 (an “El Niño” year), every year was measured to be in a flat trend – not a catastrophic increase.
Let me quote Renowned Physicist and Acknowledged Genius Dr. Richard Feynman:
“It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.”
Ladies and Gentlemen: The idea that Human activities are causing the world to warm is WRONG.
Flying J #513, Interstate 15 exit 1, Primm, Nevada
The next assignment took me back across Wyoming to California (LA again). It turns out that the spot I have chosen to settle tonight is directly adjacent to Wiskey Pete’s Hotel and Casino. Pete has a parking garage:
Whiskey Pete’s Free Parking Garage
I took a walk over to Pete’s Garage and climbed the stairs to the top floor. Yes, there was an elevator and it didn’t show up when I called it.
“ How do you call the elevator?”
“We call it ‘the elevator’”
I climb the stairs anyway, for exercise, but today I am looking for a vantage point to photograph what happens to be next to Pete’s – Ivanpah.
This is the North Tower, surrounded by its mirrors. We see the backsides of the near mirrors and the sky is reflected from the far ones. This was about 1400 (2PM), local. The mirrors oriented straight up are seen as a dark zone (their edges) that separates the near and far zones.
The middle tower seems to be completely abandoned. They have removed the mirrors from around it – so now they have plenty of spares for the other two towers. The incinerated bird count has dropped by a third, but the loss of revenue has made what will inevitably be a Federal bail-out. Perhaps those missing mirrors can be cut into small handheld units so the taxpayers can catch a glimpse of the real losers in this whole debacle.
The “Green” community is in Denial about the disaster this project has become. Leaving alone the financial cataclysm, just look at the bird slaughter. I found this quote at a notoriously hypocritical and biased news source that shall be nameless:
“I always want people to put issues like this in context. In talking about something like avian mortality, we must ask — how many birds are killed every year because of office buildings and residential houses in the U.S. compared to how many are killed by energy projects?”
First off: The builders of office buildings and residential houses do not go around tooting their horn about how “green” they are. Secondly, while office buildings do take bird strikes, the only dead birds around my house come from the middle cat, Pepper (Tuxedo is too old for that foolishness) and she never brings me falcons or golden eagles…a la Ivanpah. Lastly, the Greenies would CRUCIFY ExxonMobil if they killed as many birds. If, Hell! EM has been fined millions for “bird mortality” around their plants (about $6000 per bird, as I recall) but they took remedial action and solved the problems. Ivanpah has a 30 year “permit” to incinerate protected birds with no fines. Just as well, the whole project is broke and any fines would be paid with US Tax Dollars, anyway.
Back at Windswept Wyoming:
The winds finally did abate in the evening and I was able to launch back through Cheyenne to Grand Island Nebraska for a load of “frozen foodstuffs”. There was an elephant in the room about the powers that be who might be unhappy with my call to stand down. My conscience is clear on the subject since I was the one being shaken awake in the stationary truck – even while parked snugly between two other trucks.
Westbound back on Interstate 80, a decaying metal building with picture windows appeared between mile markers 256 & 257, still in Nebraska. The place looked abandoned but was full of Classic cars. I didn’t catch a photo., but just got the impression of 30’s and 40’s model cars. Old Car Junkies, take note!
I arrived back at the Pilot in Lexington, a few hours from Grand Island only to discover , while fueling that an air hose from the tractor to the trailer had parted. There are redundant air hoses. The emergency line was he only thing keeping the trailer brakes from locking up. I would have to fix the service line or risk the brakes locking up on the road. I have seen evidence of such incidents many times (really long skid marks that eventually swoop over to the shoulder), but never had I come so close to experiencing it firsthand.
I bought a new hose, without advice in the Pilot, struggled with that for a while, then went across the street to the Loves where they sold me the correct hose. It took a while to install and I decided to start out again in the morning after only six hours on the road and three fueling and repairing (an Easy Day, that is).
Wyoming was calm in the morning, around Cheyenne, but the winds picked up again as the day wore on. Even with a load on, the buffeting was becoming fierce and at about 2/3s the way across the state, I passed a truck on its side off the right shoulder. There were no seals or locks visible on the trailer – which is to say it was an empty. I reported this as a road condition – which incidentally negated any criticism of my self-shutdown two days earlier. Especially since the word “Extreme” was absent from the programable road signs on this particular Blustery Day.
Carl Jr.’s Parking lot – Azusa, California
Unloading has been accomplished at Carson, California, near Long Beach. With well over 2 hours of drive time I should be able to make the truck stop at Hesperia (83 miles), right? Sure! How bad could traffic be in the heart of the Los Angeles Metroplex on a Friday afternoon at 3 PM, when everybody is taking off early for the weekend?
Creeping out Interstate 605, it became obvious that I was about to end my duty clock and be out of “Compliance” while still stuck on the highway. A very dark mood descended. This is that grim, lost, panicky mood that I have experienced a few times before.
Once was in Virginia, on a State highway when I discovered that I was 24 minutes from the nearest truck stop with 16 minutes remaining. It was then that I “founded” the Ad Hoc Truck Stop #1. Another was at Hollyrood, Kansas where I found a bar parking lot and a nice old man who told me that the bar would not open until the weekend. That became Ad Hoc Truck Stop #2.
I was just practicing Primal Scream Therapy about the situation, when I happened to see a big Beer sign and recognized the giant Miller Distribution Center where a third clock disaster had occurred.
In October of last year (2016) I was in LA and felt a similar desperation. I was frantically scanning for something like a big parking lot. But little is visible from the Freeway. I saw the Miller plant. You know they must have lots of trucks in and out. Somebody there will know something, right? That was the hope as my truck entered the Miller Receiving Gate. They were not very helpful, but with some coaxing, they did give me vague directions to a Walmart and a Costco and let me turn around to exit the plant. After chasing the figment Walmart for ten minutes, I found a turn-around and went for the Costco. There, a guard in a golf cart came to chase me away. Under my withering “Guilt Trip” (I deliver to Costco Distribution Centers…I’ll be thrown into Federal Prison if I leave…that sort of thing) he finally admitted that the Carl Junior’s next store allows trucks to park overnight. I had to pry it out of him, but I thanked him nonetheless. Over at Carl’s, the cleaning crew told me they see trucks there all the time, so I stayed the night.
Well, that Miller’s sign that appeared out of the blue was a welcome relief and some semblance of Sanity returned. As Yogi Berra has been quoted as saying, “It was Déjà Vu, all over again.”. I avoided the stop at Millers, the pursuit of the wild goose called Walmart and the plea in the Court of the Costco Golf Cart. It is there, at Junior’s lot where I am, now relating the strange tale to you, my Loyal Readers. I don’t want to wear out my welcome and it is past 6 AM here and people are showing up for work, so I will get a photograph to show you and depart for the elusive Hesperia, now that my drive hours have been recovered and traffic has abated to merely annoying.
Carl’s sign is over-exposed, but the big yellow star is recognizable.
Pilot Truck Stop, Hesperia, California, March 11, 2017
I have found parking, scanned my trip sheets to Dallas (That’s how I get paid), had a shower and eaten some 2 for $3 hot dogs for breakfast. If you tack together this with all the disjointed pieces of the narrative above, they form a more or less complete story, so I’ll stop while I am ahead.
Over The Road,
Flying J, Interstate 25 exit 7, Cheyenne, Wyoming March 6, 2017
A trailer needs to be washed out after a Meat load – despite all the packaging and -10° F temperature – before it carries a Produce load. There are truck wash shops scattered over the United States that you may never have noticed – I didn’t either, until recently. They are not on every street corner, however and I drove about an hour to find one. Before the dawn’s early light, I was pulled up in front of a wash bay in Hesperia, California. The first order of business is to locate the office and pay. I was about to walk through the wash bay to find same when I realized that the equipment being washed here were livestock trailers (“slaughter buggies” in the vernacular). You may imagine the debris associated with this activity – or not, if you prefer. 😉 So, I walked clear around the building instead – not to belittle the “smell of money”, as ranchers call it. I asked about the situation at the desk and, as I had suspected, Produce trailers are washed in another bay – in another building.
This shipper operates in that near-perfect mode called “drop-and-hook”. Upon entering, the driver locates the “empties” area and parks the trailer. Then a short “bobtail” drive to the office where he is assigned a pre-loaded trailer full of various salad vegetables. These have been assembled at the shipper from various suppliers. The connection is made and the road trip commences. This is vastly superior to the sometimes-days-long process of assembling a load by driving around to various providers. The poster child for inefficiency are those such sojourns.
The battle with the Clock continues on this load. Upon arrival at St. George, Utah and after logging out of drive mode, there is just enough time for the 30-minute post-trip inspection. As the truck creeps around looking for an empty space Jill, the Navigation Computer is harping, “Continuing to drive may invalidate your break, which is not complete.” Finally settled, the post trip inspection is done and logged and Jill can now complain, “You have zero hours and zero minutes of remaining drive time.” That’s OK Sweethart – I ain’t goin’ nowhere for ten hours!
A few hours before, near the California/Nevada border, I had passed what I think must be a legendary Faux Pas of Industrial Folly called Ivanpah. I will have to look it up.
I am waiting for a load assignment and more sleep is the wise course of action while waiting. So, please excuse me for a while. Tune in again for an explanation of Ivanpah.
Truck Parking Area, I-80 about 40 miles west of Cheyenne, WY March 6, 2017
The wind is sustained at 30 mph and gusting to 40. I heard that on the radio shortly before leaving the truck stop. My hours appeared at midnight and I waited for a load assignment. Finally, at 0900, I got a phone call which is in itself unusual – the satellite communicator is the normal. They wanted me to run 150 miles to Rawlins and swap my empty for a load to Denver. The radio had warned that high profile, lightweight vehicles (like, say, a truck towing an empty high cube trailer) are at risk. They mentioned that traveling on North-South highways was especially dangerous. I only had a few miles up I-25 North to get to I-80 and go West. As I swung on to 25, I noticed the truck ahead of me was diagonal in his lane. A glance in the mirror informed me that he was not the only one. I had the tractor square in the middle of my lane, but the trailer wheels were over the line on the shoulder. How much depended on the gust.
On I-80, things were better – a little better. I passed the Distribution Center where I delivered yesterday and there was a brown cloud blowing onto the road. Sand, not dust it was and bordering on “gravel”. Once I clean the windshield, I will not be surprised to find some new pits in it.
The Distribution Center in the sand cloud.
I passed some of those “renewable” windmills. They should be especially efficient in this weather, no? NO. All of them are feathered to the wind and locked down motionless. They would be ripped to shreds in this gusting wind. Coal keeps the lights on in situations like this.
Windmills in a windstorm. You will – of course – have to take my word for it that these were unmoving in a 30 mile per hour sustained wind.
Just after I passed this parking area (defined as no facilities – at all) I saw one of those programable road signs that said, “Extreme Blow-over Risk”. If they had left off the “Extreme” bit, I would have “pressed on with all dispatch”. Yes, I had a two-handed Death Grip on the wheel and the truck was all over the road, but a mere “blow-over risk” would not have stopped me. That word was the difference between Adventure and Folly. I had this vision of an accident investigator asking me, “What part of “Extreme Risk” did you not understand, Mr. Campbell?”
I turned around at the first overpass and high-tailed it back here. The Captain’s Office is shaking persistently, but I can manage to type. Sleep would be appropriate, but I’ve had my fill of same in the last 21 hours at the Flying J in Cheyenne.
The narrative returns to Nevada, now. Ivanpah is a very large, very expensive “renewable” solar power project in the Nevada Dessert. This is what they call a solar thermal plant, where a large array of adjustable mirrors are deployed on the desert floor. They reflect the sunlight onto a tower where the intense heat makes steam that powers turbines that run generators to make power which is then sent along to join the electrical network that we all take for granted. Like many such ideas, it works fine in theory. In practice, major problems begin to show up as the engineering goes along.
Here is what I saw near Primm, Nevada:
What I know of Ivanpah is this: Three Solar Thermal Towers – one of them inactive, surrounded by large arrays of mirrors, in a valley in the Nevada desert. If this is not Ivanpah, then I found its twin.
First and most obviously, the sun disappears behind the Planet for half of every day. If you are not a Science* Nerd like me, you might imagine that batteries could store electric power for that part of the day’s electrical demand. It turns out that batteries are not nearly as capable as you may have been led to believe and they are simply not up to the task. I’ll quote some figures later.
The un-solar period is longer than twelve hours. The sunset and sunrise are at a very low angle to the mirrors, so the effective area of sunshine is very much reduced. Also, the sunlight is passing through thousands of miles of atmosphere in the morning and evening – instead of a hundred or so at noon. So, maybe ten hours of power may be optimistically expected on average per day.
I looked it up and sure enough, this was none other than Ivanpah!
The Ivanpah concept had in mind to replace the Sun’s heat with Natural Gas for the fourteen remaining hours of the day and that works just fine. Consider: we have just established that the majority (a minimum 58 percent) of Ivanpah’s power comes from Natural Gas – a “Fossil Fuel”!
I could go on for many pages about the problems with Ivanpah, but I’ll try to sum them up in this short list:
Some of this is covered in the article linked below.
Back at the Parking Area near Cheyenne: Winds have increased from 30 to 40 mph sustained and gusting to 58. I can see trucks going by on the highway, but I am sure that all are full. I will not take this empty out there until something changes. A lull in the winds is forecast for tonight. After that, Tuesday will be another Blustery Day. I will have to take a nap, soon – despite my total lack of sleepiness, thus to be ready to move when the lull finally comes. The truck is still shaking severely despite being between two other trucks. One is directly upwind, but doing little to “protect” me.
The NOAA conditions at 2 PM for Cheyenne have winds at 48, gusting to 63. My new route goes right through Cheyenne.
I will pick up the story later.
Over the Road,
Flying J Truck Stop, Interstate 40 exit 53, Kingman, Arizona, March 1, 2017
There are “drop yards” near large cities where various freight companies all find reasons to store equipment for short periods. The Company had some empty trailers and bobtail tractors and a few complete rigs in the yard near Denver all clustered into a corner together. More equipment from other companies surrounds them. I was dropping a full load for someone else to carry to the final destination, after which I would connect to an empty and haul it to Kansas.
I am apparently the only human being in the place. The automatic gate opened when I got out to key in the code I had been given. Our area was full and I had to drop my trailer in an “overflow” area. The paperwork is left with the load and I remembered to remove my “meat lock” from the back doors. This is a big heavy hasp with a hardened steel lock that would be a big problem for the next poor soul to hook that trailer if I had forgotten it. It pays to sit and think a while when making these changes. I don’t want to get down the road fifty miles before I realize I need to go back.
Creeping around alone in the dark like this is a bit eerie. The empty has to be checked out before I drag it 350 miles. The meat plant guard will have me start the refrigeration unit and look inside to make sure the trailer is clean enough. As I open the door, I remember a Night Gallery episode about three kids hanging around a creepy old man’s house. Eventually the old man startles them by coming out and tells them to go down the road to an abandoned lot, near a tree and dig down six feet to get a surprise. The kids start out eagerly digging, but one loses his nerve then another until the last determined boy is digging alone. The sun is setting when the stubborn kid finds a wooden door in the hole. As he clears away the last of the dirt, the door begins to open by itself…
…and the same creepy old man climbs up some stairs out of the door and says to the badly shaken lad, “Surprise!”.
Weird tales not withstanding, my trailer was empty and relatively clean.
McDonalds, Vernon, California (in the Los Angeles Metroplex) March 2, 2017
The Empty, the tractor and I find our way to Kansas. The route starts out as smooth sailing down Interstate 70, but ducks off on US287. Mostly good road but one lane each way with occasional passing lanes. Soon enough it is US 54 and 400 that pierce Kansas towns like chunks of meat on a shish-kabob. Usually I creep down Main Street with the “normal” traffics, but some of these towns route trucks down numbered industrial avenues, through some challenging corners.
The Meat Plant is at the Junction of two such highways and truly a “Hub” of frozen meat distribution. More than a few of my carnivore-supply journeys have originated in this same plant, which has a Loves truck stop conveniently across the street. The drill is this: I drop the empty I acquired in the lonely Denver yard and creep across to Loves as a “bobtail”. There, sleep is the order of the moment – like it or not. As the deadline approaches, Jill the nave computer starts blabbering about important new messages, all complaining that I have not sent the “Loaded and Rolling” message. We have these “Macros” – standard message forms – that we dispatch when receiving the load. I have signed up for the “wake-up list” but the Meat Plant shippers have not called. There is a “is-it-ready” website that does not recognize my PO (or PU) number. As a last resort, I have a contact phone number and a voice named “Scot” tells me that mine is a “Babysit Miller Load”* that is now ready, with the paperwork stuck to the last pallet in trailer number 15380.
*I haven got a clue, either 😉
At 5 AM: Once I mention Scot at the gate, I am ushered in to go trailer-hunting, down rows of twenty trailers each – about twelve of those. While many Company trailers are found (including the now-full Empty I dropped) 15380 is hiding somewhere. In desperation, I drive over to the Empty Drop Zone – and there he sits (trailers are male and tractors, female – by nature of their connecting equipment).
As usual, the Captain makes an estimate of where the trailer tandem-axle should sit and weighs the result before departing. The yard scale says the drive tandems are heavy, but nobody believes those and a CAT (Certified Automatic Truck) scale ticket – over at the Loves – is required anyway. Unexpected difficulty keeps me circling back to the scale. The fourth scaling sees a one-ton shift from the drive axle to the steers. This simply cannot happen, since I did not move the fifth wheel. On a hunch, I weigh the truck again – having changed nothing. Re-weighs are only two bucks and I have a sneaking suspicion…
Sure enough, the truck is now balanced and legal. The ton of mystery weight has again moved to the drive tandem. This means one of two things. Either the CAT scale is giving different results for the unaltered combination (BLASPHEMY!) or the fifth wheel is moving by itself. As you may remember in Marooned at Brady’s Leap, this has happened to me before. But still, I can’t catch the fifth wheel out-of-place and there is no jarring thud to make me think it is moving.
The continuing mystery must wait. By now I have whittled away two hours of duty time weighing the truck and gotten nowhere. Also, most of an hour of drive time inadvertently escaped my grasp while we were trailer hunting. I have the ticket that says the load is legal. Departure is very much to be desired.
Jill is always confused when leaving this place and there is no “usual” direction. She always tells me “You are traveling in the wrong direction” and I shut her up by pressing her re-route button. The result is a detour down Kansas 22, a narrow, shoulder-less road through a field of windmills. The turn to 22 comes suddenly and Jill forgets to tell me about it – resulting in a “hard-braking incident” – which Jill recorded and sent off to Dallas and for which I will have to sit across a desk and explain, the next time I find myself in Purgatory.
It is a windy trip to Albuquerque and I arrive exhausted. The next day is an exercise in clock management. The goal is set at a Pilot in Kingman, Arizona. My eight-day clock has only eight hours and seventeen minutes left and part of that will be needed for the post-trip inspection. Now, I may inspect all I want during my rest break, but I must log 30 minutes of duty time for same. I must average 60 miles per hour to make Kingman. There are hills to be climbed that slow the hurtling mass of meat and steel to 45 mph (the meat outweighs the truck by a few thousand pounds). I can only compensate by “rolling the hill” on the downside, actually approaching the legal speed limit – and grossly violating the Company limit. More “evidence” that Jill can send – via satellite – to the stern-faced Judges at Purgatory. And by the way, an Arizona DOT scale confirmed that last CAT scale ticket before I was waved back to the Interstate.
The San Francisco Peaks in Arizona – Flagstaff is up there in the pass
For the record, the eight day clock at Kingman read 00 00 when all was said and done. A trip around the block would have been a Federal Offence.
The run in to the Final took me through the Los Angeles Metroplex at morning rush hour. My readers are imaginative people, capable of visualizing massive urban traffic jams. So, y’all can take that and add forty tons of truck that barely fits the lane and an eight speed manual transmission – with no synchronizers.
But, I got there with 30 minutes to spare and unloaded without incident. After that, it got interesting. The eight day clock had recovered 8 hours and change at Kingman. I had squandered all but one hour and 10 minutes to get to the Receiver. Now I am stuck in the LA metroplex, 46 miles from the nearest truck stop. Remember, I need 30 minutes of post-trip inspection out of that 70 minutes – and, I need a time machine to get to the truck stop. I can fit the Flux Capacitor hardware into the cab, but I can’t manage the 88 miles per hour to initiate the time travel sequence.
I had asked the gate guard about where to go hide a 40 ton truck and he mentioned a truck stop down the road, but said it was “private”. He suggested a McDonalds parking lot. I repeated the request at the receiving window and got pretty much the same advice. A call to Purgatory told me the address of the truck stop which I told Jill about and she routed me around in a circuitous path that was burning up my last 40 minutes. Finally, a passing pick-up driver, who must have seen my look of desperation yelled over directions. The truck stop turned out to be a monthly contract parking terminal, where I was told by a local driver “you can’t park here”. He suggested McDonalds.
I believe it was advice from Sally Rogers (Rose Marie) in the Dick Van Dyke Show (circa 1965):
“When three people say you’re sick – LIE DOWN!”
“That Scottish place where I breakfasted” – Malcolm McDowell as H.G. Wells in “Time After Time” 1979
Over The Road,
Ohio Turnpike (I-80) exit 197, Brady’s Leap Service Plaza, February 21, 2017
“Captain Samuel Brady’s 22-foot leap across the Cuyahoga River to escape pursuing Indians climaxed the frontier career of a scout who has been described as the Daniel Boone of the northeast Ohio valley. The famous broad jump occurred in what is now Kent, Ohio, about 12 miles southwest of the Brady’s Leap Service Plaza.”
A Trinity of clocks rules the trucker’s schedule. Not to belabor the subject, I will just say that this trip was finally terminated abruptly when time ran out. As of yesterday morning, I had six minutes of drive time and not enough “returning” time at midnight (7 hours and 14 minutes) to make the delivery in Queens (a borough* of New York City). You may remember the last time I visited New York City as related in “Brooklyn”. In it I came to the conclusion that New York City is a place where we can Fling Down the Safety Manual and Dance Upon It. Anywhere else, what I was forced to do to make the delivery would be a “Firing Offence” and would have probably accumulated for me some four digits worth of fines.
*”The five boroughs of New York City are Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island. Each borough is also a county in state government: Manhattan is New York County, Brooklyn is Kings County, Staten Island is Richmond County, and the other two have the same names (Queens is Queens County and The Bronx is Bronx County).”
“Alongside” at Brady’s Leap
What you do when stranded by the clock is call for a load swap. Turns out they already had some poor schlemiel sitting at Brady’s with an empty trailer, waiting for a load. So, he dropped his trailer over in the backlot and I dropped mine up front and we both drove to the other and connected. He needs my paperwork and the lot is near empty now, so I drove over and parked beside him.
Now, I am the poor schlemiel with an empty trailer hanging around at Brady’s Leap and he is off to New York. I still get paid for those 1018 open-road miles I drove from St. Joseph, Missouri and he gets the 440 miles to Queens.
I had been running from roughly midnight to noon and that is why I am typing away at 2 AM, you see. In addition to the auto and truck fuel islands at Brady’s, there are restrooms, a food court, a convenience store and trucker lounge area with available showers. If you have to spend 34 hours Marooned, this is not a bad place to be. Just for the record, I did not plan to avoid Queens and wind up relaxing here. But, I did see it coming and did nothing to avoid the situation. And, in fact I squeezed out another 120 miles along the Ohio Turnpike and managed to arrive here (where I have been before) with six minutes of drive time left. See how that works?
Service Plaza Interior – Convenience Store, Vending, Restrooms, Trucker’s Lounge with showers.
Service Plaza Interior – Food Court
Loves Truck Stop, US 287, Midlothian, Texas
The call came to pick up a load in Columbus, Ohio. The dispatching agent actually wanted me to cut short my 34 hour break at 29 hours and offered me $75 dollars for a day and five hours of my life. Obviously he did not want this very much. That action would mean that I would, at some point have to start a 34 hour break again, from scratch. The reader may do the math.
I turned it down, flat – without even a counter-offer since three times that pittance would be my minimum and I know well that they won’t do that. So, I waited five more hours and left with a full 70 hours of drive time for the next 8 days, instead of seven hours and change.
This load is probably worth a dollar sign with one and six more digits after that. It is a “dry load” of “apparel and fragrances” from a well-known “Secret” supplier. I received extensive instructions that one driver should always be with the truck and to never to park in an unsecured place or in the last row at a truck stop. It was another “impossible” trip, planned for a team of drivers and handed to me because I was the only vehicle available.
So, I take the load from the Capital of Ohio and flee South to Tennessee, where another driver and rig have been stage at a truck stop near Knoxville. He has burned three hours waiting for me. I would have been there a bit sooner if the mechanics in Purgatory had actually set my governed speed to 64 mph like they said they would.
From Knoxville, I am again late before I start. The load has a delivery appointment in Fort Worth in 13 hours, at a moment when I was not street legal for another ten hours. They still pay me for miles driven. So sleep, then weigh the truck, then go like the wind, Bullseye!
The scale ticket my counterpart gave me shows the front axle heavy. He says he fixed it, but that does not mean I am in the clear. Front axle adjustments are done by moving the fifth wheel. That is the connecting mechanism that keeps the trailer close behind. I will try to get a picture of that device.
The “fifth wheel”. The tractor frame is below and the trailer body above. The driver’s cab is to the left. The 5th wheel has been moved to the back end of it’s range – taking the maximum weight off the front axle.
There is a switch in the cab that releases the fifth wheel on a sliding rail. The driver sets the trailer brakes and moves the tractor until the fifth wheel is in the desired position. Simple, right?
The fifth wheel is jammed-tight stuck and refuses to move, despite an hour of repeated attempts. As a last resort, the driver will put the tractor in lowest low gear and race the engine and pop the clutch. The jammed mechanism is freed up all at once and the tractor leaps forward until the fifth wheel reaches its rear-most extreme. Then everything stops – suddenly. Did I mention that it is a good idea to wear a seat belt for such activities? I must have forgotten that detail. I will remember in the future. See diagram below for the consequences of my lapse of memory.
Steve, just after the fifth wheel moved.
Fortune smiled on me – albeit weakly – when I clobbered the overhead instead of the windshield. There is a huge lump on my head and my neck aches severely now – two days later. Don’t try this at home. 😉
Rest Area, Hardeman County, US 287, Near Quanah, Texas, February 25, 2017
Returning to Texas means I can request a replacement license card. There is a Department of Public Safety Mega-center near the Receiver and it is possible to get in line (queue) via telephone. The computer called to tell me to come to the desk about when I arrived at the Distribution Center. No solution but to call again later. When I did, a polite recording tells me that the office is closed. I drove by another DPS office only to find that it was not equipped to park big trucks. The license will have to wait. I got away with a tiny picture of a bad photocopy of the card, on an iPhone 5 for this long and it will have to do for another few weeks.
After another break at a Loves, where I don’t have shower credits, a load of iced tea for Denver was waiting nearby. They ask you to drop the trailer at the door and move the tractor two feet forward. This is again for safety, so the driver cannot pull out while workers are in the trailer. That is in addition to the Great Claw that attaches the trailer solidly to the building. For no adequately explained reason, I had trouble reconnecting when I was asked to take another door and again when I departed that door.
It is standard procedure to weigh the truck after a new load and I did so, about 75 miles down the road. The trailer tandem was too heavy by 500 pounds (34500 lbs) and the front axle was the same at 12500 pounds. That last part is impossible, since the fifth wheel is all the way forward. Unexplained.
After three attempts at adjusting the trailer axles, three quarters of a ton moved mysteriously from the front axle to the drive tandem. Unexplained. I finally wound up with the trailer adjusted exactly as I brought it in but now completely balanced and legal. Impossible.
I drove for three more hours before it dawned on me that the fifth wheel is moving randomly by itself. It must be that the locking mechanism is broken. If you thought that I have now explained everything, hold on. I have left a fifth wheel unlocked before – by accident. It announced itself in a dramatic slamming forward and backward of the trailer as we traveled. This shook the tractor violently and scared the hell out of the Instructor and his clueless student.
None of that is happening, now. Weight is moving around all quiet-like. The mystery continues – I cannot catch the fifth wheel out of place and I hate that because I feel some new unexpected event has to happen – to explain it all.
Pilot, Interstate 70 exit 359, Limon, Colorado, February 26, 2017
Delivery is tomorrow in Denver (about 80 miles away) at 1400 MST. After that, I haven’t got a clue, as usual.
Update: I will now drop this trailer at a yard at 0430 and deadhead to Kansas for a meat load to Los Angeles. No time for further literary pursuits tonight.
Over The Road,