Hurray for Hollyrood

stevetrucker2  mariluslogoclickhere

Interstate Highway 40 Rest Area (Eastbound), San Bernadino County, California

You might remember that I was just across the Interstate from here when I entered California on the day before yesterday.  It gives a nice sense of completeness to the trip, I suppose.

California loads are typically produce.  Lots of fruit and salad vegetables.  The Central Valley here is a fertile farmland that produces in abundance.  Just add water!  There is a political undercurrent 😉 about water in California that is serious business.  For an example, I quote roadside signs in farm country that ask “Is Growing Food a Waste of Water?”.

My cargo out of the Golden State is table grapes. Specifically 16 pallets of packaged grapes that stand about seven feel tall.  Each weighs about 1,840 pounds – call it a ton.  I made a milk-run around three vineyards to pick up 12 pallets at the first, 3 at the second and a lonely single pallet at the third.  That last one was unique in that the shipping clerk gave me a sample of the fresh-picked product (see photo  below).  They are easily the best grapes I have ever tasted in my life.  I have never before cared to eat grapes and that was because they did not taste like these!  Columbine is the brand name.

columbinegrapesAbove:  Columbine Grapes – Heavenly!

That treat was a nice contrast to the event surrounding the middle stop.  I have spoken of  Jill, the navigation robot girl who tells me where to go.  Well, she pulled a fast one on me.  Along the two lane blacktop roads with narrow  shoulders, she told me to turn right on an unpaved road.  It was a wide road and I naively obeyed.  About 200 yards in, the Siren Jill said, “Arrived at destination.”

I took a picture:

strandedintheorchardAbove:  Arrived at Destination!  According to Jill, this is the Castle Rock Vineyards Shipping Facility. This road is not wide enough to turn around a 53 foot trailer…unless…

I was just calling the Company “Safety Line” to ask for directions.  I got the “hold” music and was settling in for a twenty minute wait when a guy showed up on one of those heavy duty golf-carts – I think they call them “Mules”.  He had some stuff to toss in that Dumpster you see in the picture.

Standby while I digress.

When I was about eight years old, I was in an “advanced class” in Louisa May Alcott Elementary School.  They tried out a lot of new ideas on us, figuring since we were the smart kids, they couldn’t do much damage if things didn’t work out.  I’m not talking  about open brain surgery, you understand, just concepts like “Team Teaching” and “Immersion Launguage Teaching”.  The latter was performed by a teacher we knew only as Señor Campos.  He came to our classroom every few days and spoke Spanish at us.  They told us that he did not know English at all.

I don’t know what this experience did for the other students, but for me it was the beginning of a life-long acquaintance with the Spanish Language that continued through High School and into College, until I declared a Physics Major.  The language requirements for Physics were: French, Russian or German – period.  That was the beginning of a new acquaintance with the Russian Language, which is another story for later.  The Spanish came in handy when I went to South America as part of a Seismic Exploration Team traditionally called a “Party”.  That’s also a story, but let’s try to get back to California – shall we?

The guy who showed up on the mechanical mule spoke not a word of English.  No problem. I still got accurate and complete directions to the shipping center.  He asked where I was from.  He might have suspected I was South American, by my accent.  I am occasionally mistaken for a German when speaking Spanish, as well.  I’m not sure why.

Parking lot of the K-Jack Bar and Grill, Hollyrood, Kansas

Turning around was a time-consuming,  nit-picking, process of moving the truck a little, getting out to look and moving a little more.  I managed to back the trailer between a row of trees and another row of newly planted trees – managing to avoid crushing the newbies or knocking down the old ones.  I was just about to get out and photograph the truck just prior to emerging the right way around.  This was to (a) show off how  clever I was and (b) have proof for any later insurance claims.  Then I saw another Company truck coming down the road.  I flagged him down and he was able to make a three point turn around with me to spot for him. This is a process whereby you start making the tightest turn you possibly can.  Then halfway through, you reverse the steering wheel and back up.  This jackknifes the tractor and trailer – the back edge of the sleeping quarters comes within inches of contacting the trailer.  Then you pivot the whole thing around the back axles.  Don’t even try it without a spotter!  It went much faster than him trying to do what I did – he’s newer than me, as I saw later when he backed into a loading door.

When we both arrived at the shipping center, we found another Company truck.  I asked how he made out with the orchard and he was puzzled.  He had not been there.  Turns out his “Jill” is out of order, so he hand no one to misguide him.  Google maps, all the way!

If you are wondering why I am parked outside a bar and grill, well let’s call this Ad Hoc Truck Stop #2.  I was running out of drive time, but had a particular rest Area (I 70 exit #224, Kansas) in mind to leave me 20 minutes or so.  I missed a turn to stay on US 156 and wound up running down to 20 minutes at Hollyrood.  I had been scanning for a parking spot, which is a lot harder than you might think.  Let me count the ways:

  1. It has to be big enough to get into and out of without backing off of the highway or leaving the rig where it has to be backed out on to the highway in the morning.
  2. Businesses have big parking lots, but they don’t want me blocking 8 or 10 spaces when their customers come in.
  3. This is Sunday and most places are closed, but local police know the owners and won’t take kindly to any presumption of permission on my part
  4. I have to ask the owners if I can find them or neighbors if not.
  5. There are some obviously abandoned places where truck frequently stop – but I haven’t seen one in the last half hour.

The K-Jack is closed, but it is only 5:00 PM.  It shares a parking lot with a CoOp gas station that is unmanned (card machine only).  No owners available.  I find an older gentleman gassing his truck at the CoOp and ask politely about parking.  He assures me that trucks stop here frequently and that I was just the first one to show up.  What about the Bar?  He says it doesn’t open on Sunday.

My profuse thanks and vigorous, sincere handshake may have startled him. 😉

I was filing my daily report and feeling satisfied that I would make it to the receiver tomorrow, when I realized that my 70 hour clock was down to 6 hours and one minute.  I have a nine hour drive tomorrow to make the appointment.  NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

This is the second time I have done this and this time nobody caught it before I did.  I don’t think the Powers That Be will be happy – with me or my manager, who also missed this.  I have requested a swap with another truck and I will slink to a truck stop in Kansas City tomorrow for another one of those Thirty Four Hour Ordeals.

Update:  I got out of the truck after about three hours in the Sleeper.  There were biological reasons.  We call it, “checking the tires.”  Well, this time I found the front left tire flatter than Kansas.  There was a study done once by bored college Engineering students that proved that Kansas is flatter than a pancake.

flatterthankaansasAbove:  The driver’s side “steer tire”.  No, it is not sunk in sand, which was my first impression when I saw it in the dark.

I called the company “Road Rescue” from the corner as I went out to check just where exactly I was and also because the phone reception was flakey.  This lonely, out-of-the-way place where I find myself is the corner of US Highway 56 and Main Street.  They will have road tire service out here “in the morning”.  Until then, back to the sleeper.  I was still wearing my support socks and awoke when my feet hurt me.  My feet were higher than my head due to the flat tire and that may be why they hurt.

I was unable to publish this from Hollyrood since the internet goes through the phone and phone reception is spotty.

Hangin’ at the K-Jack…still


Above:  Hangin’ at the K-Jack, Day Two.  Ad Hoc Truck Stop#2.  It may not look like much, but the location here is US Highway 156  at Main Street.

 It is 10:00 the next day.  No tire service has shown up and my repeated satellite messages have gone unanswered.  Calls from out at the parking lot have been brief and usually dropped within seconds.  Finally I get a satcom that pretty much says, “Call us”.  So, I decide to have breakfast at the Café across the street and see if they have a phone.  The place was full of nice people determined to be helpful.  The Proprietor had no pay phone but loaned me her cell phone instead.  I was about to figure out how to get the keyboard up when an important looking message came through.  A policeman in the front booth loaned me his and told me to stand by the door or it wouldn’t work, either.

thedineracrossthe-highwayAbove: The diner across the highway.  The sign at left says G&VS Convenience Store.  I would not have known it was a diner had not the old gentleman at the CoOp mentioned it.  The same fellow came by to visit the next day because he saw the truck still there at noon when I had said I was going to leave at 3 AM.  He was worried that I might be sick or injured.  Ain’t small towns great?

Anyway, I got through and they promised to send a road tire service. The guy finally got there and replaced the tire and I was off by 12:30 – but with only my meager 6 hours of drive time left.  Construction in Kansas City closed the one exit I needed to get to my fuel stop and I had to press Jill’s “Re-route” button several times.  She finally toured me through a neighborhood where I was trimming trees with the trailer and dodging cars parked on the street.  At the fuel stop, I  got a call from my manager and news of a new appointment at 5 AM tomorrow.  I can’t make that one either.  So he put me on hold to talk to the Target and they gave a teenage answer – “Whatever!”.  So, I’ll get there ASAP tomorrow.

Rest Area at I35 exit 34, Missouri

Kansas City was not through with me and I experienced a KC Rush Hour that left me about 30 miles North of town with 40 minutes left.  The next opportunity is a rest area 47 miles away.  So, here I will stay and the 40 minutes along with the 5:30 that I “get back” at midnight should do since I am about four and a half hours out.

Over The Road,


Update:  I eventually made the delivery at Cedar Falls.  It turned out there were 40 cases extra of grapes.  Target decided to keep them.  They were not the Columbine variety, but I probably could have sold a few dozen cases here in the truck stop, if the price was attractive.  The one time I was asked to take “overage” away it was 60 pounds of beef liver.  That was just before the Ad Hoc Truck Stop #1


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