Chasing the Sundown

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Interstate 70 Rest Area Mile Marker 130,  Licking (Yes, that’s what it’s called) County   Ohio

To reduce chronological confusion, when I am writing “in real time” I will put that text in italics. 

Normal font means I am describing something that happened a day or more ago.

At times, it seems that I don’t have a moment to spare.  After Denver, I took a load of meat from Kansas to Maryland.  I spent a lot of time in Maryland a while back while I was “Shipwrecked” at a Peterbilt Shop.

The delivery in Maryland was in three parts.  The first was a big box chain distribution center that was no problem.  The second was a Kafka Movie experience.  I arrived an hour early at Three AM.  I was left waiting for a door.  That is to be expected for early arrival so I was not alarmed.  I got a door about 90 minutes later, backed the open trailer in and turned in my paperwork – all as expected.  After that, the driver waits for the green “docking light” to turn red.  This indicates that the unloading has begun and the trailer is “latched” to the building to prevent the trailer from moving.  All this would be normal.

But, after an hour, the light was still green.  Not normal.  I went back to the receiving office and to ask politely if there was some problem or misunderstanding.  I was told to “just wait for the call”.  On the way back to the truck I notice that eight of ten truck drivers near me are also still looking at green lights in their rear-views.  I waited until it was obvious that I would miss my next appointed drop at Seven AM and called to re-schedule.  I told the receiving office at stop #3 (a quarter mile away) that I would need at least another hour.  She asked where I was.  When I told her stop#2’s name and address, she gave me two and one half hours.  That made me think she knew something I didn’t. 😉

Drivers generally don’t bother each other in loading docks because they are all busy with paperwork or sending reports or trying to get some sleep.  But, I happened to catch a neighbor (also sitting at a green light for over an hour) and he told me that this is normal for Drop #2.  At last the light went red and unloading began.  They were through in time for me to barely make the new appointment at Drop #3.  So, with paperwork in hand and a song in my heart I started the engine and made ready to leave.  The light was still red.  Again, my trailer was clamped to the building.  I could not leave unless I dragged the building with me.  A polite reminder call to the receiving office and I was assured I would be released momentarily.  I called again fifteen minutes later and said, “I don’t mean to be a pest or anything, but…”

I was at last released to arrive double-late at Drop #3.  By this time, my door had been given away and I had to wait another three hours for a door – not unusual for late arrivals.

During the early hours at Drop#2, I received a new load assignment.  I reviewed the information and made a trip plan.  This opportunity expired during the delay at the door.  Another assignment went exactly the same way while delayed at Stop#3.

jill-both-ways2Above:  I don’t have any pictures that relate to this post, so  this is a photo of Jill’s recent directions at highway exits.  As you see, Jill has gone all Schrodinger’s Cat on me – actually telling me to stay and go at the same time.  This went away after a recent software upgrade.

 

Interstate 94 Rest Area at mile 161 near Ann Arbor, Michigan – 3 AM 11/13/16

I am on a tight schedule two loads in front of the narrative.  I will find some time soon (another 34) to catch up.  Meanwhile, I have these snippets of time to advance the story.

All told, I spent over ten hours in Maryland planning trips that were later cancelled, interacting with receiving personnel, filing reports, doing paperwork, moving the truck around, waiting for a door or waiting in the door. I might find that sort of activity more interesting and challenging if I were actually paid to do it.

From Maryland, I was sent out to the end of a Peninsula where truck stops are apparently not socially acceptable.  There is a chicken plant down there where I was assigned a load.  No fuel or parking so it requires preparation and lead time and back without running out of fuel or drive time.  It is a lot like Free Diving where one holds their breath to descend to great depths and then return to the surface.  This chicken plant is an ugly, unorganized place where they tell you to “drop the empty anywhere” and your full trailer is somewhere on that same lot.  I walked around on foot through the gook on the parking lot that also includes thousands of feathers and other organic material from the hundreds of seagulls hanging out around the yard.

Exiting the yard when my load was ready was a choreography.  I had to hook the trailer and drag it around to the scale, past all the randomly placed empties and loaded trailers.  The scale exits back to the yard, so we do it again to get out the gate.  I rehearsed the sequence on foot, making sweeping motions where I would swing wide to avoid collision.  I’m sure the yard personnel thought I was some sort of latter day Mr. Monk and avoided me as a result.

Detroit Receiving Yard – 7 AM 11/13/16

Checking in at the guard shack here in Detroit left me with instructions to wait for someone to come find me. I parked where he told me and looked in vain for a receiving office.  When my appointment time came I called that number we have for contact and sure enough, there was another door, outside the yard fence where I should have gone.  The guard is just a guard and has nothing to do with Receiving.  Now that someone in operations knows I am here, I should get a door soon.

Back to the chicken load from Virginia Shore to Iowa.

My work cycle was now reversed from what works.  I was getting up  in the late afternoon and driving until early morning.  Arriving at truck stops and rest areas exactly when they can be expected to be overflowing into the streets and out onto the Interstate shoulders.  The trick of passing up the rear-enders to find new vacancies works about half the time.  If it fails, then there is the exit ramp.  If that is full, the next stop may be only 30 to 50 miles away.

Now Westward bound, I was chasing the sunset instead of fleeing the dawn, as I would prefer.  Jupiter appears above the sun and dominates the sky after dusk.  When I turn around and head back East, I will see (low to high) Mercury, Saturn, Venus and Mars above the predawn Sun.  Venus should be obvious,  Mercury may be lost in the Sun.  Saturn is faint, being on the far side of the Sun.  Mars can always be recognized by its reddish color.

Delivering my Giant Containers of Chicken (one per pallet, 20 pallets  – 39,000 pounds) was a pleasure.  The Receiving staff was pleasant and informative.  The lady of “mature” years who signed me in took me to a window to show me where to park and described what to expect from the loaders.  She directed me to the “facilities” and offered me coffee.  The doors had a half mile of run-out in front of them making the easiest docking in the world.  After I left, I found no room at the inn at the local truck stop, but there was a Walmart down the street with other trucks parked.  I joined them and spent about $90 re-stocking the ships’ galley before spending a restful 10 hour break in the same eight parking spaces.

From there to Ottomwa, Iowa to take on a load of pork.  I dragged it to Michigan and I thought I was in the twilight zone when I pulled into the chosen area where I expected an 8 PM crowd and found only one other truck in the midst of about 30 pull-through diagonal spaces.  A third truck arrived and I asked the driver about this phenomenon.  She said it is like this every weekend.

Normally I fill up my water bottles at rest areas.  I found the water fountains stained with mineral deposits and the water was not worth collecting.  When stainless steel fountains are stained, be very afraid.  Flint, Michigan is just down the road from here.  You would think they might use water softeners and filters at rest stops and other very public places.  Evidently not.

I called from Detroit Receiving again after an hour parked.  I’m next, they tell me.

Vermillion Service Plaza exit 139, Interstate 80, Ohio – 1 PM 11/13/16

The Detroit drop is complete and I have moved to a place 20 miles from the Ohio drop.  I’ll leave at 3:30 AM tomorrow to complete that one and drive 120 miles to another appointment at noon.

This brings us to the point where the two narratives merge into the present.

Over The Road,

Steve

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