• September 2021
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  • Visited

    States I have been to

    37 states so far

Weird Stuff

So here I sit, early morning in Las Vegas, NV with a partial load on my truck. On Thursday, after unloading in Nogales, AZ, we headed north west and spent the night in Eloy, AZ where I enjoyed a visit (albeit short) with a couple of friends. Friday arrived and we then began the next part of our trip. Moving up towards Kingsman, AZ and the first part of our load.

The load is a 2009 Chevy Cobalt and a Quad. Now this may not seem too strange to you, but trying to secure a car and a quad inside a reefer trailer is an interesting concept. The trailer does not have any “tie-down” spots and we usually secure a load using “loadbars” or “loadlocks.” This would not work on this load, so it was time to improvise. We rolled the quad to the front of the trailer and turned it sideways, setting the parking brake. The car was then drive into the trailer, placed in park, and also setting the parking brake. We then set “chocks” all around the front and back wheels and secured those chocks in place using a rope. As a final piece of security, I added a loadbar in behind the rear chocks just to stop them from sliding at all. Part one of our load was complete.

We then continued northwest to Las Vegas, I had hoped to cross the Hoover Dam, but due to construction, that route is currently closed to trucks and we had to take an alternate route. This route took us through a forest of Joshua Trees, which was interesting and beautiful and beyond description. Luckily our load is relatively light, because there were a number of large hills to climb, but our truck handled it easily.

In Vegas, on Friday afternoon, we parked and later today will be heading off to Salt Lake City, UT to pick up part two of this load. I am not 100% sure what this load will be, but it consists of 16 pallets that will be double stacked, so it only takes up 8 places in the trailer. We had originally been told that from Salt Lake we would head to Calgary, AB to unload the back of trailer, but have since been updated.

The next drive will take us from Salt Lake to Iowa. Now this is really strange because it is a cross-country drive with a partial load. In Iowa, we will pick up the final part of this load, of which I have no information at all. From Iowa, we will back track to Manitoba to remove the FRONT of the load (the car and the quad) from the trailer. The logistics of doing this means that we will have to somehow remove all the pallets in the back of the trailer, remove the car and quad, and then return the rest of the load onto the trailer, ready to continue to their intended destinations. The final part of this load will be completed by another driver, because by that time I am going to be taking some much needed time off. 🙂

This load has really given me some confidence with my position within my company. First off, I was given the new truck (remember my 2010 Kenworth), I was entrusted with a trainee driver (who is working out really well), but most important, the car and quad were purchased by the OWNER of our company, and placed in my care, which really shows how the company feels about me. 🙂

So along with pork, produce, electronics, furniture, and other various freight loads, I can now add a car and quad to my resume. 🙂

Big news all around

Well lets see, where do we start? Well first off, on my last trip, I had my wife, Judy, along with me for the whole trip from Winnipeg to Texas to Vancouver to Washington to Saskatoon and back to Winnipeg. We had sort of kept it under wraps because we didn’t really want people to know that the house was empty for that length of time. But everything I experienced over that trip was also experienced by Judy AND it was the first time she had seen many of the states and some really interesting sights. I KNOW she will be along for another trip soon.

Then, just as I was thinking about taking some time off, my company phoned me and asked if I would take a run to Nogales, Arizona and take a trainee along with me. So this is the second trip in a row that the passenger seat had been occupied (this time either by him or me). I had heard rumours that I was getting a new truck, but (on Friday) when I talked to my company, that didn’t seem to be the case. So I planned on taking my regular truck to Nogales.

Well it is amazing how quickly things can change, on Monday while I was waiting at my loading point, I received another call from my company and was told about the change in plans.  I was now to return to the yard to pick up my brand new 2010 Kenworth T660 truck!  🙂

Well as great as this was, all was not good.  My new truck had 155km (about 100 miles) on it when I picked it up.  It had that new car smell that only a brand new vehicle has!  BUT on the way to Fargo, ND a warning light lit up on the dashboard, advising about high fuel pressure.  The gauge would max out and then return to normal and then repeat.  We stopped at the Kenworth dealer in Fargo,and after a couple of hours was told that it was a faulty sensor, and not critical, which is lucky because there was no replacement part available.  We were told to continue on, and it was time to play “catch up” on our time.

However, that certainly was not the end.  As we continued down the highway, just south of Denver, CO, another light and gauge issued arrived.  This one looked much more serious because it was an “High Oil Temperature” warning.  After pulling over to the side, silencing the annoying chime, we checked oil and continued on our way once the light had extinguished.  As we climbed hills, we noticed that the truck was now seriously lacking in power and the oil temperature gauge would slowly climb.  We limped our way into Albuquerque, New Mexico and went to the truck stop to contact our company.  We were told to go to the nearest Kenworth Dealer, which luckily was just a few miles away.  But on arrival, we were told that the tech had gone home for the night.  This did not please my company and the phone calls were under way.  Not quite sure what transpired over the next couple of hours, but a tech was dragged into the shop and eventually went to work on our truck.  This was an amazing thing because I was told the tech would NOT work after hours…but someone somewhere had a lot of pull.

After looking at the truck for a couple of hours, it was determined that a $5.00 disposable part had basically disabled a $130,000+ brand new truck!  This part was a screen in the oil cooler that was supposed to be removed at the first oil change, which was over 20,000 km in the future!  This screen was plugged completely, preventing anti-freeze from circulating through the oil cooler, setting off the gauge, light and chime!  Once the screen was removed we were back on our way, but extremely far behind and HAD to be in Nogales in approximately 12 hours and we were at least 8 hours away.  With some luck, good planning, and shared driving by my trainee and I, we made the delivery on time!

So now empty, we headed up to Eloy, Arizona and took a much needed break.  Which also allowed me to visit some friends in Phoenix.  One whom I have known since 1999 (hi Keli) and one who I had never met in person, but finally got the opportunity (hi Mark – I know you are reading this!)  🙂  But that is all for the next update…along with the strangest load I have had to carry so far.

Texas to Vancouver and then…..

Wow, been out of touch for a while…my last post was about Hurricane Hermine, and I have done a ton of miles since then. I was still loaded with my Texas load at that time and since then I have moved north. Survived the hurricane, was little more than a tropical storm and I have seen much worse.

That morning I headed to Hidalgo, TX to unload and spent most of the day waiting. There were only a total of FIVE trucks getting unloaded, but it still took from 8:00am until about 3:00pm before I was empty. At that point, I contacted my dispatcher to find out what was happening with a reload, and he told me not to expect one that night and head for the truck stop.

The truck stop was about 15 minutes away, and I parked, went inside for a bathroom break, and my phone rang, telling me to head BACK where I just came from and pick up my reload, they were waiting for me!! Now it got interesting, the place I had to reload, was the highest security place I have ever been into. Guards on the gate, and they gave me a little security tag to prove that I was supposed to be there. I then had to travel a maze of loading docks to find my location and then backed into a really really tight dock to find out that my truck was about to be HAND loaded with office furniture heading to Vancouver, BC. Now anyone that knows me knows how much I LOVE driving in Vancouver…NOT!

So now it took them about 2 hours to load my truck, and jigsaw puzzle the pieces into my trailer. They had never loaded a truck like mine before and I basically had to instruct them in how to load it, (can you say the “blind leading the blind!”) 🙂

So after loading it was off to Vancouver…over 3000 miles (4800km). A really nice paying trip, but with a nasty city at the end of the road! My initial destination was right in downtown Vancouver and I took one look at the location on Google Maps and thought “Oh-oh…this is not going to be fun!” I then found out that my actual destination was a little outside of downtown Vancouver, but not by much. The plan was to park my truck in a “parkade” behind the building and unload there, that plan was great until I arrived, took one look at the parkade and access points and said “Nay Nay…that just ain’t happening!” I parked on the street, called my contact and advised him that we would have to street unload because there was no way my truck was going to get into the parkade. I called my dispatcher the next day, he took one look at the location on Google Maps and agreed 100%!

It worked out well though, the next morning arrived and so did a forklift and a helper and after about 2 hours we got the truck unloaded. My only concern now was to exit Vancouver as soon as possible and I was told by dispatch to head back to Washington for a reload on Tuesday.

The border crossing at Blaine, WA is CRAZY! I was in line for more than 2 1/2 hours! Crawling along, one truck space at a time and getting more frustrated by the second. When I finally arrived at the border, the officer asked me the usual questions and then asked me “Where I was headed?” When I told him I didn’t have my pickup info yet, and was just heading across the border, he proceeded to give me a lecture on how trucking and border crossings work. As a Canadian trucker I cannot move freight between states (I know that!), or interstating, and can only move from the US to Canada. When I didn’t have a pick up location to provide him, he accused me of interstating, and told me to prove otherwise, which of course I could not do. He was half-joking with me though, and just advised me that in future, I MUST have proper information, or they could refuse entry!

So now I sit in Ellensburg, WA on Tuesday evening and my Tuesday load did not materialize. I won’t get loaded until tomorrow and then will be off to Saskatoon. I’ll try to update a little more often, hadn’t realized that it had been so long.

Close Encounter with Hermine

So when I arrived in Edinburg, I checked the weather to see where Hurricane (Tropical Storm) Fiona was and she was off the coast of Florida and in no danger of coming close to Texas and therefore I thought I was out of the woods in relation to having any hurricane issues. The local weather had “Rain and chance of Thunderstorms” listed, which is nothing to worry about. When I went into the truckstop, however, I saw at the bottom of the TV screen, a Hurricane and Flash Flood Warning for the area where I was stopped. So it was back to the net to try and find out what was going on.

Seems that Hermine, a fast forming hurricane, had formed in the Gulf of Mexico, just south of the Texas border and was heading my way. Was listed as a Tropical Storm with a chance of increasing to Category 1 Hurricane strength. Since it was now dark outside, there wasn’t much to see, but every so often it would rain really hard and the wind would blow. The “eye” was supposed to hit at approximately 4:00am, and so there was nothing to do except go to bed.

Through the night it rained on and off, and again the wind would blow really hard, but other than that it was pretty mild. Nothing compared to the visions I have seen of hurricanes on TV and honestly I have seen much worse storms in Manitoba. There was still the risk of isolated tornadoes and thunderstorms throughout the day, but the sky looks pretty tame and I think the worst is passed.

Its funny how people react down here though, because the guys in the truck stop were not the least concerned about the storm at all, compared to me, who mildly freaked when I heard about it. So now I can say I have been through a hurricane, albeit a very small one and survived!

Roling, rolling, rolling!

Well I am back in Texas and heading for a delivery in Hidalgo, Texas on Tuesday morning. Never been there, but it is located right on the Mexico border near the Gulf of Mexico.

This trip got off to a rough and slow start. On the way to Winnipeg, about 5 miles East of Elie, I blew a tire on my car. Figuring on a 10 minute tire change at the side of #1 was my first mistake! Shaun (my youngest) went to loosen a lug nut and it broke. I cursed (yeah I know unbelievable!) at him, and then went to take the others off myself. The first one I tried, broke also, and so did the next. So now I am sitting at the side of the highway with a flat tire held on by two lugnuts…this is just not going good. I got on my cell-phone and after playing around with the 411 operator, trying to find a local garage and getting the wrong number from her, I was finally able to contact someone to come and help.

The young man pulled up, I explained the problem, and he went to remove the final two lugnuts, which of course, both broke!!!! At least the tire was off the car now! He drove back to Elie, returned with 5 new lugnuts and replaced the tire. All to the tune of (get this) $180.00! THAT was strike ONE.

When I finally arrived at Steinbach, later that evening, I found that my truck was not in the yard. I made a quick call to maintenance and found out that my truck’s differential was shot and being replaced. So now I am truckless and bedless! After about an hour of running back and forth, text messages and trying to figure things out, I was able to get access to my truck, grab my bedding and spent the night in a spare truck in the yard. THAT was strike TWO!

So Friday morning arrives, I have my truck and am sitting in Winnipeg. I am on my way to my 10:00am load (it is now about 8:30am), when dispatch calls and tells me they can load me right away. I told them great because I am almost there. When I arrived, I was able to back in right away, and then found that everyone had gone for a coffee break! When they returned, my “right-away” load took about an hour an a half to start….can you say “10:00am load!!!!” But that was only the start. Once the load was completed, I was told to pull out, close up my trailer and wait in the yard for paperwork. The paperwork would be back “shortly!!!” Well shortly turned out to be about 4 hours later! THAT was strike THREE!

The rest of the trip has gone pretty good though and I heard a rumour that there could be a new truck in my future, so I am just hoping that my bad luck has run its course!!!

Home Depot!

So I am finally done with my TWELVE drops at various Home Depots in Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Lloydminster and Edmonton. This was the most drops I have done so far. The miles were great, almost 3400 miles and I got paid extra for all the drops I had. Only problem with that is that it took me a week to get from pick up to final drop!

Next time you take your car into a Home Depot (or Walmart, Costco, Rona, Lowes, etc) parking lot, take a good look around at the access points and where the loading dock is, and figure out how you get a truck and a 53 foot trailer (over 72 feet total length) in there! Some of there are not as bad as others. My FINAL drop this morning was hell. Had to use an Earl’s Restaurant parking lot as part of my backing space (Home Depot told me everyone uses it). Good thing this was at 9:00am when Earl’s was closed, or else I wouldn’t have had the access.

Also on the way to my last drop, I took a corner and right in front of me was a bridge with a warning of “4.0 Metres” … now my trailer is 13 feet 6 inches high which translates into 3.9 metres and change! I crawled under that bridge in 1st gear waiting for the screech of metal, but luckily it never came! I followed the directions EXACTLY as I was told by the Home Depot, but no one told me about that bridge! I hate cutting it that close, because you just never know, but other trucks rolled through at full speed, so obviously they have been under it before!

So now I drove back to Saskatoon, empty, and waiting for a load from here tomorrow heading to Winnipeg and then home. More than likely it will be an overnight run into Winnipeg, which is no fun at all. Drive all night and unload in the early morning hours (usually around 3am or 4am)! People should be sleeping at that time! Lots of coffee to drink tomorrow, hopefully I get a good night sleep tonight!

Around the city!

So I sit in between unloads at a truck stop. Got three of my five Winnipeg unloads done, and now have to wait to get the other two unloaded. I was able to get the first three unloaded before my scheduled time, but not so with the next two. After they are off I am heading to Regina to unload two more loads in Regina and then off to Saskatoon.

Google Maps and Streetview is a great tool to give you a good look at the access points into the loading areas, but I have to say that who ever designed the truck access into the Bishop Grandin Blvd Home Depot in Winnipeg needs his head examined! The access if from Ste Anne’s Road (not Bishop) and I came in to take a left turn, missed the stop light in the parking lot by a hair’s width! Coming out was no easier and I had to run the back wheels of my trailer slightly over the curb to make the turn! I had checked with Home Depot in advance, because even with Streetview, I couldn’t get a good look at the access point, and they told me to come in the way I did, but warned that the access was really tight! They were not kidding!!!!

I know Winnipeg really well and am able to move around easily, but unfortunately I do not know the rest of the cities quite as well, and my GPS always points to the front door of the building, which is often NOT the best access point for me and my 53 foot trailer.

Also today in and around Winnipeg it is windy as all heck, so driving the perimeter has been a lot of fun. Seeing the trailer wanting to tip sideways in the wind is just a little bit scary. I am heading west in a couple of hours and for anyone that knows the #1 from Winnipeg to Portage La Prairie, knows that it is windy at the best of times, and today is going to be hell out there!

Oh well just the trials and tribulations of a truck driver, but this is why I chose to do long haul trucking and not local, because I just hate trying to maneuver in the city and get into tight spaces. Last night I was talking to a driver from Allied Truck Lines (the moving company) and he was telling me about putting his trailer down residential streets (they load up at houses) and how much fun that can be. Those are the streets that I laugh at when my GPS tries to direct me down them, but I never even thought about those poor moving guys who HAVE to drive down there!

What a load of …..

OK so I got loaded (or my truck did at least) this morning in Meridian, Mississippi. I am heading north back to Canada. This is a load of flower bulbs going to Home Depots across the West. This is going to be a really challenging run. I have TWELVE drops at various Home Depots in Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Lloydminster and Edmonton!

Twelve drops is the most I have ever had. Up to now the record was six drops, and this doubles that. Its also a really light load, only about 20,000 lbs which makes for really easy driving and hill climbs.

The worst part about these loads is that access to Home Depots is not always the best for big trucks. I did one of these loads in the spring, to a bunch of Home Depots in Calgary and some of them were not easy to get in and out of. I also did two loads to Home Depots in Dallas, and again I had issues with access. The designers of the “box store parking lots” do not take 53 foot trailers into account when they design them!

On a lighter and happier note, Judy told me her passport came in the mail today, so that means she is now legal to cross the border and may soon accompany me on a trip down south! 🙂

Louisiana is #38!

Well that was a surprise, today I got to travel through Louisiana, which is a new state for me. I was in Laredo, TX yesterday unloading, and usually I get a fruit load out of southern Texas that heads to Western Canada, but not this time. I was sent dead-heading (empty) for about 800 miles to Meridian, Mississippi. And that gave me the opportunity to add Louisiana to my list of states visited.

Its a very interesting looking place, unfortunately the weather was cloudy and rainy for most of the trip so I was not able to get any pictures. 😦 On Interstate 10 there is a bridge that is about 18 miles long and crossing lakes, rivers and swamps. It is restricted to 55MPH for trucks, and about 2 miles into it I was cruising along at about 62MPH when I saw a state trooper coming up behind me. I immediately slowed to below 60MPH and he passed me by. I guess he was looking for a bigger fish today. 🙂

Hopefully the next time I come through here, the weather is a bit nicer, because I’d love to get a few pictures. Now the only big hole on my USA map is Florida in the south. Hopefully I can fill in that hole soon.

It is still amazing to me that I have traveled so much of the USA in such a short amount of time. I have probably seen more of the USA than many residents have.

100,000 miles and counting

Today, somewhere between Gretna, Nebraska (where I began) and Ardmore, Oklahoma (where I am now), I passed 100,000 miles traveled. This is the first (of many) major milestones in my trucking life. When I began this journey last September (with training), I realized there would be many hurdles to cross. The first hurdle was getting my license, the next was getting a job. The day after I got my license, I got hired on into my first trucking job, so that was two hurdles crossed. Many companies required at least 100,000 miles and/or one year behind the wheel. I currently have 9 months driving experience. I felt at the time I was hired, that aiming for 100,000 miles was a good place to go, and then I would be able to look around for work elsewhere, but in the past 9 months things have changed!

I actually really love the company I am working for and for the most part, I love the runs I am getting. Another goal of mine, when I decided to get into trucking, was that I wanted to do “fruit” runs into the southern states, and that is exactly what I am getting in 90% of my trips. Also, although I spend a long time on the road, when I request time off to spend time at home, I am always able to get the days that I want. The company that I work for is very small, and they value family time. Right now, I feel that moving to a new job is not in my best interests, even though new jobs have opened up with my 100,000 miles under my belt.

Just as a bit of further info, I know I have posted this previously, but currently I have driven in 37 states. Of the Lower 48, I have 11 states left to visit: Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and Delaware. I also haven’t been to Alaska and the chances are very slim that I will, and of course Hawaii is not accessible by road, so that is out also. In Canada I have driven in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba (obviously) and Ontario. I have yet to visit Quebec and the Maritimes, and also the Territories, which like Alaska is very unlikely.

When I think about all the places I have seen in the past 9 months, I am always amazed, because a small town boy gets to see North America and drive in some of the largest cities. All I need to do now, is cross off a few more states, Florida being number one on my wish list.