Friday, April 30, 2010

The Long-Awaited

I know what you’re all thinking: “Oh, is he still doing this blog? I thought maybe he realized nobody reads it and nobody cares. “

But frankly, I don’t care if anybody cares. This blog is for me, and the rest of you are given leave to ignore or enjoy as you see fit.

Honestly, I’ve been kind of busy for the past several weeks, and when I’ve had free time, I haven’t had internet availability, or I’ve had better things to do (re: spend time with my family).

However, right now, I seem to have some limited internet, some limited time, and I’m in “Colorful Colorado.”

Here’s the long and short of what you’ve been missing:

I ended up in New Jersey (very pretty state, if you stay away from Newark), bringing me all the way from one coast to the other. I completed my training period on March 25, and ended up stuck in Denver for a few days waiting for a truck. Eventually they rented me a car and had me drive down to Dallas to get my truck. So, after about 2 weeks of not working, getting paid roughly $20/day to sit around and twiddle my thumbs, I finally got on the road.

My truck was… less than perfect. 505,000 miles when I got in it (now up to 524,000), it was certainly showing its age.

I drove solo for about two weeks, spending 98% of that time in Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, and Texas despite the fact that I was technically a “Western Regional Driver,” meaning I was supposed to be driving in the western 11 states (and some of western Texas). Then I got a call from a dispatcher who had an opening for a team on one of his dedicated runs between Ogden, Utah and Paris, Texas. It was a guaranteed 7800+ miles every week, resulting in a pay increase of roughly 90%. The teammate he was hooking me up with was from Ogden, and (as it turns out) LDS, so I agreed.

Our first week running together, we pulled in about $500 more than I made my first week running solo. Our second week running together, I pulled in about $100 more than I was making in training. That was kind of rough. But I think I know why:

We have had to stop for hours and hours on EVERY SINGLE LOAD that we picked up that week because of broken this and broken that on the trailers. Every driver should be checking these trailers and getting them fixed, but NOOOOO they’re too lazy so Josh and I are single-handedly getting the entire Werner Enterprises trailer fleet (16,000 trailers strong) repaired. We’d probably let some of these go, except that we actually got pulled over one day, and Josh ended up with a ticket because we hadn’t noticed something was wrong. So now, we check and fix everything. Well, except for one tire that actually looked ok, just a little worn. Not three hours later, it blew, costing us another five hours of sitting and waiting.

So, all our sitting and waiting cost us between $400 and $600 this week. Totally unacceptable. Right now, we’re in a motel in Denver waiting on repairs to our truck (leaking water-pump). Could be another day or two. So… I’m expecting a smaller than acceptable paycheck again this week. Nothing I can do about it, though.

I’m sure I have more to blog about, but I’m not going to right now. Be grateful for what I give you, and be glad I don’t give you more ;)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Out of Hours - What A Pain

The past few days have seen me drive from the Los Angeles area up through Nebraska and into Iowa and Illinois for a delivery south of Chicago, followed by a pick-up in Gary, Indiana (which was much more urban ghetto than The Music Man would have us believe).

After picking up our load in Gary, we drove through down-town Chicago just as an ugly blizzard blew in. I was in the center lane, taking it easy, as another car came blowing past on my left. I started signaling and checking my mirror to the right so I could move over into the slow lane just as Mike starts freaking out. The guy passing me to the left had just lost control of his vehicle, and was spinning around in front of me. Suddenly, all the training they gave me in class started flooding my mind: What to do in an emergency: 1) Don’t slam on the brakes; 2) Don’t swerve; 3) Sometimes the best thing to do is run over the car in front of you, in order to protect the other cars around and behind you.

My right hand side was clear, so I started moving, but Mike was still freaking out, demanding that I slow down. So I braked. Gently. Very very gently. And continued moving over.

The other car came within about 6 feet of us before coming to a stop facing the wrong direction, back in the left-hand lane. At this point Mike made a show of explaining how we should stay in the slow lane for now. Thanks, Mike.

The snow got bad enough that we started looking for someplace to pull off for the duration, even though it meant our delivery up in Eagan, MN would end up being late. Using his Truck Stop Guide, Mike found a truck stop a few miles up the road where we’d be able to pull off. Just as we got to that exit, however, the snow stopped falling, and the roads dried up. We were back up to freeway speeds in no time.

We switched places just north of Madison, WI and I slept. Woke up again the next morning in a place called New Ulm, MN; rode up to Hutchinson where we switched places and I brought us back down. Out of Minnesota, through Iowa, into Missouri. We pulled off in a town called Nevada, MO, switched places again; and this morning I woke up in Paris, TX.

I ran out of hours just as we got to Nevada, and I won’t gain any new hours till midnight tonight (tomorrow morning, rather). Mike is out of hours now, too, and won’t gain any new ones till midnight. So we’re stuck in this ratty little truck stop that makes the worst rest area look palatial, until late tonight. Then we’ll finish running this trailer down to Dallas where we’ll sit till Monday morning, when we’ll both have a fresh 70 hours to work with.

In the mean time, it’s cold, it’s rainy, it’s wet, and apparently the city of Paris didn’t think anybody would bother walking around in this part of town so there aren’t any sidewalks. I’m glad I brought boots. Still, I’m terribly annoyed.

Monday, February 22, 2010

On the Road Again

Mike picked me up from the King Oscar around 11:30 PM on Thursday. We had a pick-up in Kent, WA (fairly close to where I was staying), which we ran down to a suburb of Portland, OR. After dropping our load there, we ran back across the Columbia River and picked up a load in Washougal, WA which was headed for Paris, TX.

I drove us from there as far as a rest area at mile marker 18 on I-84 between Burley and Pocatello, ID. Mike took over from there while I slept.

I woke up just as we came into Laramie, WY. Mike drove till we were just south of Ft. Collins, CO, at which point I took over. I headed along US 287 through Denver and then south through towns with fun names like Kit Carson.

The weather was awful along this stretch of road, however. I passed a semi that was rolled over on the side of the road. A clean-up crew was on the scene taking care of it, but rolled over rigs are a very sobering sight.

A little further on, through the fog ahead I saw four-way flashers blinking at me, and I got ready to slow down to pass the vehicle. This stretch of road is undivided two-way highway (meaning one lane in each direction with only a yellow dotted line separating us). As I got closer I could see that the hazard lights were on a vehicle parked in the middle of my lane, not the side of the road, so I applied the breaks a little harder. Suddenly I could make out another vehicle on the other side of the truck in my lane, and I thought “Oh crap, a head-on collision!”

My truck started fish-tailing a little, and I realized I was sliding on black-ice… I could feel my trailer trying to jackknife around on me. I let off the brakes and clutch and let the truck fix this potentially catastrophic situation, and then braked again, coming to a complete stop.

Now I had a clear view of what was going on in the road ahead of me. There was no head-on collision. Rather the truck stopped in my lane was rendering assistance to the other vehicle I had spotted, which was an upside-down SUV which had been towing a U-Haul trailer (which was still upside-right – or right-side up, depending on your preference). There were a number of people standing around the inverted vehicle, though it was impossible to tell which ones were rendering aid and which were from the wreck. The things that did stand out in my mind: A man holding a very young child, both in apparently good condition, the baby wasn’t even crying; a woman with blood covering her face, but she was up, walking around and looked like she was trying to make sense of things; steam rising from the chassis of the SUV, and the remarkable sense that this accident just barely happened; I even have a very vague impression of somebody climbing out of a window of the vehicle, though whether it was somebody making their way out for the first time, or somebody who had already been out and climbed back in to retrieve something I couldn’t say… there wasn’t anybody helping him out, so I presume the latter.

I woke Mike up, to find out what, if anything, he thought we should do. He pointed out that there wasn’t anything we could do, so I needed to make my way slowly around the accident and move along. I said a prayer in my heart that somebody rendering aid would have a cell phone and had already called 911.

Another rig had come to a stop behind me, and another was stopping on the other side of the wreck as I passed around. Just as the mess disappeared behind me in the fog, a train of about 6 more rigs (following each other far too closely for good weather, let-alone icy roads) passed me, heading towards the accident. I flashed my lights at them, hoping to give them a heads-up about the mess they were coming up on.

If I’d known how to work Mike’s CB, I would have used it, too. As it is, Mike never has his CB turned on, and rarely ever uses it at all, so I hadn’t a clue.

The rest of the drive was far less eventful. As I passed into Oklahoma, the weather cleared up considerably for about 10 minutes, then fogged back up again, though the temperature continued to increase steadily over time. There is a city in the western portion of the Oklahoma panhandle called Boise City which is bisected by US 287. The interesting thing about Boise City is that the highway comes into the town from the north, runs right to the center of town, where there is a courthouse, and then it runs counter-clockwise around the courthouse and spits you back out, heading east. Anyway, that was the most exciting part of Oklahoma.

Side-note: Friday I drove through Boise, Idaho. Saturday I drove through Boise City, Oklahoma.

I continued south/south-east into Texas, getting on I-40 in Amarillo, and heading east, till the 287 split off again, and made it as far as the Wal-Mart in Childress. Switched places with Mike again, and woke up the next morning in Dallas (Mike made the delivery in Paris while I was out). He had already picked up our next load there. We switched again in Fort Worth, and I drove us as far as Las Cruces, New Mexico. I woke up in Phoenix, and right now Mike is driving us towards our next destination.

Good times. Weather is nicer, too.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

In a Motel Again

Mike goes home every 3rd weekend (or as close to the weekend as they can get him home). This was his weekend to be home. They were late getting him there, so he wasn’t able to drop me off at the motel until Monday.

The motel I’m at is called King Oscar, located in Pacific, Washington (just southeast of Seattle). My friend Jenni lives in Seattle with her husband and 1.3 kids (I’m estimating the .3), so I thought maybe while I was stuck here for a few days, I’d see if we could get together one evening and do something. Unfortunately, Jenni’s father-in-law is ill and hospitalized in another state, so they are not around right now.

I say “unfortunately,” not because it means they aren’t here to hang out with. I say “unfortunately” because it is unfortunate that her father-in-law is so ill. I don’t mind being stuck in a motel for a few days, by comparison to what they are facing.

And this motel is way better than the La Quinta (yeah, I know that “the La” is redundant). First off, I don’t have a roommate. Also, though the TV is smaller, it has more channels. Also, there is wi-fi in the room, not a 2 foot Ethernet cable. Add to that the fact that the Ethernet at La Quinta was only 10 Mbs, and the wi-fi here is 54… well, you see that I’m much happier here.

I’ll be here till Thursday, possibly till Friday.

Quick recap of the past few days:

We took the load from Battle Mountain back to Sacramento, then we ran down to Santa Clara and picked up a load destined for San Diego. There was no way we could make it to San Diego in the available time we had left between us and make our delivery on time. Well, that’s not 100% accurate. We had enough hours, but because Werner has a policy against letting new drivers drive between the hours of Midnight and 6:00 am, we were constrained.

So we told them we couldn’t do it, and requested a swap (the way everybody else seems to do to us). Dispatch never got back to us, though.

While we were waiting for dispatch to give us instructions, I got a call from my mother that my grandmother had been given 48 hours to live. Bad news. I spent a part of our down-time writing a post for my family blog. Later that night, while driving towards San Diego, I got another call from my mom. My grandmother had passed. The funeral plans had already been set in motion for Monday (she passed the evening of Thursday the 11th).

We were unable to make our delivery on time in San Diego, and the consignee could not accept it late. So we had to drop the trailer in a trailer drop yard on the Mexican border until Tuesday (fortunately, we didn’t have to wait; somebody else would be delivering it). We then went down by Sea World where we picked up a load headed to Phoenix. Made the drive there; picked up another load, this one headed up to West Valley City, UT (next door to my home).

I got behind the wheel in Flagstaff and drove north. Despite the fact that Lake Powell is one of the most popular vacation spots for Utahns, I had personally never seen it before. Not until later that day, as I drove across the bridge just south of the Glenn Canyon Dam. I proceeded to roll north.

Just south of Richfield I saw a deer standing on the opposite side of the road. I started applying the brakes just in case it decided to jump out in front of me. Suddenly, two other deer jumped up into the road from my side. Almost panicking, I applied hard (not too hard, though, as I didn’t want to jackknife the truck). All three deer spooked suddenly. The poor deer I had originally seen tripped over his own feet and almost face-planted in the blacktop. I blew my horn at them and they eventually cleared off the road, allowing me to continue on my way.

We weren’t planning on getting into W. Valley until around 1:00 am – I was supposed to stop in Nephi near midnight and trade places with Mike, who would drive the rest of the way while I got some sleep. However, we had made pretty good time, and I was able to finish the drive to W. Valley. We made it by 11:28. Our next load was already there, ready for us to pick it up. Mike wanted to wait a while, however, get some sleep. We had plenty of time to make it up to Lacey, Washington early. But since it was going to a consignee who is adamant that deliveries not be made more than 1 hour early, we really needed to take our time.

I could have gone home. I could have slept in my own bed, seen my little girl and my wife… but Mike wanted to leave by 6 am, and it just didn’t seem practical to go home for such a short time, so late at night…

We didn’t leave until 7:30. I was a little miffed.

However, as we were passing through Boise on our way to Lacey, and a lot of my family were already up there prepping for my grandmother’s funeral, we were able to stop for a few hours. I had dinner with my mother, and several cousins that I hadn’t seen in a long time, and was even able to swing by the mortuary to pay my respects in person.

And then it was off to Oregon.

The fog along the Columbia River was dense and scary as I started driving in the morning, but it cleared up as the sun rose and started burning it off.

And now I’m in the motel waiting for Thursday/Friday.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

High Hopes And a Big Let Down

Before I begin, let me give you a brief explanation of a portion of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR):

If a driver has worked 70 hours or more during an 8 day period, he may not drive (he can still work, but not as a driver). On day 9, the hours worked on day 1 fall off, freeing up however many hours were worked on day 1… in other words, the 8 day period is “rolling.”

The 70 hours reset to zero if the driver takes a break of 34 consecutive hours.

Also, a driver may not drive more than 11 hours in any 14 hour period. This means that if a driver starts his day by fueling his truck and inspecting it, the 14 hours have begun. He should have the truck fueled and inspected within a half hour, and should be able to inspect it periodically throughout the day (whenever he stops at a rest area, for example). Any of this “stopped” time, or any time the driver is loading or unloading the trailer is considered working but not driving and counts towards the 14 hours.

Again, the driver may work past the 14 hours, but may not drive if he has worked 14 hours. The 14 hours reset to zero after a break of 10 consecutive hours.

Now, with that out of the way, I can tell my tale.

We’ve been pushing kind of hard all week (which I’m ok with… the sooner I get my 300 hours in, the sooner I get my own truck, and the sooner I get to go home and see my family again). As of last night I have only 45 minutes left on my available 70 hours for the 8 day period. At midnight tonight, I’ll gain 10 hours from last Thursday, but today, I really don’t have any available time to do much of anything, except ride in the truck.

Well, conveniently, we picked up a load in northern California that was headed to Salt Lake City. I was going to finish my available 70 hours where I’d need to just sit around for 34 hours in my home town, where I could very likely get to see my wife and child. It was very exciting. Of course, my trainer has a few hours left, so we may have had to take a load elsewhere, though he would have run out of hours before I got mine back… so it wouldn’t have been terribly productive for us to pick up a load right away.

Additionally, the driver side mirror broke as soon as we picked up our load in Denver last Friday (see my post “A Mile High”). We’ve been trying to get it fixed ever since, but every time we have an appointment approved and scheduled with a Peterbuilt dealership, we get within about 100 miles and dispatch contacts us and tells us we need to go swap our trailer with somebody else, who for one reason or another is unable to get their load to the customer on time, but will be able to get our load on time… I take that to mean we’re doing a better job than the other drivers….

Anyway, there is a Peterbuilt dealer in Salt Lake, so it was looking good. We were going to make our delivery on time, get the truck into the shop during hours when we were going to have to just be sitting around waiting on the FMSCR reset anyway, and I was going to sleep in my own bed and play with my angelic princess. Not to mention snog my wife. As they say in Harry Potter.

Well, as we passed through Sacramento, (yeah, you guessed it) we got rerouted to Battle Mountain, Nevada (which was on our way), and told to swap our load with some guy there who didn’t have enough hours left on his 14 days to get his load to Camp Sharp Depot (near Sacramento), but who would be able to get our load to SLC on time.

So, my hopes were dashed asunder. Now I have to spend my downtime in California. My brother lives somewhat close by, so I may give him a call to see what he’s up to.

7 day recap: I’ve been through Sacramento 3 times, through Salt Lake twice, into Colorado twice, through Wyoming twice. I have, perhaps obviously, been through Nevada and Arizona numerous times (as I-15 passes through them from Utah to Fontana, California – my dispatch location). So far, I haven’t been into Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, or Texas; all of which are supposedly within the region I’ll be driving when I go solo. But it’s only been a week. We’ll see what next week has in store.

I’ll take a picture of our duct-taped mirror when I get a chance, and post it here later, so check back. If you care, that is.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Mile High

Ok, so my first night sleeping in a truck wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t overly restful, either. The first 6 hours or so were spent in a truck stop in Richfield, UT. At about 4:30 local time, Mike got up and started driving, which meant I had to move to the bottom bunk (it’s against the rules to sleep on the top bunk while the vehicle is in motion).

I was only able to get about an hour more sleep after that, and spent the rest of my down-time watching shows on the laptop, and sitting in the passenger seat till we cot to a little town in Colorado called Cameo (see below), where I moved into the driver seat and finished the drive to Denver.

I’ve always heard that Parley’s Canyon on I-80 between Salt Lake City and Park City is really hard to drive in a truck. We only drove it once in school, and mostly just to give us an idea of what we could expect from a pretty steep grade. After driving I-70 through the mountains of Colorado – both directions, eastbound with a “light load” of about 22,000 lbs, and west bond with a heavy load of 44,000 lbs – I have no fear of Parley’s Canyon. Parley’s is a short, nearly straight-shot. I-70 through CO is a winding twisting stretch of hell that somehow escaped the netherworld and inflicted itself upon the world, lying across the Continental Divide.

Advice to any other truckers who need to take that route: Don’t miss your gears.

So, as you may have gathered from the context of the above, we dropped our load in Denver and picked up a new one… and as you may have also guessed from the fact that we had to pass back the way we had come, our new load is westbound. Indeed, we’re headed back to the lovely state of California. However, we were only able to make it as far as Cameo (where we had breakfast and changed drivers yesterday). It was about 11:15 PM when we pulled in, which was just in time since (as a driver in training, Werner won’t let me drive after midnight local time, until I’ve been out for 14 days).

I got about the same amount of sleep last night as the night before, which is regretful, since I like getting 7-8 hours, not 6… but it should be ok. Most of my driving today should be in daylight. We’ll probably switch places in Richfield since it’s about 2 hours away, and I’m not legal to drive again for another 1.5 hours.

It snowed in Utah, last night. The roads are ugly, but don’t seem to be causing us any real trouble, at this point. Hopefully that doesn’t change. I really don’t want to chain up.

Now we just drove into a fog bank. Oh, come on, now, weather! Be nice!

Friday, February 5, 2010

At Long Last

Thursday, February 4, 2010; 8:30 AM:

First, I want to make another observation about Mark. He made fun of my snoring the first night we roomed together. I was apparently so tired that I didn’t notice his snoring. He made comments about how I was making barnyard noises. He couldn’t wait to hear what animal I would impersonate next.

It was all in good nature, so I just laughed it off. Well, last night I must not have been quite so tired, as I woke up around 1:30 to one of the most frightening sounds I’ve ever heard. There was a bear in the room, snarling, growling, and making horrifying sounds of devouring what could only have been a human corpse – and since I was still alive, I knew it must have been Mark’s corpse.

Except that there was no bear, and Mark is a loud, terrifying-sound-making snorer. I lay in bed for almost 2 hours, unable to tune it out. Eventually, he started waking up, and the snoring subsided. I drifted back off. He was gone by the time I woke up again.

I made it onto the 8 o’clock shuttle from the motel to the terminal. That part was easy enough, once we convinced the other people on the shuttle to move their bags off the seats so there was enough room for everybody who needed to go.

Once at the terminal, I turned in my direct deposit form (would have done it in orientation, but I couldn’t find my voided check), then I called Mike to let him know I was ready whenever he was. Wouldn’t you know it, he was in the truck waiting for me already.

It’s now about 6:30 Mountain Time. Mike drove us to pick up our load in Rancho Cucamonga (yes, there really is such a place), then he drove as far as Barstow, California, where we stopped for fuel, lunch, and to trade places.

It was now my turn.

I drove just over 450 miles from Barstow to Richfield, Utah. California has some pretty restrictive laws on trucks, one of which is “all vehicles with trailers – maximum speed 55” while everybody else gets to go 75. On top of that, the truck itself (all Werner trucks) are governed at 65 (which is actually rather reasonable). So, it took 9 hours to make the trip.

We stopped for the night at the Flying J in Richfield, and got back on the road about 2 hours ago. Mike will probably drive another 6-8 hours, then it’s my turn. So I’ve got some time to kill.

Good thing I brought movies.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Exhausting Disappoint

Ok, I know I already posted once today, but this bears mentioning while I have the chance.

Noon rolled around and I still hadn't heard from my new trainer, I was getting anxious and trying to decide if I should call my Student Driver Manager again to find out if she knew anything, or if I should just sit tight.

Suddenly my phone rang. It was Mike. My first thought was how odd it was that Mike would be calling since I had been reassigned. So I answered and he explained that I was re-reassigned. This time, back to him. He let me know that he'd call me and let me know just as soon as he had a load lined up.

I proceeded to pack my stuff (which is to say, I didn't do anything, since I have never fully unpacked, and tend to repack once each day), and put the laptop in its bag. Moments later, Mike called and said, "I've got a load close by. Can you catch the next shuttle to the terminal? I think it leaves at 2" I looked at the clock. It read 1:25.

"Yep, I can do that!"

So I dragged my bags down to the front desk, turned in my key and left my bags for them to watch while I hurried down the street to get some lunch. I went into the corner gas station and bought a pita sandwich and a Coke. While I was waiting my turn in line, my phone rang. It was Mike again.

"Hi Steve, I misread the date of this load. It won't be ready to be picked up till tomorrow. I'm sorry. Have you already checked out?" I indicated that I had. "See if you can get checked back in. If you have any trouble, call me back."

I didn't have any trouble checking back in, fortunately, but I did need to lug my junk all back upstairs (I used the elevator, of course, but still...).

And so here I am, one more day in the motel, but this time with an almost-sure-thing getting out of here first thing tomorrow morning. He advised me to get the earliest shuttle out at/after 8:00 a.m.

Thank heavens!


Wednesday, February 3, 2010; La Quinta Inn, San Bernardino, California; 7:43 AM

Yesterday afternoon, I got my third roommate (and hopefully my last). Mark appears to be in his mid 40s, and he’s actually an out-of-work pilot. Talker, too. Which isn’t bad, because he’s very friendly, which was a welcome relief from Vince’s surly cynicism.

Through the course of the evening I was able to pick up on a couple of intriguing idiosyncrasies. Mark uses the phrase “you know” a lot. Not just often, but repetitively. I think I counted 5 times in a row in one sentence.

He also pronounces the word breakfast as “brefdas.” Which I found very interesting.

I was sitting here watching the season premier of Lost on when I decided to take a break from it to write this blog. Just as I was typing the word “sentence” above, my phone rang. It was Mike Berger, my driver trainer. He was calling to tell me that his truck is now number 1 in line at the shop, but not that it matters, since he just received notification that I’ve been reassigned away from him, so I should be expecting a call from a different trainer soon.

Hopefully that is true, and hopefully my new trainer will be a nice guy, too. Unfortunately, I was really looking forward to driving with Mike in his brand new Peterbuilt… What I hope even more, is that I don’t get put on a bus to Dallas like several of the other guys from my orientation class.

This is becoming a joke… though I’m having a hard time seeing the humor in it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Still Just Hanging Out

So it’s 6:06 AM on Tuesday February 2, 2010. Yesterday morning, I was so sure I’d be out of here within the day. Sometime between 7 and 8 AM Josh’s phone rang; it was his trainer making first contact. A first contact which ended with Josh having a good-hearted laugh at my expense as he packed up his stuff and left.

Throughout the day I saw some of the others from my orientation class and talked with them a bit. Most had received their calls, some were heading out right away, others were being re-directed to Dallas, Texas. Those going to Dallas weren’t sure how they were getting there, or if they would have trainers waiting for them there, or what, so I counted myself lucky that I, at least, didn’t have to worry about sitting in a Greyhound bus for however long it would take to go from Los Angeles to Dallas .

At about 3:30, Mike called and informed me that his truck was number 17 in line at the shop, which meant I could expect to get out of here no sooner than the next day. Yay.

I had just settled into bed to watch House and get some much-needed sleep after a long day of sitting around watching TV (interrupted briefly to walk 15 minutes to the nearest McDonalds, and 15 minutes back), when I heard a key in the slot at my door. Having assumed I was going to be alone for the night, I had locked the dead-bolt and the slide bar.

As I rushed over to unlock the door, I opened it to the sight of a very tall, thin man in his late ‘40s - early ‘50s with a short, gray handlebar mustache and a curly mop of hair on his head, gray speckled with white. “Is this room 217?”


“Why the F--- doesn’t my key work?”

“Sorry, I didn’t know I was going to be getting a new roommate tonight, so I had the door bolted. Come on in.”

He dropped the F-Bomb on me a couple of more times the first 10 minutes he was here. I tried to just tune him out as he was unpacking and I was trying to watch House.

He calmed down a bit over time, introduced himself as “Vince” and we talked a bit. He just finished his 300 hours, and he had very little good to say about his experiences, so far, with Werner. Which is to say, he had only bad things to say, though he did reiterate several times: “Don’t let me sour you to it. If you keep a positive attitude, you’ll be fine.”

Such encouragement.

He actually seems like a pretty nice fellow, he just had a rough training experience, and his trainer was a big pain in the butt. Oh, and he was supposed to pick up his own truck on Thursday, but ended up in the hospital with the flu. His stuff was already in the truck, but since he was in the hospital, the company decided to assign his truck to somebody else, who proceeded to dump Vince’s stuff on the ground outside the truck. So now he doesn’t have a truck, and all his stuff was left sitting in the mud.

Ah, to be a truck driver… a dream come true. It’s early, yet. With any luck my trainer will be calling soon and I’ll be out on the road living the experiences I’ve only heard about, so far.

Oh, and Vince talks in his sleep. Not the charming, “Can I have waffles with my snickerdoodles, please?” kind of sleep-talking. More of the cries-out-in-frustrated-terror followed by a calm “yeah ok, yeah.”

Supposedly the morning meeting has been cancelled this morning, but I think I’m going to head over to it, just in case. Miss the meeting, lose your job. Probably cancelled since I’m the only one left in town from my orientation.

Yeah, the meeting was really cancelled. Now I'm down in the lobby which has a stronger internet Wi-Fi signal than the wired connection in the room. So far I've seen one guy from my orientation who is still here. So I'm not alone. More or less.

Vince told me this morning that he's catching the shuttle out of here, and then a bus home. He gives me the impression that he's quitting Werner. After hearing his complaints, I'm not terribly surprised.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Tragedy Avoided

Yesterday while taking a nap, Tammy called and woke me up. That was really sweet of her. Within seconds I could hear Cordelia begging for the phone. It was cute. So I talked to my princess for a few minutes before Cordy gave the phone back to Tammy without warning.

Right away, my call-waiting beeped. I didn’t recognize the number, but I knew I was supposed to be available to answer my phone 24 hours a day, in case the call came. So I told Tammy, “I’m getting a call. I have to take this.”

Lo and behold: it was Mike Berger. A driver trainer calling to tell me that I’ve been assigned to him.


Of course he said that his truck needs some work, even though it is apparently a brand new truck that had some factory parts go out. So it may be a while before we can get out. He said he’d call this morning, so not to leave the motel until I hear from him.

We had been instructed to attend a 6:30 meeting here in the motel every morning Mon-Fri as long as we’re staying here (which is the company’s way of making sure we’re still here, I think). We had also been told to call our Student Driver Manager (basically our dispatcher as students) after the meeting. So, even though I have heard from my driver trainer, I decided to call my SDM anyway (Lori Watts). She wants me to call her back in 15 minutes… so I’m using this time to blog.

First impression of Mike (based on 2 minutes on the phone): He’s a nice guy.
First impression of Lori (based on less than 30 seconds on the phone): She hates her job.

Second impression of Lori: She must have been stressed when I called the first time. She sounded much nicer the second time. Nothing new to report. She said call back later if I still haven't heard from Mike by this afternoon.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Have We Been Misled?

As I mentioned yesterday, Robert told us that there wasn’t anybody in the motel waiting for a trainer. However, last night I met a guy in the motel who has been waiting about a week for a new trainer after his last one hit a deer, damaging his truck. This guy told me that when he checked in last weekend, there were “a bunch of guys” waiting for trainers, but got put on a bus for Texas, since there aren’t any trainers in this area.

So were they shipped off in order to make room for us new guys? What’s the deal?

Or was he just making up stuff, to make himself feel better for getting stuck in the motel while waiting for a new trainer?

Anyway, I’m not too worried just yet. But if we’re going to be stuck here for any amount of time, I am definitely going to want them to change our room, since we were originally told we’d have a refrigerator and a microwave, but we don’t. I didn’t care at first, but if I need to be here long, I am going to need “real” food, not the expensive IHOP next door, or the $1 menu from the McDonalds around the corner.

It’s Sunday, there’s no LDS church close by, or I’d consider going (even though I didn’t pack any of my Sunday best), so we’re spending the day – it seems – sitting in the motel watching Discovery.

More later… perhaps.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

I Am Official

Got up this morning, exercised, showered, ate, and caught the van to orientation. Completed my computer based junk and took a reading comprehension test. You know, tough stuff.

Just after I finished, I ate (Texas Ham and Cheese sandwich), and started filling out the all-important benefits enrollment paperwork. As I was finishing it up, Robert (the orientation instructor) called me up, handed me my badge, my medical card, the name of my Driver Manager (dispatcher), and said as soon as there is an available driver trainer, I’ll be on the road.

He told me there isn’t anybody (outside of my orientation class) currently waiting for a trainer, so the wait shouldn’t be too long (possibly as soon as today). Until then, I’ll be holed up at the motel.

Let’s cross our fingers.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Orientation Begins

I wasn’t able to sleep as long as I had wanted to, yesterday, getting only about 3 hours. I woke up with a rumble in my gut, a pitiful cry for food. I did the math. I hadn’t eaten since about 5 PM the night before and figured it was fair to get up and satisfy the growling monster below.

Immediately next door to La Quinta, San Bernardino, is a cozy little restaurant called “Crabby Bobs Seafood.” I walked past it to the IHOP. Had their “Big” breakfast: 2 eggs, 2 sausage links, 2 bacon strips, hash browns, 2 pancakes (bottomless – if necessary), and a tall glass of grapefruit juice. By the time I was done, the growling monster had become the groaning belly-pig.

I decided to go for a walk, stretch my legs, help my breakfast settle into its new home, and maybe see if there was anything to do nearby (Josh had asked me earlier, since I had already had the mind-blowing experience of trudging my luggage from the bus stop, if I had seen anything fun to do, since we had the entire day to waste).

I walked past about a half-dozen restaurants, a number of hotel/motel establishments, and I understood why the street is named “Hospitality Lane.” Nothing after that.

I turned a corner and walked for a while, crossing one of those overflow concrete rivers that you see all the time on TV and another river-that-was. Currently nothing more than a bed of sand with a little water trickling along, down from the mountains. Eventually the sidewalk ended, nothing interesting in sight, so I turned around and started back for the inn. Hoping that the azure sky and toasty sun didn’t scorch my hairless pate and arms too badly. It doesn’t seem to have.

This morning I got up about 4:30, did my pushups (the challenge is to add one each day until I reach 100), I’m up to 29 - though I’ve been doing 30 for the past several days. I did some air-squats, too, for good measure. I’ve decided to do them in addition to the pushups, though I started them later, and am still playing catch-up. I’m up to 22 on those.

Caught the shuttle at about 6:30 this morning, after having a surprisingly good continental breakfast of corn flakes, yogurt, banana, and apple/orange juice (mixed by me), and have been in orientation ever since. I passed the on-sight physical exam, and have just finished eating lunch (provided), which consisted of pork, Spanish rice, and refried beans. Pretty decent food.

We’ve just been filling out pre-employment paperwork all morning, and watching some instructional videos. Pretty much similar stuff ahead. I’ll post more later.


The day progressed to computer based training (CBTs)… the trainings were pulled off the same server which meant that the long-ish videos that were part of the training took forever to download. The most video-intensive course was supposed to be approximately 20 minutes long… took me over 2 hours. Lame. Anyway, the CBTs started around 2 o’clock, and I finished it at a little after 7.

We did also have a crash course on reading a trucking atlas, which was informative (though mostly repeated information that I picked up while I was in school).

All in all, good times, so far. More tomorrow.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Journey Begins

The bus ride was uneventful. It seemed no fewer than ¼ of the riders were Hispanic and took this opportunity to chatter throughout the entire ride. Other than preventing anybody else from sleeping, they seemed to be extremely pleasant. I got maybe 45 minutes total of sleep on the 13 hour bus ride. I’m sleepy.

So… I’ve arrived at La Quinta Inn, San Bernardino. They have a shuttle service to pick up new arrivals at the Greyhound Station, but they aren’t able to start shuttling until after 9AM. Because the bus arrived at 6:05, the shuttle was not exactly the best option for me, unless I wanted to hang around the somewhat seedy-looking depot.

Knowing this beforehand I had already planned ahead. I knew I needed to catch the southbound bus on route 2. The closest stop was on E Street and 6th. Two blocks directly east of the Greyhound station – unfortunately I took directions from the homeless guy just outside the station… when I asked which way was east, he pointed me south. Once I reached G Street and 4th, I figured out what was wrong and as I could now see the sun starting to peak over the hills, I knew which way was east. It was quite the walk, what with the heavy luggage and Utah-based warm clothes.

Apparently Werner is putting us up in shared quarters. I’ve just met Josh, from Roy. He seems to be a nice guy. Smoker, though… oh well.

More tomorrow (hopefully).