It’s a cold morning in upstate New York.  The air isn’t the only thing that’s frozen.  Our projected deliveries for Celadon this week are now on hold, through no fault of the hardworking driver who was doing his best to navigate the snowy highways.

Speaking of snow, when one event causes a schedule delay it creates a snowball effect that impacts everything down the line.  Thursday’s delivery in Atlanta that made us wait 3 hours while the shipper’s clerical error was resolved resulted in a late pickup at our next stop in Lebanon, TN.

We spent the night Friday at a truck stop in Pennsylvania.  Mike started driving at 1:30am as we began to see the first edge of the snowfall moving up from the south.  As the morning progessed and the snow got heavier Mike had to keep stopping to clean off the wiper blades.  About 6:00am at a rest stop where he had pulled over to get out and clean the wipers he came back in the truck with the news that one of his tires was flat.

Since it was so early in the morning and we weren’t close to a big city it took awhile for Celadon to get a repair truck out to us.  We lost 4 hours with that incident.  Once we were back on the road it was slow going as the snowfall continued through most of the day.  

By noon we arrived at the delivery site in Johnstown NY.  This delivery was a drop and hook which means we didn’t have to be scheduled for unloading.  We could just unhook the trailer in a designated spot, find an empty Celadon trailer in the lot (amongst the many empties that belong to numerous other companies that deliver to this Walmart warehouse), hook up to the empty and be on our way.

Meanwhile Mike was coordinating with Celadon and the shipper in Syracuse where we needed to pick up the next load.  Unfortunately, this one was a live load and we would be late for the originally scheduled time.  Because of the holiday weekend they couldn’t reschedule us until Tuesday and Celadon couldn’t find a different delivery for us either.

We hauled the empty trailer towards Syracuse, getting to a service plaza on the toll road just east of Utica, NY, before Mike ran out of driving hours.  There’s no reason to hit the road early today so we are enjoying a leisurely start to the morning.  We’ve got an exciting weekend planned for our “frozen” driving adventure.

Happy New Year!

Mike unhooking my friend the Thermo King trailer. I’ll make a new friend who will sing to me.
A tight squeeze backing the trailer into the narrow assigned spot but Mike is an expert.
Arriving at Walmart warehouse in Johnstown, NY
Getting the flat tire fixed.
Frozen Mohawk River.

An Inside Joke

If you’ve never had the pleasure of bunking in the top berth of a big rig that’s hauling a refrigerated trailer across the country you might not catch the humor in the above photo.  After a good chuckle, my comment was “that says it all.” Check out the photo from my previous blog and you will see that the trailer behind Mike’s Celadon tractor is a refrigerated unit just like this one.  And that small window at the top of the cab is where I can look out at the world when I’m in my bunk.  Which means that me and the Thermo King monster are up close and personal.  I wasn’t thinking of it’s constant roar as a song but now this joke might give me a better attitude.

I’ve found that a sense of humor is very helpful out on the highway.  It’s a rough life and easy to find things that upset and annoy you.  But as a sign I saw last night said “10 percent of life is what you make it and the other 90 percent is what it makes you.”  I’m aiming to not let this experience make  me a grumpy old woman who didn’t get her beauty rest.  Instead I will try to learn the Thermo King tune and by the end of this trip I might go home having made a new friend.

Our First Delivery

Even with the expected glitches in the trucking business, our first load was a success.  Mike, of course, is the expert Celadon driver and has many successful deliveries under his belt.  But, for me, as his tag-a-long passenger, it was an exciting initiation into life “on the Big Slab” (an expression borrowed from a book I recently had the pleasure of reading–Long Haul by Finn Murphy.)

It’s certainly not an easy life and with just this first delivery I have a new appreciation for the countless drivers out there who are pulling loads of product every which way across and up and down US highways.  In the case of this load it was Wrigley gum going from Mexico to an eventual destination somewhere in Canada.  Celadon’s part was to pick it up in Laredo, Texas, and deliver it to a warehouse in Atlanta, Georgia.

We bobtailed (which means driving just the truck with no attached trailer) the day after Christmas leaving from Mike’s house in Brackettville, Texas, at 5:00 am.  Three hours later we were at the Celadon facility in Laredo where we hooked up to the refrigerated trailer.  I never would have thought that chewing gum needed refrigeration!

Our first night out was sleeping (or trying to sleep) in the truck at a Pilot truck stop in Beaumont, Texas.  To make our delivery time in Atlanta we had to leave there yesterday morning at 3:30 am.

We got delayed by a traffic backup yesterday and didn’t quite make it to a truck stop last night before Mike ran out of driving hours. Instead, we overnighted in a Walmart parking lot just before the Alabama/Georgia border.  Say what you will about there being too many Walmarts,  but I was more than grateful to have a 24-hour access to bathroom facilities and a place in the morning to buy something for breakfast.  After all, we had to be on the road by 3:00am this morning.

The plan was to be in Atlanta (actually Kennesaw, GA) by 5:00am where we would drop the trailer and bobtail to Lebanon, TN, to pick up the next load.  Mike did his part to make an on time delivery, but when he checked in at the warehouse office he was told that the shipper had left the “put away” number off of the paperwork.  Since Mexico is in a later time zone it would be awhile before they could contact the shipper to get the number.

We had to park for a couple of hours on a side street and wait for a call that we were cleared for unloading. A “drop and hook” was the hoped for type of delivery, but when the call came that we could pull up to a loading dock, Mike was told that he would have to wait for the trailer to be unloaded before he could get back on the road.  At some warehouses they let you hook up to an empty trailer and be on your way, but not this one.  Besides the possibility of missing the next scheduled pickup, if too much time is wasted waiting at a site, then the driver doesn’t have enough on-duty hours left in the day to get as far down the road as he needs to get before he is required by law to shut down for the day.  That eventuality is something called running down your 14-hour clock.

But Mike and I are hopeful that we will soon get the word that the trailer is empty and ready for us to haul up to Tennessee.  Keeping on trucking!

Southern California

Summer-like weather in mid-December is one feature of the desert in southern California that we don’t find in the deserts of northern New Mexico. It was that promise of warm temperatures that drew us to Indio, California, for a week of hiking and sightseeing. And on our hikes we enjoyed seeing other features that we don’t find in New Mexico’s deserts. For example, Joshua Trees, which aren’t trees at all, but are members of the Agave family.

The stalk in the foreground is a young Joshua tree before it branches.

And then there are the California Fan Palm Trees. So strange to be hiking in barren desert terrain and then come upon an oasis of palm trees.

Some other interesting features:

Gneiss rock formations with distinctive black and white bands are the oldest rocks in Joshua Tree Park.
Cactii don’t look their best in winter. Beavertail is a variety we usually don’t see.
Teddy bear cholla
Seed pod of wild cucumber

And then there are beautiful views from hiking trails:

Look closely to see Lee on top of the hill in the distance.

Our last day in the area we temporarily left the desert and rode the Palm Springs Tram up towards Mount San Jacinto to do some hiking in the mountains.

Riding up the tram.
Looking towards Palm Springs from top of tram.
Hiking a trail in Mt. San Jacinto State Park at the top of the tramway.

White fir tree.

Riding back down to the desert.