New entry in my Kilt blog 9/21/2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Old Fools Journal: Truck Driving Adventures or How To Work Your Ass Off and grow a Big Belly at the same time.

Everything you consume rides in a truck sometimes. -T Swaim
This was our last truck  and our favorite. We were driving it when it turned one million miles. Because Caterpillar engines was giving a really good deal it went in for a complete overhaul at that time. When they tore the engine down it did not need anything. Everything was still at factory specs. It came out ot the shop with a brand new engine warranty.

About eleven years ago we stopped driving a big truck for a living but until this year we have been licensed to drive anything in any combination over the American highways carrying anything for hire. SWMBO gave hers up as well this year.  Scares me to think about it.  However there were many adventures, many happy surprises and some terrible disappointments.

The disappointments have to do with Texas and Louisiana law enforcement mostly and I don't want to remember them so they will not be here. I will tell you that they fabricate violations (lie) and they do it a lot.  There is no recourse.
This was our first truck with this company, a brand new 1993 International with sixty some-odd miles on it with matching trailer. We put another 530 thousand miles on it and it still looked like new. You may notice that I have already acquired a truck drivers figure here. 
This truck had a Cummings engine. It was our experience that big displacement Cummings have a strange vibration that puts our hands to sleep.  

SWMBO (she who must be obeyed) always wanted to drive a big truck so when we came back from living in Mexico we took that trade up.  After the schooling and apprenticeship we went at it in earnest taking a job in Louisiana because in a moment of insanity we had moved to this paradise(?) and I liked the color of the trucks (special order Corvette yellow).
SWMBO(she who must be obeyed) driving somewhere in Texas.
Here she is in her office reading a book. We read a lot of books. This picture was taken in one our interludes between fights. It's hard for me to stay mad at her.

We did not fit the image of truck driver. I am not very big, I don't wear a ball cap or stetson, I drive bare footed or in flip flops and I wear aloha shirts. She is slim, wears feminine clothing, wears the same kind of footwear but drives in house shoes or barefoot, had blond hair and  does not wear a bra. Neither of us wore underwear.  We believe in the concept of being our brothers keeper. Damned hippies.

She took abuse on the CB in the south because there were a few manly men, driving pickup trucks mostly, that resented the fact that a 100 pound women could take the place of a 300 pound grit gut. She could and did. I stuck her with the handle of "Mad Dog" (her initials backward) on the CB. No one understood because they had not seen that side of her.  Believe me it was a name she earned. She never used that handle but it was definitely hers. She could drive longer without peeing than anyone I've ever seen. I have to pee a lot and I usually wake up before I'm in the ditch.

We hauled a variety of loads during the seven years we  drove in the 48 state (we did not drive in the foreign countrys of Alaska and Hawaii as there is no bridge to Hawaii and Alaska might as well have been on the moon), fought in all of them and made love in a 18 wheeler in all of them .
Loading alligators in Sebring, Florida.

We hauled everything.  We once hauled alligators from Sebring, Florida to Houma, Louisiana because Houma had a shortage of them.  We, on several occasions, had the opportunity to tell the agriculture inspectors in-route that we did not have time for their business as we were carrying a "hot load". After inspecting our papers and discovering that we had a load of Crystal hot sauce from New Orleans or Tobasco from Avery Island laughed and waved us on.
Grandson checking out the alligators
Picking up paper in Valentine, Louisiana bound for Corona, California.
We hauled paper, sometimes toilet and sometime blueprint or newsprint, we hauled cane sugar, cane syrup, dried beans, chicken, oysters, catfish, boudin, candy and ants. The ants did not pay well since they would stop you in Arizona and send you back to New Mexico to fumigate your truck. Arizona doesn't know that they already have ants. Neither does California. The worst attack of fire ants I have ever experienced was in California. New Mexico is making a tidy profit killing ants. I wonder if they split it with Arizona.
This is the line to get into the Border Patrol check point in New Mexico. They were all over the southern routes protecting us from them furriners. This one backed the traffic out onto the interstate (10) and a driver with his young son rear-ended the last vehicle which happened to be a Suburban (I believe) at highway speed. Killed everyone then burned the evidence. When we passed the Suburban was about four feet long. The truck in front of it was a total FUBAR. The trailer in front of that was not like new any longer. The truck that hit it was not recognizable. We passed there the following week and it was business as usual but there was a big black fire damaged spot on the highway that served as a reminder. I heard there were no human remains just ash. They were not backing the traffic out on the the highway at that time but life is cheap and within months it was business as usual and fuck the safety. 
While I am on that subject I would like to add that it is a tremendous waste of taxpayers money.  It only hassles those who are trying to do right. Those who know get out of the truck/car  walk across the highway and then down the other side until they are well passed then meet the truck/car after it passes the "your papers please" government check point. I've seen it myself a dozen times or so and on one occasion the person did not even go to the other side of the highway.

That was just the stuff we hauled to Arizona and California.  We hauled produce back to Louisiana and sometimes other southern states. I am quite familiar with Florida both in delivering produce from California and picking up produce to deliver to California. Crazy, No?

The best was the time we took a delivery from ROADRUNNER Trucking. We went to the ACME warehouse in Chicago and picked up a load of assorted hardware, poisons and edibles. In that load was a pallet of ANVILS. The delivery was to Albuquerque, New Mexico to a place on COYOTE  Street (near as I can recall.  Being a Roadrunner cartoon fan I got a lot of entertainment out of reading that load sheet
We drove this portion of the California coast regularly. We had stopped here for a break and lunch. I seem to remember it was thanksgiving but I could be wrong. I often am.
Same parking place looking the other way.  I love that coast and I wish I could afford to live there.
Mad Dog trucking on down the road.  I have never been around anyone that so consistently made the right split second choice in an emergency and we had a few. I'll tell some of those stories one day if I live.  She makes up for it by not handling leisure time well at all.
 Sometimes the parking is a little tight.
 I had to wire the door back to make it fit.
This is the other side and the doors are touching.  I think this is where I tore the door off someone else's truck trying to leave the dock. They said it happened all the time there. I never went back and if I had I would not back to the dock if there was another truck there.  The profit in that business is marginal without being set up for damage.
Babies. Their mouths are taped shut. They maybe little but they only know one thing and that is to bite. I know some politicians that could use s ome of  that tape.

The Interstate Highway system was built for national defense and the department of defense owns it. If you do not believe that it is only because you did not pay attention when "Bush the first" mobilized to teach them A'rabs a lesson. Loads that were for the war effort deviated from the law for expediency. Some local enforcement types learned the hard way to not delay a load of bombs.  
Yes they transported bombs in civilian trucks, even in produce trucks.
The Interstate makes it possible for me to walk out my front door and be in Los Angeles in 36 hours in my car or deliver fresh caught oysters from the boat in Sulfur, Louisiana to a dealer there. Jacksonville, Atlanta or Dallas is only 12 hours without hurrying, ten if you hurry. On my first trip for this company another driver and I delivered a load of produce from the west coast to a town on the east coast (North Carolina somewhere) in under 48 hours. 


Ben in Texas said...

Thanks for the history lesson. Wish I'd had a shotgun like Mad Dog :-)

You know what they say about old truckers don't you?
They never die, They just get a new Peterbilt :-)

Gunnar Berg said...

Good stuff. Always interesting to learn about lives so different from our own. The only trucks I've ever driven were old farm trucks and an Army deuce and a half.

Steven Cain said...

Is that PCH? I don't recognize the beach.

That's a good lookin' rig. When I was a kid I wanted to drive. It was going to be a Peterbuilt or KW one.

Northmark said...

Fantastic post.
When I got around by hitch-hiking I would occasionally get a ride with truckers. Not as often as non-hitchers would think, because truckers even then had tight schedules and were probably violating a long list of company regulations and insurance rules by taking me from a to b. And why would someone want to spend company with some dopey, long-haired guy with a backpack. Even I knew this was not something everybody wanted to do. Some drivers would start our conversations by saying "Listen, kid, I really, really need you to keep me awake, ok?" which maybe should have worried me, but didn't, since I was young and also immortal.

Steve A said...

I know some politicians that could stand to be in with those gators after the tape has been removed!

Love the truck shots.

limom said...


workbike said...

Thanks for this, I always enjoy your stories about work and life in gebneral. I hope I'll have as many to tell my grandchildren, and do it as well...

RANTWICK said...

That was a very cool post. Did you make up those bits about the load from Roadruuner trucking? Is there a real ACME? (My Canadianness might be showing there) Were there really anvils bound for Coyote Street?

Please say that was all true. Please.

Oldfool said...

Yes there is an ACME. In fact there are many ACME. Google it and you will see that you can buy anything from ACME.
The story is true as near as I can remember it. I'm a little unclear about the name of the street as it may have been the name of the business but there was something about the street name that caught my attention. The whole episode impressed me because it so fit the Wyle E. Coyote/Roadrunner theme.
Yes their were anvils. A pallet of anvils I saw them myself and being an anvil owner for many years I recognized them. Oh hell, anyone that's seen a Roadrunner cartoon would recognize them

Oldfool said...

Steven: Between Santa Barbara and Ventura I think.

Chandra said...

Really nice post! I never knew all these things about trucking and the dynamics of travel by road. So, thanks for the great lesson.

Peace :) said...

Great blog entry. I've been reading you a longish while, wondered about you while knowing what I wondered was none of my business. This entry answers a lot of questions and I can wonder about something else.

But it's also interesting, informative and well worth coming back here to read a few more times before I'm finished.

Gracias, amigo. Jules

Oldfool said...

If you live a longish time you can have more than one career. I worked at being in the Navy as if it was my life's work but flying was my major occupation and for the seven years I worked as a professiolal driver I was know as "the pilot". Flying fit me better and I went back to that after trucking. Trucking is hard work and flying just fits a slacker like me better.
I've always been a flower sniffing damned hippy.

Ben in Texas said...

Quite often when I read your posting a song comes to mind. Today it was this one..
Old Hippy

Ed said...

Couldn't find a COYOTE Street in Albuquerque but there is a COYOTE Ln.

The story has to be true, you don't just make that kind of thing up. HA HA

Anonymous said...

I remember the movie Top Gun when one of the pilots joked about going to truck driving school after his flying career was done. It's amazing to find someone that actually did it. Did any of your aviation skills transfer to truck driving?