Tuesday, June 26, 2007
I’m parked in front of Supreme Windows in St. Louis and it’s eleven o’clock local time. I have a bag of parmesan herb baked pita chips that I bought from a Target store in Chicago last week and I’m snacking as I type this and watch The Sum of All Fears on the TV.
It was a pretty uneventful day. I thought I was getting a ticket this morning but the police officer went after the car on my left instead of getting me. By the time I realized that he wasn’t after me I was nearly on the shoulder. I was so relieved that I nearly laughed out loud. Not that I was doing anything worth being pulled over for but when your driving a truck there never has to be a reason to be stopped. Sometimes it’s just your turn to be checked out.
I left Cincy and headed to Indy where I was to deliver to a warehouse in which all the employees leave in the middle of the day and come back at five. I have a key but apparently someone forgot to tell me that the company had installed a new alarm system, for which I had no code. Interesting thing was that it was one of those silent alarms. Sooo…here I am unloading my bay windows and the cops come flying up, sirens wailing, lights flashing, tires squealing, guns drawn, dogs barking, cats meowing, canaries chirping and ice cream melting. The situation was quickly brought under control and no one was hurt except for a sore throat from the tear gas, but I’ll get over it.
I hit my second stop in Indy and headed on towards St Louis. Everything went well for the rest of the day. Effingham, IL is about 3 hours from Indy and that was probably where I was going to stop for the night, at least as far as my logbook was concerned. Now you need to understand, I usually go from Indy to Lafayette, IN on this run but the folks in Lafayette didn’t order anything and so it was a straight shot to St Louis for me. Having not been on the west bound side of I-70 between Indy and Effingham for a while I was not aware of some of the changes that have occurred on that road.
You see, each highway has it’s own personality. I-76 through PA is a rough windy road, I-95 up the east coast is crowded with intermittent spots of scenery, I-90 through South Dakota is mostly just grass (the scenery, not the highway itself) and I-10 across the south is so flat and boring you can fall asleep in a heartbeat if you’re not careful.
As for I-70 through the Midwest, well, it’s the Midwest, average in every respect. Some flat stretches, some small hills, mostly grass and crowded only around Columbus, Indy, Effingham and St Louis, as far as I go anyway. A fairly boring road for the most part, that is until this week.
I was coming up on Brazil, IN and a flatbed hauling crates full of ducks going to slaughter had passed me not 10 minutes before. Apparently, the driver came around a curve and discovered a deer standing in the road looking as if he was wondering where all the grass went. Braking hard, he swerved to miss the deer; they can really do a lot of damage to the front end of a Pete, and lost control, sending the truck into the ditch. Trying to save it, he got it back on the road but couldn’t keep it upright and laid her over on her side.
Ducks went everywhere. And when I say everywhere, I mean everywhere. There were ducks in the trees, ducks in the bar ditch, ducks on the shoulder, and ducks standing on the yellow line pondering their newfound freedom. It seems that these ducks were no longer capable of flight and so they just wandered around looking a little lost and dazed.
The driver climbed out through his window and jumped to the ground, a little bruised and battered, but basically unhurt, walked a few paces away and sat down in the grass.
His truck, on the other hand, was going nowhere anytime soon, and besides that, it was blocking the entire highway, shoulder to shoulder. So the traffic behind him was going nowhere either.
In a situation like this there is really nothing you can do but sit and wait. A semi can’t negotiate the median strip like a car and since both shoulders were blocked, there was no way around this fellow. You make the best of the situation that you can. Which means that everybody gets out of his or her vehicles and, after determining that there is no more danger at hand, walks around and talks about how beautiful a sight it was to see that truck just slowly lay down in the middle of the road. There is always one or two idiots who figures that their time is more important than anyone else’s and they think we should all just walk up and pick that truck up and move it by hand so he can get home and take down his Christmas lights.
So we walked and we talked and we discussed the finer points of interstate design and we bided our time until the staties showed up. We also watched the ducks wandering around.
“It’s a shame those dead ones can’t be put to use”, said one driver. “Sure seems a shame to let em go to waste like that.”
“What’d you have in mind”, I asked.
“A barbecue would be nice”, and an idea was born.
It didn’t take long. I got on the CB and found a fellow hauling Weber grills to Colorado Springs and there was a Wal-mart driver right behind him. I was sure he would have some charcoal and lighter fluid. If he wasn’t carrying lighter fluid we could always suck a little diesel out to get the fire going, but he had some fluid so that was cool. The party was really getting going. We set up about 15 grills and got them going while a couple of little old ladies from Arkansas started plucking ducks. You should have seen the feathers a’ flying. Those old women were going to town. After a few more calls on the CB we had a bunch of lawn chairs, four large picnic tables, the entire load of a Coors truck, two medium sized wading pools and all the fixin’s for the barbecue. There was a van about a hundred yards back that had a band in it that was trying to get to California to get a break. They snagged about a half dozen generators off some RV’s that were in the line and set their equipment up about 100 feet from the grills. I believe they called themselves Pukin’ Dogs.
Just as the band was setting up the staties showed up and started looking over the situation. Since so many ducks had been killed in the wreck they were calling it a fatal accident and the highway would be down for some time as an investigation ensued. The highway had been blocked at the last exit and we were given the option of turning around and going back to the last exit or waiting it out. The majority of us decided to wait it out. Why miss a good party when it’s just getting started.
The first batch of ducks had been grilled and the Arkansas ladies were starting on the second batch when one of them mentioned to me that if the party lasted more than another two hours they would have to start killing some of the ducks that survived the accident. There just wasn’t enough to go around. I told them to do whatever they had to and carried a platter of grilled duck and potato salad up to the staties and the wrecker driver.
When I got back I sat down in a lawn chair on the side of I-70 sucking on a duckstick and working on my third adult beverage when up walked 11 gorgeous ladies in bikinis. “So this is the hold-up”, one of them said. The fellow who found the lawn chairs said, “This accident just keeps getting better and better.”
Seems this bevy of beauties were on a tour bus about 200 yards back that belonged to the Hawaiian Tropics Bikini Tour. They had just finished a competition in Columbus the night before and were headed to St Louis for the next event. Imagine that. St Louis. And me going there as well. Well, I’ll be, I though.
As the band cranked it up (they knew a lot of classic rock which was cool) the cars ladies started dancing in the road and whatever cars weren’t empty by then soon were.
Well, all I can say is you should have been there. It was the best wreck I’ve ever seen. No one was hurt except about 430 ducks and one young fellow who tripped over a croquet wicket and broke his wrist when he grabbed the side of the trampoline to try and break his fall. About 730 the staties started back down the line saying that the wreck would be cleared shortly and we needed to wrap up the party. The bikini ladies took down their kissing booth and the table where the were signing t-shirts and photos and just about anything else anyone brought them. The little old ladies from Arkansas finished pitching out all the duck innards and the rest of us broke down the tables and chairs, the wading pools, the trampoline, the croquet and miniature golf courses, and the climbing wall. The wreck had only been cleared for about 45 minutes before we finished cleaning up. We sure didn’t want to leave a mess. We were civic-minded folks you see, just making the best of a bad situation.
So if you find yourself running west on I-70 through Indiana in the next few days, keep your eyes open around the 19 yardstick. There will probably be quite a few fat buzzards feasting on duck leftovers.
And who says truckers can’t be environmentalists as well.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Anyway, I thought today was going to be a little calmer here, but alas, the Guitar Hero II game is going full blast. I just have to make sure I get my turn.
I wouldn't mind going out for some Karaoke tonight but I'm the only one that likes to do that and if I go by myself I'm libel to get into trouble.
Maybe I'll sit at home and play guitar hero with the kids.
Or I could show up at AM's house with some crabs and beer and cannonball in her pool.
The testicle festival is over so I missed that but I think the brat festival is coming up. It's right between the popcorn festival and the Possum Parade.
What a life I live.
Friday, June 22, 2007
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Now I would never put my kid through the trauma of living their entire life with a name like 4real, Satan, or Adolf and I think that any parent that would should really be questioned regarding their parenting capabilities. But the one thing I do have a problem with is the government stepping in and saying "No, you can't do that." Now I also realize that this wasn't the US that made this decision but our government entities have made some choices that were just as bad.
There is this woman in Columbus, OH who may lose her plate because society has changed around her and the online world has invaded the offline world. "NWTF". "Northwood Tree Farm", "National Wild Turkey Federation", "National Wind Tunnel Facility", "Noxious Weed Trust Fund", "Nuclear Waste Task Force", "Northwest Water Treatment Facility", or the impolite form of "Now What The Freak".
Maybe it's just me but I get really irritated when any form of government tells me what I can and can't do, even if I calm down later and see how they may be right about a certain issue. It stills irks me that they want to tell me what to do. Maybe I'm just a curmudgeon. Does anyone else feel that way? Maybe it's just me.
Well, ya'll have fun. Just pretend you're all in Antilles with Anne and she's picking up the tab. Does that work?
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
I bought a new (new to me anyway) laptop from a friend after she replaced hers and I figured I’d be able to keep up more. I’ve got a wireless card with it but I don’t have WiFi yet so this week I mostly spent trying to hack into secure sights around Chicago and Milwaukee. I was not successful. Ben told me to look for a red X painted on the corner of a house, which is supposed to indicate free wireless in the area. The Chicago police were not happy with me driving around the downtown neighborhoods with my big truck looking for red X’s. I tried to explain but they really thought I was looking for some other things that usually come in red. Big Misunderstanding.
My daughter bought a car. The same daughter who does not have her drivers license yet despite being 20 years old. But she bought a car. It’s sitting in my driveway as we speak. (Are we speaking? Well, you know what I mean.) Meanwhile, I park my vehicle on the street since hers is without tags at this point. She bought a little Geo Metro. It’s bright yellow. Curiously, it’s the same color as the golf cart that my neighbor is trying to sell. Maybe she should have bought the golf cart, except that it was more expensive than the car.
I lucked out on this last trip north. Racine, WI got hit with 70 mph hour winds and the truck stop where I usually park had two trucks get blown over while they were parked. The International dealer lost their big sign to the wind and it crashed on top of two brand new trucks. I was running about 3 hours late due to traffic in MI and so it was over by the time I got there. Thank You! Thank You! How would you like to be taking a nap and realize that your room has just turned on its side? That’d ruin your day.
Hana called last night while I was in Chicago getting my backhaul loaded and told me she was taking my wife to the ER. The pain in her knees had just gotten too bad and she couldn’t take it anymore. I’m 400 miles away, my wife is crying in pain, my daughter is crying in frustration and fear, and the 6 yr old is crying cause he doesn’t want to go somewhere else for the night. I was frustrated because there was nothing I could do from where I was except talk Hana through the whole ordeal. And next is a night of driving to Indianapolis to unload at 9 am. They drugged Sheila with some pretty good stuff, dilaudid; believe me, very good stuff, and she slept all night and all day. I was up all night anyway so I did her stressing for her. I’m home now and she is much better. She just pushes herself too hard, past the point that her knees can handle at this point. Good news though is that she believes that she has found doc to do the replacement surgery. Maybe in August.
Good news. Hana and Sheila went shopping Saturday while I stayed home with the kids. Hana bought about a hundred bucks worth of clothes at a clothing store and then they went to Wal-Mart. Whilethey were in Wallie world allof Hana’s new clothers were stolen out of the car. She was so mad. Said she felt violated. I believe it. Well, the police called yesterday and said they caught the females who stole the clothes when they tried to return them to the store for a refund. Hana will get all her new clothes back on Sunday. And this after Sheila took her shopping again already to replace them. She deserved more clothes anyway so all is well.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
This looked like it was going to be that kind of day.
I had two stops in Columbus, three in Cincinnati, one in Lawrenceburg, IN, one in Indianapolis and one in Lafayette, IN that I was due to get off the truck on Monday. This was three weeks ago.
I made my first stop in Columbus and as I pulled into the parking lot I could hear air leaking around the service valve on my dash. (Also known as the parking brake knobs.) Not a good sign when you hear air.
I pulled the knobs out and the air quit, which means one thing. The air is leaking from the brake system somewhere. The next step is to find it. The first place I looked was the brake chambers. Now for those of you not familiar with the mechanical workings of a tractor trailer, each axle of a truck and trailer has two brake chambers on them. They are air operated and the system operates between 90 and 120 psi. If it falls below 60 psi then the emergency spring brakes lock up and the truck is not going nowhere. I really didn't want that to happen. You're pretty much dead in the water, so to speak, if you get below 60.
I made a few phone calls and found a shop that would take care of my problem and I figured I could limp her over there since it was only about 20 minutes away. All seemed to be going good at this point. I found the shop, checked in, promised my next child or motorcycle, whichever came first, and went to the drivers lounge to watch some TV and wait for my truck to be fixed. (The new shiny part in the picture is a brake chamber.)
The repair normally should only take about an hour to fix and so after two hours of not hearing anything from them I went back out to the desk to check on the progress. At this point, they had not even started on my truck, even though they had an available mechanic and an open bay. I asked what the problem was.
"We have to give the customer a quote first before we can start the work and we don't know if you need the whole chamber or a piggyback."(A piggyback is basically half of a brake chamber.)
"What's the difference in price?" I asked.
"A full chamber is $57 and a piggyback is $39."
"Put the full one on," I said. I figured for $18 bucks difference it was worth knowing that the whole thing was good for another few hundred thousand miles. Besides, I needed to get going and a full chamber is easier to install than a piggyback.
Back to the lounge I went to watch a snowy version of The View, (not my favorite show, always figured they should have been in front of a fence instead of a coffee table) on the one channel that would come in, and began to wait again. At times I would wander outside and check the progress of my truck and was not very pleased with what I saw.
At three hours I was once again sitting out front, smoking a cigarette, and stewing about being late. Another trucker who needed repairs done had tied his dog up to a post by the front door and I sat there fuming while this black and white mutt, who looked like he had a lot of Pit bull in him, chewed on his bone.
The day was beautiful and I should have been enjoying it cruising down the highway, but I was stuck here on a bench while some mechanic took his sweet time with my ride. I was getting hotter by the minute.
"You really need to learn to relax."
I looked around to see who had given me these great pearls of wisdom and was a bit confused to see that I was still alone. No one else was within 50 feet of me, except for that mixed mongrel, and the voice had definitely come from withing just a few feet. Or so it seemed. I began to think I was hearing things in my stressed out condition.
"Who was that?" I said glancing around.
"Just me," I heard and still saw no one but the dog.
I took a long look at the dog wondering if he had heard it too since he was staring right at me.
"Did you hear that too, boy?" I asked the mutt.
"Of course I heard it," the dog answered. "I'm the one who said it, and please don't call me "boy". I'm 37 and I find it demeaning." It was at this point that I knew I had been waiting way too long. I was mad and hot and fuming and I was hearing things. I picked up my cell phone and thought about calling my boss to tell him to send a replacement driver since I was obviously cracking up.
"Who you calling?" I heard and glanced up quickly to see the lips of the dog form the last word of the question.
I just stared at him wondering if I was really losing my mind or if a miracle was happening or if...I don't know what.
I was staring straight at the dog when he said, "Didn't your mother teach you not to stare? And it's also pretty rude not to answer a question that's been posed to you. At least my mother taught me that much."
" I was calling my boss," I said. "Obviously I'm too sick to drive if I'm hearing dogs talk."
"You've never heard dogs talk?" he asked.
"No. Can't say that I have," I said and I could not believe that I was carrying on a conversation with a dog.
"Hm," was all he said as if he found this quite curious.
"Do you often hear dogs talk?" I asked immediately realizing how stupid the question was.
"No," he said and I could hear the sarcasm in his voice. "Usually it's just rocks that I hear talking."
I stared at him wondering if just maybe he had sent a little barb my way. Yes, he had. I had just been insulted by a mixed-blood mongrel of a mutt outside a truck garage in Columbus, Ohio.
Might as well roll with it, I figured. "So why do you say I should learn to relax?" I asked obviously expecting some great pearls of wisdom to come forth. Why else would I be hearing a dog speak to me if not to gain some message meant only for me.
"You just do," he said. "I can see you're all worked up by the way you're smokin' and cussin'. Even a cat could see that you're pretty pissed about having to wait for your truck. Just relax. You can't make 'em work faster but you can make 'em work slower if you piss 'em off."
"So how do I relax when I'm pushing 4 hours behind right now?"
"I don't know. Just relax. I'm not God you know. I don't have all the answers."
Here I was talking to a dog! I could not believe it! Why else would I be talking to a dog if not to gain some message from the event, some great new thought for my mixed up life, some ecclesiastical teaching that could lead me to greater heights of wisdom than any man has ever reached. And he was just saying "Relax".
"That's it? No great insights? Just that I should relax?" I said.
"Yeah, that's it," he said.
"I figured if I'm talking to a dog you would have some great message for me."
"Why's that?" he said. "I already told you I'm not God."
"Yes, but you're a dog! Dogs don't normally talk so there must be a reason for this conversation to be taking place other than for me to just calm down a little."
"Don't know where you've been living, buddy," he said. "But I hear dogs talk all the time."
"Yes, but you ARE a dog!" I shouted.
" I think we've already established that," he said. "And I'm not sure I really like the way you keep saying that."
I had just offended the sensibilities of a black and white pit-bull mixed dog. What was my world coming to?
"I'm sorry I said. I didn't mean to offend you," I said.
"So there's no other message other than that I should calm down."
"No great pearls of wisdom?"
"No insight into the inner workings of the cosmos?"
"I'm a dog for crying out loud," he said. "You can't seem to get that through you're head!" At this point he cocked his head a little and said,"You want some insight? some wisdom?"
"Yes," I said. "Maybe that would make this whole encounter mean something profound to me."
"OK," he said, as he stood and stretched his legs out in front of him. "Here's your great pearl."
I leaned forward expecting something that might come from the mouth of Gandhi or Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King Jr.
"At least you don't have to worry about being neutered against your will," and with that he walked around to the other side of the bench and lay down with a sigh.
I sat there staring at his tail twitching in the dirt and realized that he was right.
Maybe I would just go back inside and watch some more of The View while they finished my truck.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
She has been a member of the church I attend for much longer than I have and she plays the piano quite beautifully.
She is a bit older than I and I have never seen a couple more in love with each other than her and her husband. He started coming to church with her in the last couple years when she was dealing with cancer. I teased her once about waiting at the church for her boyfriend to pick her up and she said, "No, my husband. He's the only one I've ever loved." This coming from a woman in her mid 60's. She didn't mean to embarrass me but I regretted my glib comment.
She is a beautiful woman and I'm sure she turned a lot of heads as she grew up.
When I was off work due to my heart attack and diverticulitis she and her husband were a great encouragement to me emotionally and financially.
If one were allowed to pick one's mother, she would be at the top of the list. One of those women that you really look up to and pray to God that your daughters grow up like her.
She went home tonight.
We're gonna miss her around here and I'm sure we'll see her again, I'm just not sure when. But she's home now and all her worries are gone.
I'm a little envious, I think. Just a little.
Well, maybe more than a little.
Monday, June 4, 2007
Time for bed. See ya all.