Monday, May 24, 2010

The California Fruit Stand

Having a lot of time on our load from Longview, WA to Pico Rivera, CA, we made a stop at our favorite truck stop in northern California, then finally took the opportunity to stop at a well-advertised fruit stand off of the I-5 near Bakersfield. Many samples later, we left with a jar of pumpkin butter, handmade white corn/wheat tortillas, six nectarines, a pound of cherries, a pound of garlic pistachios, half pound of ranch-flavored corn nuts and a slice of blueberry crumble pie. Murray Family Farms has made a life-long customer out of us (at least for as long as we're trucking!). Check them out!

Present location: Fontana, CA (in the shop...again)
Total miles this week: restart at 0

Have a blessed week!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tips for Driving

As you can probably imagine, Ben and I see quite a bit of good driving, bad driving and down-right crazy driving out on the road. Did you read in the last post about the person who passed us on the right shoulder only to then drive over four lanes of traffic to (barely) make it to the left exit? This, unfortunately, is not uncommon. It is also not uncommon for us to see four-wheelers (cars, pick-up trucks, SUV's, etc.) have complete disregard for truck drivers out there. Hence, this post is for anyone with a license and could use a few reminders for safe driving, as well as a few things to know in general about trucks if you do not drive one yourself:

1. Always use your turn signal.

2. When on the interstate, if you are not passing someone, drive in the right-hand lane.

3. Use your cruise-control feature (if available), especially on the interstate. When driving is your livelihood, it can be extremely frustrating to play “leap-frog” with others because they will not keep a steady speed. Please do not make us pass you 3 times or more. It gets old.

4. Never ever tailgate. Especially behind a semi. Keep enough distance between you and the semi that you can see the truck mirrors. If you cannot see our mirrors, we cannot see you.

5. After you pass a semi on the interstate, be sure to leave enough space cushion before you merge back into the lane the semi is traveling in. In some states, if you do not leave enough space, you will get a ticket if caught.

6. Be aware that the distance needed to stop a tractor-trailer is significantly longer than the distance needed to stop a car. For example, if you're driving on a state highway and a truck is behind you (with his/her own proper following distance) and your turn is coming up in ½ mile or so, put your turn signal on at the ½ mark. This gives the trucker ample time to slow down and adjust his speed without having to slam on the brakes.

7. It takes trucks a lot longer to get going from a dead stop than it does a four-wheeler. Our tractor-trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Honking your horn will not make us go faster.

8. Trucks need a LOT of space to make turns. Because of this, remember to “keep your distance”.

9. If you see poor driving by a trucker, call it in. I have done this for both truckers and four-wheelers because they posed a very real and dangerous threat to everyone in the nearby vicinity on the roadway. When we all cooperate for safety, everyone wins.

10. Be courteous to truckers and help them change lanes when they signal. This can be done by leaving enough space for the truck/trailer to merge into your lane, as well as flashing your high beams to let them know. Two feet of clearance is hardly detectable from the mirrors of the truck; let there be a few car-lengths of space.

11. Believe it or not, when it comes to merging, it is the vehicle already in transit on the interstate who has the right-of-way, not the merger. Do not expect the truck to get out of the way; it is much safer for the truck to hold his/her lane. Either speed up and get in front of the truck, or be patient and yield. Do not drive on the shoulder with the same speed.

12. Trucks turn over easily. They have a higher center of gravity and therefore need to take curves a lot slower than a four-wheeler.

13. It may be annoying, but be patient with them, and be weary of them. Trucks, by their very size, can hurt you a lot more than you can hurt them.

14. If there is a sudden and strong wind gust, be careful about passing trucks: that can easily push him/her into your lane without the driver being able to do anything about it.

15. In general, when passing, do not "lolly-gag"; we do not like being boxed in.

16. Honking does not do much good; it is not easy to hear what is going on behind the truck.

17. Most trucks are governed. If it looks like two trucks are duking it out with one trying to pass the other, it is because one is going just slightly faster than the other. Most times, the truck getting passed will slow down, but sometimes this show can go on for miles.

18. If a trucker ever looks like he doesn't know where he's going, especially if he's an over-the-road trucker, he probably doesn't. There are many places that truckers have never been and the learning curve is high. It may be annoying to be behind a trucker like this, but it is one of the more stressful parts of the job. Being courteous and patient can go along way for a short fuse.

19. Although it seems that most truckers are safe and courteous, there are some very unsafe truckers out there, and we see that a lot more from our perch up here than you would down in your four-wheeler. There are drivers who will drive distracted; they watch movies, knit, text, etc., all while driving. You name it, they probably have done it while driving. There are drivers who take drugs to stay awake, although this seems to be more of a thing of the past. There are drivers who will keep a false log. There are drivers who will pee in bottles. There are drivers who will drive an entire 11-hour shift without taking a break...basically, not all drivers are good drivers, so be vigilant around trucks.

20. Truckers are people too.

Do you have any other safe-driving tips for four-wheelers or suggestions for truckers? Safety is always our #1 priority and any feedback is welcome.

Present location: Tumwater, WA

Recent visits: brother-and-sister-in-law John & Melissa, our nephew Ben and nieces Maddie & Amelia

Miles so far this week: 3958

Have a great weekend! We are looking forward to returning to Bend next weekend for our hometime! It has been nearly 2.5 months since we've been to our apartment, and it will be a nice break.

God bless,

Thursday, May 13, 2010

It's no wonder...

...people kill each other in New Jersey. I think it is official that New Jersey has now surpassed California as my least favorite state. People are mean, short and nasty (well, not all, just most), the roadways are begging for rehabilitation, trash is littered everywhere, the state smells like a garbage dump, people pass you on the shoulder only to then cross over 4 lanes of traffic to barely make a left exit (not joking), there's a mass overlay of roads that lie on top of each other near Newark making it easy to miss a turn, leading you into an area of town that doesn't allow for trucks to turn around especially with low-hanging bridges...... We had this experience just a few days ago, and in a span of a few minutes. To say the least, stress runs HIGH, bringing out the "best" in us, if you can believe that.

In this last experience, we were stuck blocking a road trying to make a tight right turn that couldn't be made until all of the traffic in the opposite lane of the direction we were headed moved. This led us down a residential/industrial area (who thought that would be a good idea to mix the two?!) with many more tight turns, swearing and frustration, only to find another low-clearance bridge directly in front of us. I had to get out of the truck and help Ben back it down the roadway and try another route to get us out. All in all, it was a delay of about 30 minutes trying to maneuver through the streets. Thankfully, we came through when traffic was light and we had plenty of time on the load to deliver.

Nonetheless, this led us to believe it's no wonder people kill each other in New Jersey. The state is dirty, crowded, polluted, and people do not know the term courteous. Thankfully, we only have to visit this state every once in a while. Otherwise, we may kill each other...

On our way down to the Memphis area from New Jersey, we stopped by a truck stop near Greeneville, TN, to get a bite to eat: the "Davey Crockett Travel Center". The food was horrible, but the placemats kind of made up for it and kept us entertained.

In case you can't read it, it's titled "Mountain Talk", with phrases and words common to the folk who live in the hollers of the Appalachian Mountains. Because of their previous seclusion from outside culture and influence, these gems have been passed down from many generations. Here's an example:

BOOK READ - Educated or well informed "We aim for little Flossie to git book read someday."
FUR PIECE - A great distance "He lives a fur piece from his kin folks."
GULLY-WASHER - A hard rain "We shore had a gully-washer last night."

On a brighter note from the NJ depression, we're in Olive Branch, MS, a stone's throw from Memphis, TN, the location of the second terminal we've now visited. This one is just as nice as the first! With free laundry! And a "rental" van available to drivers to go out of the terminal to get a bit to eat or do shopping in the nearby area! The staff here continue to be helpful, pleasant and courteous (take note, New Jersey!). We could hardly ask for more. It is quite remarkable the difference in cultures between our old and new company.

We've got a load going to Boise, ID from Memphis, picking up early tomorrow morning. This will be our first venture back into the Northwest in almost 6 weeks. Considering the ridiculous humidity I awoke to this morning, I cannot wait to get where it's dryer! It's hard to believe we've been away from our place in Bend for 2 months, and we are looking forward to returning in two weeks!

Have a great weekend, ya'll! God bless!

deb & ben

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Some Random Thoughts

Greetings from Los Angeles! We're at the dock getting unloaded, then hopefully dispatch will set us up with another load soon so we can leave this area! It's always nice to say goodbye...

I have great news: I passed my comps! I have officially earned my Masters Degree in Theology! Praise the Lord! Now if I could just continue developing my exit presentation for the catechetics specialization I will be all set!

I've enjoyed reading "smut" books (i.e. books that have no academic or theological bearings whatsoever) since comp day, and have completed both "The Memory Keeper's Daughter" by Kim Edwards and "The Innocent Man" by John Grisham. Both were page turners, but I finished Grisham in a day. What a story! Presently, I just dove into Michael Crichton's "State of Fear". Any recommendations for other good books out there?

We passed by the creepy honey-I-blew-up-the-baby toddler cut out again today, so I snapped a picture. It doesn't seem as big as the first time I drove by it, but I still think it's weird...

When we were in the shop the other day getting the starter changed, we were able to spend some time with Steve and Valerie in San Antonio--they were gracious hosts! We enjoyed seeing y'all and look forward to the next time!

And, a huge CONGRATULATIONS shout-out to AJ for completing his chemo! You've been a great inspiration to me and your faith and trust in the Lord is admirable! Your family continues to be in our prayers!

Have a great rest of your week and a fabulous weekend! God bless you!


Monday, May 3, 2010

Mother Nature's Fury

Greetings from the great state of Texas! We've been very busy with this new company so far, traveling from western Ohio to Chicago to Denver to Kansas City to Phoenix to Los Angeles to San Antonio. We were to head to Georgia next, but our starter is giving us problems again, so we're in the shop.

Traveling from Denver to Kansas City last Thursday evening was a sight to behold. We were driving behind a long-and-skinny thunderstorm cell, which stretched from Dodge City, KS all the way up to the twin-cities area of Minnesota. For over an hour, as we neared the storm, we saw nothing but lightning light up the sky, bouncing from cloud to cloud. Not more than a second was between each flash, and the view was from every direction in front of us. It was really quite beautiful! Here is some video footage (bear with us, it was black out, but you can see all the flashes):

A short hour later, we were driving through marble-sized hail, wind, and rain so thick and strong that we could not even see the front of our truck! We literally had to stop in the middle of the interstate because the white lines were not visible. Thankfully, no cars were in our near vicinity, and stopping gave us a clearer view of the road. We limped along through the storm, getting in front of it where it was dry, but the winds were too strong for our trailer so we had to shut down at a truck stop in Salina and wait for the storm to pass us by again before we could continue east.

I feel confident in saying that I would rather go through a snowstorm than to go through something like that again.

In Salina, we waited in line to pay for our fuel, standing next to one of those storm-chaser guys. He wasn't with "Storm Chasers" proper, but it was a similar group, heading into the storm, waiting to see what they could see. They had one of those turtle-shell type, low-profile, armored vehicles. After going through that storm myself, I think those people are crazy...

We are so thankful the Lord kept us safe!

In other news, my weekend driving highlights are:
1) driving 10 feet away from a small herd of elk near Flagstaff, AZ
2) watching a shooting star fall over Sedona, AZ
3) seeing a creepy honey-I-blew-up-the-baby sized cutout of a toddler playing with an equally large tractor, west of Phoenix on I-10. Apparently this is to advertise the nearby flea-market. It was so life-like I half-expected the baby to stand up. Definitely creepy.

We've logged over 4800 miles since last Monday night. That's a pretty good week! Here's hoping to break 5000+ this next week!

Have a great week everyone! And congrats to Pat and Jill for competing and completing the Eugene 1/2 and full marathon on Sunday! Way to GO! God bless you all!