Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Five Down, Three to Go

We've paid off a couple more debts in the last month; the first installment of our $5000 sign-on bonus came in mighty handy for them! Both were credit cards; one was Ben's truck school tuition, and the other was full of miscellaneous living expenses from when we were jobless for 3 months last summer before getting hired on with CRST. Our total debt paid off to date is roughly $20,000.

We have three credit card debts left, with the goal of the first being paid off by the end of September, the second by the middle of November, and the last by Christmas. Come January 2011, we're going to begin tackling the last of our debt: the dreaded student loans. That should take us right at a year to accomplish.

I must say, it sucks that we have as much debt as we do, but working the "debt snowball", as Dave Ramsey has termed it, is so motivating and encouraging. We are losing a huge amount of debt-weight every time we make a payment and eventually bring our balances down to zero. Debt-free is the way to live!

Dave Ramsey mentions at least once a week the Biblical principles for not being in debt: the borrower is a slave to the lender. A few weeks ago, I was listening to daily Mass when the Gospel reading was the story of the servant who had an extreme amount of debt to his master. The master threatened to sell the servant, his wife and all his possessions, but the servant pleaded with the master for mercy on the debt. The master did in fact have mercy, and forgave him the debt, only to later find that the servant would not have mercy on a fellow servant who owed him a much smaller amount. The master took matters into his own hands then, casting the unforgiving servant into prison until all his debt was paid.

The obvious moral of the story is to forgive; Jesus told this parable to Peter after he asked, "Lord, how many times should I forgive? Seven times?" Jesus replied, "Seventy times seven", then told the parable. With my own view of debt changed, I see a much deeper moral to be learned from this story beyond merciful forgiveness. Having debt is perilous; your life can be taken from you, your spouse can be taken from you, your possessions can be taken from you if you are unable to pay your debts. This is how people lose their cars, homes, furniture, etc., because of debt they couldn't pay. How do you get around this? Just don't go into debt!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Unassuming Wild Animal Spectacle

Shortly before Ben and I came home for our last home time, we were hauling a load of Toyota Tundra and Sequoia engines from Huntsille, AL to San Antonio, TX. We drove along the I-10 in Louisiana west to Texas, and after just having crossed the state line into Texas late at night, we stopped at a rest area for a break. There was a nice deck-type ramp going from the parking lot into the restrooms. I waited there for Ben to come out, and noticed a couple of raccoons climbing down a nearby tree. I didn't think much of it until I noticed some shadows out of the corner of my eye on the other side of the ramp, below, on the grass. This is what I saw:

Someone else came out from inside the rest area with a bag of chips from the vending machine. The slight sound of that crinkling wrapper brought the raccoons to assume the begging position.

They're kind of cute, when you look at them from a distance. Mind you, there were no fences or anything keeping the critters from coming up on the deck. In fact, one did to get closer to the chips, but quickly went back to the grass after we shooed him away.

The guy that had the chips eventually just gave them all up to the raccoons. They fought like, well, raccoons over them.

The rest area attendant told us they recently put up a fence around the perimeter of the rest area to keep the alligators out (what!) who would crawl up the ramp and enter the rest area. The fence kept out the gators, but not the raccoons, who were soon joined by an opossum. He didn't last long inside the fence, as he was simply outnumbered by the herd of raccoons, and retreated back to the other side.

As we left, we noticed this sign, and thought it to be ironic; for "beyond this point" was where all the action was with the critters.

Texas just does it up as much as possible; this is our conclusion :-)

Friday, August 27, 2010

How We Get Paid

Our paychecks vary week to week, depending on the amount of miles driven. We put together a "trip pack" of all of our log sheets corresponding to the load, a copy of the bill of lading, any reimbursements (like scale tickets or tolls), a seal manifest, and a cover sheet. Each load we pull has a specific trip number. When we finish the load and turn in our paperwork, that trip number makes its way to payroll and they know from that how many miles we are to get paid for that particular load. We turn in an average of 4 trip packs per week. Turning them in by midnight Monday evening means we get paid for that load the Friday morning at the end of that week. Anytime a trip pack is turned in after midnight on Monday, we'll get paid for that load the next Friday.

I realize now as I'm describing it that "turning in our paperwork" means nothing like how it sounds. We scan it through TransFlo (kind of like a fax), and keep the originals. There is a barcode on our cover sheet that TransFlo reads and immediately sends to our company (many of the large trucking companies use this method of payment). The way some trucking companies still operate the payment process is through the snail-mail system of UPS or FedEx envelopes being shipped back to company headquarters.

Using TransFlo is a much quicker option for getting paid, and after the trip pack is sent, a confirmation receipt is given as verification. We then wait until Friday morning to get an email copy of our paystub to ensure all the trips that should be on there are, and the money is direct-deposited into our account. Every terminal for our company has a TransFlo machine, and every Pilot and Love's Truck Stops have them as well. It's a pretty easy way to get paid!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Truck Stop Shower Experience

As promised, I've got a few new posts coming! Ben and I made it to Bend on Sunday evening and are relishing our time at home! Ben is fervently working on his thesis (as of right now, he's written a rough 30 pages out of a 45 page minimum), we've taken full advantage of having dental/vision/medical insurance filling our days with appointments and check-ups, I'm finally printing out and framing wedding photos, and we're loving the ability to attend daily Mass (and celebrate our parish's 100 year anniversary! Great solemnity!).


But--on to this post: the truck stop shower experience. Here's how it works: when we need to fuel up our truck, we swipe our company credit card in the fuel island kiosk. We then swipe our "rewards card" (similar to what you have at a grocery store, that gives you discounts for store brands). For every gallon of fuel purchased, we earn a point (i.e. a penny). We can use those points in the store for snacks or other merchandise, but we generally use the points for Subway sandwiches or other fast food meal combos (mostly salads if there's not a Subway). If we purchase at least 50 gallons of fuel, we "earn" a shower (otherwise, it costs $10 on average). The showers expire after a week, and a shower is obviously deducted from your point balance if you use one. I recently documented the process of "getting a shower", and want to share the pictures with you:

First, we swipe our rewards card at the kiosk inside the truck stop.

We then wait for a shower to be deducted from our balance, and wait for the shower slip to print.

The shower slip, with our shower number and door password is printed.We check the shower monitor to see which shower number is ours.

We type in our password for the door.

And our private bathroom is equipped with a toilet,

shower and sink (not pictured).

And, as you can see, the truck stop has a "pledge" for keeping a clean bathroom and shower for the truckers.

I've seen some sparkling showers (the TA in Redding, CA to name one), and some showers that could use a little help, but all in all, a shower is a shower. It is so nice to get cleaned up after a day or two on the road, and after a good workout. Some truck stops even offer bathtubs (and crown molding and granite countertops...Little America at exit 68 in Wyoming is the best we've seen. AND they have 50 cent ice cream cones. It's hard to top that)!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Sluggish Blogger...

Hello readers: I have not forgotten the blog! I've just not been in any place with free wifi long enough to write a post! We cancelled the "tethering" feature of my Blackberry to the laptop, and my thumbs are just not up for posting on a 3" screen. I've got a few minutes here at a rest area in Texas, so what you have to look forward to in the next blog posts (once we make it to our hometime in Bend) include:

1. two more debts (equaling about $6500) have been paid down
2. the truck-stop shower experience
3. how we get paid for our loads
4. the unassuming wild animal spectacle at another Texas rest stop

I look forward to posting all of these as well as some pictures of our recent adventures...til then, keep our safety in travel in your prayers!

God bless,