Tuesday, December 21, 2010

An Early Christmas Present

What a week we've had!

We've been blessed to attend Mass both the third and fourth Sundays of Advent (thanks, Ray and Mindy!), we've had a great week of miles (a 3000 mile load from Los Angeles to Philadelphia started us off), we're no longer using paper logs (I promise I will dedicate an entire post soon on the ins and outs of logging), at the end of the week we'll be spending Christmas with both of our families, and...

THREE recruiting bonuses will be on our paycheck this Friday, right in time for Christmas, and right in time for us to pay off our LAST credit card! The bonus money is enough that we may even be able to pay off my smallest student loan, all before January 1st! That puts our total debt to date paid of at around $48,000. We truly began paying off our debt in February, so 11 total months so far of paying off our debts equaling $48K is pretty darned AWESOME!

It certainly was slow-going at first, but paying off the smallest debt and getting that monthly payment out of the way really made the next debt easier, and the next and so on. And now, we are completely credit card FREE!

Student loans come next...and boy are there a lot. Ben's undergraduate degree was paid for by the religious community he was part of for 4 years, but his graduate degree, my graduate degree as well as my undergraduate degree are all on the docket for getting paid off. Currently all but two of the loans are in forbearance, which was necessary in order for us to get traction on paying off our truck, car, and credit card debt. The two that are not in forbearance will be the first to get paid off, which will be completed by the end of January. The loans in forbearance will become active again in March, so we'll have the minimum monthly payments start up then, but with all of the other debt gone, we'll be able to throw all extra income after our general monthly expenses at the smallest loan first until the last one is gone. Every day we're getting closer!

Current location: St. Peters, MO (a suburb of St. Louis), making Christmas cookies with Sarah Swaykus
Next load: pick-up in Effingham, IL and drop in Irving, TX (Dallas area)
Miles this week: 5000ish

Things to look for in our next posts: our newfound fascination with jump-roping, and command central inside our truck

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Eisenhower's Interstate

Do you know the history of the interstate system in our country? A rest area in Utah has a snippet of fact looking into the history of how they began. (I tried to download a picture of the sign but to no avail...instead I'll just give you the text!)

"Father of the Interstate Highway System"

In August 1973, the U.S. Congress designated a cross-country stretch of interstate as the "Dwight D. Eisenhower Highway," in tribute to President Eisenhower's early recognition of the need for a national network of highways to enhance the mobility of a growing nation. His dream originated in 1919 on an Army convoy from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco, California, a journey that took 62 days.

On June 29, 1956, President Eisenhower signed the historic legislation that created the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways and the Federal Highway Trust Fund, the pay-as-you-go mechanism throughout which U.S. motorists have funded the construction and upkeep of the U.S. highway system.

Today, that system stands as a monument to Eisenhower's vision as a young Army officer--a legacy of safety and mobility that has brought all Americans closer together.

It is because of this innovation of highway systems that it only took us 50 hours to drive from Los Angeles, CA to Washington, D.C. ourselves! Fifty hours sounds a lot better than 62 days, no?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Chaining Up

On our way home to Bend for Thanksgiving, we had to do that dreaded thing that truckers dislike--chain up our tractor and trailer *sigh*.

We had just dropped our load at FedEx in Portland and were heading toward the pass for our three hour journey home to Bend. Unfortunately the recent snowfall had mucked up the roads enough that chains were required on all vehicles with a gross weight rating (GWR) of 10,000 pounds or more. Four-wheeler vehicles needed only to have traction tires, but without that they also needed to chain up. There was only but a few inches on the roads, but a few inches is enough to send you careening off the side of the mountain!

Thankfully, because the company we work for is just awesome and really takes care of both the drivers and the equipment, all of our chains worked perfectly! Last year, when we had to chain up our one time, even though we had 3 more chains than needed, half of them were broken or were so twisted we couldn't use them on either the tractor or the trailer! This time around, it was so easy! It took about an hour to put them on, and forty miles later we were finally able to safely remove them without fear of sliding off the road. It was a nice 30 degrees during the on-put, but had cooled down to 14 for take-off (extra bonus then that it only took 15 minutes!).

I suppose I can now say, "Bring on the snow!" Ben likes to drive in it more than I, but now that we've gone through chaining up a second time and everything is in working order, the ordeal it turned out to be a year ago just won't be the case this winter!

The passes that we have to look out for, that we drive the most frequently, are:

-Snoqualmie Pass on I-90 in Washington
-Siskiyou Summit on I-5 in southern Oregon/northern Californa
-Cabbage Hill on I-84 in Oregon
-Grapevine on I-5 north of Los Angeles, California

We do not drive these routes as often anymore, but they are high candidates for chaining up as their elevations are 7000+ feet:

-Continental Divide pass on I-90 in Butte, Montana
-Donner's Pass on I-80 just west of Reno, NV in California

Mother nature has been known to dump up to three feet of snow in a single storm on these passes. Three feet! You can make a lot of snowballs/men/angels with that!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Perfecting the Pitch

After three months and about 60 contacts, we finally succeeded in driver recruiting! Our first convert to the company, Bobby, was seated in his truck over the weekend. Our bonus for bringing him in should be showing up on our paycheck this Friday!

Every day we get in touch with at least one person or one team from our old company. We've worked on our “script” of delivering the pitch and I think we've really caught a rhythm. Our total contacts to date are around 80, and we keep in touch with many on a regular basis, to continue answering any questions they may have and to encourage them to make the switch. We benefit, obviously, with the bonus if they come on board, but our aim is also to benefit them by providing them the opportunity to work for a better company. We believe in what we are selling!

In preparation for “life after trucking”, we've invested significantly in business literature. One such book is “The One Minute Salesperson” by Spencer Johnson. It is confirming our present pitch tactic and giving us other great ideas for “making the sale”. If you have any suggestions or tips that have worked for you, let us know!

Many of our contacts are planning to join the company after the first of the year, so as to keep their hometime's scheduled as are with their present company (who doesn't want to be home for Christmas?). That means that in January and February we should be seeing great returns on our recruiting investment!

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Theory Confirmed

Our last post detailed our theory that warm weather climates=aggressive drivers? Just last week that theory was confirmed in a way that could have led to a motorist's death.

I was driving on I-10 east of San Bernardino in California, on the way to Phoenix. The interstate was three lanes wide, and I was in the far right lane. The construction vehicle in front of me was driving slower than I, so I checked my mirrors and turned on my turn signal to merge into the center lane. In that center lane, about 4-5 car lengths behind me, was a motorcyclist. Because I had clearance and my turn signal had signaled at least six times, I began the merge.

Apparently this was extremely offensive to the motorcyclist, because he immediately sped up alongside my trailer leaving me straddling the dotted line shared between the center and far right lane. Obviously I could not now complete the merge as this ticked off biker was just a foot or two away from me (by the way, his bike was a crotch-rocket, not a Harley...from a generalization of what we've seen on the road, bikers on Harleys are laid-back and do not try circus stunts at a speed of 60 miles per hour. Crotch-rockets, on the other hand, are high-strung young males that need serious attitude adjustments and lessons in highway safety).

He continued along my tractor until he got in front of me, and then proceeded to “stare me down” and flip me off. What came next? He dropped his speed from 60mph down to 25mph in about 3 seconds, all while continuing to stare backwards and flip me off! His bike was so close to my bumper that I could not even see his rear tire. Had their been debris in the road ahead of him or had he simply lost his balance, his life would either be over or it would consist of eating food from a straw. Thankfully, we had a light load and I could slow “quickly”.

I think there are a few kickers to this entire incident:

      1. The far left lane? It was completely open. This guy just didn't want me to get in front of him.

      2. Traffic was not thick, but it was heavy enough that had someone behind me not been paying attention (in either the far right or the center lane), we could have had a rear-ending frenzy of vehicles.

      3. What point did it serve for this young man to perform this circus act? He sure didn't get to his destination any sooner, although I could have sent him to his final destination.

After this biker had enough of speeding up and then slowing down, speeding up then slowing down, speeding up then slowing down in front of us, he finally sped up for good and was out of sight. I merged back into the far right lane with my four-way flashers on until I could resume the highway speed. I was visibly shaken, upset, mad, and ready to cry. Ben was on the phone with the state police to report this act of indecency and to give the biker's license plate number. They did not seem to care, unfortunately (would they change their tune had an accident occurred?).

We've seen some crazy feats of driving by crazy people out on the road, but this one takes the cake. I am not even sure it can be topped! Thank God no one was hurt—our guardian angels are certainly looking out for us!

Present location: Salt Lake City, UT
Where we're headed next: Portland, OR
Fun loads as of late: Nintendo, T-Mobile cell phones (Andrew V., this one's for you!), and Amazon