Monday, December 19, 2011

32 Inches

I received a fine the other day: $25 for 32 inches.

We picked up the HEAVY load in Dallas, TX and grossed out at 79,900 (max is 80,000). Regulations state that we can have no more than 34,000 pounds on the trailer axles and the drive axles, and no more than 12,000 on the steer axle. Being as heavy as we were, we had to make sure each axle weight was appropriate so as not to receive an over-weight fine. We have the option of sliding our fifth wheel or sliding the trailer tandems to change the amount of weight on each axle, but not the weight over all. 79,900 pounds is 79,900 pounds, no matter how you move the freight.

Without having the list in front of me, I would wager to say that most states do not have regulations for length; length in this case being defined as the distance between the kingpin and the center of the rear axle on the trailer. California will slap you with a $100 fine if you measure over 40 feet. California in general will try to slap you with any fine they can, and an over-length violation seems to be common.

Since we weren't going through California, and we weighed out our axles to be accurate though we were "longer" than usual, we didn't bother to check if any other states on our route had over-length fines. Turns out Virginia did.

Their maximum length is 41 feet, and we measured out to be 43'8". Because they had pulled me in for weight, they knew I was close on my axles but still legal, they were able to measure the kingpin to rear axle length. Since I couldn't "scoot" any weight to abide by the length regulation, I got a $25 fine (and $50 processing fee and $10 for taxes, or something like that). They sent me on my way with paperwork proving I was already cited, lest I get pulled into another Virginia weigh station (I didn't).

Thankfully, in cases like this, our company will pay the fine, as we would have been overweight otherwise. And, thankfully, this violation will have no weight on my CSA score (the federal government assigns a point value to any violations received; my speeding ticket earned me 9 points. Once you hit a certain amount of points, they revoke your CDL).

Current location: the Freightliner shop in Salt Lake City, UT
Direction headed: the Northwest!
Mileage total this month: 18,000ish

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Trucker Talk

We recently purchased a CB Radio, partly in response to coming up on the accident east of Ogden in my post, A Safety Reminder. We thought it best to have a way to communicate to other drivers of poor driving conditions, and vice versa. It has certainly been helpful in that regard, and we are very thankful to have it with us as we enter into more inclement weather.

But, I also feel like I'm learning a new language.

And, it seems that every driver talks like Larry the Cable Guy. Do truckers go to school to learn to speak in a way no one can understand?

As far as the language goes, it's not all pretty. I remember when I was a young girl and our family would go on driving vacations to the East Coast, Dad would bring along his CB. And he would often have to turn down the volume because of the foul words. But, as my brother Andy and I had a goal to see how many truckers would honk on their air horn when we passed, Dad often gave them a head's up so they could help our numbers. If I remember, we got up to something like 137 honks in a 10-day period.

One of the first times Ben and I had the CB all hooked up and finally got the right length of antennae, we were parked in a Petro truckstop parking lot in Amarillo, TX. This was the "conversation" we heard:

"F! F you you f'n f'er! Get the f out of here! I don't give an f what you think!"

Needless to say, I was not impressed.

We also heard another conversation going from a guy saying something about "chicken feed". As it is not uncommon for non-truckers to peruse truckstops looking to sell some drugs, I thought that "chicken feed" was in reference to that. But, then we found a website that decodes CB chatter, and I'm led to believe it was something police related. Who knows for sure?

Many drivers are quite helpful with information, some are air hogs that won't let anyone in on the conversation, a few are arrogant bullies and a handful are just plain disgusting. We were at a Flying J a week or so ago where I'm pretty sure I saw my first bona fide "lot lizard" (read: prostitute). Lady, nobody walks around a truckstop parking lot in knee high boots, a Britney Spears-inspired-too-short-plaid-skirt, hair and makeup all done up and expects us to think you're legitimately a driver. And then we hear the conversation on the CB that is unbelievably vulgar and offensive and disgusting. I presume it was in reference to the LL, or it was her instigating it.

Aside from the nastiness that can make your ears bleed, the CB has been a great purchase and investment for our time on the road.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

'Tis the Season!

Freight always picks up in the last quarter of the year, but especially during December, when online shopping and shipping packages hits a year-long high. We've been doing many loads in the past few weeks hauling such items, so much so that we're only getting just a few hours in between loads for a decent bite to eat and a shower. Things, they are a movin'!

If you're curious, here's a profile of our destinations since we returned to the road after Thanksgiving:

Bend to Boise
Boise to Kansas City
Kansas City to Portland
Portland to Indianapolis
Indianapolis to Chicago
Chicago to Syracuse
Syracuse to Dallas
Dallas to Harrisburg
Harrisburg to Phoenix
Phoenix to Harrisburg
Harrisburg to Toledo

If you're counting, that adds up to over 14,500 miles. In 18 days.

Santa's got nothing on us!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Quarterback Sneak

Ben's most recent sleepwalking story, for your entertainment (I was unaware this happened until he shared the experience):

He dreamt he was quarterback in a football game and the play the team decided on was a quarterback sneak to get the first down. In his sleep, he lunged forward in the bed and smacked his head against the wall. In the game, they wanted to repeat the play, but Ben had enough wherewithal in his sleepiness to decline, so as to not hurt himself again.

Go team go!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, December 2, 2011

Negative Eleven

I’m happy to report that I still hold the all-time record as of now, for the lowest temperature driven through while on the road (-34 in Moorhead, MN). This winter’s lead, however, goes to Ben, who captured -11 in eastern Wyoming this morning. I was hopeful that my -2 would be low enough to keep in first place, but switching over on our shifts before midnight allowed him to seize the cooler digits.

Present Location: Lincoln, NE to use the free wifi and laundry at the terminal!
Miles this week: 5100

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Time to Eat?

Thirty minutes prior, he had just gone to bed. I hear his panicked voice from the back:

"Deb! Deb! Deb! What's going on with these dinner plates?"

"What dinner plates?"

"Why are they hanging off the blankets like that?"

"Ben, there aren't any dinner plates."


Momentary pause.

"I'm going back to bed."

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Safety Reminder

This past Saturday morning, we were trucking along through western Wyoming on our way from Irving, TX to Hermiston, OR. I was in the back sleeping as Ben took to the curves and hills between Ft. Bridger, WY and Ogden, UT. The roads were a little slick at times but nothing was too treacherous.

He took a ten-minute bathroom break in Evanston, which was a little odd, as he had just stopped 30 minutes earlier. Since we had time on the load, he decided it wasn't worth it to push on but instead take the break.

Boy, are we glad he did!

Just a few miles east of Ogden, through the windy 55mph curves of a canyon drive, we were stopped in traffic, five vehicles behind a state trooper. We came to find out that there was a multiple vehicle, multiple injury accident ahead, including a tanker truck that was leaking propane. It didn't look good, and we would be parked on the interstate waiting for quite a while.

Based on the trooper's disclosure of the timing of the accident and the amount of vehicles involved, we realized that Ben's 10-minute bathroom break likely is what saved us from being part of the collision train. Twenty-four total vehicles were involved, including four semis, and sadly, one fatality. Click here to read the article describing the unfortunate circumstances.

We decided, after waiting for 3+ hours, to take a detour through another canyon. It was tight and slow and not recommended for semis (because of the 8% grade up and down, for one thing), but we made it through. It reminded both of us of West Virginia, with how cramped everything was and how much of the road ran along a river, with nothing but inches between us and the concrete barriers, and then just inches between the barriers and the river below. The article tells the story of another incident involving a tractor-trailer who also took that detour. Thankfully we were through it long before that happened!

It has been a good reminder to us to be extra vigilant as winter has arrived fast and furious this year. You just never know when that blind spot ahead of you may be harboring a 24 vehicle pile-up! Fatalities are never easy to take either--and the fact that the young man who passed is just one year younger than the two of us, and likely hasn't been trucking all that long either. That hits close to home. It is an extra reminder of our own mortality, as well as the need to continue living life in an upright, moral and faithful way.

Life is precious. Treat it well, and drive safely out there!

Miles this week: 4500
Recent enjoyments: waking up to magical big-fat-wet snowflakes on Sunday morning, walking a mile to Mass at the Cathedral in Baker City, OR and watching the Steelers/Ravens Sunday Night Football game in the midst of a restart

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Name That Tune

When I was in middle school, my favorite teacher, Mr. Kanney, had us play "Name that tune" anytime we had a free minute or two at the end of class. He tuned the radio to Oldies, and if we were able to either determine the song's name or artist, our class would receive a point for each we got right. If memory serves me right, my math class had the longest reign in our middle school years, a consecutive score somewhere in the 70s.

It is certainly not the same as 7th grade, but I often think of "name that tune" when driving through certain states in this great country. They conjure up old country tunes in my mind as we travel the interstates whether it be city or countryside.

Some tunes that most often come to mind (I'm not entirely sure of the artists anymore, or some song titles; I'll give a few of the lyrics):

-Amarillo by morning, Amarillo's on my mind (George Strait)

-Going through the big D and don't mean Dallas

-All my exes live in Texas...and that's why I reside in Tennessee (Hank Williams)

-Would you paint me a Birmingham

-There is no Arizona, no painted desert, no Sedona

-I've got ocean-front property in Arizona

-P.S. If this is Austin, I still love you (Blake Shelton)

-Calling Baton Rouge (Garth Brooks)

-Beaches of Cheyenne (Garth Brooks)

-it goes through St. Louie, Joplin, Missouri, Oklahoma City is oh so pretty (insert lyrics I don't know here)...Gallup, New Mexico...get your kicks on Route 66

-I was standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona

-Take the last train to Clarksville (not that we've ever driven through there)

-I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die (Johnny Cash)

-Little Rock

-Take me home, country roads, to the place I belong: West Virginia, mountain mama, take me home (John Denver)

-Going to Miami (Will Smith)

-New York, New York (Frank Sinatra)

-Ooooooklahoma (the musical)

-Heads Carolina, tails California (Jo Dee Messina)

I know there are many more; can you think of any?

Present location: onward toward Houston, TX
Miles in the last 2 weeks: 11,500
Recent friendly encounters: David, Emily, Michael, Joanna, Adrianna & Sophie Martinek in Seattle; Kristen Willard visiting Bend from D.C.; Grandpa Wilker, Tom, Es, Jan, Sandy & Bridget Beyke, Kate, Joe & Andy, Sarah, Zack & Izabel in a surprise visit out for supper in Springfield; and John, Kay & Katie Martinek in Dallas/Ft. Worth. That's a lot of visits!!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Out of the Sky

As is custom for his sleep-walking habits, Ben was in the back getting rest, for about 45 minutes when I hear the tear of the velcro curtain open.

"Everything okay up there Deb?"

"Yep, everything is fine. Just go back to sleep hon."

"Are you sure you don't need my help?"

Thinking he is legitimately awake, I respond again, "Nope. Just get your rest."

A short pause.

"Have you landed any planes lately?" he asks.

"You know Ben, I can't say that I have. Have you landed any planes lately?"

A deep sigh. "No. I think I'm just gonna lay back down here. Let me know if you need anything!"

And, as is to be expected, a few hours later when he really woke up, he had no recollection of our conversation. It certainly is entertaining!

Present location: Sacramento, CA
Headed to: Portland, OR
Miles the last two weeks: 11,500

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Discussing our future is a daily occurrence for Ben and I. We have truly enjoyed these past 2+ years on the road, but the "honeymoon" of trucking is definitely over. We have logged close to 500,000 miles, traveled to 46 of the 48 continental United States, visited friends and family numerous times, but we are ready for Part II of married life.

It has long been a desire of ours to work for the Church in some fashion, and we hope and pray an opportunity will present itself to us that will allow for service to the Lord as well as provision for our earthly needs. We have realized these past 2+ years just how important it is to be involved in a faith community as well; we miss parish life and daily Mass!

A frequent dialogue we often share is also about children. We certainly pray for the expansion of our family and are eager to journey into parenthood. Being pregnant and raising a newborn in a truck are just simply not an option, so that is extra motivation to get off the road (no, Mom, we're not pregnant yet).

Our debt snowball has really gained some footing and we are 4/7 of the way through our student loan debt (we paid off all credit cards and vehicle loans in 2010). There are only 3 loans left, but they are big and will take some time. At our current rate, we should have #5 paid off by Christmas, #6 paid off by May 2011 or so, and then #7 paid off no later than next Christmas. We are putting a large amount of $$ aside into these debt payments each month, but it feels like we're slowly going nowhere because the amounts are so big. But--slowly we keep trucking and will reach our goal!

Checking and Craigslist daily bring up various job opportunities or at least ideas into our minds. Recently, we found a posting for a resort couple; one part grounds-keeping, maintenance, etc., one part hospitality, housekeeping, reservations and running the retail store. On a whim (and certainly influenced by our desire to cease nomadic lifestyle!), we contacted the owner who then requested we send our resumes. We were then called back for an interview, which will happen this weekend on our hometime. A lot of factors have to be just-right if we will even be offered and then take the position, but this small journey has been incredibly motivating. Taking this step, even if it leads to nowhere, is a good step in the right direction to help us in getting off the road.

Acting as driver recruiters has dried up quite a bit; the recruiter we were working with always seems too busy to make contact with the folks we pass her way. That coupled with just plain being burned-out with all the energy and effort it takes to make the contacts and follow-ups and not receiving even so much as a call back from so folks, we've put recruiting on the back shelf. But--a driver we contacted 9 months ago finally made the move and we received the bonus last week! And this week, we snagged another new-comer and will receive that bonus next week! Every little bit counts and helps us get closer to our goal!

This past Sunday, we were passing through the St. Louis area and were able to stop at "our favorite truck stop", aka Sarah Swaykus' house. She is a friend of ours from grad school and has always been so gracious in having us over when we have the time! We went to Sunday Mass, had a delicious brunch and eventually went to St. Nicholas' Greek Festival at a parish in St. Louis before heading to Ted Drewe's for some world-class frozen custard. A culinary delight filled with lamb kabobs, gyros, Greek salad, spanakopitas and then frozen custard (not Greek). We also took a mini-tour of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis (what a magnificent structure! It has over 41 million pieces of mosaic tile and is awe-inspiring! If you are ever in St. Louis and have time, you must check this beautiful holy place!). All in all, it was a fantastic day. Thanks, Sarah (and Becky and Karen and Amanda)!

Present location: Dallas, TX area (we've been here since Monday evening, and are scheduled to be home in Bend tomorrow. Do the's not happening :-( )
Direction headed: Home! That is, if our next load doesn't cancel on us like the last two did to get us there!
Miles last week: 5600-ish

Have a blessed week, readers!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Welcome Change-Up

Since we've been with this company, our routes have not varied much. It is typical for us to drive the I-80 east to west, the I-5 north to south, sometimes the I-70 or the I-40, and when we're in the east/south, we stick to I-75, I-95 and I-10. But (finally) after getting back in the truck last week and moving on a long load from the St. Louis area to the Seattle area, we found ourselves on a route we've only driven 3-4 times: I-90.

We weren't supposed to take it, but the flooding along the Missouri River is still lingering in Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska, with continual interstate and state highway closures. The detours suggested made getting back on our original route of I-80 out-of-route, so communicating back and forth with dispatch led us to driving north on I-29 until we met up with I-90 in Sioux Falls, SD.

This route meant we got to see:
(a) 2684 billboards advertising for Wall Drug in Wall, SD
(b) lots of bikers getting ready for the big Sturgis gathering in Sturgis, SD
(c) the Badlands

There really isn't much more to see in South Dakota, but we were pleased, nonetheless, to have the change in scenery. The decrease in humidity once we crossed the Missouri River was clearly evident as well, and very welcome!

The stretch of I-90 in Wyoming was pretty boring, as we drove through there in darkness, but once we crossed over into Montana, Idaho and Washington, it was a welcome sight of mountainous beauty, pine trees, alpine lakes and rivers. The beauty of the Northwest is just astounding and we feel very blessed to be able to live among it (5 days a month at a time)!

Once we delivered our load in the Seattle area, we found out our next load would have us going to Pennsylvania, and our directions routed us, once again, on I-90 in WA, ID and MT, but then we'd take the northern route of I-94 through North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin before dropping down to I-70. Not only did we have back-to-back loads of 2000+ miles, we drove back-to-back on routes less-traveled! Not a bad gig, if you ask me!

We'll have likely one to two more loads before we have our home-time for Ben's thesis defense next week (and visiting friends and family after), and then we'll be back out on the road again for another 4 weeks or so until we head back to Bend. Stay tuned for adventures!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Back on the Road...Again!

Whew! While we knew that the engine knocking in our truck would have us down for a bit, we never thought it would be 5.5 days! It made us nearly stir-crazy, not having many options to entertain ourselves or just relax, even. We spent 3 nights in a hotel and 2 in our truck (once it was cleared enough from the shop), and either hung out at the motel or the terminal.

There was this great thrift store across the street from the motel, and since we did not anticipate being away from all of our things as long as we were, I had only packed us one change of clothes. The thrift store came in handy with shirts for only $1.20!

There's only so much TV and The Office episodes you can watch at once, so on Saturday we had the shuttle van driver bring us to a movie theater. We watched the matinee of Cowboys & Aliens. Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig are a nice duo to observe, but the movie itself kinda stank. If you want to watch it, we recommend waiting until it comes to a Redbox near you.

We're finally back on the road now though, having gone from Atlanta to Louisville to St. Louis. We'll be heading to Washington state in the morning--it's nice to have a long run (2000+ miles) after having sat for so long. Our breakdown pay is only a cumulative $60/day, so big miles will help make up the deficit in our paycheck!

Hope you have a great week!

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bear With Me

Oh, my. It has been a while, has it not, Sandy? Life and driving has kept us quite busy lately, and so this blog post here will serve as a randomization of recent happenings, in no particular order. Enjoy!

1. We had a great hometime about a week and a half ago, probably one of the best on record so far. We ended up having 6 days off (due to slow loads moving when we returned to the truck), which were filled with cooking, baking, hosting our friends AJ, Sarah and their little one Gabriella (West Coast Steins) while AJ cycled in the Tour Des Chutes 100 mile ride, hiking, soaking in hot springs, going to church and spending one-on-one with JC in adoration, more cooking and baking, and seeing our other friends in town. The weather did not cooperate much, but still, what a delight!

2. Last month we were out on the road for 30 days and logged over 25,000 miles. That's a great month! We're on track to have our next loan paid down by Labor Day (and likely before!).

3. We delivered a load into the side of the earth...a former government complex that was carved from limestone is now a regular "hub" for small business and logistics; we drove our truck and trailer into the side of a hill and underground, dodging limestone pillars for a mile in and out. Boeing was a cool drop, but I think this delivery point beats it!

4. Leaving hometime set us on a track from Bend to San Francisco to Phoenix to Memphis to Miami to Atlanta, where we now sit as our truck is in the shop. We were slated to head towards New Jersey, but as we got ready to leave this morning, our engine started knocking really loud. Who knows how long it will take? But--all that travel? We did it in 5 days. Not bad for the first week out!!

5. As mentioned in #1, I am really enjoying cooking and baking every time we come home. This month's experiments included a grilled flat iron steak with blue cheese butter topping, turkey lentil chili, a delectable strawberry cake covered in whipped cream white chocolate frosting (so good we had to make it twice!), and German chocolate cake (definitely easier to make the second time around, but still labor intensive). I've also recently discovered a show that I enjoy listening to on Martha Stewart Living Radio: Everyday Food with Sandy Gluck. She gives some great basic advice for cooking and baking and experiments with making different things in her test kitchen, airing it on the show. I'm learning a lot and can't wait to put these tips into practice! I'm perusing different foodie blogs too to pick up new tricks and recipes. If you have any recommendations, let me know!

6. We've moved on from our last set of acadamia in transit; now we are onto lectures about Pope Benedict VI (guest lectures at Christendom University), Christian Spirituality (Dr. Mark Miravalle from Franciscan University), and of course Ben's philosophy courses. I have an aim to read Louis Bouyer's book, "Eucharist" by the time we return to Bend in September. His 20 years of research culminating in this work is fascinating, intriguing, and deeply theological. I read just the first 1/4 or so of it a few years ago in preparation for a diocesan event for youth. It made quite an impression on me and I intend to read the rest!

7. Ben is finally done with his thesis! The last part is coming up in just 2 weeks: he will be defending it in front of three philosophy professors back at Franciscan University in Steubenville. We will be spending our August hometime then in Ohio, completing this last task for his Master's degree, as well as visiting with friends and family in the area. This thesis is 5 years in the making, and finally 99.9% there. Please remember him in your prayers on Thursday, August 11 at 10:30am. Thanks!

8. I lost another 4 pounds!

9. I can't think of anything else at the moment, so...until next time!

God bless you!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Acadamia in Transit

A while back, I posted about and our interest in beginning a subscription, as we had decided to use our time on the road spent towards more academic measures (now that we're both done with our degrees! {Ben has only his defense left to do}). What we discovered though, through this great age of technology, is that we don't have to spend money to take advantage of academics offered in transitory status.

The iPhone we bought back in January has been so great to use for so many things, but one we never really discovered using until recently was the iPod/iTunes functions. I know, I know, welcome out of the dark ages, right? I never knew (or desired to know, to be honest) how to use an mp3 player or an iPod because I just don't pay that much attention to music, and I figured that that's all people used them for. The XM satellite radio we have offers any kind of music you'd want to listen to as well, though we keep it to Christian and Frank Sinatra. So, no need to spend the money on something that probably won't be used, right?

Enter our discovery of iTunesU. Holy mackerel has this made our purchase of the iPhone SOO worth while! Now, again as mentioned in the Audible blog post, we've had lots of audio to listen to, such as Latin, Spanish, and the New Testament Scriptures. Adding to that, we've begun to listen (or for me, re-listen) to the distance learning graduate courses for theology from Franciscan University. We started with Historical Foundations of the Church and are now in the middle of the Teachings of Vatican II. But iTunesU? This has forever changed the landscape for the remainder of our time on the road.

The courses offered range from guest lectures all the way to the entire semester's worth of lectures, from many schools across the country. So far, some of the courses we've listened to have been:

Early American Colonial History: Dr. Jack Ravoke, Stanford
Justice (Philosophy): Dr. Michael Sandel, Harvard
Political Philosophy: Dr. Steven Smith, Yale
Basic Spanish: Claudia Fernandex, DePaul University

We've also downloaded some podcasts: quick lessons in Spanish, slowly-spoken newscasts in Spanish, as well as lessons in Latin (unfortunately classically spoken, but it still works).

Ben has downloaded so many courses, lectures, podcasts on our computer that we could go years without listening to anything else on the radio, XM or CD's. This suits his nature in so many ways, as he just loves to learn and absorb as much information as possible. Me? I like to take things a little slower, but am excited of all the prospects of expanding our education (one that we DON'T have to pay for!). And let me tell you--those Ivy League students (as showcased in our Justice class at Harvard) really are the cream of the crop. Very impressive!

Present Location: Laredo, TX
Miles this week: 6300 (woohoo!)

Also to help pass the time? Our friends recently loaned us their seasons of The Office. The writing in season 2 is fantastic! We haven't laughed this hard in a while!!

Friday, June 17, 2011

"It's a good truck."

Last month we had some downtime at the World's Largest Truckstop, a TA on I-80 in Walcott, Iowa. We took advantage of our time and walked a few laps around the perimeter of the property, as well as perused the nearby Museum of Trucking. That's right folks, there's a museum, even for us truckers! No fossilized trucker remains were on exhibit---just their trucks!

Take this one, for example:

Did you read the caption? A 1958 truck with 5.2 MILLION miles on the engine without a single accident. We'll likely not break the one million mile mark in our short time on the road as team drivers, and this guy and his trusty truck drove well over five million. That's a good truck!

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Little Blessings

While this morning did not start out on the right foot, there have been many recent little blessings worth sharing:

Our one-year anniversary with the company was noted in our payroll with a $1000 bonus for each of us for sticking together as a team for a year. Unexpected and wonderful!

Ben was found to be a match for the man needing a bone marrow transplant. Because of the difficulty in scheduling, however, and because there were found to be other matches for the patient, we decided it best to not continue with donating at this time. Ben will be put on an unavailable list just until we're done trucking. Pretty incredible, though, that Ben's 8% chance of being a match ended up being a match!

Friendly encounter 1: we met up with Steve, Dianne and Charlie near Louisville, KY of all places as they were headed back to VA from AZ over Memorial Day weekend. We went to Mass and shared a great Cracker Barrel breakfast with them, enjoying our long-overdue visit.

Friendly encounter 2: this past Sunday evening we met up with our friend Lisa in Wichita, KS and got to meet her new little baby too! Lemonade, rocking chairs and Cracker Barrel's front porch was a great setting for our visit! (anyone sense a theme here?)

Our miles this month out have certainly picked up and we are averaging a little over 5000 miles per week. That adds up and our next loan will be paid off on Friday! (a few weeks later than "scheduled,", but that's what happens when I don't turn in the paperwork on time to get paid the current week. Oops!)

Right now we're in the tri-state area of NE, IA and MO waiting on two trailer tires to get fixed. Then we're off to Salt Lake City, Salem OR and then Bend for our hometime! It will be good to be home!

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Top Five Truckstops

We're presently on our way to the Chicago area, and with a little time to spare, we stopped at the TA truckstop in Morris, IL on I-80 at exit 112. We've stopped here before to enjoy the restaurant's delicious baked goods, but decided on a meal this time.

This led to a discussion of what our top five truckstop places to visit are throughout the country:

5. Little America, WY: We've not yet frequented their sit-down restaurant, but what's not to love about ginormous 50 cent soft-serve ice cream cones, crown molding in the bathrooms, marble floors and bathtubs in addition to showers for the passing-through trucker? I-80 exit 68 usually gets us to stop!

4. Pollard Flat USA: this hole in the wall truckstop in northern CA (I-5 exit 712) has few amenities but some of the best food on the road. It used to be "the place to stop" back in the day but has since become rundown. Ben's trainer introduced him to it almost 2 years ago now, and we love to stop when we get a chance.

3. Jubitz, Portland, OR: this truck plaza features a great restaurant, hotel, movie theater, chiropractor, hair salon, convenience store, post office, and probably several other amenities we're not even aware of! Their food is delicious!

2. Morris TA and R Place Restaurant, Morris, IL: this is the aforementioned truckstop that started the whole conversation. Just take a look at my salad!

Their puff-pastry "pillows" filled with sweet cream, strawberries and 8000 calories are divine, as are their turtle brownies. The atmosphere inside the restaurant is great, an they even have a "truckers only" side that CDL holders can be seated in, which offers faster service so the driver can enjoy a good meal and get back on the road.

1. 7 Feathers/Creekside, Canyonville: this truckstop/RV park/restaurant/casino/hotel is operated by the Umpqua Indian Tribe in Oregon (I-5 exit 99). The menu features northwest cuisine with local fresh ingredients that changes with each season. There are walking paths around the RV park, free wifi, a shuttle bringing you from the truckstop to the casino across the way, and it's all open 24/7. When we were on the I-5 dedicated route, we stopped in once a week, never disappointed with any food choice!

Headed to: Denver, then Daytona Beach!
Miles this week: 5100

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Just because people follow you doesn't mean you're headed the right direction...

One could consider the above title true on multiple levels, be it politics, religion, or in my case, taking a detour.

Early this morning, I had just crossed the Kentucky border from Tennessee, heading north on I-75. At exit 11 in Williamsburg, all traffic was diverted to the ramp by state troopers, but no alternative route was given. There had been an accident, bad enough to shut down the interstate. I began following some other folks who had also been directed off the main drag, quickly trying to find an alternate route between our GPS Jack and our sat-com (we call her Joan). I decided on KY 204, as it paralleled I-75 from what I could surmise from both devices.

This proved to be an interesting adventure, one I hope not to have again anytime soon. In my hasty decision, about 6 cars decided to follow for what turned out to be a 30 minute detour on a curvy, hilly, backwoods road that no truck should venture on. When I made the first selective turn, I told myself, "You're making this decision and you better be ready, because there's no turning back." I also offered up a prayer asking for guidance and St. Anthony's intercession so I would not become lost.

Let me tell you, those 6 sets of cars that seemingly chose to follow the trucker "cause they'd know where to go", were troopers, patiently driving behind my 25-30mph pace on that backroad.

However, at the junction of a US highway, I had to make the decision to turn left or right. Both ways would lead me back to 75, but the question became, "Should I take the shorter route and get back on the interstate just north of Williamsburg, only to not have yet passed the accident and have to still find another route? Or, should I continue my detour further to hopefully get far enough ahead of the hold-up?"

Opting for the latter, only one car of the six decided to stick it out with me. The others either continued on 204 or turned right. Thankfully this US highway was much wider, smoother and easier to navigate through than the state road!

I finally made it to I-75, realizing I did in fact make the best choice. Deducing from the nonexistent traffic coming from the south, had I not turned left when everyone else turned right, I would have gotten all caught up in the delay. The lone car that followed me gave a friendly wave of thanks as he passed by on the interstate.

Crisis of finding oneself lost: averted, oxymoronic as that may be!


Present location: Kenosha, WI
Headed to: Denver, CO
Recent friendly encounters: a night spent with the MI Martineks (John, Melissa, Ben, Maddie and Amelia), and supper with Joe, Andy and Tex in Richmond, IN

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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wintry Wyoming

It is April 30. Earlier this week is was 80+ degrees when we were in Houston, TX. Today, it is 25 degrees west of Laramie, WY.

We hope the weather is better where you are! This past week has just been nuts with nature's fury. We drove on the western-most edge of all of those storm cells that produced the tornadoes in the south, on our way down to Houston. We did get caught in a few storms, experiencing a gust of wind that slammed against the trailer, quarter-sized hail and blinding rain. Thankfully, that was the worst of it. Reading all of the news about those killed by/injured by/affected by the tornados is just heartbreaking. We were in/near several of those cities/towns just days before the winds hit. Our prayers go out them!

Headed to Denver from this winter wonderland; one week from now we'll be on our home-time in Bend!

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Command Central

Here is the view from the driver's seat in our rig (no, we do not drive with the hood up...Ben is changing our wiper blades):

From the left, we have all of our gauges (water temp, oil pressure, rpm, speedometer, air tank pressure, fuel gauge and DEF meter) as well as the steering column.

The small silver thing behind about the 1:00 slice of the wheel is our XM device.

To the upper right of XM is Jack, our Garmin Nuvi 465T GPS.

To the right of Jack is our "rearview mirror", a camera screen displaying images of roadway traffic from cameras mounted on the sides of the truck.

Below the "rearview mirror" is our radio/CD player, for which we have audio cables going to the XM, our Walkman, and iPhone for playing various audio.

Below the radio are many other fun switches, including the engine brake, DPF regeneration switch, mirror heat, dome light and utility lamp, as well as the parking brake knobs for both the tractor and trailer.

Immediately to the right of the radio is the true command central, our satellite communication device that connects us to dispatch and the main headquarters of our company. This is where we receive load information, directions and any other messages from our fleet manager or breakdown departments. There are also training videos, a GPS, calculator and calendar.

Now you know what the view is like behind the wheel in our big rig!

A blessed Triduum to you all!

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hello Baldy!

What's wrong with this picture?

We are headed straight to the shop! You can't tell me that someone inspected this trailer and didn't notice this...perhaps they didn't do their inspection?!

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Saturday, April 16, 2011


No, sadly, it is not yet football season (4.5 months to go, though!). This audible refers to our recent interest in listening to books on tape. Ben and I really like to read (someday I'll write a list of just the books we've read since being on the road), but being able to listen to things over the radio rather than just music is a better way for us to spend our time driving.

A talk radio host (trucker, of course) we like to listen to really encourages taking advantage of all the time you have driving to listen to as much as possible to put yourself in a better way intellectually (and while he doesn't say it, we put it further: spiritually, emotionally and academically). He recommended recently and we're on the prowl to start downloading some books. At the mere cost of $25/month for two books, it seems a great deal as we won't have to go out and buy the book (at likely a higher cost) and spend non-driving time reading it. I admit I like having the book physically in my hands, but we're trying to expand!

If you have any books to recommend, on any topic, let us know and we'll see about putting it on our download list!

In other audible news, what really cemented this idea was a spontaneous purchase of the dramatization of the New Testament, specifically the Truth and Life dramatization (complete with Imprimatur and a forward by the Pope himself!). It contains 18 cds and over 22 hours of audio; we've not even made it through the end of Matthew yet, but we are moved. There is something so different about simply hearing the Word dramatized rather than just reading it. I've read all four Gospels in one sitting (well, four sittings; one for each Gospel), which is pretty intense in itself, but listening to the different character voices and the frequency of Jesus' teachings and healings, makes me want to say, "Behold!" (Matthew says that A LOT). We highly recommend this audio!

We are also beefing up our languages. Years ago, Ben purchased some audio tapes on Spanish and Latin (both of which he studies extensively while in seminary). We spend about an hour a day going through the different lessons and learning correct pronunciations, phrases, etc. I've always wanted to learn Spanish, and Latin is obviously the language of the Church, so it's pretty cool being able to take advantage of these opportunities!

Hasta luego!

Saturday, April 9, 2011


I thought I would spend a blog post updating a few thing that I've mentioned in the past...

Speeding ticket: the total cost ended up being $265. For $395 I could have hired an attorney to go to court for me and whittle the violation down to "coasting", but we decided against it. There was no guarantee the judge would budge, so admitting guilt (of which I had) and paying up seemed the best decision.

Weight loss: our exercising and calorie tracking has come with great rewards so far--in the last month, Ben lost ten pounds and I lost seven. Yay! We can't wait to see what the next month will bring and see what our weigh-in is next time we come home!

Debt snowball: we've paid off two of seven student loans so far, and are eager to knock #3 off the list. Paying taxes is setting us back a bit, but thankfully we are able to fulfill that patriotic duty without hardship this year. We surely should have #3 taken care of by the middle of May.

Sleepwalking: this subject needs no prelude...early Sunday morning last week, I awoke to being the object of Ben's wrestling-matched dream, a dream in which he was losing but had an opportunity to deliver the death blow to win the match. That death blow culminated in full-body force of his elbow to my thigh. Quite a way to wake up at 2:30 in the morning!

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Farewell, Pierre

It was a great relationship, but ended unexpectedly on Saturday afternoon. Pierre took a fall and shattered into pieces as Ben and I prepared to chain up the tractor and trailer to make it over the pass and come home to Bend. Presently, Bodum does not carry any replacement carafes, so we were left to find another suitable French press for our coffee drinking needs.

Replacement: stainless steel from Starbucks. The new Pierre is bigger than we'd prefer for the truck (old Pierre was perfect for 16 oz mugs of coffee), but being stainless steel is a great perk: he certainly won't have the same fate as his predecessor!

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Recruiting Bonuses

Ben and I have been actively recruiting since August of 2010. To date we've successfully brought in four drivers, with many more waiting on the sidelines to come on board. We received quite a treat last time we were home: the recruiter we work with (she does the heavy lifting, with checking out all the info on their applications) emailed us to let us know she had scheduled another team for orientation! I didn't recognize either of the names, so I assumed our strategy of leaving behind our can't-miss-em-neon-green business cards in truck mirrors at truck stops started to do the trick!

Well, I came to find out I was wrong--but that was okay, because we still got another team on board! The reason I didn't recognize the name was because the trucker I made contact with goes by a nickname--his legal name was on the application. He was a driver we met in late November who never returned our follow-up phone calls....but held on to our information, found a co-driver he wanted to stick with, and here we are!

I will say, with this recruiting endeavor, that while we are still active in pursuing CRST trucks at truckstops or places of shipping freight, we have certainly toned it down a little bit. Ben got burned out from the manhunt for a while as it seemed we were putting so much work into it and nothing was happening back for us. We've had success, yes, but no matter how good you advertise the deal, if the people you're advertising to aren't ready or willing to make the step/take the risk, you're spinning your wheels with effort and no return. So, we've backed down on our phone calls but still keep enough contact--especially with the folks who are just waiting for their contracts to expire with CRST so they can make the big move.

By our calculations, those teams that have expressed deep interest in making the switch--and whose contracts expire in the next two months--should total nine teams. Nine teams x $1000 per driver = $18,000. Not bad, when we just have to do a little leg-work, pay for printing costs of applications and business cards, and make follow-up calls every now and then, eh?

Presently we're in Lebec, California, "on top of the Grapevine". After we go for a hike on this gorgeous, breezy, clear and warm day, we'll be picking up a load in the early morning. After delivering tomorrow night, we're then on our way home for some R&R!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Have you ever had one of those days?

My Thursday started out with this discovery:

To make the long story short, Wednesday evening, I picked up this empty trailer in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Leaving the location I got the trailer from, I had to make a 90 degree turn from underneath an overpass. I swung out wide, but apparently not wide enough as the passenger side trailer tires jumped the curb. That's happened a few times before; you feel the trailer tug a little bit as the tires raise up from the road, but that's about it. I didn't think much of it and continued on my way to the place for pick up for our next load.

They weren't open yet as it was 4:30 in the morning, so we parked on the side of the driveway and went to sleep. Upon wake-up time, Ben hopped to the back of the trailer to sweep it out before we dropped it for loading. I was messing around with the sat-com when Ben came back up to the truck and asked "Was the roof caved in on the trailer when you hooked up to it last night?"

"What are you talking about?" I ask, with a sinking feeling forming in the pit of my stomach.

We walked to the back and saw the above scene. I start crying as I realize the bump-up on the curb the night before made the trailer roof contact with the underside of the overpass. Add to the initial damage the wind force of having driven 200 miles with the gaping hole in the roof, and viola!

Many phone calls later to the claims department, breakdown and our dispatcher, we dropped the trailer at a nearby repair facility and got back on our way.

I hope not to have an "oopsie", as the claims department woman called it, like this again during my trucking career. One is certainly enough!

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

On the Open Road Again

Just prior to our last home-time at the beginning of March, we decided to branch out to driving the rest of the country again. Spring is nearly here in most states, with a bit of wintry weather sticking around in the northern states, so we figured now is as good a time as ever!

Leaving the I-5 wasn't too hard, though we've become very comfortable with that route and our favorite places to stop. The ultimate deciding factor, though, (besides the end of winter) is that our miles were less each week than they had been prior to Christmas, meaning we weren't earning about $800/month. I think we both feel those two months on the I-5 were worth it for peace of mind and lack of stress, but we're also out here to make money to pay off our debt. So, back out we go!

Our first load brought us from the L.A. area to Atlanta, from there to Virginia, and now we're on our way to the Chicago area, where we'll then head to Denver! It's really exciting in a way, not knowing where the next load is going to take us.

Transitioning back to the lower 48 felt like putting on an old pair of your favorite shoes--it's a little different from what you're used to, but they slide on just as easy as they did when you wore them all the time.

I've been impressed with just the sheer amount of truck traffic there is in the rest of the country; the I-5 had quite a bit, but as I was driving on the I-40 the other day, it seemed that for every 5 vehicles on the road, 4 of them were trucks. That's a lot of freight moving!

Another thing we had "forgotten" about while spoiled on the west coast: humidity. Wowsers! We made a stop in Arkansas and immediately upon getting out of the truck, everything was hot and sticky. It was then that we decided if we move from Bend, we won't live anywhere east of I-35 and south of I-70. Too hot & sticky (and it's still technically winter! Crazy!).

We're looking forward to seeing the springtime beauty throughout the country, with the occasional drive on the I-5. We'll keep you posted if we drive near you!

God bless us all in this grace-filled Lenten season!

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Sunday, March 6, 2011

O Glorious Day (and Week!)

It's Sunday. It's raining. It's wonderful!

We listened to Mass celebrated by Archbishop Timothy Dolan. We enjoyed the rain diminishing the smell of cow manure and enhancing the smell of nut trees blooming in central California. And right now, I'm taking great delight in observing my husband jam out to Easter Rising (aka "The Band" from his days at seminary). Life is grand--especially when soundtracked to a great Irish jig.

The past week has been without the music, but just as well! We were fortunate to have nearly a week off at home due to slow-moving freight, nearly a week that was consumed with going to Mass, visiting friends, cross-country skiing, cooking (trying several new recipes), crossing things off the to-do list, and Ben submitting his (pretty-much-final) second draft of the thesis!

It was my hope to have written several posts while at home, but that obviously didn't happen. Hold me accountable though (Sandy); I have a few things to share with you:

-our research of owner-operating
-the decision to leave the I-5
-iPhone "phun"
-recruiting bonuses

Keep watching for new posts!

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Flashing Red and Blue

I suppose when you push the limit, even just a little bit, you're bound to get caught eventually.

This past Tuesday I was cruising right along on the I-5 heading north near Coalinga, CA. The speed limit for commercial motor vehicles (CMV) over 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight (GVW) or for any vehicle towing anything behind them is a maximum if 55mph. This limit is rarely followed by truckers, as many of us choose to set our cruise around 58-60. I was set at 59 but came across a semi in front of me who was traveling at just 53mph or so. Not wanting to be slowed up by him or to slow up the traffic behind me (their limit is 70) as I passed in the left lane, I sped up beyond my cruise speed to get it over with quickly.

State Trooper Schindler did not approve of my hasty decision and let me know within 2 miles (I still don't know where he came from!).

He was hasty in writing me a ticket, having me pulled onto the shoulder for just 15 minutes. CMV fines in general are more expensive than 4-wheeler fines, but we've heard stories of the minimum fine in CA is $1500.

Yikes! We won't find out how much the fine is for another 3 weeks as the county I was pulled over in is backlogged that much in the speeding infraction department. Five miles over the speed limit, even when passing, is not anything I'm going to try again!

You can just call me speedy...

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Thursday, February 10, 2011


Ben had just gone in the back to sleep as we had recently switched over for my driving shift. I usually wait 15 minutes before turning on the radio, just to make sure he's fallen asleep.

At about minute 16, I hear this loud thud, as if something had fallen off the top bunk onto the floor, and then I hear Ben wearily say, "Deb?"

I holler back to ask if he's okay, and to find out what fell. Not surprisingly, Ben was just coming out of a sleepwalking episode...

He dreamt that I set the cruise control on the truck as I was driving down the interstate and then came in the back to check on him as he was sleeping. The thud noise I heard was of his head whipping off the pillow and hitting the side of one of the cubbyholes very hard. It was his compulsive urge to jump in the front seat to drive the truck, since he thought I wasn't driving it anymore.

That certainly awoke him from slumber (I presumed) and he asked me to feel the big bump on his head. I couldn't find it, nor could I find the composure to stop laughing (I know, I know, I'm horrible). He then went "back" to sleep.

A couple hours later he wakes up and I question how his head is feeling. "What do you mean?" he asks.

After recounting the story he began to recall what happened...there is never a dull moment in this truck!

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Summer in Winter

It is just remarkable the difference of weather in California in the winter months versus the rest of the country. We have been spoiled with blue skies and plentiful sunshine and very nice temperatures every time we enter the state (Oregon and Washington are still a little cooler and precipitate more often). We haven't even seen a snowflake since January 1st!

Today, driving north of Sacramento, we noticed someone cutting their grass (grass is only green in winter here). You'd never find that in the midwest! We had to break out our shorts and sandals the other day because it was 80 degrees in Colton (a far east suburb of L.A. where our terminal is). I'll take that over 2" of ice in Ohio :-)

The weather in Bend the last week in January was also fantastic; we enjoyed hiking the Butte and relaxing on our hometime. A night out at the bowling alley gave us the chance to meet up with Brian and Aleesa (and finally meet Caitlin!), as well as making a new contact in the trucking industry (more on that later). Also, Ben's progress on his thesis is nearing the completed product and he'll be submitting draft #2 very soon!

Dispatch has kept us very busy since we've been back on the road, and for that we are thankful! Not so busy though that we can't have some fun though; we were finally able to meet up with AJ and Sarah (and meet Gabbie!) for a delicious breakfast and fun visit in the Everett area. We look forward to hosting the three of you in July--and don't worry, I'll make sure to have plenty of English muffins :-)

We were also able to relax on Super Bowl Sunday at our terminal in Colton and cheer the Packers on to victory as we got our restart of hours (I know, I know, I still haven't blogged yet about the trucker's logging requirements, but I'll get to it eventually). Maybe all this sunshine is having its effect on my lack of motivation to blog right now...

Stay tuned, Sandy! And happy birthday to you and Uncle Bill!

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dedicated, Part Three

Dedication to fighting for a good cause: our friends AJ and Sarah live just north of Seattle, and have been married just a few months longer than Ben and I. I met AJ through a mutual friend from college; AJ had moved out to Washington from the Midwest around the same time I had moved to Oregon, and we both worked for our respective dioceses. Because of that common thread, our friend Tom introduced us. We've kept in touch since then, and have been happy to support them and try to see them when we have extra time in their area.

On Halloween of 2009, AJ was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin's Lymphoma. The next six months he went through weekly chemotherapy, and as he braved through the treatments he began training for—and then completed, just two months after his last treatment—a 70 mile LIVESTRONG cycling ride, celebrating his victory over cancer, as well as his first Father's Day (their daughter was born in August, 2010).

Many of you have heard of Lance Armstrong and the LIVESTRONG foundation he started to support those who have been affected by cancer and to continually research a cure. Did you know that 28 million worldwide have been impacted by cancer?

Three and a half years ago, I myself was affected by melanoma, the most aggressive type of skin cancer. Once this cancer spreads to the lymph nodes, my dermatologist called it a “most certain death sentence.” Thankfully, my little cancerous spot was only in the form of a small tumor (or mole) on my leg, and all the cancer was removed with a minor surgery that excised the spot itself and the skin surrounding the mole. Since then, I have had to get yearly screenings, and take every precautionary measure to protect myself from the potential of getting it again, like wearing sunblock (spf 100), covering my skin as much as possible from sun exposure, taking vitamin D supplements, and in general, avoiding the sun (for those of you who know me well, I've done this since college anyway!).

AJ and Sarah have shared their story of cancer on their blog, West Coast Steins, and now AJ has begun a new blog, I Ride For, to chronicle his cycling training and his efforts to raise $12,000 for LIVESTRONG research and community support. For his first ride, the LIVESTRONG Seattle Challenge, he raised over $3000. Upping the ante for his next big ride, LIVESTRONG Austin (Lance Armstrong's hometown), he is asking for your support and prayers. Would you consider making a small donation (forgo your Starbucks for a day) or a larger sum, to help him reach his goal?

Click here to make a contribution for a movement that has helped so many affected by cancer, and in turn, your intentions will be prayed for during AJ's training. He has signed up for several rides between now and the big race in October (hopefully including a small LIVESTRONG race in our beautiful city of residence: Bend, OR in July), and you can follow those rides on I Ride For as well.

Make a donation in memory of a loved one who lived with cancer, or in honor of someone battling it right now. Your prayers and financial support are greatly appreciated, not only by the Steinbrecher family, but by all impacted by cancer.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dedicated, Part Two

Our dedication to finishing our “debt snowball”: Ben and I are both dedicated to finishing our goal of paying off all of our debt (just the student loans left!), but that hole is big and our shovel seems so small. Paying off our credit cards was a great feeling, but almost anti-climactic, knowing that we have so much more to go yet.

We are also starting to really feel the wear of trucking on our minds, bodies and spirits. It is safe to say that the honeymoon period of trucking is over (at least it lasted 18 months). Life on the road has certainly been an adventure for us, but we are ready to begin the next chapter in the book of our lives—a chapter of life off the road.

But—we are dedicated.

Having this time on the road and not in a “regular” job has also been beneficial for our masters degrees. I took my comprehensive exams last April to finish my degree in theology, and Ben continues to work on his philosophy thesis. Time on the road gives him the availability to just think and philosophize and then when we get on our hometime, he puts his mind to keyboard and pounds out his edits and conceptualizes his thesis more and more. Finishing the degrees was also a huge goal we wanted to accomplish by being on the road, and that we are still dedicated to.

We are still dedicated to the task of driver recruiting as well. If we continue to recruit successfully, every little bit will help us with our debt. At our rate, we figure we'll be at this trucking endeavor for about another year. Then—and we really look forward to then—we can start looking at our options off the road. Getting rid of the debt is a big key to that though; not having monthly debt payments opens up the work/salary possibilities.

Please keep us in your prayers—that we may persevere and accomplish the tasks at hand, all while staying safe on the road! Thanks!

Saturday, January 8, 2011


I have three separate entries that all deal with dedication. The first: our new I-5 dedicated route. The second: our dedication to finishing our “debt snowball”. The third: dedication to fighting for a good cause. Because I plan to write at a decent length for all three, check back in a couple days for the second and third entries.

Our new I-5 dedicated route: a few months ago, one of our company's fleet managers contacted us to see if we would be interested in running the I-5 throughout Washington, Oregon and California, hauling mostly FedEx loads from the Los Angeles area to Portland and Seattle, and then hauling whatever freight (mostly huge rolls of paper for newsprint) back down south to Los Angeles. That way, it would be easier for dispatch to get us home to Oregon for our scheduled hometime. At the time, however, we were completely turned off to the idea; we enjoy traveling across the country, leaving the option open of visiting with many family members and friends that we have sprinkled throughout the nation. Add to that the idea of driving the same old stretch of highway day in and day out (and at only 55mph through California and Oregon, 60mph though Washington), we were not exactly interested.

Fast forward to the week after Christmas: this week, appropriately the last of the year, I suppose, was comprised of the reign of Murphy. We picked up our load just outside of Cincinnati, headed for Salt Lake City. We stopped by Ben's parent's house in western Indiana (they live right off of the interstate we were traveling on) to pick up a pair of running shoes we had accidentally left after their Christmas get-together. There is a large gravel parking lot near their house that we parked the rig in; however, because of the Christmas snowfall, there were several inches on the ground and while it was hard-packed and a dry snow, leading us to believe we would be fine to get out, you can guess what happened. An hour and a half after realizing we were stuck, we finally freed the truck and were back on our way west.

The rest of our route was uneventful until we reached Wyoming. There was a huge nasty winter storm setting in across Utah and Wyoming, with upwards of 14 inches of snow expected in some areas. To spare you all the details, here are the highlights: the snow was falling, the wind was blowing, and the temperature was falling. Our truck and trailer slid three times on the road (enough to send me into near hysteria—I was terribly upset at the images running through my mind of jack-knifing or turning over in the shoulder/median), so we stopped at the nearest truckstop to chain up our tractor and trailer tires. Three busted chains later, a slow pumping fuel pump and very little sleep, we called it a night. The next day we eventually delivered the load after more careful maneuvering of the winter roads. We were set up on a re-power (i.e. we finished up a load for another driver) and encountered more snow-covered roads while delivering. Our next load brought us from Salt Lake City to Portland, which involved more snow-covered roads, closed sections of the interstate, and more loads of stress.

This lead us to open up the discussion of driving the I-5 dedicated. There is only one section of road in northern California/southern Oregon that gets enough snow to require chains. And, from our experience driving this stretch, the temperatures are very mild, it doesn't snow that often, and when it does, the roads are cleared regularly. Knowing this sparked even more conversation about the possibility.

We also have many favorite places to stop along this 1200 mile stretch between the three states. Our friends AJ and Sarah (more about them in installment three of “Dedicated”) live in the Seattle area, two of the best truckstops in the country are in Portland and Canyonville, Oregon, many of our favorite spots to run outside are in California, and the landscape is very enjoyable to drive through: pine trees and mountain vistas from Redding, CA all the way to Seattle!

This route has very little surprises to it, which, coupled with the predictable dispatch, consistent miles and mild weather throughout, made it an easy decision to make. One phone call back to the I-5 dedicated fleet manager later, and we were set! We've only been on the route for a week so far, and I'm sure we're going to get tired of it eventually, but for right now, it just feels nice to know what's coming and to be in familiar territory all the time!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A New Year: A New Incentive

As you may (or may not) be aware, many trucking companies look for ways to decrease fuel expenses, and two of the primary ways are through idling and accurate/efficient routing. With a company as large as ours, with as many trucks as there are, reduction of just one hour per day per truck in idling would save the company hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars each quarter. That's a lot of savings!

Idling one's truck for just one hour uses one gallon of fuel. For the company to heat/cool all of its trucks simultaneously for one hour, the company spends roughly $30,000 in fuel.

Many states have passed anti-idling laws, permitting truckers to idle for a maximum of 5 minutes (or 3 minutes, if you're in the wretched state of New Jersey). This is, of course, being done for emission purposes. However, by our estimation, 75% of truckers still idle their trucks, even in states where you could be fined thousands of dollars for doing so.

It's not hard to understand why a trucker would want to idle: non-truckers are not asked to turn off their heater or electricity when they're not in their homes. Being on the road, the truck is our home. But it comes down to common sense--there is no reason a trucker needs to idle his/her truck when the temperatures are between 40-70. Above 70, yes: if it gets too hot in the truck, the trucker cannot get adequate rest and therefore will not be able to perform to his/her duties in full capacity when his/her shift to drive comes up. Below 40, yes: for the same reasons.

The idling laws, however, are ridiculous in a sense that they are not enforced. We truckers have all been informed of them, however we have never seen an officer write a ticket to a trucker for having his truck on. We've seen some crazy instances of idling though--truckers idling their rigs between the temperatures of 40-70, or idling their truck with their windows open, or idling their truck and then leaving it idle as they head inside a truck stop for a bite to eat or a shower. Can you say wasteful?

Ben and I, since the beginning of this adventure of life on the road, have been very conscious of our idling practices. Thankfully, by being a team operation, most of our time on the road is spent as just that: on the road, moving loads from city to city. Keeping moving is one great way to keep idling costs down. But--when we are shut-down for a period of time due to poor weather or we are working on a restart of hours, we try to idle as little as possible. With our former company, CRST, unless the temperature dropped below 20 degrees, we didn't turn the truck on for the heater warmth. And generally, unless the heat outside was 75 degrees or above, we didn't turn the truck on for air conditioning cool.

Many of our present company's trucks are equipped with bunk heaters; these pull fuel directly out of your fuel tank through a pump and burns it through an ignitor. Both the pump and a fan are operated by the truck battery. Using the bunk heater continuously for 10 hours uses up only one gallon of fuel yet provides more than enough heat--enough that we often don't even need our blankets!

To the incentive portion of this post: our company is sponsoring a contest, if you will, to entice drivers to reduce their idling time. For the first quarter of 2011, the top 150 trucks with a bunk heater and the top 150 trucks without a bunk heater who have the lowest percentage of idle time will be entered into a drawing to win cash prizes, and the top prize winner will receive a company truck with 300,000-400,000 miles on it (most trucks are good at least to a million miles, sometimes more), and be enrolled in the lease-option program of the company. Typically this program entails that the driver/leaser pays the truck payment, upwards of $500/week, but can make an average of 89 cents per mile (of course, this 89cpm has to cover a range of expenses a company driver is not responsible for, like fuel, maintenance, permits, etc.). However, with the perks of this contest, the grand-prize-winner will get the truck and the company will pay the truck payment! That means that the driver/leaser has *only* to pay fuel, maintenance, permits, etc. costs. Considering that fuel and truck payments are your largest cost in owning your own truck, this is a significant savings! Furthermore, if you complete the lease-option program for two years after receiving the truck, the company will hand you the title for free. That is a whole lotta moolah to be made! Even if one were not to truck any longer after the two year lease-option program, reselling the truck could bring between $25-50,000.

Can you say "incentive"??? While Ben and I are not interested in trucking any longer than we have to to pay off our debt, the grand prize option sure is enticing! If the winner of that grand prize opts out of the truck option, they can instead receive $5000 cash. More money is certainly to be made with the lease-option, but it's nice that the $5000 is also offered.

We have lots of heavy blankets in our truck (and we like to cuddle for warmth anyhow ;-) )and plan to continue keeping our idling down, and hopefully in early April we'll find that we're in the top 150 drivers for the lowest idling percentage!

Present location: Santa Nella, CA (sitting out a winter storm that closed down a 40 mile section of the Grapevine)
Miles this week: 3700
Fun loads as of late: giant rolls of paper for newsprint