Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Missing You Missing Me

That title is a knock off from a country song (by Shenendoah) with a verse,

"Well there ain't no place that I'd rather be, next to you sittin' next to me."

That's true too.

Jessica, to answer your question, I think we're both going to miss each other A LOT when we're living a "normal" life in a home that doesn't move and we don't have to put our coats on to go to the bathroom (anybody catch the movie reference?). I know this because when we're home in Bend for just a couple of days each month and we're both out running separate errands, even of it's for just a few hours, when we come home or meet back up, this is what happens;

"Hi! How are you?! I missed you!"

"What have you been up to? What's new? Did anything happen?"

"Let's go for a walk together."

I kid you not. We are blessed with a great relationship, great communication, and we genuinely love spending time together (in a completely healthy, non-enmeshed bad-attachment sort of way).


So, time will tell how it will be when we're living in Bismarck. We both feel it will probably take a week or two to adjust, not only to our surroundings, but also to not seeing each other as often. Ben will be working 12 hour days while I'll *hopefully* just have 40/week. Weekends will be our "catch-up" time aside from a few hours in the evenings.

It will definitely be a transition!

And I think that there is actually a song called "Missing You Missing Me" by Don Williams. It may or may not be the real inspiration for the title, but I don't know the melody for it. Shenendoah's song is an "oldie" favorite played on Prime Country that I know quite well!

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chain-Up Follow-Up

This is what chains can do to your tires:

These still have great tread (they were new in October), but the chains certainly can tear right into the rubber!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Chaining Up: What It Looks Like

The Pacific Northwest has been battered with storms in the last week or so, causing horrible driving conditions and power outages, but also beautiful landscapes at which to look.

Wednesday morning last week, we picked up a load in Albany, OR that was going to the Pittsburgh, PA area. All that morning (and through many of the following days), the storm set itself in along the valley, the mountains, the river. We had planned to just sit tight on the load and take our time, as we had 5+ days to deliver it.

Once we made it to Portland though, there was enough of a clearing in the storm for us to make it all the way to Pendleton (200 miles away) in the daylight, so we took advantage of the opportunity! We are glad we did, because the next day that stretch of road was awful!

About 15 miles shy of Pendleton, the temperature was dropping to below freezing and you could tell the roads were starting to ice up. We parked it for the night at a truck stop at the bottom of Cabbage Hill, a six-mile 6% grade (down if westbound, up if eastbound). We weren't willing to attempt tackling it in the dark with temps dropping. Hoping it would be clear enough in the morning without needing chains, park it that night, we did.

The next morning forced it upon us though--even though the roads were just wet and not freezing at all, to legally drive up the Hill we needed chains. Thankfully, it was just for 10 miles, then we could take them off.

So, for those of you readers who are "easterners", and have never had to, nor will ever need to, this is what chaining up looks like:

First, you pull out the chains. We have super-singles on our drive tires and duals on our trailer tires, so we have to carry both sizes of chains.

Then you have to straighten them out so there aren't any kinks. This way, they sit nice and snug on the tire and you have less risk of busting the chain.

The chains above are for super-singles; the one below is for a dual.

You have to set the chain up right so the link edge is facing out (so no sharp edges potentially puncture the tire), and the cam-locks (the round, half-moon looking piece) on the outside. They wouldn't do much good on the inside because then you couldn't tighten them!

Then, both Ben and I take part of the chain, each of us holding about a third of the way in from the ends, and place it on top of the tire. We "snug" it around the tire, making sure no kinks worked their way in.

We do this on all the tires we're chaining up (in this case, just the front drives and the front duals, four tires total), and then I roll the tractor and trailer in reverse so we can complete the process: linking up and tightening.

First you hook up the links on the inside, then tighten everything up on the outside; this is done easiest by just turning the cam-locks. Thankfully, our chains were snug enough and tight enough that we didn't need to "bungee" them any tighter (using bungee cords to batten down any slack in the chains that isn't taken up by the cam-locks).

A fellow trucker who was parked next to us must have thought we were pretty green at the whole thing, because he helped us out quite a bit, but refused us to assist him in chaining up his rig. The language barrier prevented much conversation, but help is a universal communication, and we were grateful! He had a very handy cam-lock turning tool that allowed better grip and turning from our standard tool. Thanks for the help, driver!

I've got no photos of the take-off part of chaining, but it takes all of 5 minutes to do. We just unlock and loosen all of our connections, roll the truck and trailer forward or backward, and pull the chains away! That's the easy part!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Candid Questions?

We are less than two weeks out from turning in the keys, and so, dear readers, do you have any candid questions about life on the road that we haven't yet touched upon? Is there something you'd like to know about the transportation industry, our driving habits, favorite places to go, etc?

Let us know and we'll blog about it in the next two weeks!

Look forward to a post in the next day or two (once we get a good wifi signal and some downtime) about the process of chaining up for winter weather--we just had to perform this task yesterday to legally drive up a long grade near Pendleton, OR.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pressing Pause

I've talked about the bottom-line reason for us to be living this life out on the road: to pay off our debt from credit cards and student loans. To date, we have paid off around $100,000 in debt. We still have three student loans to go, but we are very pleased with our progress thus far!

As part of the next phase of life we are working toward, we are "pressing pause" on our debt snowball. I had mentioned in A Different Diagnosis that we need to get off the road as soon as possible. In order to do that, we need some savings to fund the transfer of what comes next. So, all of the mileage that has paid us starting in December through now, and through our next few weeks on the road, all of those miles are going straight to savings. We are preparing for early-to-mid February as our departure from the truck.

We have things lined up for us to move to Bismarck, North Dakota. Bismarck you say? Yes, Bismarck. As in it's-really-cold-and-no-one-lives-in-North-Dakota Bismarck. If you've paid any attention to the news lately of oil fields (projected 15-20 year boom) and low unemployment (current rate of 3.5%, in the last 20 years it has been less than 5%) in the state, then you understand part of our reasoning. We've done extensive research, applied for jobs (just waiting for a break in the weather for the ground to thaw to start work), secured an apartment and are ready for the move. We plan to stay located in Bismarck, though the oil fields are in the northwest corner of the state (and solo drivers can earn $100,000/year!), as our plan is to achieve conception as soon as possible. As there is not much more than oil in the northwest of ND, we want to be close to amenities to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy.

There is a very small, very slight chance that we will "scrap the plan" of moving to Bismarck and stay in Bend. The possibility of work there is slim, but we are staying open to that. We love Bend and would love to stay, but when we started making these plans, there was a lot of instability in what could come there. So, we will see what happens! But, as for now, our plan is to head east to Bismarck!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Coast to Coast

The first load we were sent on after leaving Bend from Christmas break was to drop our trailer in Toledo, OR. The most direct route to get there is not truck friendly, therefore not truck approved. We had to drive over the snowy Santiam Pass to the coast in Lincoln City, and down Route 101 from there, before turning a few miles inland to drop our trailer. Driving along the Oregon Coast, especially in a truck, was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we knew it! We took many (awful) pictures while driving along the ocean.

Yes, the road is that close to the water. And the view is breathtaking!

After dropping off the trailer, dispatch did not have another load set up for us yet, so we bobtailed back into Newport, parked our rig, and walked down to the overlook for the surf. It was pitch black, so we couldn't see much, but the thunderous noise of the ocean certainly could be heard. It was intense and moving!

Dispatch still hadn't gotten a load for us, so we decided to grab a bite to eat at the Chowder Bowl restaurant. Ben had the token clam chowder, while I had two of the best fish tacos I've ever had! (for those of you who think that is really odd, fish tacos are very common--and very good--in the Northwest)

We spent the night in the truck, on the side of the road in Newport, listening to the ocean and then the pitter-patter of rain in the middle of the night. Dispatch finally got a load for us in the morning, but not until after we went down on the beach.

It was cold!

I was enjoying the shadows of the sunrise, and thought back to this post last spring. The night before that incident happened, we were on Dania Beach near Ft. Lauderdale, catching the sunset rays and playing with the shadows there.

So now, even though it's backwards, we have sunset on the east coast and sunrise on the west. These may just be two of my favorite pictures from the last two and a half years of life on the road.

Today is January 12. Two years ago, Haiti endured that horrific earthquake that challenged an already-challenged country. Please remember them in your prayers!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


We made it to Maine! Maine and Vermont were the lone lower-48 states that we hadn't yet made it to in the truck, but now we're just down to Vermont!

We had received the pre-assignment plan from dispatch, and I read it too quick, thinking we were picking up our load in Auburn, Massachusetts. I couldn't figure out why the deadhead miles were over 150, when Auburn was just 20 miles from our last load's destination. Finally re-reading the pre-assign correctly helped me to realize that what I thought was MA was really ME!

We were routed around the I-95 toll road that would bring us up to our pick-up location (off all things to pick up, we hauled 36,000 pounds of tampons!), so up the Route 1 "Coastal Highway" we went. I felt as if we were driving through the scenery of the movie Dan in Real Life (even though that takes place in Rhode Island). Everything was weathered, quiet, quaint. Many (if not most) motels and resort locations were closed down for the season. Every other block had a restaurant featuring lobster and clam chowder. There was a biting chill in the air (but much warmer and less snowy than average at this time of year). Wooded trees are everywhere. Basically, we loved it. Ben especially. He's already considering when we could move. (!)

We did enjoy our little jaunt "off the beaten path" with the coastal highway, but it took us almost 3 times longer than it would have on the toll road, so we decided to just take that on the way back. It was dark by then anyhow (4:30 and it's DARK!), so we allowed the company to pay for our ease of travel on I-95. We stopped at a truck stop in Kittery, ME, and walked a mile to the Weathervane Restaurant. It was a tough menu decision, as lobster rolls are very popular, as is clam chowder, but Ben ended up going for a whole lobster and I had a broiled seafood plate, including salmon, haddock and scallops. Yum!

Back to the truck, and we were on our way to New Jersey. Ugh. At least Maine was enjoyable!

This is Portland, Maine.

Can you see that blue sign stuck behind the trees? That's the "Welcome to Maine" sign. After exit 2. They want you to come in a little before they give you the satisfaction of knowing you made it.

We had steamed mussels as an appetizer.

All of my broiled fish, with veggies and delicious slaw on the side!

Ben's crustacean meal.

He had to wear a bib. That told him how to eat the lobster. It was helpful.

Current location: Waynesboro, VA
Direction heading: to Salt Lake City, UT
Miles this week: 5800
Recent friendly encounters: we stopped in Stone Bluff to visit Ben's family as we were en route on I-74, and while working on a restart of hours, we rented a car from the Cincinnati area and drove home to Mercer County for a night to see my family. Good times were had by all!