Ft. Worth, Texas
878 miles west of the Dawg House, no load, and looking like I'll spend New Year's right in this truckstop. I haven't been out here in Texas in more than six years and I took the trip for the miles and money, knowing that I probably wouldn't make it back home this week. That's what happens when you have bills to pay; you need the money to pay them with. Miles equal dollars, in my business, and so forth. I told dispatch before Christmas that I couldn't afford to take a week off without pay for the holidays, like quite a few drivers did, so I left back out in the wee hours on Dec. 26th. I sure got what I asked for!
Actually, it's been sweeter than usual, on the road this past week. Not as many trucks running. A lot of drivers get the whole week off between Christmas and New Year's Day, so truck traffic is lighter. Not much fighting for parking spaces, like usual and you can get in truck stops later at night and find a parking slot. I found a pull-thru slot open at 7 P.M. the other night -- unheard of on any normal week. I enjoyed the run down through Oklahoma Saturday and on the weekend, traffic was slow in places like Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
Rolled into Denton, Texas -- about 30 miles north of here -- yesterday. Dropped my loaded box at the Peterbilt plant there and hooked up to an empty, then got the expected "no load" message in a jiffy. I rolled on down here and parked it until??? Holiday weekend again, so all bets are off on any load at all until Wednesday. Some places are working today, but not that many at all. Plants tend to take vacations at this time of year, shutting down until Jan. 2, 2008.
I originally planned to make Denton on Saturday, as it's a place where you can deliver anytime and my prospects for a load might have been better on Saturday than on Sunday, but I got hung up in Morton, having some much-needed repairs done on my truck. About a week before Christmas, something went "blooie" in my engine. The "Check Engine" idiot light was on, intermittently, the idle was so rough and the steering wheel shook so bad that I had to shut the engine off in order to graph my logbook. I couldn't write a lick, with that shaking. The worst thing of all was the performance on hills, with a heavy load. It didn't have any performance at all, to speak of!
Now, our trucks are lousy at climbing anyway, because my company likes to castrate them by cutting the horsepower back on the engines. Nothing to write home to mama about normally, BUT -- this was absolutely pitiful, even by our usual standards!! Coming up Saluda -- the steep hill at the North Carolina/South Carolina state line, on Interstate 26 -- I was down to 15 mph, on the steepest bottom part of it, in fourth gear, all the way down in low range on the transmission! I've been up that hill many times in the past, with heavy loads, and I never dropped below seventh gear, in high range, and averaged about 25 mph, going up. It was obvious something major was up with the Kitty-Cat under my hood! It was a sick kitty, to say the least. I was due for routine maintenance service anyway, but I put it off until after Christmas because I wanted to get home for that holiday, at least. And, of course, I did.
I got to Morton on Thursday and proceeded to spend the rest of that day, and half the night in our shop, then in the shop of a local Caterpillar dealer down the road from our yard. They sent me there to get my motor checked out. Our mechanic said it sounded like a bad fuel injector. That had been my suspicion all along, so I concurred. The tech at the Cat dealer hooked up a diagnostic-equipped laptop computer to the ECM (engine computer) and ran about 45 minutes worth of tests on it, while I worked the throttle and ignition switch as he directed me.
Yep, it was a bad injector, all right. A totally dead one, on the number 6 cylinder. In addition, the number 3 cylinder had a broken rocker arm stud, meaning that the valves in that cylinder weren't working properly, which meant, in turn, that I'd been running on just 4 cylinders, out of 6!! No wonder it didn't have any power!! And no wonder my fuel mileage had gone totally to pot! Now I knew why!! The tech worked another two hours, replacing the injector and repairing the broken stud, then cut me loose. Man!! I'm tellling you -- it felt like I had a new truck! It accelerated like a rocket, compared to what it had been doing! The tech said that the injector had probably been going bad for awhile and had gotten worse and worse, before going to Injector Heaven, or wherever they end up when they die. Probably just in a dumpster, in reality. Anyway, you get the idea. Now the truck's not rolling over and playing dead when it sees a hill in the distance; I can actually pull smaller grades without shifting at all, just like I'm supposed to. MUCH better indeed!!!
However, that very necessary work caused me to get a late start toward my Lone Star destination. When the truck was done, I hadn't eaten since late morning, so I gobbled down a sandwich at Arby's, then I laid down in the bunk and passed out. I didn't get started till around noon on Friday and got halfway through Missouri before I stopped for the night. I was still sleepy-headed and wasn't about to drive all night when I didn't have to. I didn't quite have enough hours to get all the way to Texas on Saturday, so I stopped outside Ardmore, OK, and spent Saturday night there. Sixty miles away and a short drive to the delivery yesterday.
So, here I sit at 2:09 P.M., CST, on the last day of 2007, not really expecting anything now, if I haven't heard anything earlier. And I haven't. Might drop this box tomorrow and cruise around the Fort Worth area, seeing what sights I can see. Don't have anything but my phone camera with me, but I can enhance those pix and make them look much better, so I might share some sights with you next week, of an area I operate in very little.
Don't mind running out here now and then. A little Texas Attitude never hurt anyone!!