Made another Ironman run home this weekend; almost 800 miles from Joplin, Missouri, at the Kansas/Oklahoma line, to the Dawg House, beginning on Friday night and ending up late yesterday afternoon. This ain't Kansas anymore, Dorothy. That much is true, but I had been in Kansas on Friday, which I wouldn't have been at all if I hadn't blown a relay that was set up for me by opening my big, fat mouth at the wrong time!! I would happily kick my own butt, with all of you as witnesses, if my danged leg were long enough to reach it!!
This latest sordid affair began on Monday, after spending the weekend in Morton, when I delivered the load I had dragged up there from Kentucky and was promptly assigned a load heading me south, to Florida. To Jacksonville, specifically, and the railyards there, where I would drop the loaded trailer so they could load it on a flatcar and piggyback it to Miami. The railroad has their own cartage operation and they hook up the trailer to one of their trucks in Miami, take it to the customer, haul an empty box back to the railyard, then ship it north, back to Jacksonville.
That's cheaper than having us drive all the way down there and then have to deadhead us 300 miles back up north, to pick up a backhaul load. There's nothing much going north out of Miami and that was a big problem for us in the past. They'd get us down there, then have trouble getting us back out of there, without deadheading us all over the place. And deadhead miles are a loser for trucking companies; they have to pay us for those miles, while they make nothing for hauling an empty trailer around. Now the railroad has solved it and, with the exception of a few of our drivers who live in Florida and run shuttles in and out of Miami, we don't go down there at all. The Orlando/Tampa area is about as far south as I've gone in over four years or so.
However, there's another problem in Florida, at least in the winter months -- a lack of any freight. It dries up down there in the winter, for some reason, andhas done so for years, making for some long waits to be dispatched on another load. But the heck with that, I thought at the time; if you're gonna get stuck in a loadless condition, there are far worse places than Florida to do so, and at least you're out of the cold, snow and ice that's still around in the more northerly climes. So, I happily made my merry way southward from Star Central.
I got to Jacksonville a couple of hours ahead of schedule, dropped my loaded box, snatched an empty one, and then got just what I was expecting -- a "no load" message from dispatch. I found a spot on the shoulder in a jam-packed rest area and slept as well as I could, with the truck tilted downhill, which wasn't very well at all. I moved to a truckstop the next morning, napped some more, and got dispatched more quickly than I expected. Load picked up in South Georgia and went to a town in Kansas, just over the Missouri line, near Joplin. It was set to deliver Friday morning, more than 800 miles from home, after I'd already been held out the previous weekend. The past weekend had played to my advantage, in getting a newer truck assigned to me, but this weekend it would be a decided hardship on me, if I couldn't get home. And the prospects didn't look too hot, from so far away.
A "discussion" with dispatch ensued. I pled my case relentlessly; I had to get home in order to get my prescriptions refilled. I would run out of my medications if I didn't. Was it possible they could set up a relay somewhere? "Get the load and we'll see about it" was the response I got. So, I headed for Georgia, to a little burg 30 miles east of Valdosta.
I got there, was told the load wasn't ready yet (as usual), was instructed on where to drop the empty and where to park and wait. Drove around the plant, dumped my empty in a sandlot out back, parked behind another Star-mobile and waited. Meanwhile, the lack of sleep from the night before was catching up with me and I nodded out at the wheel. BEEP! "Message Waiting," said the Qualcomm. I rubbed my eyes and jabbed the key that opens the messages for viewing. They had a relay set up in Nashville and the driver would be there waiting on me. Great!! But that also meant an all-night drive, with little to no sleep, which I needed badly.
Guess I'd better nap while I can, I thought, so I hunkered back down and headed to dreamland again. KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! I opened my eyes, jumped up and looked out the window at a spotter. Load's ready, I was informed. Go get your bills and you're outta here, sleepyhead! I grinned at him as I climbed down from the cab. "You would wake me up NOW," I told the guy. "Hell, I was just getting to the part where I almost had her clothes off!!" He laughed and I went to the office and signed my bills.
I had to drive back the way I'd come, to the front of the building, to get my loaded caboose, and the "driveway" was a narrow sandy path. On the far, or east, side of the building, I encountered a spottermobile headed my way and I moved as far to my right as I could, to make room for us to pass each other. In so doing, my mirror on the passenger side was whacked by some shrubbery branches that stuck out along the fenceline. It didn't hurt the mirror, but the little antenna for my satelllite radio was stuck to the top of it and when the branches slapped it, my satellite unit went dead. Nothing but static on the FM frequency the satellite operates on.
I looked, expecting the antenna to have been knocked off the mirror, but it was still there. Hmmmmm. I went on around, backed under my loaded trailer, then had a look-see when I got out to finish hooking up. The antenna was trashed totally. The branch had snapped the wire from the antenna in two and it was hanging limply from the passenger door, where I had routed it inside. No user-serviceable parts. Not repairable. Shot. So, no satellite radio until I could purchase another antenna. After I got the trailer all hooked up, I tore it from the mirror, unhooked it from the unit, turned it off, tossed the antenna, and scanned around for local FM stations, until I found one with music I liked.
I drove all night long, stopping only for a brief three-hour nap, and sleeping just long enough to get really sleepy, if you know what I mean. About 50 miles out from Nashville, the following morning, the other driver called me and told me he was there. I told him where I was and that I'd be there shortly. Then dispatch called and it was not my dispatcher. He was taking the day off again, it seems. He's been absent a lot lately, but I'm danged if I know what's going on with him, and haven't talked to him enough to find out. The replacement dispatcher wanted to check with me about the timing of the relay that my dispatcher had set up, so I told him what he wanted to know.
It was then that my Big Mouth went out of control. Blame it on lack of sleep and being half brain-dead as a result. Blame it on driving all night, in a mental fog half the time, with my well-oiled driving instincts taking over, amounting to an "automatic pilot" of sorts, to keep me out of trouble. It's a level regular everyday drivers never acheive at all and it's kept me alive and well for ten years. But in spite of what I may blame on it, the fact remains that I blew my own relay right out of the water!
I HAD to ask Mr. Replacement where the load I was swapping for went and I HAD to ask him when it was set to deliver. Greeneville, Tennesse, was the reply and that part was great! Seventy miles from home and only about 4 1/2 hours away from Music City. It was set to deliver that same afternoon and that wasn't so good, as I was falling-down tired and didn't have the legal hours left to get there. Then I JUST HAD to tell Mr. Replacement about my hour situation. Open mouth, insert foot squarely in mouth!! He asked me when I could be there. I told him I was familiar with the customer and knew well that they'd be closed by the time I took my break and drove there. So, I concluded, the earliest I could be there would be the next morning. He said he'd call them and see if they could wait that long. I drove onward.
The Qualcomm beeped on the outskirts of Nashville, but I was in city traffic and didn't answer it until I got to the truckstop where the relay was to take place. The other truck wasn't there. I backed in and opened the message. "Cancel Relay," it read. Well, dog-poop, I thought!! Looked like that Greeneville customer couldn't wait till the next day, after all. The other truck had obviously been sent on, to make his delivery and I was going to Kansas. Double dog-poop!! When I complained, Mr. Replacement told me he'd get me home from out there. Yeah. Right. For how long?? Fifteen minutes before I have to leave right back out? I left that unsaid and hit the bunk. Enough was enough and I was bone-tired.
I got up and prepared to head west and north of where I was. I never sleep as well during the day, but I got enough rest so that I could drive all night again. And my head was clear enough now to realize I had torpedoed my own relay with my big mouth! If I had been thinking clearly that morning, I'd have kept my stupid mouth shut about my hours, swapped loads, and drove illegally to that customer! The HOS doesn't exist when it comes to getting home! I KNOW that only too well! I'd probably be there by now, or on Friday, at the latest!! Dumbass Dawg! Stupid mutt!! I proceeded to call myself every name in the book at that point, showing myself no mercy at all. A brain fart of monumental proportions; that's what it was. No doubt at all about that. Probably the Greatest Brain Fart Of All Time. A world record. I spent the next hour beating myself up severely. And I deserved it!
So, I was in Kansas on Friday morning, once again weary from the all-nighter and making my way on a detour route when I discovered that the road I was supposed to take was closed, due to [expletive deleted] road construction. I got unloaded, got dispatched quickly, and, as promised, the load would take me home, then on to North Carolina on Monday. I scurried to get it picked up , sleep some more, then head out that night. Had to run all over a little town, to three different places, to get it, but I did, then headed, illegally, back to Joplin for my break. I wasn't making the same mistake this time, by golly!!
I fueled in Joplin and found a new antenna for my Sirius at the truckstop, and a much better one than I'd had before, to boot. Couldn't install it until I got home to my tools and bench vise, though, because it had a gollywhompin' HUGE 1-1/8 inch nut holding it to the bracket it was assembled with and I would need to change the bracket, for another type that came packed with it. Needed a big wrench that I only had at home. So, I laid it on the dashboard, but it lost the signal every time I changed directions because it wasn't outside, where it belonged. So I turned the thing off and made do with local stations along the way.
My trek home began around 10 P.M., Central Time, on Friday night and ended a little past 4 P.M. Eastern Time yesterday. Almost 800 miles, virtually overnight, but I made it and at least I've got today off. I was tired, but still had the energy to swap the brackets out and get the antenna installed, now clamped to the sunshield on the front of the cab's roof. It works fine and I've got my satellite radio again now. And this antenna won't get shredded by shrub branches again!
Now, to catch up to things, when I've been out for two weeks! Talk to all of you later!!