Sunday, March 9, 2008

WINTER REVISITED AND A DRIVING AWARD

Everybody sing along with me:

I'm dreaming of a white Easter, just like the ones I've never known.

Where Al Gore is whining about Global Warming, while sleigh bells tinkle in the snow.

I'm dreaming of a white Easter; springtime still seems so far away.

For the green grass I'm yearning oh so much -- as my tires keep spinning in the slush!

That's what I've been singing all week, as Mom Nature had a winter flashback and they stuck my butt back in the snow both at the start of the week and (as if that weren't enough) again at the end of it!! Somebody at my company evidently thinks I'm Nanook Of The North, but they've definitely got the wrong guy! I am decidedly a Warm Weather Person. Don't like snow. Hate the white frozen crap with a passion. Wouldn't even play in it when I was a kid. Only reason I liked it then was because it got me out of going to school for a day or two, that's all! I was born and raised in the south, where it don't snow much, and I'll stay in the south forever! I know when I'm well-off, thank you!

First off was a little jaunt up to Minnersoda, or Minnesota, I mean -- up in the Frozen North, where it's still very much winter, and will be till sometime in May, I think. The earth has to tilt WAY over on its axis before it warms up in those upper latitudes, so spring is longer getting there. I drove through near white-out "snow showers," driven by a very annoying gusting wind, as I neared my destination. I drive a single trailer, not the doubles some unfortunate LTL drivers are stuck with, but with those gusts out of nowhere, I was rocking all over the road, doing my very best simulation of those wiggle-wagons. Unnerving? That would be an understatement. But after ten years of braving blizzards, hurricanes, tropical storms, "baby" tornadoes, and almost everything else Mom Nature can throw my way, I'm pretty tough, if I do say so myself. Either that, or I'm insane. Haven't figured that out yet. Anyway, I persevered and rolled into the customer, right on time.

I dumped my loaded box in a dock door, tromped the slushy ground beside the trailer to dig out a clear spot, and planted my heels firmly in the slippery slush, so I could crank the dollies down and pull the fifth wheel release without losing traction and falling on my rear. Then I spun my way out from under the loaded box, fishtailed around to the back lot, taking the corners like a really BIG snowmobile and almost spinning a donut in the empty lot. Finally, I spun and slid my way under an empty that was sitting all alone back there. I went through the foot-planting ritual again to get hooked up to it.

I was dispatched quickly for a change, to a little town, barely in Iowa, only fifteen miles south of where I was, in Albert Lea, MN. Not knowing the condition of the backroads and not looking for any extra challenges other than the ones life throws at you normally, I took I-35 down to that exit, went east seven miles, found the place, checked in, then proceeded to wait on the load for four hours. It was late afternoon by the time I set sail again and I had about two hours left, to get a few miles behind me before I hit my break period. I meant that part above about "setting sail" quite literally, because during the time I spent waiting, the weather gods had decided to curse me with a particularly nasty crosswind!

That big windbag was blowing from west to east and came equipped with gusts which felt like at least 60 mph in strength. It felt like a giant fist was hitting the side of my trailer, and I could hear a distinct 'bang' when the gusts slammed into my box. To make things worse, my entire load weighed a wimpy 1,400 pounds!! It was almost the same as pulling a deadhead empty box. Not good. Where is a heavier load when you need one?

I was countersteering my tractor straight between the lines, in the center of my lane and when I glanced in my mirror, I could see that the wind was so strong that it was pushing the box clear over next to the lane divider line. Cars crept cautiously past me, unsure of whether I'd end up on top of them when the next gust came. Actually, if those 4-wheel drivers had realized it, the best thing they could have done would be to tromp the accelerator and get around me as fast as possible, not linger over there like they were doing!! I tried to wave them past with arm motions: "Go on!! Scat!! Get away from me!" I urged them, hoping they could read my lips. A few did and boogied on out of  there, but most of them just crept by, staring at me untrustingly, putting themselves in harm's way out of seeming fascination and/or ignorance! But eventually they all went by unscathed and the road was empty again.

The wind had, of course, blown dry powdery snow from the shoulder and the nearby fields out onto the road surface in places. Normally, this isn't a problem for a heavy truck, but in that wind, it was murderous. I hit a deeper drift at the exact same time that I was blasted with another powerful gust and it literally skated my whole rig sideways across the snowdrift, halfway into the left lane! Now you can understand why I was motioning the cars to speed up and get around me earlier; if there had been a 4-wheeler over there at that moment, I'd have creamed it! Luckily, there wasn't anything over there, and I got it straightened back up and back in my lane quickly.

That was enough for me, on this nasty weather day. I determined that I would stop early, at the closest place I could find, take my break, and hope that the wind would die down that night, by the time I had to roll again. I came to a rest area a few miles further on, and I pulled into it and parked. Got up in the wee hours, found that the wind had indeed died off to nothing, and then rolled on south, through the Mason City area (Hi, Merry!) and on down to U.S. 20, where I drove east, to Waterloo, then south on 380, to Iowa City and I-80. Onward east to I-74, then on to Bartonville, near our yard.

I got rid of that load the next morning, then picked up a loaded trailer at the same place and began another long journey to North Carolina, due there the following day, Friday. It was on that journey that the state of Indiana bestowed a little award on me. I received a Fast Driving Award in the city of Indianapolis, issued by an Indiana state trooper. A "Fast Driving Award" is a speeding ticket, in case you haven't figured that out by now. 65 in a 55, no contest. I was guilty as all hell and admit it. But the circumstances were almost comical and I was chuckling to myself afterward.

I was cruising down I-465, "The Circle," as it's known to truckers, because it's a beltway that circles  the entire city. Right lane full of slowpokes, as usual; middle lane, where I was, full of faster vehicles, and the far left lane almost deserted, except for passing cars. You'll notice I didn't mention trucks and that's because we're banned from the far left lane, as we are in most major cities.

I have taken issue with those bans, but that does no good, of course, because the politicians have to do something to make their constituents think they're doing the job they were elected to do and that something usually involves making it harder on trucks, in some manner. This has become the natural order of things, seemingly. Pamper the cars, then poop on the trucks. That's the thanks we get for keeping the shelves full at your favorite stores. But, I digress.

I was doing fine, humming along at nearly 60, until I ran upon a little 6-wheeled local-yokel delivery truck that was poking along in the middle lane at 45 mph, ten miles per hour under the 55 limit. I tried to "push" him along a little faster, but he wasn't gong to be pushed, nor take the hint and move into the Granny Lane where he belonged. Nope, this yokel was going to keep right on puttering along, ignoring the traffic behind him that would prefer to, uh, go a little faster than construction zone speeds.

Check right lane. Bumper-to-bumper, going about the same speed as the creeping lane hog in front of me. Look to the left. Deserted. Hmmmmmmm. Well, what choice did I have? I could stay behind that clown and take the rest of the day to get through Indy, or I could "bend" the law a little bit, dart into the left lane, pass him quickly, dash back over and slow back down to a tolerable speed again. I headed left, sped up a bit, and put him in my mirror. It was that "getting back over" part that didn't work out as planned, however.

Cars had moved from the right lane into the middle lane in front of the offending slowpoke and had neatly taken up all the real estate I needed in order to get back into the center lane. I put on my signal and held my position momentarily, hoping they would make room for me. But, as usual, they only cared about themselves and not a tractor-trailer, which was now trapped in the left lane, which he wasn't supposed to be in at all! So much for a quick bending of the law. I was now breaking the damned thing outright. I had to get back over, before some cop spotted me out there.

The cars were in a conga line, nose-to-tail, with about eight or ten of them in line. They weren't going to make room for me, so the ony thing I could do was speed up, pass all of them, then move back over where I belonged and slow back down to my reasonable speed again. So, I proceeded to do just that, picking them off one by one. Until I passed a big, gas-gulper SUV and discovered that the car in front of him was an unmarked police car. I had already come up beside him before I realized who and what he was. Okay, cop -- you want me, you got me! I couldn't break into the conga line behind him and was kind of obvious right beside him, so I just said to hell with it, went on past him, then rolled back into the center lane, just as he turned on his red and blue disco lights. BUM-BA-BUM-BUM! Busted. Caught red-handed in a restricted lane, speeding. Oh, SHIT!!!

I made my way into the right lane (NOW they let me over!), found a safe place on the shoulder, pulled over and popped the parking brake knob. He wrote up the speeding rap, but let me off with a warning on the lane violation, after I explained what my original intention had been. He realized, I think, that I was trapped out there and had no other choice. I don't even know yet, how much I'll have to pay for the privilege of fast driving, nor how many points I'll earn for it. But it's only my second speeding ticket in ten years, so my record is still pretty good, I think. I have also long believed that unmarked police cars should be unconstitutional, as driving them amounts to cheating by the cops, but since the Powers That Be don't see it my way, I guess it's a chance we'll always have to take. Except in Ohio, where unmarkeds are unconstitutional!

I got back home yesterday afternoon, after I had to run 100 miles west of Knoxville, to the town of Cookeville, TN, to swap loads with another driver, so I can keep my doctor appointment tomorrow. And it was snowing again, although the roads were snow-free and the wind was tempered a lot by the trees and hills around these parts. Nothing like that wind in Iowa on Wednesday! There's no snow here at all, as it all went north of the valley Knoxville sits in, but it's cold as whiz.

It's supposed to warm up by Tuesday. Let's hope it does, and stays that way!!

10-7

4 comments:

angelsfaceme1 said...

Hey Dawg,
       Sorry to hear you got popped. Those cops have a very bad sense of humor, LOL. Soon spring will be here and boy will I be doing the happy dance.
       Hopefully you will stay out of the snow until then. Good luck with your Drs. appointment.
    Take care and keep your angel in the jump seat.
                                  Hugs, Cyndy

loboman62 said...

  moondawg   sorry to hear that the bears got ya i know all to well how it is to get locked out of a lane  when will the bears make it an even playing field and start picking on the 4 wheelers  the way they do us? well i wont hold my breath on that happening any time soon   be safe out there      wolfman

merry1621 said...

Oh Wow, I didn't hear you holler hi!  What a week you had!  Glad that you at least thought of me!.  I'd like a GREEN Easter, but that's not going to happen here.  I grew up in Minnesota so I know what that's like!  I am still a Minnestota gal undernesath.  You can take the gal out of MN, but you never get MN out of the gal.  LOL
Ttake care!!   Big wave,
Merry

jeanniebuggz said...

Glad you're back out of the wind and snow.  Hope that fast driving award don't cost too much but that's a pretty good record I think - second one in 10 years. Hope you stay in better weather this week.  Have a good one!