Sunday, November 16, 2008


Cold in K-Town this weekend. The temperature in only in the upper 40s. I found some new fuel line, banged around in my "man-cave" (garage) awhile yesterday and got my leaf blower running again. It hadn't been used in several years and the fuel lines were completely clogged up with dried-up gas/oil mix goop. Flushed out the crud in the tank with fresh gas and filled it with new gas/oil mix. It started up quicker than I'd thought it would and after the initial blue cloud of two-stroke smoke cleared up, it was running strong. Ready to perform its task. Next time I store it I might remember to drain the damned tank and fuel lines out before I put it away.

Blew the leaves off my driveway, especially near the bottom, where they'd piled up good and thick, then been rained on, run over with my 4-wheeler, spun my tires on them, etc. Wet leaves and motorcycles don't mix and crashing a bike sucks, so it's better to do a little work and get the slick-ass things out of the way. But then it got dark and Mother Nature turned off the heat (what there was of it) so I said to hell with it and went back in the house.

This afternoon I started Velvet up and rode out to check out the performance of the new quieter baffles I put in her mufflers two weeks ago. It was a SHORT ride, in 46 degree temperature, let me tell you, but it seemed to run fine. I was bundled up in a sweatshirt, leather jacket, heavy jeans, leather chaps, winter gloves, my full boots, a balaclava over my face and my 3/4 helmet. No wind got to me in that jacket and chaps, but it was still cold. By the time I got back home, I think my butt was frozen to the seat and my face, in spite of the helmet and balaclava, felt like I had stuck my head in a freezer for a couple of hours. The problem was that there's a stiff wind blowing today, gusting smartly at random. It almost caused me to change lanes unwillingly a couple of times. That wind, coupled with the wind chill you create when the bike is moving, is what did me in. You can ride comfortably in colder weather, properly dressed for it, but it's best to pick a calm day and today wasn't one of them. So much for my polar bear experiment. Score: Wind -- 24 Dawg -- 0.

Now, I have an announcement to make. Due to circumstances beyond my control, namely the economy, which is still in the toilet, I *may* be changing to another trucking company by the first of next year. Don't quote me on that; it's not chiseled in stone quite yet, but I am shopping for a gig where I can get better, steadier miles and make more money. We've been hearing "change, change, change" all through this election cycle and I'm now seeking some change of my own. The kind of change I'm seeking is definitely good change, if all works out in my favor.

I've been doing too much sitting and not enough driving throughout this past year. The past summer was almost like a mid-winter at times -- sitting for hours on end, witing to be dispatched on another load and then half the time that not coming until the following day. I'm not trashing the company I've driven for the past ten years -- not at all. Maybe things are beyond their control, too. I know that we lost a major contract with a shipper and that hurt. But it does seem that we have twice as many trucks as we do loads, far too often.

I am paid by the mile. That means that when I'm sitting there, I ain't making a dime. Yeah, there's layover pay, but you have to sit 24 full hours without a load before you can get it and then it's not nearly as much as you'd make if you were rolling. I'll take it, but it's not enough. I have been late paying my bills many times this past year and even missed one payment on my personal vehicle because there wasn't enough money in the bank to cover it. I had to defer that payment, so now I'll have to pay an extra month before the loan is finally paid off next summer. Assuming I don't go in the hole again on another payment, that is. I can't keep a bank balance now, like I used to, to save my life. When the miles are down, the paychecks are smaller, and many of mine have been meager this past year. My back is to the wall, financially, and I've got to do something to help myself. I don't believe in handouts; I created my debts and it's up to me to pay them.

So, I'll do whatever I have to do. There are obstacles, such as my health insurance. I can ill-afford to go without medical coverage for three months until another company's insurance kicks in, and especially prescription medicine coverage. I can't afford to buy my medications out of my pocket. So, I'm going to have to see about insurance carryover, or getting under a new company's insurance right away. There are also things I'm giving up, like the 3 weeks of vacation time I've built up with my present company. No vacation for a year. Start all over. It's no picnic, when you look forward to that time off. However, I'm in the position where I've got to do something that will improve my financial standing. I have to make keeping my bills paid and having enough left to live comfortably a priority.

I'll be talking to a recruiter tomorrow. I met one of this prospective company's drivers at my favorite biker hangout, Coyote Joe's, about three weeks ago and we got to talking shop, after admiring each other's bikes. He asked me how I was making out and I told him not too good, lately. He told me that he sits very little and that his company has plenty of loads to keep drivers rolling. Before we parted company, he took my name and address and told me he would give my name to his recruiting department. Last week, I got a letter from them in the mail. I checked out their website and found that they have the regional driving gigs which I have wanted to get on for years. They have a terminal in Kingsport, TN, about 80 miles from Knoxville. That's sure convenient for me. So, I'll talk to him and find out more.

Stay tuned on this one. I'll let y'all know more when I do.

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