Sunday, March 22, 2009


Finally!!!! Decent weather to ride a motorcycle!!! And ride I did, yesterday, almost all day long, making up for weeks of crappy, cold-ass weather and being stuck away from home. I went everywhere -- visited my friends at the Harley shop, rode out into God's Country on the twisty two-lanes that I love on a bike and visited my aunt and uncle for the first time since Christmas. My uncle got some good shots of me and Miss Velvet, but he hasn't send them to me yet, due to an AOL malfunction. I told him that those kinds of malfunctions were why I drop-kicked AOHell last year. He will send them ASAP and then I'll finally have a recent pic of my ugly mug to put on my Facebook profile page, instead of a five year old self-portrait. Laughed myself silly at my aunt, who was all steamed up over their rooster, who has aggressive sexual designs on the chickens out there. That's what roosters DO, I told her, they make baby chickens! It's their nature to be constantly horny.

After leaving there, I rode back into town via a different route and visited my favorite watering hole and "adult daycare center," Coyote Joe's. The usual gang was all there, but Susan, my favorite barmaid, was off for the evening. I missed talking to her, but she'll be back the next time I visit, I suppose. Actually, Coyote Joe's is part of a two-bar operation. The Chrome Pony Lounge is a sister bar and grill, located in a different part of town, and the Coyote and Pony gals rotate back and forth between the two all the time. After having a delicious tenderloin sandwich (one of their specialties), fries, and washing it down with a brew or three, I left before the band started up, not wanting the spend the money for a cover charge.

Fired Velvet up and rode away into the night, blasting the surrounding neighborhood with the rumble of Velvet's Harley pipes. And took my first biker bath of the year. I don't think I had gone a block before a rain shower hit me. Riding a bike in the rain is an experience unlike anything you've ever done before. Especially when some knucklehead like Yours Truly once again neglects to wear his leather chaps. The cars ahead of you kick up rooster tails of spray and the safest place to ride on a bike is right in the middle of the tracks those tires in front of you leave in the road. That minimizes the risk of hydroplaning, because the leading car has plowed 80% of the water out of your path. However, riding in that position also subjects you to the full force of that spray. I was wearing my leather jacket, of course, but nothing but my jeans around my legs. My pant legs were soaking wet within a minute or two. I got shivery quickly, because the wind chill you naturally create when you're moving makes wet denim become very clammy in a heartbeat. And it was windy out anyway. Thought it would blow me into the ditch a couple of times.

There are no windshield wipers on a crash helmet, of course, but when you're moving in the windstream, it tends to blow the water off of your face shield, enabling you to see very well, unless you're caught in a major storm. In that case, it's best to find somewhere dry to pull over and wait until it slacks up. But it's when you're stopped that the water obscures your vision and drips off your chin. And when you start out again, it takes a minute or so for your shield to clear again. I almost rode right over the top of a car in front of me, which was accelerating slower than my Big Truck with a 40,000 pound load in the caboose. Fortunately, disc brakes work far better in the wet than the old drum brakes of yesteryear did and I avoided that nasty situation. I made it home, soaked, fishtailed in my driveway a little, but got it back into my garage unscathed. I wiped Velvet down before I went upstairs, not wanting to ride her, then put her up wet. Got out of my waterlogged jeans and hit the shower. At least that water was warm. But in spite of Nature's Bath, it was still a fun day on my bike.

It wasn't nearly so much fun trucking last week, but it was comical at times. A crazy, insane week in which nearly everything went wrong. I drew a three-stopper early in the week, which ended up in Rockford, Illinois, just south of the Wisconsin line, and about 80 miles west of Chicago. The two intermediate stops were miles apart, both in Indiana, at opposite ends of the state. But I got them off uneventfully. It was when I got to Rockford that my trouble began. It is March -- spring -- and the orange road construction barrels are blooming out like the trees soon will. I-90, which runs through Rockford is, to put it mildly, a Major Mess. It's one of those "Rip Up Pavement -- Rebuild Road" kind of projects, which goes on and on and on and on and on, forever and a day. The first thing I noticed was that they had my exit ramp closed, as in "blocked off." Barricaded. Inaccessible. Etc. Well, now ain't that just fine and dandy?? Boy, howdy!! So now whaddahell do I do?? Keep going, that's what. There's no other choice, actually.

I went five miles further west, to the next exit. I noticed on the way that eastbound traffic was exiting where I needed to go, meaning they only had the ramp closed in one direction. Cool! I'd just get off ahead, make two left turns, and get back on the interstate heading back the way I'd come. Or so I thought, anyway. No such luck. When I got off, I found that they had the eastbound
entrance ramp shut down on that exit!!!! [EXPLETIVES DELETED] This is a family blog, after all, but suffice it to say that I was NOT a happy camper at that moment in time. Twenty minutes to make my delivery on time and I was lost in Rockford. GRRRRRRRR!!!

Fortunately, I have an incredibly good sense of direction. You'd BETTER have that gift, if you want to drive a truck -- if you don't, you'll never survive in my business. I knew that if I could find the right major intersection, and turn left, or south, that the road *might* just bring me back out on the U.S. 20 bypass, which was where I needed to be, but had been denied access to because of the consucksion project (so-called because it
sucks!) I proceeded south. One light, two lights, three lights, and at the fourth one, hit a 'T' intersection. Flip a coin. Turn which way?? Hmmmmmm. Turned right. One light, two, three, four, five -- no bypass signs appeared. Made a left turn at the sixth light, another major-looking intersection. And bingo!!! The bypass was right there, a block and half away. Now, was I already past the exit off the bypass I wanted, or was it still ahead of me?? Again, which direction did I want to go on the bypass? Decision time; traffic is getting restless behind my big 70-foot-long ass. A couple of horns sounded a reminder. "Up yours!!" said your Dawg. "If you think you're BIG enough, why don't you try MOVING me??!!" I went west. Lucked out. My exit appeared about a mile down the road. Found the place with 45 seconds to spare. "Last Minute Larry" has arrived!!! It was a drop and hook place, so I was in and out of there in about a half-hour.

Deadheaded 140 miles southwest to Mossville, IL, to pick up a load of engines bound for South Carolina, the same crossdock where I had started the week. Starting to feel like a yo-yo, but at least I'm making money again. Not many hours left after my pickup, but I made it as far as Le Roy, IL (yes, the town is actually named that) and a little mom 'n pop truckstop, where I had the buffet dinner. Really good Swiss steak, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, and two biscuits. Yummy! Then I took some medication for the stinking, rotten cold I've had for seemingly three or four years now. I drank part of a soda, while I waited for the Nyquil to hit me. It did, with a vengeance. I got groggy and went to bed. Woke up early, clear-headed and cough-free, for a change and couldn't find my cellphone -- a vital neccessity for text-messaging trucker pals, calling girlfriends, etc. I nearly tore my damned truck apart -- no phone. Where the hell did I put it?? Double-GRRRRRRRRR! Am I losing my ever-loving MIND???!!! Sighhhhhh. Put it down to a "senior moment," aka "premature Alzheimers. " Started up and drove away. Damned thing has GOT to be in THIS TRUCK somewhere, but I had to boogie. Got a long way to go. I motored east to Indy, then south.

I was outside Corbin, Kentucky when I finally found my elusive phone -- in the top tray of my electric cooler, of all places!!!! I pieced together what I remembered of the previous evening. When the Nyquil hit my brain, I got so spaced-out that I had carried my phone back into the sleeper with me and when I put the rest of my soda in the cooler, so it would stay cold, I had taken the phone with me, set it down on the top tray and was so zonked that I forgot about it completely!! I turned it on and the message ringtone sounded for a half-hour, seems like. My trucker pal, Brian, had been busy. Yep, about 20 messages from him and a couple from my favorite gal. Well, no time now -- gotta roll. Can't be late with a load going to our best customer.
Motored on and arrived about a half-hour early and totally out of hours. Load didn't pick up till Friday afternoon, so I had plenty of time to rest, catch up with Brian and talk to my sweetheart. The load brought me home for a long weekend. I don't leave out until Monday, when I'll head for the Detroit area with my load.

So that was my week. How was yours?

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Morton, IL

Been stuck up here since Wednesday, believe it or not. I think I'm going to set a record for the longest time a driver can sit without a load! While I'm at it, I'll also probably set a record for the skimpiest paycheck of the year next week, because I can't draw layover pay, sitting here at the terminal. I guess it's considered a home away from home, or something like that. I delivered my load Wednesday morning, then was told to come on up here, to get my truck serviced and have some problems fixed. That was completed Wednesday afternoon, then no load showed up and here I've been ever since.

I was thinking that my hiatus up here might be punishment for idling my truck too much, but a talk with another dispatcher the other night indicated that this is probably not the case. We only hold orientation classes for newbie drivers every two weeks nowadays and Thursday is still Rookie Day here. They graduated a small class this week, and the newbie drivers stole all the loads there were, over Thursday and Friday. They get priority on the loads because they've been out away from home for 4-6 weeks, during training. The Peoria area is very depressed now, because of the financial woes of our biggest customer, who is headquartered in that city and whose plants dominate the entire area around here. They employ more people than anyone else around here and there have been several rounds of layoffs of late. Not good. Not good at all.

I got a nasty Qualcomm message about idle time Thursday. threatening "disciplinary action" if I don't bring my percentage down in the next two weeks. It stated that I am not to idle at all if I'm not in the truck. Well, DUH!!! I mean, I DON'T idle it, if I'm out of the truck for any length of time!!!!!!!! I never have. I might leave it running if I'm only stopping for a brief bathroom break, but that's about all. And just how the hell do they KNOW if I'm in the truck or not?? They haven't got spy cameras in these things (yet, anyway). Only one way they could know that. Company cops. Those self-appointed company policy enforcers who scrutinize every other company truck they see anywhere, to see if the driver is in compliance or not. And if not, they call one of the Suits upstairs and rat that driver out. Back-stabbers, brown-nosers, apple-polishers -- take your choice of a name for these characters. I have some personal names for them, but they're not printable in this family-friendly blog. That's the only possible way they could know, and add that to the warning; I've been spotted by one of these creatures and ratted out to the company brass.

To be honest, there are certain things that I would rat another driver out for myself. If I saw a driver stealing from a load, intentionally damaging or vandalizing company/customer property, or operating a truck in an unsafe manner, I would report them. But that's it. I'm not going to check out every truck I see to see if the driver complies with every bullcrap policy the company runs up the flagpole. Especially if I don't exactly salute that policy. I might say something about it to that driver, in person, but I wouldn't rat him out. I don't like having that done to me and I won't do it to anyone else.

I had good, mild weather Thursday, Friday and yesterday, so I kept it shut down, except for excursions into town, to get a meal. I was careful to shut it off when I left the truck, as there are always many of our trucks around all over the place up here. It turned cooler last night, so I fired it up to stay warm. I ain't freezing and I'm not going to stew in my own juices in hot weather, either. If they want to fire me, so be it. I'll cross that bridge if and when I get there. But I will go on a "idle diet," if that's what they want. Hell, I'll shut the engine off in heavy traffic and at long-holding traffic lights, if that makes them happy. I'll start it up cold and only let it run long enough to shift gears, then take off in it. That's hard on the engine, yes, but it's their truck and if they don't want me idling it long periods, I won't.

Cooler today too, in the 40s, and I'm running it right now, to warm up this cab. Then, I'll shut it down again. At least it's not idling constantly that way. If I can ever get a freakin' load and get out of here, on the road again, it'll help a lot with that percentage I'm supposed to hit. Along with the cooler temps here, we have wind. Oh, yes -- WIND!!!! This area is/was under a severe storm warning until 4 P.M., CDT. Up here, than means "tornado watch." I've observed no funnels so far, but it has been raining, on and off, and that wind will blow you away.

Went up to the truckstop while ago, to get some cough medicine to treat a rotten cold I've managed to catch (and which made me miserable last night). Opened the cab door and had to hang onto it for dear life, in order to keep it from being torn off! Walking across the lot, to the building, I was blown every way but straight. It's a particularly nasty, swirling wind and it feels like a giant hand pushing you to and fro. I tacked my way inside, like a human sailboat, got what I needed, then tacked my way back out to the truck again. Like before, the door was nearly blown off its hinges by the wind and I thought that I'd never get it closed again. But that breeze lulled just enough so that I could slam it closed, finally. In spite of spinning my wheels and making squat for a paycheck these past few days, I'm kind of glad that I'm not out there driving in this squall. It would be miserable, I know.

Well, tomorrow's a new day and hopefully a load will materialize for me and I'll be on my way again. Someday (soon, I hope) I'm going to get be able to have the time to spend with my new lady friend. Things are going unbelievably well for both of us, on the phone and online. If Murphy don't stop plaguing me with his damned law pretty soon, I'm gonna kick his ugly rear all the way back to Ireland!!!

Sunday, March 1, 2009


March at last! The first month of an approaching spring, when it'll be time to hop back in the saddle of Miss Velvet again, every time I get a chance. And although the new month is coming in like the proverbial lion, with cold winds and rain all this weekend, that gives hope that March will go out like a lamb in thirty more days. This is the transition month, which serves notice to Old Man Winter that his days are numbered and a new spring is on the horizon. But it's also unpredictable, at least in these parts, where we can go from nearly 80 degrees and air conditioning one day, to 30 degrees, with the heat on again, 24 hours later. It has even snowed in March in the past, but it never lasts long. Too late in the year. The worst of winter is in the rear-view mirror now.

Daytona Bike Week is early this month, starting this next week, if I'm not mistaken, and that annual rally always kicks off the new riding season. Sun, surf, suds, and half-nude, shapely female bodies abound down there each year. I've never been to that fabled biker event, but that don't mean I won't -- someday, given the time and opportunity to do so. And enough money to finance the trip, of course. That's a concern for everyone this year, as it was last year, with the present sucky economy. However, there are definite signs that it won't slow us bikers down a lot. Knoxville hosted the annual Easyriders (magazine) Bike Show just last month and it was a large success. The Harley shop and Coyote Joe's -- my favorite local watering hole and "adult day care center" -- were both packed with bikes, many in here from other states for the event. I have to wonder about Honda's wisdom, since I saw that crowd.

Each year, for the past ten years or so, Knoxville has hosted the annual Honda Hoot rally every summer, over in World's Fair Park. But this year, the company canceled it early-on, back in December, in fact, citing "economic concerns" as the primary reason. It costs Honda a million bucks per year to put the rally on. They, like all the other motorcycle manufacturers, are taking their lumps in these tough times. Sales are slow, to say the least, and credit is tight. But the Honda Hoot last year, when the economy was also in a downturn and fuel prices were soaring to boot, raked in over twenty-five million shekels over the four days it was held. If such outrageous fuel prices as we experienced last summer couldn't keep the bikers away, will this recession do so, when fuel is as low as it's been in years right now? If the Easyriders show is any indication, it won't at all. I'll be watching Daytona with interest, to see if the crowd there is up to the usual levels of the past. If the crowds flock down there, as usual, then it's likely that Honda may have made a major blunder in canceling the Hoot this summer.

Even the venerable Motor Company -- Harley-Davidson -- is taking the same punches as the others. Their sales are on the basement floor also. Our local dealership's showroom here is mainly filled with used bikes, indicating the level to which production of the new ones has been cut back. It matters not that bikes are easier on gas than your average car; that's a great selling point, but when push comes to shove, motorcycles are still primarily leisure products, just like RVs, and that sector has fallen on some very hard times of late. Harley has survived some very tough economic times in the past, though -- like the Great Depression -- and they will survive this crunch as well. They are among the companies that have stood with their head held high and haven't asked for a government bail-out. That speaks well for how the company is managed.

But enough about that gloomy picture. Spring is coming and it's time to ride again. I've had Velvet serviced for the first time, taking advantage of a winter discount the dealer was offering, and I'm ready to go. If you own a bike, are you?? Let's ride!!