Worden, Montana – It really is “Big Sky Country” out here. Some 634 miles out of Lewiston we’re now about 25 miles east of Billings. I’m writing this on my laptop for posting later. The North Dakota border is a little more than 200 miles ahead along I-94 and via Miles City and Glendive, Mt. We’ve just spent the night in the dusty parking lot of a small “bar and Casino” but the accommodations in the truck are good.
Our plans have changed some. Instead of going to St. Paul Minnesota our destination is Ellwood, Illinois located just south of Jake and Elwood Blues’ hometown of Joliet, in the Chicago suburbs. After dropping our trailer there we’ll head to Indiana where we’ll pick up another trailer in Greensburg, 40 miles south of Indianapolis along Interstate 74. We’ll cross the state westward and pick up an additional load in Terre Haute and then head back to Lewiston.
I drove 519 miles from 2:00 yesterday afternoon until 11:45 last night. A lot more than I had anticpated based on what we were told in Orientation, but I’m not complaining. I was ready for the task. Frankly, driving this truck with it’s 20,000 pounds of cargo, and a total gross weight of about 57,000 lbs. isn’t much different than driving those heavy tunnel buses, I grew accustomed to, that are part of the transit system in Seattle. In fact the buses weigh more, but these 18-wheelers are much more top-heavy causing one to have to exercise more caution.
I’ll refer to my mentor as “D” to protect his privacy (for now). He and I get along well and he is pleased with my ability to handle his truck. We spent a lot of time just visiting and talking about some of life’s past experiences. I have quickly learned that some of what we’ve learned at the Academy and in Orientation doesn’t apply when you’re out here in the “real world.” But all the basics are there. I’ve had to relearn shifting technique due to this being different and newer equipment. The RPM’s and shifting ranges are a bit different and my mentor has me shifting through the eight gears with less useage of the clutch that I’m used to. It makes it a bit easier than what I had learned previously, but my shifts have been rough as I acclimate myself to the characteristics of this Kenworth truck. The truck has less than 78,000 miles on it and it’s big, roomy and purple! The bunk I sleep in is roomy and allows space for even some of my carry-on bags. “D” leases this truck at a cost of more than $2000 a month, but still is able to make a very good living. The truck is a 2007 Kenworth T-2000 and has most of the luxuries of home. It has plenty of storage space, (See photo above) including a small wardrobe closet, several drawers, lots of cubby-holes for miscellaneous, as well as a pull-out small table for preparing meals etc. It includes a great stereo system that pumps music etc. throughout the cabin, including separate controls at the bunks. There’s a place for a small television with DVD player but my mentor has reserved that space for some of my belongings.
By-the-way, our first load in this my new career? More than 1600 cases of facial tissue! But hey, we’re what keep’s America in business!