Stuck in Sumner

The Dashboard of my 2007 Volvo VNL 670 Truck

Well it could be worse, I suppose. I could be stuck in Lodi as “Creedence” sings about. I’ve been through Lodi, California recently and no offense, but there’s nicer places. The song however seems to closely fit my situation, ‘cept the Lodi part.

“Just about a year ago, I set out on the road,
Seekin’ my fame and fortune, lookin’ for a pot of gold.
Things got bad, and things got worse, I guess you will know the tune.
Oh Lord, Stuck in Lodi again.”

Having just recently received my own truck I’d noted with my driver manager before I left Lewiston (Idaho) that it appeared to be near it’s required 30,000 mile periodic servicing. She put it off saying to let her know when it was past the 120-thousand mile mark. She couldn’t set up an appointment, I was told, until it had reached that magic number. (At the time it had just over 118-thousand on it’s odometer). So with the passage of time as well as a number of miles I finally had an opportunity this past Friday to have the work done when I arrived here at the Sumner, Washington terminal for a log book class, required of all new drivers. I checked in with the service department and after they scanned the records on their computer system, it turned out the truck is more than 6,000 miles past due for servicing. The service writer told me they couldn’t allow me another trip until the truck had been serviced, and initially indicated it probably wouldn’t be done until Sunday. Bottom line, we should have had the truck serviced when I initially brought it up with my DM. The reality… they didn’t get it finished until this afternoon… it’s now Monday. So, here I was … stuck in Sumner for the weekend.

I did spend some time with both my youngest boys Sean and Devin on Thursday night and Friday, but their busy lives along with wants and needs has limited our time together. Meanwhile on Saturday and Sunday a couple of different friends came and picked me up for eats, refreshment and company. Now with Monday evening fast approaching I’m without an assignment and not sure when I’ll get one. If not late this afternoon, no doubt tomorrow morning sometime. So, here I am, still stuck in Sumner.

Terminals are places where Swift conducts it’s business with it’s drivers. There are more than thirty of them scattered around the country. There you’ll find terminal and fleet managers, driver managers, safety people, trainers, shops for maintenance and repair, receptionists to greet the public and other support staff. It’s a place for drivers to relax and to park their trucks knowing they’ll be secure. You’ll also find lots of trailers, either empty ones or those waiting transfer to other locales. There’s a driver lounge which can vary greatly in size, comfort and amenities with televisions of varying dimensions depending on the terminal. There’s sinks, coffee pots and microwaves for preparing meals and vending machines as well as coin-operated washers and dryers. In fact I did my laundry (one load of color, one of whites) just last night. There are class rooms and other offices and there are “drop boxes” where drivers leave the paperwork in designated envelopes for their completed trips. Without submitting the paperwork drivers won’t get paid.

The Sumner terminal is one of the nicer ones I’ve had the opportunity to visit (not perfect, but nice none-the-less). It’s a newer facility with a large bathroom and several showers. The required log book class was timely with a good instructor who answered a number of questions I had wondered about since going “solo.” Keeping a legal log book is one of those time-consuming pains of being a long-haul trucker. I understand the D.O.T.’s reasoning, but they’re still a major nuisance (pain in the …).

Log books are kind of like a diary. every quarter-hour of every day has to be accounted for, as it occurs. There are four categories for your entries. “Off Duty,” “Sleeper Berth,” “Driving” and “Off Duty (Not Driving).” If you get stopped by the State Patrol, or at a state Inspection or Weigh Station, and your log book is not up to date it can cost you literally hundreds of dollars in fines. If you find yourself involved in a serious accident, regardless who’s at fault, how you have entered your last “Change of Duty” could be the difference between spending the night a free man, or in jail. It can be that important! So, if you’re like me, and always wondered what those truckers were dutifully doing with pen in hand, as they sat behind the wheel of their stopped truck, wonder no more! They’re no doubt updating their log book.

My latest trip from Tracy, California to nearby Puyallup, WA went fairly well. I actually got to drive the greatest majority of it on the Interstate, northbound on I-5. I drove over, for at least the second time, the “Veterans Memorial Bridge.” It’s a huge high level roadway spanning a section of California’s Lake Shasta. Far below I could see dozens of large houseboats as well as other pleasure craft. It was quite a sight from that high vantage point. Unfortunately it was raining steadily that morning and I could imagine the vacationers weren’t enjoying their time on the water quite as much as they had hoped.

Later that afternoon I climbed northern California’s “Anderson Grade Summit” and experienced one of the worse downpours I’d ever witnessed. The storm, less than 20 miles south of the Oregon border, included everything a good rain storm is known for, heavy rain with hail, rolling thunder and lightning. Some cars and vans pulled over to wait it out, while others, like me, crawled ahead with headlights on. In my rearview mirrors I could hardly make out anything except the occasional faint traces of headlights from cars behind. The temperature dropped from the low 80’s to 61 degrees in just a matter of minutes. I don’t believe, that during this short trucking career of mine, I’ve seen daytime temperatures as low. It was pretty nasty, with limited visibility and my wipers running at full throttle, but the truck got a needed washing and I doubt there was a bug to be seen anywhere on the mirrors or front end, where they often congregate, by the thousands!

I spent that evening, Wednesday night the 18th, at the Seven Feathers Casino, Hotel and Resort located near Canyonville, Oregon and about 25 miles south of Roseburg. I parked my truck about a mile distant at the Seven Feathers Truck & Travel Center all part of the same complex which included free shuttle service to the casino. The casino and other buildings encompassing the “resort” as well as “RV Park” were first class. Unlike several of the Indian casinos I’ve come across in other recent trips across Oregon this one had a Craps table, and that my friend is my game of choice! Admittedly I couldn’t resist and after several hours I gave back all the winnings — plus a little more — of what I had acquired a week or so earlier while spending my 34-hour reset at a Sparks, Nevada truck stop. Easy-come, easy-go as they say, but there’ll be other days! And despite the loss I slept well that night at the truck stop.

I’m hoping they’ll get me down to Phoenix within the next week or so. There I’m planning to spend a few days visiting friends and family and check out the company headquarters. Got to save a little money for my visit to the company store as well. I’m looking forward to it, despite the current temperatures there well past 100 degrees. More, as the story unfolds …

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