Category: Travel

By The Time I Get To Phoenix

Well here I am finally in the ‘Valley of the Sun’, Phoenix, Arizona and my tractor parked at the company headquarters. I have once again learned that it isn’t always “what” you know but rather “who” you know when it comes to getting what you want. This truism was evident in my more than three-week effort to get down this way with several near-misses.

I’ve spent the weekend here in the Phoenix “burbs” having arrived early Friday evening amidst all the news about the two T-V news helicopters that collided here earlier in the day.

Rather than deal with the unknown parking situation at the terminal on a weekend night, and wanting to make the trip to pick me up as easy as possible on my various hosts, I chose to drive beyond the headquarters facility to the nearest Rest Area some 30+ miles further down I-10, half-way it seemed to Tucson. (more…)

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. (more…)

“Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day”

It’s been two weeks to the day since I struck out on my own with my first solo trip out of Lewiston (Idaho). Since then, during my five trips so far, I’ve hauled, among other things, 12,000 lbs. of cardboard for Boise Cascade, 45,000 lbs of various wines to two different distributors in Boise, as well as hay for a Monteview, Idaho farmer. That’s right, hay! More than 41,000 lbs of it to be exact in large 1900-2000 lb. bales destined for a Kingsburg, California dairy farm, some 930 miles away. When I first read the assignment I thought to myself, “I’ve never heard of either one of these towns!”

This job can sure get awful dirty at times and that dairy was as dusty as it gets! Not only that, I had a crew of local flies in side my cab that decided to hitch a ride. It was a couple of days before I finally showed the last one out my opened passenger window, somewhere near Wheeler Ridge, CA.

Right now I have a trailer load of unknown product I picked up this afternoon from our Swift terminal in Troutdale, Oregon. The load is due anytime tomorrow for delivery to a Wal-Mart distribution center near Hermiston, Oregon. It’s been a nice drive the last couple of hours eastbound along I-84 and the Columbia River Gorge. Tonight I’ll sleep at Biggs Junction with my home state of Washington in sight, just across the Columbia River.


A Day in a New Life

It’s 8:30 a.m. Saturday June 30th and I’m 335 miles into my first loaded trip as a solo driver. My rig is a 2007 Volvo VNL 670 with a 400+ horsepower Cummins Diesel engine. My destination is Sparks, Nevada, and I’m about half-way there. I’m just south of the small town of Jordan Valley, Oregon as I slice through the southwest corner of the state. My route takes me from Lewiston, Idaho south on highway 95 and then west on I-80 at Winnemucka, Nevada. It’s an easy, uncomplicated trip.

After hooking up a trailer late yesterday afternoon at the Lewiston terminal I only have to drop it off at our Sparks terminal outside Reno. A “T-Call” as it’s referred to, meaning another driver will pick up the trailer and deliver it to it’s destination. In this case a Longs Drug Store distribution center in Patterson, California. A lot of people will have me to thank when nature calls and they partake of their share of the 21,732 lbs of “Bathroom Tissue” I’m carrying. (more…)

Finally My Own Truck!

On Tuesday afternoon June 26th after winding up my 42 days of mentor training and getting the paperwork and road test out of the way, I was directed outside the terminal building to a Freightliner truck looking for a new driver. My new Driver Manager (DM) handed me the keys and said “Here, go and check it out and see what you think.” Well to say the least I was excited but that quickly waned when I climbed inside the just freshly detailed cab and, after a couple of minutes figuring out how to start it, I realized it had nearly 756,000 miles! I was bummed! I hadn’t seen or heard of a company truck with as many miles. So after talking with a former fellow student who checked it out with me I decided to return to my D.M. (more…)

Independence Day!

World’s Largest Truck Stop – Iowa 80 Truck Stop – Davenport, IA

Hard to believe, but I have just one day left to go in my training before being assigned my own truck. Sometime tomorrow morning my mentor and I, as a team, will be rolling one last time into Lewiston, Idaho. My 42 days of road instruction will come to a close and in just a day or two I should have my own truck and officially a solo company driver.

While we could have easily pressed on last night and arrived back in Lewiston early today, for the first time since hitting the road on Saturday April 12th, we are actually “killing time” on the road in order to finish this trip on my final day of training. So, after arriving early this morning at a Pilot Truck Stop along Interstate 90, some 175 miles east of Missoula, we’ve parked our trusty Kenworth and are enjoying a good 20+ hours of sleep and relaxation. A little less than 500 miles separates us from our final destination. We’ll leave sometime late tonight, with me behind the wheel, to complete the journey and bring our long travels together to an end. (more…)

22,750 Miles Later and 10 Days to Go!

Kenworth T-2000

It’s been quite a while since I’ve last posted here, due mainly to our hectic schedule since I started training with my “mentor” trainer. As I wrote before, we’re constantly on the move. I seemed to have lost control of my life these last several weeks as my instructor decides where we go, when we go, when and where we sleep, eat and shower. While this isn’t entirely true, as he does often include me in the decision-making process, the bottom line is he doesn’t earn any money unless the truck is moving, and believe me this Kenworth has been on the move!

I’m reminded some of what it was like when I was in Air Force basic training, only this time it’s Swift Transportation’s version of “basic” and my Technical Instructor (or “T.I.”) is an old-school truck driver with 34-years experience. But now, with a little time off for my son’s wedding yesterday, I finally have an opportunity to rest, recharge my batteries and share some of my thoughts.

First, I’d like to thank all those family and friends that have written or told me personally how much they enjoy reading my posts and that they hope I will continue. There’s great satisfaction in knowing that there is an audience out there that takes an interest in reading of my experiences and thoughts. It’s greatly appreciated and thank you to each and all. (more…)

Truckin’ Ain’t For Sissies!

The title of this blog was seen just a few days ago on a guy’s shirt at a Victorville, California truck stop. Boy, have I learned in just the thirteen days I’ve been on the road how true that is! There’s so much to learn and so much to do. I’m being worked to the max right now as I learn the ropes of my new job with my ‘mentor” instructor. It’s been a constant go, go, go with my trainer who pauses to take no casualties. “Keep it moving” is his motto. He makes no money sitting idle!

So far in our travels we’ve spanned nearly 10,000 miles. Hard to believe. I never expected to travel so far in so short a time. It’s pretty much eight to ten hours of driving and then ten hours of sleep only to repeat the process over and over again. One guy drives as the other sleeps. I’ve lost control over my life for the next several weeks, with not much of a social life these days, but it’s worth the temporary sacrifice as my instructor tells me I’m ready to go “solo.” He’s confident I can handle the job alone but the company requires I remain in training for a total of 42 dispatched days. Just 29 more left to go.

It’s been difficult to keep track of time and even to remember where we originated our loads. Was it early this morning, last night or days before? Is it Tuesday or Wednesday? I’ve resorted to keeping a written record of our loads, dates, origins and destinations, least I forget. I’ve been traveling America but in reality seeing only portions of it along the way. I slept as we passed through Council Bluffs and Omaha as just one example. This will change when I get my own truck. (more…)

Best Sign Seen

As you can tell I haven’t had a lot of time to correspond via the Internet. Save a few minutes at a small Truck Stop with free Wi-Fi in Montana I’ve had no way, nor really the time, to post anything. I’m not sure that this will change very much while on the road with my mentor for the remaining five weeks. But after a five-day, 4400 mile round trip to Chicago and Terre Haute, Indiana I’m back in Lewiston, Idaho having returned at 5:00 this morning. We’ll have a couple of days off until we hit the road again on Saturday morning. Time to get better organized, a haircut, and do my laundry etc.

It’s been a whirlwind experience to say the least, and I’ve learned a lot on this first trip. Except for once again having to learn a new shifting technique, driving this monster truck has been fairly easy-going. To give you an idea just how big these trucks are, I can walk beneath the side view mirror, with the bottom just barely clearing my head, and I’m 6’ 1“ tall!

My mentor tells me I am the best student driver he’s had, due in no small measure to my experience driving transit buses both on the freeways and streets of Seattle. It’s just as I told him, “I’m a driving fool!” He was actually able to go to sleep and leave me on my own while I put in my time behind the wheel our first night out. (more…)

Tissue anyone?

The Bunk Area etc. Inside My Volvo

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. (more…)