Now that I’m back home and all safe and snug, I thought I’d write about the better parts of my most recent adventure.
I left here late Friday afternoon with a heavy load (for my rig, anyway) and headed east. It took me a while to get used to pulling it, so by the time I got to eastern Oklahoma around 9 pm I decided to just get a room and a fresh start on Saturday.
On Saturday I made it as far as Muhlenberg County, Kentucky! It was a pretty good trip through Arkansas although I complained to BB about the condition of the roads there. Pretty rough, but good weather and fast travel in spite of the bumps and potholes. Western Kentucky is a whole lot more mountainous than I imagined, and I spent a lot of time going up and down hills. At about 8pm I finally got to a little town with a motel and BB called for a room for me.
I wouldn’t have had any trouble there, but I made a rookie mistake of pulling in to a motel parking lot before really looking at it closely, and ended up having to jockey my 40′ trailer around quite a bit to even get turned around to get it out. I had a bad moment there where I thought I might just be stuck in a teeny parking lot! Lesson learned there!
At any rate, I did get it out, and got to the motel BB reserved for me which did have room for trucks across the street in a muddy lot. Good enough for my purposes! And the motel had by far the nicest room I stayed in on the entire trip. Very comfy and safe atmosphere.
On Sunday I decided to get to Jane Lew no matter what. I had to as my load was scheduled to be delivered first thing Monday. So back in the truck I went and drove, and drove, and drove, stopping only for fuel and a couple of times for pit stops. I covered a whole lot of ground that day and got to Jane Lew late, found a room about half a mile from my delivery, and celebrated with a very long, hot bath. I needed it!
When I got up Monday morning I headed over to the local truck stop and found our other trucks there. One of the guys was just heading to the delivery site so I followed him on in. We got there early, about 7:30, and we were scheduled to be unloaded by 8 am.
I was eager to get unloaded and rolling as my back haul was up in Weirton, WV, about 50 miles west of Pittsburgh, PA. Well, as it turns out, the guy who was supposed to be there to unload us didn’t even show up until about 10:30. But finally, at about 11:30, I got unloaded.
I knew I had to make some time getting to the pick-up spot as this big old storm was bearing down on us and they were calling for freezing rain. So I fueled up and headed north. It was about 2 when I got to my pick-up site, and they were on a break. I was getting a little worried now and didn’t even get loaded until after 3pm.
On a side note here, I had to back the trailer in to a dock to get loaded. The bay I had to back it into was dark as heck, like backing into a tunnel. And I had to get it straight, and about an inch from the side of the dock that ran down the length of the bay I was backing into. Amazingly, I did get it backed in there with no trouble, just where they said they wanted it. They must have taught me something at school…
As the load had to be tarped, it took me about 3 hours to get it covered, bunjied and strapped. It was my first tarped load and even though it took a while, at least I did manage to get that tarp over the load! Talk about on the job training!
Let me just mention here that it is part of my job to do that stuff, strapping things down, unstrapping them, tarping them, etc… however, every other place I’ve been so far the guys usually jump in and help. Not so in Weirton! I guess they’re union there and only do exactly what their job description says. That said, they weren’t jerks, they were actually very nice. Nice, but extremely slow.
Two of them who tried to help me were the fork lift guy who hunted me up some corner protectors another driver who gave me some pointers on tarping, which really did help me as I had no clue…
Once that was done, I headed back down to I-70. I had BB on the phone and he was watching the storm blow in toward me. My original plan had been to head west, then cut south on I-79 down as far south as I could get before the ice started in, but I ran into rain at Wheeling and ended up heading back to Jane Lew for the night. Just as I got back to the same motel there that I stayed in the night before, it started slicking up a little. I just made it!
It was like some kind of weird race against time and weather. A little stressful, and I was very glad to stop for the night.
When I woke up Tuesday, the weather was rainy but it was warm enough not to be icy. So I headed south again… then noticed my straps looked funny. So I pulled into a rest area on the side of a mountain there in West Virginia and re-strapped the whole load. That ate up at least two hours. Turns out my straps had shook loose and I had to adjust them over the top of the tarp so I could keep a better eye on them. Worked out great though, and the load rode just fine the rest of the trip.
While I was re-strapping, a WV trooper pulled a logging truck over and they stopped right next to me in the rest stop. The trooper did an inspection on that truck on the spot, making me very, very glad that I noticed my straps needed re-done! I hate to think what kind of fine those straps might have cost me!
After that it was a really nice trip for the rest of the day. I cut south on highway 19 down into Virginia and hit I-81 into Knoxville, where I spent the night.
The highlight of this part of the trip was on a toll road just before I-81 where they had a huge truck plaza with a Starbucks! Let me just say that they have the best coffee and brownies around…
And after 4 days of pb&j sandwiches, it was a really good treat!
On Wednesday I started out with the intention to get as close to my delivery site as possible. So I did another marathon driving day and was making excellent time. Until I got pulled in at a weigh station in Tennessee for an inspection, that is.
It wasn’t bad, and the trooper was a nice guy. He just took f.o.r.e.v.e.r. to get me inspected and back on the road. I got level 1 inspection stickers on both truck and trailer for my trouble though, and passed with flying colors. The other truck pulled in just before me wasn’t so lucky. The driver had hazmat on board and no paperwork… He may still be sitting there for all I know. Anyway, they treated me good so I won’t complain!
I lost an hour and a half of daylight there, but still managed to make it almost 650 miles for the day and stopped for the night at Russellville, Arkansas. I had wanted to make Ft. Smith, but didn’t have enough time left on my clock, so I decided to stop where I knew I could find a motel and not risk running out of time out somewhere between Russellville and Ft. Smith.
Now the motel in Russellville wasn’t anything to write home about. But it had great truck parking! It was one of those 50s style motels with a big courtyard and pool, and the truck parking was right in the front under the street lights. Looked good to me!
The lady at the desk was a little eastern Indian gal and she was really funny. The conversation while I was getting the room went something like this…
“I need a room, smoking if you have one.”
“Yes, yes, we do. Your earrings are beautiful!”
“Thank you, my brother made them for me, how much is the room?”
“Thirty eight dollars, your I.D. please… You must be very smart to be able to drive truck, I never see woman driving truck before…”
“No maam, it’s really very easy… but thank you…”
Looking at my I.D. “Miss you must have been beautiful when you were younger!”
Me, now trying not to fall laughing on the floor… “Thank you, very nice of you to say so…”
At any rate, she was a hoot, and got me all set up with the room. Now this was about the oldest, crummiest motel around, but it was surprisingly a lot cleaner than I expected, (still not clean, by any standards) but as tired as I was, it worked. And yes, I checked for signs of bed bugs, it was all clear… Thank God! Just sort of dirty generally speaking.
On Thursday I got over to Highway 2 and headed off of dry interstate up to my delivery. I got there about noon after dealing with the snow/ice packed highways going in and the unplowed city streets in Muskogee. When I found the place, there was only one guy there and he was plowing snow around their lot.
He said they had been shut down since the blizzard hit on Monday and they weren’t open, but he was a really great guy and called in 2 other men to get me unloaded anyway! The two who came in wouldn’t even let me do the un-strapping or un-tarping. They just sort of took over and even folded up my tarp and rolled some of my straps up. They were great!
It was about 4pm when I got finished there and headed back to I-40, where I hit really terrible road conditions and everything turning to black ice at about 5 pm. So I poked my way very cautiously to Henryetta where I ended up staying Thursday and Friday nights as the snow just kept coming down and piling up.
On Saturday morning the sun was out and I decided to get my little old self home if it was humanly possible. So I set out on I-40 again and white-knuckled it as far as Okema where I had to grab some fuel. As I was leaving the truck stop there with a full tank of diesel, I noticed that the highway heading south out of Okema was like a nice, black ribbon, just calling my name.
I abandoned I-40 there and headed south on highway 27. It was plowed. It was melted off. For the first time since I left I-40 on Thursday I actually got the truck up to highway speed!
Now remember, I-40 had been hit hard by blizzarding and blowing and black ice, and had drifted over and frozen hard as a rock, and was slick as … well… it was damned slippery and hazardous. Made for some seriously interesting and very slow driving. And there was nary a snow plow in sight on I-40 the entire time I was up there. So when I saw that black pavement, it was great. I had the urge to stop, get out of the truck, get down on my knees and kiss the bare, dry pavement! (I didn’t do it, but I did consider it strongly.)
Just a side note, God bless those county plow drivers! They saved me several intense hours of poking along on the ice-way called I-40 by having their own highways cleared!
From there it was a little rough on highway 9 for a ways, but not horrible. Just snowpacked in spots, so I kept going. It was slow going though. But by the time I got east of Seminole, the roads had been cleared very well and at Norman I finally hit dry pavement.
It took just short of 4 hours to get to from Henryetta to Norman, and about an hour and a half (normal time) to make it the rest of the way back home.
So overall, it was a good run. A few scary moments on the icy roads, but not hideous. And I actually got a pretty good sense of accomplishment from getting both loads to where they were going safely and on time!
This week I’m sitting it out. Getting my new door on the truck, changing the oil, doing some general maintenance stuff, and generally staying home and off the highways while these next couple of storms they’re predicting pass on through.
The best parts? I got to see a lot of the country, got paid to do it, and the back-haul paid for my expenses both ways. Oh, and I’m Home!