Last week we had a trip from Illinois out to California. The trip had an interesting start. We arrived at the shipper at 7am, an hour before we were due to be loaded. There were about 20 trucks in front of us, some of whom had been there since the day before. This shipper had to use "airbags" to cushion and secure the load, but only had one manual air pump. It took them a really long time to get people loaded. We just sat around talking with drivers, watched some movies, ordered a pizza, and tried to make the best of it. Finally, around 4pm, we got loaded. Did I mention you must have patience in this industry?
I really love the loads that take us all the way across the country. So many different scenery changes. But I did get the first taste of what mother nature can do to a big rig. We had a light load of plastic bottles and only had about 14,000 pounds "in the box" for this trip. Well, I soon found out that a light load plus high winds equals a nasty situation. As we got into Oklahoma, the winds really kicked up. We were still able to drive, but it called for a tight grip on the wheel. A light trailer acts as a sail with these high winds, and trucks are known to flip over from a strong gust. So, my usual enjoyable drive through the plains became a big challenge. Let me tell you, driving in a construction zone with a wall on both sides of me, a swaying trailer, and a line of pissed off people behind me due to my slow speed was not fun! Once we got through the construction zone, I got a few "one finger salutes" as the cars behind could finally pass. I was doing about 40 mph in a 55 mph construction zone. I guess I'd be mad too, but it was either drive slow or hit a wall! They didn't have much choice in the matter anyway. It's good to be king of the road!
I was finally out of hours and my instructor took over. By the time we hit Arizona, things started to get dangerous. The winds were sustained at 40 to 50 mph with gusts to 70 mph. Following some of these other trucks was quite a sight. The tractor would be in the right hand lane, but the trailer would be on the right shoulder. And we were only doing about 40 mph. Not a fun sight to watch, considering ours was doing about the same. We got to Flagstaff, AZ and decided it just wasn't worth fighting the winds. We shut it down for the day, hoping we could get back going that night. We'd be late for our delivery in California, but that's just the way it goes sometimes.
As we rested, I could hear ice pellets hitting the windows of the truck. I took a peak outside to see that it was almost literally raining ice. Not good! Thankfully, this didn't last long and when the system passed, it took most of the winds with it. It was still gusty, but much safer. So about midnight, we hit the road again. For the most part, it was fairly uneventful. I did get behind a FedEx truck pulling double trailers that was having one heck of a time though. He said on the CB that he only had 5,000 lbs in the front trailer and was empty in the back. He was going much slower than I wanted to go, but I decided to just stay behind him. His rear trailer was all over the place. Several other trucks passed him, and I'm sure I could have done the same, but we were already late for our appointment and not in a huge hurry. After a while though, he gave up and hit the truck stop. Good choice.
We finally made it to California for our delivery, and only had to wait a couple hours to get unloaded. WooHoo! We went back to the first truck stop I was ever at in Ontario, CA. This is one very interesting place. Those of you who are current or former drivers know what I'm talking about. We parked in "party row" which is in the back of the lot, right next to the motel that all of the "lot lizards" stay at. We expected to sit there for the night, but got another load assignment late in the day. Another cross country trip all the way out to Pennsylvania! That trip turned out to be one of the best yet, and I'll talk about it in my next post.
Until next time, drive safely!