"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority ... the Constitution was made to guard against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." - Noah Webster

"There is no worse tyranny than forcing a man to pay for what he does not want just because you think it would be good for him."
-- Robert A. Heinlein

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Over The Road - One Long Day

I left the Atlanta area on Sunday afternoon, October 2, 2011. Driving with a partner to evaluate my skills for the owner of the company, we headed to El Paso with a full 53' trailer in a Freightliner sleeper cab. This was the first time for both of us in this particular tractor. He had come back to work for this company after having been gone for a while.

I had gone to the shop to pick up the tractor and trailer. We discovered that the air conditioning wasn't working by the time we reached Louisiana. Oh crap! We have to cross the desert of Texas without any cool air. Man, did we sweat.

Along Interstate 20 is lots of evidence of a hurting economy. There was an entire town that is now a ghost town. Ironically the official interstate highway sign, the kelly green with white reflective lettering, looks like it is only a few years old at most. But the remains of the town, all the shops, restaurants, business and homes crowded slam up against I-20, are so obviously abandoned and broken down. In other spots, there are some surviving places with some scant activity, but I've never seen so many abandoned places.

When I was 19, in 1979 I made the trek across the U.S. in a Ryder truck with a roommate who had a connection for a job in California. We left Lakeland, FL and took I-75 up to I-10 and took it all the way to Santa Monica, CA. I don't recall seeing any abandoned buildings during that trip. We only drove ten hours a day, during the day. We were not under any time restraints, so we took advantage of it, eating fairly nice meals each night, showering and watching TV in air conditioned comfort of motel rooms.

The over-the-road trucker's life is hard. I can see why there is a demand for it, even in this economy. I think that team driving is even harder. When you are by yourself, the truck comes to a stop and you can sleep on a bed that isn't shaking and jerking. You can walk around at the truck stop and maybe watch a little TV or exercise. When you are team driving, you do your exhausting ten hours of driving and then switch off with the other driver. Then you just hope that there isn't too much damage or bad road construction while your partner is driving, so that you can get to sleep. You also have to be very confident in the skill and judgment of your partner. Kinda hard to sleep if your constantly worried about whether or not your partner is going to get you killed.

When we got to El Paso, it was later than the typical receiving hours, so we had to bribe the dock manager with $20 to unload us anyway. We had another "hot" load to pick up that was bound for Harrisburg, PA that we wanted to go pick up as soon as possible. Time is money.

But it turns out that our dispatcher/owner-of-the-company didn't give us the right location. We went to the location that we were given, only to be told that they couldn't possibly load us until after 8:am the next morning. So we went to the PETRO station to get a tire changed out on the trailer and an oil change and service, as well as getting the A/C working again. The condenser had a pinhole leak at the top. They wanted an enormous amount of money for a new one, plus all the work to change it out. I can't really blame the owner for not wanting to spend that kind of money, especially since he had plenty of experience with a better and cheaper servicer back east. We went and got a can of leak-stop/leak detector and put that in and ran it a while. It seemed to make a difference immediately. Then we got a large can of the R-134 refrigerant and put that in the next morning before leaving. Thank you, G-d! We had nice, cold, blessed air for the return trip.

We got back to the warehouse that refused us the night before and we talked to the dock master. He didn't have authorization for us yet. He would come out and get us when it came through. Our dispatcher couldn't understand why this was, considering this was a "hot" load, meaning that someone wanted this load at the other end, yesterday. My partner called to get the name and number of the other broker to find out the scoop. We were at the wrong warehouse. The place waiting to load us was six miles away at the El Paso International Airport. We boogied on over there to find them anxiously waiting for us and that they would have been happy to have immediately loaded us the previous night before we headed to the PETRO for service. We could have been on the road twelve hours earlier. We were not very happy at all. Misinformation had just cost us a bunch of money. I learned a valuable lesson. I should have asked questions until the answers made sense. If it was a "hot" load, why wasn't somebody breathing down the neck of the dock master to get the truck loaded? They were. At the right location. We should have called our dispatcher back that afternoon and asked him to call the other broker and either find out the right info and call us back, or better yet, we should have just asked for their name and number and talked to them directly. That's what I will do in the future.

One of the most amazing sights along I-20 through Texas is the area from around Midland to where I-20 merges into I-10. Windmills. Yep. They are enormous. At least I think so. You can go check out the specifications at this site. These suckers stand over 100 meters in height. That's more than a football field on end. A single blade is about 55 meters long. The generators are in the nacelles behind the hub of the blades and they produce about 2,300 killowatts at 690 volts.

It isn't just that these things are so big, it's how many of them there are. For over forty miles, we saw hundreds and hundreds of these things. Hundreds of square miles of them. Many stood atop mesas in the distance. Some of them came right up close to I-20. I just know I couldn't come close to counting them all. I suppose it would be interesting to go to Google Earth and try to count them all.

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