Travel Feed

The Engineers at Volvo and Freightliner Need a Wake up Call

All trucks have an automatic air dryer. The purpose is to filter the moisture out of the air supply in order to prevent clogging and freezing. The bright team at Volvo designed this thing to sound like an air cannon. First it makes a huge sucking sound, (which is totally appropriate since it has to suck to drive something like that) and then it blows off so loud the hair on your arms will literally stand up straight. Not only that, it goes off repeatedly, and with rhythm, so your nerves are frazzled just from the constant sucking and blowing. This is not a pleasant experience and should never be confused with anything erotic.

Since the weather is warm, the parking lot is full of Volvo trucks and Freightliners sucking and blowing.

I drive a Peterbilt, and unless it has a definite mechanical problem, I hardly ever notice my air dryer. My truck doesn't suck and it doesn't blow. It doesn't get on anyone's nerves, and it dries the air perfectly.

Freightliners are so cheaply made, and poorly designed; they constantly suck and blow, usually over and over. And many of the drivers are inexperienced and do not even realize the air dryer is broken. They think it's normal for their air pressure to drop up and down.

This means I gotta "suck it up" and try to sleep. Good night all.

The Devastating Takeover of American Jobs by Foreign Nationals

It's not as hard to be away from your family if you can see some kind of financial progress; but right now this is all just pure torture for me. I sat 6 days in Castaic, California, waiting for a load. Meanwhile, I watched one Mexican truck after another come and go loaded. I hauled a small chemical order to a power plant in Utah. I then drove to Idaho and loaded potatos back for California.

The markets I once served, are now overrun with junky trucks from places like Brownsville, Texas, and Laredo. Rates are in the toilet because these people buy the cheapest equipment they can find, and they spend none of their money on upkeep. They fill up with cheap Mexican fuel, and then they knock the hell out of the shipping rates.

 I have not seen my child in over a month. I have nothing to show for my abscence. Rates are low, trucks are parked, fuel is too high, and the weather has not cooperated in any form or fashion.

If I was a federal transportation official, I would crack down on these places that churn drivers in and out with lease purchase plans designed to profit only the company. I would personally interview some of these people whose lives have been wrecked by greedy cut rate brokers, and I would put an end to this ridiculous cross border trucking program that will serve to further deteriorate rates, driver quality, and pay.

Today, in LasVegas, I watched a truck from San Diego create a near catastrophe in my lane of travel. He overcorrected after drifting into the other lane of traffic; he nearly tipped his load in front of me. I would bet money he was a Mexican national driving an American truck...possibly illegally. They drive just as rude here as they do across the line. As this cross border takeover of American labor jobs continues our society will decline even more. Young people with college are without jobs, and our government wants to go ahead and wipe out another industry with a shortage of qualified workers. Trucking is highly technical labor, with a massive variety of skill sets. In no way should we allow any foreign national with third world cultural ideas have free rein around our country in something as dangerous as a truck.

I understand how exciting it is to visit America and drive around the country. It is an education beyond belief. However, we should never allow companies to permanently replace American workers with cheap foreign labor during an unemployment crisis. We are on the verge of a depression, and it is time to roll up the welcome mat. When times are good again, and the threat of terrorism has receded somewhat, then I would be proud to share my industry with foreign workers. Now is not a good time. Why don't we, just once, say NO to Mexico et al.

Castaic is Getting back to Normal

I am up in Castaic, California, my third home north of Los Angeles. Yesterday we had a chilly rain, snow over the Grapevine Pass, no internet service, no credit card service, no automated tellers, and very limited cellphone access. The day was strange, gloomy, and lonely as hell with nothing to do but watch movies and sit in the cafe. Mike's Diner gave me the 'power' over the remote control, and because I wasn't wearing my reading glasses, I managed to accidentally shut the television completely down. Everyone looked over at me like I was the devil. Finally, a really smart waitress was able to restart programming while I sat squirming with embarrassment in my hot little chair--lucky for me!

Starbuck's is still experiencing some wifi connection issues, so I am blogging from McDonald's today. A family is visiting Castaic from Squaw Valley. They have had seven feet of snow in the last week. The wife is telling me they would like to go home, but their community is overrun with tourists out for a day on the lovely slopes. Every run is open 100 percent, and the temperature is a mild 22 degrees. I bet it's perfect!

Last night the Grapevine was so treacherous that the California Highway Patrol escorted traffic across the pass in groups. I can only imagine the miserable wait times while vehicles crept down the steep mountainside. This morning a lovely coating of snow covered the green foothills, but now the hot sun is shining, and the lower elevation snow is all melted away.

Tomorrow I start up my truck and leave Castaic behind. I will miss the nice people, the palms and flowers, and Mike's Diner. I hope I am going home to see my family.


California Styles Today: Trucker Fashion!

This morning on Good Day LA, I watched the preview for next fall's fashion trends. Everything is going gauzy, glitzy, and flowing. The austerity of black is replaced with metallic, shining, vibrant colors. Hollywood elite would be shocked to learn a middle aged lady truck driver from Oklahoma is sitting a mere 40 miles away glued to the screen smiling. I don't see how any of the new styles will blend with Peterbilt trucks, and Great Dane trailers; but, it's fun to dream.

Today I have an old white t-shirt with little sequins embroidered on seahorses. My jeans are ripped out at the thighs. It's been raining so I have on my rubber boots. They are decorated with red poppies over a sea of black. Don't laugh, they are truly cute. I look like a typical SoCal yuppie.

I bought my earrings at Sallie Sue's Gift Shop in Tucson. They are long and dangly with little crystals on the bottom. If you want beautiful stones, then Tucson is the capital. I don't wear eye makeup much anymore; when I get really tired, I rub mascara all over my face. I slap on the sunscreen, a bit of Bare Minerals, and some really fabulous bronzer from Neiman Marcus. Then I put on a cheap lipstick, my sunglasses and Paris Hilton perfume (yes, I love Paris). After I brush my teeth, I am ready to go just about anywhere in America.

On busy days, I don't even look at my clothes. As long as they are clean, and appropriate for the weather, I throw them on and ride.When I have to dock my truck at a regular customer, I like to look nice. I have a black jacket with me, and I will pull on some cargo pants or dressy jeans.

Most women spend their money on expensive clothes hoping to make some kind of an impression. I don't need clothes to do my talking. But one of these days, I am going to dress just like everyone else. I am going to spend major money on the way I look. Until then, I am going to enjoy Good Day LA, and keep smiling.

LaWanda is Trucking Today

It's back to work for me this morning, and I don't want to go. I loaded my trailer yesterday, and it's sitting in a parking lot. My truck is across the street at my friends house waiting for me to get behind the wheel. Everytime I leave town, I am slapped with a wave of loneliness; I miss my child all of the time.

This economy has done a lot to hurt people.

But I have a wonderful and steady job; my boss is a saint. So, why am I so unhappy? Lots of other people are unemployed, homeless, underemployed, learning new skills, facing early retirement, in foreclosure, or struggling with an illness. I have none of those problems, but now I feel like giving up.

Maybe I am just sick of traveling and living alone. I never intended to stay out here forever.

When I first started to run California again, I was shocked at all of the new homes and how much money they were worth. Neighborhoods, shopping centers, and business complexes, had sprung up in places that I had earlier thought would never be inhabited. Now many of those places are is very surreal.

I am very lucky, and grateful, to have this much needed vocation. But sometimes, when I look at where I am, I feel nothing but loss and devastation. I drive my truck through those empty streets and I am reminded of my own divided life.

On television and radio lots of wealthy commentators sell doom and chaos while their ratings fly high. I drive down the road and listen to all of this negativity, and I refuse to believe. I don't think we are in the 'end times.' I don't believe we will fail as a country; I don't think Muslim extremists are going to conquer our lands; however, it is possible I will fight this miserable economy until my son is grown, and my hopes for a real family have faded to nothing.

That is so unfair. For a year I took off and looked for office work. I needed an office job while I applied for teaching positions. You can't drive a truck and run to meetings and interviews. I found nothing. Now Texas is facing a budget crisis similar to every other state. Teaching jobs are risky at best. Once the holy grail of states to teach in, it is now completely insecure. I spent money testing and training for absolutely nothing. Nothing so far, except a longer separation from my family.

Here I go again...trucking today.


IT's a Beautiful Day in Castaic California!

Yesterday I arrived in California to some beautiful weather, and truly friendly and helpful people. I love it out here, and if I was wealthy, I would live somewhere around Santa Barbara. Today I am in Castaic, located just north of Los Angeles on I-5. If you have ever visited Castaic in the past, then you already know how truck friendly it is. Of course, it has a large population now, and lots of new housing. Some of the newer locals wish the trucks would all go away, forgetting how much money is spent in town by drivers buying everything from fuel to Starbuck's coffee.

The Country Girl Bar is rather famous, and has a huge parking lot for trucks. MIke's restaurant still offers delicious Mexican Food, truck parking, and ice cold beer. Lake Hughes, with its beautiful park and trail, is within walking distance from the stores and strip malls. In the spring, the wildflowers blossom all over the hills. Winters are mild with beautiful palms, warm breezes, and garden boxes.

But, like most places I visit, the people are what make the trip. In Castaic, they are friendly, helpful, and fun. If you are ever north of Los Angeles, take the Lake Hughes exit. You will love it too.

My "Anytime Fitness" this Morning

In Sealy we have an Anytime is a franchise that obviously almost anyone can buy into. This morning, as usual, the cubbies were dirty, there was body dust all over the treadmills, and the temperature was a bit hot. It makes my temperature rise to pay for something that isn't really clean. There is nothing in the club to wipe your hands on, and there wasn't toilet paper, or towels, in all of the bathrooms. The disninfectant bottles were mostly empty, and only a few old dirty looking towels were laying in the rack. The franchise owner was present, but it wouldn't do any good to complain to him. He can see the state his place is in, and he is smart enough to know how filthy it is. At the Sealy location this is normal, and the clients really don't know any better; they never get around to any other fitness centers, but I do!

The one at my hometown in Chickasha, Oklahoma, is sparkling clean. In fact, someone is busy cleaning at that one all day long. Same with the location in El Paso. The guys use lots of Pine Sol, and they keep a huge stack of clean fluffy hand towels to wipe down the equipment. Diseases are easily spread in fitness centers. I can't believe the risk people are taking at the Sealy location. I have also visited a location in Chandler, Arizona. I went on a weekend, and all of the equipment was extremely sanitary. If you want to see a beautifully maintained Anytime Fitness, visit the one at Abilene. They have a huge workout area, a hall to greet guests, and everything is spic and span, smelling completely fresh. They also are not afraid to keep the temperature down, so you can workout really hard without getting heat exhaustion. 

We have a nice big fan at our location in Sealy...but today a grown man whined about the cool air. Makes me wonder how he survives any kind of workout at all.

I plan on keeping my membership at Anytime simply because I can use these other much nicer locations. I believe this franchise is a great investment, and I would love to have one. The sad thing is, I can't recommend the one in Sealy. But if you live elsewhere, and you travel with work, then Anytime is a great workout option for you.



Trucking, Eighteen Hour Days, Tax Cuts for the Wealthy, and a Kick in the Teeth for the Gays

I have to apologize to everyone for not taking the time to write. The truth is, I have had no time to do anything but work. When I get home, I wash, run around and do a little shopping, wrap a present or two, take a hot bath, and get a nap in my big comfy bed.

So many interesting things have happened lately: more tax cuts for the whiny rich, an extension of benefits for the hopelessly unemployed, a kick in the teeth for the gays, and a happy outcome for the young immigrant.

The funny thing is the rich, and the rest of us, may not get a tax cut at all because now the ultra left wing democrats are mad at Obama for winding up the fight early. I know Obama well enough, and I believe he just wants to get on with the Christmas party.

As for me and my little boy, we are going to spend quiet nights at home, visit the Houston ballet, open a big pile of presents, and drink lots of eggnog and soda.

I apologize for not writing anything substantial lately...I have been so busy. But I have a lot to say, and I am still here. My comments are open, and all of my topics are relevant. So please, don't abandon me. More to read later!

The Petro Stopping Center in El Paso, Texas

One of the reasons Flying J went bankrupt was because it had the sorriest food in the country. They shipped everything out pre-made and they would leave it sitting on the buffet table for hours.Sometimes I would take pictures of the buffet and send them to Ogden. I got caught doing this at the Flying J on Merced Avenue in Bakersfield, California. The chicken was undercooked and the refried beans had water floating on the top. The spaces between metal pans were covered in spilled food, and the glass over the buffet was filthy. The manager came out and asked me what I was doing, and I told him I was a food photographer for Time Magazine. He didn't think I was very funny; he grabbed the phone and called the sheriff, blaming me for the line of customers refusing to pay their bill. 

When my little boy rode in the truck with me, I would use Flying J food to enforce good behavior. If I threatened him with a Flying J meal, he would shape it up immediately. He liked Petro though, especially the one in El Paso. Here you can order a real chicken fried steak, with homemade mashed potatos, his favorite roadside meal. The salad bar has always been something the El Paso employees stock with pride. This morning it is loaded down with fresh berries, grapes, melons, jello, and raisins.

Sonny, a longtime Petro kitchen employee, is cooking omelettes. You can get fresh jalapeno, mushrooms, ham, and bacon cooked into your eggs, along with many other items. The place is sparkling clean, the staff is very professional, and the mix of Spanish and English conversation is comforting and pleasant.

Most truck drivers do not like to eat pre-made food. Healthy food in a pleasant atmosphere can help some of us live a lot longer. We are all hoping the upper management of Petro/TA preserves the restaurants that do work, and phase out many of the premade restaurant selections. Soup boiled in a bag is radically different than soup cooked from fresh vegetables.

Well I guess that's it for now. This holiday week has dragged on for too long, and I really need to get home. I miss my big computer, my cozy apartment, my huge television. I would like to drive my car for a change, and go someplace nice. I need to go to the Anytime I ever!

Working on the Plane; a lonely, but fun, Thanksgiving

Lots of people are curious about what us truckers do when we work on special holidays. We do the same things we do any other time, except we usually have less traffic, (on the official holiday) and more time to meet our ridiculous schedules. Even though I really miss my little boy every Thanksgiving, I don't mind the fact that he gets to visit his Grandmother in North Texas. Holidays are a time when I can worry about him less and focus on my own work.

Yesterday I spent all morning in a Starbucks in Mecca, California, shopping online, drinking coffee, and reading my friend's blogposts. Later I went to the Spotlight 29 casino and enjoyed their fabulous holiday buffet with about 50 other truckers. After that, I hit the road and cruised on up to Eloy, Arizona, to the Petro. I drank a glass of wine over crackers and hummus finishing a fabulous story written by author/photographer Aggie Villanueva, "Rightfully Mine: God's Equal Rights Amendment." Her book is perfect to read on a Thanksgiving night, a beautiful Christian fiction appropriate for the holiday season.

This morning I took a long hot shower, and then headed over to Nogales to get the rest of my load. I am now in my favorite truckstop, the Triple T in Tucson, Arizona, a real old-fashioned place with everything for the traveler: a classy gift shop, clean and comfortable restaurant, delicious hot food, CB shop, truck shop, convenience store, and safe parking.

 Regular people who have no knowledge of the trucking and transportation industry have no idea the sacrifice made everyday by men and women like myself. I am only granted so many special days before it is time for God to take me home. For example, I may only get another 10 or 20 Thanksgivings, but I have donated another to my employment and the public. Truckers get pretty tired of civilian contempt; we work our rears off out here to deliver safely and on time.

A lot of people feel entitled to their holidays. They even insist, sometimes, that us taxpayers fund their days off. I think many of these people are spoilt and self centered. Very few of them have spent a holiday alone on the road with strangers, and so they have missed out on the true meaning of fellowship and community.

Our veterans are well aware of the emotional maturity one garners from working yet another holiday.

Well it is time for me to go crank up the Cummins and head on down the road. If I fly far enough and hard enough, I can get home tomorrow night. I have missed all the great homemade food, visiting my child, and seeing the people I know; but, I have enjoyed my holiday anyway. I have been part of something bigger than myself, and we strangers have felt a togetherness and kinship on another lonely, but fun, Thanksgiving on the plane.