What’s Your Tuesday Like? In my life there seem to be no normalities. One cannot plan in advance beyond the next day (if even that far) as all things in my world are subject to change. In fact if I want to plan on something, I can plan on changing my plans. With that being said, here’s a glimpse into one of my lives.
A Tuesday On The Truck
The shrill ringing of the alarm startles me into consciousness. I reluctantly wriggle my way out of under the warm comforter and out into the 20º F. air to turn the key and push the start button. The cold Caterpillar engine sputters, then roars to life. I burrow rapidly back into the warmth of the bed and snuggle up to my husband. It’s not hard to snuggle when both of you are squeezed onto a twin-sized mattress. We drift back off to sleep until the second alarm signals that a half hour has sped by. The wonderful heat blowing through the vents is a welcome sign that the engine is warmed up, ready to drive onto the scale at the hay press where we slept overnight.
Combing hair is optional. Often a stocking cap gets thrown on over a quick bun and no one is the wiser. A bathroom is a welcome treat but often not available until we get unloaded and down the road to a truck stop. We bundle up in our Carrhart coveralls, gloves, and insulated boots and climb out to pull out the ropes, unhook the straps, and roll up the massive hay tarps. Sometimes when we drive in snow the night before, untarping is nothing short of a nightmare. The trailer being a solid chunk of ice, it’s hard to undo anything. Gloves get wet, fingers become numb, and visions of sitting at home by a warm fire dance in my head. But somehow it gets done, and the squeeze comes to grab blocks of bales and move them into the shelter of the hay sheds. After we sweep off the trailers, get the necessary signatures and weigh tickets, and load all the tarps, straps, and ropes back into the trailer boxes, we head out for the nearest gas station with truck parking.
After that welcome break, I get a simple breakfast of bacon strips and banana bread out of our ice chest for a quick eat as we drive. We head out to our next load appointment which could be anywhere in the Northwest Region. This time, let’s say we take the scenic route over White Pass. A two-lane winding ribbon that wiggles up and around and over a snowy mountain. The towering pine trees stand guard solemnly along the edges. Unfortunately a blinking sign comes into view. “Chains Required” it reads. So back on go the coveralls and winter attire. We take 8+ sets of chains out and lay them on the snowy shoulder, making sure nothing is twisted. After laying them over the tires, Ross drives the truck forward a foot or two so the chains are underneath and can be hooked together and tightened with a small metal apparatus.
Then on we go. In a few miles, the reason for chaining becomes evident. I sit on the edge of my seat, clutching the handle on the door. If only that would help. Something about going down a 6% grade on sharp mountain curves on snowpack and ice gets me nervous. An hour or so later with only a few close calls, we end up safely down at the base of the mountain on the opposite side. I pull out a book to read or hook up the audio system. The miles fly by and before we know it, the steel warehouse will soon be in view.
Ross handles the Seattle sea of traffic with ease. I often just gaze at the vast amount of humanity rushing about in awe and try to imagine what each person is doing and where they are going. They each have a life that is important to them, just like me. Each one has a soul and feelings. And what can I do? I’m just another one of them, sitting in a vehicle rushing about our life. Sometimes I wish I could get out there and actually make a difference in the world.
We pull in the gate at the steel warehouse with a throaty honk from the train horn announcing our presence. Inside it is a flurry of activity. Forklifts cruising up and down the aisles, workers operating huge machinery, and trucks being loaded. Ross and one of the forklift drivers study the paperwork, trying to decide how much each piece of steel weighs and where on the trailers would be best for the weight on each axle.
I try to appear invisible inside the truck, often escaping to the bunk. Some places have strict rules and regulations about passengers. After the steel coils, pipes, or flat metal bars are loaded, we pull forward to strap and if required, we pull the tarps on. Tarping steel is a whole different story. How to make them lay nicely and remain tight when you have un-uniform pieces sticking out at strange angles and different heights is a good question.
I pull out two tinfoil containers of food from the trusty ice chest and stick them in the little food warmer in the truck cab. Tada! Lunch is made! I help Ross or at least try to act like I’m helping. Then for the long drive back home. We take a different route by way of Portland and the roads are much better. We stop for fuel at Pendleton, Oregon at our favorite big truck stop where everyone calls us by name. Grabbing some snacks that look tasty, I pay for them with fueling points.
Back on the road and up over the notorious Cabbage Hill. The engine lugs down and pulls its heart out. The road is wet and the temperature is just below freezing, but there is still mist spraying off the tires of the vehicles around us. So I remind myself that at least its not black ice and try to relax. Unfortunately as we near the summit, the road turns to snowpack. Chains are required to continue down the other side. So we find a empty spot among the dozens of trucks lining the side of the highway and throw some iron.
Up and down the hills we go and out across the valley. Snowflakes are still drifting down and the road stretches white before us. But eventually we come to clear pavement, so off come the chains. An hour or two later, we face another major hill, the last one standing between us and our much-longed-for destination. So we repeat the chaining process. At this point we don’t even bother to take off our coveralls when we climb back in the truck; we just open the windows to cool down. The clack of the chains on the road grow fainter as we climb upward, into deeper snowpack.
At long last, we pop over the last ridge and see the lights of Ontario glistening just ahead. We have a mid-morning appointment so Ross decides it will be worth it to go the extra half hour home to our own soft bed and a shower instead of spending night in the truck at Love’s. 15 minutes later we were regretting our decision. The hilly road to the shop had not been plowed yet. We knew we had to keep up our speed going downhill so we would make it up the other side without spinning out. But what we hadn’t accounted on was the bumper acting like a snowplow on the pavement and sending several inches of snow over the truck, completely obscuring all vision. All Ross said was “BABE.” But the tone of voice and the situation was of such, that my heart dropped clear out of me. On either side of the road were 15-20 foot drop-off’s. God must have took over the wheel for a few moments there because we are still alive!
Around 1:30 am we pulled up the driveway to our dear little orange house on the hill and my sweet puppy Buster curled up by the dryer vent. He nearly went crazy with the excitement of seeing us, so I let him in the laundry room for a bit and let him sit on the rug. A delicious hot shower and a huge soft bed to stretch out in seems very blissful at this point. Who knows what may happen tomorrow but that is no worry of mine.
Till next time!