Seeing the USA from behind the wheel of a Big Rig
"Across the US and back again, and again, and again"
Covering around 500-600 miles per day, you'll see America. But you'd better look quickly!
Wanting to learn more about my own country, I took a job driving a large "big rig" 18-wheeler truck. Seeing the USA from behind the steering wheel of a large truck gives you an interesting perspective. The countryside moves by you at a rate fast enough to notice and appreciate changes in topography and geography. The downside is that you are not in any one place for very long. If you are going to do "tourist" activities, you have to do them FAST.
However, it is kind of cool to be in Seattle on Monday and to be in Washington D.C. only 4-5 days later. From Los Angeles CA to Atlanta GA, Pittsburgh PA to Birmingham AL, Tucumcari NM to Savannah GA, you see LOTS of the U.S.A.
It also gives you the opportunity to go places that you would never INTENTIONALLY go to, because you are sent there on work assignments. Cool places that turn out to be little unpolished jewels of towns: Storm Lake, Iowa; Cumberland Gap, Maryland;
(more to come)
more to come.
""It's okay, I'm with the band.""
As a matter of fact, I'm DRIVING the band!
I've spent some time behind the wheel of the big Rock & Roll Tour Buses that you see on the road. The machines start at $750,000.00 US and go up to $2-$3million. Kitchens, showers, satellite tv systems, full recording studios, all are on board. The bands vary based on who you're hauling each week. Most of the bands are pretty cool. And you get to see some WILD things....
(more to be written later)
2 U-hauls, 3 dogs, & a cat... moving with mom
"What was I thinking???"
Not sure I was thinking when I agreed to my latest adventure with my mother. If there had been any activity in my brain at all, I'm sure I would have screamed and ran when she asked me to help her move cross country. But, evidently my brain was on vacation that day, so you all get the pleasure of reading about this hair-raising trip. Trust me... you won't be bored!!!
*Note: animal ages are at the time of the trip - obviously they're older now. And yes, all four are still doing very well.
Before we start this tale, it would probably be helpful for you to have some background information on the characters involved. So here goes....
Rocco - my dog, a shepherd mix, rescued from the pound at 5 months old, he's 9 years old now and weighs 95 pounds. Clingy, neurotic, demanding, way too smart for his own good, and hates moving with a passion - always afraid he'll be left behind. Loves to go on trips and travels with me frequently. Hates cats.
Maverick - mom's dog & Rocco's buddy, 45 pound Fox Terrier / Blue Heeler mix, 7 years old, sweet & lovable, always happy, loves to play, gets car sick. :-(
Toby - a rescue dog, sis found him at her work 3 years ago & asked mom to keep him for "a little while", his ears were severely infected causing permanent hearing loss, when he gets excited he sounds like he just got run over by a car, not taken out in public much due to dying dog noises and overprotectiveness. This 70 pound, black lab/retriever mix is the reason the propane man refuses to venture anywhere near mom's house.
Cali - the cat. Spoiled, demanding, neurotic in his own way. Mom got him so young his eyes weren't even open yet - he was orphaned. Only cat I've ever met that HATES milk. He disappeared for three years & then showed up back home one year ago. This 9 year old rules the house and sports his own bedroom filled with toys.
Mom - talkative, always sees the positive side of things, can't read a map, no clue how to open the hood of a vehicle, definately couldn't deal with hooking up a tow trailer, operates on very little sleep, gets to her destination in her own time.
Me - need my sleep, don't talk THAT much, no problems reading a map, hooking up tow trailers, or making minor vehicle repairs. Neck, shoulder, & wrist injuries require frequent stops to get out & stretch and put a time limit on travel. Spent most of the trip smelling like "BenGay". Like to be on time.
"Leaving California - well, trying to leave..."
The idea was to pick up both U-Hauls on Wednesday, have them completly loaded by Thursday night, and leave town on Friday morning. It was a lovely idea... too bad it didn't happen.
Only one of the U-Hauls was ready on Wednesday about noon (instead of early like promised) & they wanted us to pick the other up quite far away - nope, not happening. So, they found one a bit closer that we could get after 4p.m. So only one truck got loaded & only halfway because we'd promised those helping us pack that they could be done by 3p.m. Wednesday there were also real estate papers to sign for the sale of the house. After driving 30 minutes to meet the courier... the courier didn't show with the paperwork. So we wasted over an hour there.
Thursday the courier actually showed up & the paperwork that arrived with him was signed... but some of the paperwork was missing, so we'll try again tomorrow. Managed to get the 17' U-Haul almost completly loaded. Would have been able to finish if the door hadn't broken when we shut it. Oh well, it's almost full so it can just stay shut. Definately don't want to unpack the whole thing & load it into another!
Friday managed to finish loading the furniture from the house into the 24' U-haul. All three dogs to groomers. Gave tons of stuff away to friends. Courier finally showed up with remainder of paperwork at 4p.m. Water to house was turned off today.
Saturday washed clothes at the laundromat. Finished loading boxes from storage unit. Wonderful water guy notices we're still there & turns water back on. Goodbye dinner with friends. Ready to load vehicles onto trailers behind U-Hauls, clean house, and head out in the morning. Oops... strap to hold vehicle on trailer is broken.
Sunday drove an hour (one way) to get the strap on trailer fixed, loaded up vehicles, finished cleaning house, too tired to drive.
Monday put dogs & cat in U-Hauls & FINALLY drove on down the road! Stoped in Sacramento to have late dinner with sis. While there Mom managed to get 24' U-Haul stuck in a driveway. Did I say she doesn't do reverse? After over an hour of me standing outside in the COLD wind yelling directions ("NO, your other left!") the truck was turned around. Mom was complaining that the headlights were dim & she couldn't see well. Decided to drive down to Stockton & take a nap at the Flying J - nope, it's full. So drove on & finally found a place to stop in Westley. Mom slept in her cab with Toby & Cali and I shared my cab with Maverick & Rocco. Believe it or not, once you give up on trying not to get covered in dog hair, sharing a bench seat with a 95lb dog & having a 45lb dog sleep on your stomach can be comfortable.
Tuesday woke up, took dogs for walk & potty stops, fed dogs breakfast, put dogs back in trucks, took cat for walk and potty stop. Asked Mom if she wanted breakfast now or later. Later. Got back in truck, waited for Mom to start hers.... dead battery (so that's why the headlights were dim). Walked down to McDonalds & grabbed breakfast while we waited for U-Haul repair guys. Told them to fix blinkers on Mom's trailer while they were at it - working blinkers help when you're trying to change lanes. Finally headed down the road at 11a.m. Had to stop for someone to use the potty about every hour - if it wasn't a dog it was the cat screaming that he would die if not let out of his cage immediately. Didn't take him long to figure out that if he screamed loud enough we'd pull over & let him out. Stopped for gas a little north of Buttonwillow & let everyone out for potty & snack break. Got out a blanket, stretched it out on the grass, & took a nap for an hour with all three dogs lying around me on leashes attached to my arm. Got lots of strange looks & a few people taking my picture... didn't care.
"Leaving California isn't easy!"
Tuesday cont.... Finally made it to Lancaster VERY LATE and found "No Vacancy" signs everywhere. Managed to find a NASTY motel room that doesn't allow pets. Mom slept in the room while I shared the bench seat with all three dogs this time and got to watch a drunken brawl and some drug deals go down in the parking lot (free entertainment???). At least I got a hot shower in the morning (used my own towel).
Wednesday called Mom's real estate agent & let him know we would be a bit late signing the paperwork for the new house. He was shocked to hear we're STILL IN CALIFORNIA! Finished up some family business in the morning & headed toward Hwy 18. Some friends who drive this route all the time had given us directions, so we didn't look at a map. Soon we were chugging up a mountain at 7mph & I was insisting we shouldn't be going over a mountain. But, we hadn't seen any signs for Hwy 18 yet & our friends were supposed to know what they were talking about. Ended up in Santa Clarita, pulled out a map & found out that we should have taken 138 to get to 18. Well, not going back over that mountain now. So... we headed on down the road toward Palm Springs. We were supposed to be spending the night with those wonderful directionally challenged friends tonight. We called them and said we were running really late due to a slight detour :-/ and wouldn't be to their place until around 2a.m. That was before we ran into the roadwork that turned 6 lanes of traffic into 1and we took almost 4 hours to get what should have been one hour down the road. So, at 2a.m. on Thursday morning, we FINALLY got out of California!
Even though it was the middle of the night & we were absolutely exhausted, just seeing that "Welcome to Arizona" sign made us feel oh so much better! We were still hours away from our friends house, so we pulled over at a rest stop and slept. It was a good sleep. I didn't even notice Rocco sharing the seat with me and Maverick sleeping on my stomach. You KNOW your tired when you don't notice a 45 pound dog sleeping on you! The next moring we were on the road again bright and early. Made a potty stop for the furry ones somewhere on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Got out their food/water bowls for breakfast while we were at it. We made a new friend out there. A little bird was sooooooo thirsty he was willing to brave the three dogs to get at their water. I managed to find an old pie tin and a good sized rock to hold it down and filled it with water for our feathered friend and was rewarded with a whole bunch of happy chirping noises. Happy Happy Joy Joy!!!
We made it to our friends home right about lunch time on Thursday. They were so sweet and had lunch waiting for us, the backyard waiting for the dogs, and one of the bathrooms all ready for the cat. We were all happy & relieved to be off the road and out of those U-hauls for a while. We relaxed all afternoon, took incredibly long showers, went to bed early in real beds not shared by furry creatures, and woke up to the smells of breakfast cooking. :-) Did I mention that these are some awesome friends! After breakfast and another wonderful shower, we packed up to head out again. The poor dogs groaned when they saw we were headed back to the U-hauls. I think they would have gladly stayed behind and become Arizona puppies. We spent all day Friday driving through Arizona and only stopped for a few hours that night at a truck stop to nap before heading on into New Mexico.
"Nervewracking New Mexico :>/"
Saturday morning while beginning our drive through New Mexico we had absolutely no idea this part of the trip would be a nightmare. We thought the worst was over. Surprise!!!!!
First, Rocco got sick. Fortunately he's a very good boy and is able to tell me when he's sick, so we were able to pull over in time. Poor guy was just so stressed out he had diarreah all day. So we ended up pulling over and stopping A LOT. At one of the truck stops I managed to get him some cottage cheese, rice baby cereal, and pedialite along with a Zantac to soothe his stomach. The combo isn't a miracle cure, but it helps a lot and Rocco was soon feeling quite a bit better. It took us until dark to reach Albaquerque. We stopped for dinner at the Flying J there, got Rocco some more cottage cheese, and noticed all of the truckers flying out of there - a mass exodus. One of the waitresses explained that there was a real bad snowstorm on the way and everyone was trying to get out of dodge before they got stuck there for a couple of days. So we quickly joined the race to get out of town.
Did I say we joined the race??? More accurate wording would be something like: We made a pathetic attempt not to get left behind in everyone elses dust. Remember back when we were leaving California and the U-hauls top speed was 7mph over that mountain we were NOT supposed to go over... well, getting out of Albaquerque requires going over mountains too. So there we were chugging along in the middle of a blizzard so bad it was nearly impossible to see the road in front of us, holding our steering wheels with a two handed death grip, and semi-trucks passing us like we were standing still. After over an hour of this, we stopped at another truck stop to stretch & find out the status of this blizzard. The road behind us had been closed and the storm chasing us was worse than originally expected. Back on the road we went. Gotta try to stay ahead of the worst of that storm, but at our slow speed things weren't looking good. Not only were we praying, but I had called several friends in CA who were still awake and asked them to pray too. The only thing more terrifying than this drive was the thought of getting stuck in the storm. We were the last ones left on the road. All of the semi-trucks had passed us long before. Suddenly, while going up-hill, the U-hauls picked up speed. Considering we'd been pushing the gas pedals through the floor board for the past hour and only been creeping along, this was a wonderful surprise! 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45mph!!!!!! We were flying up that hill and leaving the storm behind! Believe what you want, but I truely believe that God sent angels to push us over that hill.
We made it to Tucumcari, NM in the wee hours of Sunday morning completly exhausted. Parked near a McDonalds and slept until McD's was open to serve us breakfast. For the first time in my life (and probably last), McD's was heaven. It was warm & bright inside, there was warm running water in the bathroom to wash my poor abused face with, the crew was smiling and friendly, and the food... well, they must have had a gourmet chef working for them that morning. ;-) We quickly found out that, although we had gotten ahead of the storm, it was still chasing us and would arrive in Tucumcari within the hour. On the road again.
"Yee! Haw! It's TEXAS!!!"
Sunday around noon we made it to Amarillo, TX. Hallelujah! No more running from the storm. We found a nice gas station with a HUGE parking lot and a small shopping mall nearby. Doesn't matter how bright & sunny and beautiful it was outside, we slept. When we woke up, we took all of the pets for a nice long walk around the dirt parking lot, fed them (more cottage cheese mixture for Rocco), and then spent a relaxing half hour wandering through the little shops before sitting down at a real restaurant for lunch. It must have been the week of master chefs visiting I-40 because I swear they had one too. ;-)
"Oklahoma & Finally Arriving Home"
We spent the afternoon heading for Oklahoma City and managed to arrive around 11pm that night. Because we didn't want to deal with big city traffic, we decided to drive through the city and find a hotel on the other side (remember, our last shower was way back in Arizona!). What we DIDN'T know was that on the other side of OK City are toll roads and that once you're on a toll road you don't get off the toll road. So, through OK City we went. My, my, my do they have fun lane changes! Exit to the right for the first road and then zing across FIVE lanes of traffic for the next exit on the left and then cross five more lanes of traffic for the final exit on the right. Doing this in a car would be a challenge, but in U-Hauls towing vehicles... SCARY!!! Whew! Made it through OK City, now to just find an exit where we can get a hotel for the night. What do you mean toll roads don't have exits???????? The speed limit is what? Since when can you get a ticket for going too slow????? Well, we didn't get a ticket. But trying to keep those U-Hauls going the minimum speed of 45mph over that toll road was not easy! We finally made it to the end of the toll road and found a Motel 6 manager who felt sorry for us, gave us one of the handicapped rooms (they've got bigger bathrooms - for the cat), and let us take all four animals into the room for what was left of the night. By now, I'm sick. Picked up the flu somewhere along our route & I'm miserable!
We spent all day Monday on the road with wonderful weather and no mishaps (my bones aching & my head about to explode) and finally made it to Mom's new house on Tuesday. All went well with the paperwork for the new house, Mom's realtor arranged for a couple of guys to unload those blasted U-Hauls, the hot water worked (showers), and we slept. When we finally joined the land of the living again, we found out that the snow storm we outran in New Mexico closed the road for 3 days.
Well, there you have it. 8 days, 2 U-Hauls towing 2 vehicles, 3 dogs, and a cat. The moving cross country trip from hell!