Sunday, April 10, 2011

Education Week

As of my last update, I had decided to self teach myself algebra. My goal; attempt to test at a level of math skills that would allow me to qualify for an apprenticeship without the need for taking any college courses. I'm happy to report that my self educational experiment has been going quite well and I have covered over 300 pages of reading material in the last week. I have been learning all kinds of new things about math and have discovered many practical skills that I know I will apply in real world situations many times in the future.

I'm not one to spend time lamenting the past, I'm more concerned about what I can do today and then tomorrow. Every day is a new start and yesterday is set in stone, tomorrow isn't. However, I do look to my past as valuable life experience that I hope will be useful to help me through my tomorrow's. One of those lessons, never give up on learning new things. I wish I had taken this lesson more seriously in my high schools days but, now is as good time as any start.

With a week of brain exercise weighing on my sanity, we decided to take the day on Saturday and check out the Antique Powerland Museum in Brooks Oregon. The group of 8 included Me and my Wife, my Daughter and 3 of her friends, my Dad and his Wife.

Laurie at the entrance
I found the Museum to fascinating and much bigger than I expected. The whole thing sits on over 60 acres and houses several individual museums. Not all museums were open, but we were still able to spend about 4 hours there and took in a smorgasbord of cool oldies that were neat to see. I know, that sounds a lot like a trip to Dad and Mom's house and I won't deny the similarities. But, seeing as my parents don't have 60 acres, this served as a good supplement to looking through their garage.
Karli, Heather, Bekah,Jasmine

Being a photographer, I am amazed with shapes, angles, texture, rust, dirt and many of the other visual candy that I came across at the museum. I only took my point and shoot camera but really wished I would have taken my DSLR. I could probably spend several hours in the place just taking pictures of "stuff". For people that like old things or for people that like to take pictures of interesting things, this is a gem of a playground for both.

Me, checking out my camera
One of the more fascinating things that we got to see was an actual working sawmill. They use the mill to make many things that are used around the museum grounds. Most of the guys that ran mill looked as though they may have been using some of that equipment when it was brand new. It was all powered by an old steam boiler (yes, just like your parents old heat system) and really felt like a step back in time as you watched all the old millers turn trees into 2X4's.

My Dad and Wife waiting for the mill to fire up

Click on the link below to watch the mill in action

video of old mill in operation

After several hours of browsing, I gained a somewhat clear picture that this place was much more fascinating to me than it was to a group of 11 year old girls. We decided to head back to the homestead and topped off the day with some grilled burgers.

Must get back to studying, I plan on taking the placement test on the 18th of this month.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A shocking turn of events

I did it, I finally made it back to Oregon and handed over the keys to my truck with a smile on my face. I'm not prone to quitting a job on a whim, especially in light of the fact that I have a mortgage and other bills associated staying plump and warm. However, there were some things about life on the road that I was just not prepared to handle. I was so excited when I was assigned a trainer that was a local driver but I think I really missed an important factor of training, learning all about road life. First off, I must say that I have gained a whole new perspective on long haul trucking and a whole new respect for those that do it for most of their life. However, they also deal with a very unique lifestyle that is just not very easy for most people to adjust to. Living truck stop to truck stop with the only space that you can call your own amounts to about 60 square feet. If you need a shower, you pay for it. You need a restroom, use the public one. You want a meal, it's whatever you can scrounge up at the truck stop or store in the mini fridge in your truck. I've also heard other truckers tell me that they love the freedom of the open road and couldn't possibly sit in an office all day. I sat in that truck for longer hours than I ever sat in my cubicle in any office and also had more contact with my boss while in that truck than I've had at most any other job I've had.

However, all that said, I'm glad I gave it a shot and I have an experience that I can talk about for the rest of my life. I'm not bitter about the way things worked, just a little nervous about what to do next.
The shadow of my former and short lived career!
So, what to do next....?
Well, I got yet another idea. Since I lost my job in June of last year, I made it 3 months as a professional photographer and 12 days as a long haul trucker. So, what's one more bad idea to throw into the mix? So, here goes plan "C", an Electrician apprenticeship. I have a friend that is about my age that has been out of work for quite some time and just got into this program. He loves it and is very excited about the new opportunity. He also has a class B CDL and tells me that the company now uses him to drive their trucks around since many of the employees do not have a CDL. Since, I have a class A, maybe that will help my chances.

My tutor
This plan does have one small obstacle that I must overcome, my math skills. I need to have some knowledge of algebra, of which I currently posses none. Since the Spring term just started at the college and I don't want to wait 2 months for the next term, that is out of the question. So, I decided to go with a more unconventional route, I will teach myself. I went to Borders Books and invested in the material that I thought would bring my knowledge up to an acceptable level. I may be slightly crazy and maybe even delusional, but I'm figuring I will teach myself algebra in 2 weeks. After that, I will attempt to pass a placement test that puts me at the level necessary to to qualify without needing to take a college course in math. If I'm able to pull this off, you won't be the only one that's surprised.

If anybody out there is a qualified math tutor, I would love to hear from you.

Friday, April 1, 2011

heading north to Oregon (Home)

I last left you on Wednesday morning as I was waiting for word on my truck at the shop. I know it's only been 2 days but I could probably write volumes about what transpired in that time frame. Since I'm not a doctor and not qualified to cure your insomnia, I'll try to condense the last two days to something shorter than a celebrity marriage.

I was able to pick up my truck from the service center on Wednesday and immediately received a dispatch to pick up a trailer in the Phoenix drop yard and take it to customer in the heart of the metro LA area. Now, bearing in mind that I already quit my job, I really wanted to tell my DM (driver manager) that there were only two things I didn't want to do; 1, drive in LA / 2, drive at night. I just want to get home and they are wanting their truck back, lets get both there in one piece is my thinking. Keeping in mind that LA is kinda on the way home and the delivery was at 1:00pm, I figured I could avoid some rush hour traffic and wanted to get moving in the homeward direction. So, I sent back a message confirming the dispatch.

After making a wrong turn and finally locating the drop yard, I found my trailer and was Westward bound by about 2 on Wednesday afternoon. I was wanting to make it as far west as possible so I could start later the next day and hopefully miss rush hour traffic in the LA area.

While on the way to Cali, I received another dispatch to pick a loaded trailer in Van Nuys at 7pm on Thursday and deliver in Modesto at 9am on Friday. I called my dispatcher and told her that first of all, I wasn't driving all night. For me, not safe. She told me that it was a 6 hour trip and I could drive half on Thursday and sleep most of the night and drive the other half Friday morning. Then she went on to tell me, and I quote "hun, in trucking we don't get to pick our hours." I wanted to say; Carol, are you aware that I already quit, you do want your truck back, don't you?" We also went some rounds about available hours, she said I had plenty, I said I didn't. I caved and agreed to the load because I wanted to head north but assured her, when my hours run out, I'm stopping, no questions asked.

As I got further east, I started to recall some of the stories that I heard about the Banning Scales. Apparently, they are notoriously tough and I was headed right for them. Having a prepass in my window, you can weigh in motion on the freeway and if you receive a green light, you just keep going. As luck would have it, my sensor gave me a red light. I'm already sweating bullets and hope that I just roll through and keep going. once you pass the scales, if you get a green light, you head for the freeway, if you get an arrow pointing to the right, well, that ain't as good. Again, as luck would have it, I got an arrow. After 17 minutes of sweating bullets, I was told that my truck checked out. In my opinion, I should have gotten a free t-shirt for that experience.

I made it to Ontario and stopped at a huge TA truck stop there. As truck stops go, the place was awesome! A little of everything there. In the interest of saving time on allowable drive hours, I started as late as I could and headed out to make my delivery. While on my way, I received a message from dispatch telling me that my next pickup was already loaded and I could pick up early if I wanted to. I arrived at my delivery right at 1pm and was hoping if all went well, I could hot foot it to Van Nuys before rush hour. Well, God does have a since of humor! As I was backing into the dock I heard a rather loud KABOOM!!! I immediatly ruled out a terrorist attack but knew something went horribly wrong. After inspecting the truck, I found that one of the suspension air bags had exploded. I sent a breakdown message and called my DM to tell her that I wouldn't be able to make that Van Nuys/Modesto trip. I was able to get my truck back to the loading dock and breakdown sent out some mobile mechanics to replace the air bag. The mechanics did get the air bag replaced but it was now almost 4pm, the rush hour that I hoped to avoid was now in full swing. Since I never heard back from my DM, I decided to go after my next load.

25 miles took me an hour and a half but I finally made it to Van Nuys. My personal inexperience and lack of knowledge made the process of picking up a preloaded trailer an ordeal worth an hour and a half.

noticing that I now only have 4 hours of available drive time, I decided to make it over the Grapevine and stop on the other side. Keeping in mind that you can only 70 hours of on duty time in 8 days, I thought I would wake up the next morning and would have another 4 hours since the 4 hours that I was on duty 8 days ago would drop off. Turns out, I figured wrong. The 8 day rule doesn't count the current day as I thought, it was the previous 8 days. The day that dropped off was the day before I started my trip, zero hours on duty that day, zero hours dropped off this morning. Again, I called my DM and told her that I only had an hour of drive left and wasn't going to make Modesto. She got to looking at my logs on her end and asked; What's this 3 hours you spent in the parking lot at your delivery yesterday? I told her I was waiting for my truck to get fixed. She then asked; why didn't you log that as off duty? I told her; Well, I was waiting in a parking lot, that certainly wasn't MY time! She told me that it was my time and she was going to change that to off duty. After nit-picking about a couple of entries, she was able to gain me 4 1/2 hours and told me to get my butt headed north. I questioned the legality of this but I didn't care since I wanted to get home and out of the truck, ASAP.

I made it to my delivery with 39 minutes of available drive time left. Having learned my lesson, I logged off and sat in the parking lot for 2 hours while off duty. Somehow, the trailer even backed itself into the dock while I was off duty. Just before I hit the gate, I changed the log to on duty and headed out to find a truck stop, a very close one. I pulled into the parking lot of a Flying J with 1 minute to spare. Now that's cuttin' just a little to close for me.

About the time I got to the Flying J, I received a dispatch to pick up a trailer in Woodland tomorrow (Saturday) and drop it in the Brooks yard (home base). I will only have 4 hours of drive time tomorrow so I should have just enough time to make Woodland and maybe get a little north on I5. Come Sunday, I will gain over 10 hours, should be plenty enough to get me home.

As of now, I should be home on Sunday evening. I can't wait!!!!