Category Archives: doggy tractor-trailerin’

Update. Finally.

Miss Carol rested her chin on my shoulder and said, Is this a new one?

And I said, I hope so. I’m tryin’

After days and weeks and months, I’m back.

*tap*tap*tap*

Is anybody still out there?

I know I’ve been miserably neglecting my miserable neglected little blog for most of the summer, but.

I’ve been really, really, really busy. Serious.

Don’t believe me? Just check it out sister- I’ve been working (on The Little House of Horrors and on my company and on helping my little brother take over the residential side of my contracting company and on getting my little trucking company going and on my book which is a little over halfway re-written). Whew.

The Little House of Horrors is coming along really nicely. It’s tough building a house on the weekends, but my little brother and me are doing it. The exterior is done and painted, we got the electrical final so we have lights and A/C and running water and we are finally, finally,  finishing things and ain’t life grand? It is.

Work is, and has always been, super busy. Don’t get me wrong-I admit it- I’ve been lucky. The commercial communications side of my little company has never really slowed down and now, with my little brother handling the handyman/contractor side of things, I’ve had time to concentrate on trucking which is good ’cause that hasn’t been going so well. It’s a whole lot more work than I’d bargained for and my driver has had waaaaaayyyy more issues than I’d ever imagined or bargained for.

But we move ahead, right?

Yes we do. Right into writing (see what I did there?). In amongst and squeezed between everything else, I’ve rewritten 18 of 30 chapters of my book and I hope/want/need to have the thing finished and sent to the folks at CreateSpace before NaNoWriMo in November ’cause I’m hoping/wanting/needing to have my first book (my first BOOK?) mostly done before starting the prequel. Life is hard, right?

So yeah. Blogging has kinda slipped off the table and skittered across the floor and been chased down and eaten by Cutter and Tug.

But I want to get better ’cause I miss you guys.

*tap*tap*tap*

Hellloooooooooo????

Anybody still out there?

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Pinch me.

Have I told you I love you?

We brought Trixie home today. 300 miles and she ran great.

I was sooooo hoping that Miss Carol and me could go and pick her up so that I could drive her home and be the guy with the five and half hour smile on his face, but schedules and Monday’s load dictated that Chris and I go get her.

And don’t get me wrong. The whole trip down to Greensboro I’m thinkin’ of reasons to make Chris drive MR.GREENE. back so’s I can be Mr. Tractor Trailer Guy.

I thought hard. Real hard.

But in the end I just didn’t think it’d be right to take Chris’s truck for the first spin. I mean, he’s gonna be driving it most of the time, right? RIGHT?

So he drove and I followed and fumed and wanted and wished.

But she’s home now and we’ve got one more hectic day of registrations and contracts and CB installations and tweaking and she’ll be ready for her first load on Monday and I’m gonna be wishing it was me.

‘Cause I’m a dick like that.

My new office.

Did it, I did.

So this is how it normally goes- you train for and receive your CDL and within the first 30 days (while the training is still nice and fresh) you get swept up by one of the big-boy longhaulers and you spend the next several years criss-crossing the nation and Mexico and Canada and after you’re burnt out and you’ve gained some experience and seniority you hopefully land a job driving a local or regional route for FedEx or WalMart or UPS so you can get home at night- assuming your wife still remembers who you are and wants you there.

I wanna drive a big rig but I need to sidestep all that.

The only way to do that is to either a) be born into a trucking family or 2) become an owner/operator. I wasn’t born into a trucking family so I had to go the owner/operator route. The problem with that is that even though trucking companies and brokers nationwide are clamoring for owner/operators to haul their loads, they want owner/operators with at least 2-3 years experience.

Shit. What’s a girl to do?

Enter EAGLE SYSTEMS.

One of my CDL instructors told me that EAGLE SYSTEMS was starting a pilot program to attract newbie owner/operators in the hopes of infusing the container trucking business with a new breed of driver which is basically me all over the place. Hello? ME?

I just needed a truck.

And a driver.

(I’d tried to talk about it with Miss Carol who didn’t want to talk about it and it ended up being something like “you ain’t drivin’ it and ain’t drivin’ it. Or something like that)

So I lucked out and got hooked up with a seasoned driver who has port experience and he and I started looking for a truck whose initial cost, maintenance record, and overall mileage would work within the narrow profit margins of container work and newbieness and still satisfy my need for tractor trailer coolness.

Last week we found her.

She’s an ’04 Freightliner Classic XL with a great maintenance record and 787,000 miles on her and on Friday I drove down to Colfax NC to test drive her and put a deposit down on her sleek red glossiness.

She’s awesome and I love, love, love, her.

I think I’ll call her Trixie.

Just call me Mr. Big Rig.

What a fucking weekend.

My little brother and his cute little cupcake drove down to help me and Miss Carol celebrate my tractor-trailerin’ CDL’ness.

‘Cause I’d done it. I’d passed. I’m a trucker, baby.

We tested out on Friday and I sailed through the tests that the Department of Transportation has decided necessary for me to haul 40 tons of whatever to wherever in the lower 48 states, Mexico, and Canada.

And I’m glad and should’ve been floating. I mean, the CDL course had been a grueling marathon of time and money. After spending 5 grand and two months studying and practicing and after having taken 7 written tests and a grueling 3 hour driving skills test you’d think I would’ve have been more stoked than I was.

But I wasn’t.

‘Cause I was the only one of my truckmates to pass.

Ordinarily I could care less about other people. Call it ego, call it narcissism (boy I love typing that word), call it selfishness, call it self-centeredness, call it what you will, I mostly just love me.

But after spending a month confined to a tractor trailer cab with my three truckmates and our instructor I realized I liked these guys and I was really hoping we’d all pass and get our CDL’s and move through rosy lives full of rainbows and unicorns. Or strippers and blowjobs. You know, whatever.

We’d been through so much together.

We were all of us early to the VDOT testing site on Friday. Michael (the Ghana guy) was oddly distant, kinda wandering around, Derek was nervously smoking cigarettes worrying about the pre-trip, and Haner was excitedly showing me all his shit in his car. (He was headed home to Mississippi and a job orientation with Werner (a huge trucking firm), and to his wife that he hasn’t seen since January just as soon as he tested out). He was tense and excited.

We were all nervous.

Then we found out Michael was distant because he wasn’t going to be allowed to test out. He needs another coupla months courting a 10-gear shift pattern and a clutch. I hope he gets it.

One down.

The DOT test is in three parts. The first part is the pre-trip inspection. It’s kinda like the pre-flight inspection a pilot makes before takeoff but without the wings and flight attendants. It’s mostly memorization and explanation of 105 different parts, lights, gauges, and systems on the truck. It’s easy to remember but effing hard to emote. Trust me.

Of the 105 you have to score 85 or better. Derek got an 82. He knew the stuff and was studying right up until he was tested so I’m thinking he just did the deer in the headlights thing and froze. (Of the two that I missed, one was checking the oil- pffffft, these things need OIL?)

Two down.

The second part of the test is combination backing. You take the truck and trailer out of a curve and then back down 50 feet of cones keeping the rear tandem tire (that’s the one waaay down there at the far end of the trailer) within 3 feet of the cones. Then, you pull forward, they reset the cones in an arc, and you back down into a curve, again keeping that rear tandem tire within 3 feet of the cones.

It sounds stupidly simple but, really?, it’s refreshingly difficult. Joseph, the other Ghana guy, in the other truck, failed the straight back and was done. I tried to feel sorry for him but I couldn’t ’cause did I mention I mostly just care about me? And, you know, my truckmates?

The third and final part of the test is road skills. It’s roughly 10 miles and 30 minutes long and is designed to show the tester that you can handle a big rig and the special rules that apply to us. Like, for example, did you know that when a trucker is making a right hand turn we can’t roll our tandem tires over the curb crushing the pedestrians waiting to cross, nor can we swing the trailer too wide allowing an impatient four-wheeler to scoot underneath our offtracking trailer tires? Who knew?

Double clutch upshift, double clutch downshift, don’t grind gears, don’t kiss a curb, don’t roll over a sidewalk, don’t blow through a caution light, don’t do this and please, oh please, do that. You nervously put yourself and the truck though it’s paces hoping you don’t fuck up and then it’s over.

I got back from the final phase and received the documentation from my tester that I’d passed, shook hands with my instructors and watched as Haner pulled into the lot. He got out of the cab without a piece of paper.

He’d failed the road course.

I wish I could’ve given him mine.

He needed it so much more than I did or do. To see the look of anguish on his face was heart-rending.

I know now that a CDL shouldn’t be easy to get. It’s a huge responsibility and something that shouldn’t be taken lightly and something that should be used but I really don’t know what I’m going to do with mine yet.

So it’s just sitting and brooding, a still and dark dream.

Scary shit.

This is a concern- 8 degrees will tip and roll a loaded trailer.

Miss Carol won’t even watch it.

Remind me again what it is that I’m doing?

Camaraderie.

A funny thing has happened on the way to my CDL.

I’ve been befriended by my truckmates. I mean, who’d a thunk it? Certainly not me.

Derek, Michael, and Haner have become my friends. To those of you who’ve been keeping up with this, and believe you me I feel your pain, Derek is the opinionated black vet, Michael is one of the two Twee? or Twi? guys, and Haner is the sadly conflicted Iraqi war runner and gunner.

Over the last coupla weeks while we’ve been driving together I’ve listened to them and their life-stories and found out that Derek, at 41, longs for the stability and companionship of marriage, that Michael is planning to send for his wife in Ghana just as soon as he starts trucking- hoping that they can make a life of it on the road, and that Haner, for all his brashness and bravado, is just a bewildered kid trying to sort shit out.

I’ve also witnessed and been caught up in a weird kinda tribal group think thing. Men, by nature, are competitive (duh?) so it was no surprise to see a hierarchy forming after the first day or two as those of us who were catching on to the double clutch pump compared our progress to Michael who was really struggling with just shifting gears.

We were at first supportive (I spent several break periods with Michael explaining the shift pattern and the use of gas and clutch- he’d never driven anything but an automatic transmission) and then almost gleefully dismissive as Michael continued grinding gears winding up in neutral with the diesel howling or simply stalling the truck.

We took comfort in the fact that we were better than him. That by his failing we were passing. That there was the us and then there was the him.

Then on Friday, a curious thing happened. Michael had a breakthrough and kinda figured it all out. Sure, he was still grinding the gears and dumping the clutch but he was moving through the shift pattern and was even driving the truck in a raw kinda way. It was cool to watch. But what was even cooler was the immediate flood of genuine support from all of us. Join us we seemed to be saying, become one of us. I almost teared up but I can’t ’cause I’m a guy.

Instead it made me realize how much I’ve changed in the last seven weeks. Whereas, I once was the self-imposed outsider clutching my aloofness and aloneness and not really wanting to mesh with these guys, nor wondering how or where or why I might fit in with them, now I’m finding myself caring about them and actually wanting to keep in touch with them when this is done and we all strike out in our wildly different directions like exploding fireworks. I’m hoping that they all find good trucking jobs and happy endings to their lives and I almost think I’ll miss them.

Jeebus.

It’s like I’m becoming a chick.

I’m a Star?

Today was a weirdly interesting day in tractor-trailerin’ land.

Instead of cutting us loose to rumble dangerously amongst an unsuspecting public, we were kept in the yard because the school was having a commercial shot to bolster the already sold out seats.

The commercial dudes and dudette needed motion as a backdrop for the voice-over, a kinda lumbering ballet of behemoths slowly moving to and fro. And guess who was hand-picked to lumber the star behemoth?

Yeah, baby.

That’s me rolling the big dog back and forth over and over again across 100 yards of scarred concrete busting my acting chops while the camera rolled. At each pass I’m running through my repertoire- sad, plaintive, happy, sorrowful, hopeful- for the camera. Sometimes I even waved.

Anyway.

Being a star is harder than I thought. I sure was glad when the director finally called CUT and I could stop the to-ing and fro-ing and exhaustedly climb down from my truck cab and embrace my new reality.

‘Cause ya know what? Life is different now.

Now that I’m a big star, I’m not the who that I thought I was- I’m a somehow subtlety changed somebody, and even though the mantle of stardom rests lightly on my broad shoulders, I’m finding myself viewing others differently. It’s, like, the little people seem clutching and needy and maybe just a little bit distasteful. And all the sudden, I’m keening for stuff like no green M&M’s in my bowl, and having the crusts cut off my sandwiches, and I’m screaming for my beer to be chilled to 34 degrees.

I mean, I’m still me, so none of that’s a bad thing, right?