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Week 3 – Lucky and Unlucky

Week 3 – Lucky and Unlucky

Week three began with our early morning drop-off in Bakersfield.  Quite glad to get rid of our “Highly Flammable” load.

Then we were faced with the dilemma every expediter faces on an almost weekly basis.  To paraphrase Shakespeare: To move or not to move.  In our business, “moving” or “deadheading” means running empty without a load to either head home, or to move to a location where you would be more likely to get a load.  While getting the 2000+ mile loads to the west coast might seem like a great deal on the surface, unfortunately, there’s not a lot of expedited freight coming back east.  So you are always running the risk that you may have to come back empty to get back into business.

And that’s what we had decided to do to get out of Bakersfield.  We were going to move back to the midwest and try to get something from there.  And that’s when the US Military Industrial Complex stepped into our lives.  We were heading south out of Bakersfield to go back to I-40 thus again avoiding bad weather in Colorado etc, and had gotten all of about 30 miles when the phone rang.  Dispatch verified we were a team and that we were both born in the U.S…which I thought was a little strange…then offered us a load from Edwards, CA to Oklahoma City.  We bid the load and got a confirmation call a few minutes later to pick up the next day.  Little did we know the pickup was actually at Edwards Air Force base.  More on that in a moment.

So we decided to get a cheap room at a Red Roof Inn in Mojave, CA which is about 10 miles or so from Edwards.  We pull in late evening and notice as we are walking thru the lot that there was a man standing at a barbecue grill in the parking lot, just a cookin away.  He yells to us to come and get some bbq.  We proceeded to the office to check in and quizzed the host as to who the guy out in the lot was.  All he said was “Oh, that’s Manny.  He’s the owner here.”

New photo by Dan Romuald / Google Photos

Manny again offered food as we crossed the lot to our room and got our suitcases.  We walked into our room and noticed it had been newly remodeled and was actually a really nice room…worth much more than the $55 we had paid for it.  We were impressed.    So we went back outside and had a chat with Manny.  Turns out he had just bought the place about 6 months earlier and had shut it down for 3 months to do a total renovation.  Now that he had the renovation done, he was doing his best to provide for his customers.  He said he loved to cook so he would set up his grill in the parking lot and grill chicken and ribs for the guests.  The man makes some mean bbq and even gave Michelle and I a beer to wash it down with.  Manny was doing it right.  If you ever find yourself in the area, stop in and see him.

So the next morning, we roll out early and find out that our pick up is actually at Edwards Air Force Base.  And of course, the heavily armed guards at the gate have no idea we were coming.

New photo by Dan Romuald / Google Photos

Turns out, you have to be American-born to get loads out of places like military bases, power plants and nuclear power plants.  It took us about and hour and several frantic phone calls and id checks to get that mess straightened out, but we eventually made it onto the base, found Pratt and Whitney and picked up our load of “airplane parts”.  The crates were sealed so we’ll never know just which “parts” they were. 🙂

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We hit the (literally) dusty trail and we were off to Oklahoma City.  We drove all day and all night and were able to deliver about 16 hours early on late Wednesday afternoon.  Then our luck went into the toilet.

We set up camp at one of OKC’s finer truck stops and found out that there is virtually no freight moving out of there either.  We had decided to camp there for a while to see if a load would show up.  But it never did.  By Friday we were looking for something to do and found the OKC Festival of the Arts and their “Moink Balls”.

Realizing we were probably stuck in the area for the weekend, we opted for a change of scenery for Saturday night and took up residence at Lake Thunderbird state park.  We were able to have a nice little cookout, but couldn’t set up the tent as there were ants EVERYWHERE!

 

We finished off the week with a quick visit to Norman, Oklahoma and stopped to take a peek a the Oklahoma University campus and took a walk around their football stadium.  Capped it off with an off-campus Italian eatery named Victoria’s.  Great food, reasonable prices, highly recommend.

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First Week Recap

First Week Recap

I know I’m a bit behind but it’s a been a busy first week.  We had planned on going to “Available” status with our load brokering company on the afternoon of Monday April 4th after Michelle’s doctor appointment in the morning.  We did end up going live, but ended up not getting any calls that day. 

We got one call on Tuesday for a load out to Utah, but our bid was too high so we didn’t get it.  But then the phone started ringing on Wednesday.  We placed several bids before finally landing a load from Greensboro to Chicago.  Just under 800 “loaded” miles.  Not too shabby to start off.  Pick up was at 5:30 and delivery was 9 the next morning.  But of course, when we went to pick up, the load wasn’t ready yet.  So instead of being able to cruise thru downtown Chicago at 5 AM when there’s very little traffic.  We hit it at 7:30 AM and had to sit in traffic for well over an hour.  Had the customer not given us a bit of a break for starting out 2 hours late, we would have been severely late.  We hunkered down in a WalMart parking lot for a few hours to catch up on some sleep then because of the cold weather we grabbed some dinner and headed out to a hotel in Naperville, IL for the night. 

Friday morning started off with a few more bids for loads before we finally landed one from St. Charles, IL to Auburn, Indiana.  We made the run and got into Auburn exactly at our delivery time.  Unfortunately, as is often the case in this business, if you don’t get a run somewhere on Friday that keeps you moving over the weekend, you usually end up spending the weekend where you end up on Friday.  So we spent the night in Auburn and then moved on down to Fort Wayne, IN on Saturday afternoon.   We went to check out an RV park to see if we could stay there,  but it was unfortunately closed.  It did provide a bit of humor though as Michelle caught the street name on the Garmin.

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Another cold night forced us into a hotel again for the evening which we got at a bargain price on Hotwire.  But we ate some of the food from our cooler and kept our costs down for the night.

Sunday started off a bit snowy before turning to rain and it kept warming up so we gave the Indiana State Park system a try and stayed at the Chain-O-Lakes State Park for the night.

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We pulled in, plugged in our electricity, and warmed up a delicious dinner in the electric skillet while catching up on a few of our tv shows.  The electric heater kept the chill out of the air as we spent our first full night sleeping in the van.

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Stone Mountain State Park

Stone Mountain State Park

Our second and probably last camping expedition for the year brought us to Stone Mountain State Park.  Great park with lots of trails.  Unfortunately we didn’t get far enough around the Stone Mountain Loop to actually see the mountain, but we did manage to catch the Stone Mountain Falls (and the stairs from hell) and we did ride down to the Widow’s Creek Falls.  Pretty cool stuff.

Winter on the Mountain

Winter on the Mountain

So what does one do when one sees a forecast for highs in the 70s in January?  One grabs the Mrs and the gear and goes camping of course.  Beautiful weekend at Hanging Rock State Park for the most part.  We came screeching into the park just minutes before it closed Friday night and had to set up and cook mostly in the dark with a misty rain going on.  It got a little chilly that night but the rest of the weekend turned out fine…except for the Packers losing of course.  We caught the game on a fuzzy AM station sitting in front of the campfire.

I Are Outdoorsman

I Are Outdoorsman

So the Mrs. had been begging to go camping for years.

I don’t pretend to be anything close to an outdoorsman so I had been putting it off for years. That all changed a few months ago with an ill-advised stroll through Dunham’s Sports at the mall in Burlington. We wandered into the camping section and again Mrs. R renewed her efforts to hit the outdoors. So happens a big 10×10′ Coleman tent was on sale. Well that started the ball rolling. We bought the tent and over the next few weeks, proceeded to visit just about every outdoors store in Greensboro to gather all of the necessary articles for a full weekend of camping.

It’s amazing how much stuff you need to sit outside for a weekend though I was truly amazed at how much of the small stuff could actually be picked up at a Dollar Store!  We also spent a day  in August driving to a couple of different campgrounds within an hour or two.  After visiting Hyco Lake, Mayo Lake and Hanging Rock State Park, we decided Hanging Rock was the place to go.  We set about finding a time to go and realized that Michelle had already taken the third weekend in September off from work so we went ahead and reserved our site online.  No turning back now!

The weekend arrived and we stuffed (literally) all the camping gear, coolers and everything but the kitchen sink into my Kia Soul and hit the road late Friday morning.

The packaging on the tent said “Sets up in 10 minutes”.  Yeah right!  We had done a trial setup in Michelle’s mother’s back yard before going so we had a pretty good idea how it was supposed to go.  But we’re not quite at the ten minute mark yet.  It took us about a half hour to get everything up and nailed down although we must have done a pretty good job as we had no tent-related incidents thru the weekend…even with some moderate wind on Saturday night.

Lunchtime hit and a couple of sandwiches later , we decided to take a stroll down to the Upper Cascades waterfall.  A little over a mile later, we made our way down to the falls and it was pretty cool.  We hung around there for a bit and then headed back to the campsite.  Only issue of the hike was I developed a huge blister on my foot from poor footwear.  This would present quite the problem on Saturday’s hike but more on that later.

Michelle headed for the shower while I got the fire going in the fire pit and it was time for dinner.  Ribeye steaks over the fire pit with fire roasted baked potatoes and sweet corn.  I’m not the Bobby Flay of campfire cooking, but they turned out pretty tasty.  Overcooked the potatoes and corn just a touch but they were still quite good.

We cleaned up from dinner and got the air mattress set up inside the tent then sat around the campfire cooking smores for a while before calling it a night.  The night was relatively uneventful and we both slept pretty well on the king-sized air mattress.  Then it was up early to get the fire going for eggs, sausage links and toast over the fire pit.  Michelle did an awesome job making breakfast considering it was her first time over a fire with cast iron frying pans.

We basically relaxed the rest of the morning then had a light lunch of soup on our camping stove.  But this is where it gets crazy.  We decided to hike up the Hanging Rock Trail.  Big mistake for a big guy with a huge blister on his foot.  The trail is marked as a “Moderate” trail in the park guide.  If you’ve never been to Hanging Rock, make a point of going sometime.  But for God’s sake, get into shape before you go!  Holy hell Batman.  They should just put a sign up at the bottom of the first valley saying, “It’s all uphill from here.  Proceed only if you have a death wish.”

Of course we didn’t get far and the blister started acting up.  This caused a need to stop and give it a break at just about every bench along the trail that the state park service was kind enough to provide.  Now the trail is only 1.3 miles each way.  No problem…a casual afternoon stroll around Battleground Park near our house is about the same distance.  We can do this.  So we struggled through the first mile or so, then hit the stairs from hell!  The picture on the left here is of the bottom portion of the stairs.  That’s just the first section.  It goes up around the bend from there.  Then it sort of flattens out for a bit then you hit a second set of stairs made out of rocks.  I believe it was somewhere around the top of those stairs I told Michelle to go back and get the park ranger we met at the bottom of the stairs and tell him to come back with his gun to shoot me.  Bears gotta eat too!

By this point though, we were on a mission and there was no turning back.  It took us about an hour and a half, but we made it to the top and enjoyed the view while trying to recover a bit.  A 20-minute rest and we were on our way back down.  It’s tough walking on rocks with a big blister, but going down is definitely much easier.  We kept chugging along with just two bench stops for the blister and were back in the visitor center lot in about an hour.

A cool shower later and a bit of “lemonade” while sitting around the fire and it was time for dinner…a few burgers and hot dogs with some baked beans over the fire capped a simple dinner.  We cleaned up and stored everything for the night and we were beat.  I think we hit the tent around 9 PM.  A little discussion, a few pages of my book on my tablet and a bathroom run later and we were out for the duration.

Up with the sun in the morning and it was French toast and sausage links for breakfast.  Yummy.  Relaxed around the fire with some hot apple cider til late morning and then it was time to pack up and head out.

All in all, it was more fun than I thought it might be…except for the climbing the mountain part…lol.  I would say it was a successful venture and am almost looking forward to giving it another shot.  Maybe Stone Mountain State Park next time…who knows.  But I’m an outdoorsman now.  🙂

(You can click on any of the pics in the story for bigger images or take a look at the slideshow of all the pics from the weekend below.)