On this last run out to California and back, Adam and I hit a pretty cool milestone – 100,000 miles driving as a team! I’ve been employed as a professional truck driver now for about six months, and it’s crazy to think that we’ve rolled these tires that far in such a short amount of time! It’s been an adventure as I’d hoped, and I’m excited for more. And nervous. It is almost winter, after all! More to come on that topic in later posts!
So much has happened in these past six months, and it’s fun to think back to where I started and where I am now. To be completely honest, I don’t feel like I’ve come a long, long way in improvement in driving, or shifting, or backing, or anything. I know I’ve gotten more efficient with some things, and I have gotten better at other things, but just a little bit here and there. I’ve still got much to learn, and that’s one of the things I like about this job – there is always room to improve on just about everything.
Backing maneuvers are among the toughest things to do with these big trucks, especially because a lot of the time people are waiting for you and watching as you try not to screw up. So there’s pressure. There’s also the heightened risk of hitting something because of blind spots. I have noticed my backing has improved in the past couple of months, and I’m getting better at setting them up (which I’ve found is pretty much KEY to a successful back). However, I still do have days when I just can’t seem to hit a good back, even in the simplest situations. But from what I see on some of the trucking networks I’m a part of, this is common – from newbies to million-milers. Some days we just can’t back for some reason. So I haven’t been beating myself up too bad. Besides, I haven’t hit anything yet, so that’s success in my book. (Knock on wood, by the way!)
When it comes to shifting, I wish I could say I never grind a gear. I used to get really upset whenever I’d grind. I felt like I should have this totally figured out by now, but again, the more experienced truckers tell me they still grind gears now and then, too. It’s just the way it is. It keeps getting better, and my inner-self does a little dance whenever I downshift like butter to 9th as I head up a steep mountain grade. I’ve learned to do a little slip-shifting (shifting without using the clutch), but that also needs a lot of work. I can slip-shift UP in gears smoothly up to 6th gear, but I’m still working on the higher gears. Sometimes I get them perfect, sometimes I don’t. It’s usually a slight grade or something that throws me off. As for slip-shifting DOWN in gears? I haven’t gotten there yet. I’m taking my time with learning this new technique. One of the biggest things I’ve been trying to work on is keeping the truck moving as smooth as possible, and slip-shifting helps with that – because when I’m driving, Adam’s sleeping!
I’ve gotten used to my 2am – 2pm schedule. I like it quite a lot. It’s still really tough to start out after time at home when I throw myself back into a “normal” schedule with the rest of the world, but I know what to expect now, at least. When I start out after time at home, I just plan in a couple of naps in throughout my shift. Crawling back in the bunk and cuddling up next to Adam for 15-20 minutes (or an hour) in the middle of my driving shift is something I started looking forward to. Really early mornings are still the toughest for me – usually between 4am and 7am. Audio books have become my friend!
I’m doing pretty well in the diet and exercise categories. With my history of being overweight and the incredible ability to gain a lot of weight very quickly (I could be some sort of super-hero!), I’m not going to be humble here. I’m frickin’ proud as hell that I’ve maintained my weight since I started driving truck. Actually, since I’m gloating, I’ve actually lost a few pounds and have managed to keep it off. There is a small hiccup in my super-awesomeness, though, and I’ll fess up. When Adam and I are “at home,” we usually take care of the cravings we get during the week while we’re on the road, which can add up to a lot. While we’re on the road, we eat really, really well. We stock up on raw veggies, fruit, nuts and simple, healthy things to eat, and that’s all we eat. Well, unless we’re going past the Norske Resaurant on I-94 (popovers!) or heading to the Jubitz truck stop in Portland (friends, restaurant and movie popcorn!). Or sometimes Little America and their damned ice cream cones. It’s their billboards. I totally get suckered into their horrible marketing trap. You win, Little America. So we don’t completely deprive ourselves, but I think that’s probably good anyway. But overall my weight has fluctuated as it always does, just not quite as extreme as it used to, or at least I think. I don’t have a scale to weigh myself, so I base it on how I feel, look and how my clothes fit me. When I’m on the road I feel great because I’m exercising daily and eating well. At home I sort of pig out and end up feeling pretty crappy by the time we get back in the truck, and I look forward to my simple diet again. So yeah, I’m proud of myself for not gaining a bunch of weight, which was ultimately one of my biggest fears when I jumped into this career, but obviously still have things I need to work on. And I always will. That’s totally okay with me.
I’ve learned to like exercising out on the road (usually). There are definitley days that I just don’t want to get up an hour early, and I don’t. But my normal routine is to get up and do about 15-20 minutes of exercise before I start my day. Then at night, I’ve been doing some sort of “challenge.” It’s usually like a 30-day sit-up challenge or something. Right now I’m doing a Squat/Push-up/Plank challenge, where the reps increase each day until I’ve hit 30 days – then I start a new challenge, or do the same one over (I did the sit-up challenge twice in a row). I also just started my own new challenge that I call the “Max Challenge.” I listed 15 exercises, and each day I pick one and max out on it. I do as many reps of that exercise as I can until I’m totally fatigued or can’t do any more. It’s a butt-kicker, and I like it so far. I imagine it’s going to get tougher to exercise as winter hits, but I hope to keep up the basic routine as best I can.
We’ve had some weird things go wrong with our truck, but it’s not a bad truck. It’s a 2013 Freightliner Cascadia, and I laughed when I saw it referred to online somewhere as a “Freight-shaker.” So maybe it’s not my fault when it bounces as I back sometimes. Haha! But let’s see here… a quick rundown of a few things I can remember – we’ve had a blinker issue that took three repairs to fix, I think we’ve had three closet handles replaced, the housing on our shifter came loose and rattled like crazy towards the end of one of our runs, our e-log system ripped out of the dash and landed on the floor once, and then it got an electrical issue (we eventually got it replaced completely), a couple of clearance lights went out at different times, a small critter decided to jump into our bumper and put a hole in it, a stupid mudhole cracked the same bumper later on, and a bird tried to take out our hood mirror (and nearly succeeded!). One of the weirdest was when our pigtail (the line that supplies the electricity to our trailer) somehow got wedged under the catwalk (the platform behind the truck that can be walked on to reach things) and popped out. It must have happened as we turned a corner or something. This is a pretty important connection – without it our trailer has no turn signals, marker lights, or brake lights! I noticed it as I was making a turn into a truck stop (freak-out moment – “why aren’t any of my trailer lights on!?”), so we were able to tape up where it was caught under the catwalk and plug it back in before anything bad happened. Whew! But… again. Things might have hit us (small critters, birds and millions of bugs), but we haven’t hit anything, and we hope to continue that trend!
I love V&S Midwest Carriers. It’s a great company, and I feel really fortunate that I didn’t have to wade through a few crappers before finding a place I’m happy at, which it sounds like most truckers end up doing. We landed here first, and it’s been a great experience. We got hired right away, I had an awesome training experience, our bosses and driver manager (dispatcher) are all amazing. We’ve had a few weird circumstances on the road with things like an interstate closure and waiting four hours for someone just to count our freight, but the folks at our office are always very understanding and helpful in every situation. I don’t know… I’m just really happy here, and I feel proud of the work I’m doing. Everyone at the office is encouraging, too. They let us know we’re doing a good job whenever we stop in, and that feels pretty darn good. If any truckers out there have experience and want to work for a great company, let me know – I can get you some info!
My gosh, what else? I don’t know! I got pulled into a scale yesterday and was instructed to pull around and bring in my paperwork. This was the first time this has happened to me. Usually when we get pulled in, we just drive over their scale slowly and we continue on our way. But this time, it seemed like they were pulling everyone in. I was so nervous! I didn’t know if they were going to inspect the truck or what. All they did was check our registration, ask what we were hauling, said “thank-you”and sent us on our way. Well, geez… that was easy!!
I’ve seen a few bad accidents (after they happened). The worst was a truck that drove off the road into the median and was engulfed in flames. As I drove past, the fire fighters were just starting to spray it down and there was stuff all over the road I had to steer around, so it was pretty recent. That made me tear up and gave me a stomach ache for a good half hour. I never was able to find out any information on it, though. I have no idea how it happened or if the driver was okay. The less accidents I see, the better, that’s for sure!
Something that has surprised me is that I don’t see as many weird things going on in cars as I’d hoped. I haven’t seen anyone driving with their feet, reading a newspaper at the wheel, and noboby’s flashed me yet. I’ve read funny stories of this happening to other female drivers – and I guess the expression on the flashing-girls’ faces is pretty priceless when they realize the driver isn’t the dude they were expecting. One girl said she flashed a girl back once. You won’t see me doing that, but it’s funny, anyway! I’ve only seen people picking their noses. They’ve probably seen my pick mine, too, so that’s not much fun!
So there ya’ have it. Six months. 100,000 miles. Many, many more to go. Hopefully some goofy situations that are fun to write about will come up, and no yucky situations to share. Winter will be here soon, so you can bet you’ll be hearing about that! Here’s to more burned out lights and noses being picked! Trucking is fun!!
Tonight I love being somewhere different every day. The mobile life. Yeah, it’s for me.