The hunt: update

What do you suppose happens when I run out of hours and get a couple of days off? During hunting season? Yup.

So this is happening right now:

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It might only be a day and a half, but my pouty face is gone!

I must go now. The woods are snowy and silent. Time to clear my mind. Happy day!

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Tonight I love winter. Because it might be my only chance to love it this year… It’s hard to love when you’re driving in it. Playing in it, though? Love.

The hunt

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I’ve been home in Phillips for hunting season every year for as long as I can remember. Since I was about 15 years old I hunted every year, too. It’s my favorite time of year. Hunting, Thanksgiving, family, time off, hours in the woods… and this will be the first year I’ll miss it. I knew last year already that I’d probably miss it this year because I’d most likely be on the road truckin’. Which is exactly what I’m doing.

But just because I knew it was coming and expected it… accepted it and was fine with it… doesn’t mean it’s easy. I’m sad.

Hunting season is a solid week out of the year that my dad and I have our best bonding time. We tromp through the woods together and pick trees overlooking the best spots ever to set up our ladder stands, huff and puff as we drag them out way farther than we should’ve on a sled, and get all set up. Perfect spots – I mean the kind of spots where we’re going to see a ton of deer, of course. Sometimes we do, but usually we don’t. But we aren’t bothered much. It’s about so much more.

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Bonding in our own ways. :)

Then on Saturday morning – opening day – we get up well before light, drink coffee and eat breakfast. We bundle up, make sure our rifles are in the truck, our clips and thermos are full, and we have snacks to eat. We drive down the winding dirt road to our hunting grounds and walk into the pitch-black, dark woods together quietly. We part ways to our stands, which are usually set up fairly close to one another so we can help each other out if we get a deer, and after getting settled into our high perch in our trees, we sit stoically for hours. Waiting. In the silent, perfect woods.

Squirrels scurry up and down trees, chattering and flicking their tails violently when the discover we’re in their territory. Chickadees flutter past our faces, occasionally landing on our gun barrel. Sometimes we catch a glimpse of a white weasel, a fox, bobcat, and even… sometimes… a deer.

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Squirrel!

The woods can be silent and still, frozen and glittering, stinging the tip of my nose and numbing my cheeks. The cold sometimes seeps through my winter boots, freezing my toes until a shiver works its way through my entire body to a point when I need to get down out of my stand and wander a bit to warm back up. Sometimes it rains, making all kinds of noise through the woods, and sometimes big fluffy snowflakes silently flitter down all morning, freshening the forest floor with a blanket of bright, bluish-white. And sometimes it’s windy and you just hope it’s at your back so it’s not in your face, but you also hope it’s in your face so deer wandering within your line of vision can’t pick up your scent in the breeze. But whatever the weather brings us, we sit. We sit until after the sun sets and it’s hard to see.

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A wintery view from my stand.

After dark officially settles in we leave the forest and head back to the truck. After packing up we head out to meet up with my uncles and family friends, as well as other hunters for “the last drive” at a local bar to discuss what we’re seeing in the woods, who got what, tell jokes and drink beers.

Some years we get venison, and some years we don’t. It’s usually cold, and I freeze my butt off whether it’s 30 degrees or -30 degrees. But with freezing and all I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. Because this is the week I get to spend with my dad. And family. We eat hearty meals. Drink canned PBR. Sit in the woods for hours on end – watching, observing, thinking… and sometimes maybe even napping. My favorite part of all – walking next to my dad through the woods, guns slung over our shoulders. Getting a deer is a definite bonus, and we always try and hope to fill our tags. But even if we don’t, the time we spend together that week makes up for it by miles.

I’m missing it hard this year. I’ll be okay, and hope nobody feels too badly for me. That’s not why I’m writing. I knew it was going to be this way this year, and Adam and I are working at our plan. And we’re having fun doing it. But this first year is going to be the hardest when we have to let traditions slip for a while, knowing it’s not permanent. I just wanted to think about it more because hunting week makes me happy. Remembering all the details in writing brings me there for a while, and that also makes me happy. It’s not as good as actually being there, but it’s as close as I can get for now. I got this.

Good luck hunters. Good luck uncle Kenny, uncle Butch, Jim, Mikey and anyone else venturing out there in their blaze orange. Good luck dad. I love you. And yes, please use my gun and get a huge buck. I’m ready for a razzin’! :)


Tonight I love hunting season. You know that, though.

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A couple of years ago - the temps were in the 50's! I didn't even have to cover my ears!

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The shadow of me sitting high up in a tree.

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My brother and my dad. God I miss those days!

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A much colder year - all bundled up.

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Can't go wrong with scenes like these! I love the woods.

Hiker Tau Pi – The Hiker House

This entry stems from a conversation Adam and I were having the other day – we were reminiscing back to college and he was talking about one summer between semesters when he lived in a house with a couple of roommates. He was 19 at the time, but didn’t drink much. But maybe he should have – one of his roommates was 21. The other worked at Dominoes Pizza and frequently brought home pizza after his shift. Adam worked at Hollywood Video and got free movie rentals. Thinking back on this he says, “why didn’t we take advantage of that situation more?” Free pizza. Free movies. While the beer wouldn’t be free, it would have been a rebellious treat. They could’ve had a fun night – every night. That got us thinkin’ fun.

Okay… think of a giant house like a big college frat house, but for adults. Hiker-ish adults and others like us. We all split the cost for rent and work part-time jobs. Think of the awesome hiker-trashish parties – how many stinky hikers can you really fit onto a bed for a photo?

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Yup, this happened. And should happen again.

This frat-like house can serve as a place to help hikers getting ready for an upcoming thru-hike, as well a halfway house for those coming off of a big trail. You know we all talked about this at one time or another on our thru-hikes – because transitioning to off-trail life is frickin’ hard. Maybe it’ll help get folks ready to go back to the office, or better yet, help us all realize we belong on the trail with our kind forever. Nose-pickers and trail tooters, you’re always welcome in the hiker house. Why force ourselves to change who we truly are for a cubicle? See? That made you tear up a little, didn’t it?

We start in the most obvious place – Portland. From there we open other chapters. I dunno – a Canada chapter, Maine, S. Cali… The options are endless!

We don’t ever really want to “grow up,” anyway. So why? A bunch of like-minded people… friends… living together in a big ol’ house. We all just work part-time jobs and live somewhere cool together with other cool people and do cool stuff.

Where this comes around to my and Adam’s original conversation is the fun part where everyone works part-time jobs that can somehow benefit the group. For example, we could have a pizza delivery dude that brings home freebie pizza once in a while. A movie rental clerk for free movie rentals. We’d need people that can brew beer, because beer is good. We’d need a baker because there’s an initiation, of course. And someone’s gotta bake pies for that – and sweets just because. How about a cable installer to hook the house up with free cable? A barista. Yummy coffees! We could even find a handy-man for basic home repairs and a nurse for fixing minor boo-boos. A few REI (or other outdoor gear shop) employees because we need fun gear always. And… Mr. Green. :)

We all just hang out, go on hikes when-the-heck-ever, have parties, cook and eat group meals, make and drink good beer, watch good and horrible movies (in a theater room complete with recliners and a popcorn machine, of course), and be constantly dreaming, planning and scheming more hikes, climbs, road trips and adventures of all kinds. Then going on group runs and hikes together to get ready. Then go on those big hikes. And we’ll know that when we’re done, we’ll have Hiker Tau Pi, the Hiker House, to come home to so we can start the whole thing all over again.

It’s like living the college life without the studying and generally on much simpler terms. All with people we love. There will be responsibilities, but as few as we can get away with. It would just be… fun.

Oh, and Aloha and I are sorta half serious… I mean, why not be?

So… what part-time job do you think you’d get? :)


Tonight I love imaginative dreams. Because ya’ never know – they may just come true one day. Gotta’ start somewhere!

Inspection!

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Our shiny, new "we've been inspected" window-sticker.

We passed our first big DOT inspection!

Pulling into weigh stations is always a little nerve-wracking. Usually you just drive across a scale and continue on your way. But this time over a speaker we heard, “Midwest Carriers, drive around and pull into bay 1.”

Here we go.

Adam was driving and I had just woken up, so I was still buckled into the bunk. I stayed put.

I could hear the conversation. The guys seemed really nice. They checked Adam’s license, medical card and e-log, they looked under our bunk (via the outdoor hatch door) for the fire hydrant and emergency triangles, checked our coupling devices, brakes, tires, lights, and more… all the stuff on a Level 1. Overall it took maybe 10 minutes – not too painful.

And we passed. Yay!

Sometimes they’ll pull a truck in for inspection if they see something out of sorts, like a burned our marker light or a low tire – and sometimes it’s just random. So when you get pulled in, it’s natural to think, “oh boy… I hope everything’s okay.” Adam and I are good little trucker kids and inspect our truck daily like we’re supposed to, but there’s always the worry that we missed something, a light burned out since our last stop, or we didn’t quite realize something was much of a problem.

Inspections are scary, no lie. But I’ll tell you what – it’s reassuring and feels pretty awesome to pass a Level 1!

So now… we got a little sticker on our window saying we passed, and they told us that’s good for about 90 days – meaning we probably won’t get pulled in for another inspection for a while. Now when we head into a weigh station, we’ll drive over the scale and past the little office and they’ll see that sticker. Cool, hey?

This clean inspection also shows up like a gold star on Adam’s and our company’s CSA (Compliance, Safety & Accountability) score. (You can pull up CSA scores for any trucking company and see how they compare to others here: https://ai.fmcsa.dot.gov/sms/)

So that’s that. I sure hope all of our inspections go that well!


Tonight I love that deep, relaxing sigh of relief. It feels good.

And hey…
If you’re interested in more details on the inspections, below is a quick description of the inspection we received and a link to see what the other levels include:

LEVEL I
North American Standard Inspection – An inspection that includes examination of driver’s license; medical examiner’s certificate and Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Certificate (if applicable); alcohol and drugs; driver’s record of duty status as required; hours of service; seat belt; vehicle inspection report(s) (if applicable); brake systems; coupling devices; exhaust systems; frames; fuel systems; lighting devices (headlamps, tail lamps, stop lamps, turn signals and lamps/flags on projecting loads); securement of cargo; steering mechanisms; suspensions; tires; van and open-top trailer bodies; wheels, rims and hubs; windshield wipers; emergency exits and/or electrical cables and systems in engine and battery compartments (buses), and HM/DG requirements as applicable. HM/DG required inspection items will be inspected by certified HM/DG inspectors.

http://www.cvsa.org/programs/nas_levels.php

Just in the nick of time.

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Looks like a nice day... that gnarly wind is invisible.

The weather is getting tricky. Adam and I squeaked out of a mess just in the nick of time on this last run, but now we’re turning around and heading right back into it. I just hope things calm and clear by the time we go through again – but I’m not holding my breath. Or letting my guard down.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t snow. The roads were dry and the sky was blue. We got held up from the invisible weather danger – the wind.

Apparently Wyoming is famous for high wind warnings. There are these giant marquees set up on the roads warning drivers of wind gust speeds. 35+ mph and we need to be careful as a high-profile vehicle. Especially if we’re loaded light or empty. But 55+ mph and we’re talking rollover risk. This is what we were facing this time. Scary stuff.

I’m finding that we are going to be facing some seriously stressful situations dealing with weather, and I’m not at all surprised by that. The worst part of it all, I think, is the decision-making process. Do I continue? Is it safe? Will I make it through without incident?

The reason these decisions are so stressful is this: no matter WHAT the situation is, if you drive into weather and roll over because of wind, or slide off the road, or slip into a jacknife – whatever – the driver is at fault. Period. There are no excuses or justifications. It simply means you made the wrong choice and shouldn’t have driven on.

Unfortunately the decision to shut down is rarely cut and dry. If we shut down every time the roads got a little rough, we’d never get anywhere. So the stressful decision-making starts coming into play, and there is always going to be some risk involved when choosing to go on. Even if conditions are only kind of bad. Even if everyone else is going on, too. And risk with these potential consequences we’re facing? Scary.

In Wyoming, we pulled over because marquees were warning of wind gusts 50+ mph. The signs stated “advise against light trailers.” We can max out at 80,000 pounds, but we were only pulling 53,000. That’s pretty light, but it’s not exactly empty, either. Decision time.

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My stomach knotted every time I saw one of these.

My first question was, “what is light, exactly?” I’ve heard several numbers, but the best explanation I’ve heard is this: if you tip over, you were too light. This means if signs say no light trailers, but your load is maxed out at 80,000 pounds, and you tip over – you were too light. I suppose you can see where I’m going with this.

The decision gets very stressful because in some situations, no matter what you choose to do, it could be the wrong choice. But you won’t know until you make it.

We were on that fine line. We parked for a few hours to see if conditions might improve, or maybe there’d just be a break in the wind with enough time to get out of danger. While we were stopped we napped (these past couple of weeks have wreaked havoc on our sleep schedules, so we’ve been grabbing naps whenever possible!). After napping, I got up and started searching for information to help me decide what to do.

Originally the wind advisories were going to lift by that evening. We could still make our delivery if we waited it out. After our nap the advisory was moved out to the following morning, so now if we waited we’d miss our delivery. The decision quickly became a little more dire, and a bit tougher. I put a post out on a facebook trucking page to get some feedback. I downloaded a few weather apps and checked them on a pretty consistent loop. I called 511. I checked the WY DOT website. I observed what kind of trucks were coming OUT of the windy section. (Double trailers and empty cattle trucks carry higher rollover risk, so they’d be the first to shut down.) How many other truckers were on the road? I wondered how heavy they were. I even walked across the road to a truck stop to question other truckers, but there wasn’t anyone in the lounge. Oh, and we’re in a loaner truck, so we don’t have a CB.

I eventually made the decision to go.

The potential wind gusts were bad, but they were going to get much, much worse. Like 70+ mph worse. This would probably CLOSE the highway down. It was also supposed to start snowing. We’d be stuck for days if we stayed. But I had to question if conditions NOW were still safe. The weatherband was listing wind gust speeds by mile marker, and the highest was 47 mph coming out of the west – at our back, which is good. While still a little sketchy, I felt this was my best window to move. It was going to get a lot worse, but I felt okay right now. I texted a fellow driver experienced with this route, and she confirmed my decision to go, but told me to go slow, and stop for a breather if needed. So off I went.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t bad at all. I hit a couple of gusty spots when the road curved southeast, catching a few cross-winds, but they only just leaned on me a little. I was receiving text updates from 511, and just 20 miles past Laramie they CLOSED the road to light trailers. It had already gotten worse. But it was behind me now.

We got out just in the nick of time.

Since then my text updates listed more closures, accidents reported, slick roads, blowing snow, black ice, reduced visibility…

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Got outta there right before this. Lucky!

Whew.

That’s all I can say about that.

And here I sit, safe and sound at our receiver getting our light leafy greens unloaded. On time.

I suppose I could’ve caught a bad gust and these leafy greens could’ve been blowin’ away with the 75mph winds, but they’re not. I took a bit of a risk, but I took the smallest I could in the situation, and came out okay.

Weather can be pretty scary! I have a feeling it’s going to be a long winter!


Tonight I love naps. I’ve never needed naps like I do with this job. Absolutely necessary, and equally wonderful.

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Took a side trip to a shop in Salt Lake City because the check engine light came on. In our loaner. Thankfully it was just a faulty DEF sensor and only put us back two hours.

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Cruisin' along.

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Backed in to the dock waiting to get unloaded.

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Whoosh! Nighttime view.

Call a tow truck

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Our first roadside "breakdown."

Did you know there are tow trucks big enough to tow a fully-loaded semi?  I was able to witness this, unfortunately it was our truck being towed.

We ran a gamut of emotions throughout this whole ordeal. First was, “Oh crap. The truck stopped working.” We were climbing a hill in Wyoming and the truck just stopped pulling. As we slowed to pull over, it just shut itself off, but thankfully we were able to get safely onto the shoulder. We stayed calm, got pulled over to the side of the road and set up our three emergency triangles first thing, watching in the mirrors as they glowed back at us in sync with our flashers.

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(Truckin’ smarticles for the day: Did you know that setting up the three triangles within ten minutes of breakdown – and spaced properly according to your position and the type of road – is a DOT requirement? If you fail to get them set up within ten minutes and there is an accident involving your truck (you get rear-ended, for example), the trucker can be, and most likely will be, held responsible. It’s a big deal to get them babies out there asap.)

So now what? It was 2am. Who do we call? We called our truck dealer first, where we just had a tune-up and oil change done. A dude answered the phone and asked a few questions. He had us try to start the truck, but it would only turn over for five seconds and just give up. The first thing we thought was, “Are we out of fuel? I hope not – that would be embarrassing.”

We were planning a truck wash, driver-switch and fill-up just 21 miles up the road in Laramie, so our tanks were running a little low. But we still had 1/8 of a tank, and our trip odometer read 1400 miles since our last fill-up. We usually get well over that. The guy on the phone had us check the tanks with a flashlight. There was still fuel in them and he described the draw bars where the fuel is pulled from. It appeared they were still covered. He also had us pump a small pump thingy by the fuel filter. He confirmed it was not a fuel issue.

“Whew. Thank goodness. So… what is it?” The guy did the best he could to help diagnose the issue over the phone and concluded it was an electrical issue. There was nothing we could do but call a tow truck and get us to a shop to have it looked at.

After a bunch of phone calls to night dispatch and truck stops, we finally got set up with a tow. At this point we were sort of numb because we weren’t sure how this was going to work. We’d already set ourselves back by a few hours and we had Friday deliveries to businesses that weren’t open on weekends. Were we going to be stuck somewhere until Monday? Or later? Would we get in and out of the shop quickly?

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That's some heavy equipment!

I watched as our tow truck driver carefully backed a lift under the front of our truck. Then he crawled underneath the lifted tractor and chained us up around our drive axles. I just kept thinking, “I would not want that job!” It took at least an hour to get us all hooked up. It was only 27 degrees as we waited outside under a cold Wyoming sky full of stars and watched the hook-up process. When our tow guy was done, we hopped our shivering bodies into the warmed-up tow truck. It was a big ol’ long-nose Peterbilt with a loud, rumbly Jake brake. It was kinda’ fun going for a ride in that monster.

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I thought our truck had a lot of buttons and gauges! This is the dash of the tow truck.

The first service station concluded it was our turbo because we heard a squeal just before the truck shut down. They couldn’t help us, but a shop across the street could. But they didn’t open for three more hours. The tow truck driver dropped our trailer nearby, then towed our tractor in back of the shop.

Nothing else can go wrong now… right? Wrong. As the tow truck driver unhooked our truck, he forgot to set the tractor brakes. Our truck slowly inched off the tow bar, jerked back and rolled off with a bounce and a slow-motion “CRACK!” Sigh… there goes our bumper. Again. We couldn’t be upset. We just both stood there in disbelief. It was turning out to be a bad day for everyone.

The shop finally opened, we spoke with the mechanic/owner guy, and he smiled. “It’s your lucky day. We’ll take a look in a little bit.” Adam and I thanked him, sat on the couch in the driver’s lounge and watched cartoons as we waited. We were tired. So, so tired. We fell asleep. Waited. We used the bathroom. Waited. We drank hot decaf coffee to help rid the chill in our bones. Waited. And waited. Huh… lucky day? Right. Four hours after they opened they finally hooked us up to their computer.

No codes. Nothing. What followed was the question, “Did you know you’re out of fuel?”

I’m sure my and Adam’s stomachs dropped simultaneously. You’ve GOT to be #&*!$@ kidding us. These mechanics were pretty certain low fuel was our issue. Well, okay. Off to the Pilot across the street to fill up a temporary tank and see if that’ll get ‘er started up.

90 gallons later and a few adjustments and we heard the truck rumble and come to life inside the garage. We were glad it was running, but aww, man… we hung our heads. We were now pretty low-spirited. Bummed. Embarrassed. And confused. We still don’t know how we used up an entire set of fuel tanks in just 1400 miles. 1400 ÷ 250 = 5.6 The significance in this equation? 5.6 mpg. We usually get close to 8. Still confused. And really? Okay, I know it’s not a car we’re driving, but you can bury a car’s fuel needle below “E” and roll into the pumps on fumes.

Lesson learned: don’t let this truck ever go below 1/4 tank, cuz the darn thing dies dead at 1/8 tank.

Onward. Sometimes it’s all you can do. This whole fiasco took a full 12 hours and we still had deliveries to make. In California. We were in Wyoming. This was going to be darn-near impossible. But we had to try. If anything, maybe we could redeem ourselves just a wee bit.

From there, Adam and I pretty much hauled ass to California. We had three deliveries that all had to be made before 11:30am local time. We arrived at our first delivery at 9:30. A little under an hour and we were off to navigate Oakland area traffic for two more stops. We honestly didn’t feel confident that we’d be able to pull it off. There were just too many variables. Construction. Traffic. Hills. Speed limits.

On the way to the second stop, Adam called and let them know we were on the way. That had to be the quickest delivery on the face of this planet, I swear. Adam checked in while I got the doors open and the load bar out of the trailer. We backed in and were unloaded in just minutes. We raced to our third and last delivery as the clock ticked away. Traffic was busy but moving. This was gonna’ be tight. We arrived at 11:30am – on the button! I literally RAN into the office, bills flailing, and checked in at their window. The lady took our bills like it was no big thing, and casually handed back a sheet with our door assignment on it. I smiled, thanked her, and calmly sauntered toward the door. Once outside, I sprint-skipped toward the truck in celebration while waving the paper in the air to let Adam know we made it. We did it.

What another crazy experience. This job is never dull, that’s for sure.


Tonight I love bungee cords. Without them we would currently be bumper-less!

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Check that out! He's underneath hooking up chains! Eek!

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