Yesterday on the road – a typical driving day.

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Just driving along. For hours. And hours. It's pretty awesome.

A while back I wrote a blog entry describing a typical delivery day. Well, it actually wasn’t that typical, but I don’t know that there is really any sort of “typical”out here in the trucking world. But it’s another day on the job, so I suppose in that way it’s sort of typical. Anyway, I’ve been meaning forever to write a similar entry of a “typical” day on the road. On delivery days we’re driving around to a bunch of locations, backing into dock doors, dealing with receivers, shippers, forklift drivers, and other truckers. We’re driving through towns, dealing with midday city traffic, and overall there’s a lot going on. During a driving day it’s a little more mellow, but I still don’t think it’s boring. At least not yet!

Here’s how yesterday’s drive went for me:

12:00 midnight – 1:15 am
At midnight my alarm clock goes off. I hit snooze twice. Some things never change. At 12:30 I finally slowly roll myself up into a sitting position and stretch my arms to wake myself up. I change out of my pajamas and into a set of workout clothes I have hanging on a bungee cord “clothes line” on the top bunk. I do a workout called the “Drop 10 workout.” 100 crunches, 90 jumping jacks, 80 lunges, 70 squats, 60-seconds of high knees, a 50-second plank, 40 jumping jacks, 30 squats, 20 high knees, and 10 push-ups.

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The bunk bungee cord clothes line.

1:15 – 2:00 am
I wash up after my workout using scent-free baby wipes (a trucker bath), change into my driving clothes (jeans, sweatshirt and tennis shoes), take my vitamins, drink a bottle of water and eat my breakfast. This morning I have steel cut oats with chia seeds, ground flax, raisins, brown sugar, and cinnamon that soaked overnight in half soy milk and half water. It’s delicious, but I think it makes me gassy. Go figure. After breakfast I crawl up front and sit for a while with Adam as he safely putts along at 20 miles per hour. We’re in Wyoming, it’s pitch-dark, and a light snow is falling onto a road covered in black ice. Goody. I brush my teeth and glance at my phone for any major updates.

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Here's a boring photo of my breakfast before I added the soy milk and water.

2:00 – 2:30 am
Adam pulls into the “Creepy Lincoln” rest area. We call it this because there’s a giant statue of President Lincoln’s head resting on a solid cube of stone, and it’s all lit up with yellow light at night and just looks completely creepy. But it’s got a big parking lot. He backs into a spot, and as he’s moving at only 1-1/2 miles per hour, the truck slides a little to the right. It’s icy. I get out and perform my pre-trip inspection, carefully walking around the truck so I don’t fall on my butt. Back in the truck I get my snacks within easy reach – in the netted compartment above where I sit in the driver’s seat. Adam makes me an instant decaf coffee and I get ready to roll.

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My snack cubby.

2:30 – 5:00 am
I drive. Slowly. I’ve got a big downhill to battle on icy roads, so I crawl along at 20 miles per hour, only able to get up to about 40 once the ice clears and the road turns to slushy snow instead. I munch on my first snack of the day – baby carrots and celery. In my first 2-1/2 hours driving, I only travel about 95 miles. It’s slow progress, but at least we didn’t end up jacknifed, facing the wrong direction on a downhill slope like that other truck we passed by. Scary road conditions!

5:00 – 5:15 am
We stop at a rest area where I pull up right in front of the building, run into the restroom and pee, then run back out, get in the truck and keep on driving. Adam heads to the bunk and goes to bed.

5:15 – 6:45 am
I drive on more crappy roads. Slowly. I listen to Don Quixote on Audible and find after a few days that I’m still having a really hard time staying interested in the story. It moves along pretty slow, and I’m not sure if this is supposed a comedy or what. I sip dandelion tea and snack on a mixture of almonds, walnuts and pistachios, then an apple. My eyes get droopy, and even though the roads are finally drying up, I desperately need to stop for a nap.

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Another exciting food photo. My nuts mix. 15 almonds, 1/8 cup walnuts, 1/16 cup pistachios. I count and measure so I don't eat the entire container.

6:45 – 8:00 am
I pull into a rest area, thankful that there’s an easy pull-in spot to park. I shut the truck down, put myself off-duty on our e-log system and immediately crawl into the sleeper. I unbuckle Adam’s bunk seat-belt, give him a nudge and crawl in next to him. I set the alarm to wake up in 20 minutes, but I sleep for almost an hour. I get up, head into the bathroom to take care of #1 and #2, head back out to the truck and do a walk-around inspection. I fill my mug with fresh hot water and get more snacks. After changing my duty status to driving, I roll back onto the highway. I’ve got new road conditions – thick fog.

8:00 – 11:30 am
After a slow-mileage morning and a long break, I try to drive hard. As hard as I can at 60 mph, anyway. The roads are clear now, and the sun is up behind clouds, but it’s light out. I enter into Utah and get the red light on my prepass at the Port of Entry. I pull into the scale, drive over and directly back onto the highway. I head towards Salt Lake City, climb the big hill and pull into the brake check area for a quick pee and to check my brakes before heading downhill.

11:30 am – 1:45 pm
I drive, listening to a podcast about cooking in the backcountry, another that talks about some CEO’s too-high salary (which I couldn’t really care less about), and enjoyed an awesome phone call from one of my PCT buddies, Lighthouse! I snack on more nut mix, a string cheese, and a veggie mix of mini cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. And I sip more dandelion tea.

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The tree sculpture in Utah.

1:45 – 1:50 pm
Adam gets up and sits in the passenger seat. We discuss how not much happened today except that I didn’t feel great – crampy, tired – but glad he was up with me now. I was missing his company. I pull into the Salt Flats rest area and literally run in to pee (I really had to go!).

1:50 – 2:15 pm
I drive the short distance from the rest area and cross the Utah/Nevada border to West Wendover where I pull into the Pilot truck stop fuel station.

2:15 – 2:45 pm
I fuel the truck with deisel and DEF, then pull around and park the truck. Adam does his pre-trip inspection while I hungrily devour a greek yogurt.

2:45 – 3:45 pm
It’s shower day! I put on my backpack containing my bathroom diddy bag and clean clothes and we head inside. We get a shower ticket and each take our own shower room. Afterward, I fill my coffee mug with half hot cocoa and half decaf coffee – I don’t get this a lot, but it’s a nice treat once in a while. Besides, chocolate helps cramps. Everyone knows that.

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My shirt has taken on a little wear from my seatbelt. Fashionable, eh?

3:45 – 6:00 pm
Adam drives and listens to a podcast about grammar as I write this blog with poor grammar, sitting in the passenger seat drinking my chocolately decaf coffee. I brush my teeth and faithfully floss like a good girl. It’s almost bedtime.

6:00 pm
Now I will head into the back, close the curtain that separates the sleeper from the front of the truck, crawl into bed under a couple of quilts, buckle myself in and try to fall asleep. I usually do some light exercise in the evening before bed, but decide not to tonight. I also usually read a chapter or two in my book, which is currently Star Wars – The Paradise Snare, but trade that in for this blog entry.

I managed to drive just a wee bit over 500 miles today. I was satisfied with that, considering how sketchy the road conditions were most of the morning – and how tired I felt!

The plan from here is for me to wake up in Sacramento where Adam will stop for fuel. We plan to splurge and grab breakfast there, and afterward, he’ll go to bed and I’ll drive us to our first delivery location, back into their dock, exercise in their parking lot, then if there’s time I’ll nap until I feel them roll into our trailer with the forklift. Then we’ll head right into another typical delivery day. I hope.


Tonight I love dandelion tea. It’s caffiene-free but I think I’m somehow addicted to it.

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Whew! Just a warning.

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Taking a rest in Nevada.

Getting pulled into weigh stations is a little nerve-wracking. Heading across the country, Adam and I always feel pretty confident that we’re all legal and good to go. But it’s still a thought in our minds, “what if we missed something?” There’s seriously like a million things we have to make sure are just right. What if we miss just ONE?

Of course the one time we do, the DOT notices and pulls us in.

Leaving the Fox Valley with a fresh load of paper with five planned stops in California, we had an unusually heavy, unevenly loaded trailer (due to the order in which our appointments were scheduled). Usually on the scale, if anything, we’re heavy up front (steer tires and tractor drive axles) and light on the trailer axles.

This time, however, our first delivery had 7 big pallets so the back end was pretty heavy. I had to slide the tandems to take a little weight off the trailer tires and distribute a little more on the tractor drives. I only had to slide them about three holes, and not thinking, I marked a hole 3 from the current placement with a piece of chalk. I placed a homemade stop so I’d know when I was positioned correctly. When I began to slide the trailer, it didn’t stop. I stupidly placed the stop in the front instead of the back – the wrong side. I went way past my marked hole. But now I couldn’t remember if I’d marked three from the front pin or the back one! I knew we needed less weight on the trailer so I slid the trailer forward, placing the tires closer to the back of the trailer. After reweighing, the weight was almost perfectly even between our drives and trailer tandems, so we were legal weight-wise. But visually the tandems seemed to be pretty far back.

Adam did a quick measurement by spreading his arms from the back of the trailer – our tandems were more than 6 feet from the end of the trailer, and this is usually a pretty good placement – as in legal.

Or so we thought.

There’s this thing in trucking called the bridge law. It actually has something to do with lessening the damage on bridges that heavy vehicles can cause over time. What the bridge law refers to is the distance between the king pin (the steel knob on the trailer that locks into the fifth wheel on the tractor) and a particular place on the rear axles on the trailer. But it’s complicated.

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Our trucker's atlas has this table in it. But trying to figure it out isn't so easy.

I remember them going over this briefly in school, and I remember feeling a little overwhelmed by the rule(S). Capital ‘S’ because it’s not straight-forward. At all. Each state has different parameters for the bridge law. Some measure kingpin to center of rear axle. Some measure to the center of the axle group. Some states might use the same measurement points, but the actual distance allowed is different. And a few states have a short distance, but allow more weight on the trailer. Sheesh! Confused yet!? I know I am! To top this off, of course, you can span several states in one trip. This is where Adam’s stretched-out-arms measurement came into play. Usually if the tires are more than 6 feet back, we’re legal in most states. What we didn’t count on is that out of the seven states we were traveling through, one in particular has a much smaller range. In fact, I think THE smallest of all states.

California. Sigh… California is kind of known for strict laws with CMVs. I’ve heard of truckers that won’t even enter the state because they don’t want to deal with all of the additional regulations.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming California. Everything is always our responsibility as drivers, and we should’ve known about this. It was just something we missed. Dang. And we try so incredibly hard to get this all right!

Sure enough, we get pulled in for the bridge law at the first California scale in Truckee. The same one where we received a clean full inspection not that long ago.

The officer told us we were 3 feet, 6 inches too far back! Holy smokes! He asked us to pull around to adjust them (EIGHT holes!), and when Adam asked what will happen if that puts us overweight, he replied, “that would put you out of service. But we’ll deal with that later.”

Shit! We were both pretty sure we were going to be too heavy on the trailer moving the pins eight holes, but we went ahead and moved them as instructed.

Out of service is probably the worst outcome of being pulled in at a weigh station. It means you sit there until whatever issue that placed you out of service is corrected. There can be hefty fines involved and poorly-reflecting points added to your record, as well as your company’s record. Not cool.

If they placed us out of service for being overweight, I don’t know what we’d have done. Get another truck and somehow transfer a pallet or two without a forklift? Is that even possible? Imagine the coordinating that would take, not to mention time!

We rolled over the scale, and sure enough. Our trailer axle came in at 34,600 pounds. 600 pounds over the legal amount. Oh… no. Adam went in, and since we were so close, the DOT officer let us continue on our way as is – with just a warning.

Oh my gosh. That was too close.

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They gave us this quick guide to some of the states' bridge laws. So much easier than that table in our atlas!

Lesson learned. We go to California a lot, and now we are very much aware that we can’t have the center of that rear axle any more than 40 feet from the kingpin. From now on we will be measuring if it looks even a little close to that. If we can’t get the weight right within those measurements, going back to the shipper and having the load adjusted is the better option. It’s not a fun one, and takes up lots of time, but would be better than the alternative.

We’re pretty darn happy we just got a warning and that we learned something without any major consequences. I imagine we’ll continue learning new things in this career every day we’re out here. I would just prefer they didn’t involve DOT inspections… or tow trucks! But… that’s somehow the way it goes sometimes. We’ll never be perfect, but that’s certainly not going to stop us from trying to be!


Tonight I love Evanston, Wyoming. Why? Because my jaw was on my lap as I drove through there this week. Everything was covered in a thick layer of white, sparkling frost through patchy, rolling fog and sunshine. It was incredible.

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I tried to get a photo. Hard to see here. Check out those trees! Wow.

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We had some great weather! Yay!

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Frosty!

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Utah on the way home. I love this job. I really, really do. Best office ever.

Throwing up in a truck stop bathroom.

A few months ago I was driving the big rig through town in Fremont, California after a delivery. There was a car pulled to the side of the busy street, parked at an angle, flashers on, and its passenger-side door was hanging wide open. Next to it was a lady bent over, projectile-vomiting into the grass. I thought, “what would happen if I got sick on the road?” I stopped thinking about it quickly because any scenerio I came up with just sounded… well, sucky.

I now have a little story to tell. If you don’t think you can stomach a puking story, you might not want to read on. I get long-winded as usual, and detailed because I’m kinda’ weird.

I woke up this morning at 2:23am. Usually I’m up around midnight, I exercise, eat breakfast, clean up, get dressed and I’m on the road driving around 2 or 2:30am. I don’t remember my alarm going off or anything. I do like to sleep, but it was actually a little unusual for me to sleep this late.

I swung my feet over the side of the bed and sat up. I immediately felt light headed and shaky. I laid back down, head spinning. “What the heck?” I thought to myself. I took a few deep breaths and sat up again.

“I don’t feel so good,” I said to Adam. A wave of nausea hit me. I thought maybe I was just hungry. I did a 24-hr fluid fast yesterday, which I’ve done a few times before, and each time I’ve felt good the following morning. Not this time. I don’t know if it was the fast getting to me or if I caught a bug, but I was not well.

I got up slowly, leaning against things to balance. My arms felt weak and it was a chore to get dressed. I decided I’d eat my newly-discovered yummy breakfast. Maybe I was just overly hungry. I had no trouble gobbling down my creation of steel cut oats, chia seeds, flax meal, brown sugar, cinnamon and soy milk that I soaked overnight. As soon as I was done my stomach did another somersault. My face turned clammy and my arm hairs stood on end.

“I have to go to the bathroom.”

Adam was parked at a TA truck stop where we were going to switch, so I got myself together and head inside to use the bathroom.

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve had this puking issue. I cannot seem to throw up without uncontrollably going #2 at the same time. (Is that TMI? Oops.) Anyway, no big deal, usually. I’ve adopted the obvious strategy of sitting on the throne with my head draped inside an empty waste basket sitting on my lap. Then you just dump the waste basket contents into the toilet, flush and wash the waste basket in the tub. This strategy also worked well in a hotel room during my 2013 PCT thru-hike when I caught the 24-hour flu that was traveling up the trail.

When I sat down in the bathroom, I thought, “okay, maybe I don’t have to puke. OH. WAIT. YES I DO,” as a strong wave of nausea came over me. Then it left as suddenly as it came on. I took a deep breath and looked around me at my options for the next wave that I was sure was coming. Not much around. Do I risk straying from my strategy and just toss my oats into the toilet like a normal person? But what if it doesn’t work? Okay, yeah. That’s not an option – I still have to walk past the two dudes at the penny slots (we were in NV) on my way back out to the truck.

To my right was the small metal trash can women use to toss their used feminine products. I know you’re cringing as you read this. I cringed when I thought it. I slowly opened the lid and peered inside as if I expected a clown to jump out at me. It was empty! With a fresh trash liner! Oh, thank the Lord! I pulled the super-thin, see-through bag out and inspected the seams. Looked shaky at best, but this was a better option than the alternative.

I was warding off the inevitable by placing my head down by my knees and breathing deep each time a wave hit, stronger than the previous. Finally I decided I really needed to just let it happen. I sat up, my arm hairs stood up, stomach knotted and twisted, forehead beaded with sweat, and the final stage – my mouth started to water. And there ya’ have it. Blecht!

I’m probably already crossing a line sharing my detailed puke story, so what the heck – wanna’ know the one advantage to throwing up your delicious, sweet, cinnamony breakfast within 20 minutes of eating it? It covers up the taste of the stomach acid and disgustingly still has a sort-of pleasant flavor coming back up. (Why do I find it so much fun to share these things!? Sorry, readers. I can’t help myself!)

Anyway… the bag held and I felt a ton better. I cleaned up, gargled some water and went into the store and filled my coffee mug with hot water.

Back at the truck I started to feel yucky again. “Oh, no,” I thought. “How am I going to drive?” I envisioned myself throwing up in a Wal-Mart grocery bag as I drove down the highway. This is bad.

I worked up the energy to walk around the truck to do my pre-trip inspection and get this. The dude parked next to us decided it was a good idea to dump his leftover casserole on the ground in a pukesque-looking splat. Bad timing, jerk-face. I gagged a little and stepped over it.

Back in the truck I made myself a puke bucket. I didn’t have a plan regarding my “puking issue” but at least I’d have half of my problem figured out. I used a small plastic container with two Wal-Mart garbage bags doubled up tucked inside. I put a couple of paper towels in the bottom and set it next to my seat within easy reach. If I had a sudden urge, I could grab it and do my thing efficiently.

I started driving and was doing okay. I told myself that if I got light-headed or dizzy, I’d pull over immediately. I knew there was a chance I might not be able to drive if this didn’t get better, but while I was feeling okay I thought I’d hit the road and feel out the situation. I had a few more light waves of stomach-knot, but then I just got tired. Exhausted. I pulled off at the next rest area after only an hour driving. I crawled into the bunk with Adam, cuddled up to him as close as I could and fell asleep. For two hours.

When I woke up, I noticed immediately that I felt a hundred times better. In fact, I was hungry! I ate, I drank some decaf coffee, I drove, and sang along with the radio bouncing in my seat. I was back to me just like that with no more episodes the rest of the day.

Being sick sucks. And it sucks more when you’re not in a place you’re comfortable in. I guess this is one of the little things I still need to figure out. For next time. Which I hope never comes.

I have no idea what that was all about. Flu-bug? Empty, mad tummy? Fluke-puke? Who knows… I’m just glad I didn’t have to use that rigged-up trucker’s puke bucket.

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Trucker puke bucket. Add a diaper and I'd be all set! Haha!


Tonight I love feeling good. And my oatmeal, still… which is pretty surprising.

I owe you all a pretty picture for suffering through that with me.

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The road to the sky? Utah...

Okay, a couple more:

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Adam driving at sunset.

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Sunny California.

Oh, wintery Wyoming…

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This is our current view in Wyoming, but it's windy and it looks like it's going to change very soon down the road.

Overheard at a truck stop today:

“You seen the weather comin’ through. It’s a shit storm. Wyoming’s a shit storm even when there’s no shit storm comin.'”

That made me laugh. I love this state because it’s so freakin’ pretty, but the dude’s kinda’ right. The driving conditions are always sketchy here during the winter months! Even when it’s sunny you sometimes have to watch for spots of black ice or wind gusts – or both at the same time.

We receive text messages from http://Wyoroad.info/ that lets us know of any up-to-date changes. Today they look like this:

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Like how I gave "Wyoming" a pretty photo in my contacts list? That's because I hope if I like it, it'll like us back. :)

This is certainly not the worst I’ve seen in my very limited experience so far. That experience was a couple of weeks ago. There were miles of thick ice blanketing the entire road. Some trucks drove on the rumble strip for extra traction. All the trucks, as well as a few cars that were out there, were driving no faster than 30mph with their 4-ways on.

A few trucks were spread out across the snowy median, some already being assisted by a wrecker. It knotted my stomach every time I passed one. I silently wondered if they’d been one of the few trucks that flew past going 60, but I knew even going 30 can spin you out if you move just the wrong way or need to brake quickly. I learned that in skid pad training at school.

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Eek... :(

It’s just downright freaky when the ice gets like that. After we got through there, chain laws went into effect and eventually portions of the highway were just shut down. We’ve hit some gnarly weather, but thankfully haven’t been put too far behind because of it yet. I sure hope that’s because we’re lucky and not because we’re overly-brave. I think we’re being pretty smart about our decisions. So far, so good – I keep saying that, and hopefully always will be!

As for now, this is what lies ahead beyond that beautiful blue sky:

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Is it possible to add anything else to that list!?

So onward we go. It actually doesn’t seem like that bad of a storm, to be honest. All the texts, website listings and comments overheard by other truckers might over-dramatize it all just a bit. Hmm… reminds me a little bit of thru-hiking! You just always have to remember that the rumors and warnings could be true, proceed with caution, and know when to stop or turn around. (link takes you to my PCT entry when a snowstorm stopped us 60 miles from the Canadian border and the end of our 2,660-mile trek.)

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But again, right now… it’s gorgeous out there. Just gonna’ enjoy that sunny warmth while it’s here!


Tonight I love Audible and stories of travel and drifters. “I like songs about drifters, books about the same. They both seem to make me feel a little less insane.” -Modest Mouse