When the interstate closes down

What do you do when the interstate closes down? Two options: sit and wait or find an alternate route. If there is one.

We had the opportunity, for lack of a better term, to do both on this week’s run. And all the “thanks” goes to Wyoming’s wild, insane spring-winter weather. And when I say spring-winter, I mean… blizzard. (A little on the terrifying pileups that occurred due to this blizzard in a minute.)

First we were heading west. The westbound lanes of I-80 shut down due to winter conditions, but the eastbound lanes remained open. Why it stays open one direction and not the other, I don’t know.

We were stopped in Cheyenne, and we had no alternate routes available, unless we turned around and drove a full day’s worth of miles back where we came from. So we sat and waited. For ten hours. If I were a solo driver, this might’ve been perfect, because I could just be off duty, taking my required 10-hour break for the day. (One of these times I’m going to write about hours of service rules, but it’s confusing, so I’m not going to get into it just yet.) Well, since we’re a team, our loads are designed and planned to keep us rolling pretty constantly. So sitting for ten hours can really throw us off. We were now facing the potential of late deliveries.

As soon as I saw that the road had opened that morning, I took off running. It was about 9 am central time. I booked it. Our truck is governed at 65 mph, which means that’s the fastest I can make this puppy go (unless we’re coasting downhill). So I drove 65 when it was safe to do so, after getting through the sketchy, newly-opened section of highway between Cheyenne and Laramie. We normally drive 60 mph for better fuel mileage and less stress. Anyway, with a cruising straight-shot from Cheyenne, WY to our first delivery in Fremont, CA, we made it… with about a half-hour to spare.

image

Photo cred - Wyoming Highway Patrol

So, oh my gosh, the pileups… It wasn’t long after we head out from Cheyenne when I received a text update saying that the same stretch of road that just opened to let us through was closed again. Another round of storm was coming through. A full-on blizzard. Then the texts started mentioning crashes. I later learned that there were three pileups involving 40-50 commercial vehicles and 20 passenger vehicles. As far as I know there were no fatalities, but there were several injuries. I saw a couple of video clips that made me nearly throw up. It showed trucks driving into the pileup and you could hear the metal crunching as they did. Visibility was so low, that by the time they could see what was happening, it was too late. Some drivers were driving obviously way too fast. A few were able to stop in time, just to be rear-ended and pushed into the pile by someone behind them. Scary as hell.

We missed that pileup by two hours.

If you’re okay watching crashes, you can see one of the videos I’m referring to here.

After all of that unneeded excitement was well behind us, we had a Friday full of near-miracle on-time deliveries and an unusual early pick-up before heading out on our way back towards Wisconsin. Everything was going well. Then guess what? We drove into Wyoming again. We already had an alternate route planned north out of Rawlins to avoid yet another round of winter-crap weather coming through. But…

As soon as I entered the state I received an update that roads were closed east of Rawlins. Four miles from Rock Springs (about 100 miles from Rawlins) I got another update: “I-80 Eastbound closed at Rock Springs due to winter weather emergency.” That’s where I was!

I had to act fast. There was a truck stop in four miles. I pulled in, but I wasn’t the first to have that idea. It was a cluster… mess. There were trucks waiting on the road to turn into the small truck stop from every direction, and once I got into the parking lot, it was like a tight maze of tractor-trailers to navigate around. It. Was. Nuts.

I do need to mention, that besides the one A-hole CRST driver that was yelling at the poor lady trying to direct traffic, all the truckers were working together and it made me feel all fuzzy inside. Trucks were waiting for others to come through, and where there were just a few spots left for parking, there were a bunch of guys helping spot others backing in. It was crazy, and the space was tight for so many big trucks going in all different directions, but it was cool to see everyone working together. I love group camaraderie. Like I said – fuzzies. :)

So anyway, Adam got up, we were able to back into one of the precious parking spots, we studied maps, road conditions and weather before settling on what we thought was a pretty good route. And then our weekend dispatcher called us before we even had a chance to call them and let them know what was up! That was pretty darn cool!

image

Alternate routes sometimes provide the best scenery!

Our new route was scenic, and we crossed the Continental Divide Trail somewhere. We even stopped at a pullout about where it would’ve crossed. I ran down the road hoping to see a trail marker, but didn’t. It was hiding around there somewhere. I could feel it!

image

The CDT is near by. Somewhere.

So that’s what happens when the interstate shuts down. Even though I was super-anxious and stressed while we waited for ten hours, this is probably the best scenerio. First, the decision whether or not to continue in dangerous conditions is made for you. There’s no, “should I/shouldn’t I.” Second, you don’t have to worry if your alternate route is going to be any better. Or worse. And third, it’s usually closed for good reason. Like major pileups. I hope to forever avoid those. Forever.


Tonight I love not winter.

image

Another super-pretty Wyoming alternate route photo.

image

And this one. So hard to believe we are avoiding winter weather just south of us when it looks like this!

image

The CDT ends up on that road at some point. Maybe I should've started walking! That's one way to avoid driving in the winter!

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)

Advertisements

It’s been one, whole, exciting year!

image

Cue cheesy photo of me with the truck!

Well, I’ve been driving truck now, professionally, for V&S Midwest Carriers for one year. Time flies! In honor of my one-year anniversary, I’m going to share a list I’ve come up with that pretty much sums up how I’ve been able to endure such a lifestyle like over-the-road trucking. It really just comes down to how many similarities there are between living on the road as a trucker, and living on the trail as a thru-hiker.

While there’s a few big things that are different between thru-hiking and truck driving, there are way more things that are similar, so yeah. The transition really wasn’t too tough. And when it comes time to do another thru-hike? I’ll be ready to roll. Well, mostly. I will probably just need to buy more Ramen noodles.

Anyway, the list – I’ll start with the differences, because there’s only a few.

Differences between truck driving and thru-hiking:

¤ Truck: You try to eat as little as possible even though there is food practically everywhere.
¤ Hike: You try to eat as much as possible even though the only food available is the limited amount that you can carry.

image

Trucker breakfasts should be hiker breakfasts. And vice versa.

¤ Truck: Makin’ money! And the further you go, the more you make.
¤ Hike: No income. And the further you go, the more money you spend, and the more depleted your savings becomes.

¤ Truck: There are only very specific places to stop and rest when driving a big rig.
¤ Hike: You can stop and plant your butt anywhere you want to take a rest. And it’s probably much quieter and most likey more scenic.

image

Trucker break in a designated parking space at a truck-friendly location.

image

Hiker break. On the poop trap of an outhouse. Yes. Anywhere...

image

Even up in a tree. Why the heck not? A break's a break!

Yeah, that’s pretty much it for differences.

Similarities between truck driving and thru-hiking:

¤ You go-go-go until you get as far as you can go… then crash and sleep hard.

¤ Sleeping takes place in a very small space.

image

Small space. Yep!

image

Small space. Yep again!

¤ It may be several days before you get a shower.

¤ A map is necessary for daily navigation.

¤ You are always on the move.

¤ Finding creative places/ways to pee is part of the adventure.

image

Being on the road offers some interesting choices. It's better than a bottle!

¤ So is finding creative places/ways to poop.

image

No. Not here!

¤ There is a special camaraderie between your fellow truckers/hikers.

¤ You sleep in a new place every night.

¤ The next week’s itinerary may be altered due to weather relatively far away from where you are now.

¤ You must be prepared for more than your average car drive or day hike.

¤ Thru-hikers: “Phsssh. Dayhikers.”
Truckers: “Phsssh. Four-wheelers.”

¤ Truckers have CB handles, and thru-hikers have trail names. Bonus: If you’re a thru-hiker and a truck driver, you can use the same name for both.

image

Toots on trail.

image

Toots on the road.

¤ Shaving gets the dirt off my legs. Yep, believe it or not – this one carried over into truckin’. It’s a dirty job sometimes!

image

Hiking does make the legs dirtier than trucking, though. And I miss it.

¤ The two worst times to get lost are either hiking in the woods or driving a big rig.

¤ Zero days, or days off, usually consist of chores to get you ready to move again.

¤ And best of all – they’re both pretty awesome.

image

Trail? Awesome.

image

The road? Also awesome.

I’m sure there’s more similarities, too. We’re still having a good time out here, and now that winter is nearly over, things are feeling a little easier, or at least a little less stressful.

And we’re just going to keep going. Adam and I came up with this grand scheme sometime in 2010 or 2011. First we needed to downsize and get rid of most of our “stuff.” So we did. We moved into a tiny, cheap studio apartment, saved money, quit our jobs, thru-hiked the PCT, I got my CDL, now we drive truck together. Our current mission is to pay off credit card and student loan debt until we have zero debt. Zero. We’ve already paid off a couple of credit cards, and we have a long ways to go, but we’re getting there. Things are still going according to plan, and it feels really good. We are both very proud of how hard we’ve worked (and played) to get to where we are.

So what’s next? We don’t know… well, the truth is that we don’t know what we’d choose! But we have lots of time to dream, scheme, and discuss. For right now, we’ll just keep on keepin’ on. We like our job, our company, and where we’re going, so… Onward!


Tonight I love a working ABS light. Waiting hours at a shop to have one fixed is not very much fun. It does, however, give me time to blog. :)

image

Truckin'. :)

image

One of my favorite road shots.

image

One year! Here's to many more! :)

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)

Forest fun and a muddy butt

image

The first mile. Fresh and SO happy to finally be out for a nice, long solo hike!

It started with blue sky and sunshine. 50 degrees. Early spring leafless trees allowing views through the forest. Echoes across the sky from sandhill cranes and Canada geese. Twirty birds – robins, chickadees, red-wing blackbirds. A single cricket. Snow-free, leaf-crunchy trails. Mud. It ended with a breeze and overcast sky. Sprinkles of cool rain falling from the sky.

Monday was my day off, and Adam had some shows he wanted to watch, so I took off to the woods. I head towards my go-to for last-minute hiking because it’s so familiar and I love it – the northern unit of Kettle Moraine along the Ice Age Trail. I know the trailheads, distances between them, and a few side trails. I can just head there and plan my hike on the way.

I started at Butler Lake and hiked north. When I got to the Parnell Trail, I veered off and climbed the lookout tower. It was still a very clear day at that point, so I was able to see Lake Michigan from up there! What a treat!

image

Tower stairs

image

The view from Parnell tower.

I continued along the Parnell loop back towards the Ice Age Trail, and that’s where I slipped in the mud-covered leaves, going downhill. I figured I’d fall a few times with how muddy and slippery the trail was, but this was the only time. I landed softly on my elbow and right butt cheek. It was one of those feet-go-up, butt-goes-down kind of falls, and it made me laugh. I love spring. It’s my favorite season, and the mud is one of my favorite parts about it. My ultimate favorite is the limey-green leaf buds and new flowers that start popping out – the ones that haven’t quite opened their eyes to the season yet. I was a little early for that, but I was able to get really acquainted with the mud. By way of my butt. It was okay to get dirty. That’s one of the bazillion reasons I hike.

image

Muddy bum!

Lunch was on a log around a cold fire ring. Tortilla with pepperoni, sausage, and cheese. And apple and seltzer water. Starburst. Chocolate. I continued on the trail northward for a couple more miles after lunch, then turned around and head back towards the car.

On the way back the sky darkened. I wasn’t expecting rain, so I turned airplane mode off on my phone and checked the weather. Hmmm. 40’s and rain coming. My rain jacket? In the car. Whoops. I didn’t look far enough ahead on the weather when I checked it earlier, so I missed the whole rainy part of the forecast. 

About three miles from the car it started to sprinkle. I’d already hiked about 12 miles, but I was feeling great. So I started to jog. I had my synthetic jacket in my pack, so I would’ve been able to stay warm (just not dry), but if I could avoid getting wet, then why not try? Especially if I still had a little energy? I jogged most of the last three miles, and the few sprinkles that came down during that time were welcomed.

image

Grey sky, a tiny bit of sun, and a cool way to end the day.

I got to the car, unloaded my pack, sat down, shut the door, and it started to pour rain. Yes! Perfect. A perfect day in the woods. My whole self felt rejuvinated as I just sat for a few minutes, felt my breaths, and watched the rain trickle down the windshield.

My muscles felt fatigued, my feet were a little sore, my shoulders ached from carrying an ill-fitting day pack, but it was all perfect. Because my mind was clear, my eyes were bright, and I had a smile on my face.

image

Happily tired. Best feeling ever.

Yep, hiking is a pretty serious addiction, and I don’t get nearly enough of it. Ever. But when I do, it’s pretty awesome. I don’t think I’ll be trying to quit any time soon, either. More. I need more.


Tonight I love mud. The squishy sound of my footsteps on a muddy trail gives me goosebumps because I love it so much.

image

Mud caked on my shoes. Mmm, cake.

image

Trekking poles can double as leaf collectors.

image

An adorable little bird nest. It was empty.

image

Purple brambly pickers. Scratchy, but really colorful!

image

The details in small things are amazing.

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)