Burned out, crispy-fried style

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It’s 6-1/2 hrs past my bedtime, I’m awake and exhausted after cleaning out a loaner truck (ours is waiting on a part), moving all of our crap and getting a quick lesson in the nuances of an auto transmission, because that’s what our loaner is. We are on a streak of too many small things going wrong – one after another. I want to list all of these things that put us here, in this state of almost catatonic distress. I mean, it’s like someone suffering from hypothermia and they’re at the point where they’re either going to rip all their clothes off and roll in a snowbank or be at total peace. I don’t quite know what stage we’re at, and I’m a little nervous to find out if anything else goes wrong. You see, there’s this camel… and this straw…

Anyway, I want to explain it. I want to write it out. I want to list all these little things that have gone awry in the past three weeks because it seems like it would be somehow therapeutic. Or by making all of you feel sorry for me I’ll somehow feel better. But that’s not fair. And it’s depressing. And I just can’t. I wouldn’t know where to start anyway. Or what to include. And I know I’d miss too many things. And I’d just verify that I’m a big, whiny baby. Which, by the way, I feel I deserve to be. Go ahead and judge me.

I’m just in kind of a bad spot emotionally. I’ve never exhausted my positivity before, but this time I’m closer than ever. I’ve tried reminding myself that things don’t always go as you plan them and that it’s all going to be okay. I know things could always be worse. I know there are silver linings. I know I can choose to not let it bother me. But I’m exhausted from having to pep-talk myself for so many days in a row. It feels like I’ve been lying to myself and I’m to the point where I don’t trust myself anymore. If I just breathe deeply and say, “it’s all going to be okay. It could always be worse. There could be a dead rat in my bed,” you know what’s going to happen? I won’t have a dead rat in my bed, but something else totally unexpected will happen instead and the next time I tell myself it’s all going to be okay I’m not going to believe myself. I already don’t. There’s been too much repetition here. I’m damaged and desperately need a break from it.

Indulge me while I attempt to describe our most recent example of frustrating bad luck. Just one. Promise. :

Our day running errands doesn’t go as planned (a whole story in itself). It just takes too long and I’m going to get to bed later than I should. We get to the truck and unload everything only to realize there’s a random truck part sitting on our dash. When we question the shop about it, the techs tell us, “oh yeah… those check-engine lights that have been coming on? We found a problem [finally] and you need a new part that we can’t get in until tomorrow.” Okay, but we need to pick up our load and get going tonight. So we get a loaner truck. It’s an automatic, which we aren’t used to driving, but we’ll get used to it. Because we now have to. And fast.

We get to the truck and find that there wasn’t enough time for it to be cleaned so it smells like cigarettes and is grimy in the corners and just dirty. It’s getting further past my bedtime as I clean the yellow goo out of the refrigerator, generously apply Lysol to everything and douse the mattress in Febreeze. Then we move all of our stuff in. Now it’s a rediculous amount of time past my bedtime. I almost might as well just stay up at this point. But I’m a driver and need to sleep when ever the hell I have the chance, as it turns out. We plug in the alarm clock and the APU (the power unit) just blinks on and off. We call a tech over and he can’t figure it out. We can drive it without the APU, so we just give up on it and go with fingers crossed that the week goes alright.

So I’m overtired and burned out. Like crispy-fried and charred. I think at some point I’m going to snap. What will happen? I don’t even know. Maybe it’ll unexpectedly snow so much in Wyoming that when we drive through I’ll say to hell with everything, rip all of my clothes off and roll around in a snowbank on the side of the road. I still have my sense of humor… that’s good, right?

(And seriously. It better not snow on this trip.)

I wrote this a couple of days ago, and here is an afterthoughts:

First, it didn’t snow in Wyoming. See, good things!

Second, I know this will pass. I’m just done tuckered out. Soon I will make a happy post because I want to write about a happy place that I’ll soon be visiting – my parent’s back yard. And that is just what I need to get through this funk, along with maybe a new truck. Which, excitingly, I might be writing about soon, too! So in the end, guess what? I’m feeling… well… optimistic. And that feels so much better.

Thank you, dear readers and followers for your concerns and kind comments when I’m struggling (and when I’m not). I read them all and really do appreciate them. It helps. For real. So thank you.


Tonight I love my jump rope. It kicks my butt when I really need it.

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)

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Refocus

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I want to credit this photo, but can't remember where I found it, which was on the interwebs somewhere a few years ago. This is how I've been feeling. That's a miserable little Robin.

It’s time to refocus. Why are we doing this again? This job is hard. It’s a lot of work, a lot of hours and we don’t get much time off. And even though we’re in this truck together, “together time” is actually pretty hard to come by. The majority of the time, one of us is driving while the other sleeps. Then we switch. Switch again. Repeat.

We work until we burnout, cry, feel angry and want to blame the world for our poor luck. We make plans to restart ourselves over our “weekend,” which rarely works. These “weekends” have been consisting of a Monday afternoon and a Tuesday morning, and that’s it. Our plans are made with just enough time to fit in laundry, grocery shopping, sleep, and if we’re really lucky, a movie and ice cream.

God forbid we make “real” plans. “This weekend, let’s just get a hotel for two nights and relax.” Or “this weekend, let’s hang out with friends.” Or, “this weekend, lets tell our family to drive three hours for a visit.” Then the truck breaks down. Or our back haul is a late pick-up with a Monday delivery in Milwaukee shortening our already short weekend. Our “real” plans are cancelled and we’re back to the basics – scramble to get laundry done. Shopping. Shower. Sleep – maybe. And back to work.

It might seem like we’re lucky because we get this special “home time” every week, but I’m not so sure. Normal over-the-road truckers usually get their 34-hour resets on the road somewhere. They park the truck at a truck stop, wash laundry, shop, relax in the truck with a movie, go for a walk, shower… in a place where that’s all they can do. Being home every “weekend” for us means do all that and try to see our family and friends on top of it all. Because we love them and miss them and we really, really want to. And then we just pray they all understand when we can’t. Or just don’t have the energy. Or choose to hibernate in an expensive hotel room by ourselves instead. And appear to be anti-social hermits.

Yeah, it’s a really tough job. Again I ask myself, “why are we doing this?”

Refocus, Robin. There are reasons.

• First of all, we are no longer living paycheck to paycheck. For the first time in our lives. This feels good.

• We are paying off our large amounts of credit card and student loan debt the responsible way. By working our butts off to pay back what we spent before we had the money to spend what we spent. (We take a lot of pride in this and have learned a huge lesson in all of it… which is a whole other subject.)

• It’s an adventure. (I think this is my favorite reason.)

• We might not be “together” every moment, feet on the dash singing road-trip songs in unison while flying down the road in the sunshine blaring the air horn at all the passing kids pumping their arm at us (although, we will pull the air horn when it’s safe to do so). But we are together. We’re working as a team, and we make a damn fine team, might I add.

• The scenery. I love this scenery. This “office” window is pretty much the coolest and beats out a cubicle wall every day of the week.

• We’re mobile. We’re moving. Literally – and more importantly, figuratively – forward.

• We’re going somewhere. Besides to California to deliver palettes of paper. We’ve got a million plans. Fun plans. Some we’ll do, some we won’t, but we’re working towards bigger things. (Maybe this is my favorite reason.)

It’s so incredibly hard. I constantly try to stay positive and focus on the good times and fun parts, and usually I succeed. But sometimes, like now, I fail and wallow in comfortable negativity. To be honest – damn. It’s difficult to keep doing this some days. Weeks. I like to think that I’m a pretty mentally-tough chick, and I guess that’s a good thing, because I have to be out here.

So, as burnout chases us down the road, gains on us at light speed, we run. We trip. We fall. We slowly get back up with tears in our eyes, scraped knees, bruises and a splitting headache, then brush ourselves off, find a way to take a damned vacation more than a half day, and hit the road again until we can do it all over again.

Refocus.

We’re going somewhere.

Enjoy the good parts, no matter how insignificant they seem, or how short-lived they are, and keep brushing off the crap and moving foward.

Sigh. Right now we could just use a couple of weeks to run smoothly to keep us from going insane.

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Or I could find a cheap teddy bear and rip its fuzzy little head off. That might work, too.


Tonight I love humor. ‘Cause sometimes that’s all ya’ got. Onward.

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)

Broken truck? Just add water.

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Roadside break-downs aren't fun.

So you know that truck, pulled over on the side of the highway, followed by three emergency triangles, and smoke billowing out from the engine compartment? Yeah, the gray one? The one desperately trying to get over the pass before the rain turns to snow and chain laws go into to effect? Yep. That would be us. How did you guess!?

After further inspection and a call to our super-awesome and patient maintenance guy, we determined that the coolant was low. We were just overheated. In the snow. But why? It was fine during Adam’s pre-trip inspection.

Adam filled the coolant reservoir with every bottle of water we could find in the truck, but not until after boiling coolant came pouring out from the cap like a volcano. A scary scene for me from inside the truck. He was totally fine, by the way. It was just a wee bit too hot and still had a wee bit too much pressure in the reservoir. Once the water was added we head out again only to be stopped in 30 miles by the “check engine” light again. At least it came on seconds before the entrance to the Donner summit rest area! Yay, something went our way. Sorta.

It was snowing pretty good by this point. We inspected the engine compartment once again and discovered a steady drip of our precious pink coolant coming from the bottom of the radiator. Yeah, probably not a good thing.

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Working on our coolant issue in the craptastic winter wet yuckiness.

We had to make it 50 more miles to a TA truck stop near Reno where there was a maintenance shop. To prepare for the journey, we carried every bottle we had into the rest area and filled them up with bathroom sink water. Just in case. We emptied and refilled a washer fluid bottle, filled our two gallon jugs of drinking water, about 16 small water bottles, two thermoses  and even the coffee pot. That was all after Adam added another two gallons to the coolant reservoir, which was clearly lower than it was an hour prior. Our leak was nothing small. Off we went with fingers crossed!

And we made it. The initial diagnosis by the mechanic was a crack in the radiator or a bad seal, but either way we had to sit until morning when another mechanic could tear it apart to confirm one or the other as the cause of our bad leak.

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At least we got a good parking spot!

We did what any trucker would do near a casino when the truck is going to be down for hours. We ate. We thought about gambling for about one second and decided it might not be the best of times to do anything based on luck. But the meal was delicious and made us temporarily as happy as peacocks.  And I hear peacocks are pretty darn happy. Then we slept to await the morning when the world woke up to help us out.

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Seriously one of the best omelettes I've had. Thank you, casino 24-hr diner!

Morning came and the first thing we encountered was the mechanic telling us they found a radiator and he was going to replace it. The part wasn’t there yet, but he started tearing it apart in preparation and to check it out a little closer. We have a leaky seal and it’s a manufacturing issue.

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Jim the mechanic working under the hood, takin' things apart.

The rest of the day went like this:

Call dispatch and maintenence to let them know we got a radiator and they’re going to replace it. 5-6 hours. Easy-peasy.

Wait. Nope. Mechanic updates us with bad news. The new radiator can’t be pulled from inventory until Monday. Oh, and the truck is no longer driveable.

More phone calls with dispatch and maintenance.

We work out a hundred alternate plans.

We could stay in Sparks until Monday and haul ass home, drop this trailer, pick up a new one and haul ass directly back to California with hopes we could make the deliveries on time. (Adam and I get a little excited about this option. Two days off in a new city? Two full days? Whoa.)

Mechanics start looking for a radiator in other places so maintenence can decide which would be better – pay for a new radiator (not an under-warranty version like the one we’d  get Monday) or get a loaner truck.

Meanwhile, dispatch basically approves our staying until Monday, but seriously ten seconds after the mechanic tells us they found a different radiator that IS still covered under our warranty.

We pout and laugh at our good luck that they found a radiator, and our bad luck at missing out on a fun weekend on the road with a random stay at a hotel, eating at diners, maybe embibing in a drink or two and gambling. And probably laundry and lounging, too.

Oh well. Instead we shower, eat at the Black Bear Diner, hang out in the tucker’s lounge and play on our phones while half-way watching a TV cop show. That’s where I am right now.

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Trucker lounge. We love stupid tv.

Next up? I exercise and go to bed. Truck gets finished and Adam hits the road and we’re off once again.

Oh, the troubles in trucking. It seems as though there’s always something to keep it interesting. Now what do we do with the 15 gallons of water in random bottles and jugs sitting in our truck? Anyone thirsty?

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Here's a few examples of our water stash.


Tonight I love warm lava cake and ice cream.

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)

I am meant for walking.

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These two feet... I love them.

One day, I won’t have a car. Or a truck. Or a bike. Or anything else mechanical that can break, run out of fuel or cost money to keep up. I will walk. When I feel thirsty, I’ll drink. When I feel low on energy, I’ll eat. When my body feels broken, I’ll rest. I’ll sleep under the twinkling stars and a milky-way blanket, clouds, rain, wind and snow. I’ll daytime-nap in shady spots and sometimes right in the warmth of the sun. I’ll wander off to nowhere, but at the same time I’ll be going everywhere. Anywhere. One day, I’ll walk into the sunrise. And the sunset. Off into the mountains. The plains. The road. Desert. Salt flats. Endless miles of sagebrush alongside the rabbits, antelope and wild mustangs. My feet and legs will carry me, my mind and passions will guide me, and my soul will soak in as much of the land’s natural creation as it can hold. It will overflow always, constantly being filled with something new. I will go where I need, and I will seek the unknown. Always.

I was meant for walking, and one day, that is all I will do.

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Some day, this is what I will live. I have dreams that I can't ever let go of. It's part of my being.


Tonight I love freedom.

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)