Saturday, March 11, 2017

A Question

I got a call today from a friend wondering if a person sitting back three car lengths from the car ahead of them at a stop light was a bit excessive.  Somebody’s pet peeve. 

Ok, three car lengths may be excessive, but… Is it really three car lengths, or does it just look like it?  Some traffic lights are long enough that maybe you could get out and measure.  I generally sit an extra car length back, with the distance I normally keep between me and the next car, plus the distance from that car to the car in front of him, which works out to two car lengths.  With a car length being about 15 feet, it’s a total of 30 feet.  Yes, we actually measured it a number of years ago. 

So, here are my reasons for sitting two car lengths back.

If there’s a car in front of me at the light, I’m not going anywhere anyway.  A couple of situations from here in Colorado:
A)   Texting and driving is illegal in Colorado, but people still do it.  I was in Denver not too long ago and when the light turned green, nobody moved; they were busy on their phones.  I love the air horns on my trucks!   So the “delay” that may occur from an increased gap is exaggerated by people sitting. 
B)   In Fort Collins I pulled up to a red light behind some cars.  There was a set of railroad tracks immediately in front of me so I sat back off of the tracks, behind the crossing arm, about three car lengths from the car in front of me.  The SUV behind me started honking and gesturing for me to move forward.  If I did that I would have ended up stopping on the tracks under the front crossing arm.  I wouldn’t do it.  We weren’t going anywhere anyway.  You should NEVER, EVER stop on railroad tracks.  Never.  Period.  I saw a Ft. Collins police car behind said honky, and went back to talk to the officer.  As I walked past the honky’s SUV, he started to get out, yelling and cursing at me to move my vehicle.  A few moments later he was chatting with the police officer and had to sit through a few light cycles.  Impatience never pays.

Assaults or hijackings.  Sitting back from the car in front of me, it gives me room in case I’m attacked.  Not all cars have automatic door locks, so if somebody tried to jerk the door open, I have room to pull forward and somewhat evade the attacker.  If he were to come after me, I then have room to back up and smack him with the door.  This is the first and fastest option to protect myself.  I carry a can of pepper spray with me, which is totally legal in all vehicles in Colorado, but with my luck I’d spray myself.  A gun would be a last resort in close quarters like that; too much chance of an innocent person getting seriously hurt.

Getting hit from behind.  Too many cars sit right on the tail of the car in front of them. If the last car in a line gets hit, the domino effect would cause all of the cars to hit each other.  I’ve seen that a number of times.  If a car came up from behind and hit the car(s) behind me, with my foot on the brake of my car, it would lessen the likelihood of my hitting the car in front of me.  Unlike a Newton’s Cradle, cars have crumple zones that would absorb much of the impact force.  I am counting on that and physics to keep me from hitting the car in front of me.

Maybe there’s other reasons for a car to be sitting back three car lengths: They’re talking to the car next to them?  They don’t want to block a driveway?  The driver is really olde and can’t see the car in front of them?  (Don’t laugh, you’ll be olde one day!)  Maybe they know it’s YOU and know it’s a pet peeve of yours? 

Considering the world we live in, is it really that big a deal? 

And just so you know, my pet peeve is people who don’t turn off their auxiliary driving lights on their vehicles.  But let’s leave that for another debate.

Take care and keep the rubber side down. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

It Finally Happened.

Well, it finally happened.

Back in 1982, after a car crash, I was diagnosed with a broken neck, or what they call "The Hangman's Break", which is between the C1-C2 vertebrae.   Consequently I had surgery which has held up very well, thank you for asking. 

However, the doctor told me that there was some damage done to the disc between the 5th and 6th vertebrae.  There wasn’t anything that he would recommend doing at that time, but, he said, it wasn’t a matter of “if”, it was a matter of “when”, that disc would cause problems. 

In October of 2016, as I was getting into the company truck, a Mack, I smacked my head on the upper door frame.  Normally I have enough clearance, but since the company mandated we wear hardhats on company property, I didn’t have enough clearance.  Ouch!  The impact gave me an instant sore throat, such as what strep would feel like.  Normally when I get hurt the pain subsides; on this day that was not the case.  After a couple of deliveries I contacted dispatch and asked them if we could rearrange my schedule so I could forego the last delivery and see a doctor.  They decided to contact the safety dude, who, long story short, took me up to the hospital emergency in Greeley.  End result, no strep, and they couldn’t determine what was wrong.  Because of that, workman’s comp wouldn’t cover any further doctor visits. 

However, I kept having problems, my arms were constantly hurting, and it became an issue.  If I pushed too long and too hard, my arms would feel like somebody doused me in gasoline and set me on fire.  Horrible pain.  So I took matters into my own hands, and went to see a doctor on my dime and insurance. 

I have deterioration in the discs between the 5th, 6th and 7th cervical vertebrae, arthritis, and bone spurs.  The doctor put me on light duty and suggested Physical Therapy.  The company didn’t have any light duty work for me, so they put me on six weeks of unpaid medical leave until I could figure things out. 

The PT is helping me learn to use the other vertebrae in my neck to offset the abuse the 5th, 6th and 7th vertebrae have taken.  It has helped, but, it cannot fix that which is already messed up.  If I go back to driving, the abuse would continue and my neck would only get worse. 

I can opt for surgery, which entails putting rods in my neck to take the pressure off of the discs, but that would secure those three vertebrae together and limit the amount of movement I would have.  That would basically make it impossible for me to turn my head to look out the side windows of the truck at the mirrors. 

Either way, I have to get out of trucking.

My last day at Pilot Thomas Logistics was March 2.  There were a lot of good people there that I will miss.  Also, having to get out of trucking is like losing a close friend of 35 years.  Tough.

So my “if” finally became the “when”. 

I have a number of irons in the fire.  I am taking a Jewelry and Metalworking class at AIMS Community College in Greeley to pursue my passion for bling.  The class is outside my comfort zone, which is good, because it means I am learning stuff that I don’t know.  I hope to expand that to some level of a commercial enterprise.  I also have a storage facility full of thick cut lumber for tables and furniture which I have been working. 

Wish me luck, keep me in your prayers, stay in touch, and if you need a custom piece of furniture or jewelry, give me a shout. 

In the meantime, keep the rubber side down. 

Take care and God bless. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

It's Been A Year...

Since "IT" happened, April 7, 2014.

I had a load to Avon and head west on I-70, and above Georgetown there were scattered snow showers but no accumulation.  I had checked the CDOT 511 road conditions hotline to see if US-6/Loveland Pass was open.  If Loveland Pass was closed, as we say in the trucking industry, I would have to "go through the hole in the wall", which is Eisenhower Tunnel.  But since Loveland Pass was opened with no chain restrictions, I got off at exit 216 to "go over the top",

As I turned the corner on US-6 at the Loveland Ski Area, the snow started falling hard and fast, almost white-out conditions.  It was a heavy, wet snow, with the temperature sitting at 26 degrees Farenheit; not a good combination.  Warmer, and the snow would melt as you drive on it.  Colder, and the snow would be light and fluffy, easy to drive on or through.  But under these conditions, the snow packs under the tires and turns to ice.  Very difficult to get and maintain traction.   

The next sharp curve was Cabin Corner, where supposedly there was once a cabin, hence the name.  Since it is a hairpin corner, I had to drop my speed.  After I made the corner, the road conditions and traction really went to the dogs.  I was about halfway from Cabin Corner to the Windy Point hairpin when I lost all traction.

There are a lot of "tricks" that we can use to maintain speed and traction, such as slowing down and using lower gears, driving on the shoulder, and kicking in the "power divider", which is the trucking equivalent of four-wheel-drive.  I must know something about what to do, because in the 10 years of driving a fuel tanker, I've only had to put chains on the truck tires eight times, and two of those times were to get out of a customer's parking lot in Keenesburg, which is out on the plains.  He didn't believe in plowing his lot.  I stopped the truck and decided that it would be in my best interest to put on chains, or as we say, "throw iron".

While moving, the truck tires generate heat, and when you stop on snow or ice, the tires will sink down into the ice.  This can be a bad thing, like when you stop in a parking lot and the tires melt down into the snow and you can't get out of the holes the tires created.   Or it can be a good thing, such as sitting on the side of a steep slope, your tires create holes in the snow, and the truck doesn't slide.  However, at that moment, that was not the case.

The snow was loose and slushy enough that the truck started to slide backwards.

When a truck slides forward, the driver may have a chance of being able to steer the truck and work the brakes to keep the truck on the road, or at least where it goes and how fast.  This has happened to me many times.  However, when a truck starts to slide backwards, other than prayer, the truck and driver are at the mercy of gravity, road conditions and the slope of the road towards the shoulders.  On Loveland Pass there are only two ways to go: in towards the mountain or over the edge.

By the Grace of God, the truck slid backwards towards the mountain and into a small cut-out gravelled parking area.  The gravel helped the tractor and trailer tires to grab and stop the backwards slide.  Total distance was about the length of the truck, which is 65 feet long.

I sat there for a while to get my wits about me.  The memory of losing a co-worker a couple of years earlier in a fiery accident that claimed his life was very prevalent in my thoughts: that's not the way I want to die.

It was still snowing and blowing hard, with poor visibilty.  I bundled up, dragged my chains out and chained up the four outside drive tires.  Normally it would take me about 20 minutes, but this time it was closer to an hour.  In all the time I was there, not another single vehicle went by me.

I got to Avon, made my delivery, and head back towards Denver.  Loveland Pass was closed due to adverse conditions, so I had to "go through the hole in the wall".  I reloaded the trailer, made my last delivery, and went home.

God may have given me this job, and He may very well have been protecting me all these years, but I am not one to tempt fate.  I am resolved in not driving the mountains again professionally.  And I haven't.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Best Vacation EVER!

The Emerald Princess, our home away from home for a week!
Length: 946. feet
Breadth: 118.1 feet
Draught: 27.8 feet (only!)
Built: 2007 - Italy
Max capacity passengers: 3573
Crew: 1227
Propulsion: Diesel electric!
Max speed: 23.5 knots

We flew United from Denver to Houston, and left from the Port of Houston on Sunday, February 8th, 2015 @ 4 P.M.

Returned Sunday, February 15th.

I had roses delivered to the room and they were waiting for my Sweetie!

The first two days we were at sea, and they had a formal night, so we got dressed up.  I was given a rose to wear in my lapel, and I was the only person that we saw that had a flower!  We is a good looking couple!

I had a chance to chat with the Captain of the Emerald Princess and pick his brain about the ship.
Roatan from the top of the ship!  While there we went on an expedition known as the BOSS, which means something like Breathable Observation Submersible System.  It was almost fun, but there was problems, and they tried to drown us.  Well, me.  But that's another story.

It was amusing getting to the boat to go on the BOSS.  We rode in two "large" vans, and went on the smallest, narrowest two-lane roads to get there.  The drivers were crazy, and the neighborhoods were shacks.  Poverty-ville. Thank God for our blessings.

The next stop was Belize!

They don't have a deep water port, so we had to be shuttled from the ship to shore.  The pic is the newest area of town.

We went outside the secure port area and shopped around, getting Tee shirts and chatting with people.  Had a nice conversation with a shop owner and her brother about beliefs and religious differences.  Said a prayer with them before we left.

Next day we arrived in Cozumel, Mexico.

You know the stereotypes about shop owners hawking their wares and trying to get you into their shops?  It's true!

I did find two (2) matching rings with six-sided stones, and a really cool pentagon shaped ring!  My Sweetie got that one; it's her birth stone for November.  The two hex rings are going to be eyes for a silver dragon I've been wanting to build, but that's another story.

The U.S. D.O.T would have "fun" in Mexico. Check out where the muffler is on this fuel tanker!

And of course you can get Cuban cigars there from our buddy Fidel!

I don't know anybody who smokes cigars, so I didn't get any to bring back.

I did find a couple of really cool switchblades, but also found out that, for the most part, are illegal in the U.S.A.  So I decided not to tempt fate, get them, and possibly lose them.  Later I found out they would have been confiscated before getting on the ship. Oh well.

I thought this fountain just outside of the port was pretty.

What a glorious day!  The weather and seas the whole trip was fantastic.

Wouldn't have mattered much; the ship was so big and had gyroscopic stabilizers, we probably would not have felt anything anyway.

After we got to Cozumel, our ship, in the foreground, was joined by a Carnival ship.

Of the ships to the right, the left one, Allure of the Seas, is the second largest cruise ship currently sailing!  HUGE!  Can accommodate over 6,000 guests!  That's way too big.

There was a "statue" that scared the willies out of unsuspecting guests.  My Sweetie is hiding behind him in the first pic.  The second pic he's holding me hostage!

The reason there are more pics of Cozumel is because there was actually more to see that was worth looking at.

When we got back to Houston, we went to the Johnson Space Center and looked around.  I liked it because I like that kind of stuff, but it really wasn't worth the price of the ticket.

For Valentine's day my Sweetie got the ring, and she surprised me with an Amish quilt for my bed!

The pic doesn't do it justice.  It's about twice that size.
Beautiful!   Hand stitched, very intricate design.

She spoils me!

Well, that's all for now.  The vacation is over and I have to go back to work Wednesday night.

Keep the bugs off your glass and the bears off your ... tail.

And keep the rubber side down.  

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Making a Difference

I had gone this morning with my Lady and friends to the breakfast buffet on 23rd Ave. here in Greeley, aka "The Trough", for the Sunday morning brunch. 

While cruising the line for food, a young lady popped up into my field of vision and asked with a big smile on her face: "Remember me?"  She proceeded to tell me that she was part of the group the Drive Smart Weld County coalition presented to at Valley High School in Gilcrest.  I chatted with her for a couple of minutes and she told me that we had been quite an influence on her and her classmates.  She then referenced a lady standing there and said: "I've gotten after her about some of the things she does!"  It turned out to be the young lady's Mother.  Mom told me that the girl had made her change some of her habits! 

It's a start.

Drive Smart Weld County is a group of people, or coalition, from various organizations that give presentations to High School Freshmen and Sophmores (and other groups) who are either going to get their driver's license or already have.  We tell them about the dangers and pratfalls of being a driver on todays roads.  My being a Professional Driver with oodles of years and miles, I give the presentation of "Driving and Surviving Around Big Rigs".  

Over the years I have admonished a number of people about their reckless driving, although I do try to be civil.  

One guy, a fuel tanker driver, told me, in no uncertain terms, where I could go.  A couple of days later the same guy came walking up to my truck at the loading dock.  I figured "Oh boy, here we go", expecting the worst.  He told me that he had been thinking about what I had said, and wanted to thank me for probably saving his life!  He shook my hand and walked away.

Another person I had admonished got me a ticket for harassment! 

But I won't stop.
I had read a book called "The Five People You Will Meet In Heaven".  The gist of it was that we may never know the impact we have had on a person's life. 

It's good to know that Drive Smart Weld County is making a difference!

Have a Great week and keep the rubber side down.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

It's Been A While

My daughter, Tanya, text me the other day and asked if I had not posted since February, or if she had missed getting the blog notifications.  I told her that I had not posted.

Life has a way of getting in the way.

At my job as a Fuel Tanker Driver, I work long, hard hours.  Then, with having a house to take care of, there is always something that needs to be done.  Top it off with being in a FANTASTIC relationship with a FANTASTIC Lady, well, when there is available time, I'd rather spend it with her than doing much of anything else!  As I have said, I waited 35 years to find her, and she has been worth the wait.

So let me update all y'all with what happened today, and work my way backwards.

This time of year is great, what with being harvest time, et al.  The local apple trees are shedding their fruit, and I, being a Professional Scavenger, look for the opportunity to gather the apples for cooking and eating.  Now I digress a bit.

My Lady didn't have much of a childhood, and you can read about her melodrama in her book:
FATLASH! Food Police & the Fear of Thin   So when I told her about taking my kids, Tanya & Terence, when they were young, out to the parks and gathering apples with them, she was intrigued.  The kids were small and nimble enough to be able to climb most trees without hurting themselves.  But there were many apples that they couldn't reach.  And besides, other kids had the same idea.  So I had made an apple picker with two pieces of aluminum tubing so that one slid down inside the other for easy transport, but had a  reach of about 15 feet.  Add that to my height, and there were a lot of apples that we could get.  When I unhooked the apple and it fell, the kids would try to catch them.  Great eye-hand coordination exercise!  If you didn't catch the apple, you got bonked on the head.  Hmmmmm, that explains a lot.....   So I made another one on Tuesday, and My Lady and I went out apple gathering.  I have apple butter simmering in a crock pot as I write this!

For a couple of years now, Gray Oil Company has been wanting me to go to work for them, but I've declined.  They run bobtails, or as we call them, "short trucks".  As the joke goes, I used to have to ride the short bus to school, so why would I want to drive a short truck for work?  Well, they merged with Rex Oil in May and had a transport, or tractor-trailer combo, come available, so they asked me to go to work for them.  They made me an offer I couldn't refuse!  So I put in my two weeks notice with Brad, and started working for them.

I took a week off before starting with Gray Oil to build a shed that we desperately needed for storage.  Since I had built the "chicken coop from hell" at the ranch, I had a good idea what to do.  We had checked in to buying a kit from the big box stores, but then you had additions such as paint, shingles, floor, etc.  For what we would pay for a kit, I built ours from scratch using steel siding, such as they use on big industrial buildings.  There was/is a concrete slab which I built upon.  It's a combination quonset hut and conventional steel building.

I decided to take my years and miles of driving experience and put them to good use, so I joined a coalition called Drive Smart Weld County  Just click on the link and it will take you there.  We go to schools and give presentations to the Freshmen about the dangers and pratfalls they will encounter when they get their Drivers License.  Since I am the Professional Truck Driver, I get to tell them about the etiquette of driving around big rigs.

Then, before all this came down, I acquired a '98 Jeep Wranger!!!  I missed my Jeep of yore.

Back in February, My Lady & I went to Florida to visit my Sister, my Nephew and his wife, and to thaw out.  While there I was able to eliminate one of the items on my "bucket list"; we went deep sea fishing.  Caught lots of fish and had a great time!  Had a wonderful visit.  Always too short.

I have pictures of most of what I've told you about, but for some reason they don't want to download.  If I can get it done, I'll update the blog.  Or E-mail me and I'll do what I can to send them to you.

In the meantime, keep the rubber side down and your head up!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Diet

At 250 pounds, I should have been about six-foot tall instead of my 5 foot 9 inches. Or as I’ve heard, “I’m not over weight, I’m under tall!” Regardless, news came out that the Department of Transportation (DOT) was going to pass regulations for truck drivers to be height-weight proportional. So I started praying for help.

I’d been stable at 250 pounds for years, and an attempt at losing weight failed miserably. I went on a vegetarian diet for thirty days. At the end I had lost a grand total of two pounds! I went out and got me a Big Mac.

I considered myself healthy. My job wasn’t sedentary and I was otherwise active. I thought I ate well, and drank lots of tea that I heard was good for me. My blood pressure was a bit high, but my cholesterol was excellent. So the DOT news didn’t really faze me. But, getting up in years, it probably wouldn’t hurt me to lose a few pounds.
This isn’t the first time: a number of years ago a doctor told me that I had to lose 125 pounds. The divorce was almost painless! (joke!)

For the past couple of years I would occasionally have what felt like gas, with gut pressure that wouldn’t go away no matter what I did. But after a few hours it would, and all would be well again. Then one day it all came to a quick halt.

It was a Sunday in October, and I had gotten up at my usual late afternoon time. The night before I had the gut pressure while working and had ignored it. As I was coming home I ate the raw carrots that I had with me. But when I got up, I felt worse than before, and it quickly escalated. There were three indicators that I was in bad shape: I didn’t want to cuddle with my Lady, I was considering going to a doctor, and was bad enough to call in sick. With no immediate care center open at that hour, I opted for the hospital emergency room.

I don’t know about anybody else, but my opinion of a hospital is that when you go there, they are supposed to help you feel better. That’s not what happened; the things the doctor did to me made me feel worse, and I even told her so! My apologies to women, but I felt like I was giving birth, to something.

Eventually the meds took effect, I calmed down, and the doctor figured out that the half-inch-size gallstone didn’t cause the pain.

I was put on “the diet”. No red meat; drink juices, no soda, caffeine, tea; no greasy foods like potato chips and no popcorn; no spicy foods; nothing with tomatoes, such as Italian and Mexican food. The objective was to avoid foods that would irritate my stomach or were acidic. I should eat chicken, turkey, fish, and pork sparingly, with lots of veggies; no onions, peppers or carrots.

I told my Lady to “Shoot me now and get it over with!”

The first four weeks I lost 20 pounds! “At five pounds per week”, I proclaimed, “y’all would be rid of me in less than a year!” My Lady didn’t think that was funny.

I then had to get my DOT physical. My blood pressure was perfect, and I felt good. My pants were baggy, but that’s what belts are for.

Then phase two of the diet kicked in: I got the flu. That week I lost another ten pounds. I have no butt, which is a blessing in disguise. While delivering a load of fuel, I had made a customer mad because I was blocking the driveway with my truck. He threatened to kick my butt. I grabbed the back of my pants and told him: “I’ve lost 30 pounds in the last two months. I have no butt for you to kick!” He just walked away shaking his head. When life gives you lemons…

I now weigh 220 pounds! I haven’t weighed that since third grade!

I hadn't intended to be so compliant, but God had other ideas!

(Submitted to Prairie Times & Rejected!)