View Full Version : JR Goes Truckin!

PD Staff
01-28-2011, 11:16 AM

Pictured here in front of his rig, John Riise, the former Latitude 38 Editor is miles
from anywhere. John spent nearly a quarter of a century behind the desk of Latitude 38,
the last few commuting from his home near Lake Isabella, east of Bakersfield. John has
reinvented himself but still clings to his pen to paper roots as you can read here:


This morning, I got a load of pharmaceuticals headed from the terminal in Texas to Fontana, California. I was so enthused that I got up before dawn and logged ‘on duty’ at 5:15. Which actually turned out to be a mistake. But I’m allowed a few of those, right? By the time I took care of all the paperwork and hooked up the trailer, it was about 7:30 before I left the yard.

Not 40 miles into the 1,300 mile trip, things took a turn for the worse.

I got a ‘check engine’ light. Oh great. I’m not even an hour out of the terminal and the truck is going to poop out? I called my fleet manager, who transferred me to Road Service. A voice my mind’s eye attached to a large, hairy guy from Joisey said to get off the road and check my fluids and filters. I said I’d done that barely an hour ago and everything was fine. And oh yes, when you’re hauling secure loads like this, you’re not supposed to stop for the first 200 miles. “If you don’t stop now, what do you think is going to happen if the engine quits?” he growled. “Then you’ll be stopped in the middle of the road.”

Truckers are storytellers. Get a bunch of ‘em together and they’ll keep you entertained an entire day.

This was the case yesterday. It was New Year’s Day, so the terminal was a ghost town as far as trucks coming and going or any work getting done. But the lounge was full of guys watching football and telling stories. Here are a few I heard.

* Dry van pulls into a roadside scale, gets weighed and the scale people tell him he’s over by, like 2,800 pounds. Which is a lot. He says, “I can’t be overweight. I’m empty.”

— “No, look right here. You’re overweight.”

— “I can’t be. I’m empty. The trailer is locked, but you can look in the inspection doors and see for yourself.”

(So they do and sure enough, nothing in the trailer.)

“Oh Geez,” says the weigh station fellow. “Now we’re going to have to shut down the station, get recalibrated, and tell the last 100 trucks through here that their weight slips are no good.”

So they let the guy go.

The ‘joke’ is that the guy was overweight. He was hauling two really large, really thick (2 inches) slabs of steel. But when you looked in the inspection door of the trailer, they just looked like the floor.

I wrote about sailing for a long time and, while I applauded all the neat gizmos that make sailing easier and more accessible to everyone, part of me lamented the disappearance of the true old-school sailor. These were the Jacks-of-all-trades (and masters at some) who were part plumber, cook, electrician, engine mechanic, meteorologist, sail mender, rope splicer, seaman, navigator and, oh yes, sailor.

Nowadays, the only celestial body you have to be concerned about is the one that requires sunblock. Most boats no longer carry sextants and most skippers wouldn’t know how to use one, anyway. These days, you can navigate all over the world, and with generally more accuracy, just by pressing a few buttons. And electronic charts not only show you where you are, but where everyone else is, too. Ships actually emit signals that identify them by name, course, speed, destination and so on — right on the ‘chart’! You can also get real-time weather, talk from almost anywhere on cell or satellite phones, and enjoy all the latest and greatest sails, lines, block, watermakers, solar/wind generators, and exponentially improved engines. If you get in trouble, there are so many ways to get rescued, and such well-made survival gear, that you’d almost have to want to die to not make it. The modern cruiser can even choose among several excellent modern types of anchors. And of course, the majority of modern boats are made of materials that last far longer than wood.

IOR Geezer
01-28-2011, 05:06 PM

Having been around, and written about, sailing for the last 25 years, I can’t help but make comparisons to that life and this new one I’m embarking on. (See: ‘embarking’? Can’t help it.) Yes, I know. If you want to get technical about it, the proper comparison would be trucks to tugboats. But please, indulge me for a minute so I can just get this out of the way.

How trucking is similar to sailing

* Both sailboats and trucks can be liveaboards.
* They both have ‘autopilots’ (okay, cruise control)
* They are both fun to ‘helm’ in smooth water and not so fun in rough conditions
* Lots of potential mechanical breakdowns can leave you stuck ‘in port’ for extended periods
* Anything related to trucks or boats is (at least) twice as expensive as the ‘generic’ version of the same item.
* Everyone is an expert on everything and will give you their advice and opinions whether you want it or not. If you don’t see it exactly the same way, they will shake their heads sadly and give you their best “it’s your funeral, pal” look.
* Both trucks, boats — and your world — would grind to a halt without duct tape and bungie cords.
* Engines are horrible, smelly dirty things, but a necessary evil
* You never have exactly the proper tool to fix what’s wrong. But it’s amazing how much you can accomplish with only rusty pliers, a screwdriver and a hammer. Along with the aforementioned duct tape and bungies, you can make it almost anywhere. If you have vice grips, the world is your oyster.
* Some of ‘skippers’ take great pride and keep their rides clean and shiny. Some, well, don’t.
* Headwinds and following winds have similar affect. Going upwind is harder (in trucks, much buffeting and poor fuel mileage.) Downwind, kick back and enjoy the ride and extra MPG.
* There are times “out there” — more than you will admit to in retrospect — when you’d really really like to be ANYWHERE else.

I’m sure there are others. If I think of any good ones, I’ll add them here.
The last one for now is “dirty air.” In sailing, this is when there’s a boat ahead of you and to windward — as might happen during a race — “fouls” the air hitting your sails. The result: you slow down until he passes (or you change course) and you get back in some ‘clean air.’
Here’s how dirty air works in trucks:
Driver trainee to trainer (who has just gotten out of the sleeper in the wee hours of a foggy night): “I don’t know what this is on the windshield but the washer stuff doesn’t seem to faze it.”
Trainer: “Did any cattle trucks pass you?”
Trainee: “Uh, well, yeah.”
Trainer: “It’s cow piss.”