Moving trucks mindlessly across America. These blogs are posts of my trips doing driveaway work. My favorite driveaway quote: "Never plan, just be ready for the possibilities".

Monday, December 17, 2012

States I've Visited in Driveaway (in red)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Armstrong Air and Space Museum

On Tuesday (11/9/10), sort of by accident, or at least not originally by plan, I visited the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, OH.  Yes, that's right, Wapakoneta, OH.  I went near there on one of my early driveaway trips through Ohio, and thought it would be nice to someday come back and visit the museum of the first man to walk on the moon.  So I did.

It started on Sunday with a truck coming out of Forest, VA and going to a relatively new area for me, Alma, MI.  I decided to leave on Sunday since I really wasn't busy, it was a really nice day, and it's easier to do your driving on Sunday than on typical weekdays.  I picked up a new Ford F750 tree service truck around 7:30 AM and headed west.  There are a lot of ways to get to Michigan from Virginia, but I mostly followed wherever the ole Garmin Nuvii 465T took me, which was up through southeastern Ohio, around Columbus, and stopping for the night in Marion, OH.

I stopped at a nice Comfort Inn, but had pulled into its parking lot before I realized there was no outlet, only the entrance, and no way around the motel.  The parking lot was too small to turn around in without backing up.  And that's my cardinal rule while towing - don't get in a situation where you have to back up, because you can't without wiping out your toad.  So I had to unhook, turn the truck around, move into an out-of-the-way parking spot, and hook back up.  Not that it's a big deal with the type of tow bar I have, but just an activity I'd rather not have to do after the initial hookup.  I even positioned the truck in a way to protect the parking space in front of me so I'd be able to pull out in the morning.

The next morning, when I went out to the truck early, I saw that some dummy had parked his 22 foot Ryder Rental Truck in such a way as to block me in.  So I had to unhook again, move my truck, and rehook again.  In the hundreds of tows I've done, I've only had to unhook one other time, and that was while driving a crane truck that wouldn't turn around on a football field.  And on this trip, I had to unhook twice at one stop.  My record was screwed.

On to Alma on another beautiful driving day.  I delivered around noon.  Dispatch initially had a truck in Wisconsin, which would have been about a 380 mile deadhead, but seemed doable.  But after further checking it was determined that the customer would not let me tow with that truck.  So dispatch told me to head south to Ft. Wayne, IN, where they'd been having trucks come available and thought one might be ready by the time I did the 180 miles deadhead.

Unfortunately, as I arrived near Ft. Wayne, there was no truck, so dispatch advised that I should just start heading back toward home.  That's when I got the bright idea of visiting the space museum.  I could drive about 140 more miles to Wapakoneta, stay there for the evening, visit the museum the next morning, and maybe by then a truck would come available in the area and head me on a paid trip back toward home, which was still 440 miles away.

I had to wait until 9:30 AM for the museum to open, which drove me crazy since I'd been up since 4:30 AM (combination of sleeplessness while on the road, a bad cold, and still adjusting to standard time).  I spent about an hour in the museum, got in my tow car heading back east, and called dispatch to see if anything had come available.  Unfortunately, no go, so I kept deadheading toward home.  Nothing came available, so I drove the whole 440 miles home, a deadhead totaling about 712 miles.  That makes this a second not-so-well-paying trip in a row.

I'd had several really good paying trips this fall, but the last two have been busts.  So goes the driveaway business.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Never Plan, Just Be Ready

Last week (10/12/10), dispatch offered me a trip taking a crane truck from Daleville, VA to Kansas City, MO, followed by a non-CDL truck from just outside Kansas City to New Orleans. Normally, I'm not in to driving cranes unless I have to, but in checking this trip out I found a reasonable airfare back from New Orleans to Raleigh, NC, and the non-CDL easy trip to New Orleans made it interesting. I'd either take a rental car back from Raleigh, or maybe my wife would drive the 180 miles to pick me up. So given all that, I wasn't going to tow. I accepted the trip on Monday with the plan to leave on Tuesday morning, get to Kansas City Wednesday afternoon, pick up the next truck, and be in New Orleans on Friday. My driveaway mentor, Dick Williams, was lined up to pick me up at my drop point in Kansas City and take me to the next truck. It was all too good to be true in this business.

My wife took me to Altec early Tuesday morning where I found the truck, but no keys. After searching every spot I could think of, I went in to the plant and found someone that had the keys. I had the truck pre-tripped and on the road by about 8:00 AM. It was not great to be driving a crane, but it was nice not to be towing. You can't back up with a tow car attached, so it adds an extra layer of complexity to driving. And with this one, I had to back up at my first fuel stop. Go figure.

The trip to Kansas City went well. I drove about 560 miles and spent the night in sort of a rural area, Grayville, IL. I stayed at a nice motel using the Corp. Lodging Card. The fried chicken special was no longer available, so it was meatloaf, which was good.

On the road early the next morning, trying to get to Kansas City early so Dick could get me on to the next truck and headed to New Orleans. I called dispatch to get the phone number of the outfit for the next truck, but she didn't have a correct number. I should have picked up on something then, but didn't. On to Kansas City. At my last fuel stop, I called dispatch again to get the phone number, and she indicated there was a little problem. The truck I was to pick up was still in Chicago, or somewhere, and wouldn't be ready before Friday. This was Wednesday and I wasn't interested in hanging around until Friday and then starting a 2+ day trip to New Orleans. Dispatch did get on the stick and got me an early morning, 5:30 AM, flight out of Kansas City that would get me back to Roanoke at 10:30 AM on Thursday.

As I approached the delivery point for this truck just outside the Kansas City airport off I-435, I came as close as I've come in driveaway to having a major wreck. I was in the middle of 3 lanes, an 18 wheeler was coming by on the right side, when all hell broke loose in front of him with cars slamming on their brakes. I knew he couldn't stop and his only out would be my lane, but he hadn't cleared me. I went ahead and took a dive into the left lane, clearing the middle lane for him. Luckily, there was no one in the left lane. I had no time to check until I was already there. A crane tangling with a small car, or the 18 wheeler for that matter, would have been ugly. The other truck driver and I gave a wave on the good work as he passed me, but the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me. My lawyer's advice was coming back again - "Harry, you are stupid to be doing this work. There's too much liability for what you get out of it."

I delivered early, and Dick was there quickly to take me on a tour of his stomping grounds. He'd been kind enough to find me a nice motel near the airport. I had a nice visit with him, had a quick night's sleep, and was at the airport before 4:30 AM. Flight went well, and a cab ride had me back home by 11:00 AM.

It would have been nice to have had the follow-on trip. There are a lot of expenses for just one trip, and even though dispatch screwed up, it will remain to find out in settlement how much of those expenses they will cover themselves. Once again in this business, you are wasting your time to develop tight plans. They rarely work out.

Friday, August 27, 2010

It's Been a Long Trip

It's been sometime since I've updated this blog, so I figured my first set of trips since taking my summer Montana break, and perhaps my longest combined trips, deserved a post.

I actually hadn't notified dispatch that I was ready to hit the road again since returning from Montana for the summer, but they did call on Thursday, 8/19/10, to see if I could be available. Initially I told her not until Monday, but she seemed desperate and she had an interesting set of trips for me to ponder. She offered me a pickup in Creedmoor, NC that would require I go to Shelby, NC to add a chipper, then deliver the unit to Orlando, FL. Then go to Lake Wales, FL and pick one up going to Lincoln, MA. New England is not a favorite destination of mine, but the combined paid trip was over 2200 miles, plus Southwest Airlines was showing a $78 fare back to Raleigh where I'd need to return to pick up my car, so I told her I'd take it leaving on Sunday.

Sunday was incredibly hot and humid, but since the truck I was picking up in Creedmoor was at Altec, I felt confident it would have air conditioning - NOT! Needless to say, I was highly disappointed when I arrived and saw that it was a nice, new Ford F750, automatic, radio, but no AC. I proceeded to Shelby, where I was to pick up the chipper. I had not been to this particular Altec plant and dispatch had failed to provide directions, only the address. Since it was Sunday, the chipper would be locked in the bull pen, for which I did have the combination. But upon arriving, I found the main gate had a keyed padlock. It was hot, my cell phone decided not to work there, and after about an hour I had about decided that I would have to go to a hotel in Shelby and pick the chipper up on Monday. About the time I'd sweated all I thought I could, and was about to leave, I noticed cars going down a road on the back side of the lot, so I decided to drive the truck over in that direction to see if I could find another way in. After finding 3 other gates to the lot, the last one had a combination lock, and my combination worked.

I then had the chore of trying to back up to and attach the chipper with no help - no easy task by yourself. I'd say I was in and out of the truck over 10 times getting the chipper hooked up, and I was in a total sweat and about to pass out, but did accomplish the task. I'd wasted over an hour and a half there, but did proceed on towards Florida. I made it to St. George, GA for the evening where it was wonderful to finally get in an air conditioned room. I decided to go to bed early and try to get on the road Monday as early as I was legal, which was about 5:00 AM to try to take advantage of as much morning cool as possible.

Getting up the next morning, I found there wasn't any morning cool. It was so humid my eye glasses stayed fogged. I did have some luck in it was cloudy most of the way to Orlando, where I delivered about noon. I'd called over the weekend to find taxi's to Lake Wales and finally had settled on one that gave me a $89 fare for the 55 mile trip. I called to let them know I was there, but it was about an hour before they arrived.

At Lake Wells, I did get some good news. The truck was a nice little Izuzu non-CDL spray unit that was a real dream to drive, and above all, had the best AC I could hope for. I literally had to turn some heat on to keep from freezing with it on. I drove back through rain around Orlando and made it to Kingsland, GA for the evening.

The next day, Tuesday, it was my goal to make it 560 miles and stay at home for that night on the way to Lincoln, MA. I made good time, and about 4:30 PM dispatch called to say I was today's lucky winner and had been selected for a random drug and alcohol test. What a pain! Dispatch did get it set up for a place I've been to several times in Roanoke, and I was there about 5:30 PM. The guy was quick and I was on my way home by 6:00 PM.

The next morning, Wednesday, I was up and heading up I-81 through Scranton, PA and across I-84 towards MA. I'll add miles to avoid the I-95 corridor. I was looking forward to dropping this unit the next morning, working my way to Boston's Logan Airport and on my way home, but dispatch called late in the evening to complicate things. They had a truck in Somerville, MA, about 15 miles from where I was dropping that was going to Florida.

I initially said no, but after some negotiation, she said I could just drive it back to Creedmoor, NC, where my car was. Even though I was about out of hours for the week, that did sound fairly attractive to have paid miles to get back to where I needed to go anyway. However, she wasn't sure the truck would be ready on Thursday after I dropped, and I wasn't willing to stay over. I drove on to Vernon, CT for the evening.

Thursday morning I was up early, as always, and fought the traffic approaching Boston, and got to Lincoln and the drop point about 9:00 AM. I'd done some checking and found the drop point was near the commuter rail, so I planned to catch it to either get closer to Somerville to pick up the next truck, or to the Boston airport. I called dispatch right away to see if the truck was ready. It was not, so my plan was to get to the airport.

The drop point was literally 200 yards from the commuter rail station, and there was a 9:40 AM train I wanted to catch. The mechanic at the drop point was kind enough to insist that he drive me over to the station to make sure I got where I needed to be. Sometimes you run into sending/receiving outfits that are super kind.

I had also found that I might be able to catch an earlier Southwest flight if I got to the airport early enough, so I was sort of in a rush. Even though I had very good luck catching the commuter train, then the subway, and then the bus to get to the airport, I was still about 10 minutes too late to catch a 11:40 AM flight that I wanted. But I was able to pay a little difference and catch a 3:00 PM flight. I was originally scheduled on a 5:30 PM flight. That got me to Raleigh at 6:55 PM, then a half hour wait on my $48 cab to get me back to Creemoor to pick up my car. I got there about 8:00 PM and started the 3 hour drive home, arriving about 11:15 PM.

Overall, except for the incredible heat going to Florida, this was one of the better driveaway trips I've taken, with maybe the most paid miles I've had, and probably typical for those in driveaway who do not tow. It takes a tremendous about of logistics to line up your transportation between trucks, and the costs can escalate exponentially on you if you aren't careful. Even though I don't like deadheading, I still prefer towing my car and not having to hassle with mass transportation.

Monday, December 07, 2009

A Long Trip

I guess the last set of trips I just completed, and one of my longest, deserves a spot on the blog. And I added one new state, Nebraska, to states I've visited while doing driveaway.

I left last Tuesday, Dec. 1 with a Sterling 10-spd crane going from Daleville, VA to St. Joseph, MO, a trip of about 1,000 miles. Other than needing to dodge or outrun some southeastern snow on the way, things went well. I always have to stay on top of my game when driving triple-axle cranes, but in some ways it is good since you really stay awake.

I left debating whether I should tow my car since you are really left out there once you've gone 1,000+ miles and may or may not have a trip coming back. Dispatch usually cannot line things up before you leave. I decided to go ahead and tow my car. About an hour before arriving on Weds., dispatch offered me a trip back to Manassas, VA from Seward, NE. That was good because it would only be a 160 mile deadhead to Seward and Manassas was not too far from home. So after delivering the crane in St. Jo about 4:00 PM, I drove toward Seward. On the way, I called the sending outfit to make sure I had the correct directions to find them and that the truck was ready. All seemed OK, so I drove to Lincoln, NE and stayed there for the night.

The sending outfit had suggested it might be good to not show up right at 7:00 AM since they would be sending their trucks and crews out at that time, so I delayed until about 7:40 before arriving, at which time I found out the truck I was to take was broken down, parts would not arrive until Friday, and they were assigning a different truck going back (why they didn't know this when I called the previous afternoon, I don't know). Plus, the truck I had been re-assigned was an old 1994 Peterbuilt that had been sitting around for a while and needed 4 hours of mechanic's time before they could get the bed marker lights working and wiring for my toad. In the meantime, since it was 15 degrees with high winds, I'd check the truck out occasionally and otherwise stayed in my tow car for warmth (another good reason to tow). I found that the truck had a new wrinkle in that it had a 13-spd tranny with both a range shift and splitter. I've driven many with a range shifter, but this was the first with a spitter, which on this one worked considerably differently than I expected. The young mechanic on the truck gave me the pointers on how it worked. The whole 4 hours that I waited, I stewed about how old and dirty this truck was, and how likely it was to give me problems on the 1200+ mile trip to Manassas.

About noon, the truck was finally turned over to me. As I got ready to leave, dispatch called to tell me the truck was going to Indianapolis rather than Manassas. Although that might leave me a 550 mile deadhead to get home, I was somewhat pleased not knowing whether this truck was going to give problems. It turned out this old Peterbuilt was one of the best trucks I've driven. It drove well for its age and I didn't have a bit of trouble with it. The heater even worked and it had a working radio although there was at least an inch of dirt in it and trash from many years of drivers leaving all their stuff in the cab.

I proceeded on I-80 east and into Iowa. They were calling for snow squalls, which I did hit east of Des Moines that evening and I began to see a lot of wrecks and the traffic jammed up. I also discovered that even as heavy as this 60k lbs. truck was, it would still spin/slide on a slick road. I drove to Iowa City for the evening.

Up early on Friday morning, I headed on to Indianapolis. This truck was almost a pleasure to drive since it drove so well and had an 80 gallon tank which eases the constant worry of making sure you can find a truckstop to refuel at the right time. About 2 hours before I reached Indy, dispatch called saying they had a non-CDL unit also in Indy going to Frederick, MD. Even though I had in my head to head out quickly on my deadhead home, I figured a small truck going fairly close home would make more sense. Payed miles are always better than deadhead miles.

I delivered the ole crane about 3:00 PM on Friday, headed about 25 miles to the next one, pre-tripped and headed out into the Indy traffic about 4:00 PM. A big snow storm was heading up the east coast and I wanted to get as many miles in as I could knowing I would eventually hit snow. I'll say it was at this point that I was really relying on our Driveaway fearless leader, Dick Williams, who is also a retired meteorologist, to keep me posted on weather conditions and the forecast. He had done this all during the trip, and I must say he nailed it every time. I told him that he is much better at predicting than economists are.

I drove on Friday for as long as I was legal, which was the full 14 hours. I stopped about 8:30 in Zanesville, OH for the evening. I was back on the road Saturday just as soon as I would be legal (10 hours required off duty), but hit snow within 30 minutes. It snowed hard all the way to Frederick, and even though I went through some of the high country of PA, I really didn't meet any covered roads. I was very fortunate that the temps were just high enough to keep the roads slushy at worst. It was snowing heavily the whole way, especially as I arrived in Frederick. I post-tripped, unhooked, and headed home immediately. And although the snow was very heavy down much of I-81, my little Saturn toad made it fine and I was home about 5:00 PM after a long but fruitful trip. Since I didn't have that much deadheading, it should be a good paying one.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Still on Hiatus, But.........

I'm still sort of on hiatus from updating my driveaway blog - just don't seem excited enough to make it worthwhile blogging about driveaway to my 1's of Driveaway Blog fans. But, I have some big news that should be broadcast, and a quick note about my latest trip.

The Big News!

Caitie, my youngest daughter, who turned 25 this past September, got married!!!!! She and her new husband, Hugh, had been living in our favorite town in the world, Choteau, MT, since January, getting their head straight after graduating from college, working in Guatemala, and coming back to the good ole US of A. During their stay, they figured they liked it in Montana, but not enough to do another winter there. Perfectly understandable. I typically do summers there, although I have enjoyed a couple of good blizzards and some -28 days there.

They decided during this past summer in Choteau to return back east and finally picked Asheville, NC as their nesting place. Hugh would return to school to do post-graduate work at UNC-Asheville, and Caitie would continue her art there. And to clean things up, they decided to get married before coming back. Even though my wife and I missed the wedding, we were thrilled for them to marry in our favorite place. Not to mention the huge savings, but I think they got what they really wanted. They are not the big wedding types, so they had a quiet wedding with friends they'd made in Choteau, officiated by the judge who married David Letterman and at the same location in the beautiful Teton County Courthouse. They spent their wedding night at the elegant Grand Union Hotel in Fort Benton, MT. I think they got what they wanted. Again, we were sad to miss the wedding, but really happy for them and enjoyed welcoming Hugh into the family.

Latest trip

Since this is supposed to be a driveaway blog, I will report on my latest trip, which was close to the type of trip I had imagined in my "looking at driveaway through rose colored glasses" days when I first started.

I took a nice, new unit from Altec in Daleville, VA to West Palm Beach, FL - never a bad trip at any time but especially nice as winter approaches. I tow my car 99.9% of the time, but this time I checked some travel options and found a $22 airfare on Allegiant Air out of Orlando's Sanford Internation Airport along with a $38 rental car from Alamo from West Palm to Sanford. The only drawback, and actually one most of us would like, was I'd have to stay over an extra day to catch the flight since Allegiant doesn't fly that route daily. So, a driveaway driver has to do what a driveaway driver has to do, and I stayed over near Titusville, FL at a nice Comfort Inn using a $42.99 travel book coupon, visited the US Astronaut Museum, and tooled around Port Canaveral for the afternoon.

The trip, in general, was very relaxing, I made a few dollars (not a lot) and put me in the mood for rethinking driveaway. Driveaway, the way I normally do it, and many others too, is very stressful and not a lot of fun. It is very hard to get assigned trips enough in advance to line up reasonable alternative transportation, so I've found I have to tow my car in order to survive. I just can't take what a lot of drivers do which involves bumming the best transportation you can get once you've dropped your truck, hopping on buses, trying to get to rental cars, etc. Those expenses can run up and out of hand very quickly if you aren't careful. I've found towing, along with all of its hassles, is a better fit for me.

This is the type of trip I'd like to do more often - fairly long, with return transportation lined up before I leave. But I know that's not reasonable to expect, especially from the company I drive for, so will soon get back into the towing mode, I'm sure.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

On Hiatus

I'm on hiatus from driveaway blog entries. I've taken several good trips since my last post including KY, AL, FL, MA, and others, but really nothing that I can recall that is too interesting to write about. I suspect many of my 10's of fans would say the same about the stuff I've already written about.

Anyway, unless something really exciting comes up, I may make some entries in the fall. Until then, I may get another trip or two in before we head to MT for the summer.

Stay safe out there, and for all you fellow driveaway drivers, keep moving those trucks mindlessly around the country.