Saturday, November 23, 2013
Sunday, November 3, 2013
The last couple of weeks have been great. We made a great choice in making the move to Love's and running the southwest region. It is November and we haven't seen one snowflake fall from the sky...and I don't miss it one bit.
Last week we ended up delivering to the Vegas store last, so it was time to try another pet friendly casino. We chose The Hacienda in Boulder City...for a couple of reasons. 1) It was Halloween weekend and Vegas hotel room rates were ridiculous. 2) The Hacienda offers free hotel rooms for CDL holders...bonus! 3) We were both looking for a quiet, mellow weekend.
The Hacienda is located on Hwy. 93 inbetween Vegas and the Hoover Dam with a spectacular view of Lake Meade. It has slots, tables, including craps and live entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights. It has a buffet, steakhouse and even a movie theatre. This is however not the Taj Mahal of casinos. It is older, however the beds were still comfy. The food was mediocre...not great, but not senior center bland either. They also offer several trucker food specials in the cafe that are a great deal. A 12 oz. NY Strip, 3 eggs, hashbrowns and toast for $8.75...most specials were under $6. It has ample truck parking directly across the highway from the casino and if staying at the hotel, you can park in the casino lot. There are several hiking trails that go towards the Lake. You can even take a trail all the way to Hoover Dam...approximately 2.5 miles. $29 and $69 helicopter rides take off directly in front of the hotel and fly over the Lake and the Dam. We have taken a helicopter ride a couple years ago from the Vegas airport to the Dam and back over The Strip. It was an awesome experience, so we opted out of the 5 minute ride being offered, but if you have never been in a helicopter, this is a great option. We did however meet a fantastic couple, Daniel and Jena, dairy farmers from Wisconsin. They had not taken a vacation in 18 years. They were a hoot...its probably a good thing they were leaving the next day, I think the four of us could have found some real trouble to get in to. One of the many bonuses of this job...meeting the coolest people from all around the country that you would never have the opportunity to do if you sat in an office all day.
Our entire hotel stay...for 3 nights was $56.34...seriously. I also hit a 4 of a kind on a video poker machine and won $65...sweet!
I still can't say it enough. It is great to work for an awesome company and be appreciated and run in a fantastic region and have great equipment that is well maintained. We run consistently every week and enjoy a very generous paycheck every week for a job we both are enjoying immensely. We are truly blessed.
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Well...we made up for lost time. Since our truck was down for a week there were a bunch of stores that got kind of thirsty. We had the busiest week we have had since starting the job...13 stores in 6 days. Every store in Cali...Corning, Lost Hills, Ripon, Santa Nella, Coachella,Tulare, Tehachapi and Barstow. Then every store in Nevada...Las Vegas, Wells and Fernley. Then both stores in Utah...Salt Lake City and Cedar City. Not only does this make 13 drops, it also makes for 13 loads as well. We actually drove well over 5000 miles this week and picked up a new vendor, on the loading side, in Hesperia, CA.
We just finished our reset and took the time off in Mesquite, NV. For almost 5 years now we have driven past the signs for The Virgin River Casino, boasting their $3.99 hamsteak breakfast and $27 rooms. Our last drop was in Cedar City, so we decided this was our opportunity to check it out. We have learned now to figure out where we are going to end up at the end of the week and make hotel reservations in advance, mostly because of London. I know its hard to believe, but not every hotel is pet friendly. There is definitely more now than there were 5 years ago, but your choices are still limited, as well as the pet rooms tend to fill up faster. That being said, we made our reservation when we were getting loaded in Sparks/Reno on Tuesday for Wednesday and Thursday nights. I'm glad we did because by the time we arrived at 6 pm, the entire hotel was sold out.
The hotel is huge. I had no idea. They have 7 buildings with 3 floors in each building and 2 big pools with jacuzzis in each area. I thought the best thing about this pet room was it had a laminate floor, not scary carpet, that who knows what has happened to it from previous furry pets. It was clean and came with 2 queen beds...not the comfiest beds I have ever slept in, but remember... $27. We faced the desert and our window opened all the way to see the view and get fresh air. We had our hamsteak breakfast, tried the buffet on Thursday, it was steak night. For $11.99 filets or NY strips cooked to your liking, plus any kind of side you can think of, with salad bar and plenty of yummy deserts. The breakfast buffet on Friday was $6.99 and was delish.
We gambled, played skeeball and air hockey as well as got to go bowling and yes, all of this is in the same casino. Including the room for two nights, food and entertainment, we spent less than $200. We had a great time and would totally do this again.
Monday, October 14, 2013
Sunday, October 6, 2013
We stopped last week in Corning, CA to take our 34 and decided to stay at the Rolling Hills Casino. We have passed this place many times, but have never stopped. What a great place! Not only do they have the casino, they also have 150 truck parking spaces, a hotel, an Inn (pet friendly) and a club house, complete with laundry, driver showers (swanky too) a hair & nail salon and a doggy daycare, which is free for guests. The grounds are meticulous and there is a bunch of grass for some great dog walks.
We enjoyed our 34 and got back in the truck to start our week and she needed a regen. Tried to regen 3 times and we knew something wasn't right. We figured the filter was clogged and just needed to be cleaned out. Since our truck is brand new, everything is under warranty...including the tow, we waved goodbye to our truck and it went up to the Freightliner dealership in Redding...60 miles away. We decided to stay where we were at since it had been such a pleasant stay, plus the hotels in Redding were out in the middle of nowhere land...boring!
To make a long story short, that was on Wednesday. It is now Sunday and we are sitting in the comfort of our room watching the Broncos kick the Dallas Cowboys butts. We have toured the olive oil factory, had a spa day, London had his spa day, fun arcade time, nice pool time (a perfect 80 degrees out) gambled and drank way too many margaritas, have eaten like King and Queens...did I mention the breakfast buffet is included every morning too? Yes, its been pretty rough.
Our truck is supposed to be ready tomorrow sometime. Haven't gotten the full diagnosis yet, but there were several recalls that needed to be adressed as well. So I guess we have to remember how to drive one and ween ourselves off the margaritas. The truck breaking down is never fun...but this time I have to say...we have had a blast!
Monday, September 23, 2013
Many of you have asked us a bunch of questions about our new job and how we do it so...here ya go! There are several vendors that we load at, but I will cover our favorite place, Yara, in Port Hueneme, which is located on the coast of California in the Naval base just outside of Oxnard. It is literally right on the ocean and located in the Camarillo Valley, famous for its strawberries and all kinds of fresh produce, which I love. To stop at a fruit stand and be able to buy strawberries, cherries, oranges, peaches, tomatoes, avocados, fresh Cut flowers and all kinds of almonds and pistachios is dreamy...but I digress, back to loading the truck. DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) is basically uria (cow urine) and water. It is used in a diesel engine as an additive to burn off excess exhaust and keep the environment cleaner. By 2014 if a semi truck does not use DEF or a DPF system (a after burner type system installed on trucks before DEF tanks were being installed on trucks) their truck will no longer be able to enter California.
We have a dedicated 48 foot aluminum tanker trailer which holds 5000 gallons at a time of DEF. We only haul DEF, no fuel. DEF weighs 9.08 per gallon, so each load is 45,400 lbs. At Yara it takes 11 minutes to load our trailer from the top bulkhead. They are open 24 hours a day, just like the Loves stores we deliver to, so we never have to wait to be loaded or to drop a load at a store...we love this! No pun intended. We receive our deliveries once a week via a computer on the truck, so we know where we will be going the following week. Most stores take the full load of 5000 gallons but sometimes we have to split a load between two stores if they are both running low in order to make sure they don't run out. Stores have either a 8000 or 12000 gallon tanks and we can pull the levels of each store on our computer to plan our week according to what the store levels are. Our job is to make sure no Loves store runs out of product.
When arriving at a store we locate the drop point and position our truck to drop the load. If we can position the truck to drop from the back it is much faster than a side drop. Since we have no pump, everything is driven by gravity. We go in the store and pull a tape from the meter that gives us the exact number of gallons in the ground. This is to make sure that you don't over fill the tank. We have a 10 foot hose or a 20 foot hose. If you can get a good position, it is much less work to use the 10 foot hose, but sometimes it just isn't possible to reach and you have to break out the 20 foot hose. Yep, that's the most stress you would have dropping the load...lol. The bulkhead has to be open in order to release pressure. Once you hook up the hose, you open the valve and the DEF starts to flow through the hose and down into the holding tank. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to drop a load, depending on the angle of the trailer. I use the time to do paperwork, eat something or catch up on Facebook. We cannot be any further than 20 feet away while dropping a load. Once we are empty, we close the valve, pull the hoses and put them back on the truck and put the valve fitting back in our storage box on the trailer. Then head back in to the store, pull another reading from the meter. We leave a copy of the bill of lading and meter strips for the store, take our copies and Transflow (scan and fax machine) them ourselves behind the counter, get our receipt that it was received, and we are done.
One of the best things about this job is we don't have to wait on anyone to load or unload. Plus we run like a true Team. I can load anywhere and drop anywhere and don't need any help with equipment or hoses. When we ran flatbed I still couldn't get the straps loose once we arrived for an offload and always had to wake Jeff up for his help. Now he can go to bed and I can take over and do the job all by myself...pretty darn cool. One of the other nice things is we get to travel a bunch empty. This is so rewarding to travel up the Grapevine at 60 mph and not be bogged down by a full truckload, when you go over it 3 or 4 times in a day, it is awesome.
We are responsible for 34 different stores in CA, AZ, NM, NV, UT, WY and CO and will be adding 3 or 4 in the next year, including Grand Junction, CO by the end of this year. We even went to 2 stores in TX last week on our way home to Colorado. There is only 1 other truck that runs DEF in our territory, Deven, who is an old friend of ours from Watkins Shepard days. We basically run like an Owner Operator, but with someone else footing the bill. We receive free drinks and get half price food at all of the stores. We just pull up to the fuel island and put our employee number in to fill the truck with fuel and DEF, don't even have to go in and get the receipt. We were given a Loves charge card for our truck, so anything we need that the store sells, we just use our card. We are responsible for all the maintenance on our truck and since we drive a brand new Freightliner it is under warranty so we just stop at any dealership when we have the need, and get done whatever we need to have done without having to deal with any maintenance department giving us permission. This includes tires as well. All Loves Travel Stops have tire shops now, so if we don't like the way our tires are looking, we just pull into the shop and get them replaced...no questions asked. We run super singles on our truck, as well as the trailer, and Loves always has them in stock. We also are expected to get our truck washed on a weekly basis...and they pay us extra to get it done...just put it on the Blue Beacon account. But I have to say that the two best things about this company are 1) We always have a parking space whenever we arrive at a store and 2) An account at Danny's Big Rig Resort in Phoenix where I can shop to my hearts content for any type of chrome to put on our truck.
We are now sitting in a hotel in Santa Nella, CA watching the Broncos kick the Raiders butts. We LOVE our job!
Friday, September 13, 2013
What an interesting Labor Day weekend it was. We dropped at the Corning, CA store and got to catch up with Willie aka Badass Bear who we trained with at Watkins Shepard. He now runs local for Schneider from his home in Sacramento to Oregon hauling a dedicated run for Nissan. It was great to catch up...Facebook is great, but nothing like sitting down and sharing a meal with an old friend. We then headed to Port Heuneme to load for the Ripon store. Once we dropped there it was time to get to Sparks, NV for a load on Tuesday following Labor Day. Since the rack wasn't open on Monday and it was just Sunday morning, we decided to pamper ourselves, I called and made a reservation at The Nugget. We thought we were being so smart leaving Cali on a Sunday for a 3 day weekend heading in the correct direction (opposite of everyone else coming back home), over Donner Pass and into Nevada, so far so good. I fell asleep way before Donner since driving til 3 am the previous morning to make sure we stayed on our schedule to get out before the madness returned to Cali. I woke up to Jeff yelling my name (for the 5th time at least...he swears) saying, "you need to get up and get me out of this mess. We are here at the hotel". I'm thinking...and rubbing my eyes...why would we be in a mess if we were already at our destination of pampering and relaxation? Then I opened the curtains to the sleeper. All I could see was literally a sea of people and white tents everywhere...not what I had envisioned before I laid down for my nap at all. It was the World Ribfest...and we were right in the middle of it because The Nugget was hosting this joyous occasion. Now, remember the whole conversation about calling and making a reservation in the text above? (which I did, I have witnesses)...when one calls and asks about pets and truck parking wouldn't you think the ribfest might have been a good thing to mention? A police officer turns his lights on and pulls up next to us and says "what are you doing?" Jeff replies, "we are just trying to get out of here". The policeman says "well, good luck with that"...rolled up his window and drove off...really? To make a long story short we finally got out of there and headed to the Petro, which we have stayed at many times while waiting for Donner to open up, and got the last pet room at the Super 8...not The Nugget, but a room none the less.
Now...on to Burning Man. The man has been burned and now it is time for the third largest city in Nevada to exodus and blend into mainstream...hahaha. We met some interesting people and awoke to the fire alarm being pulled at 3 am by some burner in a Tarzan suit...he was taken away to jail. But the best was at Walmart. Jeff and I were shopping and I noticed her first...supposedly, but I wasn't the only one who noticed. This woman had on the tightest leopard print pants I had ever seen. You could see every nook and cranny..she had a great body so she was definitely turning heads. We happened to be in line a few people behind her. But looking a bit closer...she was in a full body-painted outfit, she was completely naked with this leopard thing painted on her, and no, I didn't have my phone to get the pic, but believe me it was just one of the colorful things we ran into over the weekend.
The best part was when we went to drop our load at The Fernley store. I was taking a shower and Jeff was off loading. We both noticed that they were asking people that wanted to take a shower to show them their CDL's. As far as we knew, if you have $10 anybody can take a shower...but not during Burning Man. We were informed that last year a Burner asked for a shower, and within 15 minutes they had a 12 person orgy in the shower which could be heard all over the entire store. Wow...my first thought was, who was the lucky employee who drew the short straw to clean that shower? Craziness.
That was our weekend. We couldn't wait to leave and go to the holy city of Salt Lake!