Tuesday, July 24, 2007

TCC: The Tenth Crumb, Part II

Now, for the benefit of those who do not already know: a "chicken-hauler" was generally recognized as being someone who drove a really fast and powerful truck really fast and powerfully every opportunity they were given; and since the moniker had more to do with style than substance: it was not necessary for their "refer" (refrigerated trailer) to always be loaded with some sort of a chicken product. For a true chicken-hauler could strut their stuff just as well with a load of produce, meat (beef or pork), or even a dry load in tow as they could with a load of Pilgrim's Pride.

In other words: a real outlaw, who went about their business with reckless abandon; but this is not to say that they necessarily were reckless. For it was hard to set land speed records when your truck would land belly-up in a bar-ditch out in the middle of nowhere on a regular basis.

Okay, I must give credit where and when it is due; and that is especially true of the legendary good ol' boys from North Carolina. For they could take-off from Dudley, NC (around 60 miles southeast of Raleigh) with a flat-bed (a trailer without doors, walls, and a roof) piled high with frozen chicken parts; and have the load in Los Angeles, CA before it thawed-out.

Hard to believe? Well, you would do well not to. For that was an example of a typical "truck-driver story".

Yes, a truck-driver story is quite similar unto a "fish story" told by fishermen. For they are usually very entertaining: despite being generally recognized as being a figment of someone's imagination by those who know better.

Nonetheless: not all fish stories are fictional. For in some cases: the unbelievable really did happen; and I stand as a witness of the same being true of some truck-driver stories.

A good example of one is about a run from Salinas, CA (around 80 miles south of San Francisco) unto Wilkes-Barre, PA (around 80 north of Harrisburg). For that is a run of around 2,900 miles (taking the southern route) that was made by a solo driver in exactly 37.5 hours, which was an average of just over 77 MPH.

Not bad for a 90 MPH truck: especially when all of the places where speed had to be significantly reduced are considered; but that is not the most amazing part of the story. For an "owner/operator" (someone who drives their own truck) made that very same run in 31 hours flat, which was an average of 93 MPH!!!

Yes, the truck he was driving was much faster and more powerful than the company truck that I was driving; but that is beside the point. For it takes a lot of nerve to drive that fast that far; and it took some time before I was so conditioned.
No, I cannot blame anyone who was not out there on the road during those days for being quite skeptical. For it was a different world in 1990; and that was true in a number of ways unto me.

Again: I found myself in unfamiliar waters with a new company. For I now had a refrigeration unit on the front of the trailer to attend unto.

Be assured that "attend unto" was an understatement: especially for someone with no experience. For they did not always start when I wanted them to. Neither did they always stay running after I had finally gotten them going; and then there was a matter of maintaining the proper temperature and airflow for the product(s) being hauled that could be a nightmare at times.

Being one who does not always appreciate a challenge as much as they probably should: I was a nervous wreck from start to finish on almost every run in the beginning; and it got a lot worse before it got any better. For I was absolutely paralyzed with fear the first time I hauled a load of "fresh" strawberries because of them being one of the most perishable items there is.

Trust me: I would have been more comfortable with a full load of unstable dynamite. For at least I would not have had to face the music for a rejected load if things did not go well with that.

No, just getting a load unto its destination on time was not all that there was unto it. For the load must also arrive in good condition; and that could vary greatly from place to place: even when delivering the same product unto the same vendor in different locations.

A good example of that would be a load of potatoes (in 10 pound bags) from Colorado. For at a couple of their warehouses: their part was received without any trouble; but at their 3 other locations: there was a lot of drama involved.

No, there was nothing different about the condition of the product. In fact: 2 of the troublesome locations were sandwiched between the 2 good ones.

Therefore: it should not be hard to conclude that the difference was in who was running each dock; and that is not no truck-driver story, neither. For as it was with some DOT officials: so was it also with some dock mangers; and I am quite sure that they caused as much trouble for the ones they were trying to impress as they did for the poor truck-drivers they tormented.

With time: it did get easier on me; and I got to where I welcomed "challenging" loads. For with each successful run: the legend of the "Goat-Roper" was enhanced (even if only in my mind).

Yes, I grew to think very highly of myself; and this had a great deal of influence upon my decision to seek greener pastures when the St. Louis-based company that I was driving for abruptly changed their policies. For what self-respecting chicken-hauler would stand for having to drive a 68 MPH truck under strictly-enforced log book regulations?

Now, in all fairness: it was not all their fault. For it was a high-speed road race between a white Cadillac (with the vice-president of their insurance carrier at the wheel) and one of their trucks (NOT ME!!!) that was the reason for governing-down their trucks so much.

Furthermore: it was getting blind-sided by a surprise DOT audit that sealed the fate of such lucrative runs as the "Hershey turnaround". For the run consisted of picking-up a load of Hershey products from their plant in either Mechanicsville, PA (around 10 miles northeast of Carlisle) or Stuarts Draft, VA (around 100 miles southwest of Washington, DC) unto either the TAB Warehouse in Fontana, CA (around 70 miles east of Los Angeles) or Modesto, CA (around 70 miles south of Sacramento) and re-loading at the same location going right back unto either Mechanicsville or Stuarts Draft just as fast as one could go; and there were just too many of them on their books to justify.

Yes, I made several of those runs. In fact: I became a favorite of Hershey's. For I could consistently make 3 complete turnarounds in a 2 week period. Hence: the stuff of legend.

Speaking of legend: I suppose I should explain what a "goat-roper" is. For I am quite sure that it is not common knowledge. For if it was: I would not have had to explain unto so many people over the radio (and sometimes in person) that a goat-roper is a cowboy who has to rope goats in order to have sex with something other than himself because of being too ugly to attract a girl?

Yes, my CB "handle" (name) was certainly an attention-getter; and invariably: the question would come-up about why I would prefer goats over sheep. Unto that I would matter-of-factly reply: goats are kinkier.

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