Tok, Alaska (Part 2 of 2)
“No, NO, nooooo!” MacGyver wailed from the driver’s seat.
“CLOSED. It’s closed. How can it be closed?”
The 24/7 Tok, Alaska Weigh Station sits empty, looking abandoned, at 7:00 PM on the second Sunday in April this year. Alaska advertises the scale as open 24 hours, just not 24 hours in a row.
Truck drivers, even by-the-book owner-operators like us do a mental happy dance when we find a closed Weigh Station, relieving us of exposure to a Department of Transport inspection and the Book of Possible Violations and Fines. It’s like going through US Customs after an overseas holiday. You’re not doing anything wrong, but you’re nervous. A big truck’s gut is a mysterious black hole. Continue reading
Latitude 63.3367° N
To a truck driver, the Haul Road to the Arctic Ocean is North America’s final frontier. But since I’m a not-really-trucking kind of truck driver, crossing the Yukon into Alaska is mine.
The best office window in the world is in my tractor. We spent the night in a pullout and woke up to this scene — Matanuska Glacier.
Only the bold drive the lonely, two-lane Alaska-Canadian Highway, known to the world as the Alaska Highway. Here, cellphones flash No Service for hours, there are 290 moose to every one elk wandering the muskeg and the boreal forest of coniferous trees and almost no people.
Mostly empty as far as the eye can see, driving across Texas is an intense experience.
Desolate and monochromatic, the vast emptiness is dotted by millions of grazing cattle, thousands of genuflecting oil derricks, wild boar hurtling across the Interstate , abandoned, re-imagined and rejuvenated towns, and magically, from the rolling hills and steep plateaus both gleaming cities and industrial monoliths appear like Oz.
Early morning on Gruene’s main corner. The mercantile building is to the left and the Gristmill is the former Cotton Gin now a restaurant with 11 distinct dining areas.
Since the early 1700s, Mexicans, Europeans, most notably Germans, and Americans have been staking claims in this too-cold-and-too-hot barren and brutal landscape.
San Antonio, Texas
I came prepared to mock it.
Without seeing the network of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River, one story below the city’s downtown, lushly subtropical, fragrant and guarded by 400-year-old Cypress trees, I dismissed it as a corporate river, expecting an abundance of the typical tourist shops, selling the typical tourist product, fudge.
One-story below downtown San Antonio is a 2.5 mile stone pathway winding its way along a lush and fragrant walkway. Two parallel walkways along the Paseo del Rio wind and loop through downtown.
Instead, after walking the picturesque stone paths, I was impressed by the city’s historic centerpiece, the San Antonio River Walk. It is a prime example of the quintessential American recipe for development.
Podanur, India (Part 3 of 3)
Putting aside our disappointing freight and revenues in 2015 — and the fact that our tractor and trailer repairs cost as much as a small BMW sports coupe — we finished the year with true wealth.
The wealth a person feels when they do something for no return.
The three Rs are important at FFC, but there’s a healthy component of exercise and play.
Our 2015 highlight was the three days we spent volunteering at the Families For Children orphanage in India.
Even a casual reader of this blog understands that MacGyver, responsible for all of our photographs, is an artist. He sees beauty and complexity in frost on windshields and lighting fixtures in restaurants, as well as paint on canvas. He has exposed me to a lot of art in the past 25 years.
New York sculptor Gedi Sibony is inspired by non-traditional materials, plywood, cardboard, carpet, garbage bags, vinyl and used pieces of dry box trailers. This piece of a dry box trailer was valued at $80,000.
Driving our tractor-trailer unit more than 800,000 miles around North America has rewarded us with a surprisingly art-filled lifestyle. Our favorite artist is Mother Nature. She paints never-ending, constantly-changing landscapes that continue to thrill us, and chill us, every day.
Fort Cochin, India (Part 2 of 3)
Four years since its narrow defeat, the Communist Party of India-Marxist’s red and white flags flap wildly in the Keralan wind. Out of power in the state that proclaims itself “God’s own country”, but very much alive.
Tea plantations everywhere one looks in Munnar.
We arrived in Kerala from dusty, hot Tamil Nadu. Driving out of the grasslands into the clear, cool air of the hill stations above Munnar, where the women collecting tea leaves, receive, in addition to their wages, employer-provided housing, healthcare and education for their children.
We came to see the social-democratic state that is secretly envied by Indians. Continue reading
We smelled it before we turned the corner. The heady aroma of sizzling beef.
“Brought to you by iOS9,” said MacGyver as we pulled up to The Brick. A one-story, red brick building with the bad ass architectural element of a door straight out the back for quick getaways whether from the spouse, the law or the revenuers.
The Brick, a burger and beer joint, located in Jonesville, Indiana, off I-65, first opened for business in the early 1900s. During Prohibition it became a gas station. Its current look is from the 70s, fake wood paneling and naugahyde booths and bar stools.
The new iPhone operating system has a right swipe to find local dining, shopping and entertainment. He clicked on the “bar” tab and up came The Brick. The Yelp reviews say: Talk to Columbus (Indiana) people and they’ll tell you The Brick has the best burger anywhere hands down.
Mumbai, India (Part 1 of 3)
Hands. Hundreds of millions of Indian hands, providing virtually free labor, power this complex, contradictory country.
Dawn breaks over Mumbai harbor revealing a man rowing his boat, skirting the anchored ferries. The harbor opens to the Arabian Sea.
In the ninth century, Chola rulers commanded their people to carve granite into towering temples in Tamil Nadu, the southeastern Indian state. In the 21st century, Indian hands created the newest temple, a 27 story private home in South Mumbai for the country’s richest man. A skyscraper hanging over a slum. Inspecting the ancient ruins, the working and living conditions seemed better 1300 years ago.
Our year began with a 2,599 mile deadhead, driving from Quebec to Washington state, burning fuel on our own dime, because we couldn’t find a westbound load.
Normally, we’d wait. Or we’d follow the freight. But last January, we couldn’t. A plane was waiting. Not any plane, the Dreamliner. And not just any seats. Champagne-swilling, Business Class points rides to India, through Shanghai and Bangkok.
We try to fly through Shanghai to Asia because during the layover MacGyver likes to ride the 431 kph MagLev into the city for Dim Sum. This time we were foiled by a mysterious Shanghai rule. Unlike traveling through Beijing, where bags are checked to the final destination, in Shanghai, we were forced to not only clear customs but collect our bags and check in again, closing the MagLev time window.
That was the harbinger of freight. Or more accurately, fright.
Looking back six months, we can see that freight fell off the cliff on January 2, the day we delivered a diesel engine to Rifle, Colorado.