Almost Ready

Sebring, Florida

I am obsessed. With a Facebook page. Two actually.

Road Talk and Trucker’s Weather Updates and Road Conditions.

So complete is my obsession that MacGyver is waking every morning to his coffee, served in his red Ferrari mug, and my crash report.

This was a routine winter drive on US87 enroute to Great Falls, Montana in January 2013. But winter conditions this year seem anything but routine. Two Facebook pages which report weather and road conditions for big truck drivers, including multi-vehicle pileups has become my staycation obsession.

This was a routine winter drive on US87 enroute to Great Falls, Montana in January 2013. But winter conditions this year seem anything but routine. Two Facebook pages which report weather and road conditions for big truck drivers, including multi-vehicle pileups has become my staycation obsession.

“I need to unfriend them,” I tell him almost every day. “It’s freaking me out.”

It’s, like, an addiction that I feed it several times a day. There have been so many storms this winter and consequently many horrific crashes. Before Facebook I knew there were big truck crashes, I saw evidence of crashes, but there was no play-by-play.

Is this year worse? Are people driving when they shouldn’t or driving faster than they should because the available hours to drive and ultimately the hours to make money have been reduced? Because the 30 minute break is a more difficult calculation in bad weather where piles of snow and sheets of ice eliminate dozens of truck parking spots? Because while regulators limit drivers’ flexibility in the name of safety, the retail powerhouses continue to push and consumers demand two-day delivery?

We drive to the conditions. If we don’t like them we stop, like we did in December in Bloomington, IL when an ice storm that left Oklahoma City looking like a Dale Chihuly glass blown sculpture was heading towards us. There’s nothing we do that is so important that we or anyone else should risk getting hurt. On the road, other people’s speed and miscalculations boomerang. And that worries me.

The indomitable travel and trucking duo, Salena Lettera, of The Daily Rant and Ed Godfrey, of Truckin Ed, delivered a load to our 'hood. We showed off the winter joys of Florida. Dinner at Jetty's, dockside, overlooking Jupiter Lighthouse.

The indomitable travel and trucking duo, Salena Lettera, of The Daily Rant and Ed Godfrey, of Truckin Ed, delivered a load to our ‘hood. We showed off the winter joys of Florida. Dinner at Jetty’s, dockside, overlooking Jupiter Lighthouse.

My Monday, March 3 report was I-75 through Knoxville, closed, multi-semi crash. Ice, I told MacGyver. The following day, Arkansas, a nightmare, thousands stranded. Ice, snow, I told MacGyver.

“Do you really want to go?” he asked this morning. I have been pushing him to hurry with his chores.

“I want to get moving, “ I tell him. “We need money. Taxes to pay, real holidays to fund. It’s time.”

We’ve been off the road almost a month. On a staycation. We spent all our money last year, including our Medi-Spa fund, buying a StepDeck trailer and turning it into a Conestoga, a trailer with a tarp on a frame that rolls forward and backward to facilitate easy loading. It eliminates the need to throw heavy tarps to cover a load. It sucked up the holiday money. We do no traveling on credit, cash only! Here we sit.

It’s been productive for MacGyver. He:

  • replaced the wiring and lights that run along the tractor
  • installed new batteries and lined the frame to prevent rubbing
  • replaced all the fuses with ones that glow when they blow
  • reorganized the tractor garage
  • added new foot pegs to the Vespa to make my ride more comfortable
  • installed a Screaming Banshee air horn on the Vespa
  • made brackets to hang the speakers in the tractor bunk
Everything you need to know about MacGyver is summed up in this photo. Every job must be done correctly. On the right, Volvo's cheap wire, no match for the corrosive road chemicals, used in the chicken lights. On the left, the wire MacGyver selected as the replacement.

Everything you need to know about MacGyver is summed up in this photo. Every job must be done correctly. On the right, Volvo’s cheap wire, no match for the corrosive road chemicals, used in the chicken lights. On the left, the wire MacGyver selected as the replacement.

He spent about $1,000 on top-of-the-line components. He showed me the cheap, barely-insulated wire that Volvo used — cutting corners, he says, adds up to new a CEO jet — and the wire that he selected.

He replaced our drained truck batteries with glass matte batteries. We had them four years ago, but because they are rounded, they rubbed against the tractor until they, basically, bled to death. The batteries were excellent. Turns out we probably ran the entire truck for several months on one operating battery. He lined the battery compartment with heavy rubber to prevent them from rubbing raw on a bare metal beam.

While MacGyver was being manly, I donned my Suzie Homemaker apron. Cooking three meals-a-day, breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon snacks. I make wonderful egg dishes, scrambled with anything and everything left over in the fridge, tomatoes, fresh basil, red onion, bacon, chicken, cheddar, provolone, sweet red peppers, roasted Brussels Sprouts. They are fantastic. Ask him.

I did mountains of laundry because it was so easy. And the taxes. What a job! In addition to this year’s taxes, I sorted and scanned back taxes, receipts and documents and then shredded them, filling 17 garbage bags.

There was some fun too. We tore through the second season of House of Cards in three days. We’re now onto Breaking Bad. No one ever mentions the central theme of this dark, compelling and strangely comedic epic is a regular guy, a schoolteacher and father with a typically not-so-perfect life, including an unexpectedly pregnant wife. He is diagnosed with lung cancer and turns to “cooking meth” to pay for his medical care because he doesn’t want to leave his family mired in debt. His sidekick is a street smart, young guy with potential, but no eduation and, therefore, no real, legal, future. This combination, a modern-day American tale, makes it more transfixing.

A taste of parenthood. We babysat our friend's two African Grey parrots. Be careful what you say or you will forever hear it. Teelee loves two things more than life itself, it seems, chomping a yellow, No 2 pencil into oblivion, and only yellow pencils. And he is besotted with MacGyver, watching his every move in and out of the house.

A taste of parenthood. We babysat our friend’s two African Grey parrots. Be careful what you say or you will forever hear it. Teelee loves two things more than life itself, it seems, chomping a yellow, No 2 pencil into oblivion, and only yellow pencils. And he is besotted with MacGyver, watching his every move in and out of the house.

Our other amusement is babysitting a friend’s African Grey parrots. One, Teelee is besotted with MacGyver. Lovesick. He trembles whenever MacGyver leaves the room. Teelee stands on MacGyver’s fingers and bows his head, offering it to MacGyver to stroke.

The other one, Tecu, or Cucu, is a wild and crazy guy. We’ve been trying to teach them to say Hell Ya! and Hey Now. So far, they don’t like curse words. Instead they say: How are you? Hello? in both MacGyver’s voice and my voice and their Mistress’s voice. They pock, pock, pock like a chicken, bark like a dog, hiccup, say Ewwwww, What? Repeat every electronic sound they hear including the tone that alerts me to texts. And Teelee, who can whistle the Andy Griffith theme song knocks on his cage three times and says “hello.” That sent me to the front door several times until I figured out it was the parrot.

Are we Vespa people or BMW people? We tried on the BMW for three days, test driving it around Southern Florida. And I like it, but there are several hoops to jump, including an engeering and design project, before this becomes a reality.

Are we Vespa people or BMW people? We tried on the BMW for three days, test driving it around Southern Florida. And I like it, but there are several hoops to jump, including an engeering and design project, before this becomes a reality.

We picked up the bike in Fort Lauderdale and drove a half hour to Le Tub, a burger joint on the Intracoastal Waterway in Hollywood, Florida, across the street from our former apartment. The giant $11 burgers, fresh off the grill, are Oprah famous.

Since we went to the Horizons Unlimited motorcycle travelers meeting in Nakusp, British Columbia last year, I have known that it was only a matter of time before a bigger bike rolls into our garage. MacGyver built the storage box and the ramp to go big.

“What are your first impressions,” he asked once we were settled at a waterview table sharing space with the feral lizards.

“I’m ready to write the check now,” I told him.

BIG pause.

“What? Now? No.”

Le Tub used to be a secret, a bar and grill on the Intracoastal Waterway in Hollywood, Florida, made entirely from items scavenged from the beach. Big burgers, cold Buds, cash only. Then Oprah discovered it. The Mercedes and the Bentley's spill out of the parking lot at lunchtime now, and they take credit cards, but the burgers are still fantastic, grilled to juicy perfection. This little guy joined us for lunch.

Le Tub used to be a secret, a bar and grill on the Intracoastal Waterway in Hollywood, Florida, made entirely from items scavenged from the beach. Big burgers, cold Buds, cash only. Then Oprah discovered it. The Mercedes and the Bentley’s spill out of the parking lot at lunchtime now, and they take credit cards, but the burgers are still fantastic, grilled to juicy perfection. This little guy joined us for lunch.

Of course, the bike is bigger, sturdier and more comfortable than the Vespa. I sit higher, in the “pillion” position and I can see more. The passenger foot pegs are in a better position for me than the Vespa, which has a notoriously bad placement. But it’s $20,000 new, $15,000 after we sell the Vespa. I don’t need to tell you that MacGyver is a man who opts for quality and value — in a wife, too — in everything he does.  “I’m just doing it to make you more comfortable sweetheart,” he always says. Ha!

Three days of driving and discussing and MacGyver thinks the BMW is great. But the Vespa, he says, taking charge, has a lot to offer. “We’re not ready, yet,” he tells me.

We were saved by four inches. We bought extra insurance on the bike rental so we could test load it into the storage box on the back of the tractor. It’s four inches too long for the current configuration with the ramp.

Four inches! That's all that came between me and my rash declaration that I was ready to "write the check" for a BMW Motorcycle. It does not fit in the box, we tested it. But MacGyver designed our storage box to its maximum potential. There is room to play. It may take him a year, but he will get that last four inches (see right photo) into the box. Trust me.

Four inches! That’s all that came between me and my rash declaration that I was ready to “write the check” for a BMW Motorcycle. It does not fit in the box, we tested it. But MacGyver designed our storage box to its maximum potential. There is room to play. It may take him a year, but he will get that last four inches (see right photo) into the box. Trust me.

You and I know, if it had a fit, we’d be having a different conversation.

While MacGyver works out how to accommodate the BMW, I have a couple of years to save up the money, to make it a cash purchase.

So we are ready for the road, looking for loads, and hoping for dry roads.

16 thoughts on “Almost Ready

  1. There've been some bad pile-ups in Ontario, and the OPP made an unprecedented statement: they specifically blamed several pile-ups on truckers not driving to the conditions. Truckers used to be the safest drivers on the highways here, but now I guess quite a few haven't had enough training or are working for fly-by-night companies.In January I was passed by a rig from Caravan Logistics. It was doing 140 km/hr on a snowy passing lane – I know because I clocked it. The driver had disabled the limiter. I called the police and gave them the number on the trailer. A detective called me back later and said that they hadn't found the truck, so they couldn't ID the driver – but they were contacting Caravan so that they could take action themselves.I also wrote to Caravan, but never had a response … which makes me wonder how seriously they take complaints about drivers.

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  2. Jennie, I am glad to hear that you wrote to the company. But the driver is disposable to most of these companies. The shippers pressure the carriers, the carriers pressure the drivers.They won't see their responsibility.This month is six years on the road for us. Everyone, cars and trucks, drives too fast for the conditions. And even more importantly, everyone follows too closely leaving themselves no out and no reaction time. When it's a car, drivers mostly kill themselves or their passengers, we see them regularly flipped in the ditches on sunny, clear days. When it's a truck others can die. Company drivers, are employees, and they are on often on tight schedules. They have X hours to make an entire route and return to their terminal. Companies don't want to hire more people, they don't want to pay more in wages, consumers don't want to pay more for products. Carriers are a safe as the bottom line dictates, and the government safety agenda is created by those who donate the most, particularly in the US. The "safety" chain must include shippers and receivers because they are the ones that really set the rules with their demands and their promises to consumers.

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  3. You're back! Missed you!! Will you be going to Thailand this year?Thanks for info re the traffic/weather pages. Ominous if (company) drivers are being forced into unsafe conditions because of company greed and well-intentioned but unrealistic regulations. Global warming is going to be hitting trucking companies hard in the pocketbook, whether they want to acknowledge its presence or not.You had a productive staycation. Like the parrot guests. Smart little birds. Hope Teelee doesn't kick from lead exposure!Cheers.

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  4. Belledog, Thanks for saying hi. No, no Thailand this year. Only staycation. Our trailer and tarping system sucked upevery penny last year, now we need a return on investment. But I'm already looking to next year. I'm thinking India where we can try out some ayurvedic massage and rejuvenation.It's going to be interesting when we finally start to recognize that things are changing all around us, and they are. Coastal cities are dealing with high tide surge over city streets and flooding sewers. How long will be let people live on the barrier islands and cover their insurance? And rebuild people's houses who are in California wild fire zones. Turns out the explorers of yesteryear were just a few decades early, the Nortthwest Passage across the Arctic is open now in summer.For transportation to feel the pinch, we will all have to buy less. I'm okay with that. We all spend way too much money on much too much unnecessary crap. But there are companies that make a lot of money producing that crap and others that reap profits pushing it around the country. I am not expecting a big trucking slowdown in the six-to-eight years I have before I start thinking seriously about retiring. But change is afoot, no doubt about it.I know the pencil thing is weird, but, well, Teelee likes it. If you're in captivity, living in a four-by-four cage you might as well enjoy the days. Hey, that sounds like us, except we have eight-by-eight, but we're two sharing the cage, er tractor.

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  5. What a great post.Good to hear what you guys have been up to.Missed you two at the annual meeting in Bangkok this year.Turned out to be just Tim and me along with some of Tim's associates meeting over beer and the men's Olympic Gold Medal Hockey game.As far as I see the 4 inch problem – MacGyver has three options – one – modify the garage – two – modify the bike (I am sure there is a smart bike mechanic that could find a way to make the bike 4 inches shorter) – three – there must be another BMW model that is just four inches shorter. Enjoy the research.Let me know if you guys get up to my neck of the woods, if you give me notice there may be a meeting of the White Rock Whiskey Society (http://us3.campaign-archive1.com/?u=8ee1236a800de3927b17e0417&id=9d5a0856cc&e=7584cb4dfe).Cheers

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  6. Brian, There's another option, move the ramp. The ramp is big enough to handle the weight and size of the bike — he made sure of that because while he was saying Vespa and buying Vespa he was thinking BMW — and there are a few inches to reposition it. It's all about the pivot point. The guy who made our ramp, at mountainmaster.net, was great to work with and the people who built the box, highwayproducts.com, were also fantastic. So there's a solution in there.What MacGyver wants, especially when it comes to toys, MacGyver gets. It's only a matter of time.We'll be on the road Monday, we just booked a load, we'll be in your neighborhood in the Spring.

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  7. Hi Guys Great post. We missed you, glad you are back. The Beamer looks the goods, Greg, sorry MacGyver I can see you two spinning the wheels on that baby. Glad you are watching Breaking Bad, Gen and I have just finished watching it for the second time (I know too much time on our hands) Just love this show. Remember: "I am the one who knocks"Stay safe you two.All the best Steven, Genny and Scooter

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  8. Steven, Great to hear from you guys. We are envious. We aspire to lots of time on our hands. We are doing a pretty good job of it. Last year a friend who is part of a team ran almost 300,000 miles. We did just short of 91,000. There will have to be a few more this year, but…..We will finish up season two tonight, we did four episodes last night, three more tonight. We hit the road Monday so we will have to get the DVD or something. Both Heisenberg and Jesse are very complex characters. I can see why people rave about the show. Its social commentary is cutting.Throw a shrimp on the barbie for us.

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  9. I finally sat down today and read your entire blog. Fabulous.Afraid I have to agree with you about the HOS/BS. Now she wants to delay implementation. But the ignorance of the non-trucker public is vast and deep. I'm afraid they will only notice when the "stuff" starts failing to fill up the stores, not that the vanishing middle class has any money to spend these days.Do you think you will make it to retirement? I'm one of those subsidized solo company drivers that quit after two years because, yes, I was paying them to drive. It was a great vacation, but it didn't come close to supporting me. My husband does that and pays for the health insurance that is keeping me alive at this point.We are voting today with our mail in ballots, but I fear for the future of this once-great country. I may not be alive to see it, but the future isn't looking too bright with the corporatist Supremes. They stole out jobs, our incomes and the equity in our homes. Now they seek every other asset we may still have in our possession. Can they be stopped? I don't know.Regards to you both and keep on keeping on. If you are ever in Denver, I can probably find you a place to park if you need it.

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  10. Marlaina: you have been obsessed with that Facebook page for a real long time now.Just sayin'.Yer friend,BelledogPS: woo hoo! Decorina sighting!!

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  11. Hello Decorina. Thank you for your time and interest. I am also wondering — given that virtually all of these regulations are either designed to turn driving, the safety part of the industry, into a minimum wage job or eliminate the owner operator, the small business part — if we will make it to retirement.I love the work, the driving, the business. Luckily I have a husband who wants to excel at everything he is interested in, and because we are not of, or from, trucking we had no pre-conceived notions about how things work, pounding miles is not the answer if one is a team, and owns all the equipment, and are willing to listen to advice. I have also been sharpening my pencil. While our plan has been to buy a new tractor in 2015. I am now wondering if we can simply keep this one on the road, we are not missing California, another three years, save the money and retire in three to four years.All doors are open.We love Denver. I will let you know if we are in the 'hood.

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  12. Belledog, Here are my excuses for the Facebook fixation. They start with, it's easy, it's fast, and I can do it myself. My art department, meaning MacGyver, has been occupied with loads. Since we left Florida, the last post, we have run 38,913 miles, which doesn't sound like a heck of a lot too most solo drivers, but for us it is. Last year, the entire year we did 91,151 miles.We have a photos in the camera. And MacGyver promises them soon. So I will tell him you're asking.Cheers,

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  13. Hi again, just checking…I thought I'd posted on another blog post instead of this one. Sometimes I get cornfused. Offer of parking still there if you are out this way. I am wondering about the posts you get in Japanese. I was updated with a couple of them and can't read them of course…wondered if they are spam?Beautiful here today. This has been the wettest summer since I moved here in '82. My plants are all lush and beautiful and the garden is thriving, though I sort of shaded out the tomatoes with 8' tall sunflowers planted on their south side. I didn't know they'd get that tall! I did plant 25 plants, though, so I'm hoping the tomatoes will ripen before it gets too cold.Regards to you both, and hello as always to Belledog.

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