Monthly Archives: July 2012

Old hand tools at Brooks Ranch restaurant in Fresno, California

We have been making up for the time lost during the trip from hell.

Leaving Oakland, California last Wednesday we delivered in Las Vegas, Nevada on Friday.


After delivering in Las Vegas we left for Fresno, California to pick up two trucks for Joe to deliver back to Las Vegas.


Leaving Fresno and heading to Las Vegas we stopped at Brooks Ranch restaurant for breakfast. Brooks Ranch is a favorite of local farmers and ranchers. The men come in for a bit of gossip and gab time before they go back out in the heat to toil in their fields or work the cattle.



The wall space in a large dining area is covered with antique tools, tin signs (not antique), and other advertising items.



An electric soldering iron is hung on the dining room wall next to an older non electric model.



A device to suck oily liquids then squirt the contents out, reason unknown, is hung atop the wainscot of the lower wall.


A hole punch tool used on leather, canvas, or thin metals. Looks similar to something you could purchase today made from aluminum.


The next tool I have no idea what it was used for. Neither does my all knowing Joe.


Sheep shears with the sharp tips jammed into the ceiling area and screwed to the wall.


A hand scythe mounted high on the wall sparked a memory from long ago. Greeley, Colorado had an immigrant population that worked the onion fields when I was a teen.

I watched a Hispanic man of over 40 squatted on his haunches holding a scythe similar to this in his right hand as he snicked his hand back and forth cutting the grass of the little home he and his family lived in.

The man’s hand worked quickly over the grass. Palm toward his body as he drew the tool through the grass. On the return pass away from his body he twisted his wrist with palm facing outward. Each swipe back and forth cut the grass cleanly and easily.

I watched the man sharpen the tool’s blade on the concrete curb from time to time then return to the job of cutting his grass. His work was every bit as good as had he used a lawn mower. Amazing.

A spoke tool hangs on another wall.


In Colonial Williamsburg, back about 1999, I watched a man take a piece of a tree branch about 20 inches long. With a hatchet type of axe the man whacked the blade through the branch splitting the top part. He inserted a wedged shape piece of steel and quickly split the branch.

The bark was quickly stripped from one of the halved branches. After clearing the bark debris from the table surface he then took the spoke tool in his hands and began pulling the sharp blade along the length of the wood.

In minutes, and mostly a blur of motion, the man had worked the crescent shaped piece of wood into a smooth shaft to be used as an axe or sledge handle. One end was notched to accept a tool head. This tool was created, originally, to carve wagon wheel spokes from timber. As this tool was worked other uses sprang up – axe and sledge handles to name two.

The old arts are almost gone.

The next tools were more advanced. These are the “Power Tools” of the day.


The top most is a socket wrench. I used to have one of these. The wooden handle is a palm swivel knob thing. By placing the socket end over a bolt or nut, holding the wooden knob in your non dominant hand to steady the tool, wrap your hand around the crooked part moving in a circular motion to loosen or tighten a bolt. I had nothing to use this tool on but enjoyed messing with it.

The center tool is an “Automatic Screwdriver”. The shaft has a spiral groove. There is a “sleeve” on the shaft that moves up and down. That piece causes the shaft to turn a screw in quickly. I used one of these over 30 years ago and found it to be one of my favorite tools. I don’t remember now if there is a button or a tab to push or flip to cause the driving action to reverse but it does have something like that.

The last tool is a drill. It works by turning the wheel part. There is a little handle that is used to turn the wheel which rotates the drill bit. Unlike the power tools of today, regulating the speed was easy. All one had to do was hold steady and crank slowly.

Reversing the drilling mechanism meant turning the wheel the opposite way. Totally idiot proof.

These are “Sweet” tools and I had fun using them a lifetime ago.

This next tool had me stumped.



My ever knowledgable Joe said the tool above is a “Nail Puller”. I have no idea what that sharp beaked thing is nor how it works.

One thing I do know. Long ago, during the gold rush days, people would come in large numbers in search of their chance to make it rich. Canvas tent and slapped together wooden shanties would be replaced with sturdy buildings in the town square. Homes would be built around the growing town. As the rich mining petered out leaving behind broken dreams the home owner would pack up all their belongings in a wagon then set fire to the house that was once called home.

After the fire cooled the ashes would be combed through to salvage every single nail used to build that home. Nails were expensive. Too expensive to leave behind in a building that will never be lived in again.

Thus ends a blathering lesson on old hand tools and my jaunt down memory lane.

We are on our final trip before going home for a while. Santa Rosa, California to Las Vegas, Nevada.


Paperwork and 100 plus degree days await me. Oh joy! Oh well, gotta tough it out and get it done.

Hope you all have a great work week and the temps will be cooling for you, maybe even some much needed rain will fall where you live. One can always hope.



Dreisbach Enterprises – Oakland, California

Our journey to Dreisbach Enterprises in Oakland ended on Friday, July 20th. It only took 17 days to drive from Justin, Texas. Generally it is 3-1/2 days.

Today we are getting ready to leave Oakland for a 560 mile trip to Las Vegas, Nevada with the trucks from Dreisbach going to auction.


This is a “Freezing Unit”. A reefer that keeps the temperature well below freezing.

The power source for the generator on this trailer is electric.




This is NOT an ordinary household electric outlet. This is 400/460 volts and 3 Phase electric to power a super sized generator to do the job of keeping this trailer at the correct temperature.


This trailer is really NOT a trailer. It is a shipping container. The electric cord will be plugged to a power source at the shipping dock as well as on the ship when it is loaded.


This is the TRAILER part. The cargo container will be loaded on a trailer like this to be transported by truck to a destination somewhere to unload the contents then somewhere else to be refilled.

There are latching points on the trailer to secure the cargo container. At the front is a “lip” the container is pushed against.


At the rear are latches on both sides to secure the container to the trailer. The latches are inside the little “port” areas.



This thing underneath is what works that “mushroom” like thing in the above photo.


There are monster forklift like machines at the shipping ports that load and unload these containers all day long.

So what does a Cold Storage facility look like? First it is massive and goes on for blocks.


Trucks come and go at this place all day long. Picking up trailers, dropping them, trucks backing to the dock to get loaded.


This is a loading dock.


This is a trailer being loaded.


With the trailer “bumped” to the dock a loading plate covers the distance between the actual concrete floor of the warehouse and the back of the trailer. Makes it easier for the forklifts to get in and out.

So how’s that for learning something new?


Doing laundry while on the road.

Ack! Laundry duty follows me!

We are in Oakland, California….still. Waiting for our trucks going to Las Vegas to be ready. Probably tomorrow night, more likely Wednesday.

This is a great opportunity to get some laundry done.

When you make a hotel reservation – over the phone or online – ask if there is a guest laundry. Most, not all, of the major chain hotels do have a laundry facility.

It is, usually, behind a locked door your room key will open.



Fortunately this hotel has two washers and two dryers. Most hotels have one each and you have to hope that no one else has called dibs.


Check with the desk clerk when you check in. Ask if there are laundry products for sale in the laundry room or purchased at the front desk.


At $.75 a pop this can get expensive.


Especially when one wash load is $2.00 and all in quarters.


While the dryer is an additional $1.25, also in quarters.


Thankfully these machines are “Heavy Duty Commercial” and can handle a bit larger load than what you may have at home.

The washer has an agitator.


At home I have a front load…..yes, I’m a snob. A washer snob anyway.

The dryer in most hotels are “Heavy Duty Commercial” as well with a large drying drum.


I found a water tight plastic box at my local grocery store. It is a 5.8 quart “Lock & Lock” brand.



The lid has a blue gasket inside the lip of the lid. The four sides have holes that match up to corresponding, teeth for lack of a better word.



This particular box has a divider, of sorts, that I use to keep my Ziplock bags of detergent separate from my dryer sheets.


With these new concentrated laundry detergents it is easy to carry the amount you use at home. I scoop my cup in the box at home, eyeball the fill line, then dump into a ziplock bag.


I carry 10 to 15 bags of detergent in this plastic box.


A regular sized box of dryer sheets fit nicely in the box. I have a spot in the back of the pickup where this lives until I need it. Most times I’m home for a night or two and don’t need to find a laundry facility.

Maybe, if you are fortunate, you can get a jump on your laundry from the family vacation. Get away from the fighting and noisy kids for a couple hours. Leave the care and feeding of the young to your spouse 🙂

Just in case you need to know. The washers have a cycle – start to stop – of between 28 to 30 minutes. The dryers have a cycle of about 45 minutes.

Be sure to check inside the washing drum before you dump your clothes.


Someone left short pieces of a blue construction crayon in the washer. Of course I didn’t check first. That crayon made the trip to the dryer stowed away in a garment somewhere. I had lovely bright blue waxy stains on our clothes from undergarments to outer wear.

Just another traveling tip you may find useful….or not 😉


Fisherman’s Wharf – San Francisco, California

The Justin, Texas to Oakland, California trucks have been delivered!  Just took nearly a whole month to accomplish but those problem children are out of our hair – for now anyway.

What we are going to do from here is up in the air right now.  There is some speculation about our next load to be out of Seattle, Washington but it is still just speculation.

So, this weekend we are in an Extended Stay hotel in Belmont, California – courtesy of our Dispatcher who set it up and paid for it.

A little about Extended Stay.  We typically stay in one when we are in the Phoenix, Arizona area.  There is a kitchen included in each room, along with the normal hotel amenities of a bed and bathroom.

This type of hotel is for those that will be staying longer than overnight.  There are no taps on the door from Housekeeping  asking if you will be staying over or leaving.  If you need towels or bathroom paper during your stay you get them from the Front Desk instead of finding a Housekeeping cart and making your requests.  You have to make your own bed during your stay.  If it will be longer than just a couple days – say a week long stay – you can arrange to have your sheets changed every couple days.

The rooms are quieter than a typical hotel.  Meaning you don’t hear your neighbor’s television, dogs barking at anyone walking the hallway, nor kids squealing and crying from a long day of travel.

Cooking will be a challenge since you are supplied with only one skillet. The stove is a two burner electric range.   There are table settings for four, a few cooking implements to use in the lone skillet, cups for coffee, tumblers for water, a standard refrigerator/freezer to hold your groceries, plus a few cabinets to store your cereal and other non perishable items.  The room comes equipped with a dish drainer, detergent, wash rag, and towel for cleaning up after your culinary adventure.

The rooms are in good condition.  Which means there are no holes in the doors or walls, the furniture is upgraded from tired and worn to comfy and mid scale, the lamp shades are intact with no tears or burns.  You pay a little more to stay at an Extended Stay but the comfort level is better than a cheap hotel.

We stay in so many hotels during our work and we have seen it all.  The good, the bad, and the downright ugly.  Staying here for a couple nights is no hardship.  Thank you Tim 😀

Check in time is a strict 3:00 this Extended Stay.  Unlike regular hotels that allow you to check in after 11:00 a.m. so we had to entertain ourselves for a few hours before we could get checked in and unload our belongings.

Of course, being near San Francisco, California and needing to kill a few hours, the place to go is Fisherman’s Wharf.

I may be exaggerating here but it seems there is a 10 mile drive along the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf.  It is probably more like five miles.  All the traffic lights and slowed traffic make it seem longer than it really is.

The EmbarcaderoThe traffic lights were out at this intersection and was in dire need of assistance.  The “Everyone for themselves” attitude of today’s drivers had to be curtailed to allow everyone else to see the sights.

The sheer number of people walking the wharf area is mind boggling.

People everywhereThere is an abundance of public transportation.  If you can find a place to park your vehicle that is.  There are “Pay for Parking” lots along the Embarcadero, parking at the curb with meters to feed, and there is parking in many level garages.  You just have to drive around until you find some place to park.

Be transported by “Rickshaw”.

RickshawI have no idea what the cost is to ride the Rickshaw.  You can tell the “Driver” where you want to get off if you choose to walk for a while.

You can ride the Double Decker Bus to see the sights.  It stops at designated areas to get on and get off.  You can ride the entire route to see all the sights of the Wharf area then decide where you want to get off later.

Double Decker BusThere is an electric trolley type bus you can ride.  This transport is jam packed with passengers.  I saw people crammed so thick inside!

Electric Trolly BusThere is a mode of public transportation called a “Duck”.  This vehicle drives the paved roads PLUS it goes in the water and becomes a boat.

The "Duck"There are trains you can take to get around San Francisco to see the sights of the town other than the Wharf area.

Train transportStreet entertainment abounds.  Not just the gawking at the attire of the teeming mass of people.

Superman on walking stiltsA real "Drummer Boy"A "Sparkle Man" or somethingThe architecture in the Wharf area is diverse.  Business buildings of the area rise high above the old buildings of the wharf.

The wharf area is just as interesting architecturally.

Then there is this view of the area.  All uphill!

If you are planning to be in the San Francisco area and want to see Fisherman’s Wharf be prepared for the grid lock of traffic and the mass of bodies you will need to navigate through!  Joe and I stayed in our vehicle and just travelled around to see the sights.  We did not get out nor sample any of the food or drink.

Now I can say that I have been to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, California.


Clunkers in the trucking industry.

If you remember back to the first of July I told you we had driven over 10,000 miles (paid and unpaid) in 30 days.

This month we will be lucky to do half that. Because 14 days of it was spent in hotels in three cities on one load that, normally, would take 3-1/2 days to complete.

Other than the aggravation and anxiety caused by the one truck I drove continuously breaking down we will get away from this with a minimum of financial damage. The same cannot be said for the new owners of that truck.

We made it to Barstow, California Wednesday with no problems. Thursday we ended up in Santa Nella, California with problems developing once again. That blasted truck stopped working once more. The transmission problem all over again.

We had a solution for the final 97 miles of the trip. Swapping out Joe’s back truck with mine. He towed mine while I drove his to the buyer.

This experience has allowed me to think about a company driver that decides to become an owner operator. Take his/her life by the reins to finally live the American Dream.

Going to an auction to purchase a used truck has been one way to get a good truck that can be put to work immediately and start paying for itself with reliable performance. The buyer has to know there are problems waiting. Tires, for example, cut a big chunk of change out of the owner’s pocket and this has to be dealt with by knowing that it WILL happen and to plan for it in advance. Either set aside money from each settlement or just get 8 rear tires replaced immediately. This is no easy feat. Rear tires cost, on average, $600 per tire plus installation. Steer tires are $800 each. Steer tires are front tires on the truck This could set the owner back $6,400 plus installation but this is an expense that will be a game changer in the long run. Keep in mind, this $6,400 is NOT “Top of the Line tires”. Top of the Line will run $8,000 plus before installation.

Historically, at auctions, the better trucks have the lowest Lot Numbers. The people with money don’t want to wait all day long going through 800 trucks, or more, to place their bids and buy. Going by this “rule” may have bitten the buyer in the butt and the wallet big time. Then, too, maybe it was just the “Devil in the details with Lot Number 13” in this instance.

Whatever the buyer paid at auction for Lot #13 is unknown to me. What I do know is $950 was paid in Tucumcari, New Mexico; $450 for a tow to Albuquerque and a shop bill of $350 ($800) in Albuquerque, New Mexico; and $7,900 in Flagstaff, Arizona. This same truck is in a shop in Oakland, California for further repairs as I write this. This truck already has nearly $10,000 in repairs against it before it will make a dime for the new owner.

A normal, everyday, owner/operator would be seriously financially damaged by this truck if it were purchased by a single person and not a fairly large corporation.

The single owner/operator, happily living his/her dream, driving this truck to haul their first load with it would, more than likely, be facing bankruptcy before the year ends.

In the “real” trucking world loads have a time limit for delivery. The trucking industry is fast paced and demanding. If you can’t get the load delivered they won’t wait. Another truck driver will be dispatched to your location to get the trailer load on their truck while you sit, unpaid, for 17 days.

This can be a cruel world to be a part of. Not everyone is cut out to be an owner/operator. A company driver would fare no better in this situation but at least the company driver still has the option to get back to the home terminal to take another truck and keep going.

If you are considering buying from an auction there are steps you can take to help yourself.

First, physically go and see the truck you are thinking of buying. Walk around it. Look at the tires. Come equipped with a tire tread gauge. $4 from a Napa, AutoZone, O’Reilly’s, Pep Boys, Checkers, or any other auto parts store will be money well spent.

Second, check all the visible lines and hoses. Make sure the lines and hoses that are disconnected are done so for a good reason. If the truck had a “Wet Pack” (hydraulic lines and pump to work a dump trailer) that has been removed then know these capped off lines and hoses were for something that is no longer there.

Third, check the fuel tanks. Look inside the tanks themselves. Remove the caps and actually look inside the tanks. If you see one tank looks about 1/4 full while the other tank is about to run over will be a good indicator that there is a problem. Fuel is being sucked out of one tank but not going back to the other in circulation as it should be.

Fourth, in the cab of the truck. Make sure the “Data Port” is visible, intact, and secure. If you see a hole in the lower dash where the Data Port should be this is a very strong indicator that the previous owner is hiding the fact that this truck has major problems with the ECM (Electronic Control Module). Run, don’t walk, away from this truck. Bid on it only if you want to use it as parts. NOT to make a living to feed your family.

We in Drive-Away have these trucks to drive only as long as it takes to pick them up and deliver them. Our money and family are not tied up in these trucks. Our hopes and dreams of financial independence are not tied up in these trucks. Yours will be. So be smart when purchasing a truck from auction.

Take fantasy out of the equation. Stop imagining yourself sitting high in that beautiful truck driving your family to riches. Take a good look at the truck of your dreams. Look for the warts and the problems before you make your bid. If you don’t take these necessary precautions you could have the Devil as your passenger. He has ridden with me this month and it has not been fun.


Reefer vs Box Van

To continue with our “trucking lesson” of yesterday 😀 I thought I’d give you a little more information about the tractor trailers you encounter in your daily commute.

Let’s start with the Reefers.

The refrigeration unit at the front of the trailer is like a giant sized window air conditioner.  This unit cools to freezing temperatures of 32 degrees Fahrenheit and below, depending on the product being hauled.  Most loads are set at 32 degrees.

Think about your local grocery store and how it is laid out.  Starting with the produce section. If you remember back in late May and early June of this year we were in Northern California and I showed pictures of the workers in the fields.  Most of the machinery is set up to enable the workers to cut the lettuce heads, clean the outer leaves off, wrap the lettuce in plastic, then it is placed on a conveyor belt and moved up into the part of the machine where packaging is done.  People up inside the machine put the wrapped heads of lettuce in boxes then tape the boxes closed when they are filled.

All of the produce you get at your store starts its journey from a field where it is harvested, or an orchard.  Once the boxes are filled they are then set aside and stacked.  The next step in the harvest is to get the boxed produce to the loading area where the boxes are stacked on pallets, wrapped with plastic to secure the boxes, then loaded into a trailer.  Once the trailer is fully loaded it takes the produce to a warehouse where the pallets are unloaded from the truck and the driver goes back for more.

At the warehouse the produce is then stored in sections – lettuce in one area and tomatoes in another.  All produce is separated by its kind within these cavernous buildings.

Your grocer will place an order for produce through their local distributor.  This local distributor then combines all of the orders from all the grocery stores they deal with in your city or town and calculates how much of each produce item will need to be shipped to the distribution center.  This then gets sent to the manufacturer, or the giant warehouse where the produce is  now stored.  They have people that spend their work days as “Pickers”.  These Pickers get a computerized list telling how many pallets of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and other produce to put on which trailer.  The trailer is loaded and ready for the truck driver to take the trailer to another warehouse where the load will be stored then later split and loaded into yet another truck that will make its way to your grocery store with the order that had been placed earlier.

There are distribution centers all over the United States that handle all of your foods.  All dairy products, produce, packaged meats, cheeses are done in the same manner.  They start life out from a manufacturer or field then are stored in a giant warehouse where they are broken down into the next smallest size and shipped to another distribution center, then broken down further to get to your store where you then purchase your food items and take them home.

Box Vans are the same as a Reefer except they are not refrigerated.  Box Vans will haul cooking oil, sugar, flour, cookies, crackers, and other dry items that don’t need to be refrigerated.

Box Vans will also carry a load of cookware, pots and pans, or bake ware like Anchor Hocking or Pyrex dishes for you to cook your sumptuous meals.  Box Vans also will carry diapers, baby wipes, clothing, shoes, shampoo, deodarant, hair products.

When you go to any of your local stores to purchase items for your cooking or personal needs you can, generally, figure out if it came in a Reefer or a Box Van.  If it is perishable, it came in a Reefer; if it is a dry product that does not need refrigeration, it came in a Dry Van.

As you drive around your state on major highways look for a building that sprawls on forever, seemingly.  One that has a lot of trailers parked around the buildings perimeter.  That will be a distribution center.  Wal-Mart has many of these distribution centers and can easily be identified by their trucks, trailers, and the sheer size of the building.

Everything you purchase from Wal-Mart has been on the road a few times before it finally gets to your store.  Starting out at the manufacturer, then delivered to the Wal-Mart Distribution Center.  Each one of the trailers you see parked around the building has brought goods to the distribution center and are awaiting to be filled and taken to your grocery store.  Walgreens has large distribution centers as well.

Furniture stores, like Ashley’s, will carry their manufactured products in a Dry Van.  Best Buy, Macy’s, Dillards, Sears, JC Penny, and other mall stores will have their products delivered in Dry Vans.

So, if you have been behind a tractor trailer at a traffic light, or on the highway somewhere, it is delivering the goods you need for your home and life to a distribution center or store near you.

This is the end of today’s lesson on the trucking industry 😀  Bet you are glad this is over 😀

Joe and I made it to Barstow, California – Yippee Skippy – last night.  We will be heading to Santa Nella (Gustine), California for tonight and delivering these trucks tomorrow.  Three weeks and these problem children will finally be at their new homes – and we will be done with them!

Have an excellent day.


Refrigerated Trailer, otherwise known as a “Reefer”

While waiting for Rush Truck Center to open so we can get our keys, hook up, and finally leave Flagstaff I thought you might like to know a little something about cargo trailers.

Conveniently enough, one is parked at Rush Truck Center.


This is the refrigeration unit on the front of the trailer.


This is the temperature display. The truck driver will be told the temperature setting for his load and he can set it, or adjust it here.


These “steps” enable the driver to check on the temperature of the load without opening the back doors.



There is a door, way up high, to stick a temperature probe in to do a check.


This is the “King Pin” that will connect the tractor to the trailer for transport.


These are the “Landing Jacks”. When the trailer is attached to the 5th wheel of the truck these legs will be raised using the odd shaped handle crank.



The handle will be lifted off the storage hook, pulled toward the operator, the he/she will turn the crank round and round until the landing gear is fully raised and ready for transport.

When dropping the trailer the driver will crank the other way to lower the landing gear to support the trailer when the tractor pulls out from under it.

This is the “Fuel Tank” that supplies fuel to the generator to run the refrigeration unit. Diesel fuel is what is put in this tank.


This is the axle of the trailer it has the capability of sliding forward and backward to adjust the axle position for the load carried.



To see how the “Axle Slide” works and why it is a part of the trailer, sorry, you will have to either petition Joe to tell you or ask a truck driver in a truck stop the latter I don’t recommend. Some of these drivers will either proposition you or tell you to get lost.

This is the “ICC Bumper”. What the ICC stands for is something Joe will have to tell you.


What I do know is at big distribution centers there are giant sized fingers that hold onto this bumper, when the trailer is backed up to a dock, to keep it secure for forklifts to drive in and out while loading the trailer.

These are the loading doors. They swing wide open to allow the entry and exit of pallet movers, like forklifts and/or pallet jacks to enter and exit while loading or unloading.


These little chains…


Hook the doors fully open at the sides of the trailer.



Lastly, this little door is for temperature control.


If the inside of the trailer gets too cold the door can be opened to circulate the air – or something like that. Another question for Joe.

Chances are you have been behind one of these trailers and seen water drip out the back of the trailer. There are some loads, particularly produce, that gets ice spread over the pallets. As the ice melts the water runs out the back of the trailer.

Okay, this is the end if another boring post about the truck driving industry. Have an excellent day.