Indiana Toll Road on Interstate 80 is leased to foreign investors. 

When I first started driving in 2001 the toll booths on Interstate 80 in Indiana were manned by actual people. 

  
A person to hand you a ticket upon entering the road at entry points, and someone to take the money and give change at the exit points. 

  
All that changed. The Indiana I-80 Toll Road is now owned by foreign investors from Spain and Australia. You can read the July 11,2011 article in Transport Topics here

The 14 toll plazas on I-80 in Indiana, each having at least 10 booths for east and west traffic, were manned 24/7.  The people that manned the booths had families to feed, bills to pay, and earned a decent income. 

The Governor of Indiana saw an opportunity to put 3.8 BILLION dollars in the state funds for a 75 year lease of the interstate out of Indiana’s hands. 

All those workers have been placed elsewhere in state jobs or have been terminated. Replaced by automated ticket machines and credit card or cash machines to pay the tolls. 

  
  
Road construction is in full swing now that winter is over. The toll booths are manned once again. 

  
Our wonderful politicians – at every rabbit hole – think it is okay for America to be sold to the highest bidder. Infuriates the HE Double Hockey Sticks out of me. 

I think it may be time to bring the guillotines from the French Revolution back. Congressmen saying $174,000 a year is not enough money to live on and demand raises. I say “Off with their heads”!

Leslie


The little things no one tells you. 

In Drive-Away most of the tools, equipment, and supplies are listed – or discussed – when you sign on. You are told the common tools necessary to keep on hand. Other contract drivers will tell you something else you need to make your job easier. 

Frankly all of that stuff is, and can be, quite expensive. Let me give you a simple and cheap tool to keep on hand. It can be found in grocery stores. Pick up a box of plastic sandwich bags. Not the zip top bags, get the bags with the cuff and flap.  You will need one, on occasion, for a sticky gear shift knob. 

  
Why?  You may ask. 

Because of this. 

  
The shifting diagram piece must have came off. The previous driver decided to stick that piece on with whatever they had at the time. 

Hope you have a great weekend. 

Leslie


What happens if I leave something in a truck?

Buddy…..you are seriously screwed. 

In Drive-Away, once a truck is delivered and signed for you never see that truck again. 

A harsh lesson is learned by everyone, at one time or another, when an important tool of your trade is left behind.

If a replacement item can be purchased elsewhere you are out the time it takes to locate the proper business and the unplanned expense to pay for that lost item. 

Document holders are a whole other can of worms. Leave your legals behind, along with the transporter tags you get to call the company and let them know of your lapse in judgement. This, often times, includes a settlement deduction for replacement of legals and tags plus shipping. Think about the range of $100 to $150 you just lost. 

I’ve left things behind before and it is no picnic having to admit being an idiot. 

Joe is in the process of getting his handheld radio returned to him after leaving his in Tunica, Mississippi. He figured out his problem 5 hours later. He beat himself up pretty bad last night. 

I think he saw my little radio on the pickup visor, then remembered his mistake. 

  
This little problem is not the end of our world. He has worked with the Tunica personnel to have the radio FedExed to Elizabeth, New Jersey where we will be next week. The shipping charges can be as high as $110. Gulp. 

Until then we will have to rely on our cell phones to contact each other. 

Be mindful of your belongings. 

Leslie


A gratitude post. 

Joe and I were sent from Buna, Texas to New Orleans, Louisiana on Friday. Calling ahead to the next pick up point we find our trucks aren’t ready until two guys come back from vacation on Tuesday. 

Friday night was Rayne, Louisiana. Saturday and Sunday were in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. There I was able to get a bit of card making done and even a YouTube video made with a tutorial. 

Leaving Baton Rouge on Monday morning, the 83 mile trek was overcast and cool. Arriving at the pick up point we found our trucks were not ready. Another Coldiron contract driver was there waiting for his trucks to be ready. Joe and I got to know the young man during the five hours we all waited.  

These trucks we are waiting on will be sold at a Taylor/Martin auction in Tunica, Mississippi next week. Pressure is being put on us by dispatch to get the trucks. The company selling the trucks is having to pull men away from their regular jobs to get us out of their. It is a lose-lose situation all the way around. 

The man we talked with was able to get down the road last night while Joe’s trucks were being moved into our staging area. We got a start on hooking Joe up. My driving truck came a bit later.  Joe put my boom on that one. 

This morning we woke to drizzly rain. At the pick up location we had to wait while Joe’s truck needed to be jump started. 

  
Waiting for my second truck took all morning long. Rain pelted us as we waited. From sprinkling to a downpour with lightening streaking the sky then back to sprinkles. By late morning the rain stopped. Early afternoon the last truck arrived and we finished our work. 

Leaving New Orleans on I-10 we headed back west to catch I-55 north to Mississippi. 

Louisiana is full of lakes, bayous, and rivers. Bridges are what makes traveling through Louisiana easy. 

   
 
There are people that live beneath the bridges in houseboats. Their little spot on the water. Interstate noise probably mutes the songs of frogs and other insects. I would imagine it beats apartment dwelling. 

   
   
I even saw a partially capsized boat under one of the bridges. Someone got their feet a little wet I’d say. 

  
I have much to be thankful for. Tonight is spent in Jackson, Mississippi.  Tomorrow will be unloading under a cloud laden sky with cool temperatures. No rain predicted for tomorrow. Can’t beat that. 

Leslie


A tale of Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Swamp and sandals.

  
The many roads and highways across our 48 contiguous US states hold memories of all kinds for me. Most times the name of an area will trigger a memory. 

The vast and beautiful expanse of the Atchafalaya Basin, in Louisiana on Interstate 10, is one such place. 

The summer of 1999 Joe had been doing Drive-Away for a little over a year. I had been riding with him for just a few months. Not driving yet, just riding and helping with his work. 

I remember it being hot in the cab of the truck. We had the windows down in an attempt to cool off, which wasn’t very successful in the humid summer heat. 

We were getting on an 18 mile bridge that spans the Atchafalaya Basin. 

  
Joe told me we would be going over a swamp. I had pictures in my head of seeing the boats with giant fans gliding over the waters and vegetation. Instead I saw forests of trees with occasional glimpses of water. 

  
Later the swamp area opened up to feature stunted trees surrounded by water. 

  
Every once in a while Joe would shuffle his feet and make a groaning noise. I asked if he were uncomfortable or bothered by the water beneath us. His feet were burning and stinging. He was experiencing a bad case of athlete’s foot.  

You see, as long as I had known Joe he wore cowboy boots or heavy leather boots. All year long. I, on the other hand tried to stay as close to barefoot as I could. 

I broached the subject once again with Joe. Can we stop and get you some sandals at a Walmart somewhere?  As expected, I got the same response as I had all the other times. “I don’t wear Jesus boots!”  The derision in his voice was dripping with disgust at even the thought of his feet being in open footwear. 

Shrugging it off, I continued to enjoy the scenery. Long tree lined rivers 

  
  
More forests of trees, some tangled with a vine. 

  
“You know” I said “if you wear sandals your feet will dry and the athlete’s foot will clear up”.  To that I got a growl from Joe. 

Nearing the end of the bridge over the swamp basin I saw vehicles parked at the waters edge.  The occupants were fishing or boating nearby. 

  
Joe  spoke “You don’t have a problem with athlete’s foot. Is that because you don’t wear shoes?” 

I wasn’t going to celebrate a victory just then, nor was I going to ruin the possible win by overstating the benefits of “Jesus” boots. 

“I keep my feet dry so the bacteria can’t grow. I’ve had athlete’s foot before and it is uncomfortable” was all I said. 

After a little while Joe requested me to keep an eye out for a Walmart. This was long before the iPhone and the easy Google map feature to find a Walmart nearby. We found one on that day. Reluctantly, Joe relented. More like he was being lead to to his doom than just a shoe shopping trip. 

To this day, when the weather is warming – even in winter – Joe can be seen in his “Jesus” boots. 

  
I hope you enjoy your weekend. 

Leslie


Vertigo can strike anywhere

About four years ago I had to call for an ambulance to take Joe to the hospital. 

I don’t remember where we picked up trucks or where they were being delivered. I DO remember this stretch of I-30 near Arkadelphia, Arkansas. 

  
Joe called me on our little radios to say he had to pee. He pulled off on the shoulder and got out of his truck. I waited in my trucks, keeping an eye on oncoming traffic to make sure he could get back in his truck safely. I waited…..

And waited……

And waited. 

It was taking him too long to water the weeds. I went to go check on him. I found him. 

Behind the cab of his truck, hanging over the frame, he was throwing up.  His body was shaking and he was unsteady on his feet, as if he were drunk. 

Raising his head slightly to tell me he was sick sent him into another gut wrenching bout of nausea. Raising his head caused him to be violently dizzy and made matters worse for him.  I told Joe to hang on to the truck, keep his head down, and I would call for help. 

With my iPhone and Google Maps I was able to get a location of where we were to give a mile marker to the 911 dispatcher. Problem was – I am directionally challenged. I kept telling the dispatcher we were south on I-30 and was told that isn’t possible. 

Even numbered highways are East and West. Odd numbered highways are North and South. 

The 911 dispatcher was really great at calming me down as we both heard the loud retching and groans coming from Joe. I was asked if we had passed the South Fork Truck Stop?  I didn’t think we had. I was asked what was around me. Clenching down on my run away tongue I will myself to not scream out “Nothing but F’ing trees!

I told the 911 dispatcher the mile marker location from my phone’s map and said we were on our way to Texas. “Please, you can’t miss us on the shoulder!  Two sets of decked trucks. Four white Freightliners in a row. “. That only confused matters further. Now the dispatcher thinks there are four people sick. 

Joe is asking if help is coming, I’m not making myself understood where we are, and I’m on the razor edge of streaming out a string of curse words that would curl anyone’s hair within 50 feet. 

An ambulance passes me as I’m about ready to fly off the handle. “Tell them to come back!” I screamed into the phone. “Who?” the dispatcher asks. “The ambulance!  It just passed me going south” I screeched. Once again I was told that was not possible. 

Thank God somehow my world righted itself. The ambulance made a U-Turn right in the middle of the highway and came head on to Joe’s truck on the shoulder. Three big burly angels piled out of the ambulance and went directly to Joe. They manhandled him onto a gurney on the grassy slope of the shoulder. Cinched him in and struggled mightily to get the gurney off the grass and onto pavement. 

The three men tended to Joe as they loaded him in the ambulance. One shouted over his shoulder the Highway Patrol would be showing up in a moment. Then they were gone. The 911 dispatcher had hung up. 

Stillness surrounded me. Quiet. Except for my thumping heart and quick breathing. Adrenaline coursing through my body had left me shakey and I had an overwhelming desire to cry. I was saved from that embarrassment by the arrival of a Highway Patrol officer. 

After telling my tale and being assured Joe was being taken care of at a nearby hospital I began to formulate a plan. 

I asked the Officer where the South Fork Truck Stop was – two miles down the road I’m told – would he follow me to the truck stop so I could leave Joe’s trucks there. Then would he take me back to get my trucks so I could get them off the road. He agreed to help me. 

Now that I had an action plan I could get my wits together and not fall apart. So off I went, in search of the truck stop and get Joe’s trucks parked. 

I got to have an auspicious ride in the back of the police car. The space back there is literally NONE. I had to turn sideways to keep from having my knees in my throat. The Officer apologized for the bad accommodations. It seems in Arkansas female passengers have to go in the back. I didn’t care. I was well on my way to having my problem solved and to get to the hospital where Joe was. 

Don’t you hate book and movie endings that leave you questioning what happened next?  I won’t do that to you. 

When the police car arrived back at my trucks I had a terrible time getting out of the blasted thing. I had to twist my upper body and lay out of the vehicle. Once my hands were on the ground, a lot of popping and snapping of my spine and shoulders, I was able to get the rest of me out by crawling on the ground. Quite a dignified and ladylike exit. 

The Officer wrote out the hospital name and phone number for me. I got in my trucks and drove to the South Fork truck stop and parked next to Joe’s trucks. 

I don’t make Joe’s trailer work. He always does it while I watch. Now was just as good a time as any to see if I had been paying attention or off in LaLa land. It would be easier to get Joe’s front truck off than going through the process with my set of trucks. 

To spare you the details….after a few minutes of pushing the wrong buttons I was able to get the trailer in position to uncouple his truck from the trailer and leave for the hospital. 

Seeing Joe in a bed with an IV machine, cords and wires for a heart monitor and I don’t know what else was a final moment to come down from the stress. I did cry then. 

The doctor came by to tell me Joe had experienced Vertigo. He had an inflammation of his inner ear that was the cause of so much distress to my poor husband. A while longer in the hospital for monitoring, a prescription to reduce the inflammation and vomiting then we could leave. 

I don’t care what anybody says. Coming from the northern parts of the U.S. and going south to Texas I will still be going south on I-30 and not West. 

Leslie


You are going to run out of blinker fluid!

Way back in the summer of 2001, as a new truck driver, Joe said those words to me. 

Did I believe him?  Heck yes I did!  I was scared of everything and anything. Scared I would wreck.  Scared I would do damage to one of the trucks. Scared I would embarrass myself forever by doing anything that would cause the company I contracted with to fire my butt. 

I was so scared and intimidated by this job that I had a death grip on the steering wheel with my left hand. Both hands in fact. My right one was less tight because I had to shift the transmission and needed that hand to keep me moving forward in a losing battle to keep up with Joe on the road in front of me. 

Being so scared and hyper vigilant a small thing, like turn off a right or left turn signal, was not in my main focus of attention. Staying in my lane and not causing an accident trumped a flashing turn signal. 

The first time Joe told me I was losing blinker fluid I panicked!  For about 30 seconds I racked my brain trying to remember if the fluid came in a bottle or a can. I even wondered if I had ever remembered seeing the fluid before. In the midst of my angst it finally occurred to me that the blinkers were fueled by electricity and not a fluid. I’m sure you can imagine the deer in headlights look I had going on during that wild moment. 

15 years later I frequently call Joe on the cell phone to let him know he is leaving a blinker fluid slick in his wake. What a difference time and experience makes. 

This rainy and overcast day I am a passenger on the way to Houston, Texas to deliver Friday morning. So I can be a nuisance.  Verbally assault him with “turn your blinker off” or “I seriously hope you are NOT thinking about going through the median to the traffic on the other side” or “there is nothing but a rock wall (or plowed field) you seem to be indicating going through”. 

Just for the sheer devil of it….next time you are riding with someone that has a problem leaving their turn signal on – be sure to tell them they are losing blinker fluid. See how long it takes for them to realize the problem. That is if you can keep from laughing. LOL

Leslie