Being a Semi Tourist
Most truckers are pretty damn smart, a fact lost on the general public because who wants to stand downwind of a trucker, if you get my drift. But an awful lot of us are also corpulent, and some of us are morbidly obese. Who cares. Go somewhere else for weight loss advice.* The only thing I’m advocating is to get out of your truck and see America. (Side effects may include nausea, but that usually goes away once you’ve cleared the stench coming from the parking lot.)
So, here are the essentials:
1. A truck. If you don’t have access to a truck, an RV might do in a pinch.
2. A bike (or a trailer full of money for cab fares). If you are serious about seeing America a bicycle is the only effective transportation for a trucker. There are two storage options; a) behind the tractor. Remember to secure it to DOT standards (your bike chain and a few bungies should be just fine). This is the easiest, and quickest method, but the weather and road grime (salt especially) can be harsh on the bike. I use a platoon system: a good bike for summer, and a cheap bike for winter; b) many drivers with lighter road bikes use cargo bags and heft their bikes onto the top bunks (or, elsewhere in the cab).
3. Cross-country skis. (Optional.) XC skis are pretty handy for beating back cabin fever. Snow has the power to transform ho hum into beautiful. Unspectacular biking destinations, for instance, can be pretty amazing when blanketed with snow. Also, you don’t need nearly as much acreage for a decent adventure. Some of the same bike paths/trails make fine XC ski trails; Pole mountain, Wyoming and Chemult, Oregon are two prime examples.
4. A camera. Technically not essential, but having one often generates an itch to put it to use.
5. A computer to pull up www.semitourist.com, naturally. How to use this site: I have made the site pretty redundant. You can look for things to do by state, by map (either the Google map, or state maps), or by highway. The highway format lists the exits in the order you would see them driving past (except where I entered them dyslexically, which I may, or may not have fixed). Entries vary from true destinations, such as Moab, Utah, to glorified rest
areas, such as exit 52, Nebraska. Most entries lie somewhere between those extremes. The few places that lack “B,” or “MB” abbreviations don’t require a bike to get to their destinations. All others do.
6. Plan ahead, but be flexible. Look over your route early enough to be aware of possibilities. Mentally, it’s pretty hard not to keep pushing on, so it helps enormously to be looking forward to a particular destination. Don’t forget that you have three hours of screw off time before you start eating into your driving time. When I’m under a tight schedule I still can usually get a solid hour of playtime in, eat, and take care of the three Ss.’
7. Explore strange civilizations: take the bus (or train). Use Google Maps to find the nearest bus/train stops into the major cities. A lot of buses/trains allow bikes too, so do a little public transportation research.
8. That’s it.
* But, if you’re really interested, I lost 30 plus pounds immediately after we quit team driving (it was nice to see my wife again). And bicycling toned up some of the remaining flab.
1. I changed my mind: there’s some weight loss advice on the next page, Weight Loss for Stinking Geniuses.
2. RE: Point #6. Our company has changed its business model to shorter, regional runs. I still get out, but I don’t have a pattern yet.
(This really is a travel guide (of sorts), but I can't drive safely if I bottle up the political rants. The (apolitical, mostly) heart of this site is on the Places to See, Things to Do page.
Can You Spare
Not long ago, 07:00 am (redundant, but maybe you’re not a trucker, European, or ex-military), still dark.
A younger woman (20s maybe), wearing a puffy black down coat approaches me while I’m pumping gas. “Do you have some change so I can buy a cheeseburger?”
I know I don’t, but I can’t stop my hand from reflexively patting my front pocket. “No,” I tell her.
“How about a dollar so I can buy a cheeseburger,” she persists.
“No. I don’t have small bills,” I say.
She doesn’t go away, or even move. Her expression is static and inappropriate for the facts I’ve given her. I’m not sure if she’s stoned or a little slow – her eyes stay wide open as if both eyes are lazy eyes, but she’s not really staring off into the distance.
taken from Parkland, Washington.
Yakima River Canyon, Washington.
Goosed. Sparks, Nevada.
Artifact. Deschutes River State Park, Oregon.
Yakima Sportsman State Park,
(Near Yakima, Washington more than likely.)
Easy day: drop and hook. Gets easier: 'take container to get reefer unit
fixed, wait'. Gets way too easy: “It’ll take at least three to four hours, probably be done around noon. I have your phone number, I’ll give you a call when it’s done.”
“Turns out it wasn’t the buried and virtually inaccessible shaft seal after all. We did, however, discover a massive freon leak in the doo-hickey.” (Mechanics are hard to follow, especially when it’s not your dime.) “It won’t be done for awhile.”
Dispatcher added a pick up while things were still looking rosy. The rose then wilted, bruised, and started to wither. I weighed the consequences of leaving when the job was finished versus asking for paperwork. I went with the latter and thus added another hour while the mechanic wrote up the job so the shop supervisor could hunt and peck out a page long itemization of services rendered. (I don’t begrudge any of it considering the 100° plus temps that day, but then again, not my dime.) Anyway, my decision left only a half hour to get to the customer.
I got to the customer on time! But, I forgot to get a light weight. Luckily, the neighboring business has a public scale and with three minutes to spare before they closed I got my light weight. (Heavy weight would have to come from CAT scales in the morning.) Scale ticket in hand, I backed into the
dock doors closed and waited another hour while they packed my order.
One hour driving/work time was left on my logbook when the forklift driver whistled (not unlike our dolphin ancestors) for me to open my trailer doors. So I flung those babies wide open, secured ‘em, jumped in the cab and noticed the reefer light was no longer green. I waited. The forklift driver waited. He pointed out that our fruit (meant to be refrigerated at 34°) was sitting on an open-air dock in 100° weather. In not so broken English he pointed out that a decision was urgently needed. I passed the urgency up the chain of command.
An hour later word trickled down,“Don’t load.” That left me with a matter of minutes to get to the truck stop across town if I was to keep my new pledge to myself, ‘log it as I do it.’
At about this time a beggar (observation, not judgement) asked for fifty cents. I gave him a dollar (because it was more expedient than saying ‘no’ or climbing into the truck and grabbing fifty cents).
So, God Bless You, right? WRONG! With a big shit-eating grin he says, "Welcome to Yakima!”
Welcome to Yakima!
Escape From the Apple Maggot
Apple maggots are not welcome in central Washington despite the contrary signage announcing “ENTERING APPLE MAGGOT QUARANTINE AREA: DO NOT TRANSPORT HOME GROWN FRUIT BEYOND THIS POINT.” Why quarantine apple maggots to the most
productive apple growing land in the world? How’s that work? Are apple maggots
themselves a big export commodity to be safeguarded? Maybe they’re a third world
delicacy or something?
Frying Pans Assault Techniques
I was sent from one apple warehouse to their other warehouse to complete a pick up. Inside the drivers’ side of the shipping office I waited on the few unoccupied squares of linoleum available, which happened to be by the counter for the shipping office. The two female shipping clerks were seated at computers facing each other. The older, smaller woman was recalling how she told off a co-worker.
“She’s a big girl,” the other woman said, annunciating “big” in the way connoting size, as opposed to level of maturity.
“That doesn’t matter, I had brothers that beat me up all the time. I learned how to fight,” said the smaller, slightly older woman.
“My brother is a Marine and he taught me some tricks. You step into the punch,” she said rising to demonstrate,“put your weight behind it, like when you hit a baseball.”
“No, what I’d do is grab a fistful of hair,” the older woman said as she pantomimed grabbing hair, “and yank her backwards onto the ground, and then kick the shit out of her.”