By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 2/28/2020
Topics/Keywords: #18-Wheeler #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver #TruckDriving Page Views: 271
An entry from Alternate Roads: Paul S. Cilwa's Truck Drivin' Journal

Sunday, November 24, 2002

A hectic weekend, yes sir. It actually started on Saturday, when I was scheduled to bring my truck in for PM (preventive maintenance) exactly one hour after I delivered a load fifty miles away from the repair shop…on the other side of Los Angeles. What's more, I was assigned a load that was due to be picked up a half-hour before I received the assignment! I got off that one, but wound up running late—as usual—due to the truck's PM taking longer than planned. In fact, I wound up spending the night parked in the Los Angeles OC.

But this morning I was off and running: First, to run the load originally scheduled for pickup yesterday; then to continue on to Madera, California, to take on a load of wine destined for Reno, Nevada.

The first load went without a hitch, in accordance with the altered schedule. (Do any loads ever adhere to their original schedules?) The delivery was in Porterville, CA, a couple of hours south of Madera on CA 99.

The put me in Madera about 6 pm—a little late, but with enough time for me to at least get close to Donner Pass before shutting down for the night. I wouldn't be able to sleep at Donner Pass, because wine is "freezable" and it's pretty chilly up there at this time of year—about 20║ this time of year. Actually, I was a little nervous about running it at night at all; the daytime temperatures have been nearly 60║, and knowing how much snow was at the summit the last time I was there, I figure it's melting during the day and forming black ice at night. So I preferred to make the summit during the day if I could. But the delivery was due at 10 am, so I would have to get pretty close to the summit today to make tomorrow's delivery in time.

Traveling up CA 99 was a joy. The traffic wasn't bad and it was wine country: mile after mile of grapes, growing on their distinctive racks. Then there were the billboards, which provided plenty to keep my mind occupied. First were the signs in Spanish. I don't really know much Spanish, so it's always fun to try and translate them. Then there was an interesting sign in black, with white letters. It was a simple message: "Ready or not, here I come!" It was signed, "God."

Is there anyone driving by this way who thinks God actually bought billboard space and placed a sign on CA 99? I imagine not. And yet, how many folks traveling this highway, who understand that someone bought a billboard with the intention of making his or her message public and attributing it to God, believe that God actually wrote the Bible? The only difference is that of a few thousand years and a lot of publicity. Actually, worse than publicity: There have been many eras in which stating that God did not write the Bible brought a quick and unpleasant public execution. (Actually, I can't imagine what would constitute a pleasant public execution, but you know what I mean.) I suppose some of the intensity of insisting, now, that God is the book's author is a holdover from those threats of death.

The technique of crediting someone else with your words has an old and distinguished history. Probably the oldest examples are the writings of the Sumerians, which have come to us in the form of tablets they kept, catalogued and indexed, in libraries which have been unearthed. Many of these documents quote the beings we usually translate as "gods" but which, literally, mean "those who to Earth from heaven came" (AN.NU.NA.KI) or "those who fell" (the Nefilim of the Bible). Of course, these quotes may be legitimately ascribed: they include the orbits of all the planets in our Solar System, including Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto—which primitive humans couldn't have known about, since they can't be seen by the naked eye. So the Annunaki may have actually dictated them.

But other gods were quoted by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. A popular form of literature in Plato's Greece was the "Dialogue", in which real people of the past (for example, Socrates, who lived a century or more before Plato) would gather for a discussion. The ideas presented were, of course, the author's; but they would be presented in the form of a lively conversation between luminaries of the past or even of contemporary celebrities. The oldest known text discussing Atlantis is Plato's dialogue, Critias and Timeaus.

Much more recently, humorist Steve Allen hosted a similar TV show in which actors portrayed historic figures: say, Joan of Arc, Winston Churchill, King Henry VIII, and Fanny Brice—seated together at a conference table and discussing, in character, whatever came to mind.

And then, of course, we have movies like Einstein In Love and others, in which genuine historical characters are "brought to life" and made to speak the screenwriter's words as if they were his or her own.

Theologians are well aware that the apostles did not write most of the epistles included in the New Testament. And I'm talking about conservative Christian theologians. I first found out about this from one of my brothers-in-law, who is a Methodist minister. He explained that the epistles first surfaced around 200 CE and were almost certainly attributed to an apostle simply to give them more credibility in a time when name value could be counted on as certainly as na´vetÚ. When I asked why, if this was generally known among theologians, the information wasn't given to the mass of church goers, my brother-in-law replied, "It would distract from the main message of Christianity." Which, apparently, isn't accuracy.

Accuracy is also not a strong point of Schneider's directions, as I have noted before. The directions to the winery in Madera stated: "West on Avenue 12. Right on Road 24. Facility is on the right hand side." Avenue 12 was easy to find. West was simple to manage. When I got to Road 24, I was congratulating myself for getting to the consignee so easily. However, there was no facility of any sort on the "right hand side". By the time I realized the directions were, again, faulty, I was at the end of a dead-end road, considerably past the paved portion of it, in blackest night, without benefit of street lamps.

I had no other choice but to back up. Straight-line backing is usually pretty easy—but not when you can't see behind you. The tractor/trailer combination began oscillating more and more. Several times I had to pull up to straighten out. There had been mud puddles in the road from an earlier rain. They had not been a problem while moving forward. But now, backing up, I was going a lot slower. Suddenly, I came to a complete stop, though I was still in gear and the drive wheels were turning. I was stuck in the mud.

The problem was, I realized as I inspected them, is that the surface of the mud hid an irregular bottom. My right drive wheels weren't in contact with the bottom at all.. That was all she wrote. If either set of drive wheels isn't touching the ground, there's no traction. Without traction, I couldn't move an inch.

I surveyed the situation. There was nothing I could do but call for a tow. I sent messages to second shift, customer service, and road repair, in which I wrote at least as many words blasting the directions as I did asking for help. For once, road repair grasped the situation on the first go-round and sent a tow truck.

When I finally arrived at the winery (one street over: It turns out there are two Road 24s, unmentioned by the official directions. The first is actually Road 24½, but the sign only says, "Road 24"), the woman in the guard shack told me that, every single week, at least four trucks go down the wrong road and get stuck. She has no idea how many go down and don't get stuck. "And most of them are Schneider trucks," she added, with undisguised glee.

I dropped off my empty trailer and coupled to the one the winery had pre-loaded. It was in the back, very near where I had been stuck for an hour. The overwhelming feature of the area were the giant tanks, the size of water tanks for small cities. On my way out, I asked the guard about them. "Are they really all filled with wine?"

"Actually, they're filled with grape juice," she explained. "The wine is in the tanks on the other side of the building."

"But no little wooden casks?" I asked, somewhat disappointed.

"Not at this facility," she replied.

She gave me directions to a nearby Pilot truck stop, where I weighed the load (it was heavy, but, as it turned out, legal) and pulled in for the night, having run out of hours.

Monday, November 25, 2002

Because of the time spent waiting for the tow truck, Customer Service arranged for a 3 pm delivery time—quite a feat, considering that the consignee's loading dock was listed as closing at 2. I found the message waiting for me on the Qualcomm when I awoke. While I have little good to say about the Directions department, I have to compliment Customer Service. They have always been very helpful to me, working hard to make sure the realities of trucking are taken into account when arranging delivery times.

Still, I wasn't at all sure I'd be able to make the 3 pm delivery time. But I intended to do what I could. I cranked up the truck and got moving. Continuing up CA 99, I passed Stockton and got on I-80 at Sacramento; headed east in the direction of Donner Pass. This was the first time I'd driven it in the daylight. It was beautiful, though there weren't as many distant vistas as I'd imagined. I was amazed to see a ski resort just west of the summit rest area. I guess it had been closed when I went that way before; but now the hills were crawling with visitors in ski suits and a banner proclaimed, "Now Open! New Snow Every Night!" Here's something else the Donner Party would never believe, I thought.

I stopped briefly to check the directions to the consignee. Exit 12, then left, then right…they seemed simple enough. Unfortunately, they always seem simple. They are just so often wrong. But I had nothing else to go by, as Microsoft Streets and Trips couldn't find the address at all. Besides, these instructions had the word, "**VERIFIED**" added to the end.

Reno isn't far from the summit. Descending the pass was trickier than climbing it, as my load of wine was very heavy and gravity wanted me to just slide down the slope as fast as I would let it. For the most part, I adhered to California's 55 mph truck limit, allowing my rig to speed up to 63 mph once I crossed the border into Nevada. Exit 12 was just 12 miles away, of course. When I got to the consignee's building, a pretty large one clearly marked, I was somewhat relieved. The directions said to use the second driveway. They didn't mention that, to do that, I would have to make a left turn at the end of the road and travel to the back of the building; but that was okay. I pulled in and turned off the engine at exactly 3 pm. I found a door and entered, knocked almost flat by the stench of stale beer and sour wine. The place smelled like a cheap brothel.

I don't actually have any idea what a brothel smells like, cheap or otherwise. I am guessing here, but I bet I'm not far from the mark.

…And discovered I was at the wrong end of the building. Beer was delivered to the second entrance; wine was at the front of the building and I was going to have to turn around, get back on the street, and retrace my tire tracks to the first driveway.

Which I did. Inside, unlike the busy beavers in the beer section, the employees seemed dazed and confused. I'm certain they couldn't possibly be drinking their own product, but they wandered around and no one seemed to know where Tyler, the dock foreman, was. The building was huge, and crates of wine were stacked over twenty feet high and still didn't approach the ceiling. It was certainly an easy space to lose someone in.

Eventually, I found Tyler, who couldn't be bothered to break the seal on the tractor. "You can do it," he said agreeably. "I trust you."

"Okay," I replied, and broke the little metal seal that proves no one has opened the trailer doors since they were loaded by the shipper. I then backed into the dock and settled into my bunk to wait for the unloading. I had been driving six hours without a break and could definitely use a nap. Every few minutes the cab would shake violently as Tyler's forklift entered the trailer, but I found the sensation comforting, almost like a massage.

I dozed for a few hours. When I awoke, it was dark outside and I realized I hadn't felt the forklift rolling inside the trailer for quite some time. I got out of my cab and walked around the building until I finally found an unlocked door and entered, setting off an alarm that silenced when I shut the door behind me. The door to the loading bay had been closed, and there was no sign of Tyler…or anyone else. I decided to try the office in the middle of the building, where there were lights, and found some people.

"I'm looking for Tyler," I explained when they stared at me. They continued to stare, as if I had said I was looking for President Tyler. "He was unloading my truck," I added.

"Oh," one of them offered. "He's done."

"Well, I figured that when I saw the loading bay door was closed. But I need my copy of the bill of lading so I can go."

They stood staring at each other for a moment. I had the impression I had caught them doing something they shouldn't have, though I have no idea what. "Tyler would have that," one of them finally suggested.

"Do you have any idea where he is?" I asked patiently.

I was half expecting to hear "I don't know nuthin' 'bout birthin' no babies," when Tyler himself emerged from the office. "Here's your paperwork," he said. I smiled and accepted it, leaving the group of men standing, saying nothing and not moving, until I was out of sight and they could resume whatever it was I had interrupted.

Or, maybe that's what they do during their shift.

I pulled away from the dock a few feet and then went back to close the trailer doors. Even in the dark, I could see the shards of broken glass on the floor and the smell of spilled wine hit me like a steamroller. Toys 'R' Us isn't going to be too happy about this, I thought. Toys 'R' Us was my next load and I was supposed to leave this empty trailer with them.

Oh, well, I thought. I could send a message to my STL and explain the situation, but I knew he'd probably ignore it. He doesn't usually respond when I whine.