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A Million Little Pieces Of My Mind

An Innocent Abroad

By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 4/15/2024
Page Views: 2024
Life on the road is a unique experience, which, like revenge, is a dish best served cold.

And, just like that…I was a truck driver.

I knew that I didn't know it all. I was more concerned that I hadn't learned anything I would really need on the road.

I didn't realize how much effort it would take to get on the road!

I Get My Truck

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 9/4/2002
Page Views: 1611
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
Ready to go a-truckin' at last!

I finally received my truck assignment today, and my first load assignment, I'm told. My new STL (Service Team Leader, basically my manager) gave me the information on the phone. I would find my truck in the Phoenix "drop yard", a place where Schneider keeps trucks and trailers. I had met Jack there two weeks earlier, so I knew where it was.

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The Lonely Road?

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 9/7/2002
Page Views: 1680
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
You've heard of being lonely in a crowd? Not if it's a crowd of truckers.

So, here I was, a brand-new employee ready (according to my bosses) for the road…but cooling my heels at the Operating Center (OC) because the truck I'd been assigned wasn less fit for the road than I was.

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My First "Real" Day

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 9/8/2002
Page Views: 1696
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
Today I had loads of trips of loads.

I've decided that today was my first real day working—and I'm hoping it isn't typical (though it probably is).. I am not counting Friday, when I had my first load. That was just one load, and was intended to get me to Fontana OC (Operating Center), which it did. And I am not counting Saturday, when my truck was in the shop for nearly the whole day and I ran no loads at all. So, I think I am justified in calling this my first real day as a trucker.

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By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 9/9/2002
Page Views: 355
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
If you see a wall of brown headed your way…pull over.

As I neared the California border, I saw a wall of creamy brown approach. It didn't quite look like rain. What was it? Suddenly I realized, it was a sand storm. I'd been in one when I was kid, when our family made our first trip to Arizona. With the windows closed, it wasn't a problem except for visibility.

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Never Forget

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 9/9/2002
Page Views: 371
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
I'm not a conspiracy theorist…except when I am.

The term false flag operation refers to deceptive actions carried out by a party with the intent of making it appear as though another party is responsible. The use of the word flag denotes the fact that it is usually a government that secretly conducts these, to garner public support for a war the people otherwise would have resisted. For example, the Incident at Piraeus in 365 BCE, during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta, the Spartan general Callistratus hired Persian mercenaries to launch an attack on the Athenian-controlled port of Piraeus. The idea was to create confusion and mistrust among the Athenians by making it seem as though the Persians, rather than the Spartans, were responsible for the attack.

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Parking Lot Nightmare

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 9/12/2002
Page Views: 1723
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
Trucking is a dream job. And sometimes, the dream is a nightmare.

After leaving Oakland, still looking for a safe place to stay and still without any word from Second Shift Support over the Qualcomm, I saw a sign for Walnut Creek. Now, I've been in Walnut Creek; I taught a few programming classes there, and have a couple of pals in the area. I didn't expect to call them; after all, I didn't have a working phone (my cell phone is pre-paid, and the pre-pay was paid out) and I couldn't leave the truck, anyway. But I felt like I knew the place enough to be comfortable there. In fact, I had a specific shopping center in mind. It had a generous parking lot, as I recalled, and restaurants, and pay phones, and was just the place to be…and what could be safer than upscale Walnut Creek, where even the street people wear…well, there aren't any street people. They aren't allowed.

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Repair Hell

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 9/13/2002
Page Views: 1682
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
If all the tractors are being repaired, what's left to deliver stuff?

The traffic in the San Francisco area was as brutal as it had been the day before, so it took me two and a half hours to get out of Oakland and into the San Joaquin valley. By now it was getting dark, and I was still hundreds of miles from the Fontana OC, where they wanted to perform the work. I had expected to pull over soon for a well-deserved nap, since there was plenty of time to deliver my load.

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Eaters of the Dead

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 9/22/2002
Page Views: 1626
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
Welcome to the food chain.

Now, this is what truck driving is about. Me, an 18-wheeler, a clear country highway, blue sky, a view to the horizon on all sides. Sometimes I wish they would just give me a load and let me drive around with it for a few weeks. Forget the loading, unloading, searching for shippers or consignees. Just let me drive.

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Unload That Barge, Tote that Bale

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 9/24/2002
Page Views: 1657
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
I expected to be driving, not loading and unloading.

The load of laundry detergent I had picked up in Laredo got a break, yesterday, as Larry had planned enough time, he said, for me to spend a few hours at home. So, I did; I get to sleep there for the night, and to go swimming with Michael and our grandson, Zachary. Zachary, I am told, thinks I have the best job in the world. He misses me when I'm gone (as I miss him!) but, every big rig he sees, he says, Papa truck bigger.

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Mt. Shasta

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 9/27/2002
Page Views: 1751
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
I finally get to visit a place I'd previously only written about.

I knew my route would take me to the vicinity of Shasta and I was looking forward to it. The road unflattened and became sinuous, rising and falling like the breasts of a coloratura in concert. I had to disengage the cruise control, concentrate on keeping up my speed, shifting gears as necessary. Bare protrusions of rock jutted out of the pines, displacing more and more of them. The countryside had clearly been shaped by volcanic activity. I hadn't even known Shasta was a volcano.

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My First Ticket

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 9/30/2002
Page Views: 1642
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
I finally got a ticket, and it wasn't to Disneyland.

And then I get to the Oregon weigh station in Ashland. Now, this is not my first Oregon weigh station. I went through the northbound Ashland station when I entered the state, and was weighed just out side of Portland after I had taken on this load (so I knew it was of legal weight). So, as I slowly crept over the scales, I was startled to see the green light turn red.

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An Angry Woman

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 10/1/2002
Page Views: 1669
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
Instead of getting angry, look for the gift.

I went into the store area to ask, and found myself behind a big woman who was arguing with the clerk. You must have the manager's phone number, she was insisting. What if there was a fire? I don't have it, ma'am, the clerk replied, meekly.

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By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 10/2/2002
Page Views: 1675
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
I'd now been driving long enough for things to have settled into a routine.

As usual, I tried sending a Qualcomm message; as usual after 4 PM, it wasn't answered; so I called. After the required fifteen minutes of listening to music (they had switched to the 60s from the 80s; I didn't realize there had been that many Soft Hits of the 60s), I finally spoke with a woman who put me on hold so she could call the customer. She was actually quite helpful, but what we discovered was that BNSF had lost our trailer, and were going to look for it.

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Rolling For Dollars

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 10/9/2002
Page Views: 1677
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
That time I sang with Gary Puckett from the Union Gap.

I liked to sing and play the guitar, and Bill and his family enjoyed listening to me. So, one of them got the idea that I should sit inside the petting yard (the only available space), with a microphone and amplifier they would supply, and I should sing. What's more, everyone else also thought it was a good idea and so, there I was, for the three days of the January, 1970, Florida State Fair, singing in a petting yard while fending off the unwanted attentions of a baby goat who found the collar of my turtle-necked shirt, and my ear lobes, irresistible; and of a baby calf who didn't really care where (or on whom) he went to the bathroom.

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An Indelicate Subject

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 10/13/2002
Page Views: 1680
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
Y'know all that coffee truckers traditionally drink? It's gotta go somewhere.

At the best of times, stopping the truck to take care of bodily functions is problematic. It's just so much effort to park a big rig. First, you have to find a place to pull over. Does it have enough room for an eighteen-wheeler? Will I get stuck? Have to turn around? Even if it is truck-friendly, is it already full? I have, more than once, driven into a rest area with legs crossed, only to find I have wasted precious minutes pulling into a place which already has a rig parked in every slot.

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By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 10/25/2002
Page Views: 354
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
In Canada there's a small town with a guy that everybody seems to be in love with.

I found that I couldn't keep my eyes off him. His movements were fluid, muscular poetry. I could see his biceps flex beneath the sleeves of his pullover, and when he climbed out of the fork lift and turned around, bending over a bag of Pete's Peat moss, the globes of his butt stretched the denim of his jeans to the breaking point. Watching him was like watching an adult video, without any desire to hit the fast forward button to get to a better part.

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In Hot Water

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 10/30/2002
Page Views: 2103
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
What's the point in driving everywhere if you can't soak in hot springs while you're doing it?

I had run out of time. Literally. A truck driver is only allowed to work 70 hours a week, and I had used up my 70 hours. So, even though it meant my load couldn't make it on time, the consignee would just have to live with an altered schedule.

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A Dull Boy

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 11/3/2002
Page Views: 1865
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
All work and no play should be avoided at all costs.

I am lying alone in a pool of tub-warm water in the middle of the Oregon woods. A few feet away, an ice-cold river rushes by but it doesn't affect the warmth coming up from the Earth and enveloping me. The scent of pine and spicy autumn leaves permeates each breath, and the sky above is so velvety black it looks like it should have a likeness of Elvis painted on it. But, no Elvis; there are, instead, ten thousand stars, brilliant in their intensity, glittering like diamonds on the velvet.

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By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 11/5/2002
Page Views: 1683
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
If you've ever wondered how they tow a broken down big rig, this page is for you.

It seemed so simple. A pickup at Target in Albany, OR, where I'd just dropped a trailer off the night before. I knew the location, I knew the lot. I was even getting friendly with the security staff who man the guard shack. I was thinking, I've got the knack, now. No worries.

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Donner Party Favors

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 11/12/2002
Page Views: 1777
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
If the Donner Party had all survived, today's world would not be the same.

They say timing is everything, and the Donner Party, as it was called, was ill-timed. They left later in the summer of 1846 than they should have, and never made up the time. It was an 18th century fleet of motor homes, called Conestoga wagons, in which the families lived and played while making the trek to the new lives they planned. But, by the time they made it to the lofty Sierra Nevada mountains, it was the beginning of November. They were caught in a blizzard a few miles east of the pass. Hey, I know! George cried. Let's just spend the winter here! And the others said, Yeah! Let's do that! The fact that they hadn't brought sufficient provisions for a winter there didn't seem to have crossed their minds.

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One Lumper or Two?

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 11/17/2002
Page Views: 1792
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
Homophobia affects no one worse than the gay persons who subconsciously loathe themselves.

After a gratefully-accepted three days at home, I returned to my truck with Michael, ex-wife Mary, daughter Karen, and three-year-old grandson Zachary, and all my freshly-cleaned clothes, bags of canned food, and so on. The family helped load the truck; Mary and Karen even made the bunk for me while Michael unloaded the car and passed items to me, and Zachary sat in the driver's seat and pretended to drive. Papa, he enthused, I love you truck so much!

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Have Some Madera, M'Dear

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 11/24/2002
Page Views: 1738
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
Wrong directions, wrong entrance, and a befuddled forklift operator. Oh, and a pseudepigraphed billboard.

That 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°F this time of year. Actually, I was a little nervous about running it at night at all; the daytime temperatures have been nearly 60°F, 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 PM, so I would have to get pretty close to the summit today to make tomorrow's delivery in time.

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By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 11/28/2002
Page Views: 1940
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
I'm grateful to be gay…and home for Thanksgiving.

As I traveled that breathtakingly beautiful road from Reno to Las Vegas, picking up a load of plastic wrap in Yerington and continuing through the low hills, desert, and riparian lake country of Nevada, I decided I was going to turn a new leaf. Instead of focusing so much on what was going wrong, I would focus on what went right. I would develop an attitude of gratitude and look at the world through rose-colored glasses and so on.

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Unfinished Stories

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 11/30/2002
Page Views: 1641
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
Given enough time, everything is a story. But that doesn't mean we'll ever hear the end of it.

You ever seen eagles mate? he asked, ignoring my offer to join the matter at hand. Naw, I replied. Whatever eagles choose to do in the privacy of their bedrooms is all right with me. It was as if I wasn't really there. He continued on, his expression distant, as if he were watching the spectacle right in the cafeteria. They fly up really high, he said. Then they grasp each other's talons and plunge towards the ground. Then they pull up at the last possible moment. He shrugged. Or sometimes, they don't. Sometimes, they die.

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The First Rule of Trucking

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 12/4/2002
Page Views: 1703
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
The first rule is, there are no rules. At least, none you can count on.

He stared furiously at me, repeated, Never leave the pavement! and stalked back toward the locked solitude of his cubicle area, turning for one, final, parting shot. And I'm sick of hearing you drivers whine about bad directions! he declared. 93% of the directions are correct!

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To Team or Not To Team

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 12/8/2002
Page Views: 1639
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
Teaming could mean more money…but less fun.

After spending a day at home, I was at the secure drop lot in Phoenix when I had to step aside to allow another Schneider truck to pass me. There were two guys inside, grinning and laughing, obviously happy to be in each other's company and about to hit the road. The driver waved cheerily at me and stopped. How's it going? he called.

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"I've Said Too Much"

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 12/12/2002
Page Views: 2902
Topics: #Roswell #NewMexico #UFOs #Conspiracy
An entry from Alternate Roads: Paul S. Cilwa's Truck Drivin' Journal

I haven't yet been to Roswell. I know there are at least two UFO museums there, owned and operated by the aging witnesses of the July, 1947, events. I also haven't been to White Sands, also in New Mexico, where former Nazi scientists were working on what became America's space program at the very same time as the UFO crash. There's a theory that those two facts were related—that, in fact, the crashed saucer was actually an experimental aircraft designed by the former Nazis, and the story of a UFO crash was actually a cover-up to avoid revealing to the public that we had actually hired the villains we'd been fighting only two years before.

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The Scent of a Trucker

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 12/16/2002
Page Views: 1854
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
It's hard to believe how hard it is to remove the smell of diesel.

Diesel was dripping down my face, into my eyes, into my mouth. Diesel molecules come in long chains which are very attracted to each other but not really to anything else. That makes diesel very slippery. It also tends to slide over anything it encounters, covering it. My tongue was coated with it. It had the consistency of vegetable oil and the taste of—What else?—diesel. Fortunately, it didn't sting or seem to damage my eyes or contact lenses. In fact, it felt almost like ointment. But I reeked of diesel.

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T'was The Night After Christmas

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 12/23/2002
Page Views: 1614
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
Everything happens for a reason.

I drove all night to make it to Scottsdale on time and, in fact, didn't quite make it: I was an hour and a half late. They didn't seem to mind, though. The kid who seemed to be in charge said, It's the day before Christmas. We're pretty relaxed around here. Amazingly he remained relaxed, even when we opened the back doors of the trailer and several boxes fell to the ground. This delivery was a drop, I was simply to back the trailer to their loading bay and leave. But I helped picked up the fallen boxes. I can be pretty relaxed, too.

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Expensive Hobby

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 12/28/2002
Page Views: 2081
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
Tickets, shifting loads, and a weekend at a weigh station.

Last week I got a ticket on CA 99. It was a lane violation ticket, meaning I was driving in the center lane. Now, a few miles earlier there had been a TRUCK OK sign over that lane. When I got to the TRUCKS IN RIGHT LANE sign afterwards, there was a string of cars in that lane already, which I couldn't very well run over. When they finally cleared, I was half a mile from a sign—I could see its distinctive color and shape from where I was—that said the right hand lane was an exit only and thru traffic should merge left.

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Bordering on Sanity

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 12/30/2002
Page Views: 1763
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
An entry from Alternate Roads: Paul S. Cilwa's Truck Drivin' Journal

Did it again. Followed the directions. It could have been worse. The directions said to go to First Street, and I would find the US Customs building on my right. Well, there it was, on my right. That was the good news. The bad news was, I couldn't possibly turn into the gate from that position…not without knocking the fence down.

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