Volume I, Edition VI



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Greetings, faithful C-nados!

Yes, it does seem like it has been a while since the previous installment of The Chief (tm) News hit the stands. And that's because your boy The Chief (tm) has been on the road hard, rackin' up all those miles so you don't have to! Like the bumper sticker sez:


Yup, pretty much everything in this country gets to where it is purchased from, having been shipped there by truck. When you see (or, worse, endure a visit to) these giant distribution centers, this becomes very clear, both for the good, and for the bad. But some other times you don't go anywhere near a distribution center, much like the “dispatch” that The Chief (tm) finds himself on as you read this...

You see, his pickup was towards the eastern side of Utah, not far from the borders of Colorado and Wyoming. A visit to Utah a week before had, in fact, been via I-70, coming in from CO (and the Coors Brewing plant, where he saw at least a giant stack of 10,000 -- er, 9,700 empty kegs awaiting deployment). He had the presence of mind to stay overnight in Glenwood Springs, a wonderful little town he had greatly enjoyed in his only previous visit (please do click here to read). The design of Interstate 70 coming in from the east is quite literally worth reading about -- absolutely gorgeous, going through the canyon -- and so is the town. 'Course, the town has gotten a LOT bigger since that other stay, and not all for the better, but it is still situated in a lovely spot. (The only real bad news: the cat at the hostel, who had inspected my motorcycle, has since passed away.)

This time, on the way in, we took I-80, up towards the north. Drove along a 35-mile stretch of completely straight road, alongside the Bonnevile Salt Flats. FWIW not the longest such stretch in the US, and anyway The Chief (tm) has already driven on the longest such stretch, down through KS, OK and TX!

Vectored down through Salt Lake City, up over Daniels Summit at 8K+ ft. where, pre-sunrise, the temps were only in the high 30's. Made the pickup at a hard-working but beautifully-located ranch; four miles of driving on a farm road to receive a trailer load of hay bales! Yes, and they each weigh about 1,400 lbs. So, if you don't want to do the “maff”, just know that the trailer is fully stuffed: 45,000 lbs from 32 bales. That made for some slow / hairy driving up to the 9,114 ft. mark at Indian Summit on Utah Rte. 191 -- and then back down again, an ***8% grade***! Then through some eye-wateringly gorgeous canyons cut by the Price River, and accompanied by the railroad tracks which still haul coal out of the aptly-named Carbon County. By the time we were back in the “flats” -- though still at around the 6K-ft. elevation level -- the temps were in the high '90's. Quite the swing, n'est-ce pas?

Delivery couldn't have been more different: rolling along the Salton Sea, probs below sea level (ergo, a 9,000 ft. swing in elevation!) to a little place called Calipatria, CA. Again pre-sunrise, the sliver of the crescent moon and one of the visible planets right above it reminded me of the scenes in “2001: A Space Odyssey”, wherein such a celestial alignment usually called forth the presence of The Monolith, which did little things like hasten the evolution of ape into man, man into the “Star Child”, and so forth. Ho hum! Ah, but no such effects on our little trip, although the musical accompaniment -- a CD called “Downtempo”, which hails from the Burning Man trip in '08, really set the tone.

“Surreal” is not the word, but there I was, rolling along in the dark with no one else on the road, the man-made Sea gradually beginning to show itself to my right, the more faint stars gradually disappearing into the lightening sky with the moon and that planet holding out to the last moment. For whatever reason, I thought back to my visit to Black Mesa, AZ (again, please do click here), and all the wonder and awe that came from it. Not just from the natural surroundings and beauty, but also from the perspectives you are sometimes lucky enough to glean from the innocence and inquisitiveness of children, and of people from entirely different walks of life than your own. (Seriously, go back and read about it.) Zooming across this almost entirely foreign landscape, lit by the moonlight, on the company's dime, well, that's the stuff you read about. Which, uh, you're reading about, are you not? :-)

Oops, we do digress! The Communications Office here at TC(tm)N -- and of course that's merely the abbreviation for “The Chief (tm) News” -- yes, the Office is happy to report that it still lives and dies by its policy of “keep those cards n' letters coming”. And MAN, have you people kept 'em coming! To wit, the mailbag is almost always full of excellent questions about life on the road.

(In fact, pretty soon we'll be staffing-up at Comms yet again, looking for folks with, at minimum, a science background at the professorial level of a major research university, handy with Matlab and/or has a bumper sticker to prove it, and whom can hack past the HR firewall in order to submit the formal application. Good luck to all qualified candidates!)

So here are the latest very interesting questions worth discussing. One is, what's it like sleeping in the back of the truck? To which I say, it's pretty lousy if you're cooped up in there with hay bales! But of course that's a joke, because we don't sleep in the trailer. The tractor itself, OTOH, has a fairly roomy sleeping cabin with bunk beds, lots of cabinet space, separate A/C and audio controls, and so on. Pictures wouldn't really do it justice, but it is more than tall enough for an adult to stand up in, so it's sort of like being in a very small camper, or a really nice tent! Except that water never gets in it, and you don't have to set it up each just drive it to the next place...

Another question asked about theft, and this could mean two separate things. Theft of cargo, whether from the trailer, of the trailer, or of the entire truck, is a REALLY BIG DEAL in terms of $. Consider that 45,000 lbs. of say, electronics, or medical equipment, could easily be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more. So there are these super-heavy-duty locks that go on the trailers, the trailers are locked to the trucks, and in certain “high theft areas” the trucks are not allowed to be left alone at any time. Plus, when they are loaded and leave the yard, they need to be driven at least 200 miles before making any stop, to discourage thieves from possibly following along. Wild stuff...

WRT theft from the tractor, at a truck stop let's say, here is my observation. Some of us may live, or have been lucky enough to have lived in, a place where it was always said that “people didn't lock their doors”, or you could leave your bicycle unlocked at the store, or if you lost something someone would find it and bring it to you, things like that. The point is, everyone knew that you just don't mess with things that are not yours, and it's usually pretty good that way. Why it came along to where stuff gets stolen just because it's there, or whatever goes on in the big cities, well, it's just too bad, and I've lived both.

At the truck stops, I think it's still mostly at the stage where people know that you just shouldn't mess with other people's stuff. Sure, there's the risk of getting the crap beaten out of you (or worse) if you got bagged trying to steal something from someone. But in general, if stuff starts to get stolen more and more frequently, then that means that EVERY TIME you leave the truck, you gotta lock it up. Or if you're inside a truck stop eating lunch, working on your laptop, and you have to go to the bathroom, then EVERY TIME you'd have to pack everything up and bring it with you -- a major hassle.

It just feels, to me anyway, that drivers are still hoping that things can remain the “right” way at the stops, where you don't have to worry as much as you would back in the “real” world. It may be sorta among the last holdouts of that simpler, better time, where things didn't get stolen just because you looked away from them for a split-second. Yeah, if you're near a big city, then the chances of theft are higher, but elsewhere, you're hoping for all you are worth that everything will still be OK. And the longer that people are willing to keep believing it, I think that it can be. At least, I *hope* it can be, and I'll do my part for as long as possible.

There are many more very good questions to be answered, but might we suggest to leave them for next time. Hope all is well with everyone, and continued apologies to those with whom I have been unable to make contact directly. TTFN! See you out on the road!

The Chief (tm)
a.k.a., The Pacific Standard (tm)