Volume II, Edition I



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Chieficionado (CHEE-fi-shee-oh-na-do): a The Chief (tm)-caring-about person

[Courtesy Webster's New World Dictionary -- Ed.]


Well, if they're gonna put it *that* way...

Greetings, Chieficionados (tm)!

Yes, there has been a lot of water under the bridge since TC(tm)N last hit: the High Holies -- hopefully happy and high for all of Chief (tm) Nation -- all of January 2018, and now already the middle of February. But despite the radio silence, rest assured that your The Chief (tm) has been out there throughout, rolling across America and getting everything delivered for everyone!

Especially important to those who are still fighting The Good Fight, i.e., blockading all Sw1ft trucks in hopes of catching a glimpse of you-know-who, the Directorate for Allegiance & Compliance Enforcement wishes all to know this: he has changed teams!

That's right! No longer with the company that shall hence be known as, uh, The Company He Is No Longer With (T.C.H.I.N.L.W.), he is instead piloting the big boys for...well...perhaps to avoid unauthorized use of company trademarks, why don't we give the following clues: it has six letters in its name, the first three being "W-E-R" and the last three being "N-E-R"!

(If you are having trouble with these clues, and your name is NOT "Kendall", please seek remedial education.)

Ahem. So the new routine out on the roads -- along with safe piloting of your vee-hickle, natch -- will be to look for the new company's bright blue truck with the number "68230" on the side. Spot that bad boy, and you've spotted The Chief (tm)! FWIW, the thing really *is* bright, especially when it's clean, which recently it has not been...and it has not been because it has been on the move!

To wit: a recent lengthy run saw us prep with 1.5 days of R&R in Laredo, TX. Ho-hum, you say? Maybe -- unless you recall that the Cross-Mexico Motorcycle Trip (2013-14) began just across the border in Nuevo Laredo, MX. So The Chief (tm) bopped on over, first using Laredo's "El Metro" bus system from the company terminal, then walking across the "Gateway to the Americas International Bridge". Popularly known as "Bridge #1" (catchy, verdad?), be sure to have your $0.75 ready for the pedestrian toll when you cross!

As reported in this space before, the Mexican drug cartels' increasingly prevalent infighting has really impacted border town activity. Although the Laredo/Nuevo Laredo border crossing is the busiest for road commerce between the two countries, both non-commercial automobile and foot traffic was majorly weighted coming into the US, not into MX. And on the other side, sightings of non-Mexicans (people or license plates) were literally non-existent. (Compare to the number of gringoes seen cavorting about in Google's most recent "Street View" snap.)

Now, none of this stopped El Jefe (tm) from enjoying a very good lunch, and more than several cervezas across a few spots that he hit, trying out "Indio" and "Carta Blanca" in lieu of the customary Pacifico. He elected not to bother visiting the TelCel store that he had purchased his Mexico-only cell phone SIM those five years ago, but during the pre-meal strolling he had noticed a shoe store named, for whatever reason, "Destroyer".

After the final bottle of Carta Blanca -- and, truth be told, the final rocks glass half-full of El Jimador tequila, Happy Hour-priced at, incredibly, just over *$1* -- had been drained, it was time to get back to the trucking terminal. But first "Destroyer" still open? Would it happen to have cowboy boots amongst its inventory? Because El Jefe (tm) had been kicking himself for not purchasing an affordable (~$100) pair he had seen way back in Vernon, MO, during the Early Days of the trucking gig with T.C.H.I.N.L.W., and then again for not allowing enough time for at least a search during the swing through Montana. OK, we'll just walk back a few blocks and look in the window...

BINGO: there was a pair he really liked. What followed was quite a flurry of activity when the moderately-intoxicated, but nevertheless confidently Spanish-speaking gringo waltzed in and requested assistance, and yet another flurry to actually find a pair in the proper size. Even the ones approximating the best fit were very hard to put on, but the half-dozen staffers gathered around swore that they would be OK once the tootsies were all the way in. And you know what? Enthusiasm for the sale aside, they were 100% correct! Super-comfy, enough that they were in fact worn for the whole way back to the terminal. Best part: thanks to a robust USD/MXP exchange rate, the final price came out to be ***$27.26***.


So the aforementioned "lengthy gig" was to take us -- that is to say, The Chief (tm) and Truck #68230 -- from Laredo all the way up and out to Portland, OR. In PDX there would be the chance to drop in on an old college chump. (Er, an old chum.) But even before getting there, it became clear that the first two-ish days of driving would exactly match the route of ANOTHER major motorcycle trip, the original "Follow The Chief (tm)" cross-country ride from the east coast out to CA, back in the summer of 2008! Major excitement!

We hadn't gotten terribly far, night having fallen as we passed through Del Rio, TX, from whence the first-ever visit to Mexico had originated, when we had a brief scare...

There had been a quick, light drizzle, enough to slightly wet the four-lane divided road. Heading down a sorta long, though not very steep hill towards an intersection with a red light, we were using "Stage 1" engine-braking, the lowest setting. It wasn't really starting to bite, even though the trailer only had 12,000 lbs., well short of its 45K-lb. legal capacity. Rather than start riding the brakes so soon, I switched to Stage 2, and we did begin to slow down. But as soon as I touched the brake pedal itself, the rear of the tractor started swaying around, a phenomenon known as a "power jackknife" (as compared to a "trailer jackknife", when the trailer tail swings out).

Getting off the brakes got it back in line, but when I touched 'em again the swaying immediately resumed. Somewhat unsettling when this hasn't yet happened in one's truck-driving experience! The relatively light load meant that even the near-zero pedal braking...took just enough weight off the drive that Stage 2 engine-braking broke traction with the road. I went back to Stage 1 again but touching the brakes still created the same swaying result. Gonna have to ditch engine-braking altogether...and although all this had occurred over a period of only about two or three seconds, that was still two or three truck lengths, so now the intersection was coming up pretty quick! Brake harder and hopefully not initiate a skid...

Yes, the truck has anti-lock brakes, but they only cycle like 2-3x per second, far more slowly than on a car; in the end, braking at the onset of ABS stopped us just fine, but the front of the truck was about a foot over the line. Had any pedestrians been nearby there would have been plenty of time to toot the horn to, ahem, "recommend" that they stay on the sidewalk; but I think that a driver coming from the road on the left could tell that we were braking a little late and a little hard, because he waited before entering the intersection despite having received the green light.

(Moral of the story: someday we'll cover this in greater depth, but for now, in one's own best interests please don't cut in front of tractor-trailers without leaving plenty of a cushion... ESPECIALLY if the path of travel is approaching a red light, stop sign, or traffic slowdown. A vehicle of as much as 80,000 pounds will take far longer to stop than does a car, and braking distances & behavior can be dicey even under what appear to be benign conditions. As we just saw, this can be regardless of load weight, which *you* would not be privy to, anyway. Don't get rear-ended by something 20x heavier!)

After that little scene -- and after changing my shorts -- I made a mental note to lay off Stage 2 braking in damp conditions, to say nothing of Stage 3. The trip continued w/o drama through places I had been through before, though now late at night I could do little real sightseeing. I had calculated that I could reach the town of Sanderson, TX for the overnight, and I wanted to drop in at a place where I had enjoyed a special little encounter with some of the locals nearly ten years ago.

A check of Google Maps had revealed it *should* be possible to shoehorn the rig into an area directly across the road from "Uncle's Convenience Store", so that's just what we did. While it was unlikely, it certainly was not impossible that the current proprietor / counterperson might have actually known what became of the two young brothers I had spent time with back then, since it's a very small town and the two "youts" clearly had only lived within bicycling distance. So the next morning I woke up, didn't bother heating water for tea because I figured I'd just buy some, got bundled up (it was only in the high 30's at 6 AM), and crossed the street...

...only to discover that the ONLY day of the week that the store is closed is Saturday, of all things!

As the French would say, it was a bummaire. But ol' "Silver Lining The Chief (tm)" was not discouraged, because there were additional important and/or repeat visits to come that day! The first was in the town of Pecos, TX, where he made time -- and "made" a parking space -- to greatly enjoy lunch at Alfredo's Restaurant, having had dinner there the last time through. Traveling further north, he finally (after two fly-bys from years past) ducked into Peggy's Diner in Vaughn, NM. It was here that, quite by accident, he discovered that good coffee and good onion rings need not be mutually exclusive...

The trip continued past the turn-off for Four Corners, CO-NM-UT-AZ, where he immediately recognized a rock formation called "Chimney Rock", having seen it on the original motorcycle trip. Up through scenic Moab, UT and right alongside nearby Wilson Arch -- The Chief (tm)'s first-ever "natural arch" sighting; past canyons first visited during the rural hay farm pickup described in TC(tm)N, Edition #6; through Idaho and into Portland via the Columbia River Gorge, which was free of the forest-fire smoke that choked visibility and closed the road the last time through. The PDX visit with the old college chump -- er, chum -- was enjoyable, and delivery the next morning, navigating across active tracks at a railroad yard and to a wine barrel production company, was as interesting as it was challenging! And closed the door on a 2,200-mile trip.

PEOPLE! Although of course the "yob" sometimes has its downsides, trips like these are what make it enjoyable. The Chief (tm): America's Guest (tm)! Until next time! Hasta la vista!

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