Monday, August 25, 2014

Not Really Trucking From NOAA To WHOI

Recently my friend Gary posted a picture on his Facebook page of his truck (a "baby" expediter truck, as my friend Marlaina calls it) parked at an RV park, enjoying a campfire and palm trees in Jensen Beach, Florida.  He commented on how he was adding the picture to his 'Not Really A Trucker' series of photos.  The phrase, describing something atypical of your average trucker, was followed by Marlaina commenting that it should be a club.  It is.  

I told Gary I was going to steal his idea for a category on my blog, and he said "feel free".   Our life on the road has been full of these types of experiences, it makes up much of what I write about.  And I plan on having many more.  The events of this past week are going to make up what will officially be the first of my 'Not Really A Trucker' posts.

Last week we dropped our load in Washington state, near Port Townsend.  Our next load was picking up a few days later at the NOAA Marine Operations Center in Newport, Oregon, approximately 325 miles south of us.  Because we had the extra time, I wanted to snake our way around the Olympic Peninsula - a temperate rainforest - through Forks (where the story in the Twilight books are set), and then down the Oregon coast.

As we made our plans and I shared them with Marlaina, I discovered we were going to be on the same exact run.  The excitement just cranked up a notch. We'd all be running across the country together!

After riding through beautiful lush forests and along the banks of Lake Crescent, we met up with the New York City Truckers just south of Aberdeen, Washington where we had dinner at Slater's Diner.  It was a surprisingly good meal for a diner in a tiny coastal town that didn't seem to have much else going on other than a whole lot of logging.

After dinner we walked back to our trucks and while Marlaina and I chatted in the sleeper, the boys raced Formula 1 on the computer in the trailer.  This photo was taken by MacGyver.  He took a break from racing to snap this classic Not Really A Trucker moment - Marlaina and I are looking on from inside the sleeper.

At one point we looked out of the back door and saw a local police cruiser stopped on the opposite side of the street, sitting in a position that looked as if he were intently watching the happenings of our two trucks parked side-by-side.  It was late, the town was quiet, and we seemed to be having a bit too much fun - I even served the boys hot coffee across the catwalk - I'm sure he was perplexed.  Or trying to figure out what kind of ticket he could write.  Is it against FMCSA regulations to have fun while trucking?  
The next morning we left and moseyed down the gorgeous Oregon coast.  Through Willapa Bay famous for its oysters, through Tillamook where we took a tour of the cheese factory, and down to Depoe Bay where we planned to spend the night at the Boiler Bay Scenic Viewpoint - if there was room.

Ed and I assured our traveling friends that we'd find a spot no matter where we landed, easing the mind of Marlaina, whose biggest concern while trucking seems to be parking and peeing.  We were confident we could handle both of those concerns.

Everything worked in our favor since we got there to find plenty of available parking and the Roasted Pork Loin was ready to come out of the oven.  I paired it with mashed potatoes and 
sautéed green beans as I watched the fog rolling in from my kitchen window.

The next day we drove leisurely through the morning mist to pick up our load.  We arrived as the morning sun lit the sky, exiting U.S. 101 and winding around under the Yaquina Bay Bridge, heading down Marine Drive into the NOAA Marine Operations Center.

Our freight for this trip would be equipment from the Ronald H.Brown, a state-of-the-art oceanographic and atmospheric research platform, the largest vessel in the NOAA fleet.  

The ship was docked at the far end of this marina - it's the largest ship you can see, on the left side of the photo.
The equipment belonged to Jason, an ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle), and we were taking it to WHOI, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts for repairs and maintenance.

There were a few other trucks in addition to us, and we all lined up to get ready for loading.  Ed and MacGyver hung out with the other truckers, chatting and swapping information and stories, and Marlaina hung out in the truck with me while I made breakfast.  We were having Kodiak Cakes, eggs, bacon and country-style skillet potatoes. They loaded each of us on the dock next to the NOAA vessel.  

Using a crane, they moved the containers and equipment from the ship onto the trucks. The riggers and crew loved our Conestoga trailers, stating that although the freight didn't necessarily need to be covered, they liked that it was.  No road schmutz, etc.  The actual term they used to describe our curtain side trailers?  "The shit".

Here you'll see one of the riggers climbing up to release the straps from the corners of the first container.

The loading took most of the day and as lunch approached I was busy in the truck getting pork loin leftovers together when Ed called and told me we were all invited to have lunch on the ship.  At first, I didn't think I wanted to go but was quickly persuaded.  When else would I have a chance to be on a vessel like this?  

The crew was casual and welcoming.  There weren't a lot of rules, we didn't have to don special equipment, and we were allowed to take as many photos as we wanted which is unusual at government facilities.  Here's another shot by MacGyver of Marlaina and I peppering the cooks with a million questions about their experience on the ship.

The guy we're talking to was former Navy - retired after a twenty-one-year career - who's been on this vessel for the last seven.  He seemed surprised we were truck drivers.  He was asking us almost as many questions as we asked him.

There was a sign in the dining area warning of limited seating, urging diners to eat quickly and leave, so we did.  But not before being urged by the line cooks to grab dessert on the way out - I left with a Fudgesicle in hand.  What a fun experience!

After lunch, the boys finished loading while Marlaina and I stood on the dock watching catamarans and barges go by as the sea lions barked in the background.   

Next, we'd be off to Woods Hole, where we were invited to go sailing on the WHOI Expedition Leader's 37-foot Hunter schooner if we arrived before they headed out to the waters of Cape Cod.

Why did I have a feeling we'd be traveling a wee bit above our normal fifty-eight mile per hour speed limit?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

2013: Paddling The Hudson 
2012: Cue The Flying Monkeys
2011: Project Island Life
2010: Be Italian
2009: I’m Not Just In The Granny Lane Anymore
2008: Where Pretty Resides
2007: The Sweet Sight Of Summer
2006: You Oughta Be In Pictures
2005: Oh, Brother!


mick said...

What a fabulous article-not (as yet) been to the Oregon coast, but it looks beautiful.

Anonymous said...

This is why I read this blog! Great post!

...from the beautiful Finger Lakes of Upstate NY!

Heather T said...

What a great experience! I loved being asked if I wanted to see what was going on in some of the places I picked up and delivered too. As a single, reefer trailer O/O driver, I didn't have too many chances to do all of the sightseeing that you two do. When I had the chance though, I was always looking on the maps to find the local attractions (named in pink) and figured out a way to visit them. Yes, trucker map. Way before internet! I love, (and am a bit jealous) that you two get to do so much sightseeing. The two years that I ran team was running 24/7. Love reading all of your posts and seeing how things have changed since my trucking days. I'm sure you're in a hurry to get up to Wood's Hole but if you want to get out of the truck for a visit, I'm 20 minutes from the TA in Branford, CT. Keep the shiny side up!

The Daily Rant said...

MICK: I really like this part of the country. The scenery is just spectacular and I really love the rocky coastline with the always crashing waves.

ANONYMOUS: Thank you so much!! I'm glad you enjoyed the post and I appreciate the time you took to comment. The Finger Lakes is a beautiful area too - truth be told, there's nowhere in the country that can top my home state of New York!

HEATHER: I'd imagine it's probably a bit more difficult to do this kind of thing as a solo, although Ed was quite the adventurer before I came along! And honestly, I don't think I could find these things using an actual map - Ed always gives me grief for not pulling out the big 'ol trucker atlas, but when I can find everything on the iPad within minutes, his argument for a map fades pretty quickly. Thanks for commenting and thanks for the coffee visit offer! One of these days I swear the timing will be right! :)