Thursday, May 31, 2012

Look For The Sign

I took this photo at manufacturing facility we picked up from yesterday, where all the signage on the buildings was weather worn or rusted.

But at least you know which dock you're supposed to back into - there was no mistaking Truck Dock 427.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Forging America In The Holy Land Of Steel

Passing through Allentown, Pennsylvania on our way to Bethlehem, just eight miles east, I found myself humming a familiar tune, something I do every time I'm in this area.

As Ed snaked through the streets of this once booming steel manufacturing town, we didn't see nearly as many trucks as would have been here just twenty years ago, when this was still a heavy industrial manufacturing area, and the overcast sky provided just the right amount of gloom to accompany the lyrics of Allentown, the Billy Joel song I was humming.

"Well, we're living here in Allentown. And they're closing all the factories down. Out in Bethlehem they're killing time. Filling out forms. Standing in line..."

This was steel country.

At one time, it was home to Bethlehem Steel, one of the largest shipbuilding companies in the world and the second largest steel-producer in the United States, until it closed shop in 2003, one hundred and forty-six years after it was founded.

The company was the subject of a 2004 PBS documentary titled “Bethlehem Steel: The People Who Built America”. The film was the recipient of the 2004 Edward R. Murrow Award for Best News Documentary, and winner of the 2003 Mid-Atlantic Emmy Award for Outstanding Documentary. It can be seen in its entirety on YouTube.

There's a good chance, especially if you're from the Northeast, that you've been in or on a structure built with steel produced by this powerhouse of American manufacturing. But you don't have to be from the Northeast to appreciate the contributions made by Bethlehem Steel, because just three days ago, on May 27, 2012, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary.

Significant to this story, how?

Well, every bit of the 67,908 tons of structural steel it took to build that bridge, came from the little Pennsylvania town of Bethlehem. In the article I read, it stated that Bethlehem Steel also produced the steel for the George Washington Bridge in New York City, which prompted the President and CEO of The National Museum of Industrial History to say, "some like to say Bethlehem Steel anchored both ends of Interstate 80". As someone who has actually driven Interstate 80 from the George Washington to the Golden Gate, I find that to be a fun little factoid.

Today we headed to another Bethlehem factory, one in operation for more than 125 years, Lehigh Heavy Forge.

Lehigh Heavy Forge is one of the world's last remaining Forgemasters, and the only super heavy forge facility in North America. Their website says their first unique custom forging was for the 1892-1893 Chicago World's Fair - they were responsible for forging the 56 ton axle for the ferris wheel - at the time, it was the largest forging ever produced.

We were there to pick up a support skirt and an ellipsoidal head, components for a nuclear reactor located in Indiana. I have no idea what these two things do, but they were large, and heavy. They were loaded by an overhead crane, lowered onto the truck with these giant hooks.
You can see the ellipsoidal piece here. Wikipedia tells me an ellipsoid is a quadric surface, but since I didn't take anywhere near the level of math needed to explain that, you'll just have to look it up yourself. All I know is that it was shiny.

The building is massive, and although it looks (and is) old, it houses not only state of the art precision machine tools run by computers and skilled engineers, but it's also home to the largest open die press in the Western Hemisphere. With 10,000 tons of pressing power, it's able to handle steel ingots over ten feet in diameter!
The pieces we were contracted to haul were loaded on the rear of our trailer, over the spread axles, which is the area that can carry the most weight. The forge provided the wooden cradle the pieces were sitting in, and all Ed had to do was secure it and tarp it. Here, the crane operator helped him drag the tarps over the top of the pieces.

Once we were tarped and received our bills of lading, we made our way through the narrow passageway between the buildings. We were so close, I could have reached out and touched the worn, crumbling bricks.
The building, from the exterior, looks like so many of the large manufacturing facilities we see across the United States that have been abandoned. This one, upon approach, seems eerily quiet and gives off the same appearance; that is, until you step inside and see the engineers, crane operators and other workers still forging a future. They've got technology on their side now and have managed, as their website states, to "not just meet today's needs, but to anticpate tomorrow's demands."

It would be nice to see demand for our products again. To have manufacturing come back to the United States, with people filling the empty factories around the country, creating products we can be proud of. It would be nice to have another Industrial Revolution, modern style.

I think it's time. What do you say?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2010: Not That He's Insensitive Or Anything
2009: Ode To Milk
2008: Eddie On The Rocks Friday
2007: The Unintentional Beating Of A Red State Child
2006: Sorry, no post for this day.
2005: Sorry, no post for this day.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Earl Is The Only Grey In My Life

Ed and I recently had a discussion about the Fifty Shades of Grey book. He had no idea what it was and was a bit perplexed as to why someone would leave a comment on this post, implying he must be reading it.

After I told him what the book was about based on what I found out here, he said, "Why would someone think I was reading that book??"

"It's a joke, baby." I said. "Everyone is reading that book now. And if they're not reading it, they're talking about it. Or at least it seems like it from what I've been hearing. A good handful of my Facebook friends have even mentioned it. It's been dubbed 'mommy porn'."

"Never heard of it." he said flatly.

"Of course you haven't. What do you know about bodice rippers?"

"What rippers??" he said.

"Bodice rippers," I said. "Oh, nevermind. They were just joking because you looked so happy with what you were reading. They were kidding, saying it must be the Shades of Grey book that was putting the smile on your face."

"Well, I'm not into that bondage domination whatever stuff. I don't do that." he said. He was determined to make me know - as if I don't already, after sleeping with him for eight years - that he's not that kind of guy. And he wants to make sure every ELSE knows it too.

I did download the sample on my Kindle today to see what all the fuss is about, but haven't even looked at it yet. I'm not really into those kinds of books, I read my fair share of bodice-ripping Harlequin novels in my teens and early twenties (and never wound up using the free downloads in that link there). Then I grew out of the phase.

Although, I really loved historical romance novels. Kathleen E. Woodiwiss was by far my favorite author; Shanna, Ashes in the Wind, A Rose in Winter, The Flame and the Flower….all great. I think I might have to reread one of those now that I'm talking about it.

But the BDSM stuff just doesn't interest me. I don't think I'd be into a guy like Christian Grey - the male character in the novel - he's really not my cup of tea.

I'm more the Earl Grey type.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I Gave The Tatooed Beehive A Chance And I Liked It!
2010: A Diet Coke With A Squeeze Of iPod, Please
2009: Eddie In The Creepy Sailor Mask Friday
2008: No Wonder Sailors Came Up With A Special Knot
2007: Bridge To The Gate Of Heaven
2006: Summer Staples
2005: Sorry, no post for this day.

Monday, May 28, 2012

My New Obsession

Yesterday, I came across something online that has changed my thoughts about what I want in a house. I've discovered Post and Beam (also known as timber frame) homes and Barn Homes.

I love the reclaimed wood look, the open floorplans and the unique features.
These next two photos are of Ina Garten's barn in the Hamptons, Long Island, New York. She films her Food Network show here. I'm sure this place is worth millions, but her style can certainly be duplicated on a smaller budget.
I love the long, open space of this one...
The exposed beams and the sliding barn doors in this photo...
Large windows...
I love this all-white, high ceilings, old farmhouse look...
And the stone walls and floor and large French doors and windows on this one...
I love the modern lighting and kitchen equipment here...
And on this one, I love the open space and the color of the planks on the back wall...
This is less barn and more post and beam. I like the open space.
The loft here, looking below to the open living area...
More modern looks in these next four photos...
And check out this magnificent hallway...
There are apparently tons of websites highlighting the beauty of post and beam homes, barn homes and reclaimed barnwood buildings.

Heritage Restorations is one of them - check out their barn showcase gallery of photos. And when you're done there, check out post and beam homes by Yankee Barn Homes, and if you still aren't satisfied, check out Timberpeg.

Then Google until your eyes fall out of your head. When you're done doing that, you'll know exactly how I feel right about now.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2011: FANtastic

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Calling All Questions!

My fellow trucker and blogging friend, Gi-Gi Roxx, recently did a few Q & A posts on her blog. I submitted my questions, as did others, and she answered all of them in a series of blog posts. I'm always excited by her Q & A's because she's so honest and usually, very funny. She doesn't hold back and will answer almost anything you ask.

Now it's my turn. She's inspired me to do a Q & A of my own. So send me your questions! Ask anything you want - it doesn't just have to be about trucking. Be creative! Also, if you have any questions for Ed, send them too and I'll slip 'em into conversation - he won't even know he's being interrogated.

You can either leave the question in the comments section of this post, or send them to me at I'll answer them in a future post.

Let's get started!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Rolls-Royces, Sun Kings and Teardrops
2010: Less Is More
2009: A Look At An Oil Baron’s Lookout
2008: Spring In The Maritimes
2007: Envisioning A Huge BLT Sandwich
2006: Eddie’s New Passion Friday
2005: Sorry, no post for this day.

Friday, May 25, 2012

If You Don't Ask, You Don't Get

We recently did what Ed called "a typical flatbed load" - where you show up at the shipper, get in line behind thirty or so trucks, and like cattle, wait to be shuttled in groups, to the area where you'll be loaded. When, they can't tell you, but at some point they promise you'll have freight on your trailer. This is not our typical situation, but he's familiar with the drill because he's done them before.

When we first arrived at the shipper, the trucks ahead of us where all clumped together, no line, no order. I counted fifteen just in my immediate line of vision. When Ed came back to the truck after checking in at the shipping office, he reported that he saw an even longer line of trucks in front of the clump, stretching out like the tail of a tadpole.

As the line moved forward, I took this picture. The trucks snaked around the building and from the look of it, we were in for a long wait. There is nothing I dislike more in trucking than a long wait - especially if there's any inkling that we're not going to get paid for our time. I had a feeling this was going to be one of those loads.
We were there to pick up pipe going to a $380 million dollar project, where they're installing gas pipelines in a Marcellus shale region in the Northeastern United States.

Ed is used to the incompetency of dispatchers, brokers and agents. He just goes with the flow. If we're required to wait, unless it becomes excessive, he's okay with it. It's just part of the industry. If he feels it's time to ask for detention pay, he does. But he gives them the benefit of the doubt first.

I, on the other hand, do not like to give anyone even one minute of my time for free. Mostly because they take advantage of it, they just assume that I will. And I don't like when it's just assumed. Although, in the trucking industry it's not even an assumption, it's an expectation. You are always expected to wait without getting paid.

I used to work for a man over twenty years ago who expressly told me, "If you don't ask, you don't get" - this was in response to my asking for a raise - he wanted to teach me to ask for what I wanted. I've always been very outspoken when it comes to getting what I want, but him saying this made me realize that it's okay, and people do it in business all the time. So asking for what I want has become my modus operandi. And in this case, if you have enough money to fund a project worth hundreds of millions of dollars, you can probably afford to pay me a few hundred dollars for my time. Especially if you want your pipe.
Which is why it's always worth asking. Sometimes, you get nothing, but sometimes, like on a recent load we did where I asked for an additional $1,000.00 because they wanted the freight there overnight, turning what was originally a solo run into a team run, you do get what you ask for.
This is also how you learn who you will and who you won't work with again. People who don't value your time, expertise and safe operation to deliver their freight, aren't worth dicking around with. Those are the people who wind up on our DNH list - Do Not Haul.

Unfortunately, sometimes you don't always have a choice, or you find out after the fact when they go back on their word or claim to "not have any money" in the load. That's usually when they try to make you feel bad that they aren't making any money.

NEWSFLASH: I do not feel bad for you. I'm not buying your sob story, and if you're not making any money on all of these loads you're moving, then you're a shitty businessperson. Our job is to make sure we make as much money as we possibly can doing this thing we enjoy doing.

Ed can do the calculations in his head and know instantly if the load is worth our time. That's a valuable skill that comes from years of experience and it's a tool we use on every load. Asking for what I want, especially when it involves anything extra (tarping, extra stops, expedited service), or when my time has been wasted sitting around because of circumstances I didn't create, is my tool.

If Ed is happy with what he's getting, and I'm happy with what I'm getting, there's a whole lotta happy going on. I call that a win-win.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Feeling Great About Hands And Breasts (Even If They’re Drooping)
2010: It Pays To Blog About Life On The Road
2009: Bringing A Little Tropical And Some Pretty In Pink To The Trucking World
2008: My Kind Of Festival
2007: Happy Memorial Day
2006: Closing The Age Gap
2005: Sorry, no post for this day.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Down Louisiana Way, Where The Blue Dog Resides

We've been in Lousiana a couple of times in the last few weeks - New Iberia, Jefferson Parish, Baton Rouge - and despite the heat, which even at this time of year is unbearable to me, and the horrible roads, which are noticeable the minute you cross into the state, I was able to put that aside long enough to learn something new about the place.

When we were in New Iberia, we came across a place called The Blue Dog Cafe. I read about it online, and decided the menu was right up my alley, but when we got there they were between lunch and dinner and only serving appetizers in the bar area.

It would be a few hours till the dinner hour, parking the truck was a challenge, and since it was a weekend night, we knew we wouldn't get away with taking up so many spots once the dinner crowd started pouring in. We didn't want just the appetizers they were offering, so we left - guess we'll just have to save that dining experience for another time.
But stopping at the cafe wasn't a total loss, because I wound up finding out about the artist responsible for the famous "Blue Dog" paintings, George Rodrigue, who was born in New Iberia. I'd seen that Blue Dog for years, and I just never gave it much thought. I guess I must have just thought it was some sort of advertising character, an idea that may have come from the campaign the artist did for Absolut Vodka. I must have seen the ad and that's why it stuck in my head. And then I just shrugged it off. Now I know different.

My favorite discovery came from his website, in the form of an
article written by his wife, where she talks about the artist's mother and how she once asked George, "When will you realize that nobody's gonna buy those pictures?" The best part is her reaction when she found out how much people were actually paying for those pictures. Read the article to find out - she's quite a character.

So see what you can find out when you dig a little deeper than just the menu in a restaurant? Such great little pockets of interesting stuff all over the country. Just another reason I love my trucking!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Crossing The Park To 5th Avenue
2010: All Work, All Play
2009: Was My Mother Hot, Or What???
2008: The Fiddleheads Of Maine
2007: Fifteen Dollar. We Make Nail Nice. No Probrem.
2006: Road Testing The Girl
2005: Ed Time

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Squinty Eyes? Check. Big Smile? Check. Ed, Happy? Check.

Even though we have our moments like any couple, and more specifically, a couple who lives in such a small space 24/7/365 with their significant other, you'd almost never know it if you were to be in the company of Ed.

He's always freakin' happy. Smiling happy. Twinkly eyes happy. And not the kind of happy you want to smack, but the kind of happy you want to smile back at. He diffuses so many situations by chuckling, or laughing in a way that makes his eyes get all crinkly and small. This picture perfectly illustrates what I mean.

So yesterday, happy Ed and I spent the day returning some equipment he bought for the truck (straps which had hooks that didn't fit through our rub rails), having our truck and trailer inspected (we passed with flying colors), and getting our clutch adjusted (now we buck like a bronco when the clutch is released).

I wanted to get a mani/pedi and a haircut, but the parking lot we pulled into to do that, kicked us out. By that time, in the blistering heat, I wasn't too inspired to go anywhere else. So we went back to the truck, hung out for a while, made dinner, watched some TV and surfed the net. Tomorrow we go back to work.

Which of course, makes Ed happy.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The Last Great Italian
2010: That’s So Cherry
2009: Crouching Eddie Hidden Lamb Friday
2008: Help Me Understand
2007: Take Two Lattes And Call Me In The Morning
2006: It’s Never Too Late For A Good Sale
2005: The Original Goldfish

Monday, May 21, 2012

I've Yet To Make Lemonade

I have a thing for lemons. I love them in my Diet Coke and I dig 'em in my food. I've twice before made meals with lemon - this pasta dish and this chicken dish.

Last week, I bought a bag of lemons because the grocery store I was in didn't sell them individually (WTF?). So now I had a half-dozen lemons to use and wasn't planning on lemonade.

So I turned them into Chicken Piccata. Drag a little chicken in flour, brown them in a little butter and olive oil, add some white wine, lemon and broth, toss in some parsley and a few capers and voilà, you have a meal.

We can't live without pasta, so I served it over thin spaghetti and Ed was on the verge of asking for my hand in marriage.

Instead, he had seconds.

If you want to make this delicious meal for yourself, click
HERE for the recipe.

Maybe you'll have better luck with the whole marriage proposal thing.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Alien Ribs Of The North
2010: White’s Bastard Cousin
2009: Jake
2008: I Might Have To Be Put In Restraints For Our Next Conversation
2007: People Who Are Happy To Help You Drown In Debt
2006: I, I, I
2005: Sorry, no post for this day.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Handling Meat For Over 144 Years

On 9th Avenue (between 14th and 15th Street) in a red brick building in the Meatpacking District of New York City, you'll find New York's oldest Steakhouse, the Old Homestead, established in 1868.

And at the end of the white building, also on 9th Avenue, at the corner of 14th Street, is another restaurant called
The Diner.

I haven't eaten at either of these places (just liked the busy corner photo op), but coming from a steakhouse family, I might have to go back to see if the Old Homestead lives up to it's reputation and Zagat rating.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Investing In Your Investment – Part Two
2010: Here’s Your Sign
2009: A Mini And Me
2008: Wild In Tennessee
2007: Isn’t There A Third Evil?
2006: What The Hell Is This??
2005: Sorry, no post for this day.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Yes! We Have No Bananas

Because they're in the bread!

We always buy too many bananas. Ed loves them, I enjoy them once in a while, but we never seem to get it through our heads that bananas can only last so long on the kitchen counter in our truck. Usually we throw them away.
But today, they became banana bread.

The recipe I used is from the February 2000 issue of Bon Appétit magazine, and I think it's the best banana bread I've ever tasted in my life. Moist, banana-ry, lots of nuts, chocolate.
Although, I will say one thing - words I never thought would come out of my mouth - I think it might have been a wee bit too chocolatey. Next time, I'll reduce the amount of chocolate chips, but other than that, wouldn't change a thing. I served a slice of it for dessert with a dollop of fresh whipped cream - we love it, and it's now going into my recipe vault as the only banana bread I'll be making.

Here's the recipe if you're interested:

Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips
¾ cup walnuts, toasted, chopped
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Butter and flour 9x5x2 ½ inch metal loaf pan. Whisk first 4 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Combine chocolate chips and walnuts in small bowl; add 1 tablespoon flour mixture and toss to coat.

Beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add sugar, beating until well blended. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in mashed bananas, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Beat in flour mixture. Spoon 1/3 of batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with half of nut mixture. Spoon 1/3 batter over. Sprinkle with remaining nut mixture. Cover with remaining batter. Run knife through batter in a zigzag pattern.

Bake bread until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 5 minutes. Turn out onto rack and cool.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Time To Lounge

I took this picture last week in Chelsea Market in New York City. It's a perfect illustration for what's going on this weekend...nothing but time.

We didn't find a load out today, so we'll be hanging out in the truck for the weekend. Maybe I can get Ed to take me for a mani/pedi.

Hope you all have a nice, relaxing weekend as well!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Little Dragonflies Alighting Upon My Ears

Monday was the best day of the week so far - we were lucky enough to have another serendipitous run-in with our friends, The New York City Truckers! It just so happened that when we were in New Jersey, and they were in New York, just seven miles away from us (thanks, Google Latitude!).

We all had lunch at a local diner, then the boys went into the city while Marlaina and I caught up. And, she brought the gifts she got me in Bangkok! I was very excited, as I'd been hearing about them for months, and was finally going to see the little treasures in person.

First up is this great little coin purse. Well, if I were eighty, I guess I'd be using it for a coin purse (although, I can use it for laundry quarters - I never have anything cute enough to make that monumental task more pleasant), but I suppose it can be used for anything. It's made out of used rice bags. If anyone knows what it says, please feel free to email me!
The next bag is also made out of rice bags and I love the beautiful colors. It's a good side - about 10" wide by 8" tall - and the picture is of Shwedagon Pagoda, a temple in Burma.
I love the contrast of the red and gold on this side. I'm kinda thinking I need a hat that looks like that spire. I'll be the hit of the truckstops with a gold hat, dontcha think?
This next gift is super-special beause it's personalized. According to Marlaina, yellow license plates are used for transporting freight or passengers, and the lettering on the bottom says "Bangkok". I'm also told they took a picture of the little Thai girls who were making it, and if I ever get my hot little hands on it, I'll make sure to post it.
And last but not least, these awesome little dragonfly earrings. They weren't sure if I'd like them (Marlaina's husband picked them out!) but I LOVE them! I like that they're a little dangly when they're in my ears and I love that they're silver. And unique. Do you know anyone with dragonfly earrings??They're made of "Hill Tribe Silver" and enclosed gold card reads as follows [sic]:

"Hilltribe Karen Silver is handmade silver accessories by skilled Karen craftsman. Karen people live in northern part of Thailand. Most of the Karen silver contains 98-99% silver. High contain of silver make it easy to bend and shape. Their products make from their image, and design from natural. So each piece of it has it's own unique character."
I'm thrilled with all of my gifts and so glad I was able to get them without having to take a seventeen hour flight and spend three weeks in tropical temperatures that even had Marlaina saying, "Fuck, it's hot!"

Thank you, thank you, thank you! And one more thank you for shopping for another special item, which I will be giving to my cousin. I just know she'll love it!

Gee, I wonder where they'll be going next? I need to start working on my souvenir list.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Snuggling On Hold
2010: Confessions
2009: There’s Nothing Like The Humor Of A New Yorker
2008: Anne’s Land And Beyond
2007: Butter Me Up
2006: Master Backer Or Master Bater?
2005: Not By The Hair Of My Chinny, Chin, Chin!!