Tuesday, March 25, 2014


With the best of intentions, I had promised myself and the flying lady that I would post at least once a week. I was going to post every weekend! I was!
And then we went back to work, and oh my word! I'm grateful! So very grateful, for the busiest January we've had in years! Literally, we did not stop or have a break of any sort for the first three weeks! We ran straight through the weekends. And the following three weeks were just about as extremely busy. There were a few breaks in there, but what little down time we had, I chose to spend sleeping or stealing a few private moments with my books. I apologize, but I was seriously so beyond any kind of mental creativity.

We spent those six weeks doing mostly southwest - central north runs.

A lot of time in Texas, which was warm and pleasant.
And then we'd head north. Not so warm and pleasant.

A time of two we ventured into the more southern regions, though we never got over to the east side of the Mississippi when in the south.
our company while fixing a tarp issue on the side of the road in the Arkansas Ozarks

And once or twice we ventured west, which is always pleasant, even if it's not warm.

At home, we spent three weeks recuperating. The truck had to go back to the shop. Did I ever tell you we were having problems with the rebuild? I should have reviewed my last post so I would know what I had told you already. Well, in a nut shell, the engine rebuild they did in December was leaking oil like crazy. Seriously, we were averaging about a gallon of oil every 1000 miles or so, give or take. They finally informed us that they had put the wrong kit in, and so we stuck it out the 6 weeks and then took it home to have it rebuilt again. Its been....an interesting experience....we'll leave it at that. 

But anyway, it's rebuilt, and seems to be working now. It took a week to get it back from the shop this time. That's more like it boys! And then we stuck around so Malcolm could do some things on the truck that needed attention and also get a break. 

My biggest and most exciting event of our home time was getting Reba back home. We'd delivered her to our trainer after Thanksgiving. And then with our breakdown and then leaving, we ended up leaving her there longer than the initial planned "30 days." Which, in the long run, was a good thing. She got extra work and training, which never ever hurts! It was so good to bring her home though, and she's amazing!

It feels so good to be back in the saddle, and on one of my own. For the last several years I was riding my sister-in-laws horse, which I enjoyed and appreciated, though I didn't ride often. But to finally be up on one of my own...there's just something different about it. Reba is coming 4 this spring and she's matured so well. She and Sky both grew a lot last year and I'm so pleased with how they have turned out. Reba has a really nice smooth movement, listens to her ques so well, and has the lightest mouth! I barely have to put any pressure on her at all, and she immediately turns or stops or backs.
We were so pleased with the results, that we left Sky with the trainer for a tune up training round. He was still rough around the edges and had a lot of time to lay around the pasture and forget stuff since we were gone so long last fall. So when we get home again in a few weeks, we will pick him up and I'll have two to ride. Lots of saddle time! There's some public land down the road from us that has trails on it. The neighbors ride there and have invited me to ride with them. I'm looking forward to joining them, and also to going out with Malcolm for afternoon rides together.
I also like to tease him that I need a fourth horse now, as I know Fancy will blow her top when we go out riding on Sky and Reba and leave her alone. She needs a friend. ;)
We left back for work last Monday and have been running our wheels off! We loaded in Alabama and headed to Wisconsin and have kind of been sticking around the area between Wisconsin and Ohio. We went back and forth through Chicago enough to last a lifetime. I'm done and completely over that city, as if I wasn't already before! Nothing personal, Chicago, but your traffic stresses me out. And it's really not you car drivers. Its the other trucks! They crowd me and zoom past and since I'm the only one on the face of the Chicago side of the earth driving even remotely close to the speed limit, it makes me unpopular with the other truckers and....well....I don't like driving around in the Chicago area.
From Wednesday morning till Saturday morning we rolled, the truck never stopping for more than 2 hours. It was magic! It was like a team is supposed to work! It was exhausting!
So, though it greatly bugged Malcolm and drove him nuts, I was not that upset that we didn't get a weekend load. We sat in Ohio from Saturday mid-day till Monday morning. And the whole time I kept thinking I really need to blog! But....I was held captive by a good book that I just couldn't put down. That, and being tired from last week really sapped the creative writing juices.

Monday we were sent to Cleveland, OH. That was an experience. We were loading deicing salt, and the only way to get to the load, from our location, was to plow through the middle of it all.

It was the sort of thing where we would normally be questioning if we were allowed to be there, if we had made a mistake, except that it was exactly the way the shippers recorded directions told us to come in. And so we did. 
The shipper was actually located near the lake, and was a huge facility. It just seems there would be an easier way to get there, than nearly touring downtown Cleveland, OH!

We got our salt loaded, and made yet another trip through Chicago to the north end of the endless urban spread. We're in Libertyville, and just unloaded here at the DOT yard.

We are waiting for the next load. It's in the works. It sounds like we are heading to Montana, and we are both relieved. These last loads were good money and we stayed busy, but we have had our fill of urban trucking! It's time to get west where we can breath and roll with ease! And best of all, not pay tolls! Tolls cost us over $400.00 in the last weeks time!
Our intentions are to work another three weeks, go home and pick up Sky and take care of a few things, just a short break or a week, then work another 6 weeks, at which time we should be getting home in time for the first cutting of hay. When we left last Monday, the daffodils were blooming, the lilies and iris were about 4-5 inches tall, and the red bud trees were starting to show signs of Spring. 

I bet when we get back, there will be baby leaves and flowers, and the grass will be in strong enough that we won't have to put out more hay! I'm glad. I'm ready for warmer weather and outdoor time!

So what have you been up to these past weeks?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

First Week Out

Our first week out has been a pretty good one. Not a particularly hard running one, but I think we are both just grateful to finally be back at work. We started out in Chattanooga and will end up in Great Falls at the close of the week (a week to us being Monday to Monday because that's when we left the house).

Our first load was kind of dinky. It was a get you going kind of thing. But then we loaded wheat midds back in Chattanooga and went to Bryan, TX. Texas was sunny and warm, with temps in the 70's. And after the chilly temperatures we'd been having at home, we were all enjoying the warmth!
We bounced over to Bastrop, TX from Bryan and loaded up with some chicken meal. That was Tuesday night, and since we didn't have to be in Flagstaff till Thursday evening, we just parked after loading and got some sleep. And then we took our time getting to Flagstaff, still arriving several hours in advance. Which gave us some time to take care of some business and get a little rest before unloading.

Which was a good thing, because the receiver in Flagstaff did not honor our 5:00pm appointment and we didn't get unloaded till sometime after 9:00pm. Afterwards we had to drive north, and find a car wash to washout the trailer, because the farmer in Utah wanted to load bright and early. So we backed into a car wash with an RV bay in Tuba City, and then parked at 3:00am and got some sleep.

I got up at 7am and finished the last 180 miles. Just across the Utah state line, we entered Monument Valley. I almost got us there in time for the sunrise, but we were a tad too early, and didn't have time to wait on it. I bet it would be a gorgeous place to watch a sunrise though!

We loaded near Monticello, UT. We had a bit of a problem as the farm was just a few miles past the Port of Entry. We loaded without knowing exactly what we weighed, as is common when loading on a farm. We have gauges in the truck that give us an idea of what the axle weights are, but they are not exact. That was ok though! The Port of Entry was happy to let Malcolm know he was almost 1000lbs over weight. They also decided to do a level 3 (paperwork) inspection on him since he was there, but they generously agreed to let him try to shift the weight first. Which we do by rolling forward or backward and slamming on the brakes, depending on where we want to shift the weight and how much needs moved.
Not only did it work perfectly this time, but we also got complimented on our paperwork. The guy working the scale told Malcolm that he (Malcolm) obviously knew what he was doing. He also told him that we have the lowest safety rating he's seen. (the lower the better when it comes to safety ratings) So what had started as a bad situation, ended nicely and on a positive note!

 We headed north out of Monticello, and since we wouldn't be delivering in Great Falls, MT till Monday morning, we took our time. We even stopped for some brief sight seeing. There was a big pull off near Wilson's Arch, and Malcolm pulled in so we could stretch our legs and admire God's art work.
We were traveling US191 which is pretty much a scenic route no matter which state your taking it through. In Utah it's particularly pleasant at is passes through the canyon country! If you drive the southern length of 191 in Utah, you'll pass Arches National Park, Canyonlands National, and a few others, as well as the tourist town of Moab. Every time we drive that section my determination to return as a tourist one day is renewed.

Outside Moab, Paris reminded us that we were all tired from the short night's sleep...

...and so we stopped for the night in Green River, even though it was only 5:00pm.

We woke early, because of the ridiculously early bed time, and so we got to catch the sunrise and moon setting over the Wasatch Mountains.

This section of US191 is also US6 and it's a short cut to get from Green River on I-70 to just south of Salt Lake City on I-15. It can be a little wild in the winter, but it's always scenic! And on this winter day it was chilly, hovering around 11 degrees or so, but sunny and dry. Makes for good traveling in the mountains!

 I like these days when we're not in a hurry. It enables us both to be up instead of one of us asleep while the other drives. And that way we get to enjoy the scenery together. 
Even Paris gets in to the scenery watching sometimes.
 As is the case in most routes through mountainous territory, the highway shares space with the rails. The road pretty much sticks close to the railroad for this section of the route. I like to admire the tunnels. Years ago, people took a lot of pride in their work, and things as simple as railroad tunnels were even build to look nice. These were dated 1912. I liked the way they framed the openings.
About half way through, the rockiness of these mountains gives way to a more rounded look, but it's no less impressive. Just a little gentler looking.

And eventually there were signs that we were reaching the more developed areas of Utah. 

And then we were on I-15 headed north.

We stopped in Lehi, UT to visit Cabelas. It's one of our favorite Cabelas stores as they have a nice selection of reloading equipment in their bargain cave there. I find it interesting how each Cabelas clearly reflects the local sportsman's interests in what they have the most of in the bargain cave. Utah is big on reloading and guns. In fact, did you know Utah is the first state to have a "state gun?" It's true! Just like our state flowers, flags, and seals, they have a state gun.

So that's our week in a nutshell and Utah in a lot of pictures.

In case you were wondering about the "new" engine and how it's doing:
The truck engine is doing well except it's using oil, which it shouldn't be doing. Apparently though, CAT realizes there is an issue with their rebuilds. They've asked us to track the amount of fuel we buy and how much oil it's using. After our first 2200 miles, we'd already burned off a gallon of oil. Eventually CAT will figure out what the problem is and then I guess we'll have to take it in to have the engine broken down again and fixed. At least it will be on their buck this time and not ours. But it will still mean time off the road and there's been way too much of that already!

We're rolling again, after our stop at Cabelas. Just came through Salt Lake City and heading towards the border. Tomorrow a scenic drive through Idaho and Montana! As much as I LOVE being at home, it sure feels good to be on the road again!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Time Flies When Your Having Fun

Time really does fly, and I'm not sure "having fun" has much to do with it. I think it just flies in general.
So here's the deal with what's been going on. We came home a few days before Thanksgiving with then intention of staying home about a week and a half, but really no more. We wanted to get a couple weeks work in before Christmas.
So on the Monday about a week and a half after Thanksgiving, we were waiting for our broker to get in the office (they are two hours behind us) and while we were waiting, Malcolm went out to look things over again and make sure the truck was ready to roll.
And he found antifreeze in the oil. Don't ask me how trucks break when they are parked in the yard. It happens a lot and I can't explain it.
It has been quite a shock, a bit of a blow. Like a sucker punch to the gut kind of feeling. At least it was for a few days. Then we just moved on because what else can you do.
Where am I now? Well, its a week after New Years and I am sitting at my kitchen table.
Yep, we're STILL home!
We got the truck back from the shop Saturday, but had to take it back in yesterday for them to fix something that got messed up in the shop. Otherwise, when we finally get rolling, we should be good as new...literally!
See all the pretty shiny new yellow? That my friends is a $22,000 Christmas present! It should have taken a week, but once they got the engine rebuilt, they had a problem with one of the factory parts. But they couldn't figure out which part it was. They had to totally disassemble the whole thing a second time and go through it. They finally got it going good though, and once they get our alternator fixed (they accidentally fried it), we'll be good to go! And go we hopefully will do! SOON! Before we go broke!
So what does one do with 6 weeks off work? No need for worry! We have not sat around here bored! Aside from the trauma of having to do an unexpected engine rebuild, we've had a blast!!!

And so have the girls. They took the news very well!
And then Paris tried to hide the phone so that we couldn't get the call when the truck was ready. I think she just figured we'd stay home indefinitely that way.
The girls have spent most of their time at home here, in front of their fire.
Malcolm and I have done other things.
I spent some time working on quilting projects,
and also made some of my wine bottle candles.
I had so much fun making candles, and then I finally got my Etsy shop opened and listed my candles for sale.
We also did some work outside around the farm. We have several large brush piles from where Malcolm had been cleaning hedge out of the fence rows. So we burned some of them.
Three weeks later, the one behind the house is still leaking smoke, even though it's had rain poured on it three times since burning. It even flared up into flames for an hour or so the other evening. It's been kind of entertaining watching it, and now I have a better understanding of how wild fires can flare back up long after having burned out.
In general, we've just been staying busy around the house and farm, enjoying being here and getting to work on things other than the truck.
We've also spent time with family. Our oldest niece, Bentlee, made the school basketball team. So we went to her first game, which they won!

We've spent time visiting with Mom and Dad. And Mom's been busy making new clothes for the girls. Here's one of her projects, a lovely crocheted coat for Ella.
I did some things inside, other than just play. Take the living room with the wood stove for instance. At some point there was fire board all over the walls in that room. And then at some point they ripped it off. But it left paper and glue residue all over the walls and ceiling, which they started to clean, but didn't finish the job.
So I restarted it.
It is a slow job, and I'm not going to finish it this trip home. I dread the ceiling. It's going to be hardest. But when it's all said and done, it will all be as lovely as the wall that was cleaned by the previous owners.
That gets us up to the holidays!
The extended family takes turns hosting Christmas, and this year we gathered at Mom and Dad's. We do a Christmas Eve brunch with the extended family, so that everyone can be home with their closest kin on Christmas day. When we arrived, before the rest of the family, Mom and Dad were busy making Granny's fried apple pies. So Malcolm jumped right in to assist, while Mom and I went to take care of last minute details in other parts of the house.
We ate and visited and had lots of laughs during our traditional Chinese Auction gift exchange.
On Christmas day, Mom, Dad, and Grandma came up here to our house and we just relaxed and ate and visited. My brother's family went to his in-laws, and my sister's family stayed in Nashville with her in-laws.  This is they way we've started spending our Christmas.
And then we reserve New Years Eve and Day for our family gathering, which I've come to really enjoy and appreciate. For starters, it's neat to ring in the new year with those who are dearest to us. And also, no one has to hurry off to another family gathering. There's no rush, no bustle, just gathering and enjoying each others company. And we give the kids their Christmas gifts, which is always fun.
Ava Grace is almost 2 years old! And she LOVES dogs and "horsies!"
As soon as my brother's family arrived, the American Girl Doll fans piled onto the couch to pour over the 2014 Doll of the Year catalog.
Bentlee will be 9 this month and Lily is 8 1/2! They are so grown up! It's really fun and kind of sad too.
After dinner, we piled into cars to go pick up breakfast for the morning! Krispy Kreme! And the assembly line was running!
Two of the girls had never gotten to watch it, and the other two had only recently discovered this amazing glazed wonder to the eyes. So we spent some time watching.
And then we loaded up our boxes of doughnuts and headed back to the house for....
Uncle Malcolm had bought the three oldest girls some pretty earrings from Montana Silversmith. We thought they would be pretty, but I kind of expected it to be considered a "boring" gift. Well we take turns opening gifts so everyone can see what each girl gets. Lily went first and chose to open her little box first. The delight on her face at the sight of those earrings! It was a sweet moment. And then to my surprise, upon seeing what the little boxes most likely held, Bentlee and Kenslee both chose to open their little boxes first and were both equally thrilled. In fact everyone had to have their earrings put in right away. And then we paused in the gift unwrapping for a picture with Malcolm.
Gifts unwrapped, and everyone happy, so the kids settled in to play with their new treasures...
...and the grown ups visited...
...and awaited the arrival of the new year.
We went all out this year! Someone had supplied us all with hats and noise makers, and there were even some fireworks to set off out in the driveway...in the freezing cold! But the kids loved it and the grown ups had a lot of fun too. And then we went to bed.
We ALL had a slumber party at Mom and Dad's. All except Ken and Sarah who only live 3 miles down the road. But the girls stayed, and had a big slumber party in the living room with Grandmommy and Papaw. It was Kenslee's first sleepover at Grandmommy's and she did great! It was lots of fun!
In the morning we all pitched in to help fix breakfast...
...and then we finally got to do some serious doughnut eating! Along with some other good stuff.
We all stayed the rest of the day. Parade watching, football, a big family game of Pictionary, and a dinner of blackeyed peas and collard greens! Mom and I are in agreement that this was THE best Christmas/New Years ever!
Holiday over, Malcolm and I resumed the project that we had started back before Christmas. MY KITCHEN!
It was off white with burgundy trim. Very '90's and very not me! It also had smudges and scratches on the walls. And I've been wanting to paint for some time. With no truck needing attention, and all this time on our hands, it was the perfect time to dig in and get it over with. So we did.
And as usual, Malcolm went above and beyond and decided to cut a cabinet down and install the new microwave/exhaust that we've had for several years, but never got put in.
He also put in the new dishwasher. He had help on that job. I don't know how we did it without her.
In fact we had help through the whole project, and had to keep telling them to get out of the kitchen.
It was hard on them. Especially Ella who was traumatized by her house being destroyed.
But somehow we all survived the lengthy project and upheaval in the house, and the finished product is SO worth it all! I LOVE my new kitchen!

There's still some little touches that need attention, but for now, we've cleaned up. We'll finish next time we're home.
This weekend it turned off bitter cold, as it did in most of the country it seems. We have been supplementing out heat with the wood stove, and we were running low of fire wood.
This tree fell in the horse pasture last Spring and we hadn't gotten to it yet. So we decided to spend the last day of warmer temps to get outside and cut it up.
We had some help, and I enjoyed the company. It was a nice day spent outside.

That about sums up the last few weeks. Hopefully we'll be pulling out of here in sometime in the next few days. We're getting things set up to leave. I know we did that before, but this time I think we'll actually get to leave.
So...that said...my next post really WILL be from the road. I'm serious this time!