Friday, March 30, 2012

Group Hug! Now Go Back to Work.

This is not a real post.

We interrupt this regularly scheduled broadcast with an annoying beep, which you must imagine.

Here at Confessions of a Tumbleweed, I have given myself the mission of blogging about specific and sometimes facty things about the trucking life.

I try to avoid blogging about blogging or boring you to death by griping or rambling too much about nothing. (I could you know.)

I read a lot of blogs and I love the fact that I get to glimpse into the lives of other people, in other parts of the world with different lives than me.

When I read a newspaper (remember those) the first section I always read is the Lifestyle section. And not just for the comics. I love the human interest pieces that tell a story of a life different than my own or give me perspective on an issue in a new light.

The internet is like one, giant, never-ending Lifestyle section.

Also, I'm really bad a compliments.

So what am I talking about?

Recently, two bloggers that I read, Ladybug and Vinny C, have bestowed on me the compliment of an award.

These two people illustrate the diversity that I love about the blog world:

Ladybug is an artist, naturalist, and philosopher in Washington state. Once she took a chance and knocked on the door of a Goat Chalet House in Canada and found a Swiss chainsaw artist living in a home with 1,000 faces.

Vinny C lives is a journalist in Trinidad & Tobago (yes, I had to look it up) who gets to go to the beach for work, draws the occasional top-heavy stick figure cartoon, and knows more about Japan than is probably healthy.

Each award comes with various and sundry obligations and things and stuff, but because I am:

A: a rebel, and

2: adverse to the feeling of the mass forward/chain mail-ness of it all. (As anyone who has ever e-mailed me one knows.)

I accept these compliments in the spirit in which they are given without following the rules. And I just want to say right here and right now that it means a SUPER lot to me that such cool and diverse people not only read what I write, comment wittily on it, but give me compliments too. 

Thank you. For reals.

I'm so excited it made me frolic.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

She's a Super Freak! Super Freak! She's Super Freaky, Oww!

It's Wednesday already and that means you should check out my column in the Douglas Budget wherein I get called an organizational freak in the title.

I call myself that, in the column, but to have it in such bold font is a tad disturbing.

It's true, though.
So, no harm no foul right?

Super Freak


No random facts today, only this:

Last night I was walking Jasmine in a field next to a country road in Missouri. It was dark (because that's how night works) and we were a good 20 feet away from the road. A pick-up truck went by and the driver yelled out what sounded like lesbian. That's it. Lesbian!

And today I came back to the truck where Himself was fueling it, from another walk with Jasmine, and the guy fueling next to us yelled over to Himself: "Which one minds better? The dog or your old lady? Har har har!"

I'm not offended by any of it, really. I don't like being yelled at, no matter what I'm being called. But lesbian is so random, that it's funny.

They say weird things happen in 3's.

So today I am a freakish old lady organizational lesbian.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Republican Party and Big Gum: an Exposé

Remember Fruit Stripe Gum?

Yep, they still make it. Enough of it apparently, to fill up a whole trailer and deliver it to a Kroger warehouse.

I'm *pretty* sure there are some sort of mesmerizing chemicals in Fruit Stripe.

It was the Holy Grail of gum when I was a kid, but no matter how many times I got my dirty little hands on it, the gum always disappointed. Those 5 juicy flavors never lasted more than 1.3 microseconds and inevitably I ate the whole pack in 6.5 microseconds, leaving me unfulfilled and depressed.

I would vow never to eat it again.

But then those stripes would call to me. I would try it once more and the whole sordid process would being anew.

Maybe it's the stripes that are mesmerizing.

His name is Yipes.
His hooves are weird,
but he can dunk like a champ.

In my last post, I mentioned 40 packs of gum among the booty that we have gotten for free. It was Wrigley's Doublemint Gum, another throw-back from the olden days. Its flavor only lasts for microseconds, too.

Unless you're a twin; then it's super tasty and a great way to meet other twins. Or Pod People.


Have you taken a look at the gum aisle in your local convenience store lately?

Forget Big Oil, Big Gum is what's hot.

Walking around a truck stop the other day, as I was waiting for Himself to get out of the shower, I wandered over to the candy aisle. After straightening up all the out-of-alignment snack foods, because I'm a crazy control freak helpful like that, I counted the stunning array of gum choices.

Take a moment and ask yourself: How many different flavors of gum did she count?

While you are thinking I will give you a sampling of the flavors out there in the gum world:

Fabulous Fruitini
Mango Surf
Strawberry Mint
Mint Mojito
Mint Chocolate Chip
Sangria Fresca
Cool Mangoberry
Cool Mint & Melon Fresco
Passionberry Twist
Polar Ice
Ice Peppermint
Winter Ice
Vanilla Ice Ice Baby (Stop! Collaborate and listen...[sorry, couldn't help myself])

Ok. Do you have your number?

Now multiply it by 10, take away 3, carry the 5, divide the inverse by Uranus and yep, you guessed it:


That's 99 different flavors for gum, with wacky flavor choices that defy reason or common sense. 

Just like the candidates for the Republican nomination.

Monday, March 26, 2012

There's a Tear in My Beer

Dear New Jersey Port People,

When loading 40,000 pounds of spendy imported beer, it might be a good idea to wrap it up more tightly and perhaps, oh I don't know, block it in with something so it can't tip over. 


A Tumbleweed Crying Over Spilled Beer.


Most often, the trailers we pick up are loaded and sealed, like this one. We have no control over whether it is loaded by morons or masterminds.

Mostly, the stuff we get is loaded really well. Some places use giant plastic air bags to fill in the space between pallets. Would have worked really well here, but I guess the people at the New Jersey port had better things to do that day.

We aren't held liable for loading problems, but usually it is left up to us to dispose of the damaged contents.

This has worked in our favor several times, because food companies will reject a damaged outer carton even if the product itself isn't damaged. 

I'm not too proud to eat a bag of potato chips that came from a dented box. Plus, I hate to see perfectly good stuff go to waste. 

Before the beer, the last damaged thing we had was diapers. We're too old for babies and too young to use them ourselves, so we gave them to a truck stop janitor who could use them.

It's not uncommon to find truckers driving around a truck stop trying to give away something they have have no need or room for. We've been on both sides of this transaction: we've gotten rid of eleventy tons of napkins and diapers this way and received 7 cases of mini peppers, 783 granola bars, and 40 packs of gum.

But do you think they let us keep the damaged cartons of beer? Oh nooooo. The warehouse guys assured us that they would be glad to get rid of it for us and that we shouldn't worry our pretty little heads about it.


Tumbleweed Fact:

Pilsner Urquell, the beer that was so rudely loaded, is a tasty beer all by itself, but it's also a fantastic mixer with a dry champagne.

Tall glass
Half beer
Half champagne

It's called a Herrengedeck and it's a Tumbleweed Tradition.

You're welcome.


Coincidentally, Grolsch makes a
fine Herrengedeck too!

I launched 'spilled beer' into the Google and came up with this website that has crazy pictures of truck spills. They haven't updated in a while, but it's worth a look. I would *definitely* rather clean up some broken beer bottles than rotting pig carcasses (carcai?).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Beginning of the End

Hey! It's Thursday and you know what that means!

Hint: It means it's the day after Wednesday (when the Douglas Budget comes out) and you can go there and read my column that I forgot to link to yesterday.

In this week's column you will find a super secret big announcement that will affect each and every one of you.

Well, affect may be not be the right word. But I'm pretty sure it's not effect. Although it will have an effect on you because you will be affected by it. Or not. I will be affected by the effects of this affectation but most likely you will just go about your daily life without any effects whatsoever.

Possibly maybe.

*Björk interlude*

"Who knows what's going to happen? Lottery or car crash Or you'll join a cult."

Anyway, you should go there and read it and see what all the fuss* is about. Also I forgot how much I love Björk's voice. And she has that voice live and not just in the studio and my mind kind of explodes with the magicfulness** of it all.

*there is no fuss
**magicfulness is not a word, but I like it and spellcheck suggested McGovern which is not right at all.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Beaker's Grandmother and the Apocalypse

If only we could fly away from here.

Have I mentioned lately how much I dislike New Jersey?

We had to spend the WHOLE DAY in Elizabeth, NJ after having spent the night in a customer's parking lot, without having had a shower.

I don't even like admitting that I didn't have a shower, much less not actually having the shower!

Through a series of snafus and misunderstandings on the part of the shipper and receiver, we got to the place to deliver at the agreed upon time Sunday, only to find out that they are not open on the weekends.

Yay for us.

There are roughly .0037 truck stops for every one friendly person in the entire state and none within a 30 mile radius of where we were.

We could have driven the 60 miles round trip and gotten up at the crack of dawn to make it back to the place to unload, but we'd lose our spot in line and the possibility of getting a load out of there quickly.

Plus, thirty miles in New Jersey could mean 30 minutes or 30 days and putting oneself amidst the angry hordes is just unwise.

It would be one big hassle. And not of the Hoff variety, whom I dislike just as much as New Jersey.

You really haven't lived until you've had to bathe in a public bathroom sink.

The next day we had to pick up a load at the port and we had to wait there for 10 hours. It was New Jersey overload to the 5th power.

Where all the *classy* dirty hobos hang out.

However, being the half-glass-full variety of Tumbleweeds, we made the most of our free time by going to nearby IKEA, Olive Garden, and the Jersey Garden Outlet Mall.

Side note: I don't actually like shopping all that much, as evidenced by the fact that I am still wearing holey shoes despite passing by no fewer than 15 shoe stores. But all the people watching more than made up for my lack of shopping skills.
Side side note: In spite of what I've written so far, I'm really not that much of a dirty hobo.

But I refuse to spend this whole post on vitriol aimed at a state that just can't help itself.

Favorable Garden State Facts:

✓  Elizabeth, New Jersey, home to IKEA and the Jersey Gardens Outlet Mall, has a 3.5% sales tax rate, half the rate of the rest of the state.

  I like the movie Garden State.

✓  Beaker's grandmother lives in New Jersey. This may not be a *real* fact but I saw an elderly woman eating a bread stick at Olive Garden and if she wasn't Beaker's grandmother then she was surely the prototype for Beaker himself.

✓  New Jersey puts those electronic message boards over the highway to good use: the Silver Alert System. It's like the Amber Alert, except instead of sending out warnings to help locate missing children, it warns of missing elderly who may have wandered off due to Alzheimer's or dementia. I hope it never has to be used for Beaker's grandma.

✓  The three people we had to deal with at the port were friendly and helpful. 

I got nothing else.


I took these pictures at the port even though there are signs everywhere saying I was being watched and that people were encouraged to report suspicious activity which had the effect of making me feel like a terrorist.

The truck traffic in and out of the port is constant and the amount of containers staggering; they're everywhere. Imagine all that cheap furniture, electronics, and alcohol in them.

If there is going to be a apocalypse of some sort, I think we should all meet up at the port; we could survive for years on this stuff and maybe meet up with Beaker's grandma.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sandhill Cranes Drink Kool Aid while Dancing with Richard Simmons

Ahh, spring is in the air, the grass is getting greener, flowers are blooming, and the weather is getting warmer.

Georgia spring.

Of course spring comes at varying speeds in different parts of the country.

Nebraska, for instance, isn't very green or flowery right now, (or ever) but they do have a unique harbinger of spring: sandhill crane migration.

Nebraska spring.

Nebraska's Platte River Valley, in the middle of the state, is a truck stop of sorts for hundreds of thousands of sandhill cranes. From late February to early April, Nebraska is the place to be for as many as 600,000 of these leggy birds as they refuel on their trek to northern breeding grounds.

As we travel I-80 between North Platte and Grand Island, we can see thousands of them walking in the cornfields and swimming in the river. You don't notice them at first; their grey bodies blend into the surroundings. But when you do, it's like the ground comes alive with them and it's awesome.


The sandhill crane migration also brings in as many as 70,000 tourists each spring. Not too shabby for a state best known for um... *looks up Nebraska on the Google*....yes of course: Kool Aid.

Yesiree, in 1927 Edwin Perkins of Hastings, Nebraska invented the concentrated mix for Kool Aid, originally called Fruit Smack. Naturally, there's a Kool Aid Museum to visit after you look at all the birds.

Side note: I often yelled out "Hey Kool Aid!" and waited excitedly for a big, smiling red pitcher to burst through my bedroom wall as a kid, and it never happened. Not even once. Thanks for ruining my childhood, Nebraska! No wonder I couldn't remember anything about your state.

Anyway, as I was saying before the non-existent Kool Aid Pitcher burst through my writing, Nebraska has a lot of sandhill cranes in the spring.

Did you know?

☞80% of the world's population of sandhill cranes uses Nebraska's Platte River as a pit stop on their way north.

☞Sandhill cranes are omnivorous, eating plants and animals, but during their stay in Nebraska 90% of their diet consists of left over grain in corn fields.

☞Sandhill cranes average 200-300 miles of flying a day. And boy are thier arms tired, wocka wocka!

☞While refueling along the Platte River, sandhill cranes dance to relieve the stress of migration and strengthen pair bonds. Kind of like Richard Simmons.

☞Sandhill cranes mate for life and young ones often use the rest stop in Nebraska to find a partner. Richard Simmons doesn't have a partner*.

☞Baby sandhill cranes are called colts and I lied about them drinking Kool Aid.

☞Wanna see for yourself? Go to the Crane Cam and see it all live.


According to a Chicago Tribune interview with Richard Simmons, "There are sacrifices you have to make. I don't have a lot to offer one person. I have a lot to offer to a lot of people."


I kind of cheated you of really gorgeous photos, (Richard Simmons not withstanding) but I don't like to just take other people's hard work (again, Richard Simmons) especially artists.
So if you need a gorgeous photography fix go to Michael Forsberg's website.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

If You're Pesky and You Know it Clap Your Hands!

Tooting my own horn, just like this guy.

Today is Wednesday and that means you can read my column at the Douglas Budget. (Hint: I'm clapping my hands right now.)

Also, it's March 14 which is Pi (π) Day and if you want a fun way involving ugly cakes to learn the first 7 digits* of the ratio of circumference to diameter for a circle then you should have clicked several words ago.

But not before you go read my column and find out just how comforting UFO music can be.

A behind the scenes look of a Tumbleweed at work.
I look up facts so you don't have to.
You're welcome.

* Since Pi is an irrational and transcendental number it can be calculated past the decimal into the trillions and you don't have that kind of time to memorize it so just stick with seven.

Also, I have been irrational on many occasions, so me and Pi have something in common. (Pi and I?)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Little America and the Nameless Sheep Herder Who May or May Not Have Snuggled with Heath Ledger

Driving on I-80 in Wyoming is chock-full-o-fun things like:

*Sage brush

And freakish weather conditions that often close the highway for hours or days at a time while the rest of the state enjoys mild weather.

That's why Little America, Wyoming is such a welcome oasis in the southwest part of the state.

What began as a young sheep herder's dream is not only the name of a town, but also a chain of hotels and travel centers in the west.

If you believe it, that is.

This is not a sheep. It is an American bison.
Another hole in the story?

According to their postcards, menus, and website:

In the 1890's a Wyoming sheep herder became lost in a blizzard and was forced to camp out all night by himself. There were 50 mph winds, the temperature was 40 below, and he had no fire, food, or blankets (or Heath Ledger to snuggle up with). 
He longed for a warm, safe, shelter from the storm. He survived and the experience stayed with him. 
Years later, in 1934 after hearing of Admiral Byrd's Little America base station in the Antarctic, a light bulb went off and he opened a refuge for travelers on the exact spot of his harrowing experience of so many years ago. 

I'm sure this is all true, mainly because Heath Ledger wasn't even alive back then. But what I find odd is that nowhere do they mention the sheep herder's name.

My skeptical mind says it's all just hokey propaganda but my romantical mind says Heath Ledger was kind of hunky, so who knows?

This penguin is on the roof of the restaurant.
They are everywhere.
Kind of like symbols in The DaVinci Code
only with penguins.

For this Tumbleweed, what really matters is that they have *classy* showers and bathrooms. And for Himself it's the 50¢ ice cream cones.

You know it's classy when you can sit in the
bathroom while holding up a ball of light next to
a brass lamp surrounded by
groovy red velvet wallpaper.

As I may have mentioned once or twelveteen times before, life on the road means a LOT of public bathrooms and showers, some more cootie-ridden than others.

Little America is known in the trucking world for their nice facilities that feel nothing at all like a grungy truck stop.

A full size bathtub

Or a nice roomy shower

And the absolute mark of class in a bathroom:
the folded point.

Another thing that Little America is known for is their foreign worker program.

They get work visas for people from Turkey, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, and elsewhere in exchange for housing and a year of work and training in their establishment.  Apparently, local workers are hard to come by because the oil field and mine jobs pay so well.

Nowhere else in Wyoming will you hear such diverse accents.

Conversation with a clerk in the store:

Himself: "Excuse me, do you have any bananas?"

Clerk: "No bananas. Eeet epple."

Himself: "Excuse me?"

Clerk: No bananas. Eeet epple." (points to apple display)


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Tumbleweed Tax Prep or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the IRS

Isn't paperwork fun?

Who doesn't love tax time?

And math, isn't math great??

I have finally completed the adding, subtracting and paperwork shuffling of 2011. Now I can spend my time usefully; staring off into space and looking up obscure information on the internet, instead doing the government's bidding.

Although, I do love the IRS, I mean those people are great, completely underrated and overworked. All that time they spend with those helpful flow charts and easy to understand directions. And they have the shiniest hair and are so fun to be around.

No need for an audit here, move along, Poindexter.

Here are some 2011 Tumbleweed facts from the adding and subtracting archives:

311 days on the road. Do you have any idea how many public bathrooms that is? Eleventy billion.
$60,000.00 worth of diesel, over 17,000 gallons. One barrel of crude oil makes about 10 gallons of diesel, the rest goes to gas, jet fuel, and crayons. That's 1700 barrels of crude oil. We should just move to Saudi Arabia now.
114,000 miles driven, almost half the distance from the Earth to the moon.
We only got paid for 107,000 of those miles. The other 7,000 miles are on us and accounts for bad directions and getting lost, personal use, and the fuzzy math that the trucking industry sets for paid mileage. 
$600.00 spent on showers and laundry, in public, cootie filled truck stops. (Insert sad violin music here)

All I have to do now is print this out and send it to the IRS. I know they will appreciate getting our tax information in a creative way, after weeks and weeks of looking at those boring tax forms with all those little lines and big words. We'll no doubt get a prize or something along with a big, fat refund.

We're probably going to need it when we get to Saudi Arabia.


Friday, March 2, 2012

New Jersey Devils

View off of Goethals Bridge
between New Jersey and Staten Island

My column is up at the Douglas Budget and you really should read it because if you don't you might one day accidentally go to New Jersey and then you'll be sorry.

Never go to New Jersey on purpose is what I'm saying.

I do feel the teeniest bit bad that I malign that state so much. I'm sure it has its good points, somewhere deep, deep down.

Nothing is all bad, right?

Except for English peas. Those suck no matter what you do to them.

So go here and read it and maybe "like" it if you're on Facebook. If you're feeling froggy, send me some money; small, unmarked bills are preferable. No actual frogs please.


These pictures were taken near Elizabeth, New Jersey, an industrial area and home to Newark-Elizabeth airport, where 32 million passengers came through last year and then got out as fast as they could. Presumably.

 Ok, New Jersey, you have a nice sky. There. I said something nice.