I’m on my way!

Sitting in the Columbus, Ohio bus station, I remember last night when it really hit me that I’m leaving home for a month or more. It really hit me that I won’t see my dog in a very long time. The last time I had to leave my dog, I had to leave her in a really bad situation and I still haven’t really forgiven myself for that. I started to feel the same things I did then: guilt, fear, despair. But then I remembered that I’m not leaving her in another bad situation. She will be properly loved and cared for even though I’m not there to do it. That realization helped more than I thought it would. Even though I’m going to miss Snickers more than anything, I’m not going to be worried for her safety. And that’s important.

Some people might think that my priorities are backward that I’m going to miss my dog the most, but I will be able to talk to my family. I can video chat with them. I can’t pet my dog. I can’t snuggle with her. She won’t be sleeping in my bed every night. And that’s how we communicate. I know some people skype with their dogs, but I know that she wouldn’t understand what was happening and it might make her more depressed. I know it will make me more depressed. So I’ll just love on her non-stop every time I get home time.

As for the bus, I’m currently on a layover. I’ve ridden Greyhound before and I will say that they continue to improve their travel experience. It’s not perfect. Nowhere near. But it’s better than the first time I took a bus in 2009. Unfortunately, they advertise the shit out of their free wifi at terminals, but I can’t connect at all. So this will be posted later, possibly tomorrow when I’m at the training center. The bus was the most crowded I have ever been on, but it’s likely that the Akron-Columbus route is more popular than Fort Wayne-Detroit. Hopefully my next bus will be less crowded. I’m a little worried about getting delayed. They already had to split a bus going to Cleveland into two trips and a 3 o’clock departure left at 4. I hope I’m not too delayed since I won’t be getting to the center until 10 pm at best.

In the mean time, I’ve got the copious amounts of anime that I downloaded last night, as well as music. I’m currently sitting in the food court and, I’ll be honest, this terminal is pretty disgusting. I’m only eating here because I don’t think I will get another chance to eat for the rest of the day. The Akron terminal, which is also the city bus station, was very nice. The cafe was closed, likely because it’s Sunday, but it was clean and aesthetically pleasing. The Columbus station is clearly quite old, smells like you think a bus station would, and is in slight disrepair. I hope they update the station soon. It is quite large and clearly heavily used, so it may not be efficient to combine it with the city bus station. It would need quite a bit of space, which is pretty limited in downtown Columbus. I’ve noticed quite a few cities combining their Greyhound stations with their main bus stations, which makes sense. Especially for smaller cities that don’t have as much traffic through their Greyhound terminal, it is much more cost effective to combine the two, instead of paying for electricity, plumbing, AC, etc. for just a handful of people a few hours a day. It also means they can potentially pool their resources to keep the station better cleaned and in good condition.

I’m just rambling because I’m bored. My layover is at least 4 hours, depending on when my next bus shows up and I still have at least another hour to go. Oh! I almost forgot! Our bus got pulled over on the way here by the cops. They boarded and said they were looking for someone, asked for ID’s from a few people who, I’m assuming, fit the profile of the guy they were looking for. It was very strange. We pulled over into a, currently, unused construction site with nothing but a shack and port-a-potty and we were like, “Shit, what you gonna do to us in that shed?” It was weird.

Anyway, I’ll try to update tomorrow and depending on wifi, I may post twice tomorrow. See you then!

~Catherine

I’m Off to See the Wizard!

Jesus, that’s a dated reference. *Ahem* I mean, I did it!! I FINALLY got my CDL permit and I’m scheduled to leave to start school to get my CDL on Sunday!

It took me three tries to pass the knowledge test and it made me feel like an ignoramus. I used to do pretty well in school, but this was hard for me. What I found most difficult was remembering exact stopping distances, air brake psi for different situations, and other numbers I needed to memorize. I’ve always had trouble integrating numbers into my memory banks. If it’s algebra, where all you need is the formula, I somehow have no trouble with that. But dates or any other specific numbers for specific situations are next to impossible for me to remember. That’s ok though because I know it is a limitation and have developed methods for coping.

I also had to pass a DOT physical, which has to be given by a specifically licensed physician and usually costs about $60, although I’m sure it varies by state, too. It’s also almost never covered by health insurance, but most schools will reimburse you for the cost. It wasn’t much more intense than a regular physical. Had to keep my blood pressure below 140/90 which usually is not even  remotely an issue, but when I first got it taken with a machine, it was 143/87 which is RIDICULOUSLY high for me.  Fortunately, the doctor took it manually later and it was 123/83, which is much more like my normal range. Had to do a urine test for different health factors, not drugs. It screens for kidney issues, diabetes, and other potential health problems. Had to do a VERY basic strength test which just about anyone could pass. Just push against his hands with your arms and legs while he exerts a very mild amount of pressure and make sure you are able to squat. No big deal. Then they go though and make sure you don’t have any disqualifying health problems like epilepsy or shcizophrenia or anything else that could interfere with your ability to drive a truck. In all the information I read about getting this physical, it talked about bringing vaccination records, medical records, verification of medications taken, but NOWHERE that I found did it say ANYTHING about getting a letter from your psychiatrist verifying that your mental health is stable and your meds are working. That ended up being the ONE thing he needed from me. And OF COURSE my psychiatrist is on vacation until next week. Fortunately, I was able to get in to see a psychaitrist who works with mine and he signed the letter. I’m very fortunate that my office was so willing to help me out, but MAN that was frustrating.

But now I finally got everything done, called my recruiter, emailed her pictures of my DOT physical card and CDL permit, and now I’m scheduled to leave! I’m SO excited!! Also, I found out that instead of having classes M-F 8-5, classes are now 7 days a week at the same times, so that will shave off about a week of training. Now I’m expected to be on the road with a trainer in 3-5 weeks instead of 4-6, which is great because that means I will get a paycheck sooner. I don’t get paid while I’m doing the classroom learning and practicing on the lots. I only get paid when I start hauling merchandise.

I’ll update again soon when I have more information on what to pack and such.

~Catherine

How do you become a truck driver?

Excellent question, title that I just wrote. I can’t speak for all companies or even for all types of trucking because I don’t haven the experience yet. Since I’m going to be an over-the-road (OTR) trucker, that’s what I can tell you about. For the company training center that I’m going with, I basically needed to have a clean driving record and pass a background check. That’s about it. If I was an experienced driver and didn’t want or need to enroll in classes to obtain my Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), there would be more requirements. But since I’m completely inexperienced, they basically just need a warm body.

That’s not to say that any schmuck off the street will make it in trucking, though. Even though trucking is sort of idealized as being by yourself, doing what you want, when you want, that just isn’t true. According to the, frankly, terrifying number of articles I have read in the last month or so, people skills are a must. If you can’t get along with your dispatcher or your trainer or anyone, you’re either fired or locked out. I am going to be the very last person in a very, very long line of people moving cargo from one place to another.

If I don’t get along with my trainer, they can fail me.

If I don’t get along with my dispatcher, they can refuse to give me loads.

If I don’t get along with the security guards at dropyards, they can force me to be late.

So, beyond qualifications or personality traits, in order to become a trucker, you need to get your Class A CDL. There are Class A, B, and C, I believe and Class A is the most broad and allows you to transport the most varied (and dangerous) cargo. There are also endorsements such as Hazmat (for transporting hazardous materials), tanker (for transporting liquids), and doubles and triples (for driving double and triple trailers). In Ohio, the plain CDL A is $23. Each endorsement is $43. Which is kind of steep since you’re just taking a written test to get your permit. Since we’re so low on funds, I’m just going to get my plain CDL A and get endorsements later.

Something else you need to get, often before you even get to whatever training school you decide to go to, is a DOT physical. It is a little more involved than an average physical because they need to make sure you can bend and lift a certain amount. It’s also usually NOT covered by insurance, but the average rate is about $60, so it’s not too bad. I’ll write more about it next week because that’s when mine is scheduled.

I’m going to try to blog daily, but since there won’t be much going on until I get my physical and my permit, posts might be a bit sparce for the week. In the mean time, I will be studying and trying to keep my blood pressure low by cutting out pop and watching salt. I’m not too worried since the cut off is 140/90 and my bp has never been higher than 135/86 and I had been running to get to that appointment, but it’s something I should do anyway.

Hope to have you along for the ride.

~Catherine

What would YOU do for a Klondike Bar?

Today I finally got a job. For the first time since January 2014, I will be employed. What will I be doing? I’m going to be a trucker. As in gone for a month at a time, hauling whatever to wherever whenever. In a truck. You know, the ones you hate driving next to. I’m going to be behind the wheel of one of those in about a month’s time.

Why trucking? Basically, the money. My family and I have been struggling to get by since the recession and I think a decade is enough financial hardship. So, when I first had this idea about a month ago, I only knew that the pay is better than any minimum wage job that I could get as a college drop out. However, once I started researching, I realized that I might actually enjoy trucking. It’s all still hypothetical right now, but I think the trucking lifestyle might suit me well. We’ll see.

My long term plan is to be a trucker for 3-5 years to save up enough to go back to school and get my degree in accounting. Yes, accounting. Why? Money, again. Also, I love algebra. It’s my jam. I also find the work interesting. Some people might think that the jump from trucking to accounting is strange or a large leap, but I like to think that I have an eclectic skill set. Besides, trucking will allow me to support my family AND save for school. Sounds pretty good to me.

So, if you want to come along for the ride, this is going to be where I document this little experiment. Hopefully this will help combat the loneliness of being on the road for weeks at a time. If I can figure out the technology, I’ll post photos, maybe videos, and generally share what this unique lifestyle is like. Hope to see you there.

~Catherine

I'm going on an adventure