Thursday, December 18, 2014

Memories of Mom & Crochet


My mother was an amazing woman.  She was smart, soft-spoken, friendly to everyone unless they gave her a reason not to be... and then watch out.  She didn't take anything from people.  She had a her own sense of style, an understated elegance that was tasteful and classy, and very feminine.  Part Irish and part Cherokee, she had a beauty that matched her style.  She had the long, silky, thick, straight hair of the Cherokee, liquid silver in color unlike any other I've ever seen, along with the high cheekbones so prominent in the American Indians.  And yet her skin was covered in freckles.  She was a lady.  She was a wife.  She was a mother.  And she is missed every single day.

Some of my most fond memories of my mother are of her being involved in one of her many arts and crafts hobbies.  She did sketching, home d├ęcor and design, bead work, jewelry making, sewing, stained glass, painting, quilting, and crocheting just to name a few.  She was good at everything she did.

Ever since I was a little girl I always wanted to crochet.  It was something I grew up seeing my mother and my grandmothers do.  I loved all the things they made.  At one point my mother even owned a yarn and crochet shop.  I would try and try.  Mom tried to teach me.  Both my grandmothers tried to teach me.  Over the years various friends would try.  But, I could never get the hang of it.  I'm sure in no small part due to my lack of patience.  I wanted to do it, and it be perfect... now!  And art just doesn't work that way.

With the weather turning colder, my mind once again returned to thoughts of my mom and the things she would make.  I was determined to learn to crochet once and for all.  Its something I can do in the truck while we are moving, unlike drawing which requires the truck to be stationary due to all the bumps and such in the road.  We were in the craft section and he bought me a book, a DVD, some yarn and several various sized crochet hooks.  I studied the book, practiced some of the stitches.  Watched several videos on how to crochet.  And finally I think I have gotten the hang of it.

He's been incredibly supportive and encouraging, especially when I would get frustrated.  I've actually finished a few small practice pieces and he just bought me the yarn to try to make my very first afghan.  Needless to say I am incredibly excited.  But there is also a part of me that is melancholy as I wish my mother were here to finally see me able to crochet.  I wish there was a way to turn back the clock, or change the past, and allow me a cool afternoon of crocheting on the couch, sipping coffee, and talking with my mom as she was busy crocheting too.

Mom, I love you.  And you are missed every single day.



~sierra

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Can't we all just get along?


The holidays are always a busy time of year.  People rushing from work, home, stores, and other various places getting ready for what ever festivities are included in their traditions.  The roads always seem more crowded and plagued with accidents.  We all like to think we are safe drivers.  “It”, meaning an accident, would never happen to us.  But chances are in your lifetime you will be involved in at least one automobile accident of some kind.

Slow down.  Be aware.  Leave space between vehicles.  Look for an out.  Don't text/talk on the phone and drive.  These are all common sense driving tips everyone is familiar with.  They are preached to us from the time we start driving.  But very few people are ever really taught how to drive around big trucks.  There is a common misconception that truck drivers are reckless, always in a hurry, speeding, or just other wise in the way of the common average American commuting on the highways.  Now granted, there are a few bad apples in every bunch, truck drivers and auto drivers alike.  I'd like to think though for the most part many of the accidents and aggravation come from simple ignorance, which can be remedied with a bit of education and a touch of patience.

Historical Fact:  Route 66 was the first fully paved highway in the United States.  It was completed to help truckers carry goods from the Midwest to the West coast and back.  It was later used for tourists and vacationers as a way to see the western part of the country.

Here are a few tips to help everyone as they go about their days and nights on the road preparing for the holidays, and every day beyond.  A little bit of education goes a long way.  Please pass this along and help make the roads safer for you, your loved ones, and everyone else out there.

The average car (4-wheeler in trucker terms) weighs about 4500lbs.

The average SUV or truck weighs about 7000lbs.

The average Tractor (without a trailer on the back), also known as a “Bobtail” weighs about 17000lbs – 20000lbs.

The average Tractor/Trailer combination when empty weighs about 35000lbs.

A Tractor/Trailer fully loaded weighs 80000lbs and up.  The more axels on a trailer the more weight it is pulling.

Speaking of weight and big trucks, they can't speed up and slow down like the average car.  It takes a lot of momentum, horsepower, and torque to get a big truck up a hill.  Typically a truck driver will try to gain a little extra speed before heading up a steep incline depending on how much weight he or she is pulling.  As the truck starts loosing power up the hill they will downshift for more pulling power.  If you block a truck in while going up a hill you are slowing that momentum down and making it infinitely harder for that truck to make it up the hill.  80,000lbs is a LOT of dead weight to haul and they need that speed.  So if you see a trucker coming up behind you on an incline, try to let him by if you can.  It's easier for you in a car to slow down and speed up on a hill that that heavily weighted truck.

Inversely, a fully loaded truck going down hill gains momentum and speed.  The weight of the freight in the trailer pushes the tractor down.  Unlike car brakes, when a big truck's brakes get hot they don't work at all.  Truckers rely on engine brakes and lower gear rations to safely and somewhat slowly get them down the hill.

So that trucker you are annoyed with for slowing you down to a crawl up a hill and then appearing to race you down the hill, isn't being a jerk.  They are simply working withing the mechanics of the truck they drive.  It's physics, nothing more.

When you are diving your car, truck, or SUV think about what happens when you hit the brakes.  How long does it take for you to stop when you are traveling 30mph?  65Mph?  When the roads are dry?  When the roads are wet?  It takes a big truck MUCH longer!  They can't just stop on a dime, or even a dollar.  If you cut off a big truck and then hit your brakes to slow down, you are just asking to be rear ended.  The laws of physics aren't in your favor, as there simply is no way a big truck can stop that fast.  And believe it or not, an empty truck and a bobtail are even more difficult to stop than a truck that is fully loaded.  That 3-car lengths you were taught in drivers ed that is necessary to leave between you and the next CAR, needs to be increased triple between you and a big truck.

On most highways the laws governing truckers prohibits them from being in the left lane except to pass.  If there are 3-4 lanes, the furthest left lanes are completely illegal for a big truck to travel in except in the case of road construction or accidents.  When you see a truck in the left lane just hanging out there with a blinker on, it is trying to get back in the right lane in accordance with the law.  And yes, police officers and DOT officers WILL pull them over for being in the wrong lane for too long, even if a car was holding them up for getting back in the right lane.

And why would a big truck be in the passing lane?  Traveling speed of course.  Big trucks get horrible fuel milage, 4-8mpg is the average.  Yes, 4-8.  And with the cost of diesel, you can image how much it costs to fill up each time.  Even a half a tank can cost $400!  It is better for fuel milage to maintain a steady speed than to speed up or down.  Every little bit helps the pocket book.  Owner/operators pay for their own fuel.  Company drivers get a discount, but often some of the cost still comes out of their pay.  And many of them only get those discounts or help IF they maintain a certain mpg per load.  So all that slowing down, speeding up, stopping, braking, etc, eats up their mpg!  Be kind, let a truck driver over to pass, or back in the proper lane without forcing them to race or play leap frog.  That would aggravate you, so it does them too.

When you are back there hanging out waiting for a trucker to come over, yet he just doesn't, chances are he can't see you.  He knows you're back there but not sure where.  If you can't see their side mirrors the trucker can't see you.  Ease up a little or speed up and get by him.  He's waiting on you to be clear of his trailer so he doesn't hit you.

The right side of a big truck is more dangerous than the left.  That is their “blind side”.  If at all possible always pass a big truck on the left.  And on either side, don't just hang out there by the trailer and tires.  That makes the truck driver nervous.  It's unsafe for you there.  For one, there is a good chance he can't see you.  And for two, if one of those tires blows it will total your car!  Seriously, those  tires are under so much air pressure, if it blows it can literally rip you pretty little Toyota easily in half.  If it will do that to a metal frame of a car, imagine what it will do to you?  Many people get nervous driving around big trucks or passing.  It's understandable.  But the worst possible thing you can do is just hang out back there.  Back off or get by them.  But remember when you pass don't cut them off and then slam on your brakes.

Many of the trucks on the roads today are “governed”, meaning their engine is programmed to not exceed a certain speed.  The companies put these restrictions on the truckers to prohibit speeding and to help with fuel milage.  It is hard coded into the ECM, the electronic brain of the engine.  It isn't something the trucker and bypass.  Some are limited to 58mph, some 60mph, some 62 or 65mph.  Not all trucks are governed, but many are.  So if it seems like a truck is taking forever to get around you, or just won't speed up, chances are he simply can't make that truck go any faster than it already is going.

Truck drivers communicate by CB radio.  If you see a truck driver suddenly slow down, or all the trucks trying to get over in a specific lane, you might want to follow suit.  They know what is up ahead, whether it is a cop with a radar, an accident, or construction.  They are slowing down or changing lanes for a reason, and it's not to interrupt your commute.

Many people think Truck Drivers are a poorly educated, untrained, unregulated bunch of miscreants let loose on the road.  Truth is many truck drivers are military veterans.  Many more have been traveling this country for 20-30 years.  They know the roads.  They know the history.  They follow and are active in the the laws of this country, not just road laws, but all laws.  They understand the workings of our government, the history of this country, the beauty of the land, and the inner streets of even the biggest cities.  For the most part they are good-hearted, family-oriented, softies just trying to make a living like you and me.

The fact is, that the trucking industry is highly regulated.  Truck drivers are limited in the number of hours they can be on duty, how many hours in a day they can drive, and how many hours in a 24-hour period they have to be off duty and in their sleeper.  Their trucks and trailers are inspected by DOT officers regularly.  Their CDL is highly regulated and they are protective of that.  Trust me they don't want to be the cause of an accident any more than you do. But a truck driver can only be as safe as the other vehicles around them.  A CDL isn't just handed to them, it is extensive to obtain and there is a huge book of laws, rules, and regulations they must study and learn. Further, each endorsement (hazmat, doubles, etc.) are expensive to get and to maintain.  Their driver logs are now electronically maintained are considered a legal federal document.

Big Trucks, 18-wheelers, Tractor/Trailers, or what ever other nickname you have for them make up a large and growing portion of the traffic on our highways and city streets.  They are a necessity.  Truck drivers are the heartbeat of America.  Everything you see, use, eat, wear, or otherwise own is transported across country via truck drivers and their big trucks.  Even the supplies to make the roads, your houses, even your landscaping is carried in some form by a tractor/trailer.  From crop to commerce, from lab to hospital, from warehouse to home, everything each of us use every single day is there because of a truck driver.  They are a necessity.  So think twice before you grumble about the trucks on the road.  And remember a few of these tips to help make the road safer and more pleasant for you and the truckers alike.

~sierra. (aka Kitty)

Monday, December 1, 2014

True Gun Control = Our Right to Bare Arms!

*DISCLAIMER*  I rarely post political opinions because they are a hot topic and trigger arguments. This however, is a topic I am passionate about. And if I can't express my opinion on my own blog then there is much more wrong with this world. Agree or disagree with me, but no arguing, no name calling, and above all else be respectful and considerate of differing opinions. Diversity is beautiful. 

Someone posted a meme stating "how did a well regulated militia get twisted to mean a well armed unregulated populace?"
I love how all these political memes on both sides of any issue fail to take in all considerations and historical precedence. The history of the American population is diverse and based not just on events from our own country but from the long history of England and other governments much older than our own. Specifically, what those governing bodies did that the citizens and government of the newly formed United States wanted to avoid. 
The provisions for the individual states' militias stated for every able bodied male between the ages 18 and 54.  Every male citizen was required by law to carry arms and ammunition. There was provisions for them to report twice a year for some minimal training, but it wasn't well regimented. These essentially unorganized militia served as a sort of check and balance against the more organized national guard, army reserve, and national army and navy, as well as the government that controlled them. They were to protect the citizens of the states against tyranny, abuse of political power, local crisis, and foreign invasion. 

The laws, amendments, alterations, and revisions are many. Some over the years have been contradictory. But the spirit of the initial laws passed by our forefathers was to ensure the right of this country's citizens to bare arms. It is one of the many CORE issues this country was founded on, not something added later. Since politics, money, power, and greed are seeds of a destuctive weed that will thrive even in "civilized" societies, this is a right we can ill afford to relinquish. 
This argument has nothing to do with unwell or evil minds hell-bent on destruction and murder. Those people will always find a way to carry out their destruction regardless of laws in place or availability of needed items. This is about the majority, the average American citizen's inalienable right to protect themselves and their families and towns from not just sick individuals, but a government out of control. Money, power, and corruption go hand in hand. Every society from the dawn of time has fallen into those traps.  The combined wisdom of our founding fathers knew this and gave the new citizens the right to protect themselves from such a fate. It may or may not work, but without this provision in place, we as a population stand zero chance against such an eventuality.

"Civilian control of a peacetime army

At the time of the drafting of the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, a political sentiment existed in the newly formed United States involving suspicion of peacetime armies not under civilian control. This political belief has been identified as stemming from the memory of the abuses of the standing army of Oliver Cromwell and King James II, in Great Britain in the prior century, which led to theGlorious Revolution and resulted in placing the standing army under the control of Parliament.[18] During the Congressional debates, James Madison discussed how a militia could help defend liberty against tyranny and oppression:
The highest number to which a standing army can be carried in any country does not exceed one hundredth part of the souls, or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This portion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Besides the advantage of being armed, it forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. The governments of Europe are afraid to trust the people with arms. If they did, the people would surely shake off the yoke of tyranny, as America did. Let us not insult the free and gallant citizens of America with the suspicion that they would be less able to defend the rights of which they would be in actual possession than the debased subjects of arbitrary power would be to rescue theirs from the hands of their oppressors."- (Source I Annals of Congress 434, June 8, 1789)

Tench Coxe, a prominent American political economist of the day (1755–1824) who attended the earlier constitutional convention in Annapolis, explained (in the Pennsylvania Federal Gazette on June 18, 1789) the founders' definition of who the militia was intended to be and their inherent distrust of standing armies under the direct control of 'civil rulers' when he wrote:
The militia of these free commonwealths, entitled and accustomed to their arms, when compared with any possible army, must be tremendous and irresistible. Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birth-right of an American ...the unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.
The militia, who are in fact the effective part of the people at large, will render many troops quite unnecessary. They will form a powerful check upon the regular troops, and will generally be sufficient to over-awe them.
Whereas civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as military forces, which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the article in their right to keep and bear their private arms."

~sierra

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Clear hair, Cold nights

One of the hardest things to get used to while being over the road in a big truck is not being able to take a shower every day. When you're under a load that has a tight time table finding time to stop and shower isn't always possible. Every time we get fuel we earn shower credits at places like Flying J, Loves, Petro, and Pilot truckstops.  But we can't always stop at those when he has to drive until his time is out.

Last night was one of those no truck stop nights.  Instead we stopped on a "get on ramp" off the interstate in the middle of the desert.  It was late and dark, and the stars were so bright in the sky miles away from any city lights.  The Milky Way just jumped out at you like special effects at a 3d movie.  Despite the spectacular view I couldn't relax because my head was itching. My hair needed washing and bad!

This was the view to random passerbyers.  Me standing outside the truck, the top of my head barely reaching the bottom of the door. The desert winds blowing, dropping the already chilly air to near freezing while I used a spray bottle to wet my hair. Thankfully, I keep a small bottle of Dr. Bronners castille soap on the truck. It cleans and refreshes wonderfully, removing oil and dirt without tons of bubbles and lather to try and rinse away. The bad thing about it is, it has peppermint in it, which is cooling.



Scrubbing the soap into my wet hair, in the cold night air, my poor little fingers were frozen. Then the fun part.  He had a gallon jug of rinse water which he slowly poured over my head. So here I am bent over, head turned upside down, combing my numb fingers through my hair as he poured cold water over it right there off the side of the interstate. Yay for teamwork!  It didn't take much water thankfully and my hair was fresh and clean.

Clean hair finally, and I was able to sleep last night all snuggled up to him to keep warm.  Tonight we get a hot showers somewhere near Fort Worth, TX.

~sierra

Monday, November 17, 2014

Main Street of America


Get your kicks on Route 66!

This morning while heading down a road in the middle of no where desert California I startled him with a squeal.  Blazed in white in the middle of this little two-lane blacktop was the unmistakable symbol of Route 66!  In my head I started singing lyrics from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, John Mayer, and the Rolling Stones.  Of course the wonderful man that he is, he humored and stopped for pictures.  Even the dog got in on the family photo opp!  

Route 66 has nearly as many pop culture references and historical landmarks as it does miles. Officially opened in 1926, it was the first fully paved highway in America. The over 2000 miles of two-laned road from Chicago to LA was officially closed in 1985, but many patches of the original highway remain and there is a movement to reopen it and restore the historic landmarks. This a huge part of Americana and is quite literally a highway through time, miles and miles filled with glimpses into the history and progression of the American traveler. 

Well if you ever plan to motor west
Just take my way that's the highway that's the best
Get your kicks on Route 66
Well it winds from Chicago to L.A.
More than 2000 miles all the way
Get your kicks on Route 66
Well it goes from St Louis, Joplin, Missouri
Oklahoma City looks ooh so pretty
You'll see Amarillo and Gallup, New Mexico
Flagstaff, Arizona don't forget Winona
Kingsman, Barstow, San Bernadino

Would you get hip to this kindly tip
And go take that California trip
Get your kicks on Route 66
Well it goes from St. Louis, Joplin, Missouri
Oklahoma City looks ooh so pretty
You'll see Amarillo and Gallup, New Mexico
Flagstaff, Arizona don't forget Winona
Kingsman, Barstaw, San Bernadino

Would you get hip to this kindly tip
And go take that California trip
Get your kicks on Route 66
Get your kicks on Route 66


~sierra

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Past, Present, Future



One of the things I love about being over the road is getting to see all the terrain and climate differences from across the country.  I've seen the white sands of the Gulf Coast, the foliage filled mountains and winding hills of the Appalachians, the crop covered rolling hills of the great plains, snow topped mountains, painted skies, the intricately wind-carved ridges all along the Colorado river, wide open skies of Montana, and the airid desolation of the Mojave desert.  Each trip out is something new to see and experience.  Even places or roads we've traveled before reveal new sights due to different times in the day or variations in season.  Everyday quite literally is a new adventure.

One of our recurring conversations is speculation on what the native americans of yester-year and the early settlers saw as they too experienced this country for the first time.  What was it like for them then, back before technology shaped and often scarred the landsides?  What did they see by campfire light before there were paved roads, headlights, and streetlights?  We even discuss the travelers of last century heading across county by car, long before there were gas stations and rest areas every few miles.  And then we wonder what travelers of tomorrow will see as the world continues to advance.  Will those future travelers also wonder what we of today saw?  How much will the future change?  And how much of history and nature will be lost in those changes?

Sequaro cactus from Arizona.
This one was about 20 feet tall, though many of these
cactus can grow to 70 feet tall and live up to 150 years. 

Yes we're out here for work.  He has deadlines to meet and DoT regulations to maintain.  Often the days are long and by night we are road weary, him so much more than me.  But despite the required hours of work, in many ways truck driving is like a working vacation; a dream to get paid to travel the county.  Sure we don't often have time to stop, but this country provides visions of wonder to behold right out the window if you only take the time to notice.  I look forward to each day eagerly awaiting what ever wonderous view lays hidden around the next bend.



Sunset from US 95 in Southern California near the Mojave Desert.
~sierra

Friday, November 14, 2014

Realities of living in a Big Truck

Its been a little while since my last update.  In that time we made it home for a few days. We are now back out again and currently making the long haul across Texas on I-10 heading to Southern California.  In just over a week we went from Florida, to South Carolina, to Indiana, to Dallas, to Corpus Christi.  When we left home in the Florida panhandle it was in the 80s. Today the high in Corpus Christi was 44.  44!!!  In what dimention is it considered normal for Southern Texas to ever be that cold?

So we are heading to Southern California which will take us right through the Mojave Desert.  Naturally I am excited. We have a lot of time to get to our drop destination.  That means time to stop and take pictures.  There is something about the southwest's desolate beauty that appeals to me.  Maybe because it is so radically different from where I grew up.

This trip out we have better organization in the truck. When we were home he installed a 3600watt power inverter.  This will help power the new refrigerator, microwave, and coffee pot. And of course we already had the crockpot.  We lucked out at Sams and found a nice fridge on sale.  Its about 2 feet tall, like the ones you usually find in hotel rooms. Now I'm able to keep fresh veggies, milk, and enough meat for two or three meals at a time.   We can now have fresh hot coffee every morning, home cooked meals, cold drinks, and healthy snacks.  He also installed some small dresser drawers above the bed for better organization and storage.

Most of the cooking is done in the crockpot.  I found these crockpot liner bags that make cleanup a breeze.  The clean bag goes in the crockpot, then the food for cooking.  After we're done eating I wipe plates, cutlery, and stuff down with paper towels to remove food particles and grease. Then wipe everything with lysol wipes with bleach which kills germs.  Finally, I have a spray bottle with water, which I use to spray everything down and dry with a clean paper towel.  It may not be as ideal as a dish washer, but it still kills germs and is less wasteful than disposable plates, bowels, cutlery, etc...  All the trash goes in the now empty crockpot liner and throw it all away.

Of course cooking while traveling down the road is great but presents its own challenges.  You don't realize how bumpy, crooked, or otherwise imperfect our highways are until you are balanced on one foot, on top of a spring mattress, reaching on tip toe to grab something out of a cabinet; or trying to cut veggies on a small cutting board on a small slide out table and keep said veggies from bouncing to the floor at the same time.  I feel like the girl on the flying trapeze.  And did you know a bed makes a great prep area?  It has become my assembly line. Everything gets lined up on the right side of me. As I use it, it gets moved to the left side.  Strap the crockpot down and put everything away again.

When you are confined to a 73" living space three things become important. First, you have to have organization. In small spaces it doesn't take much for trash and clutter to build up.  A cluttered space is depressing and unhealthy. We try to keep everything put away. Trash gets taken out evry day. He even installed an air hose in the cab to help blow out dirt and dust.

Second, you have to make time to get out and walk around. Sitting for long periods is bad for your health. It can create blood clots in your legs due to lack of circulation. Being sedentary is bad for your blood pressure and your metabolism, as well as bad on your joints and nerves.  When we stop at truck stops he always parks in the very back, which gives us lots of leg stretching time when we walk back and forth. Having Missy with us helps too, because we have to walk the dog several times a day.  And on the days when we aren't pressed for time extra stops for pictures and site seeing help too.

Third, its important to have hobbies. Being cooped up in a small space with nothing to entertain your mind causes cabin fever, grumpiness, high tension, and other forms of stress. He and I spend a lot of time talking and joking with each other. We talk about the things we see as we travel, as well as future dreams and plans.  I look up places we're going to and we discuss the history and other trivia. We listen to a lot of music. We listen to the news and have discussions on what we hear. I spend time blogging. Yes, I do updates and check ins with my friends and family on facebook. I read on my kindle app. I have my drawing materials for when we are stopped.  And currently, I am again trying to teach myself to crochet.

Also important I think, is for each of us to have time to ourself. Not that easy in such small confines. He gets up in the morning and shuts the sleeper curtain allowing me time to wake up slowly. This is his time to listen to his talk radio shows.  After I wake up we spend some time together talking and planning.  We plan the trip route together, daily stops, fuel locations, and work on paperwork together. Usually some time in the afternoon I will go back in the sleeper to read, cook, rest, or listen to music with my headphones on, and let us each have some "me" time again.

I think we are managing a good balance. We manage to be considerate and respectful of each other. There's always lots of laughter and I love yous. And overall I feel this adventure has been good for us.  Adapting to a new lifestyle isn't all smiles and sunshine. But when two people work together the bumps in the road don't seem quite so big.

~sierra