So this is the post I started back in October about going down to Florida right after Hurricane Matthew. I’m going to finish it, but I cant remember a ton of details. I will post about things that I think are interesting but, for now I’m not going to try to do a day-to-day “where I am/where I’m going” kind of post. I just can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to keep up with that, and I’ll feel like I’m leaving you hanging like I did with my previous post back on October 6th.
So here’s the post from my battle with Hurricane Matthew:
I started my day at about 0400 last Sunday morning up in Connecticut after completing my 34-hour reset. Some people might find it boring sitting in the small space of a truck’s sleeper berth in the same location for the better part of a day and a half, but I find it relaxing. I did spend a few hours getting laundry done, but for the most part, I was in the sleeper, writing, reading, sleeping and listening to sports. The reset went well for me.
Anyway, I got up an hour before the completion of the reset with the intention of getting a shower before heading out. However, I had a bit of a surprise upon waking. I woke to my alarm and then once I shut that off, realized there was a buzzer noise coming from the dashboard. I have been monitoring this amber light that looks like an engine for some time now, but now the amber light with the same engine outline that says “check” in it and the red one that says “stop” were both lit up. Also a light that looks like an exhaust stack with wind coming out of it was flashing. I called into the weekend dispatch and the guy that answered was decidedly unhelpful. He told me the mechanics would be in at 06:00 and I should call back then. I tried to explain that I was pretty sure I needed to do a “Regen” on the engine but didnt know how to do it. He seemed impatient and said to call back when the mechanics were there. Thanks bro.
So I broke out the vehicle manual and the pamphlet about the engine and figured it out myself. I found that the lights meant I did indeed need to do a parked Regen. I know what you are all thinking, “What the hell is a regen?!” To be honest, I know it has to do with the exhaust system and the Diesel Exhaust Fluid system, but that’s about it. Anyway, it took about 40 minutes for the Regen to complete. After it completed, all the new lights that had lit up turned off, but that same amber engine light was still lit. Annoying, but I was able to get moving. No shower this morning though. I had to get on the road because my 14 hour clock was running.
I was underway after that ordeal, and made some good miles. My routing plan was basically to take I-95 all the way into Florida and then take I-4 across to Tampa. This included going down to New York City and across the George Washington Bridge. Luckily it was Sunday morning because that would have been a nightmare on a weekday. My goal was to make it all the way down to my fuel stop in North Carolina. I wasnt sure I was going to be able to make it that far especially since I might have to deal with Hurricane Matthew.
I got down into Maryland and started getting some steady light rain from the outer edges of Matthew. I stopped at a rest stop there in Maryland to use a bathroom and check the storm track on my phone. Matthew had weakened and turned out into the Atlantic. As I continued south through Baltimore and Washington DC, the rain keep coming down steadily, but as I got into Virginia it slowed and stopped. I started seeing signs of the hurricane’s impact. There was a lot of flooding on the side of the highway, and an occasional branch or small tree down. As I neared the Virginia/North Carolina border, the flooding was worsening and more branches and trees were downed. By the time I had made it to my fuel stop, I had already seen more than a hundred large trees snapped in half or fully down from the roots. As I pulled into my fuel stop, I was looking to see if there was going to be parking available, and there was plenty. One concern down, but then I noticed they did not appear to have power. There were orange cones blocking all of the fuel islands. That was going to be a problem for me.
I called into dispatch, and got a decidedly more helpful person this time. He started looking into getting me a new fuel stop and said that after I did my 10-hour reset, maybe this truck stop might have power again. I went ahead and took my 10-hour and at 0300 Monday morning I woke to the lights in the parking area, and realized they had power again. I got my tanks filled back up and got moving again.
About 50 miles down the road suddenly there were orange cones blocking the right lane with no sign to indicate the lane closure. As I passed, I saw a massive pothole encompassing the whole right lane. It was more like a sinkhole than a pothole. The lane opened up again shortly after that hazard and then just down the road, it looked like the left lane was closed. Again no sign was posted but orange cones forced me to the right lane, and then off an exit! I was like “Holy Shneikies! I-95 is CLOSED!?” I got off the exit and down to the bottom of the ramp after a several rapid progressive downshifts from 10 to 9, 9 to 7, 7 to 5, & 5 to 3. There North Carolina State Police were directing all traffic to the west on US-421. There were no detour signs and they didn’t have the time or patience to answer questions, so I was on my own. I found a place to pull over and took a look at the map. I figured out a tentative plan then called dispatch to get a new route approved. After a short discussion, the dispatcher said to go west on US-421 and then take US-501/15 south.
So off I went on the back roads of North Carolina. As the sun got up and I started to be able to see more of the landscape, I saw hundreds upon hundreds of large trees downed, power out all over, traffic lights not functioning, flooding all along the road. Every body of water the road passed over was overflowing right up to the pavement. Bridges over streams, rivers, and lakes had water right up to the bottom of the bridge. Power lines were down and there were a lot of vehicles on the side of the road. Whether they got flooded out, were abandoned, got stuck in mud, or whatever, I have no idea.
Earlier, I had looked at Google Maps and it was showing the road closures for I-95 cleared up in South Carolina. I had punched into my truck gps the highway intersections I was intending to route through on my way back to I-95 south of the closures. As I got to where US-421 met US-401 to head south, my gps was saying to stay left and it showed US-421 ending at the interesection. As I passed where the road split, I realized both north and south exits were from the right side and the left continued west. I had known that my gps maps were out of date because the damn thing was always telling me there was construction ahead when I was already in a construction zone and the speed limit it indicated was wrong as much as it was right. I just had no idea how out of date until I realized this highway I was on heading west was not even remotely new, and the gps thought I was off-roading through a cornfield! I got turned around at the next interchange and got headed south. The devastation continued along the side of the road, and a few times there were trees blocking part of the road. In places there were trees that had been cut into pieces and/or removed from the road. It took about 5 hours to get around the closures on back roads all the way down to South Carolina.
I got back on I-95 in South Carolina and kept moving. My clocks were getting too low to make it to the delivery by 0600 on Tuesday morning. I called dispatch to see if they could arrange for a later unload time since I wasn’t going to make the current appointment. I continued on for a few more hours until I was down to 1 hour on my 14-hour clock and stopped for the night at a truck stop just short of the Florida border. I might have made it to one of the truck stops south of Jacksonville but I wasnt sure what traffic was going to be like trying to get through Jacksonville and there was no guarantee that there were going to be parking spaces available. I have been using an app called Trucker Path I believe I mentioned before. It was showing that the truck stops within range south of Jacksonville were all full or had “some spots” available. I played it safe because I still wouldn’t make the appointment time regardless.
They were able to push out my appointment time and I got down into Florida where the damage from the hurricane continued. It wasnt until I got onto I-4 and got a little bit to the west where it seemed like the landscape had not been significantly affected by the storm.
I made it into the customer in Plant City, FL just east of Tampa around 11:00 and they got me unloaded pretty quickly. I already had a pre-plan to pick up in Tampa and take that load to north western Georgia, but I was concerned about getting into Tampa, getting loaded, and getting out to a truck stop to shutdown for the night. Once again my 14-hour clock was challenging me.
On my way west into Tampa, I passed through Mango, FL where my mother was born. I have had this happen several times out here on the road where I have passed a town that had some significance for one of my parents and I have just gotten very emotional. My brothers and I lost both of our parents this past year and its been difficult to deal with. Sometimes I’ll hear a song that didn’t have significance with regard to my parents, but now the lyrics remind me of them, or I’ll hear a song or artist they liked and I will get emotional from that as well. When that happens, its tough, because I have so much time to think out here. I’m still trying to figure out how to deal with it.
Anyway, I got to the customer in downtown Tampa, but they had an extremely small yard and I had to wait in a sand lot across the street, and they said they would call me when I was up. I got annoyed, because as the truck pulled out of the dock that I was supposed to back into, another local truck driver pulled in and backed into the door. That happened 2 more times before they finally got me in a different door. They took the full 2 hours they are alotted to load me up, but I was able to get loaded and get out to a rest stop north of Tampa to park for the night.