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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

My 2nd Florida Car - 1983 Buick Regal Limited

In 1980, my dad found me a great deal on a used 1973 Buick Century that I happily drove more than 100,000 miles with no problems. About 1988, he called again, perfect timing as the old '73 Century was starting to wear out. This time, he knew an elderly man who lived about a block away and decided to sell his car. It was a fully loaded 1983 Buick Regal Limited with 8,000 miles on it! The guy bought it new when he was 90 years old and drove it for 5 years before he got into a fairly minor traffic accident that damaged the front end. A body shop had fixed the damage and it looked and drove like a brand new car. That crash convinced him to give up driving and he wanted to get rid of it. With only 8,000 miles in 5 years he sure didn't use the car much and it was always kept in a garage.

Like I stated, the car was loaded with a V-6 motor, padded vinyl top, fancy wheels and power everything. It felt like a very luxurious car driving it. The factory sticker was still in the glove box, with the MSRP at $13,500. That was not inexpensive for a car in 1983. My dad had driven it, said it was good and I told him to make the deal and I'll find a way to get down there.

That also was a great car right up until early 1993 when I started hearing lifter noise with the engine fully warmed up. I had always religiously maintained that car and was very surprised it let me down. This happened just as I was getting ready to make the move to Salt Lake City in July. Being just about ready to load up a U-haul truck, I got a trailer to haul my other car and decided to leave the Regal behind. My wife had to stay an extra month to close on the house so she drove it until then, took it to a used car lot in Crivitz and took whatever the owner would give us. The amount he offered was ridiculously low, so I had not one pang of guilt selling the car to him. In fact, I believe he could have replaced the motor and still have made money reselling it.


Tuesday, June 9, 2020

My First Florida Car

The car, after a several years, starting to show some rust.

1973 Buick Century

While living in Wisconsin back in the 1980's, I was able to purchase two Florida cars thanks to my dad. He retired from Chrysler in Milwaukee after working there for 30 years. He was only 52 years old in 1979, sold their house and moved the family to Sarasota, Florida. My three youngest siblings moved with my parents as they were still in school. I was already 27 years old and on my own, remaining in Milwaukee.

One day, it was about 1980, I got a call from my dad. He said he had a neighbor across the street that was getting too old to drive and wanted to sell his car. It was a 1973 Buick Century with V-8 and automatic that only had about 12,000 miles on it. Yellow with a black top, he said it still looked brand new and was willing to sell it for $2,000.00. I said "hell yes" and started calling for a plane ticket and to arrange for a few days off. I flew down a couple days later and we went across the street and made the deal. The guy had a car port with no garage and I asked if I could keep it parked there until I left and he said "sure". It rained overnight and the next morning we were outside and he came out with a towel to give me. I asked what it was for and he said that he always wiped the car down after a rain to keep it looking good. I was young, kind of stupid yet, and was about to say that was not going to happen when I got the car back to Wisconsin. My dad must have sensed this as he took the towel, handed it to me and I got the hint that I'd better do it, LOL.

That was a good car that I had for over 10 years and put well over 100,000 miles on it. With a 350 cu. in. V-8 and a two barrel carburator, it had decent power but a four barrel would have really made it go. I thought about replacing the carb but just never got around to it. With only 12,000 miles on it I'm sure the car had the original tires on that were by that time seven years old. It handled kind of crappy on the highway when I drove it back to Wisconsin so I put a set of (one size over) Michelin tires on with four heavy duty Monroe shocks. After putting a smaller aftermarket steering wheel on, and it drove like a freak'in sports car. I was pretty happy with it.

As I happily found out, after buying a second Florida car thanks to my dad, older retirement areas are prime spots to find deals on used vehicles, including motor-homes. It only makes sense, as a lot of them age out or die off and their vehicles need to be sold. Older people of means tend to maintain and not abuse their stuff. It certainly helps to have family or friends in the area to watch for deals.

 


Monday, May 18, 2020

What's your CDL Score?

The following is a guest post written by Kate Speer at GetMyCDLScore.com, an interesting and unique new trucker service. Check them out, links provided!

What's your CDLScore?! 

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Your CDLScore is similar to a credit score, but all about your driving skills, experience, and knowledge. This is going to be the new industry standard for finding a job that is your best match, asking for a raise or additional hometime, and just having a third party measure of how you stack up compared to other drivers. Not to mention the bragging rights earned for having the top score around!

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We find your CDLScore using a proprietary 32 point algorithm. Our scoring algorithm takes your driving history, tenure, freight experience, on the job performance, Professional Driver Quality Assessment (PDQA) and more, to create a CDLScore that we use to compare you to your peers and find the right carrier for you. 

Beyond the number, we can help you increase your score, learn new skills, connect with other drivers in our community, and find the right opportunities to succeed.

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Friday, April 10, 2020

Tips and Tools for Increased Comfort and Cleanliness in Your Rig

Guest post by Richard Reina, Product Training Director at TRUCKiD.com

As we navigate these unprecedented times amid the coronavirus pandemic, truckers are driving greater distances and for longer hours to transport necessary items like food and medical supplies around the country. As the necessity of social distancing increases the demand for at-home delivery of groceries and other staples, truckers are not able to hunker down in the safety of their own homes during this crisis. As a result, they expose themselves to health risks every day as they keep the supply chain intact and alleviate shortages of our basic household needs and protective gear—including masks.

While truckers are able to practice social distancing when on the road, they are potentially exposing themselves to the virus at every pick-up, drop-off and gas station stop they make along the way. However, there are measures all truckers can take to keep themselves healthy, safe and comfortable while delivering goods across the country.

First and foremost, you’ll want to make sure you have proper products to protect yourself from the virus, including:

Face Masks
Per CDC’s updated recommendations, they are now suggesting everyone cover their mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when out in public to prevent spreading COVID-19. While many places are out of stock, there a various methods of making a homemade mask with items you already have that will be just as effective.

Disinfectant Wipes
It goes without saying that any disinfectant product is a good first-line defense against the coronavirus, indeed, any viruses. Whether it’s wipes, sprays or liquids, these cleaners are a must-have for the trucker who’s in and out of their cab multiple times a day, touching many different surfaces. The biggest challenge may be simply finding these products available and in-stock, but when shopping be sure to purchase cleaners on the EPA’s list of products that are registered for use against coronavirus.

Disposable Gloves
While not a cleaning product per se, for the average trucker, a box of disposable nitrile or vinyl gloves can be just as valuable if disinfectants are not available. Given the frequency and variety of surfaces which are touched every day, these gloves are certainly must-have items and should be properly changed and/or disposed of following each delivery so germs aren’t transferred back into your cab.

Waterless Hand Cleaners
Whether a driver has a box of disposable gloves or not, there are always those times when your bare skin is going to get soiled and require thorough cleaning. While soap and hot running water are the best for washing hands, yet again, the driver who’s constantly on the road doesn’t always have that as a regular option. Personally, I’m never without a bottle of waterless hand cleaner. It gets all the grime off and cleans up with some paper towels or clean shop rags. While these products may not be disinfectants per se, we understand that cleaning away the dirt plays a role in keeping viruses at bay. Also be sure to keep a bottle of hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol in your vehicle at all times to further clean and disinfect your hands. And, though it may go without saying, wash your hands with soap and water when you get the first chance, especially before eating or touching your face.

Glass Cleaners
Visibility through the cab’s glass is of utmost importance for safety. Truckers never know what kind of weather they’ll encounter, and the opportunities to take the rig to a car wash may not always be there when you need it, especially now when many non-essential businesses are closed. For my cars, I’ve made it a habit to carry glass cleaner and some microfiber cloths. The great thing about glass cleaner is that it gets the job done on the outside glass, inside glass, and even the truck’s headlights and taillights.

Regularly Clean Your Cab
If not at the end of every day, or at least every other morning before you start work, you should be giving your cab a good wipe down to get rid of any lingering germs. Start with a thorough vacuuming, if possible, and then wipe down all the frequently touched areas, such as the steering wheel, dashboard, center console and door handles, with virus-killing cleaner that is safe for each material.

While protecting yourself and keeping your cab as germ-free as possible is paramount during this time, it’s also a good idea to add some upgrades to your truck to ensure additional safety and comfort during those long shifts.

Seat Covers for Comfort
Seat comfort can be greatly enhanced at a reasonable cost by purchasing a seat cover. Normally, I would recommend a “custom fit” seat cover that will come close to looking like an OE seat fabric. However, in this case, I’d suggest a universal seat cover, as that will be easier to remove and reinstall. I would also recommend one that’s machine washable. These days, cleanliness is on everyone’s mind. A seat cover than can be removed without tools, thrown into a washing machine, and reinstalled when dry is a great choice.

Bluetooth Connectivity for Entertainment
Longer hours on the road require distractions to keep drivers awake and alert. Everyone has a cell phone these days, and I continue to be amazed at the drivers who still hand hold their phones while driving. An add-on device which ties your cell phone to the truck’s audio system via Bluetooth connectivity is an affordable way to be safe and stay entertained, which also allows you to be reachable while driving.

Upgraded Headlight Bulbs for Improved Visibility
Although we’re headed into a stretch of longer days and shorter nights, truckers still find themselves behind the wheel when it’s dark, not to mention dawn and dusk. Any improvement in forward visibility is going to help improve safety and reduce eyestrain. Brighter bulbs also help you be seen by other truckers and passenger cars. Headlight upgrades don’t need to involve replacement of the entire assembly. Most modern trucks have replaceable bulbs. Consider upgrading to an LED kit, or if looking for a more cost-effective solution, go with newer and brighter halogen bulbs.

Interior Organizers for Neatness
You don’t have to be a neatnik to appreciate the peace and calm which comes along with things being in place. This is as true in your cab as it is in your home. An unkempt truck interior will add to anyone’s stress level. The ability to put your hand on something as it’s needed will also contribute to your ability to stay focused on the primary task at hand, which is driving. With an interior organizer, you’ll be able to store all your protective gear in an organized fashion. I like soft-sided interior organizers for the flexibility to fit in different places, as well as the ease with which they can be carried in and out of the cab and stored elsewhere when not in use.

This is a scary time for us all—especially for the brave men and women still working during this pandemic. But as long as we take the proper precautions to protect ourselves and others, it will help put your mind at ease and contribute to flattening the curve.

Richard Reina is the product training director at TRUCKiD.com, a one-stop-shop for aftermarket semi-truck parts and accessories.


Monday, February 10, 2020

Mobile Pre-paid Broadband Internet - I Found a Good One!

My Review: RVers and long haul truckers have had a longstanding problem obtaining reliable and affordable broadband service on the road. All the major carriers that I know of have cap limits or use throttling during periods of congestion. If using a cell phone as a hotspot, most find they will be up against their data cap limit in short order, having to buy expensive extra data plans. Having been retired for a couple years as a trucker, this winter, I’ve been spending extensive time in a motorhome getting away from the cold Wisconsin arctic air down in Florida. At most campgrounds, if they have WiFi at all, it's rare that you'll find it to be satisfactory and usually you'll be fortunate just to be able to read your email. I found out about this fairly new provider thanks to my sister.


After setting up the motorhome at her place in the yard we were able to connect to their WiFi for internet service. In that part of Florida, because of the extreme damage from Hurricane Michael back in 2018, there was a motivation to get people connected again as quickly as possible. Out of this, a company called Blue Magic ISP out of Marianna, Florida was formed. Their ISP is fixed wireless and operates off of all major networks and their participating towers. They offer a plan which is unlimited with no data caps and do not throttle back speeds. The customer service rep that I spoke with said they had satisfied customers all over the country and their service should work most anywhere major cell providers have coverage. The prepaid data plan is $69 per month plus tax. You can pay as you go and, if you wish, only for the months you want service.


My experience so far? Last week I ordered a Netgear Nighthawk MR1100 through Amazon (about $300) and contacted Blue Magic to sign up for service. They sent us a data sim card through the mail with instructions to call them for activation when I was ready to go. After arriving at a campground near Pensacola, one phone call and 15 minutes later, it was working. And working great! The Nighthawk MR1100 offers increased network performance with Dual-Band 2.4GHz/5GHz dual concurrent WiFi. Video streaming was buffer free at 5GHz in the campground we were at, right next to Interstate 10. I’m sure performance is somewhat dependent on location and proximity of nearby cell towers, but so far, so very good! This campground was part of a large national chain and had good WiFI. We used Blue Magic to stream video through the TV and used the park WiFi on our other devices.


You can purchase your mobile router through Blue Magic or provide your own unlocked one. I would encourage the use of the MR1100 although it is quite a bit more expensive. I was able to purchase one for about $300 on Amazon verses the $450 Blue Magic will charge you. If you connect your own device, there is a $50 extra fee. Blue Magic offers a cheaper compatible Netgear Unite Pro 781S for about $200. My sister has the cheaper Unite Pro and after using both I think the MR1100 is far superior. The WiFi range for the Unite Pro is only 20 to 25 square feet vs 1800 sq ft for the MR1100. One important point if you purchase your own, it needs to be an “unlocked” router. Some units are “tied in” to a carrier and will not be compatible with Blue Magic. All ongoing prepayments can be handled online with your account number.

As we travel around the next couple months I'll provide updates on our experience and keep you posted. I'll be very interested to see how it works back in our home state of Wisconsin. Meanwhile you can check them out at the links provided. This is a non-compensated review of my experience with this company. Also, my experience so far has only been in Florida. The service rep told me it should work anywhere, but we have not left Florida yet.


Update: Moved to a new campground near Panama City Beach which "featured" WiFi throughout the park. Well, as is so typical, the signal was bad, slow and kept dropping. To my pleasant surprise, when I lost campground WiFi, it automatically switched over to the Blue Magic WiFi on all our devices with the Nighthawk MR1100! In fact, I was unaware of this until I looked at my router and saw how much data it was using. The thing is, we really like this campground, other than that, this place is excellent. We are considering extending our stay here, but maybe not if we had to put up with their connectivity. Making up for the crappy campground WiFi with our own hotspot, I'm a happy camper with Blue Magic so far.