BLACK HOLE (Guest Post by Paul Curran)

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Photo courtesy of blogger, Bronwyn Joy (Journeys of the Fabulist)

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Photo really has nothing to do with this post, but it’s a great picture, isn’t it?  Maybe it should be captioned, “Working to Keep Blogs Afloat!”

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BLACK HOLE

By:  Paul Curran

PaulCurranMany thanks again to Cordelia’s Mom for this opportunity to guest post on her site.

Regular readers will remember that my career bounced between driving transport and managing/learning – often in unpredictable ways, at unpredictable times, and with unpredictable outcomes. This story unfolded during one of my driving stints and highlights the surprises that are sometimes encountered on the road.

It was 2:00 am in Kansas City, Kansas as I swung a wide right from 55th St South onto Inland Dr. In the right mirror the trailer rolled smoothly around the turn 50 feet behind me,  the tires just inches from the curb. This territory was new to me, and I was pleased that I had found the correct road with no unexpected detours. In my refrigerated trailer (reefer), there were 42,000 pounds of frozen crab meat, packaged for the self, from the cold North Atlantic waters off Nova Scotia, 2,000 miles to the east. Now all I had to do was find Inland Cold Storage at 6500 Inland Dr. – should be a simple matter of following the increasing numbers until I was there. A quick glance at the 22 gauges glowing from the dashboard showed all systems within nominal ranges.

InlandQuarry

AT THE END OF THE ROAD (courtesy Google Maps)

I flicked the high beams up now that there was no oncoming traffic and found that I was driving in a tunnel of trees overhanging the road. It was apparent that trucks had been down this road before as there was plenty of clearance. However, the south side of the road was built up with large private homes, some with pools, and it did not seem to be an industrial area. That was puzzling, but I was sure I had the right road. With a shrug, I looked for street numbers and found I had a ways to go yet.  Soon the houses disappeared and a large railway yard appeared running parallel to the road on the right. Now there were no buildings to check the address, so I continued to drive, assuming that I would encounter a building. Wrong.

After a few minutes, I rounded a slight left bend and found myself in a working rock quarry. Hmmm. I came upon a manned weigh scale in the quarry and asked the operator where Inland Cold Storage was located. With a wave back down the street indicating I wasn’t the first to ask, he said: “Back there” and continued his work. Not overly enlightening but I turned around and headed back down the road.

There was still no traffic at all – the quarry must have been using an alternate access- so I turned on all my lights: headlight high beams, fog lights and aircraft landing lights (shhh, those are very powerful but illegal), determined to find the building I had apparently missed the first time. Missed. A. Building. Harrumph.

truck130

ALL SYSTEMS GO

I did a quick check: mood-alert; vision- focused and sharp; street – correct; address – correct; State – correct (there is a Kansas City in Missouri as well); lighting – brilliant. All systems “Go”. Now where was the building?

There were no street lights, but I had hundreds of square yards lit up like daylight with my lights – even the voltage meter on the dash had dipped with the power output of so many lights not designed to be used together. The truck crept back down the road as I scrutinized every foot of the road sides, looking for a driveway to a building that must have been hidden from me. On the right, I saw that the gravel shoulder widened until the edge went out of sight. I turned the truck slightly onto the gravel and the lights shone on a small dark shack about 12 feet by 12 feet that had a sign, in small letters: “Inland Cold Storage”. No way 42,000 pounds of crab were gonna fit in there. The shack sat in a wide graveled area which had a mountain behind it. I parked and jumped out and walked over to, then around the shack trying to figure out how it played in this mystery.

As I rounded the final corner back to the idling truck, a car appeared beside me. A smiling face shone from the window as I walked to the car. The man, in a security uniform, spoke first: “You new here?” Apparently my confusion showed. I replied: “How did you guess? I’m looking for Inland Cold Storage, have you seen it around here?” He started to laugh: “That’s why I know you’re new. Want to go for a short ride? I’ll show you where you have to deliver.” I checked out his uniform and his smile and the security name on the door: “Sure, where do I put the truck?” He responded: “Just shut it off, lock it up, and leave it there.” So I did.

I jumped in the passenger’s side of the car, and he turned and headed towards the mountain behind us – driving directly at a huge rock face. In the side of the cliff, there was an even darker semicircular area. As we got closer, it formed itself into a tunnel entrance. He waved to the right and said; “You can park there on the right until 6:00 am and then you can come in. Don’t come in any earlier, oxygen is an issue inside.” Ummm, OK.

His lights shone into the tunnel, which had no illumination, and we drove inside the mountain. The entrance and the tunnel were huge – easily 15 feet high and wide enough for 3 transports to pass. Huge rock pillars lined both sides of the tunnel and beyond those were wide ledges about 4 feet off the ground – with no apparent use. We turned a corner and drove into a lighted portion of the road.

AprTTpic5

NEVER DRIVEN UNDERGROUND BEFORE (courtesy 10-4 Magazine)

The security guy indicated smaller tunnels off to the sides that contained dry storage for RV’s and warehouses. After what seemed miles of driving and chatting we came to the end of the tunnel which opened up into a huge empty area that disappeared into darkness beyond the headlights. The guard explained that the underground temperature stayed in the upper 50’s F all year around. The freezer cooled through vents drilled through the rock to the top of the mountain. To the left was a concrete block wall between the pillars with a standard transport dock and an office sitting on the dock. He explained that this was my delivery point and to report to the office at 6:30 am.

AprTTpic2

HOW’S THE WEATHER TODAY? DRY WITH A CHANCE OF FALLING PEBBLES (courtesy 10-4 Magazine)

We turned around and he drove me back to my truck. At 6:00 am sharp, I was driving into the mountain. My appointment had been made by the shipper, and I was a day early. If I could get unloaded anytime today, I could drive tonight and reload a backhaul tomorrow morning anywhere within a 500 mile radius.

With that in mind, I pulled into the open area to the right of the freezer and shut off the truck. Grabbing my Bills of Lading and Customs Clearance, I jumped up onto the dock and walked to the office. The supervisor was just opening up, and I had to wait a minute before he took my paperwork. I explained that I was a day early and would appreciate it if he could get me unloaded today. He replied that he was already overbooked but if I could wait until the late afternoon, he could squeeze me in. This was fine because with only 3 hours sleep, I could use some more. I parked where instructed, shut off my reefer unit (all engines had to be off underground unless in use, and the insulated trailer would hold the cold easily at this temperature), and lay down in the sleeper for a good snooze.

At about 3:30 pm, there was a knock at the truck door, and when I looked out, a warehouseman indicated that I should back into the dock. This accomplished, I approached the office, and the supervisor advised me they would start unloading shortly. The last of the other trucks for the day were just pulling out, and other than me, the only people left were the dock crew. I asked where the washroom was, and the supervisor indicated the other end of the dock. I walked past the rear of my open truck just as the crew was setting the unloading ramp in place with a forklift. My load was on pallets so I did not have to touch it. I spoke for a minute with the lead hand, who had my paperwork, and confirmed the number of skids and cases, then continued to the washroom.

The washroom door faced the dock area and was set in a standard wall-like building. When I opened the door, I found a complete washroom with a shower, all sitting on a concrete floor with three walls and a ceiling of rough cut rock. Apparently, they had just cut a room out of the stone, put a wall and door on the open face, run the plumbing and then concreted over it to make a floor. I checked my watch, and it was just before 4:00 pm. As I sat inspecting the ceiling and walls, I noticed that there were a small number of little pebbles scattered around the floor, which seemed odd.

Suddenly there was a deep rumble that permeated the floor and walls. It increased in strength until the vibrations could be seen rippling through the stone. Small pebbles began to drop from the ceiling and the walls. I jumped off the toilet, intensely aware that I was a long ways underground in a cave that was now shaking and pieces were falling from the ceiling – granted, pieces no bigger than the end of a pen – but still pieces. I flung open the door of the washroom with my pants still around my knees and saw the whole dock dancing up and down. As I pulled my pants the rest of the way up while stumbling along, I also noticed that the dock workers had stopped work and had gathered facing the wash room door. I stopped to fasten my pants and do up my belt – and I can tell you that the world looks much saner when your pants are up and fastened. Miraculously, the shaking slowed and then stopped as I stood facing the dock crew.

The men standing there suddenly burst into laughter and started clapping. Apparently I had made their day – not quite sure why yet, I took a bow and gave them a grand flourish. The lead hand walked over as the other men went back to work finishing up my load. He grinned and explained that these storage caverns were cut from a limestone seam that extended into the mountain. This section was still a working mine at night. They drilled blast holes all day, then detonated at exactly 4:00 pm and hauled limestone out at night. Whenever new guys like me appeared, the reaction at 4:00 pm was guaranteed and generated much amusement for the dock crews.

RDHMiningEquip

THESE LITTLE CRITTERS WERE EVERYWHERE AFTER 4 PM (courtesy RDH Mining Equipment)

Load delivered, I drove humbly out of the mine, noticing as I went that mining equipment was now operating on the ledge alongside the roadway, which apparently was another road system for the miners.

Back under the open sky, I headed east towards my next load and challenge.

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Paul Curran and I love to hear from our readers.  You may comment on this post, comment on my Facebook or Twitter pages, or email me at cordeliasmom2012@yahoo.com

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For this post, photo credits are embedded in the images themselves.

This entry was posted in Guest Posters, Paul Curran, Road Trips & Cars, That's Life and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

47 Responses to BLACK HOLE (Guest Post by Paul Curran)

  1. Paul says:

    Thank you very much CM for this opportunity to guest post once again. I hope our readers enjoy this little adventure underground. Have no doubt that when it happened I felt like the valiant explorers in the top picture, floating fearlessly (Ha!) into the unknown . Thank you to Bronwyn over at Journeys of the Fabulist http://journeysofthefabulist.wordpress.com/ for the river in the cave picture.

    Like

  2. Doobster418 says:

    Another entertaining, well told tale, Paul. Did you have a chance to finish your business in the washroom before running out with your pants down around your knees?

    Like

  3. Paul says:

    I’ll tell you Doob that all muscles were clenched so tight with fear that if I hadn’t been finished, I was then. Ha! Thanks for dropping by Doob. I appreciate the read and am honored you stayed to comment. Thank you for the compliment. In retrospect it was very funny but it gives meaning to “scared shitless”. I can mow attest to te veracity of that little ditty. Ha! I hope you enjoyed and will come by again Doob.

    Like

  4. Elyse says:

    What a story, Paul! I suspect that the “reefer” had something to do with it!

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Ha! Welcome Elyse! Great to see you here. thanks for dropping buy with a comment! Language is funny like that. When i got into trucking , so mnay words took on different meanings – obviously like reefer or LSD (which in trucking is short for Low Sulfur Diesel). It is a learning curve,believe me.

      I am honored that you dropped by Elyse and am happy you enjoted the story. Please come back again.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Talk about getting caught with your pants down – and under a mountain, no less. Embarrassing, and I thought you’d be able to identify Art. ha! thanks so much for dropping by and leaving a comment Art – we are honored (CM and I – unlike yourself, I do not have the crack squirrels to enable me to refer to myself in the plural). i’m glad you enjoyed the story and i hoope you drop by again. Carry On!

      Like

  5. Ha! No wonder it was a memorable delivery. I can’t say the canoe experience exactly matches up 🙂 . Gotta love those guys gathering around for the 4pm floor show 🙂

    Like

  6. “…and I can tell you that the world looks much saner when your pants are up and fastened.” Haha!

    Ooh good story Paul! I was on the edge of my seat (heh) waiting to hear what was going to happen next.

    I was happy it all ended well. Started out pretty scary! Excellent story telling, my friend!
    Christy

    Like

  7. Paul says:

    Thank you very much Christy! It’s wonderful that you dropped by for a read. I’m glad you enjoyed the story -there’s more to come. I know you haven’t had much time to blog recently, so I am honored you took out the time to visit. Please dop by again when you have a chance.

    Like

  8. Archon's Den says:

    That was intensely interesting, Paul. Wow! Blown off the side of a mountain, now almost blown up inside a mountain – you have lived an interesting life. 😯 Thanx for sharing with us.

    Like

    • Paul says:

      My pleasure Archon. Thank you so much for dropping by to read and comment. And thank you for the compliment. Yes, there were some adrenaline pumping moments, I must confess. Interestingly enough there were also long periods of sameness where I could take the time to really think – very Zen like. I enjoyed both. the former being easier to write than the latter. Ommmm. ha! We would be honored (CM and I) if you dropped by again to visit.

      Like

  9. idiotwriter says:

    Cool story Paul! One thing is for sure, if you had not been IN the wash-room at that time… you may have had a BIGGER problem!

    Like

  10. Seems your journey has been one full of hmmms and AUGHs! Great storytelling and pix, Paul.

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Ha! Hi HW! Yep, life has sprung the odd surprise on me. Some good and some interesting. Thanks so much for the compliment and for dropping by to read and comment Diana. I am honored.Please drop by to visit again.

      Like

  11. I am so late to this post. I had no idea it went up until you mentioned it in my comment section. Please keep me—ha—posted in the future.

    These stories are great reading. How long ago was this? And how did they expect you to find that place?! What would you have given for a GPS back then? These damn kids have it so easy now. There’s no adventure in getting lost anymore. Can you imagine what building that facility must have been like? Fascinating. I don’t go anywhere where oxygen is an issue. That’s a personal choice. It’s a good thing there was no YouTube back then or we’d all be watching a video of you dancing in your shorts.

    Stories like this make me wonder what other worlds are out there that I have no knowledge of.

    Like

  12. Paul says:

    Hi Mark! So glad you could drop by. Welcome. I will let you know about future posts – I only intended to mention them on other blogs for the first two, as I find it unseemly to advertize at others’ expense. Anyone who wants notification I shall gladly oblige.

    This story would have been back in the mid-eighties. This facility has had a large fire since then, was bought out by one of the largest freezer companies in America, who expanded and improved the facility. The mine has petered out and is no longer worked. However, it was one of the first underground storage areas and geologists realized that there are like limestone seams through out the area. There are now many underground facilities, including office space and such scattered around Kansas. There is enough underground now to qualify for a small city – but no residential yet as far as I know. It’s a unique siuation.

    When you asked how we found the address, you hit upon a very neat topic. With new delivery addresses this was often a struggle. I carried good maps and atlases but the deliveries could still be problematic. I tried to get a definite answer with directions before i left the shipper – sort of making it their baby. Once I left the dock it became my problem. I’ve had bills of lading that were made out to post office boxes, blind bills with no addresses (the product was sold to third parties in transit), addresses that were wrong(some wildly), personal home addresses, purchaser addresses that were different from delivery addresses, farms with no addresses, etc. Actually that would make a great post – thanks for the idea Mark. A lot of the time it involved asking around as I did at Inland. One classic one occurred when I was hauling a container containing parts of a prefab house from Sweden to a Cape Cod building site. It was an obscure location and I actually had the receiving customs agent drive the route watching for low bridges or tight turns and then report back to me with the notes. He did that and I felt comfortable until I was almost there and came across a 10 ton maximum weight bridge on the Cape in front of a police station. It was too late and I was on the bridge before I could stop. I was only 51 tons – 41 tons over the weight limit. I survived. Ha!

    And yes, I am soooo glad youtube was not invented then – for sure one of the dock workers- knowing what was going to happen – would have captured my half naked dance on his iphone. i could have been famous and gone viral. ha!

    Thanks so much for popping by Mark – please drop by again – and I’ll let you know when i do more guest posts.

    Like

  13. ~ Sadie ~ says:

    Sorry it took me so long to get to this one – I laughed my ass off!! You are a superb storyteller, my friend!! And yes, if that would’ve happened recently, the YouTube video surely would’ve gone viral 😉 Not sure if I have ever mentioned it, but when I was a teenager, I had a few years there that my aspiration was to see this country via a big rig. I so wanted to be a truck driver! But at 5’2″, reaching the pedals in the car was hard enough at times. I did drive a dump truck at one of my jobs as a warehouse & purchasing manager (I was 19-21) – sometimes freaked people (mostly guys) out when I backed up to the dock & got out 🙂

    Hitchhiking was quite prevalent when I was growing up – got a few rides from truckers myself. Curious if you got any interesting stories of that ilk? I had some great conversations on those rides!

    Anyway – loved the post!! Can’t wait to read about your next adventure!!
    Thanks again CM – loved the last post of yours I read, too 🙂

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Hi Sadie! Thanks so much for dropping by for a visit, It’s great to see you here. I’m pleased that you enjoyed the piece. Yep,that was one of the more embarrassing moments in history. You are right, I have had a few interesting hitchhikers. Generally I didn’t pick up hitchhikers unless they seemed to be in an unsafe situation. But I occassionally broke that rule.

      I’m impressed that you drove truck -so cool. i am honored that you dropped by today – please feel free to come guy any time.

      Like

  14. kerbey says:

    You have life experiences like nobody else. So crazy and amazing, and frankly, I would have been scared. All that for crab.

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Hi Kerbey! Thanks so much for dropping by. Long haul trucking gives a different challenge every day. Some are nasty, some funny and some just surprising. We hauled quite a bit of crab and lobster – always full truck loads – from Canada to the US. At the time it was worth about $10 per pound (if memory serves me) and we hauled around 40,000 pounds per load – which would be around $400,000. There is a great deal of theft in transport – everything from stealing personal stuff to taking whole trucks. In fact I’ve been approached a number times by thieves who offered $50,000 cash for me to leave the keys in the truck – guaranteed to never be seen again. And then you do an insurance claim – et voila , you’re well to do. They sold the loads on the black market (believe it or not, organized crime is heavily involved in high end seafood, excellent way to launder money) – but the biggest money is in disassembling the truck and selling the parts. A $100,000 tractor could be chopped (disassembled) and the used parts sold for over $200,000 to shady dealers. who asked no questions about the source.

      It can be interesting. There were also lots of good times as well. Anyway, I’m rambling. Thanks again for the visit Kerbey. Please drop by again. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • kerbey says:

        Wow, I didn’t know any of that! What a lot of immoral folks, willing to do bad things. I couldn’t even consider such things. It would leave a bad taste in my mouth, worse than spoiled seafood. 🙂

        Like

        • Paul says:

          It is my experience Kerbey that where ever there is a possibility of a big financial gain that there you will find the thieves and scum of the earth. In our day to day world we really don’t have much personally that anyone else could take (or would want)- perhaps a few dollars or some electronics or a car – at most a few 10’s of thousands of dollars. Which is a lot of money but in perspective, it is maybe 1/4 of a year’s pay for the average person. When you start handling significant portions of millions of dollars, there is a scam around every corner. The little I have seen of big money transactions – and I have seen very little of that magnitude – scares me. It makes me wonder just how much stealing and such goes on in jobs like banking and investments where millions are handled daily, hourly or even by the minute. I suspect that it would be very upsetting to know the truth when we are, in our innocence, baldly and blissfully unaware.

          Liked by 1 person

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