Christ, looking back on the past two years of driving, I just have to shake my head sometimes. I’ve been to all 48 continental United States, and Tonya only likes Vermont having been to all 48. It’s weird to listen to the news now, because anytime something happens somewhere in the United States, most of the time we’ve been there. Or we’ll go through truckstops, looking at where all the trucks are from; there again, most of the time we’ve been there. I’ve caught pieces of football games in places where the Oakland Raiders or the New Orleans Saints were the local teams (that’s f**king weird). In short, we’ve been to almost every major city in the United States, and a whole lot of places that most people have never heard of. Looking back on it now, it just seems weird to me that most of the people I know will never pass Crow’s Landing, California, or pass the road-sign for Weed, California that says “Weed – Next 4 Exits”, or pass “Bong Recreation Area”, a national park in Wisconsin, or maybe even giggle at the signs in Atlanta, where one says “Atlanta Cumming” and is followed by one that says “Dunwoody” and then by one that says “Beaver Ruin”. My friends and family might never pass Route 666 in Arizona (which is actually called “The Devil’s Highway”), or see the sun rising over the Mojave desert, or fight their way through a snowstorm in the Rockies of Montana or Colorado.
I’m not trying to impress ya’ll with the places we’ve been or the things we’ve seen. It’s just that sometimes I look back on the past two years, and I’m a little overwhelmed with all of the places we’ve been. Since I started driving, we’ve probably covered close to 500,000 miles (I’m going to add that up when we come home). We already have enough stories to last a lifetime, and will probably be out here for at least another year.
If I ever start boring ya’ll with truck driver stories, please bear with me. We’ve got lots of ‘em. Like the time on I-10 in Texas when we watched six separate and distinct thunderstorms raging across the plains. Or the time in Montana when we crossed the Rockies in a severe snowstorm with no chains for our tires. Or the time we were stuck for 16 hours on I-90 in Buffalo, New York, because we got caught in lake-effect snow (which shut down the city). Or the time last July 4th when we got to watch the fireworks show in St. Augustine, Florida (or the year before when we spent July 4th in Laredo, Texas with a bunch of pissed-off Mexicans (there were no fireworks then)). Or eating red beans and rice in New Orleans, Louisiana in a truckstop called The Big Easy (that probably didn’t attract many tourists). Or taking a break in a beautiful, abandoned rest area on the edge of a gorge overlooking the Pecos River. Or driving west on I-70 through Kansas and watching the most awesome lightning storm we’ve ever seen play across the plains. Or coming over a mountain or hill at night and having the whole of Los Angeles, or Albuquerque, or El Paso, or Salt Lake City spread out before you. Or passing the World Trade Center from across the river just 15 minutes before it was hit by the first airliner (just an hour and a half before they were gone).
There have been so many places, events, and people during the past two years that I’m sort of humbled that my no-account ass has been privileged to witness them. We’re often beaten down by the realities of the job. It really is hard work. There are lots of times when you haven’t been able to get any sleep because you’re partner has been bouncing you over shitty roads in Arkansas, or Mississippi, or Louisiana, and it’s your time to drive the next 400-600 miles, and there’s no calling in sick because the load you’re pulling has to be delivered on-time, or the plant shuts down and 500 people lose a day’s wages. There are lots of times when you’re just tired, when you’ve been out for six weeks and you’re 2,000 miles away from home, and you just wonder why in the hell you put yourself through it. Sure, the money’s good, but Gods, you give up so much to come out here. Home. Family. Normalcy. You drive through major cities in the afternoon and watch all the people going home from work, and your heart just aches because you won’t see home again for three weeks, and all you have to look forward to is the next 300 miles.
Then you drive out of the city, and you drift away from civilization back into the nearly empty plains, and in front of you the nothingness spreads out to the distant horizon. Snow begins to fall as the sun goes down. And while you’re driving west, wishing you were going the other way, the sky lights up the clouds in the most beautiful orange glow that you’ve ever seen, and night washes over you, and a billion stars pop out overhead in a sky so clear that you can see the Milky Way as clear as if someone had drawn it in.
Then some other lonely truck driver says on the radio “Would you look at that”. And you remember that it’s give and take. Sure, you give up a lot to come out here. You give up so much that the money couldn’t begin to compensate you. But everything else makes up for it. So while I wouldn’t wish this life on anyone, I wouldn’t trade what I’ve seen and experienced, or the people I’ve met, while out here for anything.
I know that in the back of ya’ll’s minds you’ve at least considered the “easy money” of driving a truck. I can’t say that you shouldn’t do it, because I’ve got memories and even pictures to last me a lifetime. But if ya’ll decide to do it, just read over what I’ve written above, and think about it. If you jump in a truck you’ll not only see the country, but you’ll be well-paid. But you’ll be cut out of the herd. There won’t be any more television. There won’t be regular showers, or even regular meals. The running joke out here is that if the end of the world was to come, truck drivers wouldn’t be as upset as everyone else, because at least it’d mean that they could get some sleep.
I didn’t mean to wax all poetic and shit. I guess I’ve just never tried to put all this shit into words. Maybe I’m just waxing nostalgic because Christmas is coming up, and we’re going to have the first really good Christmas we’ve had after a long, long line of Christmas trees with no presents under them. We’ve done well this year. Almost well enough to make all the sacrifices seem worth it. I’ve rediscovered my old friends, and feel like a part of my family has come back to me. So this year is exceptionally nice for me.
I’ve been fortunate. And I’m grateful. And I guess I’m a little sentimental.
And I guess I have too much free time on my hands at the moment. Hehehe
I love ya’ll. See you soon.