2015 Archive

In the Presence of Giants

Posted November 30, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

My friend Mary, her husband and I wound our way through the wet country roads yesterday morning. Even in the rain, the rolling hills and old country barns were breathtaking. My thoughts alternated between the present and my childhood as we drove.

Instead of Sunday morning church, we’d opted to visit two very important people. The first house, that now familiar blue structure I’ve come to recognize and love, came into view. We piled out of the car and into Willie Shelton’s home. Each time I am in his presence, I learn something new. And I respect the World War II veteran all the more.

I marveled as he told of being sidelined on his way to church by a snake one Sunday long ago. Wanting to protect himself and his family from the reptile, he grabbed the snake by the tail and cracked it like a whip. The motion was so violent, its head came right off, bloodying his clean and pressed white Sunday-go-to-meetin’ shirt.

I was impressed that he would even pick up a snake, let alone beheading it with one crack of his wrist. I always learn something from Mr. Shelton through his stories and today was no exception. Knowing we’d see him in a few minutes for Sunday Thanksgiving family dinner, we cut our visit short and headed toward the second home.

Deep in the heart of Chewalla, Tennessee, we wheeled into the driveway of the brick structure. A half dozen cars were in the driveway and folks ran through the rain carrying all sorts of food. Moments later we rapped on the door and entered the private room of Jeff York.

I’d met Jeff on the Road to Freedom tour. Hard to imagine it was over two years ago. Jeff stood bent double leaning on pillows against his desk. It’s where he spends his days tapping away on his computer keyboard. He doesn’t stand taller than three feet, and yet his personality, his quick mind and his wisdom reach to the outer limits of humankind.

Jeff has lived his life riddled with pain. A rare disease has fused every single joint in his body. He has never touched the top of his head. The only joints that move are his fingers. But Jeff does not feel sorry for himself. He uses those joints to write. He’s a freelance journalist for many newspapers in the area. He interviews individuals by phone and writes articles about them. Jeff has an uncanny ability to see into the human condition and truly understands people.

His condition has worsened to the degree that he can no longer get out and do the things he loves like attend church and coach softball. Yet, if you want to get up to speed about the people of Chewalla, Guys, Ramer, Selmer and other surrounding towns in rural Tennessee, all you have to do is ask Jeff. He knows what’s happening with everyone. He’s also not bashful at all and will tell you exactly what he thinks without reservation.

A short visit concluded, we drove back down the country roads as I pondered both of these amazing men. One had left his family behind and gone off to fight a war. The other stayed home and is still fighting one. Both of these men stand among giants in rural Tennessee. Out of the rolling hills in this amazing part of America, brave men fought. One came home, farmed the land and built things out of wood. The other tells stories for the benefit of others using his hands, the only things on his body that will move.

I’m enriched, yet humbled by both of these men. I feel wealthy for knowing them and being blessed to spend time in the presence of giants. I’m also reminded of how small I am compared to these mighty men. I certainly have a benchmark to strive for.

My life is forever changed by being in the presence of giants. Men who with no accolades just quietly do what they were created to do, without reward, and to so many, without notice. Yet, they leave a permanent imprint on their world and keep the heartbeat of America beating strong. Thank you men of valor for being who you are!

1 Comment. Join the Conversation

Strangely Familiar

Posted November 28, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I wound my way from my house to the main road, turned north and headed toward the nearest town five miles away. I passed the local Walmart and, my curiosity getting the best of me, I just had to see what lay beyond the next hill. So, I pressed on.

As I approached the traffic light where two major US highways intersected, it felt strangely familiar. I could not recall having come this far north since moving to my little corner of Tennessee, and yet, it was as though I’d spent time here.

When the Golden Arches came into view on the left, I realized I HAD been here! Not only had I traveled this way on the Road to Freedom Bicycle Tour, I’d stopped at that very McDonald’s! That is where I’d met Hazel, the little girl who’d been abused by her father.

My mind replayed the day I stopped there to blog and had been surrounded by the locals. It had seemed so far away from anything at the time. We sat for over two hours as I regaled them with my stories of the road, and the women God sent me to help.

Little Hazel had been waiting in the wings to meet The Bicycle Lady. She was shy, sweet and loving. It angered me that her father would harm her in that way. Her only concern was that God might be mad at her for causing her daddy to go to jail.

It was a magical moment of ministry when I told her that not only was God not mad at her, but He was angry at her father as well for harming her. It was as though the weight of the entire universe had been lifted off her little shoulders.

Of all those I met on the Road to Freedom Tour, Hazel always stood out the most. I never imagined that some two years later, the place I call home would be just up the road. Perhaps one day our paths will cross again. Maybe she will grow up to save others from the despicable acts she was forced to endure. One thing’s for sure. She entered the fast food joint that day as a shy withdrawn little girl but left a tower of strength and courage.

I believe God has moved mightily in Hazel’s life since I rode off into the great American heartland. Such a divine appointment could not have come to any other end. I’m grateful I got to meet Hazel. I’m amazed at her resilience. I’m envious of her smile.

As I drove away and the Golden Arches faded in my rearview mirror, I felt as though I’d come full circle. Somehow, and in some way, The Bicycle Lady had ministered to a little girl in rural Tennessee and today my reward is calling this amazing place home.




The Heartbeat of America does not beat any more loudly than this.

Be the first to comment

My First Thanksgiving

Posted November 26, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I sat sipping hazelnut coffee as the first hints of Thanksgiving Day slowly etched traces of light across the eastern horizon. I was home, not only to the house where I reside, but in the gentle rolling hills of western Tennessee. It is where I belong.

A gentle predawn breeze kissed my cheeks. Since I battled cancer in 1993, it has been God’s display of his unending love for me. His sign that He will never leave me. A lone bird sang its early morning lullaby as a lonesome train whistle answered back from some place in the far distance.


I pondered what that actually meant. I found myself fighting the urge to get up and go. For almost three years, when the sun rises, I pack up and go on to the next place. While on the bike, I broke camp, prayed and pedaled in the direction God led me for that day. In the truck, onward with cargo in tow toward the business who needs the goods I have.

But today, on the first Thanksgiving Day at home in forty seven years, I just sat sipping coffee and soaking in the countryside, the sights and sounds of nature on a brisk autumn morning. Soon the dawn would illuminate into day and shadows of the moment would disappear.

I have no memories yet in my new home. Like a blank chalk board, it stands waiting for me to write new memories upon its walls. In the quiet morning, I dreamed of what those would be. Just as the winds of autumn blew across the lake never to be felt again, the moment was fleeting. Soon there would be people, food and all things Thanksgiving. But for just those few minutes—those precious moments—the day was all mine.

I’m so grateful to be able to enjoy the simple things in life. I don’t have TV in my home. No phone. No video games. It’s where I go to unplug from all the hustle and bustle of today’s high tech world. When I complete this blog—and my second cup of coffee—I’ll go for a long run through the countryside. I’ll talk to strangers and learn their stories. I’ll talk to God and hear His heart. I’ll read a mystery novel. And, I’ll write about the things that matter to me and share my adventures with you, my faithful readers.

I appreciate each of you and on this glorious first Thanksgiving, when I pause to give thanks to God for His innumerable blessings, you will be the subject of that thanks. You all bless me in ways I cannot express.

May you all experience the fullness of God’s abundant grace and limitless blessing on this special November day. May you not take anything for granted today. May God open your eyes to see the infinity of what He has given you.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

1 Comment. Join the Conversation

Unto These Hills

Posted November 20, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

As dawn creeped into a rainy night in Appalachia, I wound up a steep mountainous road in rural Virginia. I finally located my pickup point nestled deep in a hollow. In less than an hour I was loaded and on my way to Louisville, Kentucky, some five hundred miles away.

Passing Bluefield, West Virginia, I continued my westerly trek as the sun tried desperately to find its way through the clouds. I couldn’t help but wonder what it was like off the beaten path, away from the interstate. For miles I passed the occasional trailer that shared land with old rusted out cars that had not been driven in decades, suggesting simple folks lived there. They definitely were not concerned with keeping up with the Jones.

 Homesteads gave way to large mounds of black coal. Conveyor belts wound like snakes through large yards, bringing the black gold up to the surface from the depths below. The wind occasionally snatched raven colored dust into its clutches and deposited it onto buildings, cars and foliage.

Workers went about their work. I couldn’t help but notice they did not seem unhappy, upset or angry. Their countenance steeled with a confidence knowing they were doing what they were born to do. They were as solid as the rock they mined. As I passed those mountains within the mountains, I remembered the war with the coal mines these families had fought. Coal mining is safer today because they stood up for the safety of themselves and their families.

As I neared the capital city, I noticed a giant apartment complex situated on the pinnacle of the mountain. It was hard to miss and boasted a panoramic view of the Blue Ridge. I’m sure they charged more for the dwellings as well. Unsuspecting renters had no idea they were living on the remains of a strip mine site. Years ago, the mining companies literally took off the top of the mountain to mine the coal, leaving only a barren wasteland summit in their wake.

Soon, the state capitol came into view. Its gold dome glistened with a pristine glory, as if the state has never known hard times. I wondered what decisions were made within those walls and how difficult it must be to balance economic health with human welfare.

A few miles to the west, I wound around the river to a place that certainly has known tragedy. Right there on the river is the campus of Marshall University in Huntington. I was in high school when their entire football team perished in a plane crash. I wondered which of the surrounding mountains had brought the town to its knees.

Steel mills puffed their smoke and signs that the town had moved forward dotted the landscape. After all, it’s been forty years. The football team had been rebuilt and the steel continued to be produced. Some of the kids who grew up there made it out. Many stayed behind, following in the footsteps of generations before them.

As I crossed the border into Kentucky, I couldn’t help but admire these amazing folks of West Virginia. These hills are filled with a heritage that is the very backbone of America. Steely men do back breaking work. Women try unsuccessfully to get the coal dust out of their clothes, their homes, their precious few possessions. Children grow up and many take up a coal shovel and follow in their family’s footsteps. Some, like NASA scientist Homer Hickem, make it out. Many do not. Some parent’s children, like Miss American 1993, Leanza Cornett break out of the mold and take a different path. Most stay right where they were born.

And yet, they seem happy just being who they are.

When I want to be reminded of the tough as nails gentle giant that makes America great, I need only to look unto these hills. It is there I will find the Heartbeat of America that pulses loudly in West Virginia and makes me proud to live in the greatest country in the world.

1 Comment. Join the Conversation

A Leg Up

Posted November 18, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I rolled to a stop on an exit ramp just as the driver two cars ahead of me began having a conversation with a man who sat on the side of the road. His dog sat calmly at his side as his master displayed a sign that read, “I am really hungry. God bless.”

The driver told the man he would give him money but he’d have to get up off his lazy butt to come get it.

“What if I send my dog for it? Would that be okay?”
The man shook his head. “If you want my money, you’ll have to meet me halfway.”

The indigent man agreed and lifted the blanket off his lap as cars and trucks filed in behind us making a very long line. We all waited as this fifty-something man wobbled on nubs that ended about four inches below his hips. He stood about two feet tall as he maneuvered toward the car. The once very cocky—if not annoyed—driver opened his door and jumped out, hurrying toward the handicapped man.

The embarrassed driver reached deeper into his pockets and pulled out more money, perhaps as a peace offering. My guess it was to quiet his turbulent conscience.

The next car rolled up as the other driver sped off. He, too provided money. Now it was my turn. I gave him a hundred dollars and told him I would bring him and his dog food right back. I turned the corner headed for the truck stop and noticed every car stopped and the drivers did the same thing.

I grabbed food from the burger joint and hurried on foot to where he was. I handed him the food and said, “So sorry you had to endure that. The guy was a jerk.”

He waved it off. “Awww, wasn’t nothin’. Even though I ain’t got none, I sure got a leg up on him.” He chuckled. “Folks felt sorry for me and they gave me over $200! I ain’t made that much money in a month before, much less five minutes.”

Jed (short for Jedediah), lost both legs in a coal mining accident. The mines closed down and Jed was left to fend for himself. He’s not bitter, angry or hateful toward anyone. He said it is just a part of life and takes it all in stride…albeit a four inch long stride on all that’s left of once strong legs.

Jed and his dog Butch make a living on the good graces of others. Waiting for handouts and not knowing where their next meal will come is their way of life. And they have adapted to it. They live in one room at a fleabag motel on the interstate. His disability check covers that but does not leave him enough to eat and buy other necessities.

I asked him how I could help him. He simply replied, “You already have. You treated me like I’m somebody. Like I matter… you know?”

As I hugged Jed, petted Butch and trotted off back to my truck, I couldn’t help but replay the look on the face of Mr. “You have to meet me halfway” when he realize he’d demanded that someone with no legs come get his handout. It’s a very loud reminder that things are not always as they seem. We don’t have the right to judge. It also is a clear demonstration that ALL things work together for good to those who are called according to His purpose.

America stepped up that day and gave to Jed and Butch. They helped their neighbor. They stood for what America is all about. The Heartbeat of America is still alive and well.

Be the first to comment

The Mississippi Delta

Posted November 9, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I normally write about individual people I meet on my journey across America but today, an entire region has captured my heart. I simply must share it. That place is the Mississippi Delta.

Miles of the flattest farmland stretched farther than my eyes could see. In every direction, large bales of cotton covered in yellow plastic provided the only rise in elevation. Clumps of trees sporadically dotted the landscape.

Homesteads mainly consisted of trailers that were built in the 1950’s or old frame houses with rusted tin roofs. It was glaringly apparent to me that the wheels of time had left only the lightest of imprints on this region of America.

Life is simple here in the Delta. Its people are seemingly untouched by the hustle and bustle of life that plagues other parts of America. They are kind, congenial, respectful, and extremely happy. Laughter sings through the air and workers are genuinely happy to help.

I felt as though I’d somehow gone back in time, to a place where I grew up. To the place I was proud to call The South. I exited my truck with running shoes on and trekked down unknown streets without fear. Perfect strangers rocking in chairs on their porches waves as I passed. Dogs ran up but only wanting to meet their new friend. Their tails wagged as I petted them.

I had long conversations with the local townspeople of Indianola, Mississippi as if we’d known each other all our lives. Young people called me Ma’am. Old people did, too. It’s a southern thing. A sign of respect. We laughed and joked about silly little things while sharing a cool glass of sweet tea.

No one seemed in a hurry and yet everything got done in a timely manner. Truth be told, things got done faster by these folks than in the fast paced society I usually deliver to. “Please” and “thank you” were in everyone’s vocabulary and they used them every time.

They were not stressed out. They just took in the day with a joy and peace that was palpable. I’d seen this before being displayed by a friend but I had no idea it was a culture. Author and friend, Patricia Bradley, is exactly as I’ve described the folks of the Mississippi Delta. Though she lives in the northern part of the state, she portrays the attitude of the Delta with grace. Always gracious, kind, endlessly helpful and notoriously happy. Her demeanor is infectious. I just didn’t know there were thousands more people just like her… down in the Delta.

As I sit staring out over the expansive cotton fields, my mind travels back to a different time… perhaps an era that was not as happy. I try to imagine what life was like on these farms before and after The Emancipation. It could not have been easy and yet, generations later, their legacy has emerged in a simple strength that lives… and let lives. That thrives without exploitation. That endears the gift of life and chooses to cling to all that is good.

I’m so grateful that I came to the Mississippi Delta. My heart leaps to know there is a part of my past that remains untouched by time. There is a place where southern roots still run deep and the gentile culture that made the south famous—if not coveted—still exists unchanged and proud.

It is refreshing to know that the Heartbeat of America is alive and well in rural Mississippi.

Be the first to comment

I Am Who I Am

Posted October 22, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

He doesn’t walk with teenage swagger, wear the latest must-have fashions or drive the fanciest car. He’s not the high school quarterback or the class president. Sixteen year old Zach does not spend a moment of his day keeping up with the Jones’ or bowing down to peer pressure. He just walks through his young life confidently being who he was created to be.

I met Zach a couple of years ago and knew there was something very special about him. He does not put on airs and is more comfortable in his own skin than just about anyone I know. He doesn’t concern himself with what others think of him when he drives his jeep… or when he performs in plays.

Zach has a deep understanding about many things in life from people to their customs and how those things work together to make our world work. He is not argumentative and yet he compassionately displays his position on all things human. He has drawn clearly defined lines regarding his life, boundaries, spirituality and humanity.

I’m old enough to be his great grandmother and yet I feel such a connection with this amazing young man. I’ve watched intently as he interacts with adults and children, the elderly and animals. He’s kind and compassionate, yet bold as a lion, in a quiet sort of way.

In today’s world, we see girls with pink hair and boys with their noses pierced. I ask myself how our nation ever survive with this next generation of leaders. After all, I just can’t seem to get behind and vote for a presidential candidate who has tongue piercings and tattoos the entire length of his arm that chronicle all his… umm… conquests.

And then I see Zach. He walks in the room and suddenly it is a better place just for his having entered. He is thoughtful in the words he speaks and they have a powerful impact on the breadth of reach. He is a leader. Though he doesn’t stand in the masses shouting his promises or trying to gain attention, he quietly directs our world to move in a better, more positive direction.

I am honored to know Zach and every time I see him, I have hope that the heartbeat of America will be alive and well long after my heart has stopped and I cross over into eternity. He accepts individuals for who they are and does not judge. Yet, he immediately sees right through façade and will not entertain the self-absorbed or arrogant.

Zach brings equilibrium to my world when I’m around him. His balanced temperament helps me find true north and keeps today’s world on its axis. Thank you, Zach, for having the courage to remain true to who you are despite the greatest peer pressure known to man. Thank you for seeing through falsehood, for looking beyond faults in others to see their needs, and for being just who God created you to be.

If I were a kid, I’d want to be just like you when I great up. Kudos to you, wise young man. You are one amazing individual.

1 Comment. Join the Conversation

Stand Your Ground

Posted October 21, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I wound my way slowly through the sleepy town of Middlesboro, Kentucky as it still lay blanketed in an early morning autumn fog. The cars parked in inconsistent fashion along the sides of the road made an already tight situation almost impossible to maneuver. Fortunately, I only had three blocks to go and I’d be at the meat packing plant where I was picking up.

I stopped at a stop sign and as I eased through the intersection, a pickup truck suddenly shot out backwards and stopped in the street ahead of me, completely blocking the road. The middle aged, tobacco chewing man jumped out of his truck and began walking toward me, his arms flailing.

“Go back the other way!” He shouted.


“You’re not coming down my street in that thing.” He pointed to my 18 wheeler.

“I’m going to—“

“I know where you’re going. You’re just not going to do it by going down my street.”

I took a deep breath and knowing he was not going to budge, I asked, “Well if you won’t let me go forward, would you at least go down and block the intersection so I can safely back through it?”



“You got yourself into this mess. You can get yourself out.”

My patience was gone but I knew I was on his turf so I bit my tongue. “Okay. Then I’ll get myself out of this mess by sitting in front of your house, calling the police and have them come block the intersection while I back through it.”

His eyes widened and I thought for a spit second I’d gotten through to him. I was wrong. “Well I tell you what. I’m going to walk back to my truck and if you’re not backing up by the time I get there, I’m going to pull out my gun and start shooting.”

I would have chuckled at his lame idle threat but right at that instant he arrived at his truck, reached in and pulled out a shot gun and pointed it right at me. I never knew a tractor trailer truck could back up so quickly. I just prayed that cars coming down the intersection would stop for me. They did.
I drove the last three blocks, got safely through the gate of my shipper and after taking a few moments to collect my wits that had just been scattered on Nineteenth Street, I called the police. They promised to send officers out to investigate.

When I told the shipper about my experience, he called the police to request an escort of my truck as I departed. I made it out of the little town with the aid of Middlesboro’s finest.

Over the next several hours, I came to call this unidentified citizen Jethro. It just seemed to fit. I replayed the incident several times in my mind. Told the story to my fleet manager, the police, my trucking buddies, my Facebook friends, my pastor, the cashier at the truck stop, the waitress at the restaurant. Each time I told the story, I realized more and more that I could not be upset with this man. Scared? Oh yeah. Upset? No. However misguided Jethro was in the way he handled this situation, he was only protecting what was his.

No doubt Jethro had worked hard his whole life for his meager surroundings, perhaps as a coal miner. Though he obviously didn’t have much, he was standing his ground to defend it. He viewed my giant monster of a vehicle as a threat to all he had and would fight to his death against it.

He did NOT do the right thing. He actually broke the law. I don’t condone his use of firearms to prevent me to drive down a public street. And it was very frightening staring down the barrel of a twelve gauge shot gun. But it was also refreshing to see someone who would stand his ground and be willing to fight to keep and protect what was his.

America was built and thrives today because brave men and women were willing to do just that. As I write this, thousands of our neighbors have put on a uniform, taken up arms and are fighting to protect what’s yours and mine.

It’s the American way. We don’t back down. We stand our ground and fight for what’s ours. Thank you, Jethro, for the reminder… however incorrectly executed it was.

Be the first to comment

Talk to the Hand

Posted October 6, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I ran through the rain with my friend to the door of the chop shop. The bitter October cold punctuated my disdain for “walk-in” hair cutteries but I desperately needed a haircut and this was the only show in town. So I bit the bullet, remembering I’d cut my own hair while on my bicycle trip. It couldn’t be worse than that.

Could it?

The more experienced worker grabbed my friend while I pounded a teenie tiny hair dresser with questions. She was so small and looked so young, I felt guilty of child abuse. She assured me she would not be allowed on the floor if she was not competent at cutting short hair.

I jumped in the chair, took a deep breath and decided that regardless of the way my hair turned out, I’d find out everything about this adorable little creature. My questions continued in rapid-fire fashion but the topic turned to her personal life.

She was trained in high school and received her cosmetology license at age 17. Strange, I didn’t think she was that old. Turns out Lucy is twenty and I soon found out you should not judge the strength of a person by the human house they live in.

Lucy is a tower of strength. And, she is completely comfortable being who God created her to be. She refused to succumb to peer pressure, or even entertain it. She comes from a long family line of factory workers and knew from a young age she would never attend college, even though her father had been scrimping and saving for years to help provide that education for her.

She is a worker with hands… a breed of Americans who are driven to create things and change the world by the sweat of their brow and the work of their hands. She took the opportunity to train to be a hair dresser and while she is still not even old enough to legally drink, she has been crafting her trade for three years.

Her now mother-in-law tried to change her. “Better her”. Help her make wiser decisions. She tried relentlessly to persuade Lucy to go to a “real” college. To get a “real” education. To make something of herself.

Since I’ve only had two people in twenty years who have given me a better haircut than Lucy, I believe she HAS made something of herself. But, she didn’t need me to convince her relative. In fact, this little bitty girl lifted up her itty bitty hand right in her mother-in-law’s face and simply said, “Talk to the hand.”

Lucy recounted that conversation as history but she was also making a declaration to me and anyone else who would listen. “I am who I am. I don’t care whether you like that or not but you will NOT change me. So join with me or leave me alone.”

It was so refreshing to see a young person with such conviction. She didn’t have a chip on her shoulder that comes from years of having to fight her cause. Instead, she simply lives her day as a human “Being”, exactly who God created her to be. She takes her rightful place in this world and makes the most positive impact she can.

If my haircut is any indication, Lucy is making a tremendous impact.

In this time when children are being raised without morals, convictions and standards, I’m grateful to see such inner strength emerge from someone so young… and tiny. She is the America I’ve grown to love so much. Thanks to Lucy, the Heartbeat of America will remain alive and well for decades to come.

Be the first to comment

A Day in the Life of a Trucker

Posted September 18, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Many of you have asked me to give you an idea about what goes on while on the road as a trucker in America. So, in honor of National Truck Driving Week, the following story is an account of my last trip from Plainwell, Michigan to Louisville, Kentucky and Salisbury, North Carolina. While this type of trip doesn’t happen every day, it certainly is an accurate portrayal of the normal life of a truck driver, where nothing ever goes as planned.

My communication system chimed signaling an incoming message with a preplan for a new trip. I rejoiced when I saw it terminated in North Carolina, the heart of Dixie. My exuberance was short lived when I realized I would have to run overnight not one, but two nights in a row. To make matters worse, they still had not unloaded my truck at my last delivery point where I’d arrived eleven hours earlier.

Finally empty at 10:45pm, I zoomed down the dark interstate and pulled into the nearest truck stop. Since I would be dropping my empty trailer and picking up a preloaded trailer of meat, I had to fill the fuel tank on my refrigerated trailer. Because I’d been awake since 4am, I also grabbed a cup of java and off I sped into the darkness again.

I wound my way up narrow country roads. The only light came from my headlights and fog lights. Finally the meat packing plant came into view and I wheeled in, pulled to a stop at the guard house and put on my most cheerful face. The young security officer, AKA “When I grow up I want to be a cop”, demanded to see my receipt from getting my trailer washed out. Of course, my trailer was very clean but not washed out. He refused to allow me entrance until/unless I got the trailer washed out.

At one in the morning.

In the middle of nowhere in Michigan.

He handed me a flyer with the name and number of a washout facility. I called once but got no answer. The second call produced a very angry man on the other end who cursed at me profusely, then reluctantly gave me directions to his… uhh… farm. Why was I suddenly hearing dueling bangos in my head?!

I navigated through pitch black darkness and finally found “the farm”. I turned into the narrow dirt driveway, narrowly missing the deep ditches on both sides, and shut my truck off. Then I sat in complete blackness. And I sat. And sat.

After 45 minutes, I called back, only to be met again by cursing. In the most pleasant voice I could muster, I identified myself again and said I’d neglected to ask him one question when I spoke to him before: When could I expect him to arrive?

He did not even remember the conversation. He finally came out and washed out my trailer at a pace that would make a snail think he was Flash Gordon. I raced back down the narrow country roads back to the meat packing plant. This time the security officer did not ask for a receipt. Nor did he even look in the back of the trailer. He just gave me paperwork and told me where to drop my empty and where to pick up my preloaded trailer. Utterly unfair, wouldn’t you say?!

I wound through the slush and mess of the meat packing plant lot, trying not to think of the irony of needing a washed out trailer. “They’re really picky about cleanliness”, the guard had said. I chuckled as I inhaled the grotesque smell of rotting animal parts that had been exposed to the air too long.

I found my trailer in the most remote corner of their facility and when I hooked to it and began a pre-trip inspection, I discovered it had a flat tire.

At 2:30am.

In the middle of nowhere.

I hooked up the air hoses hoping our closed air system would re-inflate the tire. It did! I was beyond excited. Not to mention a tad bit cocky that Mizz Super Trucker had thought of that before calling for road service.

My cockiness was immediately deflated when I could not slide my trailer wheels. They are called tandems and we slide them forward and back to distribute the weight. That way we can legally drive on the highways of America. But mine wouldn’t slide. ON A BRAND NEW TRAILER!!

But you see, God don’t like ugly and apparently cocky doesn’t suit me so I was humbled right where I sat. Again I exited my truck with flashlight in hand and discovered the tandem slide was bent. A million hammer strikes later, I was able to slide them and off I went into the darkness once again.

It was now 3am and I had six hours to drive 386 miles, impossible in a truck that is governed at 65mph. It’s also impossible when you come to a complete stop not once, not twice but three times on three different interstate highways because of road construction. Obviously they didn’t know I was on a deadline.

Of course my delivery had to be during rush hour traffic.

In DOWTOWN Louisville, Kentucky.

I maneuvered my 73 foot vehicle down narrow streets with cars on both sides, and finally came to my first of two delivery stops. I shook my head in disbelief when I realized I’d have to back into a narrow dock between parked cars with no room to spare.

All for five pallets of beef.

Later rather than sooner, I was on my way back down narrow streets, sometimes with less than an inch between me and the parked cars. I had two hours left that I could legally drive and I wanted to get as far down the road as possible.

Finally pulling into a truck stop at 1pm, I figured I’d be able to sleep ten hours. After all, I’d been awake since 4am… yesterday. Imagine my alarm when I was wide awake two hours later, unable to sleep. I was able to nap another hour later in the evening before pulling out at midnight.

It was to be an easy ride through West Virginia, Virginia and then on into North Carolina. And it was… except for the mountains… and the very dense fog, making traveling the curvy and steep mountain roads treacherous. I inched onward, praying as I drove.

At long last I entered the gate of my last delivery point. Workers removed the remaining pallets of beef from my truck and I completed my load assignment. In the end, the hamburger got delivered and folks will go into grocery stores in Kentucky and North Carolina, grab up a pound of ground round without a thought of what I had to go through to make their cookout a success.

As I drove through the darkness, my mind wandered back to the decades I spent in Corporate America. Nice paycheck. Great perks. No working all night. I asked myself if driving a truck while others slept was worth it. I rolled down my window, stared up at a perfectly clear night with a bazillion stars shining brightly and simply said, “yes.”

1 Comment. Join the Conversation