Women in Trucking Archive

Don’t Judge a Book By its Cover

Posted April 1, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I got up from my nap, slipped on a jacket and walked to the other truck stop across the road to Denny’s. I was greeted and placed in a corner booth by a young lady. As she placed the menu on the table in front of me, I tried not to stare at the numerous tattoos covering both arms, neck and chest.

Lisa took my order and after bringing my grilled cheese sandwich—perfect cuisine on a blustery day—she returned to my table many times to check on me. On one trip, she sat down across the booth from me and explained she found a way to ring up my meal to save me a “ton of money.” I suppose that to a young waitress two bucks was a lot and I expressed my gratitude to her for her efforts.

Then without my asking—I promise I did NOT ask this time—she began to tell me her life story. Over twenty years ago, a woman trucker picked up a young female hitchhiker who was traveling to nowhere in particular with two baby girls in tow.  They rode together halfway across the country. The trucker stopped for fuel and while she was in the truck stop, the woman disappeared. She left only a note giving the trucker “temporary” custody of the girls until she could get back on her feet.

She was never seen again.

The trucker could have called the authorities. She could have given the two beautiful little girls over to the police, social workers or foster care. Instead, she kept them with her on her truck. Days turned into weeks and months turned into years. She raised them as her own. She shattered her knee and while having it surgically replaced, developed such a bad infection, they wound up having to amputate her leg. She was forced to come off the road.

Life got very difficult with no income. They became homeless and were forced into the streets. Lisa’s trucker mom never officially adopted her or her sister but was every bit a mom to them as anyone could ever be.

“Things have been hard, especially financially,” Lisa offered with a shrug. “But I’m really proud that I’ve never been on drugs and I don’t have a criminal record. I could have, you know.”

“Statistically, you’re a rarity. It speaks very highly of your character. You’re quite an incredible young lady.”

She smiled and said, “I have two girls of my own now. No way I’m going to leave them.” She paused and looked off to someplace in a past life for a long moment. “I know my mom loved us. But she was desperate. Things are tough for me, too, but we’re making it. She didn’t have to leave us at a truck stop but we were in good hands. I’ve had a good life.”

She is grateful that she has a good job waiting tables at Denny’s and her boyfriend has a job at the convenience store. He has a daughter as well so now there are three. One more mouth to feed but they are finding a way to make it work on their meager wages.

Lisa is not the rough and tumble grizzly girl her tattoos would suggest. She’s an old soul encased in a young woman’s body. She is kind, considerate, helpful. She’s also tenacious with a grip on life more solid than super glue.

I’ve heard it said we should never judge a book by its cover. I’ve tried to live my life not judging others by their appearance. Today I’m glad I took my own advice or I would have completely missed the priceless treasure hidden in the grassy plains of Nowhere, Nebraska.

One mother couldn’t make it. One took up where she left off and raised a stranger’s daughters into mighty women. Strong and courageous, these soldiers of circumstance decided to write their own book on their lives, complete with their own happily ever after. It proves you should NEVER just a book by its cover.

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Shatter the Night

Posted March 25, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I quickly checked the weather report before departing for my new pick up point. It would be dark by the time I trucked the sixty miles east to Lexington, Nebraska. The weather reports promised some rain and winds to 30mph, well within the limits to drive with an empty trailer. So I rolled.

Ten miles into my journey and right on cue, the rains began. Surprisingly there were far less severe than the dark, ominous clouds threatened, and had completely stopped before I arrived at my shipper. I knew my load was already ready so it was just a matter of checking in, dropping my empty trailer, hook to my loaded one, check out and pull into their overnight parking area for a nice, relaxing evening of movies.

Or so I thought.

The trailer I was to hook to was a foot too high. I exited my truck, went back to the trailer and began to crank it down. I looked back toward the front of the truck and a huge brown cloud began rushing by. Within a few seconds, I could no longer see my truck just a few feet in front of me. I was in a sand storm.

The winds increased rapidly and strengthened every second. Suddenly, they began to blow underneath my trailer so hard, it was blowing me off my feet. I knew I was in trouble and the safest place was inside my truck. I just couldn’t see it.

I closed my eyes, held on to the trailer and inched my way back up to my truck. In the space between my truck and trailer, grains of sand pelted my skin like thousands of pin pricks. Sand got into my ears, my eyes, under my fingernails. I staggered to stay upright but finally made it to my driver’s door, opened it and climbed inside.

I sat looking out my windshield at a brown out as the fierce wind rocked my truck violently. Suddenly, my passenger side window shattered into a million pieces. Shards of flying glass rocketed toward me, slicing my skin as they made contact.

The brown sand blew in through the hole where glass once protected me. I attempted to put up a blanket to stop the flow of wind but it was useless. I was bleeding and being pummeled by sand and ferocious wind.

Within a few minutes, the winds subsided to a mere 37mph sustained. I exited my truck again. As I walked back to my trailer again, I left a trail of all sizes and shapes of glass that had blown into my lap, into my pockets, my hair and boots.

Safely hooked but shaken up, I drove to the guard shack and told them what happened. Fortunately, they’d included eye irrigation to their first aid kit. I used all they had. My eyes were scratched and hurting. I suppose it didn’t really matter much whether it was from glass or sand. Both cut.

I cleaned the blood from the micro cuts, removed the glass from my ears, mouth and boots. I realized that only ten minutes before the storm hit, I was out on the open highway with an empty trailer. There is no way it would have remained upright had I been hit by the storm NO ONE SAW COMING!!!!

I waded through debris in my truck that looked as though a bomb had exploded and through tears, thanked God yet again for His protection. Through filing the accident report, dealing with our safety department, making arrangements to have the window replaced and ultimately putting my heart back inside my chest, I realized how blessed I really am.

Just as with any thriller, I could not have a calm exit to the ordeal. Before I could finish the reporting and phone calls, a violent thunderstorm arrived and threatened to make mud out of the three inches of brown sand inside my truck. I quickly grabbed a piece of heavy plastic and duct tape (no person should ever be without these), and patched the hole.

Finally, at 1am, I vacuumed the glass and sand off my bed, crawled into it and wept. One final release at the end of another harrowing experience. One weapon I have to right my world when it gets turned on off its kilter. Somewhere in the ocean of those tears, I drifted off to sleep and put a period at the end of another sentence in the book of my life.

They say the winds of that sand storm exceeded 100mph. I believe it. I felt it. I battled against it.

I thank God that in that moment of terror, when I least expected something to happen, He gave me the resourcefulness to know what to do and survive. The gale force winds of adversity may have shattered the night but in the morning light the storm had passed and life goes on…

 

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The Apocalypse, Day 10

Posted January 27, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

The Great Escape!

I awoke early the next morning, well before daylight. I had sent a message to dispatch the night before letting them know that I would not attempt to roll out until I could see the road.

For the second night in a row, even though I slept, I slid down the mountain multiple times each night. In my dreams, I climbed up a hill and at the top was surprised by a solid sheet of ice. I had to way to stop and no way to control the truck. Sometimes I made it. Other times I crashed. Over and over the scene played out in my dreams.

By the time the sun streaked across the eastern sky, I was exhausted yet ready to get out of the snowy north. I removed the chains from my truck and drug them to my passenger floor board. They would stay there until I was feeling well enough to put them away.

I inched through ice for forty miles but road conditions were steadily improving. My shoulder was screaming. My face was swollen and bruised. And I was coughing uncontrollably. But I was heading southeast and I was not about to let anything stop me.

Any time we pass a terminal, they always want us to stop. Today, that was not happening. I blew by the Salt Lake City so fast, I’m sure their heads were spinning. Too bad. I was rolling and still ahead of the storm.

I turned off the interstate south of Provo. Roads were icy but I was able to maneuver them without much problem. After all I’d already gone through, this was a walk in the park. In southern Utah and northern Colorado, crews were out treating the roads ahead of the storm. They were out in greater force than I’d ever seen.

That’s good. And it’s bad.

With that much manpower dedicated to secondary roads, they were expecting a doozy of an ice storm and it was right on my heels. I’d have to stop for ten hours. No way around that, thanks to DOT. It might catch me.

I had twenty minutes left on my clock and was six miles north of Ute Mountain, Colorado, where I planned to stop for the night. And it was well after dark. I was shocked when I was pulled into the weigh station in Cortez, Colorado.

If I see, “please park and bring in your paperwork” one more time…

The guy had to get his quota and I looked like someone who’d give him the least amount of grief. So I spent eleven minutes of my remaining time standing there not driving. When he finally released me, I ran back to my truck and drove the last six miles at break-neck speed… well, at least for a semi fully loaded.

Again, when sleep overtook me, so did the slippery mountain slopes and for the third night, I slid down the mountain all night. But when I awoke in the morning, I discovered I was still ahead of the storm. I inspected my truck while my coffee was brewing as and soon as my clock struck 10 (hours out of service), I rolled.

I rolled as fast as I could through the Navajo Nation and only stopped in Grants, New Mexico for fuel. It was 47 degrees. The sun was shining. The wind was blowing 50+ mph and… wait for it… it was SLEETING!!!!! I have no idea how that is even possible but there I was getting pelted by sleet blowing in my face at 50mph.

I fueled as quickly as possible and jumped back on the road. No matter what, I was going to stay ahead of this storm. I was NOT going to spend one more moment navigating an eighty-thousand-pound missile through ice or snow. So I kept rolling. Rolling east. Away from the snow.

By the time I stopped for the night in Sayre, Oklahoma, I was well away from the storm. I had escaped the Apocalypse of 2017.

I burned my lungs from the cold. It will take a while for them to heal. My broken cheek bone is doing well. My shoulder will no doubt pop out of joint again at some inopportune moment somewhere in the future.

But I was not in ice or snow for the first time in ten long, agonizing, life-threatening days. I would not complain.

I want to take this moment to thank each and every person who prayed for me. I could not have made it through without you. You are my rocks… and my heroes. I don’t know where my adventures will take me from here but I know I cannot continue to roll forward on the highways and byways of our great nation without you, your prayers, and your support.

Thank you all! May God return the blessings to you that you are and continue to be to me.

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The Apocalypse, Days 8 & 9

Posted January 25, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Salt Lake City, Utah to Twin Falls, Idaho

I waited for daylight before leaving Winnemucca heading back to Salt Lake City. It was cold and there was a solid sheet of ice on my truck. I’d be foolish to think it would be different on the roads, particularly with evacuations taking place. I figured if I was going to slide, at least I’d see what I’m sliding on.

Just as I came through Battle Mountain and started my climb, the chain law was invoked.

Ice!   

Unfortunately, I could not stop. I had traction and if I stopped, I would risk sliding back down. Or worse, sliding off the side of the mountain. So I kept the pedal to the floor and climbed. When I reached the top and looked at the bottom, I saw trucks and far as I could see coming in the other direction. They were stopped. Hundreds of trucks stopped.

My trailer did not want to stay behind my truck. I was sliding. I figured—hoped and prayed—I could stay ahead of it if I did not do anything but descend the mountain. The road was straight, and there were no cars on the road so I grabbed my steering wheel, kept my foot on the gas to keep the traction coming and descended. By the time I got to the bottom, I was sliding at 70mph. But I made it.

I passed the two-mile-long line of trucks that were stopped on the other side waiting for their turn to get into the chain up area. My lungs were burned from being out in sub-zero temperatures digging my truck out two days before and as a result, my cough was uncontrollable. I lowered my window in hopes it would help.

I looked in my rearview mirror between coughs and saw flashing lights. A snow plow approached in the left lane. As it passed me, it threw up a rock that hit and shattered my windshield. Another rock flew in my window and hit me right in the cheek. Blood burst from my nose but I could not stop. It wasn’t safe in all the ice to stop so I grabbed a paper towel, stuffed it in my nostril and kept on trucking.

Ice covered the roads but at least the last two mountain passes between me and the Utah border did not have the chain law in effect. Driving in ice required my total concentration. At times I felt lightheaded but wasn’t sure if it was because I would forget to breathe, or the loss of blood.

By the time I reached the Utah border, the roads had improved greatly, mainly because they had adequate resources to treat the roads that were not trying to help folks evacuate from the flooded areas of Nevada.

I alerted my team that I had a shattered windshield and they made arrangements for me to get it repaired at the terminal. The next morning they sent a local guy out to my truck. It took him three minutes flat and I was on my way back to Twin Falls, Idaho to pick up a load going to Georgia. Finally I would be out of the ice and snow.

I checked in at the organic potato shipper and discovered I’d have to wait for a while to be loaded. Suddenly, the skies opened up and dumped over five inches of new snow in less than an hour.

It was not in the forecast.

No one predicted it.

No one prepared for it.

I backed into the door in whiteout conditions. I could stay the night but if I did, I’d drive through the storm in the morning. Throughout loading, I checked the road reports. They were all good. So, I decided to roll. I knew if I could make it back to our terminal in Salt Lake City, I’d be ahead of the storm.

I drove through Twin Falls. The roads were good. That was encouraging since they are normally better on the interstates than on secondary roads. Ten miles later I turned east on I-84. Four miles later I was stopped on I-84. A few moments later, traffic started to move. I did not.

I tried.

I was on solid ice and was spinning. Finally, I got moving again and a hundred yards later we stopped. Again. Almost three hours later, several police officers walked up the interstate. They stopped at each truck and had a brief conversation with the driver. When they got to me, the very nice young highway patrol officer asked the question I’d been dreading.

“Ma’am, do you have chains?”

“Yes sir, I do.”

“Well, you’re gonna have to put them on.”

“Well how about I head into that truck stop right there and shut down?” I pointed at the place less than ¼ mile up the road.

“You can’t get there without chains.”

“Why is that?”

“There is six inches of black ice on the road between you and that exit. No way to get there without chains. Just stay right where you are and put your chains on.”

I hopped out of my truck and grabbed my first eighty-four pound set of chains. The weight of the chains falling to the ground popped my shoulder right out of joint. The state trooper heard the pop. Or maybe shriek of pain. Either way he ran to my side.

“You’re going to have to help me.”

“I’ll call rescue.”

“No! You have to help me put my shoulder back in joint so I can put my chains on.”

“Ma’am I can’t do that.”

“You can and you will!!!! I’m getting my truck off this mountain TONIGHT!!”

Reluctantly the police officer helped me get my shoulder back in joint and I slowly got my chains installed on my truck. I had to wait for my turn to climb the ice hill. They were only letting one truck at a time attempt the climb.

I sat and watched trucks attempt the climb and slide back down multiple times. And I pushed back regrets that I’d left the safety of my shipper to attempt to drive. When at long last my turn came, I turned to the left, placing the entire left side of my truck in the median. I had no trouble climbing at all because there was no black ice on the median. As I exited to the truck stop, I glanced back in my rearview mirror and saw every truck behind me following in my tracks.

It just made sense.

I pulled into a jam-packed truck stop. I knew I was arriving late to the party but God always takes care of me.

Always.

I pulled into the parking area and the second parking space was empty. I backed my truck in and shut down, not bothering to remove the chains. That would be for another day when conditions were better and my shoulder had calmed down.

I slid through the ice and snow in the parking lot and into the restaurant to order a large helping of comfort food. I figured after the day I’d had, I’d earned it. I did not feel the least bit guilty as I devoured my grilled cheese sandwich and French fries.

I slept but all night I dreamed of sliding down the mountain. Over and over, I slid. I crashed. But I slept. I suppose after the last several days, that was the most I could hope for so I chose to take it without complaint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Apocalypse, Days 5, 6 and 7

Posted January 25, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Twin Falls, Idaho to Caldwell, Idaho, to Ogden, Utah to Winnemucca, Nevada

I rose at three in the morning, brewed a hot pot of coffee, grabbed hammers and a shovel and pulled back my curtain. The snow had risen overnight to just below my windows. I put the driver window down and dug out enough space to open my door. I stepped out and lost my footing, falling into an eight-foot snowbank.

I figured that was as good a place as any to start my dig out. I dug through minus 20 degree temperatures until I finally could find my truck and trailer. About an hour into the dig, I began hacking and coughing uncontrollably. I’m not one to catch colds. Never had the flu and my last cold was in 1986. Something was wrong but I knew I could not get any help until I dug my truck out and could drive.

I attached my LED light to my head and crawled under the trailer. I had a thousand pounds of ice underneath. I grabbed my hammer and began chipping away. By 7am, my truck was relatively clear of snow and ice and it was daylight had begun to creep in. I decided to roll.

Two hours later I was pulled into the Boise, Idaho weigh station. There was so much ice on the entrance ramp, even at a crawl, my truck slid into a snow bank. That’s embarrassing anywhere it happens but a weigh station filled with DOT officers is definitely NOT the place to do that. I spun my truck out of the snow bank and stopped on the scales.

“Park your truck and bring in your paperwork.”

After all my digging, I was still overweight? I did as I was told and filed in line behind the seven other drivers who had also been called in. The officer was looking at a lot of things on his computer screen. He finally looked up and said who is the (my company name) driver?

“I am,” I said, expecting the worst.

He reached out to take my paperwork and after a brief inspection, he said I could go. Apparently, he had bigger (or at least heavier) fish to fry. I grabbed my paperwork and ran out of the station. Twice I’d been overweight and twice I’d been granted mercy. Thank you God!

The roads were very icy in spots and snowy in others. Road reports confirmed I would not be able to go into Oregon and into the high Rockies. I’d have to stop in Caldwell, Idaho, twenty miles from the border until the roads cleared up. My fleet manager called me and I told him that. He agreed that was far enough and I’d hold up another day short of the Blue Mountains.

Once I stopped I had several conversations with my former trainer and great friend, Dave. We talked about the road conditions and he said he heard terror in my voice. He thought it was the mountains. It wasn’t the hills, no matter how big. It was the ice that covered the roads. And yes, I was terrified.

He suggested I call my fleet manager in the morning and let him know. Overnight, I made the decision to not carry the load any farther. I’d been fighting vertigo for two days but interestingly, the second I made that decision, it went away and I have not suffered from it since.

In the morning, I called my fleet manager and waited thirty minutes to get him on the phone. It was worth the wait. I told him the road conditions had not improved and I did not have the skill level to run through the high mountain switchbacks on ice. Thankfully, he did not give me a hard time at all. He completely understood and said he would get right on a plan to get me out from under that load.

About an hour later, he’d worked out a deal to run back to Boise and switch loads with a different company that contracts with us to haul our freight. This driver from Washington would take my chicken over the mountains to Washington and I would take his onions back to Ogden, Utah to deliver the next morning. Hallujah! I was headed back in the right direction!

I spent the night on a block of ice in Ogden and was ready to greet the company workers when they arrived in the darkness the next morning to unload my truck. They could not get the onions off my truck fast enough.

I could not stop coughing. I contacted the weekend dispatcher and told them I was sick and needed to get a load heading south. Moments later they sent me a load going to St. Paul, Minnesota. I told them again that I needed to head south. So they sent me a load going to Seattle. Either their geographical prowess was not good or they were trying my patience.

I refused that load as well. Finally, they sent me a load to pick up at our terminal in Salt Lake City that delivered in Union City, California. San Francisco.

I give up.

I took the load, drove to the terminal, grabbed the trailer and off I went. I drove 350 miles to the west and suddenly got a message that I-80 westbound was closed because they were evacuating Reno and Sparks, Nevada. The Truckee River was flooded.

The road conditions had deteriorated as well so I stopped for the night in Winnemucca, Nevada. All resources were being sent to the flood sight so all roads except interstates and evacuation routes were not being treated in any way. There was no way to get to Union City, California except to drive the 350 miles back to Salt Lake City and run south to Las Angeles and back up to San Francisco.

I checked the weather once more before going to bed and realized an ice storm was headed right for us. Things were going to be treacherous in the morning. I contacted the night dispatcher and told them I had no choice but to return the load to the Salt Lake terminal and they would have to put someone else on it to run the southerly route. They agreed.

Tomorrow promised to be agonizing and dangerous. An hour after I shut down, the rain started and the temperature began its descent into the wintry abyss. I knew sleep would not come so I did not even try.

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The Apacalypse, Days 3 and 4

Posted January 23, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Springville, Utah to Twin Falls, Idaho

When I awoke, night still blanketed the horizon just outside Provo. The mountains in the distance were covered in a blanket of virgin white snow. Mother Nature had also left the gift of two feet of snow on my truck during the night. I have to say the mountain looked better than my truck.

I slipped and slid into the truck stop and began asking truckers about road conditions. Most of them—including dozens of seasoned drivers—had not ventured out yet. Fear in the eyes of those who had confirmed what I already knew in my heart… roads were bad.

Because I had crept along the day before, I was even more behind schedule so my fleet manager began looking for a team to take it the rest of the way to Washington. I was fifty miles from my Salt Lake City terminal. Surely, I’d be able to get the load that far.

Reports were two feet of snow on Interstate 15 and the plows had stopped trying to keep up. They would resume at four. So I walked back to my truck and waited. And waited. At six I went back into the truck stop and asked questions again. Roads were still bad and now there were seventeen reported accidents between where I was and Salt Lake City. There was a two mile back up just to get onto the interstate at my exit.

I passed the time shoveling the snow off my truck. When I felt that rush hour had passed, I pulled out. At the corner, cars were getting stuck in the snow. I swung left and headed up the hill toward the entrance to the interstate. The traffic suddenly stopped. On ice. I slowed down and tried desperately to not come to a stop. I could not afford to slide backwards into a car.

The light finally changed and traffic moved before I had to stop. Cars were slipping in the ice and snow. Trucks and larger vehicles tossed the frozen slush into windshields, blinding drivers. Traffic was stop and go. Mostly, stop and wait for emergency vehicles to pick their way through the sea of stopped cars to ones that had been involved in accidents.

I crept toward the exit I would need to take to go to the terminal. The excitement I’d felt at the possibility of having another truck take this load farther into the frozen tundra broke through the ice when my fleet manager told me to keep rolling. No team nearby. He would try to find a team farther up the road.

He asked me to stop in Twin Falls, Idaho. Surely, he’d find someone by then. So onward I slid. The roads improved slightly between Salt Lake City and the Idaho border but as soon as I crossed the state line, conditions deteriorated quickly. I flipped on my four-wheel-drive and slowly picked my way between black ice, two feet of slush and steep drop offs on the rolling hills.

The landscape disappeared as I drove the last forty miles in a white out. Again. The weigh station in Burley, Idaho was open despite the conditions and all trucks are called into that station. When I rolled across the scales, I got the electronic message to park and bring in my paperwork. That’s never a good sign. I grabbed my stuff and headed inside. The officer checked my declared weight on my paperwork and concluded that I was overweight because my truck had collected ice from the road. But overweight is overweight, no matter what the reason and I was busted. I stood there in silence waiting for him to write my ticket, realizing I would be several hundred dollars out of pocket because of the ice I’d grown to HATE.

Surprisingly, he let me go with the warning that I would be ticketed in Boise if the problem was not corrected before then. I scooped up all my paperwork and headed out the door, grateful that I’d just been extended mercy. Unless there was an unexpected spring thaw overnight, I figured I was just prolonging the agony. But I was still grateful all the same.

The next day conditions were so bad, the roads closed in the westbound direction. Eight feet of snow dumped on and around my truck, effectively burying it. A few trucks were coming through the fuel isle, getting stuck, having to get help to get out. One truck got stuck right in front of me, so I dug myself out of my own igloo and trudged through the snow to help him. The driver behind him became impatient and tried to pass him. He got stuck as well.

A fourth driver walked up and we all worked together to get the trucks unstuck. It was fifteen below and snowing. We all stopped installing chains and looked up as another driver approached. His question would have been comical if we hadn’t been frozen.

“Do you think you could move your trucks somewhere else to put your chains on? You’re blocking the exit, and we need to get out.” He spoke with a very thick accent, which seemed to anger the driver who was laying on the frozen snow. But the four of us who’d been up to our elbows in snow and ice for the better part of an hour all successfully resisted the urge to kill the guy. And, when we suggested he lend us a hand, he excused himself and ran back to the comfort of his nice, warm un-stuck truck. Apparently he’d never heard that we’re all in this together and we should help each other.

The two trucks finally grabbed some traction and away they went. I returned to my igloo and tried not to think of the HUGE job I would face in the morning digging my seventy- three foot long truck out of six feet of snow before I could move an inch. I had no idea how things could possibly get worse but I would soon find out.

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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.”

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