You’re Never Too Old

Posted March 24, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

In a couple of months I will reach a milestone. I’ll turn the BIG 6-0. Through the years as I navigated this incredible journey called life, I wasn’t sure what I thought I’d feel like at this age. But I can assure you THIS was NOT it.

I still run. Ok, these days it more resembles the march of the penguins but I’m still out there pounding the pavement. I did not even start driving a truck until I was 57. I climb all over my truck and trailer. I play with my neighbor’s grandkids. I camp in tents on the ground.

The only time I feel my age is when I look at the mirror, gaze at that wrinkly woman with silver hair staring back at me, gasp and ask, “Who are you and what have you done with Reba?”

Recently while in the Mojave Desert in California, I stopped to eat at a local hole in the wall diner. My waitress hurried over to take my drink order. It was hard not to notice she was older than me. Much older. 89 to be exact. She was as spry as they come. Genevieve (Genny for short), took orders from memory, carried huge heavy trays filled with food to tables and NEVER got the order wrong. Never.

She worked circles around her young spring chicken counterparts and refused to complain about anything. I asked her if she could sit for a few minutes. Surprisingly, she did and as I always do, I dug into her life.

Genny raised four sons on tips from the restaurant. She started there at the age of 14. It was where she met her husband. She was married at 16 and widowed at 17. Her husband was killed in World War II.  Suddenly a single parent, she worked double shifts to provide. When her boys got old enough to attend school, the bus dropped them off at the grill every day. They sat doing homework while Genny bussed tables and provided for their modest lifestyle.

Her eyes glowed as she spoke of her grown sons. “One is a doctor. One is a teacher, a professor at a college. The other two followed in their father’s footsteps and are officers in the military. All things considered, I guess we did alright.”

She went on to say her sons want her to give up her home in the desert and retire from her job at the diner. Quite frankly, I’d chastise myself moments earlier for thinking the same thing.  I asked her why she stayed out there in the desert slinging hash. Her answer was profound.

“I’ve done this for 75 years. It’s who I am. Doing anything else would require I give up my identity. I’m just not willing to give up who I am.”

“It’s been really hard work. I’m sure you’re tired.”

“There have been days that I was so tired I felt I couldn’t go on for another step. But it’s that same work that’s kept me young. It’s keeping me alive. Sure can’t complain about that. Hard work never hurt nobody.”

Genny worked seven days a week for more than 75 years without a vacation or even a single day off. That’s over 27,000 days she’s waited tables. She serves about 40 customers a day at that little well known diner. That means she’s served over a million meals in her lifetime to hungry passersby. Many of them were complete strangers who she never saw again. Yet, she treated them like family and saw to it their hunger needs were met.

She suddenly jumped up, thanked me for the “chat” but said she had to get back to work. She hurried away as she waved at regular customers who were walking in. She met them at their table with their usual drinks.

Genny is living proof that you are never too old to live your dream. You are never too old to continue really living life. Honestly, you are never too old to become who you were meant to be.

I may never see Genny again but I doubt I’ll ever forget her. Deep in the Mojave Desert, she proves that the Heartbeat of America is alive and well.








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You Never Know

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

I parked my truck and walked as fast as I could to Cracker Barrel. I’d been looking forward to a vegetable plate all day. I didn’t even mind climbing the endless hills in Kentucky to get there. I was seated by the hostess and immediately my server, Diana, appeared to take my order.

While waiting for my food to arrive, I got caught up in my own very important world. I read what my friends had eaten for breakfast as I flipped through Facebook. I deleted a dozen email offers to become rich overnight. I played games on my phone.

Sadly, I didn’t even notice the young couple next to me until I was half way through my fried okra and corn bread. Their newborn baby began to cry. When mom and dad’s attention was suddenly drawn to the tiny life form, the toddler joined in with his own whimper.

Diana passed by just then and dad asked for the check. She assured them she’d bring it right away, then looked in my direction to see if I needed anything. Immediately I knew that I needed to pick up this family’s tab. I mouthed to my server, “give it to me.” She nodded and walked away.

A few moments later, Diana approached the couple’s table and told them that their check had been covered by an anonymous individual. The young mother wiped tears away from her eyes that had to have been falling before she got my news.

I finished up my meal, grabbed both checks and headed for the cashier. Just as I slid them and my money across the counter, the young man approached. He called the elderly cashier by name and told her someone had paid their tab. She looked down and saw both tickets but kept our secret.

The young man herded his family out the door and they disappeared. The cashier then looked at me and said, “You have no idea what you’ve just done for that family.”

I looked up at her in surprise.

“That baby is a twin. The other baby died the same night it was born for no apparent reason. While they were all at the hospital, their home burned to the ground. Their two dogs and a cat died in the fire. They lost everything.”

I stood there shocked. Me… the conversationalist… stunned to silence. I finally asked how they were coping.

“Day to day,” she replied. “God’s looking after them. Sends folks like you to help them. To show them a glimmer of light. They’ll be alright. They’re tough.”

I exited the building and walked much slower the several blocks back to my truck. I was ashamed that so many minutes went by without my even noticing these precious people and feeling their pain. But I was grateful that God had shaken me out of my stupor before it was too late to bless them.

With each step I took, I was reminded how we never know what a person right next to us is suffering. They look… well, normal but they could be anything but. They are hurting. Devastated. Broken. But they put one foot in front of the other and are finding a way to move on.

I asked for God’s forgiveness for not being in tune with those He’d placed me next to. I also prayed for this incredible family who displayed immeasurable courage. They exemplify who Americans are. Even through tears, the heartbeat of America is alive and well.

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Where the Wind Blows

Posted March 9, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I awoke from a night of being tossed around by an ever-increasing wind. What had rocked me into a blissful slumber in the darkness was about to become a most formidable foe.

I dismissed my first proposed load. It had six stops, three of which were early in the morning in downtown Chicago. I do NOT go to Chicago. My next proposal would take me to Janesville, Wisconsin to pick up canned vegetables bound for Arkansas. Nice run. There was just one problem. I’d have to fight high winds for nearly 200 miles in an empty trailer.

Weather reports promised it would get worse as the day progressed. I was close to maximum winds for an empty trailer but still under the threshold, but safe. So off I rolled from Greenbay southwest to my new shipper. Hopefully, I’d get there safely before the winds became dangerous.

The moment I headed south on the interstate, my trailer was slammed with an invisible freight train. That started ongoing dialog with Siri regarding wind speed. Definitely intensifying. Very uncomfortable but still manageable.

After an hour of being blown around like a rag doll, I came into OshKosh. Just twenty-four hours earlier, I peacefully drove though the quaint town. Today, I was white knuckle weaving through gust after gust.

Suddenly, I saw a bridge up ahead. It was the lake! And I had no way to go but over the bridge! I slowed down to 30mph, normally a dangerous speed on the interstate. But, all things considered, I’d rather be rammed in the rear than be fished out of the lake. I turned on my emergency flashers right as the wind slapped my trailer. I slowed more, to 25mph. The trailer in front of me came off the ground. I whispered a prayer of thanks when the wheels touched down again.

I tapped the button on my headset, then asked Siri the wind speed.

“The wind is blowing at 62 mph right now.”

She sounded so calm. I was terrified! I slowed to 15mph and maneuvered my truck to hallway in the right lane and the other half in the emergency lane. That way the wind would not be able to get underneath my trailer and provide lift. If my enemy was going to blow me over, it would have to be from a direct hit.

It took over five long minutes—or was it an eternity—to get to the other side of the bridge. There was no safe place to stop so I had to keep going. Slowly.

One by one I began to pass carnage of the battle. Truck after truck lay in medians and on off ramps, where they came to rest after being blown over. I prayed for the drivers, hoping they were not seriously injured.

A family from Louisiana cruised along beside me in the left lane. I braked drastically to quickly get them away from me. I was a ticking time bomb and did not want to take innocent victims when I exploded.

Five hours after my nightmare began, I turned into my shipper. After checking in with the security guard, I pulled into a parking space and shut Dillon down. I stepped into the back of my truck, got down on my knees, cried and thanked God for protecting me.

An hour later, we received word that two of our trucks blew over. One was in Wisconsin and the other in Pennsylvania. They urged drivers to shut down and wait it out. I sat safely as the 38mph wind blew my parked truck around, knowing all too well that except for the grace of God, that would have been me.

Sometimes we know what we will face as drivers. We can avoid them. Perhaps I should not have struck out across Wisconsin yesterday. But the reports indicated I’d be safe. They were wrong and I found myself in a life threatening driving situation.

Prayer works. I am grateful to all those individuals who pray for me as I travel these highways and backroads of this great nation. Yesterday your prayers were needed and answered. I survived the ordeal with only a broken skirt on my trailer, severe motion sickness and a few shed tears.

The wind blows where it will. We can neither stop it or control it. We must find our way through an invisible obstacle course. It is the prayers of saints that keep us upright in the midst of the gale force winds of adversity in our lives. Pray… always pray…

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Roses in the Desert

Posted February 20, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I laced on my running shoes and jogged out into the early morning of the Mojave Desert. The sun had not quite yet made its appearance from behind purple mountains. This is the best the weather would be all day and I planned to make the best of it.

Not far from the truck stop where my adventure began, I saw a camper out in the desert. A peculiar sight for someone from Tennessee, but not at all uncommon in the vast desert. I’ve pulled my truck out in the desert to spend the night before. As I approached it, I made out large letters across the hood, “CB Man.” Moments later, an older Hispanic man emerged from the camper. I could not help myself so I ran over to him.

Manuel Gonzales is a Mexican immigrant who came to America knowing he could build a better life than back in his home country south of the border. He brought skills with him and put them to good use. Living and working in an old RV he purchased for $500, he repairs and installs CB radios for truck drivers. He advertises at the four truck stops nearby and is on call 24/7. He has never asked for a penny from anyone and has never taken government assistance of any kind, unless living in the desert would be considered taking a handout. His smile warmed me as the new morning sun cast a glow on his brown skin. We said goodbyes and I continued to trot down the highway.

I stayed on the road for a short while, then left the pavement behind, pounding across the desert floor. Soon I came to an entire community, completely abandoned. I’d read an article the night before about Barstow, California that had been printed in one of the large LA newspapers in 1955. It touted the boom town as the next Las Angeles. With its 10,000 citizens at that time, it was the crossroads of California. Today, sixty-one years later, the population has only doubled. I’d stumbled upon row after row of uninhabited homes in the middle of nowhere. I stared at the graveyard of a dream that promised to thrive, only to be boarded up and long since forgotten.

The cold morning briskness reminded me how harsh the desert can be. Buzzards flew overhead and landed nearby, just in case I succumbed to the harshness and became their morning meal. The wind began to whip the sand in my face. I knew all too well, it was only a prelude of the tropical storm strength winds that would come through later in the morning.

I spotted a young man riding a bicycle. As he approached, there were several unique things I noticed about him. His bike was a one speed beach rover, hardly what he needed to successfully navigate the desert. He carried everything he owned in a backpack on his back. And he was very, very happy. He embraced the morning and enjoyed a freedom that normally only eagles experience, having the entire Mojave Desert as his playground with no fences to restrict his adventure in any way. We talked for quite a while just like we were old friends. Jeremy’s pure uninhibited joy and zest for life was infectious. He was a bright red rose in the midst of a dry barren desert, the second one I’d seen this morning.

Jeremy reluctantly rolled on and I continued my jog through the brown sand, watching carefully for signs of rattlesnakes, though I knew the cold had driven them underground. Eventually, I made my way back to the road. I’d run much farther than I’d intended. The desert just lured me deeper and deeper into her enchanted grip.

I passed a deputy sheriff and waved gratefully, although I never felt anything but perfect peace in the Mojave. I looked up and saw a man walking toward me. As he approached, I began to slow and finally came to a stop as I reached him. Brock carried a huge backpack and had walked all the way from San Diego in search of a better life. He has friends some three hundred miles to the north and was going there hoping he’d find work, perhaps on the farms.

It seemed I was doing more talking than running today but this courageous man had me so intrigued, I did not want to leave. He did not feel comfortable asking people for rides so he used his own two legs and was making his way north. He then divulged he’d watched television and was afraid to get into vehicles with total strangers.

I told him about my bicycle trip and told him America is filled with wonderful people with a genuine desire to reach out and help their fellow human beings. He thanked me for being so positive.

I needed to make my way back east to my truck so I wished him well and jogged away. Suddenly, I remembered I had cash in my running pouch. I spun around and shouted his name just as I saw him leave the road and retreat into the desert. He stopped and turned. I jogged back to him.

“Brock, do you need money?”

He did not hesitate, “yes!”

I gave him the folded bills I had in my pouch. I have no idea how much it was but I saw a twenty and a five-dollar bill. Then I said, “Brock, don’t give up on Americans. Don’t doubt there are wonderful people out here who can help you get to where you’re going.”

With that I jogged off. After a while I looked back. He was still standing there staring at the old lady in spandex shorts in the middle of the Mojave Desert on an early Sunday morning.

Three people I encountered on a run through the middle of nowhere. Three times I came across a rose in the desert. One found a way to make a life. One left a life in search of freedom to be himself. One walked away from disappointment and marched hundreds of miles toward hope.

I’m not sure who got the greater blessing in the Mojave, them or me but as I jogged the last four miles back to the truck stop, my heart danced on the wings of the wind. As I rounded the corner and my truck came into view, Siri told me the wind was blowing at 23mph. I knew the window of opportunity to run had been timed perfectly. What a tragedy it would have been if I’d not experienced roses in the desert.

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Coal Miner’s Daughter

Posted February 13, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I recently rode again through the mountains of West Virginia. Each time I do, the rich black hills pull at my heart’s strings. I climbed the highways that cut through the heart of Appalachia. Coal mining towns dot the valleys. Homes, trees, buildings and vehicles are covered in a blanket of black dust from the mines.

A simple folk live in these hills. Bred with black etching the lines in their fingers like ink on a roadmap, most of them are the next generation of miners. In each house on every row between nowhere and the mine, there lives a coal miner’s daughter.  

Decades ago, a country music singer left the mining town in search of another life. Loretta Lynn gave us a glimpse of what life was like for those who mine the black gold. A hard existence from birth to death, but these people don’t complain. They just willingly accept their place in America. Most of them…

I know Miss America, 1993, Leanza Cornett. I watched her grow up. When then Miss Florida was crowned, she was the epitome of clamor and glitz. She was flawless. Breathtakingly drop dead gorgeous. Her personality would make you feel as if you just stepped into the presence of an angel. Precious young lady inside and out.

Looking at her crowned in all her glory, it’s difficult to imagine her humble beginnings. Like Loretta and the women in each of the houses on miner’s row, Leanza is a coal miner’s daughter.

Her father, Dick, decided to take a road less traveled. He escaped the mines, moved to sunshine and fresh air of Florida and opened a sandwich shop. The coal miner’s daughter decided to follow in her father’s footsteps. She believed the world was hers and she seized it.

As I drove through Charleston, I tried to imagine Leanza running through the black ash playing. Did she dream of being Miss America some day? Did she realize there was a place in the world that did not have coal dust? I searched the eyes of those in cars as I wound my way through the mining communities. I saw hundreds of coal miner’s daughters who drive the same black soot roads to the local Walmart where their mothers bought their baby food and diapers. They will marry a coal miner and will give birth to another coal miner’s daughter.

Finally, the gold and black capitol building in Charleston was no longer visible in the rearview mirror. I only had to drive a few miles to the east to feel the solemn quietness that looms over Huntington. I can’t help but wonder which of the protruding hills claimed the lives of the Marshall football team decades ago. After more than forty years, the town seems to still grieves those they lost that rainy night when their plane crashed and burned. Or perhaps they are mourning those who were swallowed up by the mine. Whatever the reason, an inconsolable heart has found a way to beat on, continuing life in spite of tragedy.

I know there is more to the story of West Virginia, far more than I could extract during a drive through the region. There are battles fought and beliefs stood up for by these strong, tough as nails mountain people. Just as there is so much below the surface of these mountains that most of us will never see, there are stories these folks have not told. They would most likely paint a different portrait than me but I cannot deny what I feel as I visit the hills in Appalachian coal country. It is a place like no other on earth, and one I would like to take time in to explore.

But I rolled on as truckers to. And here in West Virginia, men will keep descending deep into the mountain to bring out the black gold. Women will give birth to a coal miner’s daughter who’ll grow up to marry another coal miner. Such is the circle of life in the coal mining town.

The mountains breathe in the coal dust and exhales it into the beauty all its own, where coal miner’s daughters remind us that the heartbeat of America is alive and well in West Virginia.

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Farm Fresh Indeed!

Posted January 31, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I clicked off mile after mile up the familiar I-44. Before I would arrive at our terminal, I just had to make one stop. My fleet manager landed me a load to bring in to put my truck in the shop. Rather than deadheading from Oklahoma, I would now be paid for the miles.

I called ahead to the shipper because my loading appointment was not until five in the afternoon. I would need a place to park my truck for eight hours before I would have enough drive time to get into the terminal. The shipper said they were a farm so parking would be no problem. I could stay as long as I needed to.


I left the modern road behind and climbed the roller coaster hills into the farm country of southern Missouri. Two turns and I arrived at—a FARMHOUSE? Surely, the GPS was incorrect.

Just as I was about to keep going, three men began waving happily at me so I pulled into the driveway. Within seconds Abraham, Isaac and Jacob greeted me as if I was their long lost friend. Unlike the two younger men, Abraham wore a long beard. All three donned leather hats and old fashioned button-down breeches.

I had just stepped back in time!

Abraham told me they would not be able to load me before my appointment because, well, they had not picked the kale yet. He asked me to turn my truck around and I could just stay right there until they were ready to load.

Hours went by but I didn’t notice. I was fascinated by this incredible Mennonite family in Missouri. They were quiet, respectful, and very hard workers. Men, women and children began to arrive in cars. Before long there was an army of workers ready for work in the fields.

All the men wore button down breeches and leather hats. The women wore skirts to their ankles, jackets and bonnets. The children were miniature versions of their parents. Each of them waved at me as they pulled in. Their smiles were infectious!

Within moments, the troop entered the fields and began to pick the valuable commodity. The little ones carried the kale in cloth shoulder bags to a washing station just outside the house. The women washed the greens and placed the clean product in boxes. Other children took box after box to a trailer. The young men prepared the boxes onto pallets inside that trailer and slid the pallets by hand to one side of the trailer. No one broke a speed record. It was slow and methodical and yet, strangely effective. I watched in awe at this completely manual process was getting the job done.

About four in the afternoon, Isaac asked me to open the doors of my precooled trailer so they could load. The only modern part of this entire process was a fork life. Interestingly, it never went into the back of my truck. It stayed on the rocky ground of the farm. They had no dock for me to back up to. Getting the machine into my truck was an impossibility.

Loading my truck was a two-man job. One slid a pallet to the edge of the preparation trailer to be picked up by the fork lift. He then jumped out of the trailer, and climbed into mine. The forklift carried the pallets to my truck and lifted them inside. The other worker then slid the pallets by hand to the front of my trailer. This process was repeated fifteen times until all the pallets were loaded. Kale is super light and even a pallet full, it can easily be moved without the use of lifting equipment.

As Abraham prepared the paperwork for me, I marveled that my truck could be loaded by hand in a completely manual process more quickly than most modern shippers can load it with all the best equipment.

Abraham shook my hand and asked if there was any way I would be the one to come back for future loads. I would have loved that but I had a feeling it might not happen. He assured me that I would not be disturbed in their driveway and again told me to stay as long as I wished.

Cars loaded with Mennonite workers disappeared the same way they had arrived, waving and smiling at me like we were BFF’s. My heart soared at this part of America and this family who remains untouched by our ultra-modern, super-techno charged way of life.

I stayed another three hours to get time back then left the Mennonite farm behind, my life enriched by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, their families and a culture that, despite all the modern conveniences available, choose to live a simple lifestyle.

The heartbeat of yesterday’s America is still alive in southern Missouri!

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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.


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.


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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