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ESSAY #100! (A Trucking Tale)

Updated: May 10

Lacking a better idea, I’m using essay #100 as an excuse to dust off and share an old trucking diary of a week-long cross-country road trip.

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100 DANNY’S TABLE essays… my, that went by fast!

Back in early 2022 I had already been thinking about launching DANNY’S TABLE for many months– close to a couple of years, truth be told– before actually doing so. My bride Andrea, my friends and family… all who had known me as a writer were steadily urging me forward. And in accordance with my well-known nature, I was stubbornly resisting them. The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was an essay written by KaylaC., a young and very bright employee at one of the stores to which I regularly deliver. We had gradually formed an unexpected comfort level that eventually led us to share thoughts about writing, and then our actual essays. Her fabulous and heartfelt piece “Triple-A” inspired me to finally establish DANNY’S TABLE.

To get things started I turned first to WinH., a talented and experienced webmistress… who is also Andrea’s goddaughter. She knowledgeably walked me through my options, the process, and the costs involved. Around that same time I happened to be perusing yet another plea for financial support from the New England prep school that I had attended after high school for an additional year of college prep… something that my parents felt certain that I needed. An unsophisticated bumpkin from upstate apple country doesn’t easily commingle with the snooty L. L. Bean & Lacrosse set, and I never kept in touch with a single one of my fellow students… and yet, as I read this school’s latest fund-raising flier, the name of one classmate– the only one I ever gave a rat’s derriere about– suddenly criss-crossed my brow.

TomR. stood out as an especially special young man among the army of corduroy-and-docksider conformity. He had the physique of a Greek god, the mind of a renaissance man, and the gift of gravitas that made him a natural choice for student government leadership. He and I seemed like total opposites… until I figured out that he was privately laughing with me at all the preppy silliness. We never came close to being friends, but I left that school with the sense that he and I definitely “got” each other. So, on a whim after composting that fundraising flier, I reached out to him after so many decades, and we began a delightful conversation. He is far more literate than I, and his off-hand comments often send me– a certifiable word junkie– scurrying to the nearest dictionary.

And more than anyone else, TomR. helped me find my voice for my DANNY’S TABLE essays. He graciously agreed to read a few prototypes of my earliest writings, and his feedback was both precise and priceless. 99 essays later, here we are.

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So… what is a fitting topic for Essay # 100? I couldn’t think of anything worth making into a bigger deal than the preceding 99, so I’ll default to sharing a favorite “Going Home” tale from my cross-country trucking days.

Beautiful Castaic, California

Going Home, Day 0– Oxnard & Castaic, Forced Rest

After a 600-miles-per-day cross-country trip from Miami (FL) to Oxnard (CA) that burned my entire weekly driving clock, I holed up in Castaic, California for my legally-required 34-hour reset. Those long miles will mean a fat paycheck, but the extra time on the road killed my plans for a long-awaited get-together with college friends. Such is the life of a trucker.

Tiny Castaic— an hour north of Los Angeles, in theory— has evolved into a truck haven in a region otherwise infamous for its paucity of 18-wheeler accommodations. I arrived fairly late on Monday, but I found a funky little honky-tonk that allowed truck parking for $10/ night... with a $5 bar credit as a rebate. I spent the evening watching Monday Night Football with a pair of drivers from African nations, happily agreeing that yes, soccer is a far superior sport. I spent Tuesday mostly on-line and taking walks, periodically fetching fresh coffee, and patronizing the fabulous burrito carts.

Going Home, Day 1– Escape from LA

When it’s time for me to head home, my company does their best to expeditiously route me there. Ideally, I would be covering 2800 miles in 5 days... across mountains, deserts, prairie, and four time zones. As expected, I would need to head into Los Angeles to pick up a load headed east. This first leg of my journey home is a load from LA to Denver.

The shipper’s warehouse was in the lowermost intestines of Los Angeles... the rough and gritty side of LA, 180 degrees opposite Tinseltown and Rodeo Drive... the side of the city where disputes are settled with tire irons and razors, not pricey lawyers and snarky leaks to VARIETY.

LA-area highway traffic is either slow or stopped. After loading— and getting a flat fixed— I crawled my way northeast toward San Bernardino County. Only later did I learn that the tire shop just north of LA to which I had been dispatched for repairs was once run by legendary car guru Carroll Shelby between his health-shortened race-car-driving career and his life’s second act… developing souped-up Cobras, Mustangs, and the Ferrari-killing GT40.

Significant portions of the San Bernardino hillsides catch fire every autumn, and this year was especially bad, with wildfire smoke compounding with the incoming ocean air to form an especially irritating version of the region’s signature smog. Finally free of LA automotive congestion, I longed for similar relief from the eye-burning atmosphere. As I zig-zagged up the asphalt staircase of I-15N from sea level to the 4000 ft. Cajon Summit, the soupy LA air mercifully gave way to that of the High Desert— bone-dry and perfectly clear, affording 100-mile vistas to distant mountains.

Escape from “Shaky-Town”– the approach to Cajon Pass on I-15N.

The trek across California’s Mojave Desert in notable for its vast expanses of nothingness, dotted occasionally by mines, military bases, and ghostly carcasses— cars of every generation, skeletons of what once were houses or even whole towns— all long-abandoned and desiccated to civilization jerky by the relentless desert sun.

Shortly after entering Nevada, the glitzy, gilded edifices of Sin City rear themselves from the dry sands with little warning. Indeed, Las Vegas seems arbitrarily located in the middle of the vast desert for no apparent reason. Originally a sleepy army base, it was transformed by the Perfect Storm of the Hoover dam, which unwittingly provided sufficient hydration and mega-wattage for a yet-unplanned megalopolis; Nevada's especially lax laws governing vices known to man since pre-biblical antiquity; and the long-range vision of a few career criminals.

I don’t gamble, but I’ve enjoyed two meals in Las Vegas, both quite memorable— one was an unexpected anniversary dinner with Andrea at the Bellagio, a generous treat from a college friend; the other was the best burrito on the planet at a food truck run by an elderly Mexican couple, parked on a barren lot near the landfill. I love contrasts like that.

A half hour after spotting the first lights of Vegas I was back in the dark and barren desert, clipping the northwest corner of Arizona and heading up into Utah.

My idea of a Colorado Rocky Mountain High.

Going Home, DAY 2– Over the Rockies

This morning I woke up in a western Utah Walmart parking lot... a great place for a trucker to sleep, actually, for Walmart stores constitute a backup network of de facto truck stops with 24-hour bathrooms, inexpensive fresh groceries, and a free Internet signal.

I also like waking up near a Starbucks... not so much for good coffee, which is surprisingly available in regular truck stops, but rather for the welcome taste of normal (non-trucking) life. I also enjoy their musical selections, but did they REALLY need to play “The Only Living Boy in New York” to a homesick trucker sitting exactly 2267 miles away from his wife, stove, and lawnmower in Penfield, NY? The sudden rush of sentimentality and actual tears caught me way off-guard; I’ve become really good at the lifestyle that trucking necessitates, but I’m still human.

I-70 takes rise at exit 132 on I-15N in Utah and terminates over two thousand miles east in Baltimore. Along the way it strings the cities of Denver, Kansas City, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Columbus, and (almost) Pittsburgh.

But before all that, Interstate I-70 leapfrogs the Rockies.

Some of God's finest handiwork.

The western run-up to America’s mightiest range is one of the most spectacular stretches of road in America. All manner of massive, pottery-hued rock formations — sculpted by wind, water, gravity, and time measured in eons— decorate the Utah landscape for over a hundred miles. Increasing altitude accumulates too gradually to notice, and on my lunch break I was reminded by an explosion of mustard not to open condiments at 7,000 feet that were last resealed near sea level.

Upon crossing into western Colorado I realized anew that the ridge of Rockies dominating the Centennial State is a cultural as well as continental divide. The western communities have a decidedly old-west, red state feel— during a layover in the western Colorado town of Rifle a few years back I got a salon cut from a hip-looking, youngish mother who boasted with equal pride of her daughter’s 4H accomplishments and her freezer-full of mountain lion meat from a recent hunt. Across the street stood the SHOOTERS GRILL, where the waitresses openly wear revolvers and Glocks on their hips as they serve their customers. Meanwhile, on the eastern side of the peaks, Coloradans are more likely to get their Rocky Mountain Highs from their local dispensary than from hunting and fishing.

Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colorado. Nobody bitched about the food… never been robbed, either. And yes, that is the freshman Colorado Republican congresswoman Lauren Boebert on the right… she actually owned the joint, which closed in 2022.

Rifle is the last Colorado town heading east before I-70 gets seriously tricky. As if to signify that the road was about to turn from tame to wild, a small herd of elk stood casually grazing in a farmer’s field on the edge of town. The mountains suddenly grew taller and closer, pinching the roadside Colorado River to less than ten feet in width. My 15-liter turbo-diesel groaned with effort as it tackled the winding climb, and an hour later I was at 10,000 feet, passing through the ski region where surviving pockets of last year’s snow still clung to the north faces. After another hour I was at the Eisenhower Tunnel, altitude 11,200 feet... over a mile above the Mile High City of Denver that lay 50 more miles ahead. Speeding down the mountain in a truck is strongly discouraged by several signs along the lengthy descent, so I prudently kept it in low gear all the way down to Denver...

I’m trying to get home, after all... alive and in one piece, ideally.

Going Home, Day 3– CLOCKS

I began this sunny and clear Denver Friday 1,626 miles from home. I signed into my e-log clock at 6:56 AM local (Mountain) time, exactly at the completion of my mandatory 10-hour rest after stopping last night. My driving clock shows that I drove 587 miles yesterday, slowed somewhat by the mountain driving. I covered 485 the day before, slowed even more by Los Angeles traffic congestion. But now nothing but easy Midwestern highway mileage awaits me... those 1,626 miles would be easily drivable in 3 days, getting me home Sunday night... theory, anyway.

Once we drivers begin our workday, we are allowed to drive 11 hours within a 14- hour window. This 3-hour cushion is eaten all or in part by vehicle inspections, fueling, pick-up, delivery, and our mandatory half-hour break. And we have to conclude our day at an actual parking spot, be it at a truck stop or a Walmart. Therefore, 11 hours of driving— particularly at full speed on flat, straight Interstate— constitutes a satisfying, well-paid driving day. But this hardly ever happens... 600+ mile days are rather infrequent.

First of all, for any 8-day span we truckers are limited to 70 hours of work time, and so a sequence of long driving days can eat that up pretty quickly. My day-and-a-half break in California re-set my 70-hour clock, giving me more than enough time to get home. But a bigger drag on our available drive time is that, in our real-world economy, it is often we truckers who must absorb schedule discrepancies with unpaid delays on loading docks... dead time that eats away at our 14-hour clock.

I arrived at my Friday morning delivery as scheduled— a few minutes before 8:00 AM— and found the usual sign that reads “Drivers Check In Here.” After knocking on the door for a full half-hour, the receiving clerk told me that, contrary to my electronically-transmitted load assignment, my actual appointment time was 6:00 AM. “Just sit tight,” I was told, and they’d “see what they could do.” She would let me know as soon as she had any information for me (i.e., I shouldn’t bother her again.)

At 10:00 AM I checked back with her, armed with a fabricated excuse—“My company says they need to know what’s going on,” I said with a sympathetic, “you-know-how-THEY-are” roll of my eyes. This often works; this time it didn’t. The bosses were “in a meeting right now,” she replied, with an eye-roll of her own. She really would let me know as soon as she knew.

After 2 hours of this type of delay, my company starts its own clock for “detention pay.” The good news is that I get $12/hour for doing nothing except burning my 14-hour clock. The bad news is that it’s way less than I would get for driving. But more good news yet is that it doesn’t burn my available 70-hour clock... which of course doesn’t matter to me, because by all rights I should get home long before my 70-hour clock expires. theory, anyway.

UPDATE: Later That Day

At noon Denver time—after sitting at this receiver for 4.5 hours— they told me that they’re “willing to unload me today.” Just open the doors and back into that dock right there. I opened them and then saw, to my horror, the actual load for the first time— several thousand small boxes that would have to be individually scanned and counted.

To be continued...

UPDATE: Day 3, Evening

I’m still in Denver. On the western end of the Mile High City sits the TA Truck Stop where I spent last night. On the eastern extreme is the Flying J Truck Stop, where I'm spending tonight. Thanks to the all-day live unload, I drove a grand total of 25 miles today. I could have driven more, but the late afternoon Denver traffic would have made Los Angeles jealous, and I also wanted to normalize my daily schedule for the drive east. (I'll be losing 2 hours going from MDT to EDT, and truck stops generally fill up by 6:00PM.)

But I've got a nice new load from Denver to Ohio that delivers on Monday morning, then a load to Pennsylvania, which will bring me to my terminal for the 270-mile trip in my personal vehicle to home, hearth, and honey in Penfield, NY.


I drove a total of 25 miles yesterday. Were it not for detention pay, I would have consumed a day away from everyone and everything I love while spending more money than I earned. But I did make good use of my time— reading, writing, exercising, and wrapping up a deal through which my daughter drives a brand new Chevy Spark off a showroom floor while her father gets a 5-year, 3.7% APR monthly reminder of his parental adoration. And after spending so many hours parked on a loading dock instead of driving, I woke up at 3:00AM today ready to grab the day by the balls, give it three full turns, and yank sharply downward.

The miles I could have driven yesterday are gone forever, but a good hard day would feel like I’ve regained something. If I could drive all the way to my assigned fuel stop in my allotted 11 hours, that would mean 640 miles.

The load that I picked up late yesterday weighed over 43,000 pounds, meaning that I needed to scale it for legal compliance. Sure enough, my drive axles were too heavy, so I would have to shift some weight rearward by locking the trailer brakes and driving the rest of the truck backward, thereby shortening the wheelbase. No problem. Fresh-brewed Colombian coffee at the ready, I headed to the highway, ready to spend a Saturday crossing the Great American Prairie.

Early frontier explorers found a vast expanse of mostly grassland extending roughly from Minnesota south to Texas and then westward to the Rockies... pretty much putting the prairie’s western border just east of Denver. It is fair to generalize that this mostly rural, half-million square mile rectangle of prairie is characterized by its dearth of trees, mountains, people, and moisture.

Although I was starting out well before sunrise, the starry sky and crisp air betokened a driving day free of weather issues. This was going to be a great day— 640 miles worth of payback on the prairie for the waste of a day before. But then, an hour east of Denver, the crystalline prairie atmosphere suddenly turned to milk.

Fog forms by several different meteorologic mechanisms, all of which result in air becoming too cool to hold its proportion of water vapor as an invisible gas. And whatever the cause, I was suddenly driving into a dense dance of water droplets that not even my state-of-the-art LED high beams could penetrate beyond 50 yards. To drive at full highway speed with so little visibility would directly invite death; and yet driving at a speed appropriate to such conditions– say, 25 MPH– would be a waste of my allotted driving hours. Warm sunlight is fog’s best-known antidote, so I pulled over and took a nap until sunrise.

My GPS accurately counts down the time needed to reach my destination. And subtracting this figure from my legally available driving time yields my cushion, or what I call my “fluff.” When I awoke from my nap to morning sunshine and clear air, I had enough fluff for a mandated half-hour break with about 20 minutes to spare to cover my planned 640-mile shift.

I try to combine meals with my mandatory half-hour breaks when time is tight, so I pulled into an I-70 truck stop with a McDonald’s in Wakeeney, Kansas. But instead of the usual handful of retired farmers discussing national affairs over coffee, this McDonald’s restaurant was fully packed— as it turns out, I had neglected to factor in the proximity to the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference “Fall Fling” Volleyball Tournament. Looking especially primed for victory as I waited more than twice the usual time for my food was the table-full of leggy blonde diggers and spikers representing the Bethany College Swedes Varsity–

Not all Swedes are blonde, but most of them are at this Kansas Christian college.

I was down to 15 minutes of fluff headed into Kansas City when the metallic screech of a National Weather Service alert confirmed what the blackening sky before me was already suggesting— crappy weather ahead.

We Rochesterians commonly mutter oaths of disgust between shovelfuls of lake-effect snow, but the storms in the nation’s breadbasket— summer OR winter— are often considerably more extreme. A mid-winter Nebraska storm, for instance, might usher in Arctic lows of -45ºF, or worse. And unhindered by upstate New York speed-bumps like our glacial drumlins or the rugged Adirondacks, an Autumn midwest thunderstorm might whip itself to triple-figure ferocity. It might be a 6-mile-high, multi-level lightning war between clouds that inflicts neither water nor electricity on the ground below... or it might pack citrus-sized hail capable of maiming car and driver alike... or, worst of all, it might undertake super-cellular rotation, spawning multiple funnel clouds.

But as usual, the weather warning’s bark was nastier than the storm’s bite, and it just rained hard for a while. Cruise control is a no-no in the rain, so that slowed me a little, costing me a few more minutes of fluff. Then I encountered perhaps a dozen accident scenes in which drivers appeared to have carved new highway exits into the roadside fields, slowing me even more. My fluff was down to 5 minutes.

The late afternoon sun shone brightly beneath the layer of dark storm clouds, casting an eerie yet flattering light on the most prominent buildings of downtown Kansas City. Imagine a surprisingly charming mix of art deco and no-nonsense 1930’s WPA architecture... like they crossbred Manhattan’s Chrysler Building with an unabashedly midwestern railside grain warehouse and somehow came up with attractive offspring.

In contrast to the rest of the Kansas City skyline, however, its convention center— fashioned, they say, to resemble a suspension bridge— is generally considered a visual abomination, described by a local architecture critic as a “public embarrassment.” This is a troubling trend that I’ve observed with suspicious frequency in America’s heartland... almost as if a cabal of NEA-funded design school grads had decided one night over gluten-free edibles to snidely lampoon Midwestern aesthetics and then share thigh slaps about what they’d put over on all those ignorant cornhuskers. To my eyes and many others, the Kansas City Convention Center resembles leftover props from low-budget 1950’s sci-fi, while the I-29 crossover bridge in Council Bluffs, Iowa calls to mind a Native-American plane crash. From Albuquerque to Minneapolis, numerous other examples of such architectural atrocities abound.

Kansas City, or OZ? KC’s infamous Convention Center in all its bizarre glory.

Traffic thickened like pudding on the uphill stretch of I-70 just east of Kansas City. I was down to 3 minutes of fluff as I dragged my 78,000 pounds of truck and cargo up the grade, watching my cushion of driving time dwindle to 2 minutes, then 1, and then 0... and soon into the negative. There was no way under the operative laws of physics to get that time back, just like I could never retrieve yesterday’s unused drive time. But like a good pilot I had a Plan B— I knew of a closer truck stop, one with good coffee, a free Internet signal, and a decent barbecue joint next door that is owned by a football junkie who shares my nostalgia for the 1969 Kansas City Chiefs.

Out here on the highway, that’s all I ask. I covered 620 miles today, leaving me only 1050 miles from my Andrea in Penfield. I’m only 2 days away.

Going Home, Day 5– Sunday Morning

Whenever possible I try to get a late start on Sundays. I take time to enjoy extra coffee, teach the NYT crossword some manners, and get a jump on the weekly NPR puzzler. Those who've been following my cross-country trip home might agree that this has been an interesting trip... and to be honest, writing about it every day has made me more observant, more appreciative of what I see and experience. Thanks for joining me– it makes me feel like I'm not traveling alone.

As I trust my posts have convincingly demonstrated, this country of ours is very different from one state to another. Seeing several of them in one day is thrilling and enlightening, and yet it can also remind me how far from home I am. In particular, I miss the familiar signs of Autumn, my favorite season. Although the scenery beside I-70 turned more forested as I neared the eastern edges of the prairie, I have yet to see anything close to what we northeasterners accept as eye-pleasing Autumn foliage. Only the uniformly butternut hue of Colorado's signature aspen trees offered any hint of the spectacular brilliance we associate with NY's sugar maples every October.

Soon... 2 more days, if all goes according to plan.

Kansas City Barbecue– Smoky Heaven!

Another reason to lolly-gag this autumn Sunday is football. Notwithstanding what I told those African drivers back in Castaic, I consider the NFL the worldwide king of sports leagues. And although I find myself decreasingly interested in the actual outcomes, the play-by-play of multiple games on satellite radio will make my remaining 580 miles on this load melt beneath my tires with ease. I'm also sitting just outside Kansas City right now... the hometown Chiefs are starting to look like Super Bowl contenders, and the BBQ joint next to this truck stop opens at noon. I'll order a proper football Sunday feast to enjoy when I stop… and share vintage Chiefs trivia with the owner while I’m waiting.

Day 5, Very Late at Night–

At 5:45 this afternoon I crossed the Mississippi River from west to east. At 8:45 I crossed into the Eastern Time Zone. Just before midnight I entered the state of Ohio, which, as a cross-country trucker, I’ve come to consider part of the northeast…

Going Home, Day 6— The Final Leg

While crossing Missouri I had begun to see more familiar flora, a welcome sight after so many days of desert Joshua trees and alpine aspens. But it was when I entered Ohio that I finally started to feel truly close to home. Ohio may or may not be part of the northeast, but it sure feels familiar to a western New Yorker. Though separated by a short stub of Pennsylvania, we and Ohio raise similar crops and share Lake Erie as well as its lake-effect climatic influence. Western New Yorkers love to bash Cleveland, and yet I grew up among quite a few football fans who favored the Browns over the culturally and geographically more distant NY Giants.

As in neighboring Great Lakes states Indiana and Illinois, Ohio’s diversity is vertically stratified. In the north, the citizenry of these three states enjoy the usual ice-cream-and-fireworks summers at the lakeshore, while in the south a twang of Dixie permeates both the language and the culture. Of this trio, Ohio seems the most like all of America boiled down into one state... a well-coordinated combination of urban and rural, with factories coexisting quite peacefully with neighboring farms… and the only place I’ve found where Canadian-owned TIM HORTONS operates side-by-side with Atlanta-based WAFFLE HOUSE. No wonder Ohio is always such a crucial swing state every four years.

President John F. Kennedy once sardonically described Washington, D.C. as “a city of southern efficiency and northern charm.” I would actually describe Ohio as the opposite, the best of both worlds. It is a particularly truck-friendly state, crisscrossed with straight and safe highways, and the warehouses and factories are especially accessible. Even the most polished solicitation I’ve ever gotten from truck lot hooker occurred in the Buckeye State, at a Pilot station in Toledo. Although I politely declined her business proposal, I made a point of complimenting her poise and salesmanship.

I arrived at the receiver as scheduled. I had to fork over a (company-paid) “Lumper Fee,” a creative shakedown whereby the receiver of goods actually extorts payment (up to $500!) for unloading the truckload of goods that they ordered. I imagined the ghosts of the criminal geniuses who conceived Las Vegas smiling with admiration at such profitable and brazen thuggery. This happens all over the country, but I was just a little surprised to experience this at a small company in Ohio.

And then I was off to Pennsylvania. Although centrally-situated Harrisburg is nominally its capital, Pennsylvania is more accurately under the sway of two distant poles of influence— Philadelphia on the eastern seaboard, and Pittsburgh in the rust belt. In between, in the deep folds and creases of the Alleghenies and the Appalachians, the denizens of the rural Pennsylvania countryside tend to embody the wire-rimmed, lantern-jawed equanimity of the colonial Quakers and the timeless Amish.

In contrast to truck-friendly Ohio, there exists in all of Pennsylvania no set of points A and B such that a straight, flat route can be driven from one to the other. Older Pennsylvania factories and warehouses are often deeply embedded in the small towns that have grown up around them, with streets so narrow that it feels like I could reach into residential windows as I squeeze through a central thoroughfare. Fortunately, my destination this time was a modern and fully accessible warehouse.

Now it was time to actually go home. I drove the remaining 70 miles to my terminal, making it 570 for the day. I transferred my dirty clothes and other essentials to my personal vehicle. It was midnight, and if I drove all night I could cover the 270 miles to Penfield and be home for breakfast.

But I was tired. Maybe because my week-long sojourn from Los Angeles was finally over and the pressure was off, or maybe not, but I suddenly felt more tired than I had in a very long time. Over the last few years I’ve met many drivers who boast of a seemingly supernatural ability to drive way too many miles in one day. It is often (but certainly not always) a driver from a former Soviet Republic, and the conversation usually goes like this:

DRIVER: How far you drive today?

ME: Oh, five seventy.

DRIVER: Ha! Today I drive nine hundred non-stop!

ME: Wow. That’s kind of… illegal. What happens if you get caught?

DRIVER: Keep two logbook— one for me get paid, another show DOT I driving legal.

ME: But... don’t you get tired?

DRIVER: No get tired! Before driving fill thermos with 5-hour Bull.

ME: You have to stop for bathroom breaks though...

DRIVER: Stop for nothing! Run tubing down trouser-pant to gallon jug. Urinate like cosmonaut!

This conversation is apocryphal, but stuff like this really happens, folks. I don’t drive like that, even when I’m going home after a month on the road. I’ve seen enough upside-down FedEx trucks and what I’ve come to call “Texas Two-Sheeters” to understand that death rides shotgun on our highways, especially when so many fellow drivers are using a phone at the wheel or simply too tired. When it comes to safe driving, there are no participation trophies if you don’t win.

So I slept for a few hours. It was actually DAY 7 when I got home.

The familiar route from Carlisle straight north to Penfield passed quickly in the Autumn morning sunshine. After reaching Williamsport, it was scenic and wide-open interstate driving for the rest of the way. Two decades ago I would have been driving through the peak of foliage season, but now it runs a good three weeks later.

October is the new late summer, I guess... all the better for tackling my outdoor “honey-do” list— raking leaves, cleaning gutters, etc. All in all, this trucking life agrees with me; I can always think of things I wish I could afford, and I always wish I had more time at home... but right now I couldn't be happier.

* * * * * * *

That trip was ten years ago, back when I went out on the road for thirty-day stretches and then came home for five… rinse and repeat. But four years ago I hooked up with a regional trucking company with a dedicated route, and I’m home for two days a week and never very far away. Sometimes I miss driving to new and faraway places… but most of the time I just feel thankful that I drove a million miles (literally) all over the USA, got a hard-earned and deeply-felt understanding of what makes America what it is… and lived to tell about it.

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