The quiet time of the morning, late into the night, and everyone is asleep in their beds. Tucked away, safe, insulated from the cold night. A time for reflection, deep inner thoughts, of the things that could have been. Here I sit. Thinking about trucking and getting away to the great American Highway. People who think that trucks and trucking as a form of transportation probably figure that sex is just about reproduction. I live in a town divided by Interstates. I-40, I-240, 244-I-35, the lifeblood of the nation, and I have never been confused about trucking.
I first put my hands on the wheel at the young and tender age of twenty-one. Just barely a man, and I have since then, always been looking back. Now at 52 years of age, I find myself, every now and then, looking back on those days, now long past. Living my life in quiet desperation in the wee hours of the night. Silently yearning for the smell of fresh diesel in the morning, vividly recalling screaming down some two-lane with the window down, the whine of the rubber meeting the asphalt in the corridors of my mind.
Before gainful employment corrupted my life, I used to delight in long solo drives back to the Midwest to check up on the Rust Belt of America. I would leave Tucson at three in the morning, fresh shave, clean shirt, and 43,000 lbs. of Oranges, locked down in the donkey behind me. For miles, the scent of the greasewood desert would pour through my open window. The sounds of savage Rock N Roll from a station in Juarez would mingle in the cab, with the steady drone of the Cummings and the whine of the ten-hundred-twenty-two’s my steady companion. “East bound and Down, I would have the hammer down.” King of the Super-Slab, speeding along life’s highway, between the ditches. Now and then the chatter of other truckers breaking the bacon-frying static of the CB and the night would wear on.
Tucumcari, New Mexico, and the crowded truckstop, black coffee and no place to park. Up the big hill, and on to Amarillo, Texas, always offering the best steak & eggs in the nation. Then the long stretch, to the hill country of Oklahoma, and the Turner Turnpike. 100 miles of nothing but miles, and the Grapes Of Wrath, would echo in my mind. Then to sleep, tucked away in the quiet dreams of better days.
The following night would find me racing through the Oak Hills of Missouri, listening to tortured Ozark music and letting truck stops stuff me with “radiated chicken fried steaks and potatoes ” Tired now, I would pull over more often to mainline more black coffee. The road stretches out before me like a ribbon of chance, the miles silently break and fall away as I listen to the chatter of truckers. The Flying Dutchman of our culture. Finally, St. Louis and the first White Castle Hamburger Stand. The Big River, the Arch, and the green roar of corn, as I turn due north and cut up Southern Illinois.
Chicago glows on the horizon like an outpost of the lost, I swing off the freeway off ramp just north of the loop, three blocks from the farmers market. It’s crowded, barely room to breathe. So many trucks that your mirrors would chink just trying to navigate to the warehouse in the maze of stacks and chrome. Often I would carefully park, lock up, and stride into the local beanery for something lite to eat before going to sleep. Plenty of time to run the gauntlet of garbage haulers in the morning.
End of the road, bump the dock and unload. Just enough time for a good hot cup of coffee and a smoke. Whack ‘em down and then hit the road. Westbound and Down, 16 on the floor, and the other foot out the door, what a way to make a livin’. The insane cycle repeats itself.
Here lately I hear a lot of cheap talk about trucks being objects of man’s affection. Chrome plated Stallions of the Nations Highways. Status items in today’s society, fantasy devices for the men who drive them. Having driven over 20,000 miles plus miles for decades, I can testify, that trucking is something that gets into one’s blood. It is hard work and not much fun. A lifestyle of choice, and not necessity.
And even tho’ now, I am a crazed environmentalist, a boring advocate of Mass Transit, a wage slave of never ending five day weeks, a silent advocate for the movers of America’s products, I remain a Trucker at heart deep down.
I guess you might say I am a fiend for the open road … Born in the USA!
Tonight as many nights, I find myself sitting here, wondering out loud, of Pig Iron Ponies, shiny wagons and the men who pull them. Thinking about trucking and getting back to the Great American Highway. As I remember it, such trips took 35/40 hours and were an insult to the National Safety Council or the Ralph Nader types of this day and age. Like I said: “Sixteen on the floor, and the other foot out the door.” It probably worried my friends and family, those near and dear to me. Looking back I have to wonder, “why did I rush so?” and sadly, I have no valid answer.
Four-forty-five am … “Wednesday — Hump Day for a five day a week wage slave.” The quiet time of the morning, late into the proverbial night, and the family tucked away into the safety, and warmth of their respective beds. Insulated from the cold, dark night.
A time for reflection, deep inner thoughts, of the things that could have been.
What a way to make a livin’.