Not everyone can handle this profession.
For just shy of 16 years, I hauled just about anything anywhere at anytime for 2.5 million miles. I packed all this stuff in vans or strapped it on flatbeds and pulled through some pretty bad winters. I’ve also been in the desert with the wind so high, pitch black, and couldn’t see a thing for the blowing sand. So I pulled over to go to bed. When I woke up the next morning, a layer of dirt had covered everything in the cab. Boy was that a mess. I have hauled explosives for the military that would break every window for a 5 mile radius. I’m not going to share the kill radius. You may be thinking that this result would be from the entire trailer exploding at one time, but that’s not true. That was the result of (1) 35 gallon drum, and I had 5 of them along with other munitions on the truck. Remember the professor in the movie “Independence Day” ? That’s who met me at the last gate. He was so overjoyed we had arrived, he could hardly contain himself. The shipment I had was never shipped prior by truck and they were anxious to get it. Really ?!? He then explained that a spec of this under your fingernail would blow your arm off to your shoulder if you bumped it getting into your truck door. Oh, ok. Let’s see, I got (5) 35 gallon drums of it. Hmmm.
All this parading around with explosives was not done by myself. I was driving team with my brother in law, my Dad, or with a couple of other drivers I had the opportunity to follow and observe. Most of my time in explosives was with “Ben” or my Dad. But, I did have a chance to drive with a multi-millionaire who was interested in working for a living and was not happy to sit back and watch. He was an amazing man and a good friend. Very generous and determined in his endeavors. There were a-lot of people hauling explosives that were the salt of the earth. I think about them and wonder were they are from time to time.
We were also being watched by “Big brother” in a lot of ways. They are very interested in where their freight is at. Some of the “smaller” brothers were also interested in what we had too. They wanted to see it. (Once the load was sealed by the federal government, it means whoever opens that box better be listed on the Bill of Lading or it was penitentiary time for you.) One time Ben and I was stopped by a DOT officer in Illinois. I was driving of course and that DOT man and I argued for 45 minutes on who was going to cut that government seal. He told me to cut the seal and I kept telling him he was a coward if he didn’t cut the seal. If he wanted to see what was in that box, he was going to have to cut that seal. It was a big steel cable seal, so I gave him a big pair of bolt cutters. We were screaming at each other. I got 20 seals on that truck, pick one you Son of a —–. Finally, I climbed back in the truck and sent a message to my company AND the Pentagon at the same time. In 5 min, two cars pulled up. One was a black government plated car. The other was his boss from the DOT. I doubt he had a job after that. There were times in this profession I knew I was not alone. Satellite tracking and instant communications without a cell phone signal is an awesome thing to have. It brings government cars from everywhere. Once you have seen an official US Government vehicle, you notice all of them. Still do it today.
Let me add a little section here on DOT officers. Most of the DOT officers I encountered were honest men doing an honest job trying to keep the nations highways safe. I have the highest respect for them. But there was one time when I pulled in to a weigh station, I was asked to pull around back and bring in my paperwork. No problem. I locked my doors when I got out. While I’m standing inside and just finishing up with number one, (hehehe), number two asked me (as I was going to the door) why I locked my doors. I looked him dead in the eyes and said, “You never know when a THIEF might try to get in.” I then boot scooted outa there.
Not all my truck driving time was spent serving our country, some of my travels were for highly profitable reasons. I always had a large child support payment back then and I was not about to stop them wheels from rolling. Most of my time was spent running on Mt. Dews and Snicker bars. It took about 4 years of falling asleep and waking up when the truck jerked me out of the right lane to realize I had a body clock. I was falling asleep one morning about 330-4am deep in Florida running a load of shingles to a local hardware store. I stopped and went to sleep. I had not been home all week and thats where I wanted to be. So, I set my clock for 6 am. Thats when I discovered my body clock. I unloaded at 630am and was back in Jacksonville, Fla. by noon. That put me back home in South Carolina by 5pm. Running all night with two hours sleep eating potato chips and choking on pop became my hallmark. I became use to running that way. For many years I rivaled the income of team trucks in my company and was 3rd in revenue two years running for the 4th quarter of 1999 and 2000. If I became too tired by Wednesday to run, I would sleep an extra 2 hours at sundown to help stay awake till 4am. This hallmark of mine got me noticed by some pretty ingenious people. They wanted special things to arrive quickly, without stopping. Really? I’m good at that. Where do I pick up? The ports in Miami? Ok. I can handle this. I had a flat bed with pins that would flop out and lock a sea container to my bed. I can handle this. Go see “Fred”. Ok.
Fred was an older gentleman in a large pretty gold clad Cadillac. He had enough gold hanging on him to finance a small revolution in a southern country near the equator. Had the same dialect too. “When it’s time to leave, take this container to Charleston SC. You do not stop. The crane will load you when it’s time to leave. Someone will meet you in Charleston.” He drove away. The bill of lading said coffee from Columbia. Ok. I got this. 15 minutes later, here come the crane. 40 foot box, not too heavy. Gone. I hauled ass in my regulated 68 mph truck. I set the cruise and didn’t even stop to piss. My eyes was constantly in my mirrors. When I got to the ports in Charleston, another man in a fancy Cadillac met me at the gates, and led me to a crane that set that box in a pile. He signed my paperwork with an X, and I was outa there. I was paid in cash for that trip. That was a good week.
I’m not going to elaborate on what chemical stimulants I tried while driving for all those years, but I will say none of them stuck. What I mean is, what good does it do to loose 10-12 hours sleep for a week only to sleep from Friday night to Monday morning? I missed a delivery because of that so I never went back to it. I could do more my way and not be on chemicals. I have witnessed a few people in doing this and let me tell you, it’s not where you want to be. Man made chemicals are not your friend.
The hardest thing I had to learn during all the years I drove a truck was how to say no. There were times I walked into a truck stop, the people near the doors would be asking for a ride or for money. Most of the time I said No unless they were hungry. I would feed them and I did on several occasions. No one should have to dig through trash. Most were legit I guess but you could really tell the ones that were spaced out on something. Then there were the ones you could feel the despair in their souls. They were on their last leg. I was in Arizona one time pulling into a truck stop off the interstate. I saw a woman and her child (toddler) beside an old wore out camper still on 6 wheels. They were parked at the gas pumps. The old man was bent over looking in the engine compartment and there was a hose hooked into the gas tank. After I pulled into the fuel pumps and stopped, she walked over with her baby. (Not the toddler that was beside the old camper.) After asking me for money, I explained I would only buy food. She told me her story then. I helped with more than food, and I hope they made it. Another time I was making a trip with shingles I picked up from Jacksonville, Fl on a flat bed trailer. Just as I was coming up to the Florida Georgia line on I95, I heard over the CB radio a man asking for a ride for a woman back to Washington DC. He explained she was not a lot lizard. For those of you who are not familiar with the term, it means she was not a lady of the evening and was not for sale. So I answered him and brought her home. Her boy friend had brought her south in a truck to see Miami. On the way there, he gets frisky and she says no. He put her out at that truck stop with no money. Well, we got her home. She slept in my passenger seat up front while I was asleep in the bunk. The next day, she was home. So this is for those I did help, I hope all of you did make it and all of you are well. Im glad I said yes for them. God led me for His Glory because I was scared to pick up anyone at all. There are people who will kill you for a dollar.
There is an aura around someone who has traveled a-lot of miles. A silence you emit is circled only by the caution you are standing in. When you haul explosives or a load of computers, the last thing you need is to get knocked in the head. I learned to eat on a wall facing the door and knowing where the kitchen is. Every kitchen has a back door. I learned to trust my instincts. If it’s too good to be true, something is wrong. If I looked in your eyes, I can feel what circles you. No, it’s not that defined but I sense anger, fear, despair, and yes, happiness. I sensed great terror and death in a man on a couple occasions. That only means one thing to me. The devil travels about too and fro looking for souls to devour. I couldn’t leave fast enough.
Having large fuel tanks means you don’t have to stop a-lot. Because of this, smaller vehicles have to stop to get gas and may pass you several times. I always kept eyes in my mirrors to see who was back there, and I would notice cars if they passed me more than twice. One day a van passed me. They were from a school somewhere and were either going to or coming from a school function. As they passed the first time, everyone was fist pumping wanting me to blow my air horns, and I did. I smiled and waved as they hammered down out of sight. A little time later, here they come again. Blowed my horn again and waved as they passed out of sight. Again?? Here they come again!! Three times? This is getting fun! Bye ya’ll!! Toot Toot on my air horn. About two hours later, a driver going west bound told east bound traffic that we were 10 miles from a serious accident. It had fatalities and they advised us to go around. I didn’t bypass the accident. As I got closer, it was that van. Strewed down the middle of the highway before the mangled van was the bodies of those kids covered in white sheets. The driver had lost control and rolled that van. That last memory of them waving as they passed me will always be with me till the day I die.
There was a time I looked like the husband every woman would like to marry. I represented my companies with an appearance they wanted me to have. There were also times when my hair grew all the way to my belt, and from the back I looked almost like a woman. The hat I was wearing left some question to my gender, it was a large brimmed black felt renegade cowboy hat. With a leather jacket and earrings, people quit asking me for rides and money. It also kept me out of places. I asked to go to the bathroom one time at a shippers facility and they would not let me in. Now, if I had that good guy look, those people would have let me in. Having this look also kind of relaxed those people at the doors of the truck stops. I could find the real people to help then.
I just heard over the news that several companies have developed technology to drive semi’s down the road without a driver. I knew this day was coming. I am glad I had the chance to drive at a time when drivers did not have cell phones. We did not have GPS devices. We had to collect call people from a coin operated phone booth. You don’t see them anymore. The profession of crossing this country in a truck is about to end. I’m glad I had the chance to experience it. Would I want to be one? No. Better start now, it’s not going to be around long except for short haul.
Tested, Tried, And True.