Monday, December 29, 2014

Trucking Story

The Far North to Deep South Turnaround circa 1980

The trip begins with picking up a load of potatoes in Grand Forks, North Dakota, bound for Pensacola, Florida. I load up the old cabover Pete’s small sleeper with Dr. Pepper, granola bars, and jerky…lots of jerky, as I find it is essential trucking trip food. I left Bemidji, Minnesota when everything was covered in three feet of snow. I looked forward to this load of potatoes that were needed by the folks in Florida...and the warm weather and tan women would be a nice contrast to the cold, barren tundra.

It was March and cold in Bemidji. Traveling south, the snow becomes fainter, and eventually I can smell lilacs and life when I cross out of the north and make a fuel stop at a truck stop in Cairo, Illinois. I can smell warmth and life in the southern Illinois air; the place where the South seems to begin. Lots of hills, people chilling on porches, and strong southern accents.

I couldn’t find a place to shut her down, so I continued into Tennessee, and hit some fog around 3 am in the morning. Made it through Crashville, TN, and finally caught a couple hours of shut eye at around 6 am. I watched the sunrise, took a leak, slept again, and was jarred awake by an alarm clock on steroids. The “MAWP!, MAWP!” was the piercing sound of a fellow trucker’s air horn. I woke up, and walked the rest area in the heat of early morning. I hit up a Waffle House for breakfast, picked up some smokes and coffee, and started south again, reaching a truck stop near Ft. Walton Beach, in an area of Florida known by most of use truckers as the "Redneck Riviera".

 I was weary from the trip and blessed with a spot in this overcrowded truckstop.  It was 85 degrees, and really humid, and I cranked up the air conditioner in the old Peterbilt and caught a few hours of shut eye. I was early for the delivery in Pensacola, so when I headed out later that afternoon, I kept my eyes peeled for a spot to park the truck. I found a spot a few blocks off the beach, so I parked and I jumped in the ocean to cool off, and washed off the salt water in the public outdoor shower. 

 I had made it from Bemidji to the Florida Gulf in 25 hours, but I paid for it in terms of being very road weary towards the end, especially in Tennessee. I was stopping at every rest area and running around the truck just to stay awake.

I delivered the load to Pensacola, and picked up produce to bring to the fresh vegetable starved folks up in Minnesota. I have forgotten many of my trips in this demanding life on the road, but this memory is one tattooed on my mind.