Monday, November 28, 2011

Springfield

Tonight I write from the Springfield, Minnesota, public library. This is the first day of a two week tour. I'm very tired starting this trip because I hardly slept last night and started driving at 2 a.m.

When I got to Interstate 39 in Rochelle, IL, and weighed my load on the scale, I noticed one of the trailer tires was flat. This is not a good start to a trip. I guess I was due, enduring no mishaps on the 23-day tour I completed before Thanksgiving.

It was a good holiday spent with family. I wasn't scheduled to have home time over Thanksgiving. I'd asked for the days off, but was turned down, instead opting to take off November 20th and 21st. But a scheduling mix-up kept me on the road until the day before Thanksgiving, which worked out wonderfully for me. It takes patience to be a trucker. This time being patient paid off with a holiday meal and a couple extra days off.

Since I am only home about 4-5 days a month, time spent with family is of primary importance. It doesn't leave me much room for socializing with non-relative friends, most of whom I haven't seen since I started trucking. But I relish my duties as father and partner, and am so thankful to have support and daily encouragement from the people who matter to me most. Time spent with them is precious and golden. The toughest part of my job is being away. Knowing that loved ones are waiting, and the daily phone calls, texts, and photos, mitigates the loneliness.

Thanksgiving was spent at my cousin's house in Janesville. Although the gathering was small, the feast was large. I feel guilty for not socializing more, but the rich food and it being my first day off meant I spent most of the day in a recliner watching football. It was great to catch up with relatives and hear mostly good news about their lives.

Friday morning and early afternoon we were at my parent's house in Loves Park. I got to visit with my brother and helped prepare, with my son's assistance, a soup and sandwich lunch for the family. After that, we left and went on a hike at Rock Cut State Park, ending the day back home in Sycamore with homemade pizza and a truly awful kids movie involving a fugitive seal.

Saturday I had a dentist appointment - my first scheduled in over two years. I was not surprised to learn I need a lot of work done, including replacing a crown and a root canal. I spent over four hours at the dentist and left nauseated and in a great deal of pain from the root canal work. I had a hard time following the plot of HAPPY FEET TWO, a movie Jonny picked out to see at the theater. He earned the trip as a reward for continued good behavior marks at school. I enjoyed the 3-D effects.

Yesterday, we went to church and went out for brunch afterwards. Later, in the afternoon, I said goodbye to my family and was dropped off at my studio in DeKalb, where I tried to sleep, but couldn't. Hence, the uninspired chronology of events set forth here. I'm going to sleep well tonight and have the luxury of an easy deadline for tomorrow's load.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Show Me State fun

I've just spent over an hour hiking around hilly Perryville, MO, to find the public library. My phone gave me the correct address, but the navigation took me to the wrong place. I called the library and was given directions, but took a wrong turn and ended up in the town square. An inquiry into a local business got me going in the right direction, and here I am.

I am on the 16th day of a 19 day tour, which means I'm literally in the home stretch. My company has me doing midwest runs to keep me close to home. I woke up in freezing Green Bay, WI, this morning and am headed to Indianapolis tomorrow. This has been the smoothest tour so far. I haven't gotten lost or had any mishaps of any sort. All my loads have been delivered on time. I feel like I'm getting the hang of this truck driving gig.

But two days ago, at maximum weight with a 22 ton load, I coasted through a light just as it turned red and breezed past an Indiana state trooper. He pulled me over. I explained my heavy load situation, that I was a new driver, but know I was in the wrong. He gave me a stern lecture about safety and preparation, and then let me off with a warning. Whew!

Last Saturday I delivered a load to Northampton, MA, and because I was early on my delivery, my dispatcher didn't have another load lined up for me yet. I parked the rig nearby, in a parking lot of a business closed for the weekend, and went for a walk. It was a beautiful fall day, sunny, mid-afternoon, mild temperatures. The industrial park was in a seedier part of town. I walked past a decrepit, run down millinery, rows of broken windows, exposed beams, a hole in the roof.

And then I found a rail trail. I love to find trails on my daily walks because they are safer and take me away from, or at least diminish, the sounds of traffic. They are also safer. I wear a reflective vest and, at night, my headlamp, and walk towards oncoming traffic, but I prefer sidewalks and, better yet, trails, so I was happy at this discovery. This trail took me behind a bunch of businesses and past an old neighborhood. And then I saw the taller brick structures of the downtown main street.

A stairway took me down to street level. Crowds of people ambled leisurely on the sidewalks, the usual array of galleries, restaurants, boutiques, and book stores, most with colorful display windows. But I enjoyed the people watching. There were college kids, homeless beggars, stylish yuppies, and long-haired hippies. The street vendors and musicians wore permits on lanyards. One man, vying for my dollar, complimented my hat and tried to sell me incense. One cool thing is when the street lights change to allow pedestrian crossing, both sides are open, so people cross diagonally in the middle of the intersection.

I was overcome with a feeling of serendipity and goodwill, and returned to my truck via the rail trail and a short bushwack through some birch barrens. My navigational skills were good enough that I emerged from the forest right at my truck. And to my great joy and surprise, my next load information was waiting for me. It took me to the only state I'd never been to east of the Mississippi River, Rhode Island, and eventually back to the midwest.

This visit to the east was pleasant and brief.