North to the Future

Day 22
The past weeks have taken me in a circular tour of the States: Tacoma, WA to Lebanon, TN to Kansas City, MO to somewhere I forget the name of in Iowa, back to Los Angeles, CA, and now up to Portland, OR (via Troutdale, OR) and tomorrow back up to Tacoma, WA. I have finally become confidant enough in my driving to relax a bit and take in my surroundings. I think it was today that it really hit me the hardest as I drove past Mt. Shasta in Northern California…this is my job. I drive, listening to good music, with an ever changing view out my “office” window that rivals the most posh corner office in any corporate building anywhere. I have gone from working in the basement (the window-less basement) at a government office job (though I admit it was very satisfying) to working (if you can call it that) behind the steering wheel of truck whose windows look out on more scenery in a week than many people see in their lifetime. If money mattered, I might add that I am making about the same pay as I did at my office job. Not to mention the perks – No dress code. No politics. Work at your own pace, so long as the work gets done on time. Tired? Pull over and take a nap. Jealous yet? Wait 'till you see the pictures.
Granted, this life isn't for everyone. It's like being on tour minus the concerts. I am still adjusting. The first week was really hard. I wasn't sure I would make it. I lived the first week not knowing when or where I would drive, eat, sleep, pee, or shower next left me feeling clausterphobic. I slept with all my belongings crammed into my bunk with me (many I was discovering I really didn't need, while I desperately needed some items I failed to bring along) and I never seemed to have time to get my bearings, figure out what I needed and continue. Always moving. Meanwhile loose ends I left back home were still not tied up, deadlines were aprouching, late fee's accumulating etc. I felt like I was suffocating, drowning, stranded, and lost all at once.
The good news is this feeling didn't last. I passed a breaking point somewhere along the line and things began to change. It felt like learning to swim (I wonder how many people remember what that felt like?) Now I am driving confidentally, getting food when I need it (even if my trainer only eats once or maybe twice a day…crazy…still don't know how he can do that), getting used to sleeping when I need to, and very much looking forward to having my own truck and not having to worrie about all this stuff anymore. Just 80 hours of drive time to go! Then I get my own place. This is more of a releaf than moving out of my parents house for the first time.
That's about it for now – I promise I will get some actual trucker stories in here soon.

Waffle House, USA


Day 5 (side note)
This is the Waffle House I ate at almost 10 years ago while on tour with the band Plankeye. It was the first, and likely the last, time I ever ate at a Waffle house. I remember seeing these places as a kid whenever my dad and step-mom, Patty, took us on summer vaction to see her parents in Ohio. I remember asking my dad if we could stop at one along the way – the big sign with each letter in it’s own big yellow square W-A-F-F-L-E-H-O-U-S-E always looked so apealing to me. Just seeing it made me think, “Man – I bet that place makes some incredible waffles. My dad always assured me that this was not the case, which is why we never stopped there, and probably why I chose to visit the place years later. I don’t remember exactly what the waffles tasted like, or if I even ordered waffles for that matter, but I do remember that my general impression of the place was that it was a few rungs down the later from Denny’s as far as breakfast establishments go…somewhere near Winchel’s…anyhow it was a landmark in my life, and seeing it in person nearly 10 years later when I least expected it (I wouldn’t have been able to find it even if I’d tried) was very nostalgic.

Goodbye Tenesse, Hello Washington


Day 5
Today was my last day here in Lebanon, TN and as beautiful as this place is, I am definitely ready to leave. As my trianer, Wilbur, said, “the’s crazy people everywha’, it’s jus’ a diffrent koind a’ crazy.” Though I have grown quite used to the kind of crazy people I meet in Southern California, the kind of crazy that are out here kinda freak me out just a little bit. Luckily, none of the people I have had to deal with directly are crazy. Wilbur, my trainer, was one of the sweetest guys I’ve ever met. Though we came from opposite worlds he treated me with respect, and was always friendly even when correcting me. Alot of the people here were quite hospitable. I should, however, explain to my fellow Californians that Southern Hospitality is very different from our own brand. Allow me to make a comparison:
Southern=”Here! Have some candy!”
Californian=INNER MONOLOGUE:”I might offer you some candy if it looks like you want some otherwise I will leave you alone”
Note the use of the imparative versus the subjunctive. In Southern hospitality, your acceptance of the gift and gratitude is assumed. WARNING: do not refuse the gift. Don’t even hesitate. Smile broadly and say “Thank you!” Anything less could get you into trouble or at least mark you as being very rude. Enough said. Moving on…
My training here in Lebanon was great. One-on-one training with patient, courteous, experienced (10 years minimum, though I think Wilbur had more like 50) instructors who taught us good practical habits and techniques. By all acounts this was the best training I will get. The next phase of my training will be “over-the-road” or actual cross country hauling of real freight with an Over-the-road trainer. By all accounts, over-the-road trainers are a cantankerous, ill-tempered, unaccountable bunch, and from what I have seen with my own eyes, I believe it…and I tremble. Poor Don. My classmate from Colorado met his OTR trainer yesterday. A ornery looking round, white-bearded man sporting a stars-and-stripes bandana on his head (the kind that are tailored specifically to be worn this way), he briefly introduced himself before questioning him about how much luggage he was bringing, and what kind of “sleeping aparatus” he used and then warned him about the nervous chihuahua that he kept in his truck. He then proceded to tell Don what a horrible student his last one was and how he eventually kicked him out of the driver seat and declared his training over. According to others who heard the other side of the story however, it was the student who elected to end his training with this guy because of innapropriate racial comments among other things. Good luck Don! I really hope he makes it through. All he has to do is log 200 hours with this guy and come back to finish his orientation, but it looks like it might be a little rough. Don is also one of the nicest guys I’ve met, and I really hope this guy doesn’t make his life too miseralbe for the next month or so.
As for me, I’m off to Washington. Tomorrow I fly out of Nashville, TN, make a layover stop in Chicago, and then on to Seattle, WA where I will meet a shuttle that will drive me the rest of the way to Tacoma,WA. There I will meet my OTR trainer. I am hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. These trainers are mostly unsupervised and the stories I keep hearing are not encouraging. Either way, 200 hours which will be over in maybe a month, and then I get my own truck!
There is definitely light at the end, so I will press on. Overall, this has been a great adventure so far and I keep forgetting that it’s actually a job. It’s a long and sometimes hard road, but the scenery along the way is well worth it. I am glad I did this. Wish me luck!