Georgia is known for a lot of things, and I am learning that big iron is one of them! Georgia is a state rich with history and interesting facts – it is also a state I now call home. It is the nation’s number one producer of peanuts and pecans, and even though Georgia is called “The Peach State” it isn’t the top peach producer (it is third on the list after California and South Carolina).
Now, let’s zoom in closer at the city of Vidalia, GA, which is known for its sweet onions. These now-famous onions came to be in 1931 after a farmer named Moses Coleman discovered that Vidalia’s onions were sweeter than the rest because of the low sulfur content of the fields in that area. In 1990, these sweet onions became the state vegetable. Don’t worry, this isn’t an article about onions, but they have directly affected Martin Granados and his Peterbilt, which is what this story is really about.
Some of you already know this, but I travel a lot, and sometimes in those travels, by happenstance, I come across a truck that catches my eye. That is what happened with this truck. As I previously mentioned, I now live in Georgia – Vidalia to be exact – and have been living here since September of 2019. I was recently driving to Metter, GA when a really good-lookin’ truck caught my eye. I was on a time schedule so I couldn’t stop at that moment, but I knew that I needed to stop on my way home. I hadn’t realized the truck was so close to my house and, at one point, I thought I missed the truck, but low and behold, just eight minutes from home, there she was, sitting in the shade. Call me crazy, but this is what I do – I stop and investigate, see if I’m welcomed with good conversation and, hopefully, uncover a cool story about the truck. I wasn’t disappointed.
Like many before him, Martin Granados moved to the United States from Mexico in 1980 to make a better life for himself. He started out as a migrant worker, coming to Wimauma, FL at first, then going state to state, wherever there was work. In 1989 he moved to Georgia, initially residing in Statesboro, then later moving to Vidalia, where Martin and his family still reside. Meeting his wife Mirta in 1988, the two were married in 1991. Together, they have five kids – Cecilia, Gloria, Daisy, Martin Jr. and Miguel. He officially became an American citizen in 1997.
After obtaining his citizenship, Martin realized he wanted a job that would better provide and allow him to take care of his growing family. He had always dreamed of owning his own company, and with relatives in Mirta’s family already in the trucking industry, Martin began his journey of learning to drive a semi with help from Mirta’s brother-in-law Salomon Navarro out of Haines City, FL. Salomon taught Martin how to drive in a light blue 1995 Pete 379 pulling containers. At the end of 2000, Martin purchased that same 379 from Salomon and obtained his own authority in early 2001, at which point he started pulling a refrigerated trailer from Miami, FL to Maine.
In addition to driving the truck, Martin was (and still is) a crew leader for field workers who harvest onions. Trucking occurs in the off-season, and the onion harvest runs from April to mid-June, while the planting is done around November first to mid-January. When he’s not managing the crews out in the fields, he’s out trucking in his bright red Peterbilt 379 – which is that same light blue one he bought back in 2000, but completely redone.
The truck you see today received a complete makeover a few years back and looks nothing like what it did when Martin first purchased the truck. The truck, as previously mentioned, is a 1995 Pete 379 with a 60 Series Detroit under the hood and a 10-speed transmission. The frame had been stretched, and the entire restoration, including the candy apple red paint, was done by LaFavor’s Body Shop in McCrae, GA. The interior was completely redone in ostrich leather by Paul Brewton out of Lyons, GA. The guts of the truck had been completely gone through and replaced, including a complete overhaul on the motor, which was done just a couple years ago.
I had asked Martin what his thoughts were on starting his business, and if he had any advice to give on the matter. He said it is a hard business to start up from scratch, but it is possible. Some of his tips included making sure you have plenty of cash money and financial stability, as breakdowns are inevitable, do whatever you can with the truck yourself (such as preventative maintenance) to save money where you can, and don’t be afraid of hard work. Sounds like pretty good advice, to me.
The fondest memories with the truck are before Martin’s sons were born, the five of them would take trips up the coast together in the truck while Martin was making deliveries. Martin recalled that his daughter Daisy enjoyed riding along. One time, when she was about seven years old, at around 11:00 at night, a clamp broke off the exhaust and they were about 120 miles from the nearest truck stop. Daisy held a piece of wood in place so Martin could install a new clamp. The intention was to stop for a shower at the next stop, but Daisy had fallen asleep. As most know who have had their young children with them, if they fall asleep, you just keep trucking, and that is what Martin did – all the way back down to Florida.
As I mentioned earlier, when I stopped at their house, I wasn’t sure what to expect or if the owner was even home. I was greeted at their front door by Martin’s youngest daughter Daisy, and she talked to me, giving me some insight on the truck and their family. I was about to leave when Martin came home, and I was able get a closer look at his truck. He even said he had tried to sell the truck at one point, but no one wanted to give him what he felt the truck was worth. He then just came to a point that he really couldn’t part with the truck, as it holds so many memories, and really has become part of the family. Also in the family is a cabover and a 359 Peterbilt, which are used off-road, for farm-use only.
Most recently, a couple days after I photographed the truck, a new driver went into the truck, so she is back on the road again. Today, their normal lanes are the east coast and as far west as eastern New Mexico. Martin was able to pass along his knowledge in trucking to Daisy and Cecilia’s husbands, Esteban and Gustavo, on how to drive, but Esteban is the only one that drives truck for a living (for another trucking company).
Thank you to the Granados family for their time and kindness. I was able to meet the entire family and spend some time hearing their story. I caught Martin in the middle of planting season, but we made it work and got the truck photographed at one of the fields they harvest in Collins, GA, which had just recently been planted.
Some people take for granted what we have in this country we grew up in, but those who have left their country to become citizens of our great nation see the value in the freedoms we enjoy, including the available job market. Vidalia, GA is not just about the onions, but sometimes it is about the hidden treasures that you never expect to find. As always, to all the drivers out there doing the deal, truck safe.