Sometimes a split second can change life as you know it forever. This happened to Rene La Chance of Red Bluff, CA four years ago. Falling backwards off the side of his truck, he bruised his spine when he landed on his back. This injury left him paralyzed and in a wheelchair. But that hasn’t stopped him from loving trucks and trucking.
Now 67 years old, Rene started trucking with his dad when he was 13 years old. His dad was a mechanic and had a tow truck business. At 17 years old, he took two big steps – one was getting married and the second was buying his first truck – a 1964 Autocar. He doesn’t have the Autocar anymore, but he is still married to his beautiful wife Dee Dee. The couple has two sons – Rene Jr. (they call him RJ) and Jason.
While living in Aromas, CA, Rene and his wife had a big shop and built their trucking business, La Chance & Sons Inc., up to 18 trucks. That number lasted about two months, and then Rene sold off seven of them (just too many headaches). His trucks hauled mostly sand, gravel, and decorative rock. In 1996 he sold the trucking business and then worked construction for a few years. He also had a truck restoration business on the side during that time. After giving up the construction work, he went full time with truck restoration.
When his twin grandsons Brandon and Trenton were six years old, Rene decided to move up north to Red Bluff so he could be part of their lives growing up. Brandon is currently going to school to become a civil engineer, and Trenton works construction, running heavy equipment, and occasionally driving low beds. He moves the equipment to a job, works the job, and then moves it to the next job. Trenton also owns a 1979 Pete as a toy to take to local shows.
As we all know, trucking gets in your blood, so Rene bought another truck. But, this time, not wanting to duplicate the aggravation he had felt for so many years with multiple trucks and drivers, he was committed to staying with just one truck. Rene’s grandfather owned a service station in San Pedro, CA called Frenchy’s Motor Service so, as a tribute to his grandfather, who passed away before he was even born, Rene named his new business Frenchy’s Motor Service. Most of the time he was hauling decorative rock.
When Rene’s accident happened, this is what he was doing. Afterwards, he kept the truck, hoping to recover from his injury and be able to get back on the road. However, after six months, he decided to sell “1 Last Number 7” (that was the name and number of his truck) when it was obvious that he was not going to recover and be able to drive again. Over the years, Rene has had four different trucks he called “Number 7” so the last one was kind of special. Rene had begun to get movement enough back in his right arm to be able to feed himself, but then tragedy struck again on January 25, 2019, when the car he was riding in was rear-ended, resulting in his back and neck being broke. He is now completely paralyzed and needs help with just about everything he does.
After selling his truck, Rene watched it slowly fall into disrepair, and it made him sad. Then, a young and energetic guy named Erik Vaillette began driving it, and eventually polished her back to her former glory like Rene had kept her. One day, another driver came up to him and asked, “Isn’t that Frenchy’s old truck?” Erik told the driver that the dash plaque said “Custom Built for Frenchy’s Motor Service” but he didn’t know who he was. However, this conversation made Erik curious, and now he really wanted to know who this “Frenchy” guy was even more.
Erik drives for Steve Wilber who owns Commodity Transporters out of Turlock, CA. They pull flatbeds, dry vans, low beds and walking floor trailers. Erik got Steve’s number from a friend and called him. He told him that he had been driving a transfer truck, and the truck that he had drove before Covid hit was a truck a legend up there had owned. Steve said, “Let me call you right back.” When he called back, he told Erik, “Let me introduce you to a legend,” and Rene was on the phone. Steve had known and been friends with Rene for well over 30 years, and after hearing the story, he introduced Erik to Rene. Erik is out all week and home on the weekends, but he makes it a point to visit his friend Rene as much as possible.
As you might imagine, the medical expenses and costs for constant care for Rene just get bigger every year, and there is no help available to him. So, Erik has stepped up in a big way to help his friend. I’m sure that most of you are hearing about the benefit truck show that Erik has put together with a goal of helping Rene with his nursing expenses for the next year. And for a first-time show, the list of sponsors and registered trucks is already impressive – and the show isn’t happening until August.
The First Annual Frenchy’s Truck Jamboree is being held at the Tehama County Fairgrounds in Red Bluff, CA on August 13-14, 2021. There will be ten food vendors, a kid’s corner (that will include bounce houses and other fun activities), retail arts and crafts vendors who are donating money to be there, a large auction and raffle, live bands and, on Friday night, there will be a luau-style dinner, which will include a pig on a spit and tons of pulled pork.
As of right now (the middle of June) there are nearly 200 trucks already pre-registered, and more are expected to join over the next few weeks. There is space for at least 300 trucks, and Erik hopes to fill all of them. Big sponsors include Commodity Transporters Inc., Stay Loaded Apparel, Zephyr Polish, XL Specialized Trailers, and Westmark Tankers, to name a few. Big thanks to everyone who is donating to show and/or planning to be a vendor. 10-4 Magazine will be out there, along with others, with a booth and covering the event.
In addition to the trucks, food, and the vendors, the local Sheriff is bringing out their SWAT vehicles and the Fire Department is bringing out some of their fire trucks so both kids and adults alike can see them up close. A white Peterbilt 379 owned by Jake Bast, our July 2019 10-4 Magazine cover trucker, will be featured on the back of the official show t-shirts. There will also be some truly amazing items auctioned off during the event, including two actual trucks!
The two trucks being auctioned off during the event were donated by Ralph Wilkerson of Radco Trucking and Bert Endicott of Endicott Trucking. Ralph donated a 1963 Kenworth cabover, and Bert donated a 1974 Peterbilt 359. Also being auctioned off will be some nice items including Legacy seats, Hogebuilt fenders, a bumper from Valley Chrome, unique custom-carved wood trucks, two custom-wrapped Peterbilt Corn Hole board sets, and various other items from many of the vendors participating in the event, along with community businesses that wanted to contribute, as well.
If everything goes as planned, this could be one of the hottest (literally and figuratively) shows of the year. Rene is a very loved guy in this community, and this event is going to show just how much people really care. Trucking is one of the most generous industries out there, and I am proud to be a part of it. We hope to see you all in Red Bluff, CA on August 13-14. For more information, see the ad on page 60 in this magazine, call (530) 736-7615, or visit their Facebook Page. This is a good cause to support, because you never know when you might need some help, too.