If you’ve been out here a long time, you know that trucking isn’t just a job, it’s a lifestyle. And for those of you just getting out of school, they might not have told you this was part of what you signed up for. Well, now you know. Friendships back home are important, but those friends will never truly know and understand what it’s like to live on the road. A lot of the time you’re away from home more than you get to be there. The friends you make on the road, who are drivers as well, will know exactly what you go through on a daily basis out here dealing with shippers, receivers, weather, traffic, and missing home.
For you drivers just getting your feet wet in this industry, making friends on the road will be a little different than when us old drivers were getting started. Back in the day, we used pay phones to talk to dispatch, shippers, receivers, and loved ones. CBs were the way we got to “run together” (there’s nothing like getting four or five trucks heading west together on a Friday night for Monday morning drops in California)!
Over the years, we made friends with other drivers at the companies we have worked with, and some of the longest lasting friendships we ever made are those we made at truck shows. Even though we competed against each other, we were friends, and a few of the shows became an annual family reunion. I’m still friends with my dispatcher Annette Dearth from the early 1990s, and we’ve kept in touch for all these years.
Today, I wonder how many drivers get to know other drivers in the company. Dispatching is done on a computer and, sadly, human interaction in our business seems to be going away, just when I think we need it the most. John and I have been on the road a long time, and we each had a large circle of friends when we started dating. Many of these were mutual friends we both made from the truck show circuit. Now, with our circles joined, there aren’t many places we go that we don’t know someone.
Facebook has helped many of us reconnect with some old friends as life had changed and we lost touch. It helps us stay in touch and, unlike years ago when we passed a friend on the interstate ten miles after leaving the truck stop, now we can see when friends are going to be in the same area beforehand and set up a visit. These meetings are getting more important as we get older, and as we are losing friends and family members. A harsh reminder – we never know what day might be our last.
Take our friend Bob Guy as an example. John called him every day and most of the time he added me in on the conversation. After he retired, he was a valuable asset when it came to helping us with directions. Bob also shared the old hidey holes he had used over his years hauling cars and would look at satellite images on his computer to help us. I remember one day in Chicago when I couldn’t have been more thankful for his help getting me out of there without encountering any low overpasses. Sadly, Bob passed away in 2019.
The first generation of mobile telephones were called “bag phones” (because they were so big they came in their own travel bag), and at about $1.00 a minute to use them, you could never talk long. Today, most drivers having plans with unlimited talk minutes and, coupled with a good headset that has up to 20 hours of talk time on a charge, and you can now have long conversations that help get you through the night. Having someone to talk to makes those long miles go by so much faster. John is a master at conference calls – sometimes we have six people on the line! One day our friend Kevin Sergeant pulled out of Little Rock, AR and we all talked until he pulled into Knoxville, TN where he was stopping for the night. He couldn’t believe how the conversation had made the miles just fly by.
Oftentimes our Facebook friends will be just that, but sometimes you get to meet, and a great friendship happens. Emily Wolford is one of those friends, and when Mike married her, we gained another awesome friend! I knew Wendy Stinson from photography groups we were in together, but we had never met in person until she and her husband Kevin attended our wedding. I had asked her about taking pictures at our wedding, and not only did she take pictures, but she also did the makeup for me, my matron of honor, and bridesmaids. I know that lasting friendships were made that day, and it makes me smile when I see posts from these friends.
One day in Indiana I was riding with John and this truck went by with someone hanging out of the passenger window with a really good camera and a polarizer on it. A few minutes later, I got a message that said “I see you” – we got to stop at the Petro in Richmond, IN and meet our Facebook friends Shannon and Greg Royce, who we had never met in person. Loretta Lynn Holland was in Walcott during the Jamboree. John and I were eating dinner, and this woman was looking at us. Eventually, we realized who each other was, and we had a great time with her at the Jamboree.
On another day, my friend Vonnie Whitemagpie organized a fun lunch in Ormond Beach, FL with her friends (and veteran truck drivers) Michele White and Margie Brady, and then called me and invited me, so I called another mutual friend, Joyce Thrift, and invited her to join us, too. Getting together and reminiscing about the past is one of my favorite things to do, and this turned out to be an awesome lunch. It was so much fun I wrote an entire article about it back in the April 2020 edition (Remember When). When these opportunities arise, I encourage you not to pass them up.
I wish back in the day we would have had cell phones and been able to take the selfies and scenic pictures we do today. Back then we had to rely on the pictures we took with a camera and then get the film developed. But now those pictures are priceless! I’ve included a few of those photos here, and some feature friends who are no longer with us. I think making “trucking friends” like we did will be harder to do today, but for those new drivers out there, put forth the effort. Talk to other drivers and help when you see one struggling. The rewards will be so worth it.