Oh, great guns… January is gone and all we can see is leftover Christmas bills in the rear-view mirror. So, stop lookin’ back, and go ahead and check out your reflection in the store windows as you roll slowly past. It’s love at first sight, or as my wife would say, “It’s the only mistress a driver can keep.” Go on, tell me about how many times you have stopped halfway across the parking lot and turned just to get a second look. Oh, sweet Jesus, that ride looks good!
I think George Jones had a hit song back in the 70s when he sang about a sports car. In the song, he had stopped for gas and smokes, when the attendant turned to admire his ride, an old Corvette. The fuel attendant told the driver he had one just like her when he was younger, until the man down at the bank took her from him. “She was hotter than a two-dollar pistol, she was the fastest thing around, she was long and lean, every young man’s dream, she turned every head in town!” Not completely understanding the attendant’s comment, he offered him the keys, saying, “Here, take her for a spin.” That’s when the old man laughed and said, “It’s not the car I want, it’s the brunette inside it!” I bet you didn’t see that coming!
This is February, and to many that’s the month of romance. It’s hard for me to visualize all you big, strong, hairy truck drivers carrying flowers and putting on fancy clothes to dine out with your significant others. That would mean wearing something more than clean jeans and a new chrome shop t-shirt. But I guess anything is possible… not! It’s far easier to envision them waiting in line at the truck wash, vacuuming the carpets and wiping down the dash, and checking out the other drivers around them doing the same thing, and admiring their rides, too. That’s where I want to start this month’s article.
Truck love can be described in several ways. This all started when I was riding in the pickup with my wife who is constantly reminding me how I’m about as romantic as a rock. I guess her getting all dressed up in a skirt and heels then waiting in the shop and handing me tools all night wasn’t her idea of a night out. However, we still do have our moments when we see eye-to-eye and share a common interest… TRUCKS.
Each of us will comment on every cool truck we see. There isn’t a single brand or style that rises above the others. They can be any type, age, color, or style of truck. We as drivers talk about our rides (commercial trucks) as if they are people – or even members of the family. Yes, we name them, talk to them, and when someone will listen, we talk about them. I’m guilty of buying birthday and Christmas presents for my truck, too. Just showing it some truck love. I’m not entirely sure, but stainless trim pieces can – or at least should be – considered a Valentine’s Day greeting, right?
These shiny truck accessories may not be as cheap as a Hallmark card or as tasty as chocolate, but they sure will last longer. I think most of us owner ops will admit to a special attachment or bond we have with our daily driver. I believe our trucks are every bit as varied as the drivers who pilot them, but we all have that common thread that connects us to the road. Contrary to popular opinion, not all of us drive Peterbilts, Kenworths, or even Freightshakers – some are just driving the vehicles their boss assigned to them. Hey, it’s a paycheck, and that’s what makes life worth living. This lets us experience the open road and go see what is over the distant horizon or around the next bend.
Freedom is a highly valued thing to us drivers, and we recognize what gives us that opportunity – it’s the truck. Who said you can’t buy love? When the end of the week arrives, there could be a little extra left in the budget for that truck wash we were talking about earlier. And I do not think there is a standard measurement for wheelbase or minimum height requirements to be considered fashionable. Some folks like to see those big shiny air cleaners and a huge pair of stacks, all wrapped in brilliant color, and pressed out to the nines, but everyone does not have the same taste when it comes to working iron. Judging trucks based on their coolness reminds me of attending a high school dance… all of the attendees can hear the music, but not everyone dances to all the songs.
As I’m writing this I’m reminded of a time in Bellingham, Washington, when I was loading seafood for the east coast. I hadn’t been gone from the house but a few days and the weather had been nice, so my ride was looking clean. While I waited for the shipper to finish loading, I grabbed a polish rag and wiped my wheels off to give just a little more bling. While I worked, I couldn’t help but notice a driver parked in the back of the lot, who was also waiting. What struck me was the activity he was engaged in.
Let me set the stage: this driver was most definitely from Eastern Europe, and he drove an older Volvo that may have already seen its better days. It was well worn in, but by no means worn out or used up. This driver wore the typical attire of many drivers from overseas. I made a note of this because he and I had a wonderful conversation about the differences between trucking there and here in the USA. On this trip he had come from Canada and was loading back to some place in the north. That could account for the rough condition of his truck, however he displayed the same pride in his ride as I do.
When I first noticed him, he was wiping down the hood and cleaning his windshield. At first glance, I had not noticed his polished wheels or the hub caps. Mind you, they may not have been SoCal polished, but for a driver that runs dirt roads, I would say it impressed the heck out of me. When I think of truck love, that is what I envision. The personal touch that connects the driver to the truck, much like a horse and rider. We are often called the cowboys of the highway because of that connection, but our truck is more than just a mode of transportation. In many ways, it is your signature. It’s how the world sees you and from where you view the world.
There is another kind of truck love and, for that, I’m always mindful of our friend Andy Babcock (see photo) and his mom Pam. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of seeing someone who lives their life waiting for the next large car to pass their house or the sound of a train horn to blow, you can’t know the contagious smile that effects everyone in the room. Andy is just one of so many who love not only trucks, but the drivers, too. I think one of the greatest gifts anyone ever did for me was when Andy chose to dress up as me on Halloween. Just think – he could have been a fireman or a police officer, maybe even an Indian chief, but no, he chose to be a trucker, an old gray bearded long haired one wearing his NAST (National Association of Show Trucks) jacket, just like mine. That’s truck love from the heart.
This is a good time to give a shout out to all the local drivers who traverse the back roads in northern Michigan, who take the time to call and give Miss Pam a heads up when they are rolling past, so she can get Andy ready and standing where he can see/hear them. A few of them have gone so far as to donate a cab and chassis to make a “truck stop” in their back yard for him to play in. There isn’t a more loving or generous group of people than those who drive and operate commercial trucks.
That brings us to what may be considered the greatest love of all – the truck show. I have been trying to think of another profession where the average worker plans the family vacation or their days off to attend a “show” in their work profession – free of charge, and with no wages expected. Some of them even go so far as to spend their hard-earned dollars funding the adventure. This may involve traveling to another state and donating the entry fees to participate. Many of these shows are held to benefit a charity or a local organization.
I hope many of our west coast readers (and others) will be making plans to attend this year’s TFK (Truckin’ For Kids) show in Irwindale, California, this spring. Mark your calendar for April 29-30 and help us raise some money for Shriners Children’s Hospital. It’s still early, so there’s plenty of time to schedule for your “leave of absence” from work.
I don’t want to hear you are too busy to make the show, or “I’m not into the competition.” There is plenty to do in conjunction with the show and shine. How about some truck drags or a burnout contest? Yes, yes, and yes – who doesn’t love the smell of diesel exhaust and burnt rubber? I get a warm and fuzzy feeling just thinking about it.
I personally can’t wait for the “Light the Lot” show on Saturday night, lovin’ on some Chickin Lites N Chrome. Then, after I get an extra plate of BBQ dinner and a cold drink, I will wander around, looking at all the entries, to choose a People’s Choice winner. For the people who win that most coveted award, we will show them our greatest appreciation with some truck love!
I’m setting here at home, a place I affectionately call Aunt Barb’s Cafe, which is my favorite truck stop. It’s the one place I start every trip from and where all trips come to an end. I guess you could say I love this place, not just because it reminds me of an old mom and pop stop, but because of the people here. It’s a place where you park out back in a dirt lot and then make a quick trip through the shop (not sure what you’re looking for, but you stop anyway) on your way to the door. It’s the place I spent countless hours watching truckin’ movies with the boys as they grew up. No driver worth their salt has seen Smokey and the Bandit less than 10 times. Convoy was another favorite we watched on many nights. Trucking is one of the few occupations that has its own type of music and movies. You have to love that.
These truckin’ movies and songs helped my boys form their opinion of what dad does and where the money comes from that lets them live out the experiences they have had. Family is the one thing I have always been able to count on when I needed a reason to keep on doing the one thing I loved doing.
Most of us have watched home movies with relatives and friends. We have seen ourselves as children, maybe seen ourselves grow up on film, or even grow old. In all our home movies there are trucks somewhere – they may not be in the forefront or the main character, but they are there. We couldn’t imagine life without our constant companion – “The Ride.”
Through the years I have had multiple trucks and each of them holds a special place in our memory. They are a constant reminder of who we are and how far we have come, along with the places we have gone, the loads we have conquered, and a few that tried to kill us! My trucks were faithful throughout their long service lives. With few exceptions, they delivered every load on time and without fail. For that, they have gotten a retirement plan, since I couldn’t bear to part with them. Who said you can’t love a truck too much! They rest quietly out in the pasture, standing tall, as a marker of times gone by.
As I sit and write this article, I can see them facing the window, waiting for my call, ready to respond to my beckoning. They would love to run free again, belching smoke and eating concrete. It’s time to spread a little truck love so, on second thought, driver, give me those keys, “I think I will take her for a spin.” Each morning I fill out my logbook sitting in the best seat in any house – my driver’s seat. It’s also where I greet each sunrise and kiss each day goodbye, thankful for the opportunity to live and LOVE a trucker’s life, 10-4.