Saturday, December 31, 2011


Next question: what does a trucker do when she's disgruntled with her 60-hour work week and her void of a social or intellectual life? Answer: she quits her job and moves next door to a monastery in France to spend a year studying philosophy, of course. Occasionally the village maintenance guy parks his rotten old tractor outside my bedroom window and lets it sputter there for half an hour while he gets ready for his work day (I live next door to the "town garage", if you can call it that), but otherwise the absence of perpetually-running diesel engines is a beautiful silence to my ears.

Did you happen to spot the monks in my vacation post? They're the two in the center of the lunch-break group, looking like hard-asses and wearing pretty gray skirts. (Yes, they hiked 4 days in the Alaskan wilderness in their habits. These are some hardcore monks.) Well, a week after I got home from Alaska I got a phone call from one of them. It went something like this: "You're thinking about doing something besides truck driving?" "Yes." "Do you want to study at my monastery in France? Classes start in 6 weeks." "Perfect. Thanks. I'll be there." Okay, it wasn't quite that smooth. After the invitation, it went more like, "What?! Are you crazy?! The last time some monk had some crazy idea about what I could do next I ended up trucking for the next 3 years!" If I would just stop talking to monks, my life would be so much simpler. And not half as interesting.


I should have done it long before I did. Last spring my aunt came up from Dallas with her new iPad and as much enthusiasm for it as a kid after Christmas. I had heard of iPads but had never seen one before. I adamantly resist any sort of technology that comes with a monthly charge and is not absolutely essential; but within a day or two, I was convinced that, for a truck driver, a smartphone is indeed essential. Besides, I had a significant discount with Verizon through my company, and my entire phone bill was tax-deductible. So, here are the reasons why every truck driver should have a smartphone or other mobile internet device:

1. YellowPages.

 * Since I delivered to stores - up to a dozen or more a day - it was extremely handy to be able to look up customers' phone numbers or addresses when they were missing or inaccurate on the paperwork; much easier and quicker than calling and bothering my dispatcher, having her search through the slow old computer database, and often with no luck.

* I also now have directory access to all my local businesses and agencies, etc., so if I have some business to take care of at home while I'm away, I can do it.

2) Google Maps.

* When my map software isn't quite precise and I want a second opinion, or when I want for any reason to see a satellite image of the place I'm going to be putting my 75' vehicle before I put it there.

* When I find myself settling into a new town for the night and don't know what's around or where to eat, I can find out. I can also zoom in on a satellite photo to see if the access and parking of a place are big enough to accomodate a truck. I hate to use the word "empowered" but I can't understate how useful Google Maps is for a truck driver, for getting the job done and for after-hours.

3. Google Navigator. This functions exactly as a GPS device. And it's free. And it's reliable.

4. Numerous truck- and travel-friendly apps, including a national interstate exit directory of restaurants and amenities at each exit.

5. E-mail. I can take care of business, or be in touch with friends and family about plans for the weekend.

6. Facebook. Same thing. And because when I'm parked for the night in a Lowe's parking lot in the boondocks of Northern Pennsylvania I really need to know what my friend's kids are up to in Colorado.

7. It appears that you can tether your laptop to your internet phone via USB cable and thus also have internet on your laptop. (I noticed this only recently, long after I had cancelled my phone service and left the country, so I'm not able to try it out. But it looks promising.)

8. Your phone bill is tax deductible.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Where does a truck driver go on vacation? Many truckers I know go someplace where there is absolutely zero chance of having to hear an engine running. (There are exceptions, like Dave, who is presently camped out at the Kentucky Speedway, but that's Dave.) I went as far from the lower 48 as I could without leaving the country: Alaska! I've been working for my company for 2.5 years and I've loved my 34-hour breaks on the beach in Southern California, my summer weekend off in the heart of Rocky Mountain Montana, harvest weekend with cousins in Northern Vermont, day off with an old friend in New York City, warm winter evenings in the hills of North Georgia, etc. But I haven't taken a vacation since I started trucking. Actually, I haven't taken a vacation since 2003. This one absolutely made up for lost time.

I have to admit I sleep a hundred times better in the truck than the tent, but I'll take the itinerary, the route, and the scenery here any day of the year. Wait. I should amend that. This is late June, with unmelted snow and winter parkas. I would prefer to be in the truck with engine heat, dry blankets, and a parking space any day in December. And some other months, too.

That's me hiking down a snowfield to get to a glacier. In late June. Truth be told, It was perfect spring skiing weather and I was thrilled to be there after running I-80 in 95-degree heat a few weeks earlier.

Alpine glaciers are one kind of place I'm sure have no truck parking.

A friend took this shot which I nominate for best-of-trip. Among other reasons, it shows the transition from snowy tundra in the Crow Pass to green valley of the Raven Creek, the runoff from the Raven Glacier above, and on down to the Eagle River.

It was so nice to have friends with me on my lunch break.

Most days I do 350 miles (with LTL stops, truckers). This day we did 8, and there didn't seem to be a drop of energy left in any of us at the end of it. This shot is looking several miles back up the valley to the pass.

An awesome spot to set up chapel, beside the Eagle River. A little while later, a bald eagle soared right over it! And nice stone work, gentlemen. New England farmers of past centuries would be proud of you.

See? A bald eagle!

Some impressive shots taken by one of my fellow hikers. We hiked 26 miles on the Crow Pass Trail, the second half or so along the Eagle River. It felt just like Middle Earth.

Alaska in June provides nearly endless daylight. We never set up camp, or ate dinner, or went to our tents, or woke up in the middle of the night, in the dark. I left my flashlight in Anchorage to spare the weight. This photo was taken on the summer solstice around midnight. I'm in love with Alaska.

(* Thank you to my fellow trekkers whose awesome photos I couldn't resist including here. If you'd like to take your photo back, just let me know.)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

April Showers

With all the storms going on recently I've been wondering what I would do if I were in a tornado in my truck. Well, I just found out. I got a call this morning from a trucker friend who wanted to tell me what happened to him this week: He was in a tornado. In his truck. In Kentucky. When the hail and horizontal rain got bad he pulled into a rest area. Then came the tornado. Too late to do anything else, he braced himself in his cab, ready to be picked up and thrown around. He watched the flatbed in front of him hauling an I-beam bounce up and down, the truck next to him blow over, and the rest area building implode. He lost a mirror and suffered some major scratches but his truck remained upright on 18 wheels. He says 46,000 pounds of carpet saved his life.

Update: The local news station announced that it was not a tornado as originally believed but a straight-line wind of 80-100 mph that beat up the rest area. Still.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

What not to do when you get stopped

I yelled at a cop. Yep. His tone and approach with me from the start were way out of line.

He pulled me over because I was (unknowingly) driving on a road I was not permitted to be on with my size trailer, and he let me know it in a dozen different ways, and he'd ask me accusatorily what I was doing there, and as soon as I'd start to respond he'd cut me off as if he had no interest in finding out and as if it were irrelevant to the legality of the situation, which it were not. My frustration level rose quickly from 'severely annoyed' to far beyond until my blood was boiling and it became irrelevant to me that he was an officer of the law and I was a truck driver at his mercy; I was only aware of the fact that he was a man treating me badly, and no man gets to treat me badly. It wasn't something I thought out: really, I lost my head there for a minute. I hit my boiling point and I let him have it:  "Are you giving me a hard time?"

I don't recommend smarting off to a police officer. It's unjust but true that if I were a male driver my situation most likely would have gone from bad to far worse right then. I'm still a little surprised at what happened: First, probably a bit shocked that this little young woman stood up to him, he pointed out that he was a police officer and a DOT officer and I needed to respect him. But then he started trying to let me know that he wasn't a bad guy. He asked the young officer who had meanwhile pulled up for backup to let me know that he was a good guy. Later on in the stop, he apologized for the way he acted in the beginning and he thanked me for being cooperative. And I apologized and said I was already frustrated because I got bad directions from a customer and didn't want to be on that road in the first place.

He let me off with a warning, for which I am extremely grateful. I am also now intimately acquainted with New York State law governing truck travel. Ask me anything you want to know. Life is good.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Don't believe . . .

. . . everything you read in the logbooks.