I’m warm and comfortable now. But there’s a noise. Cars idling. Diesel fumes. Oh! I’m inside a hotel. It’s dark. Let’s see...where’s the bathroom? The toilet? Uh ooh...it’s on THIS side. I’m slightly shocked to realize that I spend more nights in Motels than I do in my own home.
Coffee! The first religious event of the day. I throw everything into the car. An egg McMuffin with coffee. Two doughnuts with coffee. Some popcorn...with coffee. Breakfast lasts three hours. Lunch begins immediately. It may be Krispy Kremes. They’re like manna from Heaven. Angels might switch sides for one. They’re giving me a little doughnut shape of my own.
I listen to two truckers on CB. Scintillating conversation. “I should be the president of the Company”, I heard one say. “I do the hauling, I do the unloading, and I fill out all the paperwork. What’s left for him to do?” The other agrees. I’d better switch to radio.
What State am I driving in? Am I supposed to be here? It’s my third State today. Wanna hear sports? NO. Country-Western? No. I crave information. NPR is it. But the station fades.
The mind roams. I remember that I used to wonder what it would be like to be a grown man. I wondered about that until I was 50...and then I thought, "well to hell with it. I'll never know."
I’m thinking I’m a propertied man. I have property all over America...from coast to coast. Must be worth a modest fortune by now. Stuff I’ve left in hotel rooms and auditorium stages. I wish it wasn’t such a regular feature of my travels. It’s like when you spit your gum in the parking lot...and then you step in it. Sometimes you feel it only happens to you. Because when someone else spits gum in the parking lot, you’re the one who steps in it too.
A young man pulls up next to me in the parking lot as I sit eating a whopper in my car. (It is a glamerous life after all.) He doesn’t get out of his car and after a few minutes I glance over to see him sitting and staring ahead, slowly stroking his chin. Troubles I guess. I can’t help but wonder how many millions there are who would trade places with him...their problems for his. Like those Egyptian farmers I’ve met, who earn maybe $300 in a year. Men who’ll never even ride in a car, much less own one.
My life collides with trucks, truckers, and the trucking industry (not literally...at least not yet). They interest me. Most of these are honest Joes, trying to earn a living for their families.
But there’s a truck about 12 feet from my rear bumper now as I drive at 70 mph. I wonder if the driver hates me for being too slow...for being old...for being alive? An oversight he’s about to correct!
My mind grinds on...like the wheels beneath me, pounding against the pavement, trying to break it down.
“When an 18 wheeler passes over any given point on the highway, that exerts pressure on the pavement equal to 33,000 cars passing over it”, I heard a highway engineer in Wisconsin say. I don’t know how that’s measured, but I have no other data to refute the idea. Sometimes I see trucks with 42 wheels! I wonder what they carry.
“The Interstate highways would last for 100 years without repair if the traffic were autos only”, the engineer says. Wow. Eighty percent of freight is carried by trucks...four million of them today. Twenty percent is carried by rail. Switch that around and there’d be a lot less diesel fumes at the Motel. Which is where we started.
Trying to stay on the trail and out of the woods, Dale Johnson Trailwood Films & Media