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The End

As I alluded to in my last picture post, my adventure is over. Much sooner than I hoped for actually. It ended last Saturday at approximately two o’clock in the afternoon. I’m getting around to writing my final thoughts now – five days later – because I’ve been decompressing. By that I mean I’ve been cooking my own meals and sleeping past five am central time. That also includes sleeping in a bed without worrying about falling off. It was never a very large concern while traveling, but its still nice to have a body between myself and the floor – even if the floor is a mere foot away, not five.

Originally I had hoped to be on the road for two weeks or so. But these things rarely work out. The rest of my life did not want to coordinate itself with my wishes. After our trip to Long Island we waited around in Ohio for something coming home. The trip back out would be wrought with difficulties though. Possible loads bounced around in the ether between phone calls as dispatchers and Dad tried to coordinate everything and in the end he went straight back to Hicksville. From there everything got fuzzy but none of it would be back by Sunday – the day I had to resume life and go to work. So instead of denying my real job their other Sunday employee dad left on a solo mission.

From Hicksville it was unknown where he’d be off to next. It could have been straight back to Iowa, but considering the pathetic stream of freight coming out of New England that was unlikely. Without me along Dad can move up and down the coast with whatever it takes to get to the big money haul to bring him home. It was too much for me to ask him to give up part of his paycheck in order to get me home.

I love traveling and seeing new places but its still nice to be home. Warm blood flushed my face and heart when I saw that first sign for Des Moines, regardless if it was still in Illinois. Similarly the welcome sign into the Hawkeye state doesn’t seem so tacky when you haven’t been near the border in a while.

The home stretch from Iowa City to Des Moines is especially nostalgic for me. I used to live in Iowa City. For five months. The five most depressed months of my life. So that stretch from exit 244 Dubuque Street to exit 135 2nd Avenue was me running home. It was ticking off miles to crawl into my bed, envelope myself in my mom’s hugs, lay in the lawn with my pirate dog and a book. Its mostly the same now, but I’m not running away from anything. Simply towards something better.

Driving that stretch with my dad beside reminded me of what it must be like for him. Those signs from a state away. The mile markers falling away and towns becoming familiar. Its hard to hold the speed limit when you’re that close. Honestly thats why cruise control exists. There were far too many nights that he should have stopped in that stretch, having run out of hours and alertness. But its so close. There’s an edge of impatience to everything in that stretch. Once we parked the truck we still had to drive the pickup home – there is no where in Polk City to park a truck so it stays in Ankeny with a group of other trucks left by their owners as they go home to familiar faces.

When we got home I dropped my bags, cuddled by scraggly little mutt, and laid on the floor. for some reason this always seems to be how I relish a return. Dad has his ritual which includes dropping bags, getting on the floor to pet the dog, but then going one step further than me and sitting at the counter to check over the bills and mail that is always waiting.

Everything is settling down again. I haven’t gritted my teeth or bit my tongue in days. Nor have I been forced to listen to red radio. Funny how those two go hand in hand. I have started receiving my daily calls from my dad instead of chatting over the hum reverberating from below us. I make dinner, read books, ride my bike, do everything normal. My father is cruising along, swearing at drivers, cursing the poor parking choices of drop site employees, and I’m sure he is grumbling at healthcare reform and our president’s current actions. Everything is back to the way it was but with a sense of appreciation that had become a bit weak in the months since our last trip.

Photos #3

I have to admit that taking pictures from a moving vehicle is difficult. Taking them from a truck with mirrors everywhere and absolutely no stillness is beyond that. I would like to take a moment to credit the good folks at Apple who created iPhoto and in it a little function called straighten. I couldn’t do it without them.

Here is the end of the photos. Because this is the end of the line. I’ll go into more detail later but yes my friends it is done. But before I go I would like to show off the East Coast and a bit of the Midwest. For all of you who have not had the opportunity to drive in cities criss crossed with bridges, overpasses, low hanging power lines, high rise buildings, and the smells of the world in a few short blocks, these are for you.
The Times

Stuck

Manhattan

The following are the trip home.

Pennsylvania:Chiseled

Distorted Mirror

Illinois:

The road stretches away

Chicago Quarry

Home:

Beautiful Indeed

I also thought I would add on a few photos from past trips I’ve taken, just because I feel like it.

North Carolina, in the mountains, in January 2008, on a restricted road. I didn’t know they had sheer cliffs and hillsides in NC.

Restricted Truck Route

Home

Waiting

23 July 2009

The constant motion of the road in is stark contrast to the waiting. We’re empty now, unloaded our last box on the north side of Boston this morning. While Dad tried to figure out our next move I chatted with the proprietor. I felt like a tourist trying to understand him. We talked about school – how good are you sports teams? – and Iowa – you ever see one of those twisters? I feel like I have to reiterate how kind people are. I’m beginning to believe people invent stereotypes to shelter themselves from having to communicate with other people.

We left the Rex Sox clipping-ed warehouse and headed to a truckstop to wait. No such luck in the way of a load however. So here we sit in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. We’ve been in Brody’s Diner for at least an hour now. Plates were cleared long ago and we’ve finished every crossword in arms’ reach. The USA Today one from yesterday, a third undone. The entire puzzle section of today’s paper. Even the crossword out of the trucking paper has been demolished in a mess of scribbled letters and dashed out numbers.

This waiting makes me restless. Its been constant motion for days now and here we are – stuck. Leaving empty means losing money and possibly doubling back if something does pop up. So we wait. I’ve reverted to the time-killer of childhood – watching, listening, and fidgeting.

This is New England to me. Clam chowder and the fish basket on the daily specials. I can hear the cook mutter to the waitresses – ours has another variation on the Boston accent, this one mixed with honey and kindness. A few feet from our booth is the almighty lunch counter filled with a rotating cast of gruff union workers. Uniform salt and pepper hair, half tied sandy work boots, and depending on the audience chatter about baseball, unions, or injuries incurred in the line of duty.

We’ve changed locations now and are across the street from the diner in the actual truck stop where we continue to wait. Its a reality of being a trucker. For all the rush there will certainly be times stuck somewhere bored out of your mind. Its a symbiotic relationship here. Shippers need truckers and truckers need shippers, but neither are incredibly reliable about time tables.

Pictures from Day 2

Pennsylvania Appalachia

Rainy

Brooklyn

Gotham/Manhattan

Traffic

Watching

22 July 2009

I want to know things, this can be a problem when we’re driving. I want to know where people are going, what they’re doing, what they’re hauling in the case of other trucks. I’ve rarely gotten any answers but it doesn’t stop me from asking psychically. This desire becomes stronger the further from home. The further from answers I would expect. Despite so many of the answers being the same. Going to work, going on vacation, etc. But this just exacerbates the problem. Where are these destinations?

This has all been flowing through my head today because we were in New York City. The city that never sleeps. From Hicksville, Long Island we squeezed our way up to Valley Stream. Now we’re finally heading north on interstate 95 towards Boston after taking an hour and a half to go thirty miles to the Whitestone bridge. An hour and a half of looking into the drivers’ seats of hundreds of lives.

I’ll be the first to admit I love my vantage point. Looking out on the world from a safe distance, not worrying about being discovered as I watch the everyday lives of the people around me. This ‘everyday’ is completely foreign. I don’t take the express train from Long Island to Manhattan. Nor do I crawl down into a Subway to slide under the city and pop up again on the other side like a frog in a very crowded pond.

Watching so secretively does feel kind of intruding, but its human nature. At this exact moment of writing we are stuck in traffic in Connecticut. The reason? A car accident on the other side of the barricade. As we passed within feet of it the minivan in front of us almost came to a complete stop and caused another accident. We don’t have time to sit around and talk to cops.

The fact is right there, we get some sense of pleasure out of watching others. What that entails is different for everyone. It makes some people feel better to compare themselves to others. It makes some feel worse. There is a sense of entertainment buried in there too. Personally, I love diversity, which is why the East Coast, NYC in particular, is one of my favorite places to go. Everyone is represented here. Reading the passing signs for businesses is a trip around the globe. A Chinese restaurant next to a Kosher deli. Next to a Jamaican market and an Italian flower store.

Even the diversity within the United States is astounding. Listening to the stereotypical New York accent used authentically – with no idea it sounds different to me. The never-ending explanation that Iowa is in fact the home of hogs, corn, and the Iowa Caucus. Not potatoes. The upside to that is ruining humorous stereotypes. Iowans are not all hicks. New Yorkers are not all assholes. This is what we all should learn from traveling, from watching. Its one thing to look at monuments and buildings. Its another to watch and hopefully experience some of that culture. Even if only passing by.

PS: I feel like I need to apologize for the terrible formatting. These all look lovely in my writing program but copied and pasted into wordpress all formatting is lost and there is often little time or wifi bars to correct it. I’ll try to fix it when I have time.

Showers

21 July 2009

I have a thing about hair. I do not like other people’s hair touching me if its not connected to them. For example, think of that girl in front of you at a sweaty concert. The blond there with her boyfriend. The girl who has never been to a metal show before and in all her getup forgot to tie up her bleached straw hair. Those tresses that stick to your sweaty body and make you want to vomit. Maybe its just me.

I do not like touching other people’s hair if its not connected to them. This includes dogs which has made my house a learning environment fit for obsessive-compulsives in exposure therapy. There are inch and a half long glossy black labrador hairs ev – ery – where. As far as therapy its working so far except when my loving boyfriend calls the dog to roll all over the bed. In such circumstances my tongue is stuck to the roof of my mouth to slow the gag reflex.

This little issue of mine makes hygiene an interesting event on the road. Hotels give you nice, possibly threadbare, white towels. They’re white because it matches everything and because you know they’re clean. Truck stop towels are blue. Think about it. Shower rooms are the size of a small bathroom and usually completely tiled. You get two towels, a wash cloth, a floor mat, and a bar of soap the size of a pack of gum. The cheaper Juicy Fruit, not the big Bubblicious – this isn’t a hotel people.

One of the very few instances where I am blessed to be nearly blind without my glasses. As soon as they come off everything becomes an impressionist painting. Monet, Degas, Renoir, I live in their oil still lifes without any optic aids. So when I take a shower I can’t see any of the hairs stuck to the drain nor the ones that are now woven into the towels. I dry off my hair and make myself believe I’m getting clean and not just rubbing other people on me. And for the love of God don’t think about the people that used these towels and facilities before you.

I should feel blessed to have used relatively clean truck stop showers. As I lay here in my bunk we’re listening to a radio show. On this particular episode they are asking truckers to call in with their tales of the worst truck stops. A large number of the calls have to do with showers. I have never had a frog jump out of the drain onto my leg. I have never had to stand ankle deep in dirty water because the drain won’t work. I have never had someone strip the LED lights off my truck while I washed up. I only worry about hair.

1. How to use turn signals. Please, take a refresher of drivers’ ed and use your turn signals. Yes the beat might conflict with your music, but its only momentary. The noise will stop once the turn is completed – I promise.

2. How to merge onto the interstate. You merge, we don’t. We were here first. Look up the definition of merge and that will be the first clue as to how its done.

3. When following a truck do not follow right on the bumper or try to sneak around. We can’t see you. There is a reason for those signs on the back of a trailer that show a car getting crunched. It happens. When cars and trucks battle, trucks win. Always.

4. Pay attention. If someone has a turn signal on it usually means they want to turn. Drivers often forget that they are guiding giant projectile weapons. Don’t text or mess with CD’s. This might sound like a PSA from the highway patrol but when you’ve seen as many hearts, crosses, and teddy bears on roadside memorials as you do in a truck you might realize this.

5. Show respect for other drivers – regardless of what they are driving. We all want to get somewhere. Getting angry, violent, or irresponsible will not get you there any faster. It will only piss off other people and possibly get someone hurt. The key word in sharing the road. Bikes, buggies, cars, trucks – we all pay taxes and have a right to use these roads we’ve paid for, however unwillingly.