drivers tell a lot of stories but should you believe
them? Do you believe
your own? Let's start with the short stuff, the
What's Your Load?
passing, rookie drivers like to CB the driver in the opposite lane and
ask what he or she is hauling. Experienced drivers, if they reply at
all, will attempt to ensure the beginner that truck driving is
important and vital, and that every load has meaning. Answers range
from the mind-numbingly common to the fanatically fun.
if it is a frozen dinner reefer heading the other way,
surprised to learn that the load is "Spotted-owl
Reality Check: It's best not to ask.
D.C.: "They have detectors mounted under bridges
that can tell if you
have a handgun in the cab. But if you have it hidden under tools or
chains in your toolbox, they can't tell what
"Fifteen mph turtle crossings outnumber school
Keys: "School buses have to yield to chickens
crossing the road."
"Not part of the United States."
"Diesel is mandated to be 15 percent ethanol
distilled from commodity
cheese. The cheese itself is sold to the government by the dairy state,
and then bought back at a discount."
"They finally finished construction on I-94 in
Reality Check: One of the above is true (I hear).
The Flatbed Myth
time you have a particular load long-haul, there's a
load just like it
going the other way. If you're hauling roofing
shingles, look across
the median and there's a load just like yours.
Coils, farm tractors,
PVC pipe, you name it."
Check: Can this be true? As soon as you are back on the road, check it
out. Eyeball the flatbeds. Wait, never mind. Maybe we are better off
not thinking about this one too long.
The Justified Damage Story
downtown Cleveland. Lunch hour. No GPS and I am totally lost. I jump a
curb and pull into a huge, empty lot, big sign on it in the middle
says, "Future Home of..." You know,
nothing going on there yet, and I
spot these two city patrol cars stuck in traffic. I run up to the first
one with my manifest, has the address printed out. The dude rolls up
his window and refuses to look at me. I trot back to the second one and
he's pointing straight ahead and griping about
another semi blocking
traffic at the intersection. The lane starts to move and I am ignored.
Meantime, the cops drive around the rig blocking traffic and the driver
drops down and runs toward me, papers in hand, asking me directions! I
can't help him. Four-wheelers are honking and now we
are both being
yelled at. I get back to my own rig and discover that four-wheelers
have parked all around me, warm hoods and no drivers in sight. The
quadrangle has a few restaurants but my load appointment is 1 p.m. I
look around but there is no way I can turn or make it to the street
without running over something. I decide to get in and back up to the
big sign in the middle. I nudge the sign a little but I
can't cut hard
enough to miss the cars ahead of me. Well, there are no cars behind the
sign and since nobody here seems to care, I back over the sign.
two steel posts and one of them kicks up and punches through one of my
flatbed nail-boards. I keep on backing. Scrunch! Screeeeeee! Now I can
turn and I make it to the street but this time I stop the tractor over
the sidewalk, making sure nobody can block my exit. Most of the sign is
twisted and lying back there except for that one post, and I get out my
sledge hammer and begin pounding it down, punching it back out of my
trailer. Two more cops cruise by, look right at what I am doing and
keep on going. Are they on their way to lunch and just
don't care? In
that case, should I?"
versions of this story include stuff like running through freshly
planted flowerbeds or new hedges surrounding a fast food joint with a
truck parking sign out front. The driver blissfully takes them at their
word, cruises in, and can't get the rig back out.
Reality Check: Most of these collateral damage stories are
Truck Stop 13 or Rest Area 51
am not making this up! I was there!"
of accidental layovers or chance rest area
stops—impossibly sweet or
wonderful—which can't be found
again and aren't on the map. These
places sound like truck driver stories, especially since the teller
can't show you where it is.
own happened in 1988 on I-40. I think I was heading west through a
mountainous area of Tennessee near the river, and I was tired and out
of hours. Keeping one eye out for truck stop billboards, I pulled off
on an exit with an interesting sign, "Cuba
Landing," even though there
was nothing on the interstate to advertise it as a good place for large
cars. I almost made the exit too fast because it curved sharply
downward through the woods, and the crumbling stonework holding
the shoulder together was dangerously picturesque. At the bottom was a
large, almost empty gravel and dirt lot with a several dump trucks
parked haphazardly and a restaurant in a big wooden building on the
other side. Great! I could eat here and sleep in the coffin. Nobody
inside. Empty tables and chairs. Sun going down near the hilltops and
beaming through dusty windows. A gray-headed wisp of a woman finally
appears and I ask her if it's cool to park my rig
overnight in the lot.
OK. Food? Restaurant's closed but she said, "Sonny, you just go out
there and get some rest. You can wash up in the back of the building,
and I'll see to it you get some
dinner." Out in back was a commode and
a sink and a showerhead mounted on the wall, completely out in the open
but with hot and cold water. I make it back to my rig and grab a towel,
my flip-flops, and a change of clothes. Best shower I had in a year!
Back inside the building again, not a person or sound. I
didn't have a
five for the shower so I left a ten on the counter before crawling into
the sleeper. A little later, a knock on the emergency door woke me and
down there stood a young lady. She was a page torn from a storybook:
peasant dress, beautiful face, long, red hair like Rapunzel, and a GI
mess-hall plate full of hot food that looked like pot roast. I never
saw her or Cuba Landing again. Traveling I-40 off and on since, I could
never spot that exit, nor was it on my map. After a few years I stopped
telling other truckers that story because I was doubting it myself.
Once, however, just once, I met an older driver who said, "I was there
one time. I know that place." More recently, now that we
Internet, I Googled "Cuba Landing" and
found it: Exit 137. I don't know
if that building is still there, but after many Rand McNally Motor
Carrier's Atlas upgrades, the exit is still not on
Hitchhiker Female Stories
lady of your dreams, good looking, charming personality, carrying only
a light backpack, hops into your cab during a rainstorm. She had heard
you are headed for California
(if you are already in California
she wants to go to Florida)
and is grateful you're willing to take her along. You have just been
dispatched to Boston, however, and it may be sometime before you can
drop her at her destination. That's okay, she says,
I'm not in a hurry.
Check: There are a thousand versions of this story and they are all
five-star stories except for the one that happened to me, which I love
to share, and which I think is true.
The Dark Angel Story
she is visible, briefly, even during the daytime, but you have to have
been driving too long to see her. The dark angel targets lonely but
married men and is specifically dwelling on Earth to sabotage food
gifts presented to husbands before a long run: food items which their
loving wives prepared with care. A tin of cashew nuts, for instance,
your favorite. The wife has placed a little love-note on the lid. You
smile as you read it, and once you are out of traffic and on the
interstate, you pry off the lid and set the can on the passenger seat.
Just as you are about to reach for the first handful your right
steering tire hits a pothole and the nuts go flying, dumping out all
over the cab floor.
Reality Check: This story and all versions of it are always
trucker stories seems to be a male thing. Female drivers, if you email
me at email@example.com, I would love to include your unusual