I Should’ve Been a Long-Haul Truck Driver

Posted by Rod Jones on

I Should’ve Been a Long-Haul Truck Driver: No! I'm not kidding. Did I love my career as a commercial and fashion photographer? Absolutely! It was the best! In fact, that's how I met my wife. And we have been happily together for many, many years. We ourselves drove all over the American West in a Jeep. Roughing it sometimes and staying in some very interesting neon-lit 1940s-style motels. It's amazing when you're looking for a place to crash for the night. Those multicolored neon lights beckon you with the promise of a comfortable night. But some of those places were downright spooky. The bathroom showers, which were completely tiled in pink and seafoam green, had a haunting mystery all on their own. But all along, both of us enjoyed the open road. Basking in all of the scenic beauty that anyone could possibly hope for.

After many years of running my commercial photography studio. It was time to move on and become a marketing consultant. That's been a very rewarding career. Worked with some great people. In fact, still do. But why do I reminisce about being a long-haul truck driver?

The Open Road: The American landscape certainly has tremendous appeal. It's ever-changing and offers wonderful stimulation for the creative mind. Nearly every mile offers magnificent scenery changes, going anywhere from the open deserts, rolling hills, mountains with trees, and of course, big metropolitan areas and cities. "What's not to love!"

The Rig: It didn't take me too long to discover what was the right truck for me. I know the trend is to drive a Freightliner, and God knows that is a great ‘tractor’ truck. But for me, I favor Mack Trucks. Maybe it's a nostalgic thing. After all, they've been around since 1900. The company was founded by Jack and Gus Mack in Brooklyn, New York. Talk about a pedigree, with their trademark Bulldog prominently and proudly sitting on the top of the hood for all the world to see as it travels down the highways and byways.

I have been an artist and writer for quite a few years. In fact, so is my wife. If you're wondering how that would work driving a big rig across the country? Well, this is what I figured out. There's plenty of room in sleeper cabs, there's actually room to paint or write back there. A married couple can get by quite comfortably, especially because of all the latest cooking technology that has been adapted for trucks. You can have a crockpot filled with vegetables and meat, making the cab smell great. You have a meal ready to eat when you pull into the truck stop to refuel, doesn't get any better than that. Did I mention that husband and wife truck drivers can share the driving and, I suppose, the cooking too.

For those of you who never really thought about the trucks you see on Highway, let me tell you exactly what they are. A semi-truck or big rig is the combination of a tractor unit and one or more semi-trailers. The semi-trailer is attached to the tractor, which most people refer to it as a truck. I might mention that they are also referred to as 18-wheelers.

Speaking of 18 Wheels reminds me of all the great country songs that have been written about trucks and truck drivers. Like. “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses." Sung by Kathy Mattea. The Rigs most often have great sound systems in them. When you're driving across a country, you need some entertainment and, of course, a favorite country-western station. Our Jeeping favorite was always Arizona's Real Country 963 out of Wickenburg, AZ. But then again, you can pick up different stations all along the way. Radio chases away the boredom that sometimes can happen.

Truth be known, I never experienced what I perceived to be an exciting thing to do when driving a Big Rig.   But here we go… My palms are sweaty! I hold on to the oversized truck steering wheel. My wife is sitting in the cab with me, trying to decide if she should brace herself or not. We both have been in the situation before. No, it's not an icy road. It's a steep grade. Our well-waxed, fire engine red semi tractor, displaying dozens of amber marker lights so other drivers can see us, has a trailer load of Del Monte canned food. This is a heavy load. Our route takes us through the Appalachian Mountains, where we go up one grade and down another. If there's anything fun about going down grades, you get to use your Jake break. (A compression release break that helps a truck slow down without wearing out the service brakes.) It makes a very cool rattling sound that lets every passenger car around you know you are there.

Here's the trick when driving a big rig up and down steep grades. You have to keep enough momentum going down the hill so you have enough speed to take you up the next hill. If you don't, the truck slows way down, and you have to gear way down. We've all been stuck behind big trucks climbing a steep grade, them going as slow as molasses; it can be very frustrating, especially if you're stuck behind one or more of these trucks. Also, other drivers of big rigs expect you to have enough speed to go up the next grade without forcing them to gear way down and take forever to get themselves up to the top of the hill. It's a roller coaster when you're driving your way through the mountains.

"I am past my prime when it comes to driving a big rig, but my imagination lets me freight down the highways, occasionally pulling on my horn lanyard just to say hi." Rod Jones Artist.

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