When I started driving big rigs, I gave myself just two years until I was 52 when I would retire and move into my motor home and just travel around the country. I was running big rigs just to get used to driving big equipment through big towns and to see what part of the country I wanted to go back to and explore. I had an agreement with my second company (more on the first one later) that I would take all the crappy loads that no one else wanted but we had to do to keep a customer happy. After all, I wasn't there to make money, just to have fun. The way it turned out, I was assigned an almost new Kenworth tractor right after signing on and before those with higher seniority got a chance at it. Picture in the link above. Some were not too happy with me of course other than the owner and maintenance superintendent. Later I was given a newer tractor that matched the reddish color on the trailer. My tractors had a 3/4 bed, A/C and heater front and back, color TV, frig, 12 volt skillet and coffee pot, pantry shelf for food, 5 gal (or mere) of water, closet to hang clothes (yes, I always carried a sport coat and tie in case I met a lady that wanted to go out to dinner or dancing on a layover [pun intended] and it did work out in Chicago on one trip but that had been planned) porta-potty, CB radio of course as well as a police/weather scanner. Radar detector? Never used one since another agreement with the company was that I would never run illegal, driving hours, speed or over gross. I had made a date to meet a home town banker from Nebraska in Chicago for dinner while she was there on a banking conference. I parked my rig a Calumet, IL truck stop and than took a taxi some 30 miles to get there and of course, a taxi back the next morning....woops, I mean, after dinner. Eighty dollars taxi fare and worth every cent. The dinner at that fantastic hotel on the beach of Lake Michigan was only overshadowed by the beauty and intelligence of my date. How is that for putting a bunch of junk words together? I am kidding of course. It was a date we had been working on for over 6 months. Much like the TV program where the lead guy always said "I love it when a plan comes together" and a smile from Mr. T of course.

I always carried lots of books on tapes and the way the truck stops were set up at the time, you could bring in a tape and pick up another (honor system) used one that you had not heard before, all at no charge. I remember one trip when headed south on I-71 in Ohio and was supposed to turn off on US 30 westbound at Mansfield, I was so ingrossed in an old time western tape that I missed my exit ramp and had to go maybe 30 miles down the road before I found a place I could turn the big rig around. Must have been a good story. I always carried a charcoal grill in a side locker for use on layovers and used it often. Once east of PA, I never left my truck at any time except to offload and cooked my own meals in the cab. Some of my loads were worth well over US$1 million at times. The trailer was stainless steel and talk about shinny and I spent a lot of personal money to keep it that way. Two day layover, out comes the wax and metal cleaner. I got lots of complaints from other drivers who came up behind me and their head lights reflected back in their face. When that happened, I always slowed down and let them pass. A big thumbs up as they passed and a big 10-4.

I would haul fresh meat east from the meat packers in Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas, IBP, to the east coast and what ever loads they set me up for headed west for another load of fresh meat east. I often hauled meat into a manufacturer that provided special types of frozen meals for airlines and hospitals. The place was called Idawild Farms near Pomfort Center, CT. I would pull in late in the afternoon and stay overnight in the truck and pick up my loaded trailer the next morning and head west. What a great bunch of guys to work with. Oh how beautiful that area was in the fall but not as good at Maine. Those trips, usually to United Airlines kitchens like in Chicago, Denver, and Seattle, and hospital suppliers in Kansas City, Denver and other places. Usually a 9 stop trip and 10 days to do it coast to coast. Never a hurry but talk about fun. To get to Idawild Farms, I usually went to the edge of Hartford and headed east on a local road not designed for a 73 foot big rig. Each lane was only eight foot wide and I am eight foot, six inches let alone what extra space it took to turn a corner. It must have been an old time horse and wagon trail but unbelievable scenery. Anyone from CT here? You have a beautiful country as does Maine. Sorry VT, did not make it there but used to watch Bob Newhart on TV so have an idea that it is the same.

I hauled a lot of Baxter medical supplies from Jersey City, NJ across the country. They were slow trips but I have never worked with such a snotty customer ever. Sometimes I think my lips or tongue started bleeding when talking to them. What I could never understand is why Baxter moved plastic knives, forks and spoons from the east coast to the west coast by truck. Just think of the cost. No wonder our medical costs are so high in a hospital.

A driver always ran into mechanical problems along the road so I always carried a good set of tools. I was running a 315 Cummins (come along the drivers called them) which was not much different from the engines that powered my generators in Alaska so made many repairs myself except for the computer areas. I didn't have that equipment. On one trip back from the east coast to Omaha, I lost the alternator just as I was crossing the George Washington Bridge in New York. I ran all the way back to Omaha without it. I ran a wire from the alternator on the refrigeration unit on the trailer to the battery on the tractor and used the kingpin as ground and had enough power to supply the instruments, flashers/turn signals but never tried to drive at night. I had to go through one DOT inspection in west PA but I was waived through, probably because my rig was so clean, otherwise, I would have had to park it on the spot. It always helped to have a good looking rig for sure. More about that later for those interested.

Talk about fun. I had such a great time running big rigs for those two years although it is probably what finally got to my back. It ended when I couldn't pass the DOT physical any more.

I would bring in a load of boxed, up to 80 pounds per box, fresh meat to the east coast and offload it onto pallets myself. Usually, 43,000 pounds per trip and it would normally take me 3 hours to offload it. No pain medication either since I was driving. From there, I might have to drive 4 or 5 hours, load another trip and than drive for another 10 hours. Twenty four hour days very often but still it was fun. Illigal? Who knows other than me.

More about that charcoal grill later. Mmmmm good and lots of fun.