Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving! - Since California -- Changes

Happy Thanksgiving!  It is Thanksgiving Day as I write this (albeit, late on Thanksgiving Day).  We are on the road, currently in South Carolina, where we are dropping the load we picked up last night in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and where we will pick up our next load going out to Dayton, in The Great State of Texas.

I hope that all who read this will have had a great day, hopefully spending time with family or friends, and also taking some time to think about what you are grateful for in your life.

I spent some of my drive-time earlier today thinking about just that.  Driving affords plenty of time for thinking -- sometimes, too much time for thinking.  :-)

Some things I'm thankful for on this Thanksgiving 2007:  

  • my family and friends;
  • having this job that I love and being paid well for getting to drive all over this beautiful country;
  • the simplicity and contentment I have in my life right now -- I cannot imagine my life being any better unless I had lots of money and could just live in an RV driving around the country or traveling to other countries;
  • the fact that I have known the love of the most wonderful woman I've ever met in my ex-wife;
  • I'm thankful for the time I've enjoyed being able to drive as a team with one of my best friends.
  • I'm thankful for the fact that I live in this country at this time and have the freedoms I enjoy

Since California.  In one month since being stuck in California, we have been more places than I could remember without looking at my notes.  We have driven very hard for the most part since most of our loads were on a tight schedule.  I'll just list the places we went to from LA after the winds and the fires calmed down (see last entry for details on that) and then comment on anything that comes to mind.

Fasten your seat belt:  From LA --> Otay, CA --> Mississauga, Ontario, Canada --> Laredo, TX --> Swartz Creek (Flint), MI --> Roanoke, TX --> San Leandro, CA --> Dallas, TX --> Phoenix, AZ --> Little Rock AR --> Kent, WA --> Chicago, IL --> Auburn, WA --> Green Bay, WI --> Beech Island, SC (on our way there as I type this) --> Dayton, TX

Some comments:
  • On our way from LA to Otay (down near San Diego literally only yards from the Mexican border), we still saw some smoke and some remnants of the fires that seemed to engulf whole areas of Southern Cal.  We were glad to be able to get out of there after being stranded for 3 days.  One thing I have to say about Schneider also:  they never pressured us to start moving until we thought it was safe to do so; they never second-guessed us; all they asked us to do was to keep them updated on our situation.  That's one of the reasons I like Schneider -- they don't press drivers to compromise on safety.
  • Canada:  this was our second trip up to Canada.  We had no problems getting into Canada this time (unlike the last time), but coming back with the load from Canada, we were missing a critical document, so we were delayed for a while until we were able to get that.  I always love going to Canada, even with the hassles one encouters at the border sometimes.
  • Border crossing and Homeland Security Dept:  All I have to say is that if the border crossing office and its people are an example of what has been produced post-911, I think that it confirms my existing opinion that a lot of money has been spent, a lot of bureaucracy has been created, and our national security has not been enhanced a great deal.  Think about the stupid stories you hear from the past few years about getting on an airplane:  this bureaucracy has created a system that routinely issues stupid mandates that defy common sense (as any bureaucracy tends to do), and there is a bloat of expense and layers of red-tape that actually create a worse problem than it was intended to solve.  If that raises hackles, good; feel free to leave comments.  At least do some thinking on the subject.  That's one of my goals in writing about it.  Anyway, if those buffoons at the Detroit Border Crossing Office are in charge of protecting my country, then I do not feel very safe.  End of comment on that (and aren't you so glad of that?).
  • Running in the northwest:  the past couple of weeks, we have been turned loose on the roads of the West/Pacific Northwest, and it has been great! I would run like we have the past couple of weeks all the time if I could.  And, I am happy to say that in going up to Washington state, we have crossed North Dakota several times, and that means we've now been to all 48 states and Canada in the 180,000 we have traveled since March.
  • Winter driving:  driving on I-90 and I-94 through Montana, Idaho, and Washington this time of year means that we have seen winter weather.  This last time, coming over Lookout Pass on I-90 crossing the mountain between Idaho and Montana, we ran into our worst winter weather so far.  It got so bad early one morning about 4:30 that I could not see the road, and the snow started freezing on the windshield because the windshield wipers were frozen and weren't working.  We found a truck stop and pulled in and just stayed there until daylight when the worst of the storm had passed.  It was a very scary experience.
  • I think for Terry and I, our favorite drive in the whole country now is on I-90 in Montana, between Missoula and Ceoure D' Alane, Idaho, going over Lookout Pass.  It is simply overwhelming in its beauty, and when the snow has fallen on the cedars that cover the sides of the mountains everywhere, it is a living postcard.  Incredible in every respect.  Another favorite drive for me this time was taking Montana highway 200 from east of Missoula all the way across the state, but especially between I-90 in Missoula and Great Falls, going over Rogers Pass.  For a long time, the road parallels the Blackfoot River, and is the general area where the story A River Runs Through It takes place.  If you've seen the movie, you must remember the beautiful scenery along the rivers -- that's exactly what driving on Montana 200 looked like.  I'm sitting here and still thinking:  "Wow!"
Amber Digby.   The last entry I meant to say something about a new country singer I heard first on XM 13 -- the channel that plays all the old country, mostly stuff from the 60's and 70's, like Loretta Lynn, Porter Waggoner (R.I.P.), Conway, George Jones, Willie, Johnny Cash -- what some folks would call "real country".    For a couple of weeks, I heard this song called "If You Were Me" and it was beautiful, bluesy, just good old sad country -- and that voice!  

The first thought I had was to ask why I had never heard this song or this voice before.  I got the name of the singer (Amber Digby) and did some searching on the net.  I found out that she is a relatively young singer who has had a couple of CD's released of covers of some old songs.  According to her MySpace page (here), she plays pretty regular dates mostly in Texas.  

I ordered both her CD's, and love them.  If you want to hear some good, sad, heartbreak, blues, cry-in-your-beer traditional country, you can't go wrong with her.  If you don't like this kind of music, don't bother; but if you do -- this is the best I've heard in a long time.  You can hear samples of her music on her MySpace page.  

There is something about good blues/country/bluegrass and their lamentive quality that is very cathartic emotionally.  At times, I love to just immerse myself in it, let it take me to those deepest, darkest places of past hurt, pain, regret (mostly for me this involves Charlotte, my ex-wife) and let it just wash over me.  I don't stay there -- that's emotional suicide -- but it has the benefit of making things clearer when I come back up.

And those of you who are reading this with your "religious" perspective judging me, wondering why anyone would want to listen to that stuff -- I mention this:  lament is part and parcel of most religious traditions -- read the Psalms, the book of Lamentations.  You think your faith doesn't understand suffering, pain, hurt, longing, regret?   Listen to some Southern country gospel, especially from the 1930's through the 1970's, and you will find much in common with the kind of country music I'm describing; it's music that reflects the human condition, our struggle, our pain, as truly as anything else.

And by the way, if you like Christian blues, you can do no better than music by Glenn Kaiser (my old pastor in Chicago), Darrell Mansfield, or Larry Howard.  Excellent stuff.   One of my favorite blues songs in the world is "Where Roses Grow", especially the live version done by Resurrection Band at the 20 Years Live concert in Chicago (also on the live CD) back in 1992.

If you have ever been hurt in love or have hurt someone else in love, I challenge you to listen to a song like "Bitter They Are" (written by Mickey Gilley, and covered by Elvis in the mid-70's) and not relate to it.  When I listen to "Three Years" the way Amber sings it, it echoes my heart's cry for my own lost love almost perfectly.  It helps me grieve, mourn, and go on.  It's healing.

To finish, I'll just say that sometime next year, I'll be going to see Amber in concert somewhere in Texas.

Changes.  So it is, that change is inevitable.  When Terry and I started this part of our journey 9 months ago, it signaled a major change for both of us.  We were both in a unique place in our lives with no obligations, and a level of freedom that let us be able to do what we have been doing:  driving all over the country for long stretches of time in our orange Schneider truck.

We didn't know how long it would last, or how it would evolve over time.  

As it happens, quite unexpectedly and suddenly, Terry has been fortunate enough to find a true love in his life.  And, as these things have a way of doing, they have progressed to the point that Terry and I are no longer going to be able to continue as we were before.  And, with equal parts happiness (for Terry and what he has found) and sadness (for what we will lose in not teaming), I report that at the end of the year, Terry and I will take separate forks in the road.  We both still plan to drive for Schneider, but we'll just be doing things a little differently than we have been.  

The future is bright for both of us, and I still can't wait for the next mile of the road just to see what's there . . .

This blog will continue, and will reflect some of these changes as they occur.  I hope you stay tuned . . . it's been nice having you in the truck this far . . .

Until next time . . . keep the wheels rollin' . . . and enjoy some good ole tear-jerker country . . .


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