Sunday, March 2, 2008

Enjoying Warm Weather in Knoxville

Currently. I am at the Flying J Truck Stop in Knoxville, Tennessee, on my way to Charlotte, North Carolina, in the morning. The load I'm on currently has been a little crazy in ways. More on that later.

Since it's been over two weeks since I last wrote, this promises to be a long entry. Reader beware! I hope you decide to stick around anyway.

Postscript to Valentine's Day. I enjoyed writing the last entry, especially the musing about my Ghosts of Valentines Past, immensely. I knew I wanted to write about it, but, as happens many times when one is writing, it sort of took on a life of its own as I was writing, and went in directions I had not expected. I didn't know I was going to write about some of those things – they were just there in memory at the moment, and came through my fingers to the keyboard.

Reliving some of those memories, thinking about those girls and women, was cathartic for some reason. I think that's the first time I'd written about some of those experiences; certainly the first time I'd written about them in that way.

I appreciate the comments, e-mails, and phone calls about that entry. I'm glad it touched a chord with some of you. I felt good about the writing as writing as much as anything I've written in a long time. I'm always writing, but sometimes writing takes on a different character, a life of its own. That's how that blog entry was for me.

That night, pretty late, when I went back to the truck after writing that last blog entry, I had a voicemail from Charlotte. I called her back, hoping she'd still be awake (she was) and we had a nice, long talk. She said that Valentine's Day had been hard for her, work was very stressful, she was lonely, and it helped her to hear a friendly voice. It helped me too.

Voice from the past. One of the people who commented on the last entry, to my great surprise, was my old friend Marty from JPUSA days. I have no idea how in the world he even found the blog. It must be 12 years since I last corresponded with Marty, or much of anyone else from JPUSA. But I was glad to hear from him.

Marty and I were both single brothers at JPUSA. Marty had been there for a while before I arrived in 1991. We used to walk down the street to get gyros sometimes. And, when Charlotte and I started “ happening” in 1993, Marty was also dating a friend of Charlotte's, so we would occasionally go out together. Several times we rented a video and watched it together.

Marty was one of the main reasons Charlotte even knew about JPUSA. Back in 1990, Charlotte was still living in southeastern Missouri, where she grew up, around Doniphan, in Ripley County. She was recently divorced, and really needing some space and time to heal those wounds.

JPUSA owned some property at that time in Ripley County, a place known as “The Farm”. It was used for vacations and retreats for groups of JPUSA's from Chicago. In the summer and winter when it was either too hot or too cold to be used much, JPUSA would have two or three single brothers stay on the farm to take care of things, repair things, build things, and just keep an eye on things.

One of those times in 1990, Marty was one of the brothers there. They would visit churches in the area sometimes, and one Sunday they visited the church Charlotte attended at that time. They got to know each other, and Charlotte decided that getting away from Missouri to a place where she'd have an environment that could help her become whole again was what she needed to do.

One of the coolest memories I have from days at JPUSA is from the summer, 1992. I was able to go on tour with Resurrection Band on their 20 th Anniversary Tour up to Canada that summer as part of the road crew (I mostly drove the RV the band used). Marty was part of that crew also. It was one of the most special times of my life.

Anyway, it was weird to be writing about people from my past on Valentine's Day, and then hear from someone who was a part of that past that I never expected. Very cool.

Since last time. When I wrote last time, I was stopped in Jackson, Mississippi, on my way from Dallas to Alachua, Florida. I had mentioned hoping to be able to see my Daddy and my friend Van, who both lived on the route I was taking down I-10.

The next day, Friday, I stopped at a truck stop off I-10 not too far from where Daddy lives, and he was able to come pick me up. I went to his house, saw everyone, and then we all went out to eat. It wasn't much time, but it was enjoyable. That was the first time I'd been to his house in about two years.

Saturday morning, I was also able to stop by and see Van for a little while. We went to a little cafe in town and had a nice breakfast together.

I love it when it works out to see people I know all over the place as I drive around the country.

I will just list the various places I've been in the last couple of weeks, and then write about anything that sticks out in my mind afterward. It's funny how many times driving down the road I'll think of something I want to write about. And many times, the thought slips away with the next mile.

Be thankful for that. If I wrote about everything I intended to write, the entries would be even longer. {smile}

So, here's the list: from Florida --> Charlotte, North Carolina --> Spartanburg, South Carolina --> Carlisle, PA --> Hazelton, PA --> Tobyhanna, PA --> Sutherland, VA --> Richmond, VA --> Greeneville, TN --> Jefferson City, TN --> Hilliard, OH --> Columbus, OH --> Pittston, PA --> Joliet, IL --> Gary, IN --> Elgin, IL --> Pulaski, TN --> Charlotte, NC (which is where I'm headed early in the morning)

A couple of those loads were actually going to Canada, but I relayed them (one in Hilliard, OH and one in Carlisle, PA) so another driver (or team) actually took them into Canada.

Most of the last couple of weeks after being in Florida, I've been in winter weather of one kind or another. Where I'm at now, here in Knoxville, it must be about 70 degrees outside, and the sun is shining. A very nice change.

But, I can say this: I would take the worst cold of the winter, even from the plains of North Dakota, or the mountains of Montana, against the heat that will come with summer. I'd much rather be cold than hot. Not that I love being cold – it's just that I'd prefer cold to hot any time.

Well, I've been on the road, either teaming or solo, several months without taking any time off to see my family and friends in Georgia. The last time I was in Rome was in October last year. Part of that has been the transition time Terry and I were in going from teaming to solo driving, and the fact that my car is still in Dallas.

One of my top agenda items (not that it's a terribly long list out here on the road) for March is to take several days (the most they'll let me take – four or five days) to visit everyone in Georgia. I'm hoping that I can work it out so that the time to drive my car from Dallas to Atlanta (which will involve a rental car on one end of that leg) will not count against my time off, since I had planned on moving my car when Terry and I quit teaming, but it didn't work out that way, through no fault of mine or Terry's. But, in any case, I'm looking forward to some uninterrupted time off the road to spend with people I love.

One thing that has increased my sense of urgency is the fact that my Nanny (my grandmother on my Daddy's side) is declining quite a bit faster than she has in the past year or so. I talk to her most days, and she still recognizes my voice, but we never have more than just a basic “how are you feeling today” conversation.

In addition to my family, I'm looking forward to seeing my good friends Sam and Tim. Shout-outs to you guys! I appreciate both of you more than you know.

Terry. In the past two weeks, I've been able to see Terry twice. All with no planning on our parts – we just happened to be passing each other going opposite directions two different times. Once in Wytheville, Virginia, and before that in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Is that cool or what?

We talk every day or every other day. It's helpful when you are dealing with some of the stress of driving to talk to someone who understands empathetically what you are going through.

I know those of you who have been following this blog for a while want to know what Terry's doing these days. If I am a little vague and general about it, it's because some of what's going on with Terry is personal, and I'd rather have him talk about that than me.

What I can say is that Terry is doing well (and this is stuff he's shared with most of his family and friends, so it's not private), he's making progress to shift his life more around his relationship with Kelly (hi Kelly if you ever read this for some reason!), and relocating to Arkansas. He is still driving solo with Schneider, but there is a possibility that he may try to get a job that will let him be around more consistently instead of just every two or three weeks.

We both miss our teaming days, and already see that time as one of the highlights of our 20-year friendship.

That said, for this season in my life, driving solo and living this trucking lifestyle in all its facets is exactly what I need to be doing right now. And, for the most part, I'm loving it as much as anything I've ever done or lived.

Books and Video. Last time I wrote, I was in the middle of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead . It was the first time I'd read that particular book, and the first time I'd read anything by Rand in years. Great plot, very thought-provoking, challenging. And well worthwhile, like anything by Rand.

The next thing I pulled out of my book bag was an Ann Rule book my mom let me borrow, Too Late To Say Goodbye about the dentist in the Atlanta area who killed an ex-girlfriend and his wife, years apart. Like all of Rule's books, it was well-written and fascinating. If you like true crime or things like Cold Case Files on A&E, you'd probably enjoy reading this book. After reading it, I felt like I knew the victims, Dolly Hearn and Jenn Barber Corbin, and I admire both of their families for the courage they demonstrated in such tragic circumstances.

At the moment, among other things, I'm almost finished with an older Peter Jenkins book, Along the Edge of America , about his journey along the Gulf Coast living in various places along the way. If you like travel stories, it's very good. He has an engaging writing style.

Two weeks ago, I had put in the DVD of Elizabeth , starring Cate Blanchett. I finally watched it, and loved it. The rest of the cast was outstanding also. I'm looking forward to watching the next movie, Elizabeth: The Golden Age soon. I don't have it yet, so I'll have to order it.

Right now, I'm watching the first season of Everybody Loves Raymond. I never watched it much while it was in prime time, but have seen it some in reruns, and always laugh. I'm enjoying it very much, and looking forward to watching more.

Peter Boyle, who plays the father-in-law, is one of my favorite character actors – his character in The Dream Team , also with Michael Keaton, is one of my favorites of all time. He plays one of four patients from a mental hospital on an outing to New York City. He thinks he's God. Since I've thought the same thing several times in my life, I can identify with that character. It's incredibly hilarious in both instances.

When I finish ELR , I'm planning to start the first season of The Sopranos. I've only seen one full episode of the show (it was on one time when Terry and I were staying in a motel somewhere and they had HBO there), and am looking forward to starting that.

In addition to books and movies which keep me entertained, challenged, thinking, learning and exploring while I'm on the road (which is all the time), I love my XM satellite radio and my huge music collection (I use my Palm Pilot LifeDrive as an mp3 player, so I can rotate my library of about 8,000 songs according to whatever kind of musical mood I'm in at the time).

I especially love the politics, news and talk on XM – it makes the miles go by enjoyably. I listen to the XM 130 POTUS channel as much as anything these days – 24/7 coverage of the Presidential race. As much as any political junkie can tolerate. I listen to C-SPAN a lot also.

And one cool thing on the weekends is that on Saturdays on the 70's channel, they replay American Top 40 with Kasey Casem with no commercials. This week was from February of 1977. And they do the same thing on Sundays with the 80's. Talk about bringing back memories – or reminding me just how out of touch with popular music I was in my teens; if it didn't come from the Baptist Hymnal, the choir of my church, or other Christian music, I pretty much didn't hear about it. I thought the other stuff was evil.

But if you want to know anything about Christian rock and roll, blues or metal music from the 80's and 90's, I'm your guy. {crickets chirping into the silence}

I still enjoy that music. In addition to all the stuff I missed the first time around.

Larry Norman, so long. Talking about Christian music from the 80's and 90's reminded me that one of the pioneers and great voices of Christian rock music from its earliest days (the late 60's) passed away recently. Larry Norman influences Christian pop music even to this day, and he will be missed. If you've ever sung or heard I Wish We'd All Been Ready” , you have been touched by Larry Norman.

All of Larry Norman's music is great to me, but my favorite songs of his have to be Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?” and Why Don't You Look Into Jesus”.

Cool! While looking at some other links I found a link to an old video of Larry doing “Why Don't You Look Into Jesus” on Youtube. The volume isn't very loud, but it's still a decent version of the song.

Writing about this prompted me to switch what I was listening to (some of the complete Boston collection I have) to some old stuff by Larry Norman. Good stuff. In both cases.

The crazy load I'm on now. Yesterday, I delivered to a Frito-Lay plant in Pulaski, Tennessee. The next load I had was to pick up a relay and take it Charlotte, North Carolina. This morning, as I'm going to pick up an empty trailer to take to the place I'm picking up the load, I get a message that says the driver had a family emergency and instead of picking up the load up in Clarksville, I'm picking it up in Chattanooga.

No problem. Maybe, even on short notice, I can manage to visit some family after that since I would have gone down I-75 to Atlanta, and then took I-85 north to Charlotte.

Well, not long after that, I get another message that instead of taking the load to Charlotte, now I'm to take it up to Knoxville to relay it so another driver can take it to Charlotte because he's due for time at home and lives in that area.

So, I'm 10 miles from Knoxville, and get another message: the driver (who is an owner-operator contracted to Schneider) didn't want to wait, and just left without waiting on the load. So I'm back to taking it to Charlotte. Except I'm going about 100 miles longer to do it.

Of course, by the time I get back out to the truck, things could have changed again. But, whatever changes at this point will have to wait til in the morning to get any attention from me.

Those kinds of changes don't happen every day, but they are not uncommon either.

Welcome to my world.

The end. Well, so ends another little visit between you and me. I'm glad you are here. I hope you enjoy our connection here in some way as much as I do. Let me hear from you sometime.

Until next time . . . keep the wheels rollin' . . .


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