Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Moving On -- However Slowly

Gary, Indiana. As I write, I am inside the Schneider Operating Center (OC) in Gary, Indiana, just south of Chicago. This is the largest Schneider facility in the country, and I am inside trying to stay as much as possible out of the heat and avoid idling my truck to stay cool.

Dallas. Last time I wrote, I was on my way to Dallas to spend a couple of days with my family there – no ties of blood, but ties of the heart just as strong. I had an enjoyable visit, even though, just as any time I go to visit people anywhere, there is never enough time and I don't get to see everyone I would have wanted.

My Daddy didn't get to Dallas on that Sunday afternoon as he'd thought – he found out at the airport in Florida that his flight had been canceled, so he had to take one the next day. I thought I'd missed my chance to see him since I was leaving on Monday morning, but the load I finally got out of Dallas didn't deliver until Wednesday morning in Albuquerque, New Mexico, so I had time to wait on my Daddy's arrival..

I picked up the load on Monday afternoon, and then parked at a truck stop in Fort Worth, from where I would leave Tuesday morning. That let me see my Daddy on Monday evening when he got to Dallas, and we had a very nice visit. The last time I saw him was when he was working in Phoenix last year, and Terry and I passed through on our way to California.

Everything I could say about my Daddy was pretty much said in the entry I wrote about him last year on Father's Day, titled simply The Hero.” Just click on the link if you want to read about him.

West to Albuquerque. From Fort Worth, I got to drive on one of my favorite roads in the country, US 287, up to Amarillo (I also love the drive on 287 north from Amarillo into Colorado and up into Wyoming), and then west on I-40 to Albuquerque. I made it as far as Santa Rosa, New Mexico, on Tuesday, and delivered my load before dawn on Wednesday morning.

Back to Texas – Laredo – then north. I got my next load assignment Wednesday morning, to drive down to Santa Teresa, New Mexico (just west of El Paso), to pick up a load going to Laredo. Once again, I would get to take one of my favorite drives down US 90, US 277, and US 83, from Van Horn, Texas, to Laredo.

But, I couldn't pick up the load in Santa Teresa (only 260 miles from where I was) until Thursday afternoon. That put me in Laredo on Friday afternoon, and also meant that last week, I only netted about 1500 miles total. If you consider that it's easy to put in 500 miles in one day, that equates to 3 days of driving in a week. I drove a little every day, but days like Wednesday and Thursday, I only drove 200 or 250 miles.

But a short week on miles is made less discouraging by being out west and in Texas. That's better than 1500 miles in one week in someplace like New Jersey. So I won't holler too loudly.

Saturday morning, I picked up a load that I took up to Addison, Illinois, west of Chicago, and it delivered today. That meant that Saturday night, I got to go through Dallas, and I got to visit some more.

Today. I will recount my day today as an example of how quickly a day can be twittered away out here on the road. Last night, I had received my next load assignment – I was to come down to Gary when I delivered in Addison this morning (about 50 miles), pick up a loaded trailer and take it another 50 miles to Romeoville, Illinois.

After I delivered the load this morning, on my way to Gary, I got a message indicating that I'd been taken off that short load and was being assigned another load. So when I got to Gary and was waiting on my next load, I took a shower and got some lunch.

The next load was picking up today in Griffith, Indiana, only about 10 miles away, and delivering up near Minneapolis – next Monday! About 450 miles away. I called my dispatcher and she agreed that it wouldn't be a very good idea to leave me under that 450 mile load for 6 days. So I was to pick it up and drop it in Gary, and another driver would pick it up over the weekend and take it to Minneapolis.

So I go to pick up the load. But, the way Schneider told me to go (they send turn-by-turn directions to the places we have to go over the satellite) suddenly had me on a road that big trucks weren't supposed to be on. And the sign was posted in a place that by the time I saw it, there was no place to turn around. So I had to keep going. No problems but only because I wasn't stopped.

Anyway, I got to the shipper, went inside, and when I told them I was there to pick up a load going to Minnesota, the guy in the warehouse said, with some good Chicagoland cursing, that they weren't expecting any trucks until Friday to pick up this load. He called the broker who had arranged the load with Schneider, and then started loading the truck.

He was only one pallet shy of finishing the load when he got a phone call. Things had changed, and he was going to unload my truck – they had rescheduled the pickup for Friday as he had originally thought.

So it was that, after about 3 hours, he had loaded me, unloaded me, and I went back to the Gary OC a different way than I had come – this time on roads I was allowed on – and I still had my empty trailer and nowhere to go. It was late by then, and I didn't want to fight through Chicagoland rush hour traffic and be stuck somewhere without a place to park tonight, so I told Schneider I'd be available in the morning.

As things stand now, I will pick up a load in Batavia, Illinois, in the morning at 10:00 that is going to Prince George, Virginia. Again, it's a situation where the load can't deliver until Monday of next week, so I will drop the load on the way, probably Indy.

So it goes.” (My favorite expression from Kurt Vonnegut's excellent Slaughterhouse Five .)

Moving on. I learned last week that my ex-wife, Charlotte (about whom I've written much in this blog in the last two years), is involved in a relationship with someone on a more-than-casual level. It's a friend of her brother's.

I always knew that one day that news would probably come. For the past couple of years, I have thought that when it came I would find myself able to be happy for her and thankful that she's moved on with her life in that direction. It is true, however, that you can think you know what you will do in a given situation, but until the moment comes, it is an untested idea.

When the moment did come for me to know, and I explored my reactions and feelings about it, I found only what I had hoped – joy and gladness for her. And no sadness or regret for me.

It helps me to feel positive about this news because the other person happens to be a friend of Charlotte's brother, Mike. I don't know the man (though I have known of him through Mike for years), but I know Mike. The fact that he is Mike's good friend of many years is an endorsement for me of my hopes that when Charlotte did take that step (wherever it leads), she would have found a good man. The likelihood is that if this man is a friend of Mike's, he is as good a man as could be found anywhere.

I have thought for some time that I had long ago moved on with my life, whatever that means. But this news of Charlotte moving on with hers in this way has pleasantly confirmed it for me.

There is a side of being on the road, living on the road as I do, alone, in solitude (except for those great months with Terry) in which all of my thoughts about who I am, especially in relation to other people, have to be suspect. There is a thought sometimes that being out here all alone for months at a time is in some sense an incubation from the entanglements involved in relating personally to others.

The first couple of years after I started driving a truck, after my divorce from Charlotte, there was a true aspect of my solitude which involved some sense of withdrawal and escape. It was easier for me to grieve and work through all the other issues of my life which had been torn asunder and needed to be put back together alone in the truck – though, doubtless, in some respects, and especially at certain times in those early days, it was much more difficult on some levels.

Then, when the shreds of my former life had resurrected into a new one, things were okay. I began to feel the sense of contentment, gratitude and joy in living that I have expressed many times in this blog. That included the feeling – the conviction – that I had moved on in positive ways, including where my relationship with Charlotte was concerned. I felt like I could look back with joy and gratitude on our life together – without the regrets. I wrote some about those ideas last February in an entry called “ Four Years Later.”

In learning that Charlotte has moved on in this part of her life, I found that, as I thought, I have moved on as well. I'm happy for both of us.

In writing this section, my computer locked up (a rare thing for a Linux system), and while I was waiting on it to right itself, I opened the book I'm currently reading: Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon. Written back in 1982, it details the journey around the United States of a man whose own marriage has just ended. On page 355 of the Fawcett Crest paperback edition I have, I read these words, which are so appropriate to my thoughts here, and are a good way to end this part of our travels together here:

I lost myself to the monotonous rhythm and darkness as past and present fused and dim things came and went in a staccato of moments separated by miles of darkness. On the road, where change is continuous and visible, time is not; rather it is something the rider only infers. Time is not the traveler's fourth dimension – change is.

Until next time . . . keep the wheels rollin' . . . making choices and taking responsibility . . .

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