Sunday, January 10, 2010

Peace Offerings

A Different Road. One result of the changes I detailed in the last entry, "The Gift" is that this blog seems to have served its purposes for the present time. It has been fun and a great learning experience for me. I appreciate all of you who have traveled for any part of the journey.

However, I am beginning another blog which will have a different focus. It's called "Peace Offerings" and you can find it here.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Gift

Christmas Past: The Good Old Days. For most of my life, especially since I was seven years old, this time of Christmas had personal, deeply meaningful significance to me, as it does to millions of others around the world. It was more than just Santa Claus, Christmas trees, last minute shopping, giving gifts to people you don't know that would be taken back, discarded, or delivered to some other hapless victim next Christmas. It was more than just a holiday from work or school. It was more than a traditional celebration of some great person from ages past.

Christmas Past, for me, was the reminder that God became man, lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death on a horrible cross, and was raised three days later in glorious triumph over death, hell and the grave. It was a celebration that through his coming to this suffering, imperfect, fallen planet, dwelling with his own marred creation, I have hope of a personal redemption, the experience of an eternal joy, the awesome prospect of being the singular object of the love of the God of the universe.

I first encountered this personal meaning of Christmas November 12, 1972, a Sunday evening. I was seven years old. Through the example of my Mama, who had been recently converted, and the help of some friends, I walked down the aisle of the Open Door Missionary Baptist Church in Trenton, Georgia, to come face to face with this One who came so long ago, and whose birth we celebrate every Christmas.

The question posed to my seven year old mind by Tom V. as he talked to me that night was one I could understand: “Do you believe that if you were standing in the road about to be run over by a big truck, Jesus loves you enough to push you out of the way and die in your place?”

I understood that. I did believe that. And with a simple prayer, I put my child's faith and trust in that idea: that this man who lived and died 2,000 years ago loved me just that much, and wanted to be my Friend. And so he was.

And from then on, Christmas Past meant more to me.

“Jesus is Lord.” By age 14, I had forgotten some of my child's faith, that trust, and that friendship. I was going through the normal struggles teens go through, but the path I was on was not leading me anywhere good.

Again, through the help of my Mama, and our former pastor and his wife, Jim and Bobbie M., I was to come to a place in June, 1979, of renewing my friendship with the Man whose birth Christmas signifies. And, beyond friendship, I learned to call him Lord.

He not only wanted to be with me; he wanted to rule me. My life was to be his, totally. He was to guide my life in every respect, every detail, as I trusted him. And so I did.

The next 20 years were an adventure I could never have dreamed: I entered the ministry, moved to Dallas, Texas, to study theology, and all those Christmases Past were reminders of the gift and life that were mine because of that baby born in Bethlehem.

The Denial. At the end of 2001, I became suddenly, violently ill, seemingly at times to the point of death. In the process I lost my career, threw away my marriage, and began to forget Christmases Past.

My life had not turned out the way I had envisioned, the way I had hoped. Doubt replaced faith. Questions replaced answers. I was angry and confused.

In the years since then, though I have had periods when I have remembered Christmas Past and all that it had represented to me, and renewed my faith, the doubts, questions, and confusion remained.

By December, 2009, I had reached the place where I thought I had put God and my old faith in a big box, taped it shut, marked “DO NOT OPEN” on it, and stored it securely in the attic of my life, where you might put something that once had been valuable and useful, but now only has sentimental value, if even that. I thought that I had moved on with my life, reconciled to doing the best I could do without God and my faith.

Christmas Present, December 25, 2009, was going to be just another day for me out here on this road driving my big orange truck.

“I love you. I'm still here. I'm not through with you.” Last weekend in that frame of mind, I went to Dallas, the city I love, and saw people that I love. Two of the people I saw were Stretch and Orie, people I've known for over 20 years, and with whom I worked in ministry for several years in Dallas.

They encouraged me, loved me, prayed for me.

And reminded me of Christmas Past.

Being around them stirred something deep in my heart that I could not explain away, could not rationalize, could not question. It was familiar. It was God climbing out of the box I'd tried to put him in.

Over the past few days, I have been forced to confront my doubts, fears, questions, hurts, hopes, and dreams. I have talked to many of the people I'm thankful to have in my life, friends and family alike.

Through all the confusion shines the clear message of Christmas: “I love you. I'm still here. I'm not through with you.”

Christmas Present will mean more than I had thought it might.

What a gift!

Until next time . . . Jesus is Lord! . . . Jesus' Love Rules!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

On the Road With Mama

Question. How many people could spend 24/7 for 10 days in almost total isolation from the outside world in a space no larger than a walk-in closet? How about with their grown child? How about with their Mama? Could you?

A Little History. Back in September, 2005, not long after I had started driving a truck, it worked out for my Mama to out in the truck with me for about 10 days. It was one of the most wonderful experiences either of us had ever had, and we talked about it often as we relived it over the years. It was special to be able to share what I did and the life I lived on the road with my Mama.

Not once during that time did my Mama scream in terror while trying to grab the steering wheel from my hand to save her life. And not once did I pull over to the side of a deserted interstate, put her out, throw out her bags and a quarter, and yell at her to “call someone who cares!”

We have planned several times since then to tempt fate and do a similar trip, but the timing always caused things to not work out for one reason or another.

But, finally, our patience and persistence were rewarded. From July 14 to July 24, we hit the road a second time. When it was all said and done, I think we both enjoyed this trip as much as the first one. And still, nary a grab for the wheel while screaming in terror or a stop alongside some dark and deserted highway.

Even after a second trip, we are still on speaking terms. Miracles still happen, do they not?

Maybe we should call Dr. Phil and announce our triumph.

I invite you to ride along with us as I relive some highlights of that latest trip in this entry of the blog . . . oh, and if someone can get the lights, I've got these great slides you'll just love . . . hey, where'd everybody go? Hope they come back for the next entry.

Atlanta, Georgia to Sharon Springs, New York. We drove from Rome (Georgia, where I'm from and where most of my family lives) to Atlanta early on Tuesday morning, July 14. I had just spent the weekend in Rome visiting family. It took a while to get everything situated in the truck the way we wanted, but then we were ready to go.

Our first load comes across the satellite – oh, how exciting – we went about 5 miles from the Schneider facility in Atlanta to get an empty trailer, and then drove around the Atlanta loop (I-285, “The Perimeter”) to a place about 11 miles away to get loaded. It didn't take too long, and we took that load right back to the place we picked up the empty trailer.

Mama and I joked that it would be funny (but it really wouldn't have been, I don't suppose) if we just drove around the loop in Atlanta for 10 days.

But, after the false start, we took an empty trailer to Carrollton, Georgia, where we picked up a load going to Sharon Springs, New York. Not west as I'd hoped, but it was at least a place Mama had never been to. And it wasn't New York City (Mama hasn't been there either, but I didn't want to show it to her from my truck).

On the way up to New York, we traveled through South and North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and then New York. We got to go through some of the most beautiful parts of Pennsylvania and New York.

After four years since the last trip, Mama adjusted to life in a big truck very quickly. You should have seen her climbing up and down in and out of that truck! She was a pro after a few hours.

And everything north of Virginia was new territory for her on this first leg. One of the highlights on the way up to New York for me was getting to stop at one of my favorite truck stops, White's Truck Stop in Raphine, Virginia, about 60 miles north of Roanoke on I-81. They have this fascinating collection of knives and guns in display cases – hundreds of them – and the food is generally some of the best on the road.

Once we exited off I-88 in New York east of Binghamton, we were on two lane roads all the way to Sharon Springs, which is on US 20. Some of the roads Schneider told us to take were not roads that big trucks were meant to be on, but once we were on them, there really weren't any chances to turn around or go back. But we made it.

One thing Mama kept remarking on as we drove through the rural countryside of New York state was that “they have as many barns as we do back in Georgia!” She couldn't get over the fact that it wasn't at all like she'd pictured it – all urban, asphalt, crowds of people milling like colonies of ants everywhere.

When we delivered the load to Sharon Springs, on Thursday, we drove over to Fultonville, New York, to the closest truck stop and spent the night. The next morning, we drove over to Fulton, New York, just north of Syracuse, for the next leg of the trip.

Fulton, New York, to Pineville, Louisiana. Friday, July 17, we picked up at a place in Fulton that had to be down in Pineville, Louisiana, near Alexandria.

When we got to the place in Fulton, there were several other Schneider trucks already there. It took a while to get loaded, and while we were waiting, I got to talk to the other drivers. The driver of the truck next to us in the loading docks asked me where we were from.

“ Rome, Georgia,” I told him. I told him about Mama being out in the truck with me for this trip.

“ Well, I'm from Lindale,” he said.

Lindale, Georgia, is a small town just outside of Rome, and my family has strong connections to that community that goes back close to a hundred years that I know of. My granddaddy worked in the cotton mill in Lindale for many years.

The other Schneider driver was originally from Michigan (he sure didn't talk like he was from Lindale), but through some family connections and other circumstances had ended up in Lindale a couple of years before. He was a nice guy.

I thought it was so cool to bring my Mama on a trip in my truck all the way to New York, and we meet a guy who lives literally less than 10 miles from where she does. It sure made the world seem a lot smaller.

We finally got loaded, and pushed our way west and south. That night, we stopped in Corfu, New York, east of Buffalo. Now, now, try to hold rein on your jealousy at our good fortune to have gotten to stop in Corfu, where the excitement never stops.

Sort of like Lindale, Georgia.

The next day we drove all the way across and down Ohio, going through Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. Will the thrills of this trip never cease?

I will say this about Cincinnati: coming into Cincinnati from Kentucky on I-71/75, you come over this huge hill, and for about 2 miles there is a steep downgrade with curves. You can't tell you are close to any large city until you round one of the curves, and suddenly, sitting down across the river, this beautiful city seems to rise out of the earth pushing toward the sky. It is one of the most beautiful approaches to a city in the country.

Coming into Las Vegas in the middle of the night from the north on I-15 across the desert is by far my favorite for sheer awe-inspiring beauty.

Dallas is my favorite city to come into from any direction – it always has, and always will be, the most beautiful city in the country to me because of my own connections there, past and present.

Chicago, New York, and San Francisco are beautiful to drive into as well, for their own unique place along the sky.

On the way down to Pineville, Louisiana, west of Nashville, in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, we got to stop for lunch at Loretta Lynn's Kitchen, a restaurant near the area where she grew up. The restaurant is really owned by her and the food is just what you would expect from her wonderful country heritage. That was a highlight of this trip for both of us.

We got to Pineville Monday afternoon. And we stayed in Pineville until Wednesday morning.

Off the road in Pineville. After all the places we been through, and all the places we could have chosen to stay for almost two days, I don't think it would have crossed either of our minds to pick Pineville as the place to settle on. But that's what we did.

Here's what happened: when we got to Pineville, we were both tired and we still didn't have our next load. I called my dispatcher in Atlanta to find out what was going on. He told me that there wasn't anything heading east from Pineville, and since we were supposed to be back in Atlanta on Friday so my Mama could get back to her life and go rescue her cat from the kennel where he'd been staying for 10 days, he didn't want to put us under a load heading the opposite direction.

That made sense to me.

It was about 1,000 degrees in Pineville that day. There was a truck stop over in Alexandria where we could have parked, but since we were both so tired, I suggested to Mama that we just find a motel with truck parking, and stay there. That way I wouldn't have to idle the truck for as long as we were stuck there, and we'd just be able to relax and catch up on some sleep.

That's how we ended up staying at the Super 8 Motel in Alexandria, Louisiana.

I know you may not believe me, but this was not the most exciting part of the trip. But we did manage to catch up on our sleep, so it wasn't a total loss.

To Birmingham and home. Wednesday morning, we picked up a load that took us to a place near Birmingham, Alabama. We delivered the load Thursday morning, and that afternoon, we picked up the load taking us to Atlanta. The unloading at the first place and the loading at the second place took literally all day, so there was no way to get to Atlanta Thursday night, as I'd first planned.

We finally rolled into Atlanta on Friday morning, July 24 th . Mama got all her stuff out of the truck and I took her back to Rome. We said our good-byes, and I turned around and went back to Atlanta, to my empty truck.

We have talked about our trip since then, and I think we both enjoyed this time out as much as the trip four years ago. It still seems funny to be in the truck by myself.

I'm already looking forward to next time, Mama.

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

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte, North Carolina. This day after the 4 th of July finds me in Charlotte, North Carolina. Things since I last wrote have been good. I am looking forward in just a few days to being with my family in Georgia. Following that visit, my Mama comes out in the truck with me for about 10 days. We are both looking forward to that.

Ernest and Nikita. One of the things I love about being on the road is getting to meet some very interesting people all over the country.

So it was about a week ago, I was at one of the Schneider OC's, and I decided to do laundry. I took my clothes in and the washers were all full, so I sat down in a chair to wait until one opened up. Only one other person was in the laundry room – another Schneider driver in his mid-50's or early 60's. He looked like Ernest Borgnine's brother, he was shy some teeth, and he was wearing overalls with the legs cut off above the knees.

If he'd had a corncob pipe and his washboard he would perhaps have gladly played me a tune.

I would mention the smell in the laundry room, but since I hadn't had a shower yet, I'm not sure if I brought it with me or if it belonged to Ernest.

So anyway, there we are, two souls trying to wash our clothes. We start talking about driving, the economy, trucking things. He's been an independent contractor with Schneider for about 10 years.

We were having a nice conversation. Then I asked him about the economy.


Did I know that the communists had been trying to take over the country since 1776?

I didn't even know there were communists in 1776 – didn't they come along with Karl Marx or some other German?

Oh, that's what they want you to think, he told me. “Khrushchev,” he told me, “was a johnny-come-lately. They've been around forever.”

He then opened the secrets of the ages to me – how Catholics, communists, and others in the secret cabal had been secretly plotting to take over the world since the time of Constantine – and even before that.

The bad economy is a media creation. As were the high fuel prices a couple of years ago.

He left no group of people out of his survey of world history.

As he was winding down (the washing machines had never seemed so slow), he finally started talking about how the Mexicans (meaning illegal aliens) had no rights to anything, never had any. He told me that the only people who had ever had any rights were the property holders – and originally they were all Spanish Europeans. So anyone else's claim had no basis.

Silent until then, wondering if I could possibly make it a few more days on recycled clothes, I finally asked him a question: “Well, when the Spanish invaders first came and staked their claims to the land, didn't they take it from others who were already there?”

He stared at me for a moment, and then was silent. I had thought he looked like Ernest Borgnine. And I could tell he thought I looked like Nikita Khrushchev.

Hmm . . . could be.

Goldy's Truck Stop, Rustburg, Virginia. Today, as I was driving down US 29 from just west of Washington, D.C., down to Greensboro, North Carolina, on my way to Charlotte, I had driven about 300 miles and was looking for a place to stop to get some coffee, maybe something to eat and take a little break.

Coming over a rise about 20 or 30 miles south of Lynchburg, I saw a small place up ahead on the left. Goldy's Truck Stop. I wasn't expecting much when I went in, but it was a place a truck could park, and that's all I needed.

There was a small restaurant there, so I decided to check things out. Looking at the menu was like looking at a menu from my Nanny's kitchen. Could it be?

I ordered the cube steak, fried potatoes, and pinto beans. Sweet tea to drink.

And for a few moments, I was back in my Nanny's kitchen growing up in Rome, Georgia.

How I miss that place . . . and my Nanny.

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

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 . . .

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Going To the City I Love

Joplin, Missouri. As I write this first entry of the month of June, I am in Joplin, Missouri, on my way to my beloved city of Dallas, Texas, where I will see people whom I love. It's the first time I've been back to The Great State of Texas since Terry and I quit teaming in April.

I will only have two days, but those will be hours I will cherish when I'm back in the truck on the road in my journey of solitude.

An unexpected but treasured part of this weekend will be that I will get to see my Daddy, who is working in Dallas next week, and will arrive on Sunday night.

And, even before this time off the road begins, I am already looking forward with anticipation my time off in July in Georgia with my family, whom I haven't seen since the end of February. That will also be the time my Mama comes out on the road with me for about 10 days right after that. I am looking forward to that as well.

Digging up my own history. I have said many times in this blog over the past two years that I have regularly kept a journal of some kind since 1976, when I was 11 years old. For the most part, except for looking up something in particular as a reference, I have not read those old journals since they were written.

After my recent reunion with the children and grandchildren of my heart in Dallas, I was curious to remember the history of my ties to them – how it began when I first met them in 1985, and how it grew and continued over the next few years as our lives became intertwined in ways I never could have imagined.

Reading those old entries from over 20 years ago brought back in vivid detail parts of my own life, and my life with these people (and others), that were shadowy images at best, and forgotten in the mists of passing time at worst.

In addition to rehearsing the story of my connections with those to whom I have been reunited recently, there is the history of other connections which helped chart the course of my life then, and to the present. In those pages are my friends from those days – Billy, Greg, and the beginning of my friendship with Terry. Others who were there have disappeared from the pages of my life and I wonder where they are and how they are – who they are after two decades have spanned.

Billy, my first friend in Dallas, and the one with whom my connection has been most persistent over these long years, and whom it was my joy to be able to visit in April, was a light in a dark place for me so many times during those years when I was so young. We used to have lunch once a week in those days, and there was a time when my kids were in a dangerous situation (indeed, more than once), and when my care for them was almost overwhelming to me as a young man in ministry. When my eyes failed and my faith flagged for want of hope, Billy always encouraged me and strengthened me as he listened to me, counseled me, and prayed with me. And, in the remembering, I am encouraged even now. There is no better man in this world than my friend Billy D. Thanks, Billy. Your friendship continues to bless me even as I write these words.

There is Greg also from those pages I have dusted off to read with joy. We went to school together, studying theology and the other things that were necessary to prepare us to do what we felt we were called – destined – to do. Most of all, we worked together, first in ministry together and then afterwards at a juvenile detention facility. He lives in those pages, and ever has in my memory and heart, as one of the best friends I've ever had. I do not think I wrote an entry in those days in Dallas in which he was absent – in matters great and small, Greg was there when many people would not have been. In the time I'm currently reading of – toward the end of 1987 – Greg and his wife Donna opened their home to me (even though they had two kids and very hectic lives) and I lived with them for a time. Such friends as they were to me are a rare gift, to be remembered with joy.

Reading so much of Greg and Donna, whom I hadn't seen or spoken to in many years, prompted me to try to contact them – and it worked. We caught up with each other and it was pure manna for me to renew (to whatever extent) those ties with people who meant – and mean – the world to me.

In uncovering these artifacts of time past from my own history, it has been interesting to discover that in the process of reading mere words I wrote so long ago, I am coming to know the person I was and the person I have become a little more clearly. As I gaze through the prism of the past 20 years of experience, I find myself reinterpreting and reintegrating into my present those events, memories, struggles, and successes hidden in those pages.

And I grow, learn, laugh, and am somehow more whole than I was before.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Blood Meridian. No Country For Old Men. All The Pretty Horses. The Orchard Keeper. I have Terry to thank for introducing me to the incredibly beautiful and haunting writing of Cormac McCarthy (which he did with Blood Meridian ). Reading his rhythmic prose is more like reading poetry, evoking images and emotions like almost no one else I've ever read.

His writing is brutal in its beauty, and his stories are perhaps not for the faint of heart or for those who like clearly laid distinctions of black and white dimensions. If you saw the excellent movie, No Country For Old Men , you have an idea what I'm talking about.

That said, I have just finished listening to The Road , for which McCarthy won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007, and I would say that it is one of the most profoundly moving and abjectly frightening books I have read (or listened to in this case) in a very long time. It is a parable of apocalypse, loss, and survival. What do you have when there is nothing left? Who are you when who you were is taken away in violent upheaval and loss?

Like Annie Proulx, Cormac McCarthy is worth reading simply for his use of language. He is a craftsman with no peer for economy and imagery of words.

I recommend The Road with pleasure. Fasten your seatbelt – but do take the trip.

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


Saturday, May 30, 2009


Currently. As I write this blog entry almost three weeks later, I'm in West Monroe, Louisiana, on my to Indianapolis, Indiana. In the past three weeks (minus a couple of days), I have settled into a routine of driving solo once again, and I'm enjoying it.

It took a while, but the past couple of weeks (or so), I've been getting some decent miles. Not great, but in the current economy for the trucking industry, it's about what I can expect for the immediate future.

I haven't been out west or to Texas, but I haven't been to the northeast or New York City either, so I'm not going to complain. A couple of weeks ago, I had delivered a load to Corinth, Mississippi, and my next load was to pick up in Byhalia, Mississippi, and it was going to Corpus Christi, Texas. Corpus is the only large city in Texas I've never been to – I've been close going on one of my favorite drives from south Texas up toward Houston on US 77. I was excited about getting to go there.

I arrived to pick up the load in Byhalia and the folks couldn't find the load. I called Schneider, and found out that the load had also been sent to another driver and that driver had already picked it up. So I had to settle for going back to Corinth and picking up a load going to Sturtevant, Wisconsin.

At least it wasn't New York City.

From a mileage standpoint, the past couple of weeks, as I said, have been okay. The first week I was out (which was when I last wrote in this blog), I only netted about 300 or 400 miles because of having to pick up my truck in Indianapolis. The next week, I netted something along the lines of 1100 or 1200 miles.

Just to contrast, when I first started driving a truck in 2005, my average weekly miles that year were about 2875. When I was driving solo last year (from January to August), I averaged about 2200 to 2300, until last July and August when the bottom fell out and I was averaging about 1500 or less.

Last week, I netted about 1400 paid miles, and this week (thankfully), I'm pushing something along the lines of 2100 perhaps if my reckoning is correct. If I can net an average of about 2000 miles a week, I'll be okay. Not comfortable, not able to really save anything, but enough to pay my bills.

The past month, I've gone through the single worst financial crisis I've had in at least 15 years. Two weeks in a row, I had to ask my Mom for help. That was difficult to have to do – but she was able to help me, and was very gracious about it. It's going to take a while to get things back where they should be, but a few 2100 mile weeks will at least help in that regard.

The reason I mention all that trivial detail about the mileage is to illustrate just how directly the economic environment affects this job. The economy will improve, and the days of 2500 mile weeks will return, I believe. But it is going to be a while.

I hope the clumsy efforts our government is making to “help” do not extend the downward cycle longer than it would have lasted. The rationale for what the government is trying to do (prevent things from degenerating as badly as they might if nothing were done) is laudable, perhaps, but as is the case any time government is involved in anything, it's more likely to make things worse and not better.

A Life Alone. With Terry gone, I have gone from being around another person 24/7 to being utterly, completely, absolutely as alone as it would be possible for a person to be short of being isolated in some location completely devoid of other people. Yes, I'm around other people in truck stops, at Schneider terminals, at places I pick up or deliver loads – but there's no connection to those people, except perhaps in passing. I talk on the phone to people (my Mom is the one person I talk to every day, and I am thankful for that connection), but that does not remove the sense of being disconnected in most ways from the rest of the world.

That may sound sad or negative to you – perhaps it would be so for you – but for me, it is a warm, comfortable, familiar place. I move quietly into those rooms of my inner life which have largely been vacant when I've been teaming or living around others (like when I lived in Rome with my grandmother a couple of years ago). I write more, journal more, read much more, think more deeply and more significantly.

Reading the book Solitude recently helped me to quantify and appreciate some of the elements of a rich life alone which I was aware of but hadn't labeled. Perfect timing for that book.

Terry. I have spoken to Terry a few times. And I have enjoyed it. He's adjusting to life off the road.

Vital connections. I will take a short hiatus from my solitude in two weeks, the weekend of June 13 and 14, to see the people I love in Dallas. And, then, July 11-13, I will see everyone in Georgia for the first time since February. Following that, my Mama comes out in the truck for ten days or so.

I look forward to those times and will treasure them afterwards in those quiet hours when I lay in my bunk at night and consider how very blessed I am to have the people in my life that I do.

Random bits. Part of my routine, if I have a run that allows me to drive most of the day, is to listen to the Book Radio channel and when I'm not listening to that I usually listen to whatever music of my own I'm in the mood for. Lately, also, I've been enjoying very much the Grateful Dead channel on XM – 24/7 Grateful Dead. Good driving music.

Right now I'm reading, among other things, the first prequel to Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry titled Dead Man's Walk.

At this second, I'm enjoying listening to the music of Viktor Krauss (Alison's brother).

With that, I will leave you for the present.

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