Wow, so my most recent trip was by far the best trip I've had to date. We left California late at night and were "East Bound and Down" to Pennsylvania. Remember the plastic bottles we brought to California on my last trip? Well, now those same bottles were filled with delicious California Orange Juice. Our mission? Bring the Orange Juice to the good people of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.
I was due to drive, and got to tackle Los Angeles. It was after their normal rush hour, but traffic was still horrendous. This was the most congested traffic I've had to drive in with a truck and feel I handled it like a pro. It might sound a little childish, but I was pretty damn proud of myself the way I handled all that traffic! I also learned that if you put on your turn signal, let it flash about 4 times, then ride the white line, people will eventually start to scatter for you! My new phrase is, "it's good to be king!"
After getting out of the congested areas, it was time to tackle the Rocky Mountains. The temperature started dropping quickly and it was raining, so naturally I was worried about the roads icing up. There was also chatter about a recent truck that turned over the day before (remember those winds I was talking about in my last post?). There was no word on the drivers condition, but I guess it was a pretty bad wreck and I was on the same road it happened on. Just a reminder of the dangers we face out here. It's definitely scary to think about, and honestly I don't like to think about it much, but we need those reminders every now and then.
Anyway, it was dark, cold and gloomy, but the rain stopped. I was part of a little convoy of trucks chugging up the mountain. My trainer really doesn't like driving the mountains, just because of all the downshifting and braking that needs to be done on hills. But I actually like it. Gives me something to do. I sort of make a game out of it. The only thing I was disappointed about was that I couldn't take in the sights since it was so dark out. But that would soon change.
It was about 5:30 am at this point and I was close to the top of the mountain. In a matter of seconds, the conditions went from overcast to moderate snow. It wasn't horrible, but it was enough for the plows to come out. I didn't have any problems with the tires spinning or anything, so I continued on. I just kept following the line of trucks ahead of me.
At this point, I was pretty tired, the snow was bothersome, it was dark and gloomy, and I couldn't take in any of the great scenery that was around me. But just as I reached the top of mountain, I was greeted with the most wonderful surprise I've had yet. The snow suddenly stopped just as fast as it started, and the sun was just starting to peak up over the horizon. I can not describe to you the sight that I saw, and no picture would ever be able to reveal the beauty that was revealed to me. I looked into my drivers side mirror simply out of reflex, and saw the snow capped mountain that I just conquered. It took me by complete surprise and I got the chills instantly. I just drove overthat!?!? Then through my windshield, from an elevation of who knows what, as far as I could see was the beautiful east side of the Rockies, lit up in colors I didn't know existed. The few remaining clouds that were left gleamed in orange, purple, yellow, red and other colors I can't even describe. The foothills reflected the sunlight in ways that were just incredible. It was a sight I'll never forget, and a sight that can probably never be repeated. I was in the right place at the right time under the perfect conditions. Totally unreal. This is what truck driving is all about. This is why I wanted to get out West. Thank you mother nature!
I hope I'm not being over dramatic here, and I feel sort of silly describing it like that. But it was just incredible. As I descended down the East side of the mountain, I kept the CB off, radio off, and let the trainer stay asleep. That was my time to enjoy, and nobody was going to disturb it!
Unfortunately, the sun continued to rise and the mountain was all but left behind me. But a new view came into being. Maybe not as beautiful, but still a great site. It was a snow covered desert. There is just something about a vast desert covered in snow. It's a sight like nothing else. There was only an inch or two on the ground, but it was enough for a very unique landscape. Needless to say, I was in heaven. But unfortunately, my hours were coming to an end. My trainer took over and I stayed up for a little while riding shotgun. But as the sun began to come out full force and melt everything, I figured it was time for some rest.
When I woke up, we were in Amarillo, Texas. I opened the curtains about 3pm and my instructor said, "Good morning, you're just in time!" Boy did he have a treat for me. We went to a truck stop and we were ready for some food. My instructor knew of just the place. It's called the Big Texan. This place is awesome! We called the restaurant and they immediately sent out a free limo to the truck stop. The gentleman driving was and older guy, probably in his 70's, and a true old school cowboy. One of the nicest people I've ever met.
We got to the restaurant and we were greeted by some great employees there. Top notch people, pure Western, and one of the best atmospheres I've ever seen, complete with a 3 man band walking around to the tables singing their Western tunes. They also have a 72oz steak challenge. If you can eat a 72oz steak dinner with all the fixins (potato, salad, shrimp, and bread) within an hour, you get the dinner for free. There were two different people taking the challenge while we were there. The first guy didn't make it, but the second guy was going strong when we left.
The food was fantastic, the employees were all great, friendly people, the atmosphere was the best I've seen for any steakhouse I've ever been to, and it was overall just a great time. If you're ever in Amarillo, TX, go to the Big Texan! Tell em' TruckerMike sent ya. ....Ok, so they won't know what you're talking about, but seriously, go there!
I then got to drive through Oklahoma and Missouri. It was a Saturday night after midnight and everybody in Oklahoma must be drunks! Holy smokes! First I had to tackle Oklahoma City around 1am or so, and it seemed like everybody was drunk! There was a car in the wall on the left side, a guy who couldn't stay in his lane ahead of me, and people just driving like idiots. I was glad to get out of there. But to my surprise, Tulsa was just as bad! In fact, I almost had a guy spin out in front of me. I would have had plenty of time to stop if he did as I purposely kept my distance from him, but still, what's with these people! There are only two "larger" cities in the entire state, and both of them were full of drunk drivers! C'mon Oklahoma! The truckers on the CB were pretty good giving reports on where the drunks were, so that was nice.I made it most of the way through Missouri before my trainer took over. He got to deal with the 55 mph great state of Illinois (my home state!).
We made our first drop just outside of Pittsburgh, PA, then had to head up north towards Massachusetts. Pennsylvania is a really nice state! I didn't realize how much nice scenery was out that way. It was a very enjoyable drive. We arrived for our second drop, and my trainer told me to back it into the dock. Now, I've only backed it into one dock before, and it was pretty much a straight line back. This time, it would be a 45 degree back with trucks on either side. Ohhh boy! My instructor got out of the truck to spot me and help me out. But the funny thing was I didn't need much help! Even when he did suggest something (ex. "turn hard left, turn right, etc.), I was already in the process of doing it. It was a great feeling backing the truck into that dock. He had me back into a spot at the truck stop later that day as well, and again I did a real good job. My trainer said I'm making his job way too easy. That's a compliment! I feel fortunate to be naturally good with backing skills. I know I'll face some real tough parking and docking situations, but so far I'm doing very well!
So all in all, this was a great trip...by far the best one yet.I'm still really enjoying myself and am very happy with the progress I've made so far. I can't wait to get going on our next load. We'll be leaving tomorrow morning for Nashville. Cool!
Until next time, drive safely!