Dee and I have only been on the road for a little more than a week but it already feels like we've been at it for a lot longer. In that time, we have driven back and forth between Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa multiple times. Along the way we have slept in parking lots either at truck stops, rest areas, or anywhere we could find a spot to park this big truck for the night. There are many considerations for this too. Many lots now have signs that say No Truck Parking. Wal-Mart used to allow trucks and campers to park overnight and, in exchange, they got a loyal group of shoppers. Well, Sam Walton died and his children took over. Apparently they suck.
This presents a real problem when you are running out of hours and need to shut down for the night, and it also makes grocery shopping difficult. Most truck drivers try to prepare simple meals in their trucks to save money. With an inverter installed, you can run a microwave, an electric skillet, or a hot pad. It's easy enough to heat up some soup or even a TV dinner, or to make a sandwich, but with limited storage space and a tiny fridge, you need to hit a grocery store at least once a week. And they do not make it easy. I have learned to look for a place with a large parking lot that is not curbed, and that will allow trucks to pull in and park long enough to shop. Unfortunately, that often means Wal- Mart, and if I could help it I would avoid shopping there. Alas, this is my fate.
But for all the little things I have had to learn and get used to, I am starting to enjoy it. In frustration, we briefly entertained the idea of quitting, but I am no quitter and Dee just wants me to be happy. So I told him, "Look, we are tired and frustrated, and that is a bad time to make a big decision. We are in it now, let's give it the three months we have until we go home for our first week off. We should have a much better feel for things then," and he happily agreed. For all the frustrations of trucking, there are some good things too. And there are some things that aren't necessarily good, but they create memories.
For instance, just a few days ago Dee and I were barreling down the highway at a whopping 62 miles an hour (because these trucks are governed so that we cannot exceed that) when Dee saw those tell-tale flashing red lights behind him. His first reaction was "uh-oh, smoky got someone" but, as it turns out, he was pulling Dee over. With absolutely no idea why, we pulled to the shoulder and waited for this shiny faced young trouper to make his way to the truck. Upon arrival, he informs us that, according to the driver of a 4 wheeler (car), some ice had flown off the top of the truck and shattered their windshield.
Sure enough, there was a car sitting on the shoulder behind the trouper with a shattered windshield. Now, they were perfectly nice young people, probably college students, and they assured the officer (an older and more experienced officer had arrived by now) that we had not been speeding or anything, that it was just one of those things. We were delayed on the side of the road while a report was filed and the company was contacted about the incident. We lost about an hour's worth of work time for it, but it could have been worse.
The Company has a rule; if there's snow, go slow. If there's ice, no dice. I guess that means stop driving if it gets icy. I guess it's supposed to be catchy. At any rate, we have been running into a lot of snow in this last week. Now, I am from Illinois and I know that around Christmas time we are usually hoping it will snow by Christmas day, and if often does not. But this year winter came early and hard. So we have been traveling back and forth with snow pelting us more often than not. Since you often drive 500 miles a day or more, we can drive from a clear area into an area hit by several inches of snow in the space of a few hours.
A couple of days ago we delivered a load into Ohio, and then picked up another load going to Illinois. Driving west on some highway, our DOT clock was warning us that we were almost out of time and needed to shut down for the night. We were pushing the clock when we finally encountered a truck stop that had room for us to park. It was snowing pretty hard and the wet, sticky snow was accumulating quickly so I was surprised to find space, and truly glad for it. We shut down and went into sleeper berth with four minutes to spare.
We made our way into the truck stop which, honestly, didn't look too promising. But I was wrong. While it was small and obviously old, when we walked into the Waterloo (Indiana) Marathon Truck Stop we were greeted in a most friendly manner by a lady named Deb. Deb was engaged in mopping the floor for the umpteenth time that night. I told Deb I felt bad for walking across her clean floor, to which Deb replied "oh no, honey, I just want to make sure you don't slide down. Just be careful" she said with a warm smile.
The store was divided so that you could purchase gas and groceries on one side, or make your way to the other side to enjoy the restaurant that took up half of the place. As we passed the salad bar that divided the room, we saw that this side was peppered with a number of tables and booths where locals and weary travelers alike could sit down to a home cooked meal. Brandi, the lone waitress, greeted us with a warm smile, just like Deb had, and told us to sit wherever we liked. There were a couple of locals there but most of her customers were truckers who wanted to get out of the snow and enjoy a hot meal, and maybe some company. Dee and I sat down to dinner and enjoyed the people watching. We also enjoyed a wonderful meal, and Brandi was ever attentive, though she had a good number of customers to attend to alone. She even took the time to chat with us here and there.
When we left the place to go crawl into the sleeper berth, I took some drinks to the cashier to purchase. I was greeted by Jose, who said "Hello, beautiful, what can I do for you tonight?" Now, if you're a woman, I doubt this kind of greeting can do anything but give you a warm fuzzy feeling. Jose was sweet and friendly. Everyone there, Deb, Brandi, and Jose, was wonderful. No complaining about working late or having to get home in the weather, always smiling and warm.
And so I tell you, if you happen to drive through the Waterloo Indiana area, stop by this Marathon Truck Stop and say hello to these wonderful people. Tell them you heard about them here, and tell them Becky says hello. I promise they will treat you well. And truckers, you deserve it.