I get to take my mom to Dallas today, and this will be the first time she's ever been in a semi! I never thought she would want to do this. I'm a little nervous about having a passenger with me, but I guess that's because of all the miles I've traveled alone. You can be sure it's going to be an interesting trip for both of us!
Our ride is a 2005 International 10 speed with 72,018 miles on it and Mom arrives on time for departure. I had already completed my pre-trip inspection because I was pretty sure she wasn't going to do it! She had to sign a paper saying that she was riding with me for insurance reasons. This is done at every company that allows you to have a passenger.
I showed her how to climb in and out of the cab using the grab rails, just like I was taught. Once inside the cab, there was a tour of the truck (If you can call it that). Mom said that the sleeper seemed big enough and had plenty of room, which it did in this truck. I explained to her that not all trucks are the same. Some had smaller sleepers, and some had less room between the driver and passenger seat. Once we were buckled in our seats, I explained the switches and gauges. I told her that we used all of them and do not touch them!!!! I also added, "Please do not ask to drive - it will not happen." I pointed out the mirrors on the doors and the two hood mirrors for viewing the cars and other objects near us. The view from either door mirror looking down the side of the trailer to the rear seemed a mile long to her! It was to me too at first. But as I gained experience and confidence behind the wheel, that mile long trailer became shorter and shorter, and eventually looked like 53 feet, which is still a long way!
So we go a couple of miles down the road, pick up our load, and get on the interstate heading South. The scales were open before leaving Arkansas so I entered and got down to the 20 mph speed limit before crossing the weigh in motion sensor. Ahead of me there are two lights - one has a red X to the right and on the other a green arrow pointing left. The right lane takes you in front of the window where the DOT officers are, and you do not want that! The left lane is the bypass lane and it's the one you're hoping they'll send you down. Much to my relief, I get the left lane! I proceed slowly down the bypass lane knowing I can still be given the "STOP" or "PULL OVER AND PARK" sign, which I surely don't want today! My light says "GO" and as I do, mom is looking to the right where it says "STOP" and she hollers "STOP!!" So I slam on the brakes wondering, "Why??? Did I hit something right in front of the DOT??" (what a place to do that!) Briefly the thought of what the trucks behind me must be thinking entered my mind, and the next thought was of the DOT officers coming out to have a chat with me. My Mom explains to me that she saw the "STOP" sign and I explained to her that the sign is for the other lane and as I put the truck in gear, I leave as fast as that truck can go! We have the green light! One does not stop when the nice DOT people say you can go!!! I think I remember doing the same thing to my trainer also. I didn't know the rules about how to act when entering and exiting a DOT scale. We all have to learn in the beginning.
Once in Oklahoma I could drive 70, and this helped make up some lost time after the hills had slowed us down. I was in the hammer lane much of the time and passed a lot of trucks. Either my speedometer was wrong or they all had heavier loads. Mom commented that I was in the hammer lane a lot and asked if I always did this?? I told her to let me drive the truck and not to worry about it - I was doing the speed limit. She was enjoying the view through the different mirrors and was noticing how close we seemed to be to the other vehicles we were passing. Not that I was too close to them. It just seems like the space between two semis passing each other is not very much.
So I put mom to work writing down the mileage as we crossed the state line. This was a rental truck we were driving and the company needs to know the mileage in each state for tax purposes. All the buses and trucks pay road taxes for the miles they drive in each state.
Soon we are heading south on US-69 and the road is very bumpy. I actually came out of the driver's seat! Good thing I was buckled - that most likely prevented an accident. I slowed down since these bumps are rough on the equipment. Mom was mostly quiet, since she was just along for the ride and was enjoying herself, but she did ask if all semis rode this rough. I reminded her that the ride so far was fairly smooth and didn't get rough until we got on this bumpy highway. When we stopped for fuel and sandwiches I asked her if she wanted to help me clean my windows. I got the look that all mothers are good at, and she instead went inside the truck stop to get a sandwich. I am on my own with this one. Soon I join her and get myself a sandwich and drink to go. We get our stuff, climb back in the truck, and away we go!
We arrived at the receiver at 10:30 and I felt good about that since I had made up some time with the higher speed limit and flat terrain. While the product was being unloaded, mom got out and did some walking around while I did my logs and bookwork. We left at 11pm. At midnight we stopped for drinks and munchies. Once we got back on the interstate headed toward Arkansas, we made another stop for the restroom and for more drinks and munchies. The windshield also had to be cleaned again from all the bugs. I went inside to get my drink and looked at the trucking T-shirts, as one can not have enough of them. I decide not to buy any this time. I find my mom paying for her coffee and I told her to get a lid for it or it will spill. She tells me I am to mind my own business, and I say, "Ok, but don't complain to me when it spills - and it will!" We get back on the road and at the very first bump, guess who spills some coffee??? I tried to tell her, in between fits of laughter, that with a semi you have the tractor going up and down while the trailer is pushing and pulling at the same time.
Well, that last hour to the yard was a long one. I did everything I could think of to stay awake. Mom was getting sleepy and I told her to try out the sleeper for another new trucking experience, but she chose to nap right where she was. This is comforting to a driver since no one is going to sleep if they are scared. Since I used to drive buses, the greatest compliment you can give a driver is to go to sleep. My brother, of course, tells me that my passengers were always passed out from fright!!! The thought of this had me laughing some during that last hour and I knew my mom was sleeping, not passed out from fright! It helped get me safely home from another trip. After the truck was parked, locked up, and the keys put away, we headed for home. I normally don't drive all night like that. I'm an "in bed at 9pm" kinda person. But with mom along, it helped me stay awake. This was one trip that we both enjoyed!