My husband drove for J.B. Hunt for many years. I was always extremely thankful for his willingness to do this because it allowed me to be at home to raise our five children. I should say four children. By the time our last came along, he was driving locally and he was home at night. Talk about a huge adjustment!
I’ve done a lot of driving in my time. And driving on the interstates with the big trucks has always given me the shivers. The first time I drove across the United States, from upstate New York to Tucson, Arizona, I was still using my learner’s permit. Following my father through all the cities and keeping that moving van in sight became an obsession that summer. It stressed me so much that I lost 10 pounds on the journey in about a week. Not a recommended diet plan! We arrived at our destination, and then made that move back to New York and the Hudson Valley region a couple years later. Not as stressful, but still not fun since we were transporting a couple of horses on that move.
During those trips, I grew to fear those trucks. You would see them in your rear view mirror, sneaking closer and closer until that gigantic grill rode on your bumper. Then they would pass, huge tires spinning at window level, seeming to pull you under that long trailer. If traffic was climbing a hill, you would pass, only to be passed again on the downward section. The journey through mountains becomes exhausting! I would do my level best to make sure I was never caught between two tractor trailers, and if I needed to pass one, I got around them quickly.
So, when I met my husband, and he was interested in driving and wanted to team drive, well you know my answer. Then I endured several years with him being gone over-the-road. We didn’t have cell phones at the time when he first started driving. I never knew where he was. Or if he was alright. I prayed a lot for his safety and lived for the few days he would be home. We survived those years.
One summer, when our four oldest were still at home, I traveled with my husband for the month of July. The children stayed with my parents in Colorado, and we left with the J.B. Hunt truck from the Kansas City terminal. Then I had a completely different perspective of those big trucks and their drivers. I had always thought the drivers were a bit over-bearing, rude and arrogant as a lot. I believed truck stops to be about the most disgusting place you could go. Traveling with my husband showed me that there were places to stop that weren’t so bad. That some of those truck stops were family-friendly. I met lonely husbands and fathers while doing our laundry, drivers that were missing their families just as much as their families were missing them.
That July was an eye-opener for me. It was a wonderful privilege to spend so many weeks with my husband, most of the time. After all, spending weeks with one person in such a confined place can be a bit frustrating for both parties. I was able to see the traffic from a truck driver’s perspective, and the impression I had of other vehicles sharing that road wasn’t always so great. Drivers of mini-vans, cars, and small trucks can be just as rude, arrogant and thoughtless as what I had always imagined the tractor-trailer driver being. Having a compact car cut in front of several tons of metal can be a bit aggravating to say the least! But drivers of small vehicles do it…often.
I gained an appreciation for what my husband did for a living. It wasn’t just about traveling over miles of gorgeous roads, seeing the country-side. It was more about sitting for hours in traffic around big cities. Waiting for your trailer to be unloaded, and your next stop a lot further down the road with little time to get there. It was about loneliness, and a life that few would choose. I saw my husband’s patience in new ways as he dealt with rude drivers cutting him off, hours of traffic and unloading. Things that made me want to chew my nails and scream out the window. And he did it every day.
Even now, I think of my husband as a gentleman driver. He drove carefully, and with consideration. He didn’t bully other people on the road, or tailgate. I wish all tractor-trailer drivers were the same.
That month was a learning experience for me. I have more memories of this:
Than these kind of hours on the road:
Stopping each day to take a shower, eat and do laundry when needed always was a challenge if you waited too late, and other drivers were doing the same. Sometimes it was a long walk into the truck stop, dodging those behemoths.
Sleeping on a small bed in a metal space with the low hum of diesel engines isn’t my favorite mode of dreaming, but at least there was air-conditioning and heat available.
No, I still don’t want to team drive. Yes, my husband and I could see the country together. But I think I would rather do it on a bicycle, over winding country roads and no mountains. I’ve become a home-body. And I enjoy my husband being at home as well. A trip across the United States doesn’t seem as fun as it once did. A trip to a big city isn’t my cup of tea either. I’m not as adventurous as I once was…and that is just fine with me!
The next time you’re driving an interstate or highway, think of the above. Remember that they are people too, and most have families they are missing. Yes, there is the freedom of the road, the travel, the experiences, but it is also a trucker’s life.