I never wanted to be a treehugger!

You see the weirdest stuff out here on the road. I see a lot of shoes; just one at a time. Once, I remember seeing a woman's belt in the middle of the highway. How did that happen?!

If your moving in the near future, please take some extra care tying stuff down. I see single couch cushions and box springs almost every day. Just the other day, I saw a whole series down the same highway. Had to be the same guy. First, an oscillating fan; like you'd buy at Walmart or somewhere - in a couple chunks on the shoulder. Then one of those 3 drawer Sterilite storage units - blown to bits. And finally, three resin patio chairs - all with only three legs left.

I won't gross you out with road kill stories, but two beavers in 36 hours is not just sad; that's weird. I also shouldn't tell you that I think I saw a bear cub once. That is really sad. My sister will get a weird satisfaction in amongst the sorrow. When she was a single digit age, about when you want to "have" things that are your own, she claims she saw a bear; presumably a live one. The family was travelling through the north woods of Michigan, on the way to Grandma and Grandpa Townsends in Cadillac. We were on I131, I think, anyway, it was a backwoods highway with these steep banks on either side. The forest started on the ridge. By the time the ridge crested away from the highway it was thick. Amy exclaimed that she saw a bear. No one else did, but we were running up this highway in the woods. She probably saw a bear, but that hasn't stopped my brother and I from saying "A bear!?! . . . yeah, right" for the last 25 years.

Another thing that I see way too much of out here on the road - plastic grocery bags! Wow, I've never been a treehugger and I used to be a plastics guy, but they are everywhere.

When I was in the plastics business, and involved in recycling, we successfully lobbied against a mandate to put corn starch in plastic grocery bags. The corn starch was added to the plastic to make the bags somewhat degradable. It wasn't perfect but it supposedly would have sped up the breakdown of the bag. It also polluted the plastic and made it un-recyclable. We argued that the bags would be collected, recycled and used in other products. It is time to revisit this issue. Bags are blowing everywhere.

Now the trouble with corn starch is the corn part. Food prices are rising, in large part, because of the increased demand for corn to make ethanol. Don't get me started on corn! Corn is used, directly and indirectly, in almost everything the average American eats, but that's a story for another day. I listened to a radio program about an incredible sounding documentary called King Corn.

There is actually a lot of trash around. I don't understand it. Growing up in the 70's with "Give a Hoot; Don't Pollute" and the Litterbug, I wouldn't dream of through something out the window. There is a certain percentage of truckers who live like Neanderthols but they are not responsible for it all. Two summers ago, I was walking a Lake Michigan beach that I knew very well as a kid. I was deeply saddened by all the trash I saw in the sand. I've never thought this way, but I was disgusted. We need to be better stewards of this world. That is not a political statement; that is a fact.


And while I'm at it . . .

Click the image for background on the horrendous situation in Burma. The Junta has announced they will hold a referendum, in May, on the constitution that they wrote and hold elections in 2010. This in a country without even the right to assemble or the right to criticize the Junta or their "path to democracy." The constitution purportedly disqualifies opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, perhaps because she already won one election they refuse to recognize.

Think about it . . .

This may give away the punchline, but I was listening to Mountain Stage, a very cool PRI show, and the Guthrie Family Legacy Tour made a stop. Arlo was talking about his dad's early life and I had an epiphany.

California was invaded once before by migrant workers. They showed up with little more than the clothes on their backs, driving vehicles that barely ran. They had large families and camped along the sides of farm roads. These migrants were so desperate, they would do any work for very little money. They weren't exactly legal; they were definitely not invited, but California came to rely on them.

. . . they were from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl!!!

We are tossing around the Immigration Issue during this political season without considering that we are discussing human lives. They are us; We are them. The question of legality is really more a symptom of a system that is broken.

The Okies helped to tranform the San Joachin Valley into the Agricultural juggernaut that it is today. Today, Mexicans are working those same fields. If you would really like to pay $10 for a head of lettuce, go ahead build the wall. Walls have done so well for Germans and Israelis.

We need to fix the system and to treat each other, all of us each other, as equals in this world. Sorry, this blog is usually not political; I couldn't stop this one.



Do you remember the old asphalt siding that was printed to look like brick? You can still see it on old farmhouses out in the holler.

There are times that my heart aches like an old farmhouse. The wooden screen door slams randomly in the wind. The porch leans a little downhill. At the corners, the old faux brick siding is peeling; gently waving in the wind. Last night, I just wanted to move back to Indiana. I missed my friends; I miss the bands and the music I was chasing. The road is a selfish and lazy lover.

Then this morning, I crossed the Monongahela River. There was a marina down below the bridge. Boats were scattered around; pulled for the winter. There is something about a hull; even when it is not splaying the water. There is just something about a boat. I long to be on the water.

I miss my friends and family tremendously, but I am doing the right thing. I need to be on the water to be whole. I continue to work on my life and my plan. That tear in the asphalt siding still blows in the wind, but below that faux brick is real brick and mortar just waiting to be in the sun.


Question Everything.

Question = Reflect.

Question Authority. Question your beliefs. Question your lifestyle. Question your habits. Question everything you've got. Especially, question your prejudices, your anger, your frustrations.

I have been away from the blog for a while. After switching companies, I teamed up with a guy. We hit the road; I drove, he slept, he drove, I slept. It is hard to find WiFi when the truck usually doesn't stop. Actually we did once in Missouri but that is another story.

Sitting in orientation for the new company, there were about 11 of us there. One guy stood out. He bristled with old school trucker attitude. He was negative and inappropriate. His jokes, comments and “F” bombs always seemed to creep in just at the wrong moment. He was asking these tedious detailed questions. You could tell he was angling to work the system. I even had the thought “I wouldn't want to team with THAT guy.”

The new company was looking for teams. They have some business coming up in March that requires several. A team is two people in a truck; running 24/7. One sleeps, the other drives. It is good money they say.

So, after doing lots of paperwork and getting another drug test and physical, we were waiting around for truck assignments. They were short of trucks in Grand Rapids. Some guys were getting sent out in rental cars to Kansas City or Dallas to get trucks. Another way to get a truck and hit the road was to team up with someone.

The recruiter called for me and I found his office. Sitting there with the recruiter was THAT guy. They wanted to know if I would consider teaming. I really wanted to get back on the road again. The only way I make any money is if the wheels are turning. It was the fast lane out of town. I decided to do it. The worst case scenario was three weeks out and then jump ship when we came round to home again. I teamed up.

I was pretty much spot on about the guy. He was a curmudgeonly old school trucker; working the system. And complaining about the system. He was prejudiced has hell. But he was more than all that too. He talked and flirted with all varieties of fuel desk ladies. He had a solid trucker etiquette and a big heart. When we were sitting still, the DVD choice, his DVDs and his DVD player, was always mine. We even called on his brother when we were stuck in Minneapolis. Tequila, pizza, football, Pirates of the Carribean, and a guitar fix. And he showed me huge patience, above and beyond the call of co-driver.

I drove a semi with a clutch for a week and a half; and then spent six months driving an automatic. He had 20 years of driving under his you-know-where. There should have been trainer pay on his ticket for all the help he gave me. I would never be floating gears if it wasn't for him [“floating” is shifting with the engines rpm's rather than using the clutch]. There were times when he heard me struggling from the sleeper and got out of bed to help me. So many things about driving a manual transmission, life on the road and even trucker folklore, I wouldn't even know if not for him. I came to appreciate him immensely.

A former employer called and my co-driver decided to go back to them. He can run the way he likes to run there; and no satellite [cue "Satellite of Love" by Lou Reed]. I was trying to decide if I really liked team driving anyway. His departure just saved me from having that conversation. Team driving was more like a job. I wasn't writing; I didn't have my guitar with me; I really didn't sleep as well while the truck was rumbling down the road. My caffeine intake probably quadrupled during that time.

All in all, I am happy to be back driving solo. I will, however, always use, and never forget, all the help I got driving around the country [literally] with an old school curmudgeon. NH, if you read this, thanks again.