Until March I had never gone away, well from anything besides my home and I shared it with the love of trucking. I had two pups then that traveled coast to coast when loads took me that far away.
Then again there was one occasion when we had six of the seven from their litter and they were small but weaned, that I packed up them up into the van and left them with my brother. There were their four children and the two of them perfect as that left a pup for each of them to dote on. I took the parents of these pups overnight on a run to Maryland with my then husband, as we needed the load there quickly and he could not do the hours alone.
So as we jumped into the rig and headed down the road I could not get them out of my head. They were the most rambunctious English Springer Spaniel’s, already with names. Remington and Diamond showed no signs of missing them, as each mile south was behind us. I was not very good company I missed them so much. We delivered the load and grabbed or return haul and headed north once again, me calling my brother at every truck stop, no there were only payphones back then. He told me when I called they were having so much fun not to hurry back , can you imagine. Many of you know me by now I just put the hammer down and got back home, as quick as I could get those 18 wheels moving!
So that brings me back to March. This year. I knew the cat and dog would be fine here with their Dad but JT has been my constant sidekick and if I was hurting so bad, I knew she would never understand why I was gone.
So while I missed the man in my life, he understands why I went away but my furry babies would be top on the list for me to be Home Sweet Home!
I started out early one morning yes before the sun came up, as do most truckers. I had delivered one load of water, with my tanker, a few hours south of Boston. I stopped for coffee, for the ride back up to the mountains for my second load of the day. I walked around my rig kicking each tire as I do after hauling a load for few hours, all was good they were all still up and lights all were working properly so I made my way back into the driver’s seat.
I made the trip up into the mountains of New Hampshire for another tanker full of Spring Water. I took three or four loads a day, six to seven days a week into the bottling plants as we prepared for Y2K, do you remember that in 1999, as the world worried about life as the calendar turned to the year 2000? Well I had hauled rubbish, household waste for years then switched to hauling a nice clean load, one I never got my hands dirty or truck for that matter.
It was a gorgeous day out on the highways and back roads of New England. I reached the top of the mountain where the water came from the spring and backed up to test the water and load the tanker, all 8100 gallons. When it was over flowing I shut off the pump and closed the hatch on the top climbed down and went around to get back in the truck for load number two. I was grossing out at 103,000 pounds. Yes I had a reducible load permit, I was a Heavy Hauler.
I was always tense as I maneuvered my rig off the mountain, overlooking the Big Lake. See there was a stop sign at the bottom, silly engineers, and I don’t SWIM!
The ride through New Hampshire was once again beautiful and then I entered the highway where my speed increased and I was hammer down to get the load of water to the plant before they ran out yes that is how fast they were filling one gallon jugs.
As I made it to the tolls on Route 95 South I went through with my easy pass soon I would be in Massachusetts. This is where things went bad real bad and in a hurry. I had just gone over the nasty metal bridge in Newburyport when I saw a tire, yes a huge semi tire ready to cut in front of me. I had never felt anything at the moment it came off but now I looked to my left in the mirror and saw a school bus I blew the air horn very loudly turned on my emergency flashes to get everyone’s attention praying for myself to not hit this large tire and lose control of my rig and it’s load on board. I already had my foot off the accelerator trying to let it slow down so I could start dropping gears and make my way to the breakdown lane. Holding tightly to the wheel not knowing how this would play out I held my breath for what seemed like forever. This tire crossed in front of me and the bus and then headed for the median strip never loosing speed or falling over to stop the nightmare and then popped up beside a Black Saab, yes it has been 13 years plus and I remember vividly. The car thankfully was being driven by someone not texting or talking on their phone and they yanked the wheel to miss my tire it then went off the highway. totally.
Now as this was happening another tire came up beside me as I was trying to move over one lane at a time scared to death wondering if I could hold onto her as this had never happened to me not even in a car. This tire ran straight up beside me and then off to the right and over the embankment. You see I had 22 wheels on my rig and except for the two steering axle tires the rest of them were paired up.
I made it over to the breakdown lane and was happy my boyfriend was in the passenger seat for this trip not that he could do anything to stop the nightmare but I was shaking when I stopped and as he hugged me he said “I swear I do not know how you stay THAT COOL as you are at highway speeds and loose two tires and could have killed someone.” Who was COOL?
Now out of the truck and not wanting her to be destroyed by the weight and airbags and springs taking a beating I had him crank the landing gears on the tanker down and we unhooked the airlines and electrical plug and I pulled ahead. I then got out of the truck and I was so angry you see I had spent over $1,000.00 for two tires and new rims and all new wheel studs that weekend, I called my tire man from the side of the road and I can not say here what I said to him but I had him send a tow truck at HIS EXPENSE to come get me. I called the plant up in the mountains to send another driver for my tanker of water.
I then climbed back in the truck and then and only then did I EXHALE.
Life on the road is tough on drivers of rigs for they get no respect from other drivers but that day I earned their respect, for had I been a yahoo with no common sense they would not be here and you never would have lived a few moments in the rig with me. Yes I am a female trucker but a damn good one! Do you know the whole time this took place and then the wait that ensued I never saw one State Trooper you see they know me and I am responsible and courteous though at times going over the speed limit back in my trucking days, which is why I always put money back into my business equipment, my RIG, as I asked a lot of her. Now for the rest of the story some day I will finish it and title it THE TIRE MAN, as it is a good one!
A woman was just killed by a tire coming off a rig here in NH and I re-lived this event all over again bet you everyone on the road with me that day just over 13 years ago did too.
PAY ATTENTION not all things are within our power to PREVENT as I sadly learned.
It has been a very long time since I looked at this photo. I used to miss this truck so much, then it was the girl I was, who had gone missing.
Let me tell you some background since a few have asked about the days I spent behind the wheel of an 18 Wheeler(this one has 22 ) .
So much happened before I became a trucker, guess you would surmise that, as young girls really did not drive tractor-trailer trucks in the mid to late 70’s, well not in New England especially.
So do I begin here with this time period in the photo or go from the start?
I think I will do this blog from just before the time I bought her till I said goodbye, as there really is an awful lot for this story.
I was divorced in 1995 and as part of the settlement of OUR THINGS I had a choice to make. Let’s see he had already just got rid of the truck he drove, he actually gave it back to the bank with less than a year to pay on it. He was drinking so heavy daily and I could not drive TWO TRUCKS so he did what he did. I insisted we split the days up with him driving my rig(not this one) Monday,Wednesday and Friday which would leave me Tuesday and Thursday and most Saturdays. At the time I was hauling rubbish back and forth from Roxbury, MA to different landfills and trash to energy plants here in New England.
Things were getting worse living with him. I never thought they could get any worse and there came a point when I had the police remove him from the home. I had finally had too much. Lost so much. I signed a restraining order and told them he could come for the rig, with police.
It took a year before the final day in front of the judge. All I wanted was the house, 4 dogs and my 68 Camaro and my Ford Pickup Truck. He could take EVERYTHING ELSE!
In the time I sent him away, I found a job driving for a local company. I was now driving a Dump Truck. Worked 10 hours a day and finally had a life but not much money compared to owning my own rig but I was happy, really happy. I actually looked forward to doing my hair and climbing into that Orange Mack daily.
When the judges final decree was sent he gave me everything I wanted. The house, dogs and vehicles. Now how could I pay the house payment on a weekly paycheck, as an employee, I really couldn’t.
My Dad knew I worked for a seasonal company so he gave me an old 1974 Mack to drive. He paid for the registration and fuel and insurance and I paid him back weekly. I worked that truck for probably 9 months and even put some cash away. The Mack had a lot of issues being so old and finally she just could not go on the road anymore so if I was to truck I had to go shopping and quick!
I had a job to haul containers of beer from the pier in Boston or trailers from the rail yards in Alston. I poured through books and found a place in CT that sold used trucks. I saw the tractor in the photo above and thought she would be a good enough rig for me to begin again. The man who owned the place was impressed with my knowledge of trucks see he threw questions at me to check, I was a female. I had to prove to him I owed nobody anything after the divorce except my mortgage company and that the home was mine and not the ex-husbands. So he put a paper plate on it and told me to take it up to NH and drive it haul a few loads and show it to my Dad to make sure it would be a good choice for me, and then bring him the decree so he could see what the judge had written.
I went straight to my parents home from CT which was just under 2 hours away and showed them what it looked like and then Dad hopped into the driver’s seat and off we went for a test drive just as I had when I was 18 in a car he brought home for me. He liked it and then we switched seats and I drove. It was the first time I had ever taken my Dad with me in a rig, Mom had been several times but now it was time to show my Dad how over 2 mil. miles had made me into an awesome though fearless driver. He loved the ride! He said it looked like a solid truck for what I was hauling and that I drove it like a professional. I could not be happier. He asked if I needed any money and I told him no you see it was $1,000.00 down and a payment each month for 2 years and she would be mine. That was 1996, late in the year.
I hauled the beer and goods for maybe a year then I got antsy I wanted to haul the heavy loads again. This truck did not have a double frame or a wet system. I traded my Camaro for a Wet System which consisted of a pump and a tank which held Hydraulic fluid and hoses and fittings. This poor truck with her big Cummings Motor was going to set out to do the impossible, just as it owner.
I hooked up with old friends and started hauling Bark Mulch from a place in Maine all the way to Cape Cod and places in between. I loved the work and the places they sent me as so many others would hit everything but the lottery in the customers yards that they started to request the Blonde Girl who was a great driver! Everywhere I went I got smiles and waves from people. See I was an oddity still and we were now in the late 90’s.
Bark Mulch was seasonal so I had to find steady work I had not only a home to pay for but a truck. I hooked up with another friend in the rubbish business and started to haul four loads a day for him 6 days a week. I now had Sunday’s to play with the dogs in the yard while the truck was washed and oiled changed for the next week of work.
I hauled garbage till it just became too expensive to keep tires on it with going in and out of a landfills and hooked up with a Spring Water company. It was now 1998 winter again and this would be my first experience hauling a tanker down off the top of a mountain with snow and ice. I was scared, very scared about stopping at that stop sin at the bottom, why do they do that anyway!
I worked that whole winter of 1998 and then in 1999 the real fun began. I never got sleep I just napped in between loads. I hauled 3 to 4 loads of water, weighing out at 103,000 pounds back and forth to bottling companies, you see the country was getting ready for Y2K, which would happen in the year 2000, when the world would change as we knew it. We hauled thousands of gallons of water, as there were 10 other drivers doing the same thing for the company I worked for. Stock piled water filled these places with fear about what would come of the computers of our world and all the machines run by them.
As we all know we were really fine, doom and gloom never came to be. They would have a slow down in production so it was time for a much-needed vacation!
I parked this rig, tanker attached and locked up safe and sound and headed to FL where else would a girl go who loves the sea. I took 3 dogs as one had passed away and the cat and boyfriend at the time and headed to his Aunts place for a little rest. It was while I was there we decided it was where I wanted to be. Get rid of the house go back home and get my rig and start a new life where things were no so hard on me or the equipment. I could find work anywhere. So we left the dogs and cat there with his Aunt and I was heartbroken as I headed north but I would be back in 2 weeks with everything I wanted to start all over again with.
We made it back as planned I left the house for mortgage company to deal with as they refused to take the ex’s name off and set about finding my own place to call home.
So I spent most days in the beginning when we got down to Florida getting caught up on sleep and sun tanning and playing with my dogs, who were now 10. I finally got the bug to really drive again so I hooked up with a company to haul empty cans to bottling companies along the east coast of Florida, you see I loved the Gulf Coast . My rig was getting a much deserved rest as well, loads were so light I had to keep checking in the review mirrors to make sure I still had the trailer hooked to it. Life was GOOD, it really was the best. I was so very happy, finally, the year was 2000.
Well around August I received mail from the company holding the loan on my home. It seems they didn’t want it either and had given it to me free and clear only stipulation was I had to live in it. I was shocked to say the least. They asked me to go back to the home I loved so much in the woods of NH and lock the doors as I had left it cleaned out and spotless with doors unlocked for potential buyers. Now what go back, start again I didn’t want to. I liked it here in Florida but some of my dogs were buried there, it was home. At this point I was tired of making decisions really on my own as the boyfriend at the time was younger than me and OK with me doing it all. Yes I am now sadly aware that was who I was and nothing to do with him.
I decided I would go home alone with him and the pets but no rig. It was an old truck now, pretty and in great shape but not for another season of hard, nasty weather. I placed a For Sale sign in the back window and within days a man approached me and asked if he could check it out which he did and bought it with CASH. I had lots of money to pay his Aunt’s bills up to date, pay my brother cash I owed him and fuel for the van and enough to live on upon getting back to NH where I would also have to put electric on, fill the propane and hook up TV and internet.
We packed everything back into a U Haul, kissed everyone good-bye.
We were coming home.
I miss that truck and the freedom she gave me out on the roads but you see I finally get that there is more than one chapter in this woman’s life.
Time to LIVE IT!
the beginning and the middle will come with time STAY Tuned