Long Haul Truckers

Before I start da next small kine advencha to daboonies of Washington, I wanted to say something about truck drivers. You know, the ones who drive semis all over the countryside.

I was going to just write a small kine paragraph in my last post, but then decided I wanted to do more with my photos and thoughts. So here goes.

Nolemana and I do a fair amount of road trips, as you know. In 2008 my first road trip was down to California the day after my mom died. It was so sudden, so unexpected, that Nolemana couldn’t just leave the business to go with me, and my wonderful daughter Leilani dropped everything to go with me. It wasn’t exactly a for-fun trip, but several of the photos we took has everything to do with this post.

Everywhere we go, we see truckers on the highway. Sometimes we see them with mountains in the background, like this one that Leilani and I saw near Mt Shasta on our way to my mom’s place.

And on the way home, Leilani and I saw them working their way through a fiery landscape, this one carrying a huge load of cars as a forest fire burned wildly to the west of us.

Truckers carry lots of stuff. Like logs, through the Coast Range of Oregon.

And bambucha bales of hay through the open Montana sky.

They travel at night across Montana.

And head east towards Missoula and Butte and Bozeman, and who knows where after that.

They head down the magnificent Columbia River Gorge.

And through the snake-like curves of Eastern Oregon.

They carry logs across the Blue Mountains.

And drive across the treeless landscape from Portland to Baker City and beyond.

Sometimes they drive alone.

And sometimes several of them are bunched up together.

They have to slow down for traffic changes when they’re already on a strict timetable, knowing they will have to make up for it later.

They have to stop when they cross state lines and weigh stations, like this one between Oregon and California.

Their speed can slow down to a crawl on long upgrades.

They travel across dry, barren landscapes.

And they get stuck in traffic like here in Walnut Creek, California, slowing them down even further.

There are long, long, stretches of nothing, where there are no mountains or trees to break up the straight, monotonous highway.

They travel a lot at night, climbing mountain highways like here near Mt Shasta heading to Oregon.

Some of their trucks are downright cute.

And some are long triple rigs.

They travel up and over Mt Hood in the middle of winter, moving at a snail’s pace on the dangerous highway. Some people in cars get mad if they’re stuck behind a slow-moving truck, but not me. I know that these drivers are doing a risky job to get those very same people the products that they want and/or need.

There are runaway truck ramps which prove how dangerous the drivers’ jobs can be.

They have to stop to either put chains on or take chains off, working in bitter cold and ice.

When Nolemana and I used to travel from Twin Falls, Idaho, to California to see our parents, we used to draft the big rigs to try and save gas. When our girls were young, they used to do a pumping motion with their hands outside the window to the truckers and invariably out on the open road, the friendly truckers would sound their horns at them, which delighted our girls no end.

My papa-san taught me a lot about how to communicate with truckers along the highway. If I wanted to move back into the right lane after passing a big rig, I’d always blink my headlights off and on to thank the driver for flicking his brights to let me know it was okay to move back ahead of him. They always let me know when it was safe, always treated us with respect, and one time a driver made an unforgettable memory for us, filling us with laughter.

Nolemana and I were driving from Portland down to the Bay Area to see our folks. Some friends of ours had loaned us their CB radio (this was long before the advent of cells phones…way long) and we had been talking back and forth with a very friendly driver with a Gordon Freight Lines rig.

It was late at night, and we kept running into light fog here and there. The trucker was ahead of us and warned us about the fog, and then told us, “It’s not too bad, though. It’s Indian Fog.”

Indian Fog? We’d never heard of that fog before. We’d heard of the dangerous tulle fog in Central California, and we’d heard of fog thick like pea soup, but were definitely not familiar with Indian Fog.

“What’s Indian Fog?” I asked.

“Oh, you know,” he said. “Apache here, Apache there.”

We erupted in laughter! There we were in the blackest part of night crossing the Siskiyou Mountains, enjoying a huge joke with a man who we would never see, whose name we would never know, and who would soon be out of CB range.

We’ve talked to truckers at rest stops, at cafés, and waved to them along the highway. We’ve met their wives and husbands, and their dogs. We’ve traded stories about where we’re all from, and enjoyed every bit of it.

So I guess this is my tribute to the men and women who drive mile after mile after mile. These are people who are largely ignored by car-driving people with whom they share the highways. Truckers are the unsung heroes of this country, and without them the transportation of goods would come to a standstill. We saw a lot of truckers on our road trips and I felt grateful to each and every one of them.

Next time you’re on the road, let your kids see if truckers will sound their horns for them. Wave to them. Talk to them at rest stops and/or restaurants. Thank them for doing what they do. And if you’ve got a mind to, say mahalo to ke Akua that we have faithful people like this, who keep going despite sore ʻōkole, being apart from their ʻohana, and probably loneliness as well.

Mahalo nui from me, all of you.

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8 Responses to Long Haul Truckers

  1. Kikue Mugen says:

    LOL! This is an awesome take on truckers! Yes, they are always a part of our road and highway scene, but how often do we actually give them the notice that they deserve? Well, you have done it! And, I loved it. Your take on truckers reminded me of a picture story book. The kind that I so enjoyed as a little kid. Warm memories of my daddy reading a story to me and as he flipped a page, there were more pictures to dazzle me.

    C used to get the truckers to pull their horns all the time. I taught her how, but then didn’t think it was such a good idea since she used to make them do it ALL the time we were out. Yes, every truck we passed tooted. LOL I cringed then, but I sort of miss it now. Great memories.

    Thanks for triggering such good memories for me all the time. I so enjoy this.

  2. AFK says:

    I have taken pictures of the same kind of milk truck! How could I not?

    I love that kind truckers would blow the horn for your girls!

  3. Dan says:

    Great Blog!! You are a terrific writer not to mention the great pics. All of these truckers have a story to tell. Some believable, some that are not, but all in all it is these good folks who keep the goods moving to our local stores so we can provide meals for our families. These folks bring the fuel to our local gas stations, the cars to our local dealerships, the furniture to your local shops. They make it possible for us to brush our teeth, munch on our favorite snacks, BBQ our favorite hamburgers, take our medications, drink our favorite beverages, paint our homes and recreate with our favorite sporting goods. It’s all possible because of truckers!

    These folks occupy one of the most dangerous jobs in America in order to supply all of the things that we need and desire in our daily lives. We should always appreciate these good folks. When we call it a day and tuck ourselves in a night in our warm cozy beds, there are men & women out there on American highways heading our way with the things that we will need tomorrow. When we lay our heads upon our soft and inviting pillows at night, let us never forget the trucker who made this pillow available to us, and whom probably lost his shorts in the process.

  4. Absolutely!! Back when I lived in Woodland, CA I had a job as a truck dispatcher. Earlier I worked in the same area (a bit north out of Yolo) dealing with trucker who hauled grain, safflowers etc. Every one I met was a gentleman.

  5. tara says:

    I just found your blog while looking at comments on a few other crafting/quilting sites. I hope you don’t find this creepy. I want to thank you for writing this post. This past winter my dear grandpa passed away. He was a trucker for many many years. Supported his wife and four kids by driving a truck all over this beautiful country (but mostly on the routes you showed in your photos.) He was such a good man. I have to admit I broke down reading what you wrote. Thinking of all those lonely miles my dear gramps drove. Thank you for putting it into words. You just never know who you are going to touch when you write a post. Blessings to you.

  6. Tola says:

    both my grandfather and my uncle were truckers. i always wave to drivers as i pass them, in remembrance.

    also, even though im from Idaho, i went to university in Hawaii, so i love it when you talk pidgin!

  7. Jacque Stead says:

    I went to the website you forwarded… Thank you for the homeage… Being out here is a lonely profession, it is nice to know that we are understood and appreciated! BTW, your pictures depict what I love about this job, the territory I get to see! Peace and happiness to you, Jacque

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