Nike! (alright, Nikita maybe)

by | Sep 7, 2008 | Knight of the Road

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Posts by: Brian

Nee-kay, you know, that’s Greek for victory, and today I got a teensy little taste of it.

I’d gotten started on this lovely run, whose crowning point was that I figured I could time it so I could kill about four hours in the middle of the day on top of Donner Pass. Gosh golly was I looking forward to that interlude, as were my hiking boots, who have seen precious little use this lost summer and whom I’d optimistically tossed into the truck when I loaded up back in the Springs.

Then came the rescheduled delivery time for my load, which is 6AM tomorrow, and a message from my manager telling me I needed to call. She would help me redo my trip plan so I could make OTD (that’s ‘on time delivery’ for you civilians out there). All I would have to do was start each of the next three days a few hours earlier so I could start at midnight the final day in I think she figured Winnemucca to make the last stretch into Sacramento. I could make it, she figured, with an hour to spare. So much for all the warnings against driving at night, and driving, especially, during the 3AM to 7AM Danger Zone, and so much for my sleep schedule and my peace of mind and my best-laid plans.

See, what makes these runs tricky sometimes is working them within your available hours of service. And since they’ve been running me fairly ragged since my time off, which was some time ago in the hazy past., my available hours are kind of scarce. Which would have worked to my advantage when it came to walks in the woods, but my clever manager figured a way around that.

Fortunately, trip plans are based on an average speed of 50 miles per hour. In the East, this is not too far off. My top speed is governed at 62, and hills and curves do slow me down. Fortunately, this is the lightest load I’ve ever pulled. 6500 pounds, whereas 40,000 is typical. Must be a bunch of potato chips. So I hardly notice the hills. And in the West, the roads are straighter than in, say, Pennsylvania. In sum, I blew across Iowa and Nebraska and Wyoming and Nevada as fast as my little engine could while remaining, of course, within compliance of all applicable DOT regulations.. Hit only one detour, around Salt Lake, and hardly any construction. Made up so much time that I was on top of Donner, with an hour left on my driving clock, at 8:45 this morning. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take my 10-hour break there. Stays at that particular rest area are limited to eight hours. So I had about three hours to play with before I had to boogie on down the hill and find a safe haven, as the Company puts it, before my 14-hour clock ran out.

So here I am in Dutch Flat by the skin of my teeth, fifteen minutes this side of turning into a pumpkin, an easy hour and a half to my delivery tomorrow.

Would have been nice if I could have stayed on top of Donner. By now, I would have been stretched out on a rock in the cool air at 8000 feet, fast asleep beneath the pines and moss-clad spruce, with the tweeting of songbirds and the tapping of woodpeckers in the distance, instead of cooped up here in my truck cab in a parking lot, sweating to the sound of other trucks flouting California’s anti-idling law.

Up there on Donner I had a flashback. Having left most of the highway noise behind me, the sight of all that nature spread out in front of me brought me the satori that I have been feeling trapped lately in the same I used to feel when I lived in New York. It’s really quite boggling, the sheer amount of stuff you are expected to sacrifice in order to do this over-the-road thing. The dream, almost everyone’s dream, is to do this for a year, get the experience on his resume, and then find something local. Those local jobs, as you might imagine, tend to get hunted to extinction.

There’ve been some bad days lately. Lying on my rock, I reminded myself that I’m doing this for a reason. To solve the financial problem to get that off my mind so my mind, poor servant that it is, can focus on composing books so that, potentially at least, I can get everything that I love, that for now I’ve given up, back again. Like the Athenians at Salamis.

Having contact with part of the earth was really good. Sitting up, I watched a lizard, a salamander or a skink, busy with his own meditation on a smaller rock across the way. I breathed in that soothing forest smell, the mingled scent of living and decaying conifers. It was really quiet.