Friday, August 19, 2016

Getting my kicks on Route 66

2016 Route 66 Trip

July 26, 2016

My neighbor, up early, startled me as I sat in my drivers door  studying  my phone and googling  last minute info. I climbed from the cab and he sent me off with a big hug, saying  he loved me and would miss me. Something had changed for me. For the first time  I  would really miss my friends on this trip.  Facebook would keep us connected, and I  knew they would all cheer me along on my route like a marathon runner making her laps. I pulled away from the house at 6:15.

I squeezed through the inland empire commuter traffic and the road opened up as my motorhome climbed up the Cajon pass.

The vista spread before me, and I inhaled with a pleasant surprise.  I missed the traveling during the last four months at home. The joy of being on the road again swelled inside my chest like a lover’s first kiss after a long absence.  I was glad to be alone because as I considered the enormity of the past events in my life, which led up to this precise moment, my eyes teared up.  I was going home to the flatlands of the Midwest, cornfields and soybeans.. No words could express the   deep level of feelings I felt for all the events  I  had been through this past year. And soon I would be facing the events of my entire life. As the motorhome's engine hummed  like a quiet creek cutting through the land before me, It carried me  along  with  my  new intense emotions  while I anticipated  the road ahead.

My motorhome labored up each steep grade, and rushed down into every valley like the roller coaster in Happy Hollow at the Ilinois State Fair.As the distance increased behind me,  the miles ahead decreased bringing me closer to whatever the future held.

 After  an hour on the road, I exited at Barstow, California, where I choose a TA Truck Stop, Travel Centers of America, to get a cup of coffee.
My goal this trip, to meet and interview truckers. As I climbed out of my rig,   a bulky, black man with a round face, kind smile, and a soft voice for such a big man admired the “Short Story” lettering on my Smart Car.

 “Are you a trucker?’ I asked and told him that the hero in my next book was going to be a trucker.

“Yes I am,” he said.  

We shook hands and he invited me to join his girlfriend, Tina, his team driver, and her nephew, a sixteen-year-old boy for breakfast.


I slid into the booth as the trucker introduced me to Tina’s nephew.  The boy looked me straight in the eye and shook my hand. “Nice to meet you ma’am," the boy said. Even though I found his southern twang endearing the boy succeeded in  pulling  off a masculine presence of someone much older. 

 His respectful, grown up attitude, a  rare aspect for a teenager  these days,  delighted me.  “How do you like riding on the truck?”  I asked.

 The boy’s face lit up and I saw the road’s romantic pull in his eyes.” I love it.”

Their broker called, twice while they ate, assigning them two loads, one in Los Angeles, which they would deliver to Rapid City, South Dakota. There they would pick up another and transport to another destination.  Tina shared stories of trucking life while Rayman finished off his breakfast.

In Newberry Spring, I gassed up across from the Bagdad Café. The rising  heat and my  waning energy made me choose to ignore the lure of the  historic café. After checking my phone, I pushed on.

The afternoon temperatures climbed higher and higher as did my stress level.   What happens when you break down out here in nowhere land? You deal with it, I told myself. Drained from the miles, the events of the day and the anticipation of what lies ahead, I passed Kingman.  Unable to sing out with enthusiasm in accompaniment to my favorite country singers, I fought sleep.

Seventeen miles past Kingman I pulled off I-40, topped off my gas tank and checked
into Blake Ranch RV Resort.  Parked and with the air-conditioning blasting, I stretched out on the couch and waited for the interior to cool down.

The TV scanned for stations on the cable provided by the park while I heated up a serving of my baby back ribs and green beans, and straightened up. I ate dinner, watched Judge Judy,  and unwound.  After my first meal on the road, I carried Sportster outside. Like the King of his castle that he believed he was, he lounged under a tree  while I cleaned road dirt off the car and rig.

Chores finished, I returned Sportster to the motorhome and walked over to the campsite across from me and introduced myself   to a man and a younger woman sitting at their picnic table. The temperature had dropped to a bearable range.

The man smiled. “When I registered they told me there was another Howard in the park. Is that you?  My name is Howard, too. This is my daughter, Debbie.”

With last names in common, the conversation took off. Of course, I went into my book spiel as the man cooked hamburger patties on a small grill. I wished I had not left mine at home. When the burgers were cooked, we rose and I said   goodbye. The man reached out his hand and said, “My name is Jack.” 

“What?”  A light hum from the interstate in the distance as we shook.

“My name is Jack Howard.”

“That was my husband’s name,” I said.

The woman Debbie said, “That’s weird.”

“Yes it is,” I said. “Yes it is.”

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