Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Roses in the snow

Here we go again: ’Tis the season to be jolly – that is, if you are going to make it home for Christmas. The maneuvering, scheming, begging is in full swing. Get me home!

Not a big predicament for local and most regional drivers, but it can be a real problem for the long-haul irregular route guys and gals. I’ve been there. On the last business day, things are looking bleak, waiting for that last minute phone call … when, in fact, a lot of the folks that generate the freight have already gone home early.

A lot depends on luck and a company that really makes an effort to get their people home. Although freight slows down during the Christmas season, there are people waiting on that meat and taters and someone has to be sitting at those docks the next day.

You can always tell it’s a holiday driving through towns off the interstate. It seems like every town has that gravel lot on the edge of town, or closed up shopping center, where the truckers leave their trucks or drop their trailers while home. On the holidays – especially Christmas – there are always several rigs parked on these lots as opposed to a few on a normal weekend.

The truck stop stores leading up to Christmas look more like a toy store gift shop. They don’t really have room for it, but they pack it in anyway, making it tough get around in there.

As far as getting home, you can’t throw us all in the same basket. Some don’t care one way or the other about getting home. There are some whose home isn’t the U.S. … some who don’t celebrate Christmas … some whose home is the road.

Then there are those like me. I’ve spent Christmas on the road several times – which I didn’t mind as long as I had something to run, and I almost always did. Being hung out to dry for three or four days would be a bummer.

One of my problems was I usually seemed to burn out a week or so before Christmas. I’d go home and swear I’m staying home until after New Year’s. After being home four or five days I’d call dispatch, “Hey man, what ya got?” You would be surprised at the really good loads that you’ve never seen before that turn up at this time of year.

The last 10 years or so my wife and I have operated in the “kids moved out and the dog died mode,” and we were always up for something new. One time she said, “WHAT?” pretty loud when we were in Florida in January and I told her I took a load to Montana. Well, it was a military load and I felt obligated.

Mostly, with friends and relatives scattered around the country, we took advantage of where the loads took us. One memorable visit was with friends in Vermont over Christmas. We bobtailed out to a campground where they were staying. That’s right, camping in Vermont in the winter. They like winter sports more than I do.

Anyway, we made it up to meet for dinner at an old farmhouse-turned-into-a-steakhouse. There was a long lane leading to the parking lot in the rear. Just as I got parked, here come these two grown men at a dead run. Not sure what was up – I hit the doorlock. It turned out that they just wanted to see our truck. Well, we were a “fer” piece up in the north woods, where most trucks have iron fenders and moose guards.

So, drivers, if you can’t make it home for Christmas, at least try to smell the roses even if they are in the snow.