The frantic pace I was keeping started to really get to me after about a year of service, however. For there was only so much that my body could take while completely straight.
Nonetheless, the spirit was still willing. So, I had to do something.
Be assured that I really struggled with the dilemma. For I had never taken anything before, but after getting up from my usual rest period of 2-3 hours, I found myself still absolutely exhausted in the parking lot of the fairly new Pilot Truckstop in Barstow, California (around 140 miles northwest of Los Angeles) with a load of produce that needed to be driven straight through to Buffalo, New York, which was still around 2,500 miles away.
Therefore, I went in search of some help, and I have to laugh every time I think about it. For everyone in that truckstop must have thought that I was trying to score an 8-ball (an eighth of an ounce) of crank (or something similar) by the way I was acting.
No, I was not after anything illegal. For what I was looking for was ephedrine, and it could be found in its very own display case on (or behind) the counter of almost every truckstop across the land, as well as in a great many convenience stores and gas stations.
I was still spooked by the whole idea, and it certainly did not do much to calm me down to see that its display case was empty. For by then, I was feeling like I did the first time I ever entered a liquor store and bought a fifth of Seagram's V.O. so that I could be (I thought) more like a man I highly respected in the Joplin, Missouri area back in 1979 (I think).
Anyway, I had become fairly good friends with one of the girls working as a clerk at the Pilot, and she proved most helpful in my endeavor. For not only did she go in the back and find what I was looking for, she also cautioned me not to take more than two pills at a time if I did not want to get the jitters.
Even though I thought that it was very considerate of her to be concerned about my welfare, I knew my constitution. For I have always had to take more (sometimes much more) of the recommended dosage of everything from aspirin to prescribed medication to get any good out of the stuff.
So, I popped four of the little white pills with a cross pattern into my mouth and swallowed them down with a big gulp of Mountain Dew, straight out of an unrefrigerated 2 liter bottle I kept alongside a gallon pee-jug (TMI?) in a duct tape-reinforced cardboard box between the seats, and I then launched my purple rocket-ship toward more glory. Much to my dismay, I did not even make it to Needles (around 140 miles east of Barstow on I-40) before I had to lie down and try to sleep some more.
Thankfully, I only slept a couple of hours, and what happened next was absolutely amazing. For I proceeded to ingest ten of the ephedrine pills this time, and about ten minutes later, it felt like every hair on my head was standing on end. Oily beads of sweat started to ooze out of my forehead, and I could feel my muscles swelling with strength and energy (not so unlike an inflatable doll being blown up). The icing on the cake was a tingling sensation throughout my body.
In other words, it felt like I had just taken a good hit of crank. Well, at least that is what I was thinking at the time. For I had heard others talk about experiencing similar things, but I had never been tempted to try it for myself.
Be assured that nothing had changed. For I saw no benefit to upping the ante when I already felt better than I ever had before, and there was also, “Look, ma. No jitters!”
It was, however, the beginning of a devoted relationship with the stuff. For without it, I was some kind of special, but with it, I became a super-trucker without any reservations.
A good example of that would be winning a bet with another driver. For he bet that he would have traveled more miles than I the next time we met. Nine days later, I won with 7,932 to his 6,497—and he really was on crank!
Another example should make the point even clearer. For it involved taking off from Rogers, Arkansas with a load of Tyson's finest and delivering them to Denver, Colorado. After unloading in Denver, I picked up a pre-loaded trailer of boxed beef in Liberal, Kansas (southwestern corner of the state) and delivered the load in Ontario, California (around 60 miles east of Los Angeles). After making that delivery, I made eight pick-ups of produce from Chula Vista, California (southern suburb of San Diego) to Salinas headed for Buffalo, New York. After delivering in Buffalo, I loaded wine in Canandaigua, New York (around 90 miles east of Buffalo) and delivered it in Richmond, California (around 15 miles north of Oakland). Then I picked up a load of almonds and cashews from another warehouse in Richmond and delivered it to a warehouse in Rochester, New York. The last round was picking up another load of wine in Canandaigua and delivering it to Richmond again—all without a wink of sleep.
No, I did not see where I could be doing any damage. For I was really feeling better than I had ever felt in my life.
Sherry did, however. For she was an LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) going to school to be an RN (Registered Nurse), and just reading the back of the ephedrine bottle freaked her out.
Yes, there was a price being paid. For aside from having to take more and more of the stuff in order to keep going, my personality was undergoing a major metamorphosis, and before long, a very disagreeable monster could be seen every time I looked in a mirror.
Not that it really mattered to me at the time. For I still had my dream of having lots of cattle to chase and horses to fall off of while doing so, and I believed that I was doing all I could to achieve it before becoming too old to really enjoy that kind of life.
A lot sooner than later, my relationship with Sherry deteriorated to the point of being more like an uneasy truce between enemies than any sort of a happy marriage—even during peaceful exchanges. For she was very unhappy with my state of mind, and receiving a letter from an old girlfriend did little to improve the situation.
No, it was not a love letter. Well, not exactly. For it was sent to inform me of the birth of Calvin two years earlier.
Talk about being unexpected. For I had only been out with his mother a few times, but like they say, “It only takes once.”
It was still good to hear about having a son, and I was allowed to meet him for the first time a couple of months later. For I was given a load headed for Kent, Washington (southern suburb of Seattle), and this left me only around 45 miles south of where Calvin and his mother lived.
Oh yes, Calvin was most definitely my son. For he was as cute as could be and could charm the socks off of a wino in a back alley.
On the other hand, He was a little on the small side, but he had endured a rough start. For Calvin had to come out at the end of the second trimester (24 weeks) and weighed only 18 ounces at birth. (Hmm, impatience. Surely another trait that he got from his old man.)
Yes, it can be said that Calvin was a miracle baby in the truest sense of the word, and I will be eternally grateful to the Children's Hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas for giving an assist. For it was in their intensive care nursery, where he had to stay for the first six months (I think) of his life.
As it turned out, I had been through where they lived just five or six months earlier on a memorable run to Surrey, British Columbia (an eastern suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia). For it was the first time I had ever been north of Seattle—not to mention the first time across the border into Canada.
There was also a Canadian Border Patrol Officer (I think) who was a genuine stone cold fox (she looked a lot like Shania Twain to me) and she proved it by promising to shoot me on the spot if she found anything she considered disgusting in my sleeper while performing a random inspection. For if she was merely an object to be desired, she would not have had her hand resting on her pistol holster as she walked closer to my truck.
Even after all of that, the second trip into the area was so much better. For I was plumb proud to be Calvin's poppa, and I hoped (for his sake) that he had a lot more of his momma's genes than mine.
Alas, again I found myself in a situation where there was nothing sweet about parting. For it was love at first sight, but I was in no position to spend much time with him.
Speaking of sight, Calvin certainly has a unique pair of eyes. Well, maybe only to me. For his have the same greenish-hazel general color as mine, but where mine are encircled with a band of dark blue, his are encircled with a golden band, which makes them quite beautiful.
Anyway, it was time to hit the road again after a short visit, and I did so with renewed determination. For I had gained another to share my dream with.
Perhaps news of Calvin was the last proverbial straw (or at least one very near to the top). For it was only a month or two (I think) after I met him that I lost Sherry and her daughter.
Oddly enough, I received the news when I called her from where I was making my last pick-up of pears in Cashmere, Washington (around 150 miles east of Seattle) and some might think that it was rather crudely delivered. For when I told Sherry that I would be headed home in less than an hour, she told me not to bother, but I knew where she was coming from.
Before moving on, I am compelled to explain that there is another reason for why I considered it kinda odd to be informed of the impending demise of our marriage while in Cashmere, aside from it being fairly close (around 145 miles) to where Calvin lived. For it is in such a beautiful part of the country, but it was just ten miles or so up the road near Wenatchee, where the transmission of my purple rocket-ship decided to quit a couple of years earlier, which caused me to almost miss having Christmas with Sherry and her family.
Yes, I did feel a sense of loss, but to be perfectly honest, it was more of a sense of relief than anything else. For we had tried hard to make it work, but the divide between us had just grown too wide to span.
No, I was not the only one, who was relieved. For Sherry's daughter had hated my guts with a passion since the first time she heard about me, and even talking her mother into letting her attend Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama (something that she really, really, really, really wanted to do) did little to take the edge off of the scorn she held for me.
Anyway, I was free to really spread my wings and fly, but when I unfurled them, a bunch of feathers fell out. For it seemed that taking an average of over 50 ephedrine pills a day (over 1,250 mg) by then really was doing some damage, and my purple rocket-ship having to be retired because of having too many miles certainly was not helping.
So, I decided to try to do the right thing and go load up Theresa and Calvin in order to bring them back to live with me in the state of Misery. For he was my beloved son, and I figured that maybe putting a smile on my Heavenly Father’s face for a change might get Him back on my side.
No, I did not doubt that I would be spending all of eternity with Him. For I was, after all, a Southern Baptist, and I clung to once saved/always saved (the Doctrine of Eternal Assurance) with all of my might. However, I also recognized the fact that having my place in Heaven secured was one thing, and having His blessings while I still dwelt in this world was quite another.
No, it did not believe that my Heavenly Father was on my side at the time. Well, at least not to the extent that I wanted Him to be.
Of course, I should have been killed when I hit a full-grown (and very pregnant) Black Angus cow (easily 800 pounds) broadside while going around 70 MPH just north of New Meadows, Idaho (around 120 miles north of Boise). As it turned out, only the cow and the truck sustained any damage (deceased and partially deceased, respectively), but the way I looked at it, He would have made sure that there were not any cattle out on the road that moonless night if He was all the way on my side.
There is also the Wamsutter, Wyoming (around 240 miles west of Laramie) white-out to consider. For after passing Exit 173 on I-80 while heading west to my first drop of AAA maps in Salt Lake City, Utah, it looked like a great white curtain had been drawn across the road in front of me, and without having any prior warning, I plowed right into it doing 75 MPH.
No, I was not exercising some caution, for a change. For I had got stuck in an old truck that was primarily used for shuttling trailers around the yard until my new rocket-ship (I hoped) arrived, and 75 MPH was as fast as it would go. (Remember when I was thrilled with a truck that could go 68 MPH?).
Needless to say, it did not take me long to drastically reduce my speed. For I could not see past the hood of my truck—let alone where I was on the highway.
As if that was not bad enough, I have always become quickly disoriented whenever encountering blowing snow at night, especially when it appeared to be coming right at me. Sometimes, it would become so bad that it felt like I had stopped moving or was going backwards, and that night was no exception.
Oh yeah, I wanted to stop, with all of my heart, mind and soul, and I was not the only one. For the radio was going nuts, and every once in a while, someone would say that they really were stopping. Invariably, someone would ask them where they were, and my favorite reply to that was, “If I knew where I was on the road, I wouldn’t be stopping, you #@$%in’ idiot!”
So, I kept on truckin' at a torrid pace of 15-20 MPH. For I was afraid of being run over from behind to go any slower.
Thankfully, I caught a glimpse of a reflector every now and then, and I knew to scoot over to the left a bit every time I felt the trailer start to slide into the bar-ditch. For even in 4-wheel-drive (actually 8-wheel-drive, with both differentials locked in) most over-the-road trucks do not make very good snowplows.
In fact, it did not take me long to find out that there was something very different about the kind of trucks I started driving after leaving cattle pastures and wheat fields far behind. I never found out just what that was, but the bottom line most definitely was that they generally did not do well at all off-pavement.
My first experience with such happened when I decided to do a U-turn after it dawned on me (so to speak) that I was headed in the wrong direction on U.S. 54 late one evening around Iola, Kansas (around 30 miles southwest of Blue Mound). Hey, I could see that there wasn’t anyone coming in either direction for miles, and the bar-ditch was nice and wide, with a gentle slope. Therefore, it looked like it would be no problem, but as soon as my passenger-side drive tires left the pavement, I sunk down to the frame, which left me at a perfect 90 degree angle, with the trailer blocking both lanes. (Two cables on the wrecker snapped before it managed to pull me out.)
Another experience was even more embarrassing to me. For it was actually two experiences. For on two different loads, I attempted to pull into the driveway that led to the loading dock of an asparagus ranch right on the Mexican border, south of Yuma, Arizona, which resulted in getting stuck in less than a foot of sand. (The driver of the farm tractor that pulled me out both times had a good laugh both times.)
Getting back to the blizzard at hand, I was surprised to discover that I was not as isolated as I felt. For during one of my course adjustments, I caught sight of the headlights of a little white (of course) car just before my trailer slid back in line.
It is a wonder that they did not follow my trailer into the bar-ditch. For there could not have been more than a foot of space between the front bumper of their car and my trailer's safety bumper, which is a steel I-beam that is designed to help prevent small vehicles from running under trailers in the back.
Be assured that I knew how they felt. For I had sometimes tried to keep up with Yellow Freight trucks that had to have had some sort of on-board radar system in order to maintain a 58 MPH pace during times when fog in the San Joaquin Valley of central California reduced visibility to less than 30 feet.
Sometimes, it became even worse than that down in the valley. In fact, there was one time when I pulled over on the shoulder of California 99 to see if I could recognize any landmarks around while outside of the truck, and I found myself standing less than five feet from the Modesto exit I was looking for.
It was worse that night in Wyoming, and I was never so happy to see Point of Rocks in my life when it finally came into view. For I could actually see it!
Much to my relief, Satan’s 41-mile sleigh ride came to a halt as abruptly as it started. For the cause of the massive white-out was high winds out of the north blowing snow across the road, and a fairly high bluff around Mile Marker 132 kept them at bay.
Before putting it to bed for a few hours, I traveled another 25 miles or so, and after finding a place to park at the Flying J Truckstop in Rock Springs, Wyoming, which had to have been another miracle, I jumped out of the cab, kissed the ground and yelled, “THANK YOU,” just as loud as I could. For I knew that extraordinary driving skills had absolutely nothing to do with getting through that swirling mess, and I was very grateful that my Heavenly Father had seen fit to keep me out of the ditch (or worse).
Much to my chagrin (now) the operative word to the last part of that is was (even then). For before I laid my head down to sleep while parked at the Flying J, I started to fantasize about what it would be like to hook up with a Mormon babe or two down there in Salt Lake later that day.
It literally boggles the mind, I know. For there I was, praising my Lord and Savior with all of my heart, and then thinking about something like that mere minutes later.
Nonetheless, I could argue that it was not all my fault. For I used to wonder if there were any ugly girls in Utah.
Once, I even asked a gorgeous blonde waitress in a truckstop outside of Green River, Utah (around 175 miles southeast of Salt Lake City) about how there could be so many drop-dead gorgeous women in the state. In reply, she told me that she had no idea about what I was talking about, along with something about just moving there with her husband and their kids from Tulsa, Oklahoma after her husband landing a good job with a mining operation in the area.
I finally came to the conclusion that there must be at least some somewhat less than lovely lasses somewhere in the state, and that they were probably only let out late at night in places where there were not any illuminating lights around. For the law of averages had to come into play at some point. On the other hand, mathematical reckoning has never come easy for me.
Alas, my fantasy of finding a good Mormon girl to play slap and tickle with for a little while never happened, and I suppose this was another blessing I should have been more thankful for. For a girl being raised in such a repressive society would have probably eaten me alive after being let out of her gilded cage, but what a way to go (naturally-speaking, of course).
Perhaps not there, but I was starting to think seriously about going somewhere to do something else. For Jesse James Days really were over (at least for me) with the advent of the CDL (Commercial Driver's License).
Well, not completely. For I would still try to drive for days without sleep, and I would not balk at an opportunity to make some extra money by sneaking grossly overweight loads from here to there whenever I could get one. These included hauling over 60,000 pounds of loose potatoes from Monte Vista, Colorado (around 240 miles southwest of Denver) to Siloam Springs, Arkansas (around 20 miles west of Springdale), and hauling double loads of rolled aluminum out of Oswego, New York (around 100 miles east of Buffalo) to Birmingham, Alabama.
On my first double load of aluminum, I saw that I could follow in the footsteps of Daniel Boone through the Cumberland Gap in order to avoid DOT weight stations on the main roads, and that was not the most exciting part of the trip. Suffice to say, I decided upon an alternative route after that adventure.
Looking back upon it all, I can see where having to give up my license to fly may have been a good thing to a certain extent. For before it happened, I actually passed an ambulance (with its red lights just a-flashing away) while doing over 90 MPH on a two-lane road in New Mexico, with a load grossing over 110,000 pounds.
No, it was not the same after my wings were clipped. For with a CDL, moving violation points would show up from all over, and that took a lot of the fun out of playing outlaw.
As if that was not enough, my super-trucker pills were falling down on the job, but I kept giving them chances to redeem themselves. For I would shovel more and more of them down my throat, more and more often, and even after throwing up mostly blood for a full six hours one night at a rest area near Echo, Utah (around 35 miles southeast of Ogden) as the result of ingesting 100 pills in a span of two hours, I remained a loyal customer.
Yes, I had a problem, but not in the way that most would think. For there was not any physical addiction in play, but in all fairness, of what good news is this when you keep thinking that just a few more will do the trick.
To be honest about it, it may have not made any difference, but I would like to think that I would not have been so desperate if I could have been just like I was before. For I drove an awful lot of miles on nothing more than a bellyful of Mountain Dew or something similar, but when the pill bottle started letting me down, I was left without enough strength to stay out of bed for more than a couple of hours at a time—let alone enough to drive a thousand miles.
Remember the run I made from Salinas, California to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 37.5 hours completely straight? Well, it took me over 110 hours, with the last 20 miles taking over four hours, to make that very same run after I started falling apart.
Furthermore, my disposition was becoming worse. For the farther I fell behind my schedule, the madder (in every sense of the word) I became, and this made for a very pleasant experience for Calvin and his mother, I’m sure.
Hey, I even have proof! For after stopping by the house one day in the very merry month of May (I think) in 1993, I discovered that they had packed up and left with the only vehicle still running, and just for good measure, Theresa had called the electric company (obviously before calling the telephone company) and had the meter removed.
So, after I completed the run I was on and brought a load back to the yard, I told my boss that I needed to take some time off, which was not a problem. For he was suffering from my drastically reduced abilities almost as much as I was.
Finding a ride over to the house was also not a problem. For I just called an old drinking buddy of mine and asked him to come pick me up.
After spending a few hours catching up, he delivered me to my house in Bethlehem, and there I sat without any modern conveniences, just watching the shadows rise and fall. By the way, have I failed to mention that I had been seeing things for quite some time by then?
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