Sunday, May 31, 2015


NOTE: This editorial is solely the opinion of the author, and does not purport to reflect the views of those associated with the Chesapeake Film Festival. 
As those who know, know, there is a "homosexual agenda" that seeks to normalize homosexuality so that it is not only tolerated but made legitimate in mainstream Western law, culture and society.  To do this, mainstream media has been enlisted as a propaganda tool to convince the population that this type of sexuality should be embraced and accepted; that homosexuals should have rights and they should be permitted the same state recognition as heterosexuals in marriage, etc. It seems that the manufacturing of this public opinion and a strong homosexual lobby is actually turning the tide.  The U.S. Supreme Court appears to be on the verge of legally recognizing and countenancing homosexual marriage. And the "cultural Marxist thought police" have done a masterful job, as usual, of making it politically incorrect to challenge the homosexual agenda. 

The mainstream media also would have the people think that most of the population is supportive of the homosexual agenda. I believe this is highly over-blown. Still, many liberals (and even so-called conservatives) have taken up the torch and have bought into its acceptance. But this sort of mass brainwashing and socio-cultural conditioning is nothing new. It goes on all the time.  An unholy alliance of business and government, that many have dubbed the "cryptocracy," has perfected such campaigns since at least the early 20th Century, following the work of Edward Bernays (a nephew of Sigmund Freud; See, The homosexual agenda is just one prong in a multi-pronged attack on Western society, and Americans, in particular. The purpose is to systematically dismantle and destroy the traditional values that have stood as a bulwark against those forces who would weaken the moral fabric of peoples everywhere in order to manipulate, overcome, control, and ultimately enslave them to a "nanny government" that is diametrically opposed to a strict constitutionalism meant to protect We the People from this very thing. These are the same forces who rally for gun control, the last protection against a tyrannical and out-of-control government. 

On the Eastern Shore of Maryland there still exist folks who reject the notion of nanny government and stand up for a rugged individualism as the sovereign source that first created the institution of government.  When government fails to serve and starts to dictate, through a socio-cultural proxy, what values we should accept, it is time to take a hard look and to challenge such a monolithic, hydra-headed monster.

No, merci!  -- as Gerard Depardieu cried out in Cyrano de Bergerac.  The homosexual agenda is part and parcel of the same force that would destroy us as a People. That force's other campaigns have done a fairly effective job of ruining education, industry, our money, our food, government, medicine, law -- just about everything. If you don't think so, I'd say you are quite out-of-touch with what is really going on.  

And so, I for one, do not wish to be a part of that very agenda that is so corrosive to us as a People.  Folks are welcome to have their own views, certainly.  But do not, for an instant, in my presence attempt to make light of the effect the homosexual agenda is having on society. I am certainly no prude. I don't pretend that homosexuality does not exist. I simply do not want it thrust in my face in a way that seeks to normalize it. Homosexual scenes, if they must be in films,  can be done in a way that allow the viewing audience to infer what is taking place, off-stage (so to speak).  If done less offensively I don't necessarily object.  Neither do I object if homosexuality is portrayed in a way that does not highlight the sexuality of homosexual behavior, as in the short (presented by the 2015 Chesapeake Film Festival), Misconception.  But when a film tries to portray homosexuality as OK, I cannot countenance that.  I am not "phobic" -- I am not bigoted against individuals who choose to be homosexual -- I simply object to their "alternative" lifestyle being flaunted and made to seem "normal."

As a board member of the CFF and as a programming committee member I feel obliged to live the values in which I believe. I think a good number of folks in and around Easton, MD still cherish those traditional values that have well-served the human family over many, many years. And so this is why I take this stance.  Other film festivals may be more accepting.  But if they are, as far as I'm concerned they are doing so out of ignorance of the bit part they are actually playing in a greater agenda that makes them unwitting surrogates of that agenda.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Having re-read the prior posts about my trucking odyssey[1], I offer some overlooked events, observations, and concluding reflections.

On May 13, 2015 I turned in my electric blue 2014 Kenworth T-680, scrubbed and cleaned, inside and out.  I shined up the chrome and wheel rims with Busch’s.  Busch’s takes off tar and bugs with ease, as well as the dull film of oxidation, leaving the chrome and the brushed aluminum wheel rims gleaming. On the road, Busch’s can only be found at Pilot truck stops (for $20 a pop).

So now the tractor is a clean machine, but it is only a machine, a “dead” thing (as opposed to, say, a horse).  Without periodic maintenance and repair machines break down.  For example, fuel filters needs to be changed regularly. On my truck there was a see-through glass container holding one of two fuel filters. You could see the filter floating there in a certain amount of diesel fuel.  Ideally, the fluid level should be near the bottom of the filter. If the fluid is close to the top of the container it means that the filter is plugged and it must be replaced.  You’ll know if you have a plugged up fuel filter because you lose a significant amount of power – the truck will hardly be able to climb even the slightest incline.

Every pay period a small percentage of my pay went into a “maintenance account.”  You are able to draw on this account once you get to a service garage.  In the truck world, this means a TA, Petro or Sapp Bros. truck stop, or a Speedco. (Loves provides a limited tire service.  Forget Pilot and Flying J; in this sense you might say that these are not real truck stops, just fuel, shit & shower depots.)  Of course there still exist independent truck and trailer repair facilities.  But, not surprisingly, one big corporate entity prefers to deal with another big corporate entity. 

An oil change costs somewhere between $200-$300 and is usually combined with changing the fuel filters, another $150-$175.  During the year I had to have this done twice.  I also had to replace one of my drive tires.  A new tire can run you $750 or more (not an off-brand or re-tread).  And I replaced my two steer tires, which I think cost me $950 for both.  The air filters have to be changed too, another $150 or so.  And there is an annual motor vehicle inspection that must be performed, $65-$75.  Of course you have to have a supply of grease on hand to keep your fifth wheel lubed up. About once every week or two, you perform the ritual by scraping off the old, dirt laden grease, then apply new grease.  (This was a learn-as-you-go lesson.)

Inside the cab of the tractor I had a converter to be able to plug things in that require AC power.  I made the mistake of plugging in a rice cooker that drew 500 watts.  It blew the converter.  Luckily it was under warranty but I was still charged for labor to reinstall a new one.  I managed to find another, lower-watt rice cooker and even a crock pot that worked like a dream.  I would load up the crock pot with some meat, onions, garlic, and one bottle of water, switch it on, and head out. (Much later I would add stuff like  carrots and potatoes so they wouldn't over-cook.) It would slow-cook all day and be ready when I stopped driving. The rice cooker had a steamer in it and I could really eat like a king – King Chef of the Road – squash and broccoli and brussel sprouts.  My wife would whip up some savory sauces that I would bring and add to the gumbo. 

I kept my refrigerator and cupboard stocked as best I could, choosing from the fine selections at WalMart, as they have accessible parking lots that can accommodate tractor trailers.  WalMart really has the cheapest and best genetically modified foods available to the trucker out on the road today, not to mention catering to their usual, Walmartian clientele. When you are hungry you’re not as picky about your food.  When I was home, though, I raided Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s and stocked up.  Beware of eating mixed nuts and other, addictive fatty food while (sedentarily) chugging down the road.  Besides making you tired, you gain weight like crazy if you are not careful.  Of course, there’s not much else to do while driving, except to maybe smoke, tune-in to the radio wasteland, or talk on the phone (using a Bluetooth device of course).

When you see a warning light come on on the dashboard, like an amber or red “check engine” light, it’s ultimately a problem that needs to be handled by the manufacturer, viz., Kenworth.  If the truck is new enough – no more than about one-year old – repairs are covered by the warranty.  (I shudder to think of the other TransRam drivers out there whose rigs are more than one-year old!)  

There are Kenworth dealers from coast-to-coast. The catch is this: there is an exasperating wait time and, it seems you cannot be assured that they will fix the problem.  I had the good fortune of having to go in for servicing only three times.  Each time I waited almost a full day just to get into a bay door.  The work they do is hit-or-miss.  I had an amber “check engine” light lit up on the dash ever since I began driving my truck.  Kenworth diagnosed it as indicating that it needed a software update.  Well, they updated the software and it soon came on again and remained, on-again/ off-again for the remainder of my year of driving. I finally concluded that it didn’t really affect the operation of the vehicle (although there also seemed to be a perennial, misfiring third cylinder, according to the computer code!)  I had other hassles with the Kenworth dealers, but won't bore you any further.

Hopefully, whatever problem you have, you won’t need to be towed to a service garage.  At a minimum, towing is $200 - $300, and can be a lot more, depending on how far you must be towed.  If it’s a tractor problem, it’s your problem – the money comes out of your own pocket.  This includes getting towed perhaps 20 feet because your drive wheels are spinning and you are stuck.  This happened to me once when I went home on leave; even though I was on level ground, the wheels had sunk into the ground just enough so that they couldn’t get any traction.  Lucky for me, a neighbor with a big truck full of felled trees came over and pulled me out before the tow truck driver could get there (this was one time I was glad the tow truck driver was late in getting to me). 

When your fuel gauge gets to one-eighth, a warning message and red light comes on.  However, I’ve found that there is still quite a bit of fuel left in the tanks, even when the gauge shows them as “empty”.  The truck had two, (supposedly) 100-gallon tanks, though I cannot remember ever putting much more than 150 gallons, maximum, in both.  I suppose this means there are about 50 gallons left when you get to the one-eighth level(?)  But figuring how many miles you can go before you run out of fuel is hard to do because the mileage you’ll get depends on the weight you are pulling.  You certainly do NOT want to run out of diesel when you are on a country road with no shoulder.  Safety is always the prime directive!

But Thursdays are problematic for TransRam drivers.  Why? – because Thursdays are the last day in the pay period.  Ideally, you want to be below one-quarter or even one-eighth by the end of your driving on Thursdays.  If you haven’t burned the fuel in your tanks by then, your paycheck will be lower than you might otherwise expect because you have paid for fuel but didn’t get the money-per-miles to counter that fuel expense.  So there is a tendency, on Thursdays, to drive on empty, perhaps stopping to buy 20 gallons here or there.  Still, risk takers like me would rather see how far the truck will go on “empty”.  This got me into trouble once.  Of course I was running low while on an interstate – the Indiana Turnpike – not on a country road.  If I remember correctly, I must have gone about 170 miles on “E” before sputtering to a halt – less than a mile from a service area.  I made the mistake of re-starting the engine, which got me to the ramp of the service area.  However, this ”extra push”  drained the diesel from the lines. 

On this occasion I did as I was trained to do and called “Road Assist,” the in-house AAA as-it-were.  I had to purchase a 5-gallon fuel container (for some ungodly amount). Of course the opening in the container was like those of cars – too small for the larger diameter dispenser at the truck pumps to fit into it (keeping non-truck drivers from using truck diesel, which is taxed less than regular road diesel) – so I had to buy the more expensive “auto diesel”.

That morning it was still dark and the nozzle wasn’t that long and it was hard to get it aimed so that the fuel went into the tank.  After lots of spillage and perseverance, I managed to get a respectable amount in.  Then, under the tutelage of the Road Assist guy, I opened the hood and found the manual pump attached to the fuel line that allows you to pump diesel back into the line.  I was told to pump this lever 100 times (or was it 200?) and then try to start the truck.  No luck.  I was then told to repeat the procedure.  (It was kind of like a tiny replica of a portable, not-very-efficient bicycle pump.)  After another 100 (or 200?) pumps I tried again, and presto!  The engine roared to life (even though it’s really a dead thing, not a living thing, like a horse).  Off I went, wiser now, despite the wear and tear on muscles that I hadn’t used in some time.

During my truck driving stint I discovered that Ohio provides free showers for truckers (or anyone who knows about it) on the I-80 Ohio Turnpike.  You only need to bring your own towel.  That’s a good bit of info for the gypsy traveler.  Also, Iowa provides free wifi at its rest areas, another convenient perk.    

My preferred driving schedule was to get going in the morning anywhere from 3:00-5:00 AM.  I love getting up and puttering around before sun-up.  I call this the “monk’s hour”.  Before setting off I’d get up each morning and brew a strong cup of coffee using my electric kettle.  One of my fondest memories was watching a lunar eclipse one early morn while traversing the hills of western New York.  This was not “blues before sunrise” – anything but.  As the dawn breaks, observing the slight variations in morning light, leading to that orange sun butting up on the horizon, was always new and always welcome (after hoping and praying that no deer or other critter darted out of the dark into my path in the preceding hours).  Sunsets were lovely too, but the morning sun has always been my favorite.

Another reason to be an early bird is to assure that you will have a parking place when your day is done.  My preference is for rest areas. Truck stops are noisier and dirtier. Rest area are easier to pull into and out of.  Plus, I am self-sufficient, food-wise, and don’t need what they sell at truck stops – except fuel.  But if you need to park at a truck stop, you better get in there early, about 2:00-3:00 PM.  By 6:00 PM they are likely to be filled up – or the only places left are harder to back into, and of course it seems like all the other truckers there are watching you.  Still, some truck drivers prefer truck stops.  I never could understand the draw to truck stops over rest areas – being eyeball to eyeball among all those trucks lined up staring at one another. No, merci! It’s as though you’re a part of a mutual admiration society of dissociatives who reinforce each other’s entranced state of being. No, merci!     

I prefer solitude – being alone with the Alone (if that’s not too foo-foo of a notion).  Over-the-road truck driving will afford you more solitude than most any other job, except maybe that of a forest ranger. This is a good thing, if used constructively.  Read, write, research, prepare food, practice patience, mindfulness and moderation, and talk to loved ones – that’s not a bad life, if you can handle at least a temporary sojourn from the natural world and your loving wife, family and friends. 

Stop and think a minute.  Ask yourself how much time you spend interacting with living things as opposed to “dead” things?  Only the natural world is alive – the plants and animals, the soil and sunlight, bodies of water – these are chock full of life force.  Communing with the energy-replenishing natural world is, well, natural for human beings.  To be cooped up within the four walls of any sterile environment (home, office, factory) for very long, or to spend long hours, day-after-day in a motor vehicle is not good for human beings.  We are free-ranging animals who need space and movement, fresh air, clean water and meaningful, creatively fulfilling work while being amidst other sentient creatures, human and non-human.  This is our heritage as Earthlings here on this planet. 

So when we fabricate artificial and synthetic things, and then spend day-upon-day and even night-after-night among these non-natural things, we become like these “dead” things – physically, mentally, and psychically dead.  Even our holiest-of-holy hi-tech devices lead us astray.  Those still glued to TVs worldwide are self-conditioning and degenerating themselves.  I’m not advocating that we become Luddites who shun all technology.  Rather, we might just start trying to associate a whole lot more with the living – until we find that we actually prefer LIFE (or what might be described as a more “anarcho-primitivist” state of being).   

In the summertime, a fully mature oak tree cycles something like 300 gallons of water per day by pumping it up from its roots, through its trunk and branches, and transpiring it through its leaves into the air.  Imagine what an energy dynamo each tree is!  Do you think if you were to sit and lean against the base of that tree that you would partake of some of its life force?  Have you ever gone into the wilderness and stayed there for a few weeks or a month?  Try it sometime.  After only a few days, once your chattering mind settles down, you may find a whole new perspective – a whole new you – a more whole you.   

I suppose humans must have a tremendous capacity to endure long periods of isolation from the natural world.  Truck drivers are a case in point.  Eventually, the cumulative effect of being removed from the life-affirming energies of that natural world will take its toll.  But it’s not just truckers who suffer, not by any means.  Indeed, we are all zombies to one degree or another, to the extent that we are disconnected from our optimal health, our optimal potential.  This then begs the question: just what is real anymore?  Are we all just dead (or undead) and subservient to other zombies, who in turn, are subservient to handlers in the form of vampire controllers?  And if we get more real, what will we be like as human beings?  If we swear-off clinging to groups of other dissociatives, severely attenuating such human-to-human contact, and instead have more communion with an other-than-human, living world, what human potential might we re-claim?

These types of thoughts are what have rambled through my roving mind as I have roamed this land, far and wide. 

[1]   The first, The Socially Conscious Truck Driver, was written before I started driving. The second, Jack, the Truck Driving Man, was penned after about three months on the road. (Radio Wasteland, was published about seven months in, though it is more tangential to actual truck driving). The Suffering Trucker was written close to the end of my one-year commitment.  All can be found on this blog.    

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


Well, here I am at this way station for bewildered transportation operatives, otherwise known as a truck stop.  I’m “resting” for 34 hours so I can re-set my 70-hour clock.  And so, with little to do, I figure it’s time to prepare another truck-driving installment.
I signed up for one year as a lease operator and I only have one more week to go before I get out of “truck prison.”  The meaning of this term will become clear. Keep reading. 

Driving one year for TransRam has been, overall, a good introduction to the world of trucking.  They hired me as an over-the-road driver and I had no prior experience. However, I hear they are always recruiting because they are unable to retain drivers.  This is probably due to TransRam’s relatively skimpy benefits – e.g., early this year, without ever informing us drivers, the company decided to rescind its policy of paying drivers $115 in layover or “loss utilization pay” for having to wait more than 24 hours for a load.  Plus, the federal government pays them a hefty subsidy for each driver they recruit and keep driving for at least three months.  Be that as it may, I made it work – most of the time. 

As I’m sure the company knew, the CDL school and brief TransRam training program were woefully short of teaching me what I needed to know. Instead, and probably like most of the new drivers, I learned through “on the job training.”  This means that “little (but pricey) incidents” happened while out there moving this rig around.  For me, it rarely involved another vehicle.  Rather, it was stationary objects that sometimes got in the way of the rear wheels of the trailer when I miscalculated the angle of that trailer dangle. I’ve flattened a few stop signs, side-swiped a very solid railroad crossing device, banged into a concrete protector at the gas pumps (long story), and dinged a light pole trying to make a U-turn under pressure.  Each time the trailer wheels got banged up, my paycheck got docked $500 ($100 per week for five weeks).  This hurts when your average take-home pay is less than $700 per week – and that’s for 12-hour days/ seven days a week!  Try to pay a mortgage and send money home to the wife on those earnings and you’ll soon be viewed as quite the loser.
For being a little weak at backing a rig, I can proudly say that I never had an incident while backing – well, almost never. Toward the end of my illustrious career, I was backing at a 45° angle around another truck into a dock door.  How was I to know how far his custom bumper protection extended?  My trailer just barely touched and scratched the corner of this “cow catcher.”  Luckily, the driver was no shithead and he good-naturedly let it pass.  But the humiliation of being such a neophyte at backing-up is always a drag. 
One day I was buzzing right along, coming up from Florida and making good time. I was in “the zone.”  The “zone” is the same for driving as it for any activity: you find yourself in a sort of time-suspended state of ease and lucidity.  As I was making my way around the Atlanta Perimeter, I suddenly found myself in a right lane that was supposed to merge left.  I don’t recall there was much warning of the merge, and I still don’t think there was proper signage.  Anyway, I was quickly running out of roadway.  I put my turn signal on, then glanced into my left mirror.  I saw a small pickup truck that couldn’t seem to decide whether to speed up or fall back.  I tried to use my weight to help him decide – I moved gingerly left to induce him to fall back.  Too bad for me I moved just a skosh too much to the left.  My rear trailer tires scuffed up the side of his truck – no dents, mind you – and the passenger side mirror got flicked back.  We both pulled over.  I re-positioned his mirror – nothing broken there.  The driver was an older fellow and he handled things like a real gentleman. There was no police report and no ticket issued. But we traded info and I reported the incident to my company’s “Risk Management” division, as I am supposed to do.  I guess the insurance companies decided that he had the right-of-way because I got docked $500.  
The most horrific and heartbreaking thing that happened occurred on the morning of February 1. I was trudging semi-cautiously along I-70 in Missouri, going east at about 60 mph.  The sun was rising but it was not yet light.  It had been drizzling and there was some light ice on the sides of the highway.  I was on a rural stretch that was not lighted.  There was a slight fog and visibility was OK but limited. I had just fiddled with the radio and glanced quickly in my left mirror.  But when my eyes returned to the road in front of me there were two large dogs standing right smack in the middle of the road. There was nothing I could do. We’re trained not to veer to avoid animals.  I remember turning slightly to the left, toward what looked like a well-fed Lab/Golden Retriever mix that looked up fearfully and slunk back a bit just before being scrunched and run over by my left tires.  I don’t know, but I may have avoided the dog on the right.  Still, it was a terrific jolt to the truck and very traumatic to me, a dog lover.  Right afterwards I slowed slightly but didn’t stop.  I couldn’t see the point.  That one dog, at least (and the other if I hit it too) must have been killed instantly.  At the next exit I pulled onto the ramp.  My bumper was broken and the radiator warning light came on.  At first I thought the radiator was damaged.  It turned out that a hose extruding from a fitting at the bottom of the coolant reservoir had come loose – nothing that a good rubber band couldn’t fix.
I thought that maybe I wouldn’t be saddled with the $500 deductible, seeing that the damage from this accident was unavoidable and not due to any negligence on my part.  Wrong.  Another $500 assessed against my pay.  But the worst part of this tragic incident was that the scene kept re-playing in my mind, and each time I felt extreme sadness, grief, and regret.  It gave me a sense of what post-traumatic stress disease must be like because this tragedy haunted me for a good month or so.  I still wince whenever I think about it.

Other on-the-job trainings included the following: I was never properly warned about two things – (1) turning so sharply that the tractor’s faring gets bent, and (2) making sure that when you hook to a trailer that the trailer is not too high.  Of course I committed both errors.  The bent faring happened when I was trying to extricate the truck out of a very cramped area.  Of course I learned to never do that again ($500).  Also, not long into my truck driving career, the back of the tractor got dented up when the kingpin failed to catch on the fifth wheel and the front of the trailer came gently crashing into the tractor.  After that, I usually made sure the fifth wheel and trailer plate were making contact before backing all the way to hook into the kingpin ($500).  But there were a few times that the kingpin ended up in front of the fifth wheel before I learned to exercise more caution. 
Oh! There’s one other thing you don’t learn until you’re out there driving – in the snow especially. That is, how to use the engine brake or jake brake.  I learned to use it on the hills of Pennsylvania.  Instead of using your brakes, you can slow the truck by flipping some switches that reverse the pressure of the cylinders, thus slowing you down.  This saves your regular brakes and reduces the chance of skidding.  First you have to hit the brakes to turn off the cruise control, then you engage the jake brake.  You may pick up speed none-the-less if you’re going down a steep grade.  Applying pressure to your regular brakes will slow you back down.  When you level out, you must remember to disengage the jake brake and re-engage the cruise control.  It doesn’t sound all that terribly complicated, but it takes some focus, especially at night when it’s snowing and there are lots of hills.
During the winter there were some icy roads.  It is terrifying, particularly when all the traffic slows to a crawl and then you come upon an overturned tractor trailer or a few of them.  You instantly imagine that “that could have been me!”  It sobers you right up and you watch your speed.  One frigid morning I picked up my meat load in Cactus, TX.  The four-lane state road was a sheet of ice.  You couldn’t even see the lines on the road because of the ice. You start out at five, ten miles per hour and just see how you do – fifteen, twenty, twenty-five.  Eventually the road got better.  But the first 20 miles were nail-biting.
Fog is another stressor.  When you can’t see more than 20-30 feet ahead of you, you are bounding headlong into the unknown with a hope and a prayer.  The reasonable thing to do is to slow down.  But some of the other truckers just go the speed limit, figuring (I guess) that as long as you can see the lines to keep you on the road you’re all right. It’s best to wait until the fog gets burned off, but sometimes it comes up on you and it’s safer to stay on the road than to pull off in an unsafe place and maybe get hit by some cowboy.    
“Vampires” are an apt metaphor for those globo-controllers who are sucking the life and liberty out of humanity.  Trucking companies can be viewed as enablers for those vampires because their fleets deliver the processed crap that huge factories pump out at a frenetic pace to satisfy our mindlessly self-indulgent and dumbed-down consumer society.  The whole system is a chain of fools.  It is built upon a deficient consciousness that serves to foster and preserve a materialist reality that is in bed with the fraud known as (subverted) Western culture.  The truck drivers are just the poor bastards who do the work of hauling the freight from shipper to receiver.  What the heck? – it’s a job, right?  These much less powerful folk at the lower level of the food chain only do what they can to get by, whereas the culpability for vampirism is strongest at the top of that chain-of-fools.  (In fact, those on the very bottom of the bottom (not truck drivers) can be viewed as “zombies,” another apt metaphor – the undead, searching aimlessly for the living so they can chomp on their brains (if, indeed, any of the truly living, with brains intact, are still around!)). But I digress...
My short experience as a truck driver has taught me a lot about the plight of the trucker.  I now have an appreciation for what they do and what they go through in order to do what they do.  It is not an easy job.  It takes a big toll on your health and well-being. Being deprived of sun means being deprived of vitamin D.  Many smoke and over-eat, out of stress and boredom I suppose. Just sitting causes health problems, never mind that the food available at truck stops clogs the arteries – from hot dogs on roller grills, fried food, pizza, and huge cups of soda pop, to energy drinks, chips and candy.  Then factor in the lack of exercise and this completes the disease-inducing cycle brought on by gross obesity, inflammation, and high blood pressure. 
Truck stops, rest areas, service plazas and WalMarts are about the only places you can go, other than the bleak and foreboding distribution centers and warehouse yards where you must wait while picking up or delivering. This is your truck prison.  These are no places to take a brisk walk.  They are dirty, noisy, smelly places, not meant to accommodate strolling pedestrians.  Unless you want to sit around a drivers’ lounge, where a TV is blasting the same old mind-control idiocy, you are confined to the four walls of your truck. 
The “road” is a liberating concept and you do feel free as you roar down the interstates.  But the paradox is that you are rolling along in a prison from which escape is not possible.  If you take a break and go home, you better not stay very long.  You still have a weekly lease payment of $565 and other fixed costs.  If you are not careful your next paycheck or two can be negative or so miniscule as to be meaningless.  The break-even point is somewhere between $1600-$1700.  At 84¢/ mile you better try to get at least 2800 miles per week to get any kind of paycheck at all. 
If you drive a reefer, as I did, the refrigeration unit is droning on in a machine hum almost continuously, competing with the noise from the APU generator.  These sounds also emanate from other trucks around you and they do not exactly lull you to sleep.  Ear plugs do not help.  You “get used to it” of course, but it cannot be doing your mental state much good.  In fact, it is not so easy to focus on much of anything after almost 11 hours of driving.  The tendency is to eat something and then collapse into unconsciousness.  Forget reading, writing, researching…
And so, for God’s sake – who in the world would take on a job such as this?  Is all of the degeneration of the body and mind worth the romance of being “on the road again”?  Maybe some are more disciplined than I am.  Some may be like Steve McQueen in the film, Papillon, relentlessly doing push-ups and sit-ups in their trucks to stay in shape.  I don’t see very many truckers doing exercises outside of their trucks or jogging around rest areas.  It could be they are younger and more resilient for the time being; it could be they become used to the debilitations and accept them; or it could be that they really are clean livers and have devised strategies to remain that way.  I honestly don’t know.  It might be something akin to what the bluesman says, “This night life – it ain’t no good life – but it’s my life.”
I do love moving on down the road.  Even if you are not moving your body, you are moving through space and time, and movement is life.  When I first started on the road with my TransRam trainer in early May, I remember seeing the corn and soy just peeping up from the soil in long row-after-row of endless fields in the Midwest.  By late June the fields were lush with corn stalks and the soy plants were busting out all over.  (I try to forget that these are all GMO crops now.)  Down South, the cotton stays on the plants in the field until early Fall, looking like a field of snow.  And you are treated to overwhelming, immense fields of some kind of yellow-flowering crops early in the growing season as you putter along the interstate highways in Iowa and Nebraska.
So many cattle, and sometimes the noble bison, graze in the pastures and hills along the roads.  There are also horses, sheep and goats, and even llamas to be seen.  And there are deer too, herds of them sometimes.  My eyes are always drawn to these creatures as I whiz past them.  In early Spring there are lots of wild turkeys to see.  Hawks favor fence posts and tree limbs and you can see them hunt the grass for their prey. Sometimes these magnificent birds can be seen just standing on the ground.  Crows and buzzards are there too. Along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains I’ve seen wild, long-horn sheep grazing. In Florida there are cranes and pelicans aplenty, and I saw a feral pig once.  Seeing live animals sure beats seeing dead ones – deer, raccoons, skunks, possums, porcupines, armadillos, dogs, cats. foxes, coyotes – the bigger it is, the more it resembles a horribly re-arranged version of itself; the smaller it is, the more it looks like just a red blob of ground-up goo.
I would even search out animals in the livestock trailers as they passed me by.  These unfortunate, caged animals were more likely raised in factory farms, not on hillsides. One day I had to sit all day at a meat processing plant in Illinois, waiting for my load.  I think I counted about 30, double-decker semis arrive stuffed with pigs.  They’d go in and soon go out again, empty.  Another time, I was at a rest area, half asleep.  I heard a racket outside of my cab and wondered what it was.  I got up and peeked through the curtains.  There to my left was a truckload of cattle.  They were packed in tightly and shifting around nervously, hoofs clanking on the metal flooring, while the driver took his sweet time doing God-knows-what.  In the Spring the trucks are full of lambs going to slaughter.  It is so sad to see – made sadder still knowing that they are likely laden with antibiotics and growth hormones and raised on GMO feed of some sort.
One morning I was looking for a mailbox to mail a letter home.  Just before sun-up, I came across a WalMart on a state road in southeastern Oklahoma, just over the Arkansas border.  (This area is where the Choctaw Nation is located.)  Sometimes you can find a mailbox at a WalMart.  So I parked and went in.  I saw a WalMart employee, a slim, elderly gentleman with white hair and a weathered face.  After inquiring about the whereabouts of a mailbox I asked if I could use the restroom.  He walked me over and then pointed the rest of the way. When I came out I asked, “are you Choctaw?” and he said, “Yes, are you?”  I said, “No. I belong to an ancient seafaring tribe known as the Phoenicians.”  He looked puzzled and asked, “Where is their home?” And I replied, “In the eastern Mediterranean.” His face relaxed then and he seemed pleased. “So you’re Mediterranean.”  “Yes,” I said.  There was something about him, something spiritual in his eyes. They were clean, kind eyes and I felt that we connected in some special way.
I left the store and went back to my truck, started it up and continued down the road.  As I proceeded, I thought about the old man and I had the strangest feeling, as though he “came into me” and was looking out the windshield through my eyes.
Before long the sun was up. Out of nowhere a snake wriggled really fast across my path in the road ahead.  Then I came across a turtle crossing the road.  Luckily it was in the space between the wheels and I didn’t run over it.  Suddenly a bird flew into my trailer.  It hit hard and fell to the ground.  A little further on, a small dog darted across the road, but it was just far enough ahead that it was safe.  Encountering these many animals in succession was eerie and added to the strangeness I already felt about my interlude with the WalMart Indian worker...prior to this I had never come this close to animals on the road.
Just after Christmas I was at Kenworth in Olathe, KS for some maintenance on my truck.  While there, I fell into conversation with another truck driver.  He had long black hair that hung to his shoulders and, like the old Indian, he gave off a similar vibe.  Sure enough, after some small talk I found out he was half Comanche (and half Italian!).  I related the above story about the Choctaw Indian in the WalMart and the aftermath.  This guy understood something about it immediately, although he was not that forthcoming about what he was thinking.  Anyway, from there on there was no subject too far afield and we had a very satisfying “meeting of the minds” – a pow-wow, you might say.  When we parted I felt as if I had known him like an old friend. We traded phone numbers, though we have not spoken since…Funny, I thought later, he was half Mediterranean.  Whatever.
There is artwork out on the road, too.  On I-70 near Exit 99 in Nevada there is a small tree in the median strip decorated with shoes, tied together and hanging by their shoestrings.  Lots of people seem attached to their old vehicles.  Vintage ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s cars and trucks can be seen, left as “display pieces” in fields or on lawns along the interstates.  Especially down in Mississippi it seems that almost every yard has an old vehicle – vehicles that look like old friends. Even billboards can be “artsy.”  There’s one advertising “foot-high pies.” – or billboards might be kind of weird, like the one near Wentzville, MO – “Got a bra problem?  Ann’s Bra Shop.”  Just west of Chicago, I-80 traverses a HUGE stone quarry pit.  In the 30 seconds or so it takes to pass over it you get a sense of weightlessness; you wonder as you observe the roads down there, cut along its steep sides, and the Tinker Toy-sized trucks that navigate them.  I’d call this "installation land art," done up to the max.
TransRam induces you to stay with your contract by promising you a bonus of 3¢ per mile for all the miles you’ve driven during your contract – but you can’t collect your bonus until and unless you finish the contract period.  I could have signed up for a six-month contract, but I wanted to drive in all seasons and get one full year under my belt.  I will have driven about 140,000 miles by the time I turn in my truck next week.  That should be a nice little booby-prize-of-a-bonus.  You also get the balance of three accounts that they keep for you, not the least of which is the maintenance account.  If they don’t deduct anything to fix something that you haven’t already paid for, you’ll leave with even more scratch.  It’s nothing but a numbers game. 
Trucking is one of the top ten most dangerous occupations in the country.  With this year’s decrease in fuel prices (brought about in order to punish Russia) I hear trucking companies have bought more trucks and are looking for more drivers than ever before.  Try it, you may like it.  You’ll suffer, but in the end you’ll be one, solid brother-trucker.