Thursday, February 11, 2021


May 1974

Becca drives away.  She was teary at the end. I was not.  It has often been the case that I’ve missed out on moments that were precious because at the time I was not wise enough to realize that these moments were so.  In a way I am glad that she is away. I can begin the journey unencumbered. An illusion, that, I realize now.  Our journeys are forever encumbered when we are under the illusion that we are liberated when unencumbered.

The third ride is the charm.  The first was a couple that was off to a suburb no more than ten miles away.  The second was a fellow in a station wagon who was going to Dunkirk, a forty-minute drive from where I stood with my thumb out.  He was a trucker home on a vacation.  He told me that I might be in luck when he spotted a truck parked on the side of the road.  He pulled over and woke up a driver snoozing in the back of the cabin.  These two were apparently buddies as they went back and forth kidding each other. 

“Never going to earn your pay that way, Nelson.”  

“Just practicing what you taught me” is the sleepy response.  

They kid each other for a spell when my ride number 2 asks the sleepy fellow if he will take a rider.  

“Why the hell not? Bet he’s eager to get the hell out of your car.” 

“Yeah well.”

“How ‘bout some breakfast?.” says Nelson.

Nelson’s buddy has a place he needs to get to, so he cannot have breakfast. Nelson says “Your loss, buster.”

I have not been on the road for fifty minutes when Nelson and I drive a few miles, park at a rest stop and go in for breakfast.  Nelson is a big fellow. He reminds me of the Randall Patrick McMurphy character from One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest before Jack Nicholson got the part.  Big red headed fellow. Broad shoulders and a belly that suggests he stops now and again for big breakfasts but could have once been a high school football player.  About my height at nearly six feet, but easy 75 pounds heavier.  Got to be 240 pounds with that gut I figure.

Nelson knows a bunch of truckers that are also having breakfast here.  Very gregarious is Nelson.  We join a table of others and they schmooze about their destinations and issues with the union.  I want to get moving, but Nelson has told me that he is going all the way to Denver.  One ride all the way to Denver is or seems to be a godsend.  I wait out the chatter at the breakfast table.

We’re both wary of each other.  I don’t know this big guy. Nelson was concerned too.  He told me that if I proved to be a jerk, the ride could be a short one and said that he once dropped a fool on the side of the road and figured “to hell with him.”  That news was not especially comforting, but Nelson did not seem like a bad egg to me.  And he was going all the way to Denver.

We get back in the truck and I discover over the next few hours that he is a big reader, is divorced, has two daughters whom he does not see enough, loves the freedom of driving a truck, thinks that four wheelers (cars) are driven poorly, and that he has a sweetheart waiting for him in Denver with whom he intends to frolic when we arrive to what he regularly refers to as “Mile High.”  I also discover that this guy likes to eat and talk. We stop at many places on this first day of my journey and in each, he eats a big meal, knows someone or other from his crisscrossing the country, and can carry a conversation without a problem.

I have calculated the distance to Denver and I figured, before I discover how many times he likes to stop, that I might get to Denver in the afternoon of my second day and could conceivably make it to Salt Lake City by the end of day 2.  Not a chance, as it turned out, given this guy’s personality and appetite.

Nelson does not like unions.  He’s an avid fan of Ayn Rand and when he discovers that I too have read The Fountainhead and can converse about the novel, he’s relieved of whatever tension he had previously about the content of my character.  I think he is a pussycat, but am unnerved when he talks about busting the heads of anyone who tries to take away his freedoms. He makes a point of commenting that the unions, despite their claims, are as enslaving as the bosses.

I figure we could have been in Nebraska when he decides, for the fourth time since we met, to stop—this time for an ice cream. There, just over the Iowa border, he encounters what I think of now as groupies. Teenagers in Iowa who know Nelson and have waited for him knowing, pretty much, when he is likely to stop by.  He knocks Iowa with them moaning and groaning about his depiction of their state.  Their parries about Colorado miss the mark but it does not seem to bug them.  

We get back on the road and it is now dark. We are only half way through this very long state when Nelson declares that he is too tired to proceed.  He pulls off to the side of the road, hops in his cabin.   I lay my sleeping bag behind the truck protecting myself from traffic and flying pebbles by the enormity of the vehicle. I have not done much but listen and sit all day, but I fall asleep fast enough and awaken an hour or so before dawn.

No comments:

Post a Comment