When I drove a truck, waking up at 5 am any day of the week was special to me. I was able to get out of the truck before the sun began to heat the air. On the western slope of the Colorado mountains, the quiet of the high plains was a time to be able to think and clear my head before I had to climb into the truck, start the engine, and sit all day. With the quiet of no truck engine rumbling in my head, and no smell of diesel smoke to take away the wonderful odor of clean mountain air, I could see clearly, and be thankful to our creator that I saw the creation and all its wonder right before my eyes. It was time to scan across the mountains and see if I could spot any mountain sheep, or other animals and just enjoy the sight of them grazing unhurriedly. It reminded me that I would rather have been home just getting out of my own bed.
The smell of fresh coffee drifted slowly across the parking lot and began to entice me to come on in and have a cup. I walked around the parking lot stretching and trying to coax the stiffness out of my muscles from the day before. It was a particularly tough day of driving. There had been those long hours of nothing but strong headwinds from WaKeeney, KS to the Tomahawk at Watkins, CO, and the truck wouldn’t do over 40 mph. I stopped for breakfast at Watkins, CO, and got to Denver just in time for rush hour traffic. If you knew Denver in the 70s, you knew what their rush hour was like. It was about 20 cars traveling at 45 – 55 mph from the east side of town, to the west side of town. Then there was a lot of traffic from Morrison to Glenwood Canyon. A lot of I 70 hadn’t been finished through the mountains yet, and I had to travel over the old passes, taking even more time. The stop-and-go construction zones through the mountains from the unfinished
Eisenhower Tunnel all the way to this little truck stop outside of Grand Junction was tense and tiring. Why did I ever think this was going to be fun, sitting in one position for 10 – 12 hours maneuvering the truck safely from point A to Point B? I ought to have my head examined I thought to myself.
Well, that was behind me and I felt much more relaxed and ready to start a new day. The smell of fresh brewing coffee coming from the small truck stop I shut down at the night before kept beckoning me to come in and have a fresh cup. After about 15 or 20 minutes of walking slowly around the parking lot, I would head into the truck stop for some hot coffee and a little breakfast in the quiet of the early morning. I always managed to finish breakfast before the truckers began to wake up and get stirring. I’d nod at the drivers coming in as I was leaving. Anxious to get ahead of the hassle that some of the drivers give me each day is why I try to finish breakfast before they get stirred. One quick check of the tires, the springs, the oil, water, hoses, and belts, and it was time to climb into the truck, turn the key, and slowly pull out of the parking lot and onto the road once more.
The sun was up and shining brightly in the sky and I began a new day. I have to admit that the new day always felt good after some sleep. The scenery on the high plains was awe-inspiring, and the red formations through Utah were spectacular. This was what I found the attraction of truck driving. Beauty is everywhere you look, and animals can be spotted in an instant. I just drove along with my eyes on the road and every now and then scanned the scenery and admired God’s handiwork.
I may have paved the way for women to drive trucks, but it was no picnic, and I did them no favors either. There were few of us out there, it was a hard life. The roads were rough, the seats were adjustable air, and there were a lot of gears. The mountains were steep and there were very few escape ramps on the downside of the passes. In fact, many of the passes were still two-lane roads because the interstate highways were not finished yet. I had several female friends killed in the mountains of Utah, CO, and PA. during the 80s, but life goes on. I saw many accidents trucks and cars alike. People fall asleep at the wheel and when their car finally stops, they climb, out if they are able to, and when they’re asked what happened they all say the same thing. “I don’t know, I was just driving and the next thing I know, here I was.” They fell asleep at the wheel and didn’t realize it.
The first five years it was kind of fun driving a truck, sort of, but after that, it was just a job, a job that I was doing in a man’s world. I got harassed by a lot of drivers and followed by the cops through the truck stops, I had to find an employee of the truck stop who was not real busy and post him in the men’s room so I could take a shower. There were very few women’s showers in the ’70s. The waitresses treated me like dirt because they sometimes refused to believe I was a truck driver, and not a lot lizard. More than once I pulled out my ID, medical card, fuel tickets, and log books. They never even apologized for doubting me. The funny thing was I never really looked like a truck driver either.
The one thing that was guaranteed was that you had to do the same work, but you got the same pay for doing it. When I think of what truck drivers make today, in comparison to what we made in the 70s. Back then, most of the goods were not on pallets they were floor loads that I had to load and unload myself. I did hire a lumper most of the time, but there were lots of places that didn’t have any hanging around, and I ended up doing half the work, while one of their workers did half also. I kept up fifty-pound box for the fifty-pound box. Many times, on the delivery end they would supply a worker to help me unload or load. They’d take a break but I kept on because if I stopped, I’d never get started again. Every muscle in my body ached when I was finally loaded.
Don’t thank me or the handful of us that did pave the way just yet ladies. Wait until you are in your 40’s and 50’s. You’ll have no cause to thank us then. Your bodies may already be showing the damage that driving a truck for years causes. I’m sure sorry I was a part of paving the way for you.
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