This past summer I got to experience what it’s like to live & work out of a semi! My fiancé was driving OTR for a flatbedding company, and asked me to come along. I graduated high school on the 7th of June, had my last day of school on the 8th, and started a Horsemanship Camp also on the 8th to the 12th. On the 13th was my graduation party, and Devin & I finally announced our engagement from Easter. On the 14th I was exhausted but more than ready for an adventure! I loaded a suitcase of my clothes, a sleeping bag, a pillow and my shower bag & I was ready.
We started by driving to Mishawaka, IN a 224 mile trip. We loaded some very heavy metals, and I got to see first hand how to efficiently strap, chain & tarp a load like a professional. Honestly I had no idea how much strength this would require. Especially for people as short as we are! We then drove to Lexington, KY to deliver the product- an additional 389 miles. That night we parked the Peterbilt behind a gas station. This was my first shock of being on the road. If you want to go to the restroom, you better learn to love truck stops and gas stations! Yuck.
I slept on the top bunk & him on the bottom since a) we aren’t married yet, and b) even if we wanted to snuggle up together, these were basically twin beds, that’s much too claustrophobic for me!
The next morning I had to flip up my bunk (since Devin normally stored his stuff up top, we had to put his clothes in the front seats at night, and in the morning, fold the bunk up & put the clothes in it) & visit the gas station again. I had to go in looking how I first wake up *gasp*. I couldn’t put on makeup before I went in either, because there wasn’t a mirror in the truck. AND I couldn’t do my hair, because I need water to do that (thanks curly hair). It’s a humbling experience to walk into public feeling like “the people of Walmart”.
We then drove from there to Silvergrove with an empty trailer. Silvergrove was impressively large. We weren’t allowed to get out of the truck either as a safety precaution, due to all the forklifts buzzing around. It honestly reminded me of a beehive.
We were then off to Pella, IA to unload. I was so excited. The furthest west I’d ever been was still in Indiana. I couldn’t believe the beautiful farmland of Illinois. And then how open & clean Iowa was too. That night we stopped at a Flying J somewhere in Iowa. I got to experience my first truck stop shower, which I had no idea could be so expensive. Since Devin had fueled over $500 worth at Flying J, showers were free for a month. But if you don’t fuel up, showers can be between $10- $11 each! The showers were large, well lighted & extremely clean, not to mention I could take as long as I needed (poor Devin!). I also started to see that most truck stops only have a McDonald’s or a Subway, and occasionally a Denny’s. No other restaurants. So it’s that, or truck stop food (which actually, the Flying J pizza & potato soup are surprisingly good). During the day we would fix our own breakfast in an electric skillet or do cereal, at lunch we made sandwiches or snack like food (I love my chicken salad!) and usually at night we’d would fix something like hamburgers, hamburger helper, or microwaveable food (yes, Devin’s semi has a mini fridge, microwave, an electric skillet, & a coffee maker). Every other night we would eat out in the truck stop, or the restaurant inside it.
While we arrived & then waited in a Pella Walmart parking lot for a new load, something awesome happened. A load showed up on the board, to Tacoma. Hell. Yes.
We drove from Pella to Ankeny, IA to pick up the load. We were hauling huge John Deere cotton picker parts, meaning I got to see inside the John Deere HQ. Awesome! I’ve always been an international girl, but I was ecstatic to see some of the equipment and massive facilities that goes into the production of the machinery as a final product. And then began my favorite leg of the trip. Iowa to Washington state.
Along the way, Devin let me act like a tourist, and we made several stops. First, was the Iowa 80 World’s largest truck stop. We got to see the yellow Corn Patch Cadillac, the famous 379 Peterbilt. It was kind of like turning a kid loose in a candy store when I saw all the chrome & lights and accessories (that I dreamed about installing on my project truck). We ate at the restaurant there, and the buffet was spot on. I couldn’t believe, despite it being a truck stop, how dressy it looked and homey it felt. I definitely recommend it for anyone passing through. Next, was the 1880s town of South Dakota. Sadly, it was closed, but still really cool to see, not to mention the massive dinosaur statues you could see from the interstate. The next day, we stopped at Al’s Oasis, where we picked up some tourist gifts for my family, and some groceries for us.
It seemed every few miles was a sign for Wall Drug. We decided we had to stop, since Devin had never been there either. We arrived late at night and camped out by the railroad tracks & set our travel grill out & to make hamburgers. The next morning I shameless threw my hair in a pony tail & only put on mascara. I was probably scary looking but I didn’t care.
Wall Drug was like a tourist shop on steroids. Take Walmart, triple it, give it a rustic cowboy charm, a cute backyard, and that’s Wall Drug. It had an amusement park tourist shop Atmosphere about it really. There we bought Devin’s dad a Buffalo Bill cowboy gun replica for his Father’s Day, books for us, and a stuffed jackelope we couldn’t resist (it makes its way into many of our windsheild photos). We also got coffee and doughnuts, and if you ever stop, buy about 4 dozen boxes of doughnuts. Or don’t buy any at all if you like seeing your hipbones. Oh my gosh, they were to die for.
There was an entire town to explore but we had to go. We were back on the road, enjoying our doughnuts & the beautiful scenery again. This trip was so relaxing for me, and it was good for our relationship, having endless miles to sit in a peaceful quiet or talk about whatever we wanted to. No distractions, and no cellphone use (And we got to sing and dance to “Shake it Off” without judgements- seriously, do you know how much fun it is getting to watch a truck driver jam out to Taylor Swift?)
After another several hundred miles, we reached Montana. Green, rolling hills, and the bluest sky I had even seen. Gorgeous. Devin said the best was yet to come, but I couldn’t believe him. Jokingly, he asked me if I wanted to live here. As much as I loved the beauty & the oh-so-clean air, I couldn’t get over the lack of trees. Being from Indiana, and spending the majority of my time as a l young girl exploring the woods, the ‘openness’ made me very uncomfortable. I got excited seeing my first Rocky Mountain, and I was expecting to be on it within 30 minutes. An hour passed by & it seemed like we weren’t any closer. Devin said it was still about 200 miles off! Wow! I’d still never been to Texas, but I think the saying should be that everything is bigger when in Montana.
As we came within 50 or so miles of Bozeman (or so I think, I’ve decided I can’t judge distance anymore) I fell head over heels in love for the land. Tall evergreens made me feel ‘safe’ and the mountains we just extraordinary. I got to see the iconic ‘Crazy Mountains’, as well as the beautiful tiny cabins that were spaciously strewn around them. The horses out there were huge too, big bulky muscled quarter horses, those horses must work for their keep! As we rounded a mountain, I got to see my first moose, and lots of pronghorn (they really looked like antelope, and they’re more common to see than Indiana’s deer). We came upon Bozeman, a major city of Montana just at nightfall. It really wasn’t much larger than my small hometown back in Indiana. It sat at almost 5,000 ft above sea level, and it was surrounded by mountains on all sides. We parked at the Flying J at Jackrabbit road, and we realized we might as well get cozy because Devin had ran out of time on his log book & had to take a mandatory restart. We’d be here 3 days & 2 nights. The showers & laundry of the Flying J were upstairs, and despite the gas station itself being a bit of a dive, it just felt like home. Well, as much as any truck stop could feel like home. Exploring the town was my one of my favorite parts of the trip really. When we left, I felt an unexplainable sadness, I really think part of my heart stayed in Bozeman that day. The next few days were a blur between the mountainous evergreens of central Montana, to the rocky, jagged borders of Montana & Idaho, and then the beautiful, tree covered mountains of Idaho, and then the flat, very grassy expanse of Washington state. Surprisingly, in the string of days we stayed in Washington, it never rained, not even a drizzle. I got to see the Port of Tacoma, where we delivered the John Deere parts, and Seattle. The traffic probably would’ve given me fits if I was driving. I asked Devin how he handled road rage, he said he learned to not take anything personally & he let it roll off his back. He used to stress over it when he first started driving professionally, but now it’s just every day life. His job isn’t to just get from point A to point B, but to watch out for his fellow 4 wheel counterparts & protect them while doing so. What I really loved was passing through Snoqualmine, and Donner’s Pass, it raised my stress levels as well, but Devin was as cool as a cucumber. I couldn’t believe the incline! Devin cranked Wolf Creek Pass as we drove through & I couldn’t help but laugh as he sang along.
We picked up lumber from what ended up being my favorite sleepy town of St. Maries, Idaho. We got there in the wee hours of the morning, and it made me feel so still and peaceful. The realization that this was somebody’s hometown, where somebody knew every backroad, and every ma & pop shop & business by heart, just hit me all at once. What a lucky person you must be to get to grow up living in this beautiful town, surrounded by evergreens, gorgeous lakes & an Native American reservation. We slept in the sawmill that night, and I loved looking out my tiny top bunk window at the lights of the town nearby. The next day after we got loaded with the wood, Devin let me try my hand at securing & tarping the road. I had no idea how much work this was, and he ended up helping me a lot for the sake of time. I started to really appreciate what he does as a flat bed truck driver. We left once again & my heart was heavy, maybe because we were leaving this humble town, and maybe because we were headed back to Indiana. The trip to Indiana was slow, but blurry in my mind. I tried to breathe it all in, remember the smells, and take lots of pictures of Montana & Idaho. I knew I’d someday live here.
When we returned to Indiana, we unloaded at Elkhart, then loaded at Portage, then we traveled to Pella, Iowa again, and then, Des Moines. We got to stop in at the TMC transportation headquarters, and it was absolutely stunning. The grass & landscaping was immaculate. TMC has their own hotel for drivers, as well as a golf range and the Chrome cafe, which is open to the public (very good burgers by the way, definitely worth the stop). We loaded 5 of TMC’s new company Peterbilt hoods, and headed to the TMC Indy terminal, a 490 mile stretch. We then got to go back home after almost 3 weeks of being out on the road. In the end, we had traveled 7300 miles. It was definitely an awesome experience & I was very thankful to get to spend so much time with my fiancé. Especially since I had been used to only getting to see him one or two days a week, or sometimes, one or two days a month.
I’d definitely recommend this if you ever get a chance, and really, truck driving isn’t just big burly, scary, dirty truck drivers clogging up the interstate. Most of them shower nightly or every other night at least, they don’t curse, and are really good people in general. You probably don’t notice it, but they’re looking out for you when you’re out & about on the interstate. It’s a profession that is filled with hard working, dedicated family men (and women!) who just happen to love traveling, driving, and honest work. So next time you see a truck driver, don’t fear him. Don’t curse him under your breath for driving slowly. And, when you stop at a truck stop, don’t take up precious semi parking spaces with your truck & trailer. You’re not cowboy enough for that & you will anger men you don’t want to. Thanks Devin for the awesome experience!
Ps. At the end of the trip- I was more than happy to return home and sleep in my (full sized!) bed and my (free!) shower and in the mornings fix my hair and makeup in front of a (private!) mirror in my (private!) bathroom.