Interstate 40 and US Highway 70
In 1975, our summer vacation in the family station wagon passed from Arizona into New Mexico, across the Texas Panhandle into the Sooner state capital. Entertainment on the road back during my childhood consisted of a game to see how many of the big rigs would blow their air horns. That’s what kids did when the eighteen-wheeled road warriors would creep up from behind, or when the family station wagon came around the driver’s window during a passing maneuver. We would try to get the attention of the trucker with fists clenched pulling in a downward motion – the international symbol for, “C’mon mister, blow your air horn!” And when he acquiesced, we would giggle with delight and wave.
Two decades later, my own children would ride along with me and beg the next generation of over-the-road drivers to indulge their requests for a deep, bellowing howl from the cab of a semi I happened to be passing. They knew for certain they could get the conglomerate-box-store truck which we were following across the White Sands Missile Range to pull the cord since it had done it once already when it passed us while we sat off the road for an unscheduled little-boy service. Sure enough, as we returned to the road, gained on the tractor-trailer, and passed it in the middle of the gypsum vastness, the boys used the international air horn gesture and the driver again honked in response. The boys slapped palms in a high-five to celebrate their success.
Defying and Delighting Expectations
As I continue to soak in the experiences of my new career, from time to time I consider the stereotypes that may characterize the trucking industry. While stopped at a local truck stop, the friendly cashiers and the range of services accentuate the difference between the rundown gas stations I recall from my own childhood. I knew this career experience would be different than what I expect, and there will be dozens of surprises ahead, but even in this simple outing, I marvel at how even the small elements of my surroundings will astound me and shake up my expectations.
On today’s drive outside the shelter of the training facility, truck number ninety-five heads south on US Highway 17 toward St. Augustine, Florida, piloted by a trainer and three students, myself included, to continue to hone our skills. On the second leg of the outing, on a narrow two-lane road west of Interstate 95, an oncoming motorcycle with two passengers rounds a shallow curve. As I straddle the edges of my lane, glancing from mirror to roadway to mirror, I happen to notice the cyclist raising a fist, gesturing the same signal that I used, the my children used, and that I hope to continue to see as I embark on my new adventure over the road. I pull the cord and inwardly giggle with delight at the things that have stayed the same.
Our experiences on the White Sands Missile Range: Traveling With Boys