My view of truck drivers has changed over the past few months. In the glow of taillights on a warm summer’s night, I pondered how I’ve survived 5 decades not realizing the importance these drivers play in my daily life. In the blurry road spray on a winter’s night, I was reminded how Christmas wouldn’t be the same without them.
First let me tell you that Oregon is an amazing state for a road trip. We have high desert, oceans, forests, mountains, and beautiful rolling hills. Interstate 84 runs east-west along the norther boarder then through the north east corner to Idaho. It’s about 6 hours from Portland to Idaho on this route. Interstate-5 runs north-south and it takes 5-6 hours to make it from Washington to California. Oregon is amazingly beautiful. Coming north from Vancouver, Washington I-5 brings you over the Columbia River into Portland. Through Portland, you catch glimpses of Mt. Hood, the city’s waterfront on the Willamette River (some pronounce it will-a-met-ti like spaghetti but dam it- it’s really the will-am-it) and then vast fields that stretch to the base of the foothills. As you near Eugene, the fields seem to be dotted with giant molehills then the foothills meet the highway as you travel further south.
As I traveled the I-5 corridor this week in early August, I noticed lots of campers with bikes strapped to the back. Most schools in Oregon start just after Labor Day so August is still full of adventure. I also saw a lot of trucks after the sun went down.
On this particular day, I met up with my favorite travel buddy at the Oregon State Campus in Corvallis. Our adventure included stops in Coburg, Eugene, Sutherlin and Roseburg. Spending time with my friend is always a treat so we took time to explore and I ended up dropping her back in Corvallis after dark. She traveled home to the coast and I started north on I-5.
The crescent moon wasn’t yet visible and the beauty of my surroundings had disappeared into darkness so I found myself noticing trucks. I inhaled deeply as I passed flatbed trucks with bales of green hay. I wondered what was under tarps or in boxed beds. Since Hermiston watermelons are the best in Oregon, I wondered where the truck filled with pallets of melons originated. Lumber and log trucks also had me breathing in memories of childhood. What is it about the sense of smell on a warm summer’s night that evokes such strong memory?
On that summer night, around 11:00pm I reached Salem and noted that I-5 south was slow due to repaving. Heading northbound, I felt grateful that I wasn’t part of the miles of trucks waiting to move and I appreciated even more the smooth black surface I traveled on and was grateful that I’d missed the back up as it had been paved. Truck after truck had loads carefully stacked and secured, I didn’t consider how hard these drivers worked to make the lives of so many better.
My recent December road trip included shorter days, lots more night driving and buckets of rain. The trucks were the still there and still moving things from one spot to the next. I dare say ALL my Christmas gifts came by way of big rigs. When drivers are away from their families for long periods and navigating wet or icy roads, I hope they realize how much they are appreciated.