Alyssa Writes

Quali-Dad Time & Seeing America By Truck

An eye on the world

This is my photo essay about the 6 days I spent trucking with my father. Until that week, we hadn’t really spoken or spent any time together for about 5 years. In an attempt to hopefully mend things or at least give myself some closure, I contacted him while I was in Martinique. Eventually we had coffee when I returned from London at the end of June.

He considers his job that he started in January ‘commercial tourism’. I consider myself a travel blogger. I thought at the very least, accompanying him on his haul would make a good story, if not help us create the foundation for starting over. He had missed a lot, but there was no point discussing the past. We talked a lot about what was going on now and things that I needed to understand. Like any human, he made some mistakes but as it turns out…my dad’s actually a pretty cool guy.

For five nights, we slept in bunk beds inside the tractor pictured above. We ate on the road and showered at truck stops or operating centres around the US and Canada. We crossed the Canada-USA border six times, watched two movies (Marley, and I Give It a Year), and ate a lot of fast food/oreos/meal replacement bars (blech!). It was quite the experience!

By the way, all of the pictures were taken from inside a moving truck with a crap camera (yes, I know, the poor workman blames his tools), so don’t judge me!

Leeroy

That is my dad. His name is Leeroy. He became a truck driver simply because he likes driving. That, and management was making him lose his hair…

“If you bought it, I brought it!”

Road ahead in New York

In New York, on the way to Pennsylvania. We drove through Ellicottville, NY, which I’ve decided is one of the cutest towns ever. It reminded me a bit of Niagara-on-the-Lake. We were delivering powdered Lipton Iced Tea to Newville, PA.

Welcome to Pennsylvania
More scenery than I thought there was here

I didn’t realize how green Pennsylvania is! Really, I’d just never thought about it. We drove through Allegheny National Forest and Houston township. There are just rows and rows of with trees tinted blue from reflecting the water. Fog floated between the layers of the hills.

Statue of Liberty – Dauphin, PA

This is a terrible picture, but along Route 322 to Harrisburg, there is a white replica of the Statue of Liberty in the Susquehanna River. I thought it was pretty strange, but it made me smile.

The replica was built for the original statue’s centennial in the 1980s and was displayed on the closest thing to Liberty Island they had – an old pile of stones from a railway bridge.

More scenery

More scenery. But it was too good not to share. Somewhere around here we had the most delicious pulled pork sandwich. Probably one of the best things I ate all week. It was juicy, and had lots of sauce, the pork just melted…ahh, I wish I could remember the name. [It’s called Gio’s on Highway 322 – Thanks, Angie!]

But can I ask, dear Americans: why is it that even your ‘healthy’ foods are unhealthy!? I saw Larabars and thought, this must be safe! In Canada, they have 3-5 ingredients: dates, cashews, apple, cinnamon, cherries, peanut butter, walnuts… it depends on the bar. I look at the ingredients in PA, and it has brown rice syrup and salt…and I think ‘But dates are already really sweet!’

Once, I ordered a small fries and drink at Burger King. I normally make a big effort not to eat fast food, so when I do try not to indulge. What I got were equivalent to large sides in Canada – or a coronary in France. Well…when in Rome!

Niagara-on-the-Lake

Back in Canada. This is Niagara-on-the Lake on Tuesday evening. We were headed back to the Operating Centre in Aberfoyle and then off to a farm to deliver thousands and thousands of plastic containers for those cherry tomatoes I love, love, love.

Hello, Michigan!

Off to Michigan we are. Crossing the border at Port Huron, I met the coolest American border agent. We had a whole chat, smiling and laughing…I was thinking, ‘Are you allowed to be this happy?!’ When we crossed through Detroit, the guy was a total jackass though. I’m probably going to be put on a watchlist for that. Oops.

Michigan
Trees and stuff

The landscape here is much different than Pennsylvania. Flatter, different kind of trees. Intéressant!

More scenery

At this point, Leeroy was crushing a pint of Cherry Garcia Ben & Jerry’s. By himself. I like to praise myself for my restraint, but really I’m more of a Cookie Dough kind of girl myself 😉 He got so hyper, wouldn’t stop talking…even while I was trying to watch a movie. ‘Yes, Leeroy, it is a really interesting movie…’ ‘No, Leeroy. I didn’t see the deer…”

Chicago!

Chicago! I was so excited, you have no idea. Leeroy really made effort so I could have a couple hours to see the city. We drove into downtown with an 80,000lb tractor-trailer. Not exactly legal.

Because of the low bridges, we had to get four of Chicago’s finest to close down three streets – including a part of Michigan Ave – so we could drive the wrong way down a main road. My dad was so excited. He felt like a celebrity – ha! People were actually stopping and taking pictures of this bright orange truck trying to manoeuvre around a small downtown side street. I covered my face… Papa-paparazzi.

Oh yeah. Dear red-headed pedestrian trying to walk around a truck: Truck vs. Human – you lose. The truck almost hit her because of her urgent need to cross the street in front of a truck despite a police officer telling her to get back. And then she stands there with a screw-face on. Hello! This is for your safety. Silly rabbit.

Howdy, Indiana!

We went into Gary, Indiana. We didn’t stay very long. But I was definitely there!

Climax – I have the humour of a 15 year old

So I was trying to be cheeky and wouldn’t tell Leeroy what I was taking a picture of…but it’s a sign for Climax, MI. Humour of a 12 year-old. I know. There was also a sign saying “Do not pick up hitch hikers. Prison area.” But I have no idea where that photo is.

The end!

Finally, home! This is the end of the road for me. Leeroy was off to Dorval, QC the next day. I would have liked to go, but I had to get back to real life!

I’m not going to say everything is fixed with us, but it’s a start. He’s given me some positive memories and being able to talk to him one-on-one has allowed me to reconcile a lot of things that had been bothering me for a long time. At some point, I looked at him and I thought ‘Dude, you are so weird. Such an oddball…’ And then I realized, wait, I’m weird like that too. Explains a lot.

Vocabulary

Lot Lizard – Prostitute. Can be male or female. They knock on windows or hang out around truck stops.

Bobtail – To leave a trailer in a lot or to drive without a trailer on, e.g. “We’re going to bobtail out”

Deadhead – Having no freight. If you’re bobtailing, you’re deadheading as well. But if you have an empty trailer, you’re just deadheading.

Line Haul – Paid miles, where you’re moving the freight, e.g. “What’s your line haul?” “220 miles, but it’s another 25 miles to my next pickup.” “Crooks! We should be paid for those 25 miles.”

Bear – Police car, usually a state trooper. Baby bear is a cruiser, big bear is an SUV. Also called a cherry if they have a light on top of the car, e.g. “Baby bear on the middle of 50 North”

Gator – Strips of a blown truck tire. Definitely want to avoid running over them.