First of all, I have to say until February 26, 2013 I never left my hometown but always dreamed of traveling the nation. I was headed towards Fort Wayne, Indiana from Chicago, Illinois for job orientation. I just received my Class “A” Commercial Driver’s License thirty days prior and was very nervous about actually driving a tractor trailer. My OTR (over the road) Trainer showed up in Fort Wayne and we hit the road. Our first destination was Waterloo, Iowa.
I started out burning up the gears but finally settled down just before the instructor canned me. He was afraid I’d ruin the transmission. After driving over three hours I got tired and wanted to stop for a rest. The Instructor refused telling me. “You’ve got to drive much longer to keep this job.” So I continued. I put the truck into cruise control sailing at max speed a fell straight to sleep. The Instructor must have taken an eye rest too because we passed one mile marker before he yelled. “Dion! You sleep!”
We made in Waterloo late and had to wait into the morning to drop the load. The roads were dry and no cold temperatures were present. We slept about six hours and woke to nearly eighteen inches of snow. After falling asleep on the job and waiting hours to be plowed out, the instructor was even less patient. Luckily for me I got better quickly though.
The road and I became one. We were headed to Ohio and it all seemed like a simple routine. All I had to do is constantly watch my mirrors, be absolute on lane changes and not miss weigh stations. Simple. The country is flat and all I have to do is stay awake and follow the signs and lanes.
Thirty five days later and eighty one hundred miles down the road I became a full hire. I was in Ohio feeling confident and appreciative for the opportunity to travel. No more instructors or anybody controlling my driving again. Now all I needed was my first solo assignment. I was eager to travel anywhere that was like Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Something about this part of the country was so appealing. But I didn’t quite understand what it was. That was until I got my first assignment. Atlanta, Georgia.
I took Route 23 South through Ohio and things were looking good. Then I saw the Appalachian Mountains crossing into Kentucky and realized I’d have to drive right up through them. This is where things went horribly wrong. I have a terribly fear of heights and nearly burned out the brakes traveling through the mountains that day. Instead of enjoying the scenery I spent my time looking for runaway ramps terrified.
On I-75 South about fifty miles north of Atlanta I noticed that all the tree tops were rips off like broken pencils. I got on the CB radio an inquired. I was told “Son, welcome to tornado alley! Hee Haw!” I did not share the enthusiasm. I also found out I had a fear of natural disasters too.
Now in Atlanta I realized that maybe truck driving was not for me. I’d love to see the rest of the country but traveling across every mile with 80,000 lbs. pushing me down mountains was not the route to take. I seriously considered quitting but would’ve had to make my way back to Chicago on my own. I had no money so that was not an option.
My next assignment comes through and it’s to Gary, Indiana. I thought “Oh shucks,” back through the mountains again. But fortunately for me in route I ripped up an air vacuum machine at a gas station in Decatur, Georgia, got lost in the mountains of Tennessee for nearly four hours, and for a finale hit another parked tractor trailer in Gary where I was finally fired. Thank God!