“It was like looking up at the ocean.”

The sky had changed into a “sea blue color” and the hail, rain and leaves were swirling in front of the truck as it struggled to move forward in the wind. The wind kicked the 34,000-pound truck around from all sides.

“If it wasn’t a tornado I drove through, it was damn close,” said Bob, the driver of the 18-wheeler. He was on Missouri highway 7, east of I-49 and southeast of Kansas City, Missouri. The commercial truck driver had just dropped off a load in Springfield, Missouri and was on his way to Kansas City, when the weather began to change. “Never saw it coming,” Bob said of the storm after he safely arrived in Kansas City.

I recently had the chance to sit down and talk with Bob, one of more than three million professional truck drivers in the United States. He has been a commercial truck driver for four and a half years.

Before becoming a professional truck driver, Bob spent 21 years in the US Navy and almost 20 years as a Defense Contractor supporting the US Navy and Marine Corps. After about 40 years of serving the country and the military, Bob felt like it was time to move on and find a job that felt less demanding and hectic, yet still challenging. He liked the idea of being able to see the country and to have more control in his work. “I also feel a sense of purpose and can serve people behind the scenes,” Bob said. “I like the challenge. It takes a lot of planning and time management to ensure I pick up and deliver loads on time, every time,” Bob said. “It’s also fun driving a big rig.”

Truck driving is a trades job and requires certain skills. Training must be completed at a certified Department of Transportation (DoT) training facility located at a college, technical center or a school operated by a private company. Bob located a training facility located at a private company through an online search. The first step was to pass a written driver’s test in order to receive his learner’s permit. The second step was to complete the required classroom and behind-the-wheel driver’s training, which took about four weeks to complete. After the training was complete, Bob took a driving test that was witnessed by a State Certified licensing agent with the DoT. When he passed the driving test, he earned his commercial driver’s license (CDL) and was ready to start his new chapter, driving a big rig.

Bob is an over-the-road (OTR) trucker which means his job can take him away from home for weeks at a time and his days might be 10 – 14 hours long. He might start his day early in the morning or in the evening. It depends on when his next pickup or delivery is scheduled. When scheduling his pickups and deliveries the dispatchers and planners at the company have to allow the mandatory rest periods for the drivers.


Bob drives a Freightliner Cascadia. The truck has two fuel tanks that each hold 100 gallons of fuel.  Bob averages about 2,500 miles per week and about 125,000 miles a year, with mileage between about 5.5 to 7.5 miles per gallon. He has been to all 48 contiguous states and has picked up or dropped off freight in 47 states. He has driven through, but not picked up or dropped off freight in Vermont.

Amazon, UPS, and FEDEX are just a few of the companies he has picked up or delivered freight, which is commonly referred to as freight of all kinds. (FAK) He has carried dry freight such as garage doors, steel, bulk minerals, corn, wheat, electronics, beverages, truck motors and much more. For the past year, Bob has carried mostly dairy products. He can carry almost anything he is asked to carry, including hazardous cargo and liquids, which requires the special endorsements that he has on his license.

With the help of today’s modern technology such as a trucker GPS and Google Maps, Bob says he doesn’t get lost, although he has gotten turned around a little bit a couple of times. But usually he finds his way to his destination without too many problems. He does have to be careful and watch for low over bridges, tight turns, and weight limits. Curvy country roads in the mountains with no shoulders can be tricky for truck drivers. “I always worry about dragging the trailer tires off the shoulder and getting pulled off the road,” Bob said. Many of those roads don’t have guardrails. And with traffic on the road, “I have to have my eyes in four different places at once,” Bob said.

Although Bob doesn’t care to drive into the large metropolitan areas like Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, driving past the large cities at night is one of his favorite things to do. “Love the lights,” Bob said. The city lights aren’t the only lights he loves to see. He likes to drive on cool, clear nights, “Especially out in the open plains where I can see the entire sky full of stars,” Bob said.

During this time of COVID-19, Bob said his job has only changed because of the changes around him. Shipping companies have different requirements and Bob has to be ready. It can be tricky keeping up with the changes since the rules can differ from state to state and company to company. There are fewer cars out on the roads now, and especially at night, which has made driving a truck easier and less nerve-racking. He has dedicated his life to helping and protecting the country and feels good helping to keep the country going at this time. “I think helping others makes everyone feel good and being able to help keep this country going in a crisis, well, I just can’t be happier that I am able to do something as important as being a truck driver right now.”

sanitizing Bob's truck

Sanitizing the truck during the COVID-19 Pandemic  — photo credit: Bob


Well, it happens every year…

…it’s beginning to look a lot like fall.  But it still feels like summer.  I am starting to see splashes of color on the trees and a few leaves scattered here and there in the grass and driveway.  When I look outside, I see the  branches of the trees being pushed and pulled and twisted around by the wind.  If I close my eyes, I can picture myself walking down the old dirt road where we lived when I was a teen in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  I  pull  the sweater a little tighter, trying to shield myself from the chilly fall air.  I would deliberately walk on the crunchiest leaves I could find.  At the end of the road, I would turn around and walk briskly back to the old stone house. When I open my eyes I find I am looking at the thermometer on the patio.  It’s nearly 80 degrees.  “Oh, well,” I sigh.  Time to start running my errands.  I slip into my flip flops, grab my purse and head out the door.


Time for gardening!

What a great feeling to wake up this morning and realize that finally, after a winter that seemed like it would go on forever, spring had arrived and it was time to plan what I would plant in my garden this year.  It was time for gardening!

I was like a “kid in the candy store” today.  Only my “candy” was gardening supplies.  I could hardly wait to stroll through the garden store and select a few pots for planting seeds.  And soil, must have soil.  I always like to get a few plants that have already been started.  It’s satisfying to look out the window and see plants already  growing.  It makes me less impatient for the seeds to take root and grow.

Although we recently downsized and moved to an apartment, I am so happy that I can still garden. It’s a small container garden on the patio, but, it’s a garden.

There is just something about gardening.  It’s that feeling of pride and satisfaction at accomplishing something.  Salad tastes so much better when the lettuce and veggies came from your own garden.  And, maybe there is a beautiful flower arrangement in a vase on the table.  The colors seem so much more vibrant and the scent is more fragrant when the flowers have been picked from your own garden. And the herbs.  I love cooking with my fresh herbs and I always look forward to a cup of fresh peppermint tea.

The funny thing is,  I never used to think of myself as much of a gardener.  As a young child I knew the difference between a tree and a flower.  My mom used to tell us the names of some of the trees and flowers and eventually I knew some of the names, too.  But I never gave much thought to houseplants or gardens.  We had a few houseplants, but not a garden.  Taking care of the plants was not one of my chores, so I barely acknowledged that they were there.

I knew that farmers grew vegetables. And in the summer time we would sit on the back porch and snap beans, shell peas and shuck corn.  I knew that corn grew really tall and in the summers we used to go to Iowa to visit my grandma and we passed corn field after corn field.

When I was twelve, we moved from Indiana to Michigan and again, we had some houseplants and my mom had a small flower garden outside.  And again, I wasn’t responsible for taking care of them beyond watering them once in a while if I was asked to.  Other than that, I didn’t really have a lot of interest in the plants.  I noticed the flowers a little bit more because they were so colorful and pretty to look at.  We lived out in the country on 40 acres of land and I loved to take long walks and enjoyed all the wildflowers growing in the fields.

I’m not really sure exactly when, but at some point my sister took over the care of the houseplants.  Over the years the plants were starting to look a little sad.  My mom stayed busy between running kids to activities (there were eight of us kids) and always having activities of her own, and the plants weren’t getting the attention they used to get. So, my sister just kind of volunteered and took over the plants.   She nursed them back to health and they were looking the best they had looked in years.

Then it happened. My sister decided to get married and then she moved with her husband to a state a few thousand miles away. As they hugged each other good-bye, my sister’s last “command” to our mom was, “take good care of the plants.”

We stood there in the yard waving until their car was out of sight.  My mom continued to cry for several days, because after all, her “baby,” her oldest child, had just left on a road trip that would take her far, far away.  Or, was she crying because she had just been instructed to take care of the plants?

Fast forward about a year, and we were coming up on my wedding.  My  husband and I actually met at my sister’s wedding.  My husband and her husband were best friends and had met while they were stationed together in the Navy.

So, there we were, just about two weeks from my wedding.  One day, as I passed through the kitchen, on my way to the living room, my mom told me she needed my help with something. She was in the kitchen, baking.  She told me she was getting nervous.  I asked her why she was nervous and she said because my wedding was just two weeks away and that meant my sister would be arriving soon.  But she didn’t seem excited to see her.  As a matter of fact, she said that’s what was making her nervous, that my sister would be, “here, in the house.”

I shrugged, not quite following her. I laughed when my mom said she thought my sister might notice the plants hadn’t gotten the loving attention that she had been instructed to give them.

I glanced up and looked at the plant sitting on the kitchen window sill. Oops, I guess the plants had indeed been neglected.  Were they all like that?  I took a quick tour of the living room and dining room.  Yes, the plants definitely hadn’t had the loving attention they should have had.

Well, I had been busy planning a wedding and working full-time.  I didn’t have time for the plants.

Of course, I had to concede that my mom didn’t really have a lot of time for them either.  With my older sister and brother out of the house, and I soon would be moving, she still had five more kids she was busy with.  Between their activities and her own activities, she really was busy and I could easily see how the plants could get neglected.

We agreed that my sister would definitely notice the plants were, um, not quite alive.

My mom’s idea was that maybe we could buy all new plants to replace the plants that were more or less gone.  She wanted to buy plants that looked exactly like the existing ones, only they would be healthy plants and my sister would be tricked into thinking they were the same plants.

My idea was to get rid of the dead plants, buy all plastic plants, put them in dirt and dust them once in a while and then she would never have to worry about them again.

We took a trip to the nursery. We agreed that neither of our ideas were going to fool my sister and that the best plan would be to just buy a few new plants and ‘fess up to my sister that somehow “her” plants had been neglected.

Over the next week and a half or so, we joked about how my sister would react when she realized that her plants had been mistreated.   Of course we both knew she wouldn’t really be mad, but, it was fun joking about it and knew that my sister would get a good laugh out of it.

Finally, the big day arrived.  No, not my wedding day.  The day my sister and brother-in-law were to arrive in town for the wedding.

I was home when they arrived, and my mom said how glad she was that I was there for moral support.

Then, we saw their car as it pulled into the driveway.  And the next thing we knew, they were in the house.  After a round of hugs, my sister blurted out, “So, you killed the plants, didn’t you?” She had noticed the plant on the kitchen window sill was different and just presumed that the rest of the plants had died.

My love for gardening gradually developed over the years.  I started with houseplants and unlike the poor, neglected houseplants at my mom’s house, I found that I had a knack for caring for plants and loved them.  When we had kids, I learned about poisonous plants and kept those away from the kids and eventually got rid of them completely.

After a visit to my sister’s house and a tour of her garden, I discovered how easy it is to grow herbs and vegetables.

I started small and eventually added more herbs and veggies to my garden each year.

Now, we have a smaller living space and I’ve had to go back to a smaller garden.  But I will always have the desire to plant a garden.  Besides providing fresh veggies, fruit, herbs and flowers, the act of gardening is good for you. The benefits are good for the mind, body and spirit.