My First Trip
Robert N Lewis Jr
I finally done it, I got my commercial drivers license. Six weeks in driving school, and now it’s time to choose a company to drive for. I’m both nervous and excited at the same time. I have talked to nearly thirty recruiters from various companies, but the one that stands out is Werner Enterprises. Being such a large company, they can afford to keep nice equipment, and offer many different options to where I can drive.
I chose the southeast regional, because I don’t like to drive in snow, so I’m hoping that I can avoid it as much as possible. Many people didn’t believe I would make it to becoming a truck driver, but I was determined to live my dream. After a few weeks with their trainer, I was dropped off in Dallas Texas at one of their terminals. There were several other drivers there waiting for tractor assignment, but no tractors to give.
They split us up into two groups and each group was given a rented SUV, and a list of abandoned trucks to be rescued. One by one we dropped each driver off at a specific truck. The problem with recovering a truck, is you have no idea what shape it’s going to be in when you get it. The first truck on the list was in Hammond Louisiana, just north of New Orleans. Normally I would love to go there, however the date was August 29th, 2005. If you are familiar with this date, you know it’s the day Hurricane Katrina made landfall on New Orleans.
The mayor had ordered mandatory evacuation of the city, and the traffic going north and west bound was insane. The cars were lined up for miles, and we were the only vehicle heading eastbound into the storm. My mom was livid and said, “Robbie that is crazy they are sending you there for a truck knowing there is a category 5 hurricane making landfall there.” I said, “I know mom, I will be okay, if it gets too bad we will turn around.” I didn’t tell her it wouldn’t do any good because the traffic was gridlocked. By the time we made it to the truck, which was parked in a field on private property, the rain was coming down sideways and the wind was intense. I told the driver, “you have ten minutes to get it running and be sure it’s road worthy, then we are out of here.”
A stroke of luck, and it fired right up, and he was away and so were we. I took back roads and avoided the interstate since it was at a standstill. We stayed in a north eastern direction to get as far inland as possible, but the storm was right on us the whole way. One by one the drivers were picking their trucks up and it was down to me and one other driver.
Our trucks were in North Carolina, his was at a truck stop in Raleigh, and mine was in Lizard Lick North Carolina. You may have heard of Lizard Lick Towing a popular television show, that’s where I picked my truck up at. We picked mine up first and I followed him back to Raleigh to get his truck and to return the rental. I had a drive tire that needed replaced at the truck stop anyway.
After returning the rental me and the other driver went our separate ways never to meet again. This was my first time being totally alone on the road and in a semi at that. My dispatcher told me where I could pick up an empty trailer and told me to deadhead back home to LaFayette Georgia to pick up all the supplies I would need for life on the road. I couldn’t park the truck with trailer at my house, so I parked in an empty parking lot in town and called my dad to come get me.
I bought a brand-new CB. Radio, and an electric cooler to keep sandwich meat and a few food items in. After getting everything set up just how I wanted it, I sent a message to my dispatcher that I was ready for a load. They told me to come to the terminal in Lithia Springs Georgia, just outside Atlanta. There I picked up a loaded trailer that was going to Key West Florida to the Office Max. I couldn’t have asked for a better first load, because I was used to driving Florida when I was with my trainer. I couldn’t have loved what I was doing any more. I felt like I enjoyed it so much, I would have done it for just the experience, but I was getting paid good money to do this wonderful job.
Not many people can say they make a good living doing a job that allows you to see new places you might not ordinarily see and meet new people you wouldn’t normally encounter. I loved the comradery between drivers, and the pride I felt knowing I was doing something that not everyone can do. I was also providing a service to the people of my country. My first trip was an experience I will never forget.
If you have a dream, no matter how big or small, no matter how many tell you it’s impossible, don’t believe that. You can do anything, if you want it bad enough you will make it happen. Never give up on your dreams out of fear, that is true tragedy.
Copyright © 2018 Robert N. Lewis Jr.
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