Thursday, July 23, 2009

Joined in progress

In case you’ve wondered: Yes, I am on the road again. I just haven’t found any free wifi access until now, nor have I had much opportunity to write anything. (I’m really sleep-deprived right now, too, so I hope this all makes sense.)

Last Sunday, after a three-day family reunion near Dayton, Ohio, my parents followed me to a truck stop near London, where I unloaded my travel gear from the car and handed my keys to Mom. Considering it was already evening when we arrived, I didn’t even try to get a ride. Instead, I found a nice place to sleep so I could get up early the next morning and put myself in position to get a ride to anywhere.

At about 9:00 AM on Monday morning, I found my way to a familiar hitchhiking spot near the fuel islands of the Pilot truck stop, only a few feet from where I met Vernon last year. Never knowing how long it might take to get a ride at a truck stop, I hoped I wouldn’t end up stuck there for the next two or three days. Fortunately I didn’t even have to wait half an hour for someone to offer me a ride. Just before 9:30, we were off.

This ride was much different than the rides I usually get when I hang out at truck stops. This time the vehicle was neither a truck nor a car; it was an over-the-road coach. The 50-year-old New Jersey native, Brian, who normally chauffeurs chartered tourists, was delivering a brand new bus from Canada to Dallas, where it will soon become a new addition to the Lone Star fleet. As a pit stop on his way to Dallas, though, he intended to take a slight detour to Decatur, Illinois to visit his in-laws. This meant I'd be getting out in Decatur.

On the way to central Illinois, as I sat uncomfortably atop the steps beside the driver’s seat, Brian expressed a strong passion for cooking. An amateur food scientist of Italian descent, Brian said he often experiments in the kitchen, sharing his creations with family and friends. Taking pride in the fact that his results tend to be beyond satisfactory, he expressed interest in opening his own restaurant someday. However, I couldn’t help thinking he will probably never pursue his restaurant dreams. Although Brian seemed very confident in his culinary skills, something told me he lacks the courage to invest in himself. He showed a lot of passion and conviction regarding food, but he just seemed like a deer in the headlights of his own dreams. Hopefully someday he will realize his hi-beams are not a threat; they are merely beckoning him to take control of his destiny. All he needs to do is take the wheel, press the gas pedal, keep the car between the lines, and stay focused on his objectives.

With each of us hoping to own a restaurant someday, Brian and I shared our philosophies regarding cooking and restaurant operations. Soon, though, we were in Decatur and it was time to split. Brian dropped me off at a Pilot truck stop outside Decatur, where I grabbed a cheap lunch at a fast food joint. After eating, I headed out to the fuel islands to look for another ride to anywhere (except Ohio).

I spent about 24 hours at the Pilot station in Decatur before getting a ride with a very cool trucker named Paul. Paul and I stopped in somewhere in Oklahoma last night, then delivered his load in Dallas earlier today. Now we’re at a truck stop on the south side of Dallas, where we'll stay overnight before picking up a load bound for Florida. (No, I won’t be getting out in Florida.)

I will surely have plenty to say about Paul whenever I get another chance. He’s a real character. Unfortunately it’s not always easy to find free wifi, especially on the truck stop circuit. It’s also hard to find time to write, but I’ll try my best to keep it coming.

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