On the 16th, we signed papers on our house and packed up the Penske truck. I thought I’d have more emotions about the process, but I didn’t. It was done. I appreciated the place for not falling down while we were birthing four children, but really, it was time to give the west a rest.
I’d love to tell you a grand tale about a wonderful road trip across our beautiful country, but really, riding in a 26′ Penske truck is a bit of a dragonfly experience.
Dragonfly (adjective): /Drag n’ Fly/ – Drag up one hill and fly down the other.
It’s a term that Snuffy (dad) used to use about various semi trucks he was assigned to over the years. The Penske truck had an engine governor set on it for 70 mph and let me tell you, it worked. It couldn’t crack 70 mph down a hill with a strong tailwind and a kick in the behind. By the time we reached Kansas, I was praying for a downhill stretch and by the time we reached Pennsylvania, I was cursing every uphill stretch. I’d say the average mph for the entire trip was about 55.
Kansas was the only place where I got nervous. A 26′ moving truck is much akin to a sailboat, and let me tell you, the winds in Kansas can be forceful. The Mrs. and kids were about 30 miles ahead of me. They’d grown tired of waiting for me and the big yellow dragonfly miles earlier and we all decided that if they got to the campground an hour ahead of me, that would be a bonus for the kids. She called to say that she had just skirted a thunderstorm coming from the north and that she thought I’d miss it as well. I was white-knuckling the wheel when I talked to her and let her know that I was fine. Really, I was lying.
By that time, the box truck was waving and humping all over the road to the point where I thought it might be prudent to pull over and wait it out. I’d slowed down to 50 mph and put on my flashers, all the while looking out for funnel clouds that might present themselves.
Then traffic stopped. The truck began to rock hard and quarter-sized hail started hitting the windshield started about five minutes later.
I texted my wife and told her what was happening, all the while underplaying the seeming severity of the situation. I pulled out the handheld CB radio I’d procured at the Goodwill months earlier and cracked the on button.
I’ve heard people say a lot of negative things about truckers (as a subculture), but they are the sages of the road. They’ve been there, done that and they fully understand the rules of the road. CB chatter isn’t what it used to be due to the accessibility of cell phones and marine radios, but for most truckers, they are still a standard piece of kit. I suggest carrying one of these with you on any road trip. The handheld version limits transmission distance, but if you’re in the middle of the mess, it can (sometimes) give you a way out or basic information that you’d otherwise be lacking.
They said that the wind had blown a semi over about a mile up the road. I put on my glasses and sure enough, I could see it laying on its side in the distance. I held onto the wheel as the truck heaved and pulsed in the wind. I saw people getting out of their vehicles in an attempt to get information about what was happening. The wind was blowing. Plenty of lightening. Hail. Seems like getting out of your car and walking around is a great thing to do in flip flops and shorts. I can’t even count the number of people I saw doing just that. If the pesky .gov wasn’t protecting so many stupid people, the world would be a whole lot more interesting for awhile.
Anyhow, the tow truck arrived and everything was uprighted and pulled away. By the time the accident was cleared, the bad weather was done and I continued on my way.
So, for future reference:
A handheld CB radio and a pair of binoculars are good pieces of kit to bring on any road trip.
Other than that, the trip was uneventful at a sloth’s pace. I can tell you that I’m much more comfortable driving a truck that large than I was when I started. If you’re considering it, don’t be afraid. There’s an adjustment period, but it happens quickly.
Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,
Mike, Oscar, Hotel…..out.