Drivers' Corner - Lookin' Back
Second Trip to California (Part 1)
Well drivers, last month I was telling you about finishing up my first trip to California and about how glad I was to get home. Well, I was only home only a couple of days and then I was off to Dalton, Georgia to pick up another load for California??"but this time, I had a different co-driver. My co-driver and truck owner who was with me on the first trip sold the truck to his brother, and he got me a co-driver that lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee to run that trip with me. His name was Tom. He had been driving a truck that belonged to the dispatcher in Los Angeles and he had stopped driving for this dispatcher because the dispatcher kept his truck on the road all the time and he was never at home. You know how that goes??"his truck was going to run even if no one else's did.
Tom and I left Dalton and headed back to California on those same narrow roads, old US 41, then into Tennessee and picked up US 72 to Jackson, Mississippi. I forgot to tell you in the last story about the old Vicksburg Bridge over the Mississippi River. That bridge was so narrow that to pass a truck coming from the other direction you had to stop and pull your mirrors in so you and the other truck wouldn't hit each other. Then, on the other side, you would stop and push your mirrors back out again and the mirror arms had notches so you could count the notches and your mirrors would not be out of adjustment. I also forgot to tell you how much I was making per mile. Would you believe three cents per mile? But now that was back in the early 1960s.
Everything seemed to be going smoothly until we got into western Mississippi. There we ran into some icy roads. The company we were leased to had a picture of a small boy carrying a bag of groceries and underneath it was a sign that said "zippy zero." That was the company's motto since we pulled refrigerated trailers. I was driving at the time and Tom was asleep in the sleeper and I didn't want to wake him, but I had never driven a tractor-trailer on ice before so I stopped at a small truck stop where there were some trucks from the same company. I went in and sat down and ordered some coffee and a sandwich and asked some of the drivers there if there was anything they could tell me about driving that big rig on icy roads. I explained to them that I was a rooky and that this was my second trip in a tractor trailer. One of the drivers reared back in his chair and took a big draw on his cigar and told me "Son, all you have to do is outrun ol' zippy zero and you got it made. Keep your speed low and be easy on the brakes and be in a gear low enough to give it some fuel in case you have to outrun ol' zippy if it starts to try to jackknife." I sat around for a while and tried to relax but I was scared to get back on the road for a while. I was hoping Tom would wake up to drive for a bit but he didn't, so it was up to me to keep driving. I thanked those drivers that had given me the advice and headed out again.
That advice they had given me really paid off, because there was a few times I had to outrun ol' zippy. I think my rear end ate up some of my kool cushion but after about an hour, Tom woke up and took over. Boy, I sure was glad that ice had wore me out but, by that time we were getting on some dry pavement, and that relaxed me even more so I had no trouble going to sleep, especially since Tom was a seasoned driver with years of experience. When I told him about how much ice I had driven on he scolded me a little in a nice sort of way for not waking him up to take over, but he did tell me, "Well son, you had to get some experience driving on ice, but never think you have a truck mastered because if you do it will kick your butt."
Well drivers, this story continues next month.