Papparazzi Lightning

Las Vegas, Nevada

Propelled by papparazzi lightning across Kansas, we dropped our load of can openers, cheese graters and garlic presses in Las Vegas yesterday morning.

The storm we weren’t supposed to see strayed north. Greg had been watching lightning in the distance as he drove across Missouri. Crossing into Kansas it intensified. The driving rain started as we switched places in Junction City on I-70. Greg crawled into the bunk and I was alone for Mother Nature’s really big show. Cracks of lightning as thick as my finger cut the sky.

Remember the square flash cubes on the instamatic cameras. Click the shutter and the bulb blasted out a momentarily blinding shot of light. I had two of those – couldn’t see a damn thing for a couple of seconds – in between, the lightning flashed like the thousand-photographer, epilepsy-inducing flashes that fired every time Princess Diana stepped out of a limo. It was Spielberg effects for a horror movie or a World War II movie, flashes creating daylight from the darkness.

The skies lit up revealing thick banks of clouds in the distance. The rain pounded filling the ruts in the highway until I had that surfing feeling. My high beams were useless. The rain reflected back, penny-sized drops hitting the road. My speed dropped from 60 to 55 to 50 to 45 down to 8th gear at 35 before I felt like I was driving the speed for the conditions.

Heavy lightning is weird in the truck because we don’t hear a thing over the engine, no thunder, no crackling, making the flashing light more intense.

Two-and-a-half hours of lightning with off- and on-rain, finally it was daylight. The rain suddenly stopped, four hours was enough, I pulled into the Pilot Grainfield, pulled the brakes and crawled into the bunk with Greg for a nap.

My day ended at Frisco, Colorado about 50 miles past Vail Pass. The season has turned in the high mountain passes, the leaves are yellowing.

There’s a Scenic Area at mile marker 203 overlooking a small lake. I made a note last year that we should stop for lunch. This was the first trip over the mountain since November 2008. We stopped for hors d’oeuvres, nothing special, spelt bread, which I found at Whole Foods cut into squares and dressed with grape tomato halves, a bit of goat cheese brie and a square of hickory-smoked, wild-caught Alaskan salmon. Delicious.

That pretty well depleted the food stores, Greg would get the last of the turkey meatloaf sandwiches and I was left wondering about our next load and our next meal since I am the chief, and only cook.

Other than traffic and the crazy, dangerous things that four-wheelers do, we have two interests, obsessions actually. They come under the headings of what goes in and what comes out. If we’re not talking about what we’re eating, we’re talking about what we’ll eat next, what we want to eat, what we should eat, what we’ll eat when we finally stop for an hour or for a day.

Visits to the grocery stores are the highlights of the week. What surprises will we find? Grilled prawns and scallops, fresh local vegetables, a deli with ham off the bone or real turkey breast, grilled chicken breast, chunky blackberries, sweet peaches, baby Roma tomatoes, bags of sugar snap peas, two of my favorites and the list goes on.

When we get our own truck we will have a microwave convection oven. I don’t want to cook meals, but I want to have some options for heating food. I found some fantastic grilled vegetables, carrots carmelized and tossed in caraway seeds at Whole Foods in Manhattan. A blast of heat would have been ideal.

A big treat on the road has become IHOP and Denny’s. Both restaurants I avoided like the plague before the truck driving adventure, but one of the things we absolutely cannot have in the truck is a hot, fresh cooked egg or toast. So eggs and toast are a treat. Breakfast is the best meal eaten out. Greg is partial to Denver omelettes. He had his omelette at the Cannery Casino yesterday, where it’s breakfast 24 hours a day. I love two eggs, sunny side up, bacon and French toast. I put one egg on the French toast, let the yolk run over the toast and add a dab of syrup and crinkle some bacon on top. My own gourmet McGriddle. Before you start sputtering that it’s a heart-stopper special, we don’t have it often, a couple of times a month. IHOP and Denny’s have evolved into a pretty good breakfast places and the best part is that they are usually truck accessible.

We also seem to be drawn to radio interviews about waste, human waste. Once stuffed with food and the better the food, the more the digestive system works, we need to visit a restroom. It’s almost inhumane how few resources there are in this department for truck drivers, who bring all the food to North American grocery stores. I listened to an interview with a scientist/author on CBC who says public transit will never grow beyond its current level until North Americans sort out the issue of public restrooms. People won’t travel farther than where they know there is a restroom, something we need 12 to 16 times a day – I’ll vouch for that – says the scientist.

If people don’t know that they will find a restroom, she says, they will take their car. She says this issue is unable to get traction and blames the puritans for creating the taboo by eliminating neutral words to discuss it.

The book is called Waste, maybe it will come on audio book. It’s funny, but both of us have listened to interviews about this book in different places at different times.

Another scientist, this one from Britain, looked at bathrooms around the world and she too found that no one wants to deal with the issue of sanitation. This is not a third world problem, it’s a problem in western countries, including Canada. She says every time a third world country gets some money it wants to put it into fresh water supplies. If sanitation were addressed, she says, fresh water would almost take care of itself in most places.

We still hate Virginia by the way, our boycott is intact, the state closed 19 of its 41 rest areas, 19 fewer places where a big truck has easy access to a bathroom. On I-81, there are two open rest areas on 330 miles of road. Yes, there are truck stops, but stopping at a truck stop is a half hour time suck, whether we’re peeing or fueling. If the wheels aren’t turning, we aren’t earning. In and out of a rest area is quick and efficient and is part of the Interstate economic framework.

Back to Vegas, where last night, the bathroom was only steps away. We needed a night out of the truck.

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