Take Two: Recovered, Ready to Roll

Port St. Lucie, Florida

Being sick is the worst part of life with no fixed address.

Being sick over 50 is different than sick at a younger age. Experts blame it on waning hormones, but the truth is, bouncing back over 50 is a little slower, part of it is, in a weird way, comforting to have a reason to give up momentarily and succumb. I could feel the life ebbing away from me for days and I went with it.

There is great comfort in climbing into one’s own bed, knowing there is someone who loves you that will go buy orange juice, Kleenex and chicken soup so you can let your hair down and watch a couple of days of television. Although in past when I got sick, Greg also took it as a cue for him to crawl into bed and join me.

We were in Eagan, Minnesota on the edge of Minneapolis the day before Hallowe’en for only 45 minutes, to drop and hook a new load, just long enough for me to notice the throat tickle and that the sneeze was followed by a sniffle and a cough. I was sick.

While crawling into bed in a big truck is very easy, it’s just behind the driver’s seat – it’s not the same when you’re on the road, bouncing down the highway with a load and 1,318 paid miles away from being able to stop for any length of time.

The downward slide started the week before Hallowe’en in Jamaica, New York. Road conditions in New York City, while greatly improved in some areas are third-world in most places. Greg got no sleep going into JFK Airport and I got no sleep coming out. From New York we headed across the country to Los Angeles and arrived without having caught up on our sleep, although roads in Oklahoma are much improved this year. We checked into our favorite DoubleTree on Cabrillo Bay in San Pedro. Greg plopped onto the sofa, pulled a blanket up to his chin – we were upgraded to a one-bedroom suite, yeah Diamond – and beat the bug, he’s also under 50. But not me. I don’t know what I was doing, but it wasn’t the right thing.

For us home is wherever we need it to be. We had planned to be in Manhattan on November 1 for a week, we managed to arrive a day early, Hallowe’en. Home became the DoubleTree, one night at 51st and Lexington, then a switch to Chelsea for the rest of the week, where I started sucking up $6 pints of chicken noodle soup from Cafe Metro, plenty of water and orange juice and settled into back-to-back movies,  Invictus, okay and He’s Not Into You – yuck!, followed by a dose of CBS 60 Minutes.

It sounds over the top to be checking into the DoubleTree for a week, but here’s how Life With No Fixed Address does the math. We lived in New York City before hitting the road. We paid $1650 a month in rent. We’re continuing to spend that each month, splitting it between our Florida rental and hotels. Some months a little more and some months a little less depending on where we are and who we know in that location.

Our Hilton Diamond VIP status makes all the difference. It started innocently. Hilton requires 28 stays per year to become a Diamond guest. Whenever we needed a hotel, my concierge husband, checked his sources looking for deals. We happily stayed at a lot of Hampton Inns, but the Great Recession played into our hands, there were deals everywhere. When we started to look at other Hilton properties, the DoubleTrees, Hilton Garden Inns and on weekends Hiltons in business districts can be about the price of a good Comfort Inn, La Quinta, Days Inn or Super 8.

By last December we needed three more stays to achieve Diamond, we knocked those off over Christmas week spending between $55, $60 and $125. The Diamond status is big value for us because it includes a full breakfast for two, free Internet and best of all late checkout, as late as 3 PM.

Business taken care of in New York, including the personal stuff, the manicure/pedicure and haircuts, we headed out November 8 with a load to Orlando and found ourselves slotted into a “dedicated” run, which we thought would work for the week. The final Formula One championship race in Abu Dhabi was scheduled for yesterday, the final outing in my husband’s Extravagant Festival calendar. On this run we could be back in New York watching it on a big TV.

Dedicated runs are team runs with a specific route each week. Back and forth, back and forth and we HATE it. The Newark-Orlando dedicated run, 1,075 paid miles one way, is two return trips and a 523-mile trip to Columbus, Ohio and return to Newark EACH week. A healthy 5,346 miles for the week.

If I leave Newark by 0500, we fuel and switch drivers about 1600 in Kenly, North Carolina, Greg arrives in Orlando by 0100 the next morning. Four hours later, I hook the return trailer, we fuel and switch drivers about 1600 in Kenly, North Carolina and Greg arrives in Newark about 0100. Twenty hours of transit time per load. It’s 10 hours to Columbus from Newark. Yuck! We feel isolated, there’s no one new to talk to, the people at the fuel desk are the same.

Dedicated drivers love it because they are home every week. We, of course, have chosen life with no fixed address.

On Friday morning, our return load to Newark was canceled at the last minute. We were told we’d have another load north in 24 hours. We decided NO! Our own bed is two hours away, we could be laying on crisp sheets, close to a shower – our last shower was the 8th! because of the back and forth, back and forth, no time for anything run – and toilet, a fridge, a stove, a TV and a sofa. We pointed the bobtail south and decided we needed another break. Independent truckers!

We’ve been playing house. Sunday night dinner, I roasted winter vegetables, two kinds of squash, acorn and butternut, red onion, green peppers, Yukon gold, red and purple potatoes, garlic and Brussells sprouts with chicken thighs browned first in a little bacon grease and deglazed with Sherry, a butter lettuce salad with grape tomatoes, dressed with yogurt and blue cheese and topped of with pumpkin pie, but no whipped cream. Saturday night, wild caught salmon filets poached in a sauce of carmelized onions and garlic, tomatoes and green olives over Thai rice, tinted blue with some exotic flower and Friday night chicken braised in an Italian-style sauce with basil, oregano and garlic.

I cleaned the tractor for the first time in, well, the first time ever really. We’ve been doing the mini-vac and the light dust, but the big cleaning guns needed to be pulled out, it had to be done and it looks beautiful, smelling faintly of Pine-Sol, dressed with new pillows for the bunk.

We are ready. The tractor is ready. It’s time to go.

It’s Monday morning the 15th, dispatch just called, we have our next load. New Jersey here we come! AGAIN! From there we will lobby for a westward run to Columbus, the main terminal and from there, anywhere west, Kansas City, Missouri; Dallas, Texas; Phoenix, Arizona; Las Vegas, Nevada; San Francisco, California.

This is the year-end freight rush, the money we make will pay for our winter holiday in January and February.

We’re rested and ready to roll!

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