Commerce City, Colorado
Before trucking, about five years ago, suffering from ennui – life was tedious, vaguely boring (a description stolen from a friend) – when I didn’t realize that we were casting about for our next BIG thing, my mother, to help me find my way, told me to say A Miracle Will Happen Today each morning before I open my eyes.
Approaching 50, my first reaction was still “Moooooooommm really.” Many years later I still do it. The miracles? They big ones are really the small ones.
We’re at the TA truck stop on the outskirts of Denver, three miles from the company terminal. This is the Waldorf Astoria of truck stops for us. I jumped at this load over equivalent miles to Miami, with its better fuel mileage, and passed up the extra 500 miles to Salt Lake City even though a load to Denver could well mean our next load is over Eisenhower Pass, 11-thousand plus feet up where Mother Nature is breathing icicles, on the way to Los Angeles.
The Miami terminal is in an industrial wasteland near the airport, no place to pee, nothing to do. We’d be out of our 70 hours to drive when we arrived and in need of a restart. We’d have to get a hotel. There is a Hilton about two miles away, with a Starbucks and a Publix grocery store within walking distance. But I didn’t want to spend the money. Salt Lake City is a long walk from anything to do. We’d need a hotel. I wanted an inexpensive, simple 34-hour break.
We delivered our load from Columbus Sunday night about 2200 Eastern Time. We start the driving week (Sunday 00:01 to Saturday 23:59) with 1,278 paid miles. On Tuesday morning with full hours we’ll be ready for long lucrative Thanksgiving loads.
We pulled the bobtail into the TA, which is a ten minute walk from the Northfield Mall with its movie theatres, shops, restaurants and a Super Target for reprovisioning, and found a premium parking spot 30 steps from the Professional Drivers’ entrance overlooking the fuel island with a view of the mountains to the west. I crawled into the bunk for non-moving sleep. Greg signed up for a luxury super shower – a shower and a shave at the same time – followed by a steak and grilled shrimp dinner and pumpkin pie. This TA includes fresh strawberries in the salad bar, my kind of place.
“I sat down with the iPad, plugged in my headphones, cut into the steak and watched PBS,” he said. “I was in my own little world.”
At five A.M. he joined me in the bunk and hung the iPad from the strap, which hangs from the top bunk – we originally thought it an annoyance now the strap is an incredible design feature – we watched Tina Fey accept her Mark Twain award for humor and an episode of Modern Family.
Those are miracles, watching TV on the iPad in the back of a tractor in a parking lot in a great parking spot, but my miracles are smaller but bigger.
Our friends in Australia, who we visited in January, gifted me an insulated, bright green, Katmandu big mug – suitable for a big truck – which holds two, 12-ounce, perfectly brewed cups of tea. I fill the mug with boiling water, over the two tea bags, fit the tight lid and wait. When we were in Florida last week, Greg dug out our electric kettle – bought to boil water for oatmeal during truck driving school in Carlisle, Pennsylvania – and set it up so I could plug it into the inverter.
This morning, while sitting in the tractor, without having to brave the freezing temperatures to visit the restaurant, I brewed the perfect cup of tea, two bags of Dilmah Ceylon Orange Pekoe sweetened with a tad of Blue Agave nectar and 2% milk.
Heavenly. This steaming, simple pleasure only cost $10,000 for the Auxillary Power Unit.
Then came my luxury shower. This shower rates highly, in the top three with the TA at the Iowa 80 Truck stop in Walcott, Iowa and the Petro in Spokane, Washington. Both times, probably a result of how grotty dirty I felt when I walked into the shower room, I left excessive $5 tips for the cleaners.
This TA shower was big, with four hooks for hanging clothes AND a chair, two softish towels, a bath mat and face cloth, a fresh bar of soap and fake flowers on the counter for a just-like-home feeling. It smelled super clean. The shower stall, eight feet by four feet, had a new shower head spraying deliciously hot water equally from all holes with good pressure. (My worst truck stop shower ever was the Pilot in Jackson, Mississippi, a toothless, old man could have spit more water at me.) There was enough light in the shower and a close enough corner to the stream of steaming water to keep warm and brace myself to shave my legs. The ultimate luxury.
A new woman headed out. Dark was giving way to dawn, a bright, white full moon glistened over the belching, rumbling big trucks at the fuel island and the distant mountains were taking on a pink and gray glow, reflection from the rising sun to the east. The air sparkled, I could see moon craters.
Climbing into the truck, hearing Greg snoring softly in the bunk, I thought, this is all a miracle and I am thankful.