Wednesday, October 8, 2014

No Other Shotgun Rider

"Did you shut off the water?"
- asked halfway through Missouri

Slowly I'm learning just how much I have to learn. 

I learned a long time ago (like, on our second date) that we'd likely take very few vacations that didn't include sorting, buying, selling or showing stock. I guess that was one of the first boxes checked during Cody and I's early extended conversations: we had the same background, same passion and in turn...same future. 

Sometime after we were blinded from being googly-eyed at each other, but before twelve hours ago when I washed a large load of dark jeans with 1/2 pound of wood shavings and five Kleenexes in the pockets, life happened

And that is where I begin. 
And so did "vacation". 

We had barely reached the first stop sign (1/8 mile from our driveway) in our journey of 1,350 miles before I asked Cody if he remembered to put the lock over the double latch on the back door of the stock trailer. We were hauling cattle to Council Grove, Kansas for the Sankey's 6N Ranch production sale. Cody told me he did remember the lock, but I conducted a Chinese fire drill of my own just to confirm. He was right. 

We made it seventeen miles on to I-70  before Cody suggested I "take a snooze" so I could drive when his eyes got tired. It was then that I knew: This is the first of many "vacations" where I wouldn't catch up on sleep. 

When we we began our journey west (side note - we have the Journey West blanket  in our downstairs spare bedroom to commemorate adventures such as this - the wool blanket keeps guests warm in the winter and the summer! Highly recommended (for winter)).

Where was I? Yes, when we began our Journey West, I had these admirable Phil Bowman-Intentions of eating well and smart and healthy and not buying anything from a convenience store. I sincerely ate celery and peanut butter and honey crisp apples for the first 2 hours of the trip. 

Yeah well, life happens. Cody woke me beneath the bright lights of a Pilot truckstop, threw the rig into park and told me it's "my turn".
My turn for what?
To win the lottery? To use the neck roller? To fuel up?
My turn to eat Combos paired with Mt. Dew, pick the radio station, temperature control and seat adjustment preference. Twenty-seven minutes into my truck driving shift I hit a rumble strip, or series there of, just to prove to Cody that nothing ends well when I'm awakened from a nap.

Ninety-seven miles in and my big-rigging took an unplanned halt. We were just trucks away from a life-altering accident on I-70. We landed close enough behind the accident that we could watch the paramedics work. One minute you think you're in a hurry, the next minute you realize you have all the time in the world. I never felt tired after that deal. 

We reached the ranch safely at 4:00 AM; our niece Bayler was just waking up for a snack. That also put things into perspective for this kidless couple. Sleep is fantastic. 

I spent the next four days finding things around the ranch and surrounding shops/areas that I could stow away in the storage section of the stock trailer and tote back to Indiana without Cody noticing. A wide selection of pumpkins, a vintage mirror and an old mobile beverage cart, a fireplace, twelve servings of beef brisket.........really anything I could get my hands on and secured in tow before he caught on. Listen, if this was my vacation, I was packing souvenirs. 

The weekend went quickly. 
The truck made runs between the ranch and town and my celery was never touched again.
The trailer sat parked, though filled with various items periodically. 
The sale went well. 
Though sleep was limited, the views were not. 

Cody and I debated playing ROCK-PAPER-SCISSORS to determine who had to drive the first leg of the trip back to Indiana. Then I quickly agreed to handle that shift; I then proceeded to drive four miles into town to get diesel. First leg down! By the time Cody filled the tank, then returned from buying lame gas station coffee, I was a soundly sleeping shotgun rider. #WINNING. 

Before I knew it he was waking me again - no lesson learned, I guess - and asking me if I needed to use the restroom. Like a temperamental 13-year-old I shuffled into the truck stop. Ten minutes later I rubbed my eyes in the check out line and asked Cody how far until we hit Kansas City?
"Do you have any idea where we are?"
I looked around. All the folks looked like grumpy typical tourists, diesel price looked familiar, there were dream catchers on a rack beside me, so no...I didn't. 
As it turns out, I slept better as a shotgun rider than I anticipated. 

Cody paid for fuel and I checked the black-hided stock in back, those who had new owners awaiting them east of the Mississippi. I rummaged through the back seat and decided to throw the bad celery out of the tupperware and onto the parking lot concrete; it was simply a lost battle. Then I saw a woman fifteen yards away - approximately 108 years old - picking up trash, watching me toss my sour salad into her lot. I proceeded to pick up all celery sticks and toss them into the pet lot. Dogs like celery, right?

I checked my reflection in the mirror and redid my ponytail; I was looking more and more like a trucker's wife every day.
Just. Get. Me. Home. 

In the hours that followed, the celery was replaced by the following items to keep me awake: Gobstoppers, Nerds, bottled water, chicken McNuggets and fries and Craisins. I'm basically the picture of health. 

By mile 329 east bound I was able to easily awake Cody with my rendition of Delta Dawn in which I sang mirroring the sounds of Tanya Tucker...all of them; then, and also now. Have you seen her lately? 

He begged to drive if I would just sleep and no longer sing. My plan worked exactly as imagined. I slept on and off for the next three hours. 

It was pouring rain when we got home, which was (not) appropriate since the pumpkins were packed in the trailer and our luggage in the bed of the truck; learn something new every day, I suppose. 

I also learned that long journeys west - and east, and all over this world - require a great partner and someone looking out for your best interests, always. For instance, Cody knew by the look on my face that the Pilot women's restroom was not going to cut it, so he drove me across the interstate to the Flying J and never asked a single question. That's a good man, right there. 

And frankly, I couldn't imagine any other shotgun rider. 

Shotgun Rider


  1. Great piece! This reminds me of my son and I driving to shows. He is 21 so we have been co-piloting for a few years. There is really nothing worse than getting awakened out of a deep sleep and being told it is your turn to drive. Last trip to TX it was him who would not wake up at 5 a.m. near the OK border. I took a 30 minute nap (it would have been longer but my 15 year old daughter told me that was my limit) and we hit the road again. He finally took the wheel about 4 hours later. Keep sharing your adventures. You have a gift!

    1. Julie - That is great...can you hear my laughing in Indiana? I'm seriously not sure that I could drive 4 hours straight - how do you do it?? Thank you for reading!