I notice that the south-bound lane of I-5 is patched and bumpy, worn out by the weight of the semi’s. There is a temptation to drive faster than the law allows, to use the fast lane like the cars and damn the consequences. At night the glare of tail lights plays havoc on my distance judgment. I find myself counting “one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two” after passing a slow tractor-trailer rig because it’s hard to judge distance with headlights in mirrors. The moment of decision, when to pull back in, is an adrenaline rush—an instant consequence for my decision
Sunday, May 27, 2012
Don't Call Me a 'Woman Driver'!
On the road again…How many of us women deserve a set of trucker wings from all the hauling, towing and hair-raising treks we've managed behind the wheel?
I earned my license when I was seventeen. Since then I’ve driven moving vans out of
towed motorcycle trailers into the mountains. My most harrowing (and accidental)
venture was towing a furniture-laden, single axle trailer down the Siskiyou Range
into Oregon in the rain—in the dark—with no trailer brakes. Never, never again!
I’m proof that what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.
The other day I was cruising along on the interstate, driving our Dodge Ram 2500 (for you non-rednecks, this is a 3/4 –ton diesel that I have to boost myself into with a pull-up bar.) It has a six –speed manual transmission with a stiff clutch, both of which will put on muscle. Our particular make and model has a reputation for being the noisiest truck on the road. I won’t dispute the claim. It’s loud enough that old ladies glare at us from the crosswalk.
On top of that I was hauling a toy hauler travel trailer loaded with furniture (with the pickup loaded to the top of the camper) I had a set of extended side-view mirrors, but you know those signs on the back of semi’s? “If you can’t see my mirrors, then I can’t see you”? Trust me, all true.
So I’m easing my way down the freeway with only my brakes (this time, real trailer brakes, thank you,) and six gears between me and the car in front of me. And it’s raining. And it’s Memorial Day weekend and all of
is on the road celebrating the 20-cent drop in gas prices.
And it hits me—I’m fearless.
I learned to drive in my father’s 5-ton hay truck, when I was thirteen. He took me out to the cab, showed me how to operate the clutch and we did a couple of test runs around the yard before we headed out to the field. Then to my horror, he hooked the truck up to this cumbersome side hay loader and directed me toward the nearest bale of alfalfa hay.
Years later my brother told me that I popped the clutch and my father fell off into the field from several rows up, but he climbed back on and said nothing so I wouldn’t get discouraged.
So back to Memorial Day weekend. Driving a rig in a highway lane that is only inches wider than the truck is a full-time job. Somewhere around Weed, California, my husband cautioned me that with our 10,000 pound payload, it would take a city block to come to a complete stop, before he turned over and fell asleep.
I managed the next ten hours by myself. I managed the rain, and the cars and the slower-moving semi’s. I pulled into gas stations (twice) and refilled, and remembered to swing wide so the trailer cleared the rear gas pump.
Driving consciously is a high form of living in the moment. The heightened sense of danger creates an appreciation for the harmony of the road. As the hours pass and I fight the hypnotic lull that threatens to pull me into a trance, I use my senses to stay connected.
The dance of fast cars, slow cars, slower trucks and uphill rigs on steep mountainous grades is poetic. Especially when accompanied by the ballads of Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton on my CD player. I unroll the window to smell the rice fields and the smoke of the burning piles. I savor the scent of the mountains and the smell of downdrafts from the fields we pass.
What struck me was how much I enjoyed the process. All ten hours. But that night I slept GOOD!
The next time I drove my car I found myself attending to the road with fresh eyes. The DMV is right—driving is a privilege. So is living on the edge. One of these days I plan to haul something live. (Tow a horse trailer or some cattle to market.) And take my new motorcycle out on a country road.
How about you? Want to share your driving or other adventures in the fast lane?
Posted by Anne Schroeder at 10:05 PM
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Ever think about the gifts we give and receive--what they say about us as humans? Here's a list of alternatives that will change lives.
I just finished reading a commentary by Nicholas D. Kristof, columnist for the New York Times. His post Mother’s Day article is about saving the lives of moms. Specifically it’s about fistulas, a consequence of childbirth when girls, most often third-world girls, get raped and impregnated when their bodies are small or malnourished.
The details aren’t pretty, but they’re even less so for the girls who are ostracized by their communities when their fecal matter and urine oozes in an uncontrollable stream from a rupture in their vagina caused by childbirth trauma.
Kristof calls it the leprosy of the 21st Century. The consequences are long-lasting: no prom dates, no jobs at McBurger. Death by self-induced starvation, infection or hyena attacks orchestrated by villagers including family and friends.
The girls are taken to a hut at the edge of their communities and left to die. Some manage to crawl or walk to clinics supported by American donors and staffed by compassionate doctors who perform a simple surgery.
Ironically, I read about fistulas right after my daughter Sam called to tell me that she has donated in my name to an organization that repairs cleft palates in babies.
Right after I sent a donation to an organization that provides goats to African villagers in my mother’s name. Great minds think alike.
Now I’m sending a donation to the fistula foundation on behalf of both my daughters. A perfect Mother’s Day Trifecta.
Here are some links. (Note--there are others. Check them all out.)
(Author’s note: Gift ideas are suitable for all occasions and are not limited by gender or age. Comes in all sizes. Items described don’t require exchanging, packing or dry cleaning.)
http://worldwidefistulafund.org/ $450 buys an entire fistula surgery and changes a life. For $150 we can provide her with social reintegration and job skills. For $25 we can give a girl a new dress after her surgery.
Operationsmile.org . (888) 377-2289. or Smiletrain.org . $250 buys a new smile for a baby born with a cleft palate. Our donation comes with a Bonus Offer—after the operation the village will no longer assume that the repaired, beautiful three-year-old is possessed by the devil.
Worldvision.org . The gift catalogue is online. Browse among the options that include a goat, three chickens or two ducks. Gifts benefit AIDS widows or women abandoned by their job-seeking husbands, or grandmothers left with the care of all their grandchildren. $75 buys a goat to milk, breed and develop into a small herd.
Let’s add to the list. Share your best big-hearted suggestions.