A few weeks ago, our friend Russ passed through Bismarck on a weekend. We met Russ through truck school, back in the day, months before we ever started on the long-haul. He started as an owner-operator (bought his truck for less than $10K!) about a year after school and got set up on some loads throughout the Northwest and down to Arizona. We ran into him twice on the road, once in the Denver area and once in Salt Lake City. It was always nice to see a familiar face!
For the last couple of years, Russ has kept pretty much to the Northwest, but this recent once-in-a-blue-moon load brought him through our neck of the woods. We had a great visit (and gave Ben an excuse to explore more around Bismarck since I'm always working at the Olive Garden during opportune times) and shared many a trucker story. It brought back memories of our time on the road that I had completely forgotten about!
Ben can still recall what we hauled with what load with what trailer from what city to what city and on which route we traveled. I recall not much of that information, instead sharing in the memories of sunrises, sunsets, beautiful landscapes, local food, friendly encounters, and the occasional road-raged driver or bad dock experience. I prefer not to recall our time spent in New Jersey or the east coast of Florida, rather focusing on the adventure lying in wait for where we would go next.
It seems like light-years ago that we lived an "asphalt cowboy" life, but we handed in our keys only five months ago. No longer does our life revolve around truckstops for showers and bathrooms, Denny's for a decent meal, coffee every twelve hours, irregular sleep schedules, home visits once a month or city traffic. Sometimes I think back to those two-and-a-half years spent racking up over 500,000 miles and wonder, "Wow, did we really do all that?" I admit that I haven't missed it much, until yesterday.
We found a buyer for our Dodge Ram pick-up truck, and after the meet-and-greet and agreement to sell, we had to wait a couple of weeks for the couple to have enough money saved for purchasing. We set forth to drive up to Minot (pronounced MY-not), a little over 100 miles north of Bismarck, to make the exchange. Mind you now, this is the first time I've been out of Bismarck at all in the 5 months we've lived here. Ben has traveled around twice (once to Jamestown and once up to "oil country" in the northwest part of the state), but overall, not much. Let me just tell you, North Dakota is beautiful! So, so, beautiful!
Our friend Pat (whose family roots are in rural ND) liked to joke with us when we decided to make the move from Oregon to Bismarck, that is was flatter-than-a-pancake and we'd miss the mountains in no time.Well, we certainly miss the mountains, but Bismarck (and much of the western half of the state) is hardly flat. There is great variation in the landscape and once you break into the "wide open", you can really get a sense for the beauty of the prairie, which is what we experienced yesterday.
It reminded me of Iowa and central California, simultaneously. Iowa with the rolling hills and lush greenery, and California with the wide open space and hills as well. Those were the scenes from my trucker days playing out as we zipped through the green, producing fields. It made me long for the time on the road again, just driving. Just driving and going wherever the load/road would take us. Just driving.
My dad was known to have said, "I've got diesel in my blood Deb, I just need to be on the road." I thought I understood that when I became a trucker. But, I don't' think it really hit me until yesterday, what he meant. Technically I was driving a diesel (gotta love that German Jetta), but my "rig" only had four wheels, not eighteen. I commented to Ben on the way back to Bismarck that my legs just want to shift through the gears on a big rig. That's my body and mind's response to the exposure of the road again. Part of me also wanted to climb into the back to lay down, as I was getting tired on the way home. With life in the truck, that's just what you would do; the sleeper cab is there for a reason!
But, that life we used to live is no longer. The life we live now is so full and rich, which probably makes up for the mind's potential to be occupied by the past. I do not regret for a moment the time we spent out there, but I do not regret either the time we got off the road and have since spent in "normalcy" of life. I've mentioned before, but I can't help but reiterate, Bismarck has blessed us more than we ever thought possible. This is the life we are so privileged to live now: life in Christ in communion daily with a beautifully faithful community, in a landscape that breeds wonder and awe of creation, and doing the work of the Lord in the North Dakota vineyard. The good Lord is molding us ever carefully with His hands, challenging us to grow outside of ourselves and embrace the sufferings along with the blessings.