Chicago Not My Kinda Town!

Who can’t recall where they were and what they were doing six years ago today? It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long, and harder yet to believe that we’ve not experienced a similar attack since. Somebody must be doing something right! It’s one of those days we will always remember and one certainly never to be forgotten, especially in these days of political debate. Life can and does go on, BUT NEVER, NEVER forget! Our very culture and our way of life depend on it.

These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict the more glorious the triumph. ~~ Thomas Paine, The Crisis, December 1776.

Here I am at a Pilot Truck Stop where I spent last night. I’m near Lowell, Indiana, along southbound Interstate 65 with Chicago in my rearview mirror! My new destination is one I’ve been to twice before, Chambersburg, Pa. less than 45-minutes from historic Gettysburg. I’ve been “solo” now for more than 10 weeks. I’ve seen 28 states and have traveled nearly 21,000 miles since getting my own truck on June 28th. I’m pretty amazed to say the least.

The last four days I’ve crisscrossed through Minnesota and Wisconsin. I’ve been in towns named “Sheboygan,” “Oconomowoc,” “Manitowoc,” and “Winona.” Winona, Minnesota is a small town of 27,000 and where, just three weeks ago, six were killed in flooding of “historic proportions” according to one newspaper article. On Sunday I spent the day in the Green Bay, Wisconsin area.

Last Thursday morning I called in to the “Morning News” show at K-I-T. That’s the radio station where I used to work in Yakima. I had a pleasant conversation on-the-air with my friends Dave and Lance who host their little radio show there in the valley. Top rated and number one in the market of course! I had come out of Memphis the day before and spent the night at the “Trail of Tears” rest area in the “Land of Lincoln.” That morning I was heading into Chicago some 200 miles distant. I pulled over at a truck stop for a few minutes as we chewed the fat about my life as a trucker and explored the hot issue surrounding Mexican truckers driving into the U.S., under the N.A.F.T.A. agreement. Dave promises me lunch next time I’m in town, hopefully in October.

Later in the evening I cut through the downtown area of “Chitown” (that’s trucker-talk for Chicago). I drove northbound along I-90/94 passing the famous Sears Tower with it’s broadcast antennas, one bathed in bright red the other in bright yellow light, rising above it’s roof. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of it as I passed beneath. From 1973 until 1996 it was the world’s tallest building and is currently the tallest in North America. As it was dark I was disappointed not to get a glimpse of Lake Michigan a very short distance to the east.

My destination was a Macy’s Department Store Distribution Center just north of downtown. To get there I drove several miles up narrow Diversey Avenue through block after block of traffic lights, row houses and businesses, acclimating myself to the smells and feel of the local neighborhoods and habitat. I couldn’t help but think, “How can people live this way?” Finally I arrived at the D.C. It was a nightmare for a trucker. The yard had little space and on top of that another Swift truck broke down just as it was leaving and I was entering through the same inadequate gate. It took nearly an hour to clear the way for my entry with several trucks waiting behind me and around the corner along the busy street.

Once inside there was little room to maneuver with several trucks from various carriers all in the same confined space. After dropping my empty trailer just slightly out of the way of others, I got my loaded trailer number (T51835) from the security guard and started walking the yard to find it. Along an outside wall trailers were stored three-deep and in order to see the numbers of some I’d have to stoop and crawl below one trailer to reach another. After 45 minutes of searching and revisiting areas, just to be sure, I went back to the guard shack and asked, “Are you sure this trailer is here in the yard.” His answer, “No it’s probably at our other yard.” Luckily it was just a block and a half away, but only a little bigger than the first, and surrounded by tall buildings on all sides. After checking in at yet another security gate in a few short minutes I was hooked up. But, with my 53 foot trailer behind, it was nearly impossible to turn around in order to exit the yard. After several attempts on my part a yard worker, whose job is moving trailers in and out, offered to take the controls and in about ten minutes of twisting and turning managed to get my rig turned in the right direction. He was a pleasant Hispanic man and after offering my hand in thanks, and saying he had more than earned his pay for that night, we went our separate ways as he said “God bless you.” My way was pointed up Diversey back to the freeway and headed, with stout determination, the hell out of Chicago!!

The Chicago stop was the beginning of my trip that took me further north for my visit to Wisconsin and Minnesota. While I enjoyed the native’s quirky accents I had seen enough of those two states and yesterday finally left the region. Of course as I headed further east I had to pass through Chicago once again. This time I avoided the downtown freeways but never-the-less the toll road bypasses were dreadful to say the least. It took me more than 2 1/2 hours, in mostly bumper-to-bumper traffic, to make my escape.

Along the way and to the west of I-294 I passed the sprawling O’Hare Airport and from my vantage point could see planes parked along ramps and runways faintly stretching into the distance for a couple of miles. Dang that’s a big airport! No offense Chicagoans, not that’s it isn’t a nice place to “visit,” but as far as Chicago is concerned — from an 18-wheel perspective — I’m sure as heck going to avoid future assignments there.

As I mentioned earlier I spent Sunday in Green Bay. Not having an assignment I sat for a couple of hours south of the city at a quiet, and mostly unoccupied, rest area (imagining myself at Church) and listening to the Green Bay Packer home football game on the radio. Little did I know that the company would send me that afternoon on a short excursion to drop off a trailer. And where to? Right down Lombardi Avenue (named after coach Vince Lombardi) and past Lambeau Field, the home of the Green Bay Packers. As I arrived the Packers had just defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 30 minutes earlier … and the traffic!! I had no idea that my directions would take me right past the stadium until I saw it in the distance! Historic Lambeau Field was host to the storied “Ice Bowl,” when the temperature dropped to 13 degrees below zero on New Years Eve afternoon in 1967. It was the coldest temperature ever recorded for an NFL game and considered by many the greatest game in pro football history. Around the stadium streets were named after notable Packer celebrities. Among them “Holmgren Way,” named after Seattle Seahawk coach Mike Holmgren during his seventh and final year with the Packers in 1998. Gee name a street after him and then he leaves town! That’s gratitude for you!

Anyway Bret Favre and the Packers beat the Eagles 16-13 and the crowd leaving the stadium was festive. I’d never seen so much Green and Gold in any one area, (even later when I visited some suburban stores), but I guess that’s normal at any football venue (only the colors are different). But the one thing you don’t often see are the “Cheesehead” hats worn by some of the fans. It’s just what it implies, a large hat shaped like a wedge of cheese and yellow in color.

After-all Wisconsin is known for it’s large production of cheese… how appropriate. But the hats are “cheesy” none-the-less!

In just a couple of days my truck will be parked at the Martinsburg, W. Va. terminal. This weekend with my girlfriend Mercedes I’ll be visiting New York City along with a best friend from the Seattle area. My next post should originate from the Big Apple! (Pictures to be posted soon!)

Sign of the Day: “State Prison Next Exit – Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers

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