Channel 19

Todd Dills

Long-haul literary: Former owner-operator’s memoir of the life

| August 20, 2011

“Westbound, you look good back to the state line. What’s it like over your shoulder?”

“I ain’t seen nothing’ since I left New York.”

“Friend, we’re in Utah.”

“Like I said, I ain’t seen nothin’ since I left New York. Night before last.”

Near Evanston, Wyo.

A westbound driver said, “I’ve got a load of Rice Krispies from Canada. Been listening to them all the way across: ‘Snap, Crackle, and Pop — eh?”

Ten miles east of the truck stops at Youngstown, Ohio.

“That chicken sandwich you bought back there. How’s it taste?”

“Kind of like chicken.”

“Like chicken?”

“Kind of.”

Near Moriarty, N.M.

A woman said, “Sweetheart, my exit’s coming up. It’s sure been nice running with you.”

Sweetheart’s comeback was the sound of a big, slobbery kiss, a real wet smacker. The woman laughed and said, “What’s that for, darlin’?”

“Honey,” Sweetheart said, “you just put that where it’ll do you the most good.”…

Chapter 7
Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right. –Henry Ford

I was talking with a friend in my living room, telling him road stories, telling him that trucking was the best job I’d ever found.

“It’s great,” I said. “I’ve never been so at-home with my work.”

“Yeah, but are you making any money?”

Not really. No.

Pay started at 22 cents a mile. A six-hour grunt-work unload got you $40. At most a Linehaul solo driver in 1991 might gross $24,000 during his first full year after training and that took more luck than brains, but I didn’t complain. I was there to learn and my labor came with a bonus that didn’t cost my employer anything: I was able to keep almost completely to myself.

I never ate at truck-stop lunch counters — too much friendly banter, too much whining, too many know-it-alls. I hardly ever keyed up, and, once, faked partial deafness to avoid a conversation in a truck-stop coin laundry. I tapped an ear and shouted, “Sorry! Left both aids in the cab! Can’t hear a thing without them!”

When I had to, I’d share a few words with a dispatcher, another driver, or a cashier at a fuel desk, then climb back into the truck with only my thoughts for company, but I craved seclusion and I lived for the perfect anonymity of the days when I didn’t talk to anyone. Gayle didn’t realize at first that I had a problem. I kept it hidden, but after two nights at home I was climbing the walls, I needed to be alone again, I needed to get back to the highway.

“You’re hooked,” my terminal manager said. “You’re a run junkie. Just what we’re looking for.”

He had no idea.

Trucking had grabbed onto me and whether it was more drug than fever I couldn’t say. I was as devoted to my in-cab isolation as any addict is to his habit. Above all else, truck driving meant solitude to me. And time. Time to roll and reflect. Time to rub the veneer from lies I’d been telling myself for years. Time to get below the surface and relive every wrong turn and discarded relationship. Time to revisit my failures and awkward moments, public and private. Small stuff, really. Little ticks in a life. No big deal, no one got killed, just disappointed. In me.

  • gsteven griffith

    would love ur opionion on my notes on facebook about my 1st 10 years on the road. please friend me at ‘’

  • Todd Dills

    Steven, Will do. Are you on there under “Steven Griffith” for username? I guess email’s an easy way to search, though.

  • Marc Mayfield

    Steven –

    Not sure if you were asking me or Todd or other Overdrive readers, but if you’d like to send me some of your notes (I’m not on facebook):
    I’d be happy to take a look.

    Cheers and Safe Trip / Marc

  • louis p. stermer

    I’m years apart from you in age but, this is amazingly my story, your story, every drivers story. I’m heading home tomorrow its been nearly 13k miles ago. I measure my time from home in miles these days. I will be looking for your book in the stores. I also posted it to my Facebook for all my four wheeler friends to pick it up too.
    Your friend Louis

  • Todd Dills

    Louis, Thanks for the feedback — I thought the book was quite well-done myself. I’ll make sure Marc sees your reply here.

  • Marc Mayfield

    Thanks for the heads-up, Todd. And thank you, Louis! Safe trip, bro.

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