Simple Pleasures

| August 01, 2005

Doug and Alicia Threadgill say camping is the world’s best anti-stress medication.

When trucker Doug Threadgill wants to “leave the world behind,” he and his wife head out to the woods.

“I love to camp,” says the Memphis, Tenn., driver. “Getting out into the woods and just being there is all I want to do. I don’t have to hunt or fish. The idea is to leave the world of trucks and trucking and the whole busy commercial world and get off out into a world of our own. It’s that simple.”

Threadgill has been a driver for 31 years, the last 14 with Ozark Motor Lines. For most of his years with Ozark he ran the northeast and southeast coasts with a Freightliner Columbia, but in June he switched to a dedicated run between Memphis and Charlotte, N.C. “so I’ll know where I’ll be and what I earn; it’s about time I did that.” Threadgill hauls dry freight these days but says “except for bull hauling, I’ve done it all.”

Threadgill’s wife of 35 years, Alicia, used to drive too, and when she did, he says “she was known as Momma Firecracker.”

Both of them get their relaxation, and thrills, from camping.

“You don’t need a gun or a fishing pole to enjoy the outdoors; you just need a mindset,” says Threadgill. “A lot of people don’t get the concept; they think they have to be doing something apart from enjoying nature. But if you drive a truck for a living, learning how to just sit around a camp and relax is worth doing.”

Threadgill says a driver concerned about his health could try camping as a stress reliever.

“You have to be able to let that blood pressure come down,” he says. “It’s an art, just watching nature, but it can be learned, and a driver will find he feels much better in himself after a weekend of just plain old camping. It’s the sort of thing that could save a man’s life, and its cheaper, less stressful and a lot more enjoyable that medication.”

Even for folks not used to the outdoors, it’s worth a try, Threadgill says.

“I wish there was some way I could relay to drivers just how much wonder surrounds you all the time you get out in the outdoors, especially drivers who stay cooped up all the time they are off the road,” he says. “I have a friend that says, ‘If I can’t find a Holiday Inn, I ain’t going,’ but a lot of people who haven’t tried it would love it and feel so much better, more alive, for doing it.”

Camping is so natural to the Threadgills that they had no hesitation taking their children camping when they were just babies. Very little babies.

“Angie came with us when she was 3 months old and Sha (pronounced Shay) when she was just 6 weeks old,” says Threadgill. “We had planned to go camping a long time before, and we really saw no reason not to take the girls. We carted everything we needed with us; we even had a little tub for them. It was late in the spring, and they were warm and they loved it.”

The girls grew up in the Girl Scouts because both Doug and Alicia had worked as Scout masters when they were growing up, passing on some of that delight in the outdoor world to the young girls of their community. Something else they both did as youngsters was go camping.

“Every year when I was growing up,” says Alicia, “we’d go fishing for 10 days in the summer. It was the best time of my life. Getting out and camping and fishing in the woods like that is the best thing you can do.”

“I did Boy Scout camps every summer,” says Doug, “and then, because my parents both worked, I’d be shipped off to my grandparents’ farm. By the time I got to 7 years old, my granddaddy decided I had to work the farm if I was going to be there. And I got my love of the outdoors and of fishing and hunting from him in those summers.

“Me and my cousins would be out working, and Granddaddy would finish his rural milk route and come on home in the middle of the afternoon. If we were near enough to finished, he’d come over and after a while he’d say “Did you hear that?” And we’d all say no and he’d say, ‘That’s a big old catfish in Grenada Lake hollering at us,’ and we’d all go fishing.”

The Threadgills head to the woods with a 12-foot by 12-foot Coleman tent. “But we don’t sleep on the ground any more, too old for that,” Doug says. “We take a queen-size blow-up mattress.”

Camping, he says, is not always inexpensive, “but it’s cheaper than a whole lot of other things people do, especially in the outdoors, and it’s worth every penny.”

A lifetime of camping, says Threadgill, has helped him in one special way while he’s on the road. “There are times, especially the spring, when I park at night and just open the windows in the condo and get a little cross breeze, and it’s just like camping. I don’t have to idle all night. There are a lot of drivers who just idle and run the air conditioning that don’t need it. I sleep really comfortably.”

The couple will fish if there is fishing to be done, but it’s not something that has to happen. “I fish more than Alicia – she’d rather be under a tree with a book – but if I’m catching some, she’ll fish,” Doug says.

“We both love to cook, so we don’t look at camp cooking as a chore or a difficulty. We have a big 18-inch skillet, and we’ll throw bacon and eggs in there together and make breakfast. Making meals is not as easy as in the kitchen at home, but if you start making comparisons there’s not much point in camping. We don’t time it or think about how much work there is in making a fire. We just enjoy doing it together.”

Alicia Threadgill says one of the tricks to enjoying camping is not to do anything you don’t want to do. “If we don’t want to cook, we don’t, we’ll just snack on something we’ve brought along.” Dishes, beds, washing up, chores and so on are done leisurely when the couple feels like it. “Nothing is regimented or scheduled,” she says. “It’s total recreation. It’s getting away from the insanity and the pressures.”

The Threadgills say being able to see stars without having a layer of city smog in the way and to see animals sharing the land with you is not only relaxing but thrilling.

“It’s all in your mindset,” says Doug. “Get stress and trucking out of your mind, and this is a fantastic way to live for a while.”


Catch a Little Festival Fever
The sun on your back, the smell of hot, buttered corn on the cob in your nose and the beat of rhythmic music in the distance can only mean one thing – it’s festival season. With the summer in full swing, there are festivals around every corner, offering the off-duty trucker an entertaining weekend almost anywhere in the country.

From garlic festivals to solar-powered concerts, the American festival scene thrives during the summer. There are festivals every weekend and in almost every state throughout August and September, so visiting a festival is an easy and entertaining way to fill off-duty time.

Fortunately, digging through every local newspaper is not the only way to find an event in the area. Instead, go online to an event database, like Festivals.com or Festivalfinder.com, to locate a festival near you that celebrate themes like food, culture, sports, motor sports and music.

Resource websites will also provide all of the necessary details, such as a brief description, features, location, dates and times, cost of admission and a link to the festival’s website, if there is one. This will enable you to not only find an appealing festival, but also tell you how to get there, when to be there, how much it will cost and what to expect.

Food festivals
Food festivals are perhaps the most common (and most filling) type of festival. They usually highlight an in-season food, or they’re held in an area known for that type of food. Here are some examples to tempt you:

Maine Lobster Festival
Get ready to crack some shells if you visit the Maine Lobster Festival. It features approximately 10 tons of fresh Maine lobster, live music, activities and games for only $7 a day. The festival is in Rockland, Maine, on Aug. 3-7. Visit this site for details.

The Beer Fest and Chili Cook-Off
From spicy chili competitions to original micro-brewed beer and even a classic car show, this savory festival is sure to please any driver passing through town. It’ll cost you $20 at the door, but the food, drinks and fun are well worth the money. The festival is on Aug. 14 in Lodi, Calif.

Music festivals
Music festivals are great for filling off-duty time because there are usually so many kinds of music festivals at reasonable prices. Most online event resources will allow you to search by music genre.

Big Muddy Blues Festival
The Big Muddy Blues Festival is a free event that pays tribute to the Blues and local bluesman Johnnie Johnson. The festival is located on Laclede’s Landing, the historic St. Louis riverfront that offers a wide variety of foods, drinks and activities. The event will be Sep. 3-4 in St. Louis. For additional details, visit this site.

Bill Monroe Bluegrass Hall of Fame and Uncle Pen Days
For the bluegrass-loving driver, visit Bean Blossom, Ind., on Sep 21-24 for the Bill Monroe Bluegrass Hall of Fame and Uncle Pen Days. There will be instrument workshops, food concessions, vendors and more than 25 bands. Admission varies each day, so visit this site for ticket information.

State fairs
If you’re in the mood for ferris wheels, corndogs, lumberjack competitions, horse races and the like, then look for a state fair. State fairs have been occurring every year since the nation’s first state fair was held in Syracuse, N.Y., in September 1841. Nearly every state has a fair, many of which occur in the warm-weather months, so your chances of finding one wherever the job takes you are high. Most state fairs will have cheap admission charges, too.

The Illinois State Fair
The Illinois State Fair in Springfield, Ill., will hold its 153rd fair on Aug. 12-21. The fair will have tractor pulls, art exhibits, car races, workshops, competitions and other special events. There will also be many notable musicians such as the Blue Oyster Cult and Rascal Flatts with Blake Shelton. For concert schedules, visit this site. Admission is $3 for adults.

The State Fair of West Virginia
The State Fair of West Virginia has a variety of musicians lined up for its grandstand concerts, including Chubby Checker and the Wildcats, ZZ Top and Switchfoot. The fair will have competitions, shows, harness racing, food vendors, arts and crafts, and more. The fair will be on Aug. 12-21 in Lewisburg, W.Va., and admission is $9 for adults. Visit this site.

Art and culture festivals
If you are looking for a more intellectually stimulating experience, these festivals are for you as they celebrate all kinds of heritage, tradition and art forms. They have the power to inspire you, and you may even find an artsy gift to take home to your special someone.

Belly Dance Festival:
The Belly Dance Festival in West Valley City, Utah, is certainly an eye-catching way to enjoy your time off. Admission is free, and the celebration includes international food, a variety of vendors and, of course, live music and dancing. The festival will be on Aug. 27 and 28. Visit this site for details.

World Arts Festival:
The World Arts Festival is a colorful celebration of world cultures like Latin, Native American, Middle-eastern, African and more. It features food, music and art from the various cultures. The festival is in Prescott Valley, Ariz., on Sep. 25 and 26. Admission is free. Visit this site for driving directions.

Hope we’ve got you interested with these few examples. There’s plenty more, and you’re bound to be driving by one over the summer. Check them out on the Web, and maybe plan to stop by and enjoy some time the traditional American summer way – out in the sun at a festival making new friends.
Christine Green

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