A Little Help From Your Friends

Building a friendship is never easy, especially when your life is spent on the road. Despite the ever-changing scenery of the trucking life, you can enjoy the steadfastness of friends on the road by staying in touch and meeting up with them every year. An interesting city or event can be the backdrop for your get-together, or you can host a gathering at your home, complete with party games and prizes. No matter what venue you choose, trucking get-togethers are about getting to know other drivers, sharing secrets of success and taking the time to enjoy the people you meet and the places you visit.

SHOW TRUCKERS PLAY GAMES

Every year around New Year’s, Harvey and Karen Zander, who drive for Dart Transit, get together in different cities with about 30 other Overdrive Pride & Polish truck beauty show regulars for a few days of great food, party games and lots of laughs. This began about four years ago when the Zanders realized that it was difficult to get to know all the truck show participants.

“You see and talk mostly to the guy who happens to be parked next to you,” says Karen Zander, who coordinates these get-togethers. “You’re working on your truck, and then you have to stay with your truck during the judging, so you never get to know any of the other people. One of the objectives was to change the attitude of total competitiveness in the show to one of more camaraderie among the participants.”

This year, the group spent New Year’s in New Iberia, La., close to the home of Victor Verret, whose 1994 Kenworth W900L won a trophy in September’s Pride & Polish show in Dallas. A friend of Verret closed his restaurant to serve the group a private crawfish dinner, Cajun style.

Besides eating well and playing tourist, the friends have a few laughs at each other’s expense playing games. In one, both partners get inside the same inflatable inner tube. Each keeps one hand on the inner tube and has the other free; the free hands must work together to assemble a flashlight, blow up a balloon or put together a puzzle. They race remote-controlled trucks and play truck and kitchen trivia. Winners get prizes donated by Pride & Polish sponsors.

“We do nothing but laugh for two days,” Harvey Zander says. “When you’re playing the games, you let everything hang out and show people a different side.”

Verret’s favorite game involves driving remote-controlled trucks around an obstacle course. “You have to back up the truck and load it up,” Verret says. “They’re kind of hard to control, and no one gets to practice. But I came in second one year.”

Norman and Rhonda Pike, who won four trophies including Participant’s Choice at September’s Pride & Polish show, were able to join the Zanders for the first time this year. “We had a really good time,” Norman Pike says. “We only see those people once or twice a year, and it’s a good time to meet back up with them.”

The Zanders’ group has one key rule. “Leave the trucking stories outside. We’ve already heard those stories,” Harvey Zander says.

“Basically, we’re like a big, happy family,” he says. “You know it’s working when there are tears when you have to leave.”


COUPLES ENJOY THE COUNTRY

Jim and Debbie Bricker, who drive for FedEx Custom Critical, are in a group of about nine couples who get together once or twice a year for a vacation in such places as the Wisconsin Dells or Chattanooga, Tenn. “There is no rhyme or reason as to when we meet or where we go, but we try to make it at least once a year,” Jim Bricker says.

The group formed in the mid-1980s, when expediting with smaller trucks and vans became more common. “The drivers of the bigger trucks didn’t understand what we were doing,” Bricker says. “This was a way for us to talk more about what we do.”

Although the core group includes other FedEx Custom Critical drivers, the Brickers try to include a few outside couples they meet during the year. “We try to invite couples that will mesh well with the group, and they don’t all have to be drivers,” Bricker says. “One year we had a couple of agents, and one of our core couples is retired. The diversity lets us share ideas.”

But the couples don’t allow their time together to become a grudge session about the industry. “It’s a social event,” Bricker says. “It’s supposed to be three or four days in a relaxed setting where we can exchange ideas and get to know each other better.”

The group doesn’t make everyone stick to an agenda. “When we were in Chattanooga, some of us went to Ruby Falls, but not every single person decided they wanted to do that,” Bricker says. “That’s the beauty of this. If you’re tired, you don’t have to go to see the sights. We just meet back at certain times and decide what to do next.”


Chuck Winborn, who has been leased to Tennessee-based Comtrak Logistics for 12 years,
meets friends in Talladega, Ala., for NASCAR races twice a year.

RACING TO RELAX

Some truckers focus their get-togethers on particular events. Chuck Winborn of Birmingham, Ala., meets friends at the Talladega Superspeedway for NASCAR races in April and October.

“We actually use our trucks to set up a campground,” Winborn says. “We park them side by side and string some 20-foot tarps between them.” With up to six trucks in their campground, “It looks like a mini truck stop,” Winborn says.

The group started when other truckers saw Winborn at the races in his truck, with his tarp set up, and asked to join him. “It’s gotten bigger and bigger every year,” he says. “And there’s usually two or three that come looking for us when we get there.”

The group usually shows up Thursday night to set up camp and heads out early Monday morning after the race. They buy their tickets in a block so they can sit in the stands together, and they bring plenty of equipment. “We also take our pickups and load them down with grills, lounge chairs and firewood,” Winborn says.

At night, the truckers kindle a bonfire. “The chicken lights illuminate the campsite with an amber glow,” Winborn says. “People come by in the middle of the night with their video cameras to get a look at our unique campsite.”

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