Lonesome Highway

TRUCKER: Don Hubbard, San Jacinto, Calif.
FAMILY: Children, Laurie Lee, 41, Donald Jr., 40, Coleana, 37; 12 grandchildren
RIG: 2001 Kenworth W900
CAREER: 34 years as an owner-operator
FREIGHT: General
ACCIDENT-FREE: More than 4 million miles
LEASED TO: Colonial Freight Systems, Knoxville, Tenn.

“My high school sweetheart” is how Don Hubbard recalls his late wife, Nora.
Hubbard, 61, found more than the love of his life in those early years – he found his lifelong occupation. “In 1962, I got started out of school locally hauling cement,” Hubbard says. “I hauled around California and became an owner-operator in 1971. My wife and I have been on the road ever since.”

The Hubbards were together until Nora told her husband she was going to a San Jacinto, Calif., hospital to see about a leg that kept cramping up. The doctors found a blood clot in her leg, but the diagnosis came too late. The clot passed to Nora’s lung, and she died Feb. 9.

Hubbard says Colonial Freight Systems, for which he and his wife hauled for 27 years, has been extremely supportive since she died. “Colonial has been like family to me,” he says. “They’ve answered our questions, helped us with money, and even now, if there is anything I need, they help out.” Several Colonial Freight executives came to Nora’s funeral.

“They were one of the best teams,” says Len Elam, a Colonial Freight vice president. “They were together 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 27 years, and that’s what you call being dedicated to each other.”

Hubbard says he and his wife did everything together. Besides driving more than 8 million miles together, free of moving violations and accidents, they also drag-raced, worked on cars, rode four-wheelers through the deserts of California and Arizona, and traveled the world scuba diving. They also found time to build a family of three children and 12 grandchildren.

“We worked hard, and we played hard, and that’s what was so neat,” Hubbard says.

The couple drove while raising their kids, letting them stay with Don’s parents when they were working. “They would go on the road with us during the summer and on holidays,” Hubbard says.

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The parents’ love for trucking rubbed off on their children. “One of my daughters married a diesel mechanic, and my son is one, too,” Hubbard says.

When Nora passed away, the Hubbards were running a dedicated route from Anaheim, Calif., to Peachtree, Ga., hauling TDK electronics.

The pair could run the route in 34 hours. Don figures it’ll take him three and a half days once he gets back on the road.

Another adjustment is that he’ll also have to learn new financial skills.

“My wife’s biggest complaint was me asking her about bills,” Hubbard says. “She figured that was her job, and she didn’t think I needed to worry about it. It’s hard now.”

Nevertheless, Hubbard says he looks forward to getting back behind the wheel of his Kenworth because he loves the work.

“It’s what I always wanted to do. I had my wife with me on the road the last 34 years. That’s nice, having your wife with you in the good and bad times.”

FIRST TRUCK: 1967 Dodge with a 250-hp Cummins.

FAVORITE LOAD: The dedicated load of electronics I haul now.

LEAST FAVORITE LOAD: Produce. You can only make it three months out of the year, and if you don’t make it, it’s pretty thin.

UNUSUAL PLACES I HAVE HAULED: When I went 30 miles into Mexico I left my tractor in America and hired a Mexican to pull my trailer. It was either get someone to drive my truck or lease someone out to pull my trailer.

FAVORITE STATE TO DRIVE IN: Texas. It’s flat and has a lot of open routes.

WORST STATE TO DRIVE IN: Virginia and West Virginia. The road conditions aren’t what they should be.

WORST THING ABOUT TRUCKING: The new laws and regulations, dealing with the DOT and the new taxes and high fuel prices.

BEST THING ABOUT TRUCKING: Being your own boss and running your own business.

KEY TO GOOD MARRIAGE: We had some bad times, but we loved each other, and we wouldn’t hold feelings back. We would say what we think and get it out of our systems and go on.

BEST VACATION: When we went to Florida, in the Keys, scuba diving and snorkeling. And I like going to the desert. The whole family goes, even now when they’re married. We’d take 10 days off and stay out in the Glamis Sand Dunes on the border of California and Arizona.

FAVORITE MUSIC: Real country and Western.

BEST MEMORY: Spending time with my kids and going camping and boating. We’d go out to the Colorado River or a lake close to our house.

FAVORITE TV PROGRAMS: The Discovery Channel and NASCAR racing.

FAVORITE FOOD: A good steak dinner.

LEAST FAVORITE FOOD: Spinach and okra.

PET PEEVE: In my younger years I got upset over little things. Now I don’t like being in traffic when you leave room for a car and they take every inch they can get.

IF I HADN’T BEEN A TRUCKER, I WOULD BE: A mechanic. I probably would have worked on Chevrolets and Fords. I have a 1923 T-Bucket Roadster. It’s got a 350-inch Chevy engine with a tunnel ram and two four-barrel carburetors. It gets about 6 miles to the gallon. I bought it built, but made some changes.

HOPES: In trucking, I hope it gets better. The margin makes it hard to get into the industry. You learn something all the time. If you think you know it all, you’d better quit working.

MOTTO: Do right to others and hope they do right by me.

Do you know an exemplary owner-operator with 15 years of trucking experience and an excellent safety record? Write to Laura Crackel, Overdrive, P.O. Box 3187, Tuscaloosa, AL 35403, or e-mail [email protected]. Honorees are considered for Trucker of the Year.