Rods and Wheels

While he’ll leave the interstate to fish to relieve pressure (and just for the love of it), Bob Martin says he’s not just casting. “I’m trying to be as good as I know how when I fish.”

For Bob Martin, fishing is a little like popping a balloon.

Whenever a day, or even part of a day, behind the wheel hauling household goods all over America starts building up some tension, Martin looks for a stretch of water where he can fish and let the pressure out in a hurry.

He’s even been known to stop and go “fishing” on a grass verge, casting his line out, reeling it back in and doing it again and again.

“I go find a place to hide sometimes, to forget the everyday stress. I can’t always do it. But knowing I can get away from the pressures even as I’m driving along helps me. I’ll always be looking for places to go fish,” says the Eustace, Texas, owner-operator leased to Graebel Van Lines. “Sometimes I can stop; sometimes I can’t, but knowing that there will be a way to stop eventually helps me. I know I’m not going to have to let all that pressure build up. Having those poles with me helps me feel I don’t have too much to worry about.”

Martin says a lot of the stress in his job comes from the fact that in addition to driving, he’s meeting people for the first time and they are loading their lives and prized possessions into his van. “I meet someone at the door, and they don’t know me from Adam, and I’m going to take their whole life in my rig,” he says. “There’s some tension there. And then I’m out on the highway with everything they own stacked in behind me.”

But fishing is his way to distract himself from the stress.

“When I’m fishing, I’m not thinking about the job. I might think about my wife, my kids, but not about the job,” Martin says. “I’m thinking about casting, about hitting a spot with the lure, about how the river might be moving or which part of the bank might be the best to fish. I’m not just throwing the line in. I’m trying to work the water. Using the right lure and the right techniques are important to me. I don’t have to be the best fisherman out there; I just have to have fun, to relax, but that doesn’t mean I’m not trying to be the best fisherman I can be.”

Martin doesn’t need a whole day dedicated to fishing to feel the needed release. Sometimes, he takes as little as 15 minutes to an hour. “Just to get to the water and throw the line in is all it takes; I can feel the stress roll away,” he says. “Most of the times I can still see the truck. I feel I’ve taken control of my life for that little time I’m fishing, that the circumstances of the job have not got control. I know I’ve still got problems to deal with, and I’ve still got a stressful job to do. I’m not trying to pretend that’s not true. Fishing just let’s me put that life on hold and be myself again. I can relax, and when I go back to work, I’m back to normal.”

Sometimes he doesn’t have time to throw out a line, but he’ll take a moment to think back over the fishing trips of his life as a way to relax right there in the cab. Or he’ll stroll down to the water and watch the fish jump.

Martin will fish anywhere, from small ponds behind truckstops (“There’s a good one at Wildwood in Florida but I have to watch out for alligators.”) to wild rivers that roll along next to a stretch of remote highway. He takes two poles with him at all times, preferring to drop a tangled or broken line and start fishing with the second pole rather than untangle or repair a line while he’s fishing. Repairs and untangling are for nighttime stopovers in the cab.

And on the road, all the fish go back. “I don’t really want to clean fish and take them back to the cab,” Martin says.

At home Martin usually goes after the catfish and bass that dominate the catch out of Cedar Creek Lake, which is just 50 yards behind the Martin home. His 18-year-old daughter Ashley spends time with him there, and they share the idea that fishing is really not about how many of what sort you catch – it’s about spending quality time together.

“We’ll talk about stuff and fish; it’s special,” Martin says. “She’ll tell me things or ask me things that sometimes I don’t know if she’d ask me if we were back in the house. Being out there together makes us a little closer.”

Wife Lisa and son Chris, 22, also like to use the lake to relax. “My wife does like it. She’ll want to go more than I do sometimes,” Martin says. “She’ll ask, and I’ll say ‘maybe later,’ and she’ll go get everything and come back and say, ‘Hey, all you have to do is put the worm on,’ and we’re gone fishing. Of course, she sells real estate, so she also has stress to escape.”

Lisa Martin also likes to ride along with her husband on hauls. “I feel great when she comes; I feel like a tour guide,” Martin says. “I show her places she loves to see, and she’ll make me stop at places I wouldn’t usually stop. We do have happy times together on the road. And yes, I still stop to fish.”

The last week of July each year will find Martin off the road for a family tradition – a fishing trip, of course. “One part of the family will pick a lake, usually somewhere in Texas, and we go there,” he says. “Maybe it’s bad weather and maybe we can’t really afford it, but we go anyway. Fishing is a way the family stays close, I suppose; it’s a way for us all to sit around and talk to each other, to really communicate.”

Martin drives all 48 in his new 2004 Peterbilt 387. At 47, he says this is his last truck. When it’s paid off, he plans to retire.

Both Martin’s trucking and fishing have roots in his family. Martin started in the household goods business because it was his father’s profession. The fishing he learned from his grandfather, growing up in Oceanside, Calif.

“I’d fish two or three times a week off the pier, ocean fishing. My grandfather would take me,” Martin says. “If he couldn’t drive us down there, I’d go down to the beach and go surf fishing or fishing some of the coastal lagoons for perch. I went out fishing in the ocean a couple of times in a boat, but I got so seasick. I knew there was no need to do that again.”

His father went into hauling household goods after he left the Marine Corps, spending 23 years with Allied Van Lines. When he retired in 1975, Martin’s father and mother decided the RV life would be for them. “They bought one and just hung around Southern California in it,” Martin says. “Now Lisa wants to get one when I retire after I’ve paid this truck off. We want to go everywhere. I guess I’ll still be driving the Interstates then after I retire, and that means I’ll still stop and fish.”

You know he’s serious when he talks about the times – yes, more than once – that he’s gone fishing in the grass.

“I’ve stopped by the side of the highway and just got out and done some casting, seeing how far and how straight I cast a sinker. I guess I looked strange fishing a grass verge,” Martin says. “The DOT have come by and asked me what I’m doing. ‘Just fishing, officer.’ Most of them are pretty good about it. Some will smile, but at worst they just ask me to move on. They watch me till I’m down the road a ways. I guess I must have looked strange at that.”


SANTA CLAYS
Sport shooting can be a rewarding gift to give yourself on the road

Just because you’re on the road and it’s cold enough for a jolly old fellow to go chimney jumping doesn’t mean you can’t go wingshooting. Or, if you don’t know how to handle a shotgun, that you can’t learn in your downtime.

For a Christmas present to yourself this year you could take up – or improve your ability with – the shotgun and not have to worry that you can only shoot on those few days you get home.

If knights of old wanted to get some practice with their weapons of choice, they probably just climbed down off their chargers, pulled their swords and started swinging away at whatever was handy. Cowboys in the old West could easily get some practice or just plain enjoy a day’s shooting by sliding their rifles out from beside their saddles and opening fire.

But what can a trucker do when it’s not legal to carry a gun on the job?

Consider clay target shooting. There are clubs all over the country, active all year round, and most of them are places that welcome newcomers who just want to drop by and shoot. A borrowed or rented shotgun is readily available at most of the places you might stop by. There are also public ranges in a lot of places. This is a sport that is eager to add new players.

You don’t have to be a hunter or even want to be a hunter to go clay target shooting. If you enjoy shooting a shotgun or would like to learn and maybe let it become your sport of choice, clay target shooting is something to investigate. When you get to a club, you’ll have three basic choices: trap, skeet and sporting clay shooting.

With trap shooting the shooter is in one of five positions behind a trap from which clays are thrown by a machine (centuries ago live birds were released from the trap). The clay flies away from the shooter (as live birds would do on a hunting expedition), who shoots from each of the five positions to get his score.

Skeet shooting for sport and competition (rather than just practice) began in the United States in the 1920s in Massachusetts. Hunters bored with practices at traps tried to come up with something a little more difficult, and the new sport was born. The story goes that a contest was arranged to name the new sport, and Mrs. Gertrude Hurlbutt of Dayton, Ohio, won with “skeet” an old Scandinavian word for “shoot.” The first national championship in the sport was held in 1935.

In skeet shooting, participants stand in a fixed position and clay targets are thrown across in front of them in different arcs and velocities.

Sporting clay shooting is a relatively new outdoor pastime, and its enthusiasts say it is expanding rapidly in popularity and injecting excitement into the sport. The key to its success comes from its realism. According to Shotgun Sports (shotgunsports.com), sporting clay shooting “is a clay target game that simulates actual field hunting, and it is shot on specially designed courses that are identical to actual field conditions. In a lot of cases, they are actual field conditions. Sporting Clays offers a veritable smorgasbord of aerial target presentations with clays zipping by at speeds and angles that simulate gamebirds with unnerving accuracy. Sporting Clays uses a number of different types of clay targets.

Combining different speeds and angles along with the different types and sizes of targets is what makes the game so challenging. The targets might be crossing, climbing, incoming, outgoing, quartering away, streaking high overhead, or any combination of the above. … Sporting Clays has earned the reputation as being the most fun that you can legally have with a shotgun.”

The National Sporting Clays Association says “rather than using standardized distances, target angles and target sizes, sporting clays courses are designed to simulate the hunting of ducks, pheasants and even rabbits. Six different sizes of clay targets give the participant the experience of actual hunting conditions, so you can see why the sport is so popular with hunters.”

It has irreverently been called “golfing with guns” because of a vague similarity to golf – the shooter walks a course and fires at targets from different positions.

So, who will you be rubbing elbows with at a clay target range? The National Skeet Shooting Association says, “men, women and children of all walks of life who believe in safe gun handling and take pride in shooting well enjoy skeet shooting with friends and family. At most skeet clubs, you’ll find a wide cross section of wives, husbands, single parents, children and grandparents.”

And there are tournaments in a number of different classes for shooters who love competing as much as shooting and want to test themselves against other shooters.

Clay shooting doesn’t have to be an expensive sport either. There’s the cost of the club you visit, rental of guns and buying ammo, and safety gear such as eye and ear protection – although you might decide to take that with you in the cab rather than rent.

Clubs are almost everywhere in America. Some loan shotguns, some rent them, others have different ways of welcoming you to their club. There are large clubs and small ones, some with a lot of support for the newcomer, some run by volunteers who can’t be there every day of the week. It really depends on just where you are when you stop for that 34-hour break or two days’ wait for a load. And that’s why calling ahead is essential once you’ve found a club near where you’ll be laying over, or even near where you live.

Here’s a small sample of what’s out there:
The Texas Sporting Clays Association (www.tx-sportingclays.org) has a motto a driver could like: “Stop Whining, Just Shoot.” The association is made up of 42 member clubs and more than 2,000 member shooters. Last year, there were more than 1,600,000 registered targets thrown at more than 200 tournaments. This year the clubs were expecting to see more than 2,000,000 registered targets thrown.

The Capitol City Gun Club in Carson City, Nev., (www.capcityclays.com) offers all clay target sports to the public. The club, a non-profit organization and a division of Carson City Parks and Recreation, has several trap and skeet fields as well as five stand and sporting clays. It also has a Duck Tower where targets can be thrown from any height up to 50 feet! Rental guns, professional instruction and ammunition are available.

The South Carolina Sporting Clays Association is composed of 14 clubs and plantations that offer wingshooting and all types of sporting clays. “Here the season starts early in the year and never ends,” says the association. “Our member clubs offer the shooter every convenience, including comfortable clubhouses, pro shops and shooting instruction by NSCA-certified instructors. There is something for everyone from beginner to master class shooter.”

Sporting Clays International is 650 acres just 15 minutes west of Miami International Airport. It’s open to the public with leagues for beginners through master class shooters.
Twenty-six covered sporting clays stations allow you to shoot over the Everglades’ scenic ponds, waterways and alligators.

At Elk Creek, near Owenton, Ky., sporting clays courses are on a 150-acre tract of hardwoods, cedars and rolling hills. It features three courses, one wooded with targets thrown over water and another a meadow course.

To find a club where you are, the Web is a great place. You might try the website of the National Skeet Shooting Association and it’s relative the National Sporting Clays Association, www.nssa-nsca.com, www.shotgunsports.com or www.claytargetsonline.com . If you want to have a complete list in your cab, Black’s Wing and Clay is a must-have book.


LET’S START SHOOTING
Clay target shooting clubs across the country are just waiting for you to turn up.

“You’ll find most clubs are happy to get new people involved in the sport,” says Shane Naylor from Remington Arms (www.remington.com ). “Most people who are new to the sport are brought to the clubs by friends who shoot, but people who just call and then turn up will always be welcome.

“If you’re not a shooter already, I think the biggest thing you need to really get into this sport and enjoy it is to have a strong curiosity about what’s it’s like to shoot,” says Naylor, who sells Remington clay targets all over America and in his spare time runs a clay target shooting facility in Summerfield, N.C.

Standing on a spot and shooting at clay targets “is not like stepping into a batting cage and swinging away,” says Naylor. You have to start out with some instruction, not only for your own safety, but to increase the odds of you learning to love the sport.

Someone at the club you turn up at will help you learn gun safety and the basics of shooting a shotgun, says Naylor. Sometimes it will be a trained instructor, other times perhaps just a skilled local shooter. Clubs will either have newcomers run through some safety instruction or start shooting under the watchful eye of expert member shooters.

“If someone doesn’t show you how to shoot, you run the risk of struggling as you try to learn, and then it can get very frustrating. But with some basic instruction you can enjoy yourself very quickly. And the objective isn’t always to get to be a champion shooter. I know people who’ve been shooting clay targets for years and haven’t got much better at all, but they go out and shoot and then sit around and talk about shooting.”

And you don’t have to go clay shooting so you can become a hunter with a shotgun. According to Naylor, a lot of people who come to the sport come just to shoot and stay because they enjoy being around shotguns, shooting them and spending endless hours talking to other people who love the same thing.

“I think newcomers will meet people from all sorts of backgrounds who do all sorts of jobs, but they will be together in the clubs for a single reason – they all love to shoot.”

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