Building memories

Susan “Ghost Riter” Dyer

Before I joined Wes in Boston on Friday for our weekend road trip, he made a quick stop in Connecticut to pick up his grandson Jacob. Since he was out of school for the summer, his parents agreed to let him ride with Wes for a week. I climbed into the cab, and Jacob said a quick hello from the lower bunk, which was already littered with matchbox cars.

We rolled onto the Mass pike just in time to see a stunning summer sunset. To avoid the busy July traffic, Wes took the long way down 84 to 684. Next, we took 287 over to 17, hitting the New Jersey Turnpike. He had been dispatched to Newark for an MT trailer. He wasn’t expected until Sunday, so we decided to do a little sightseeing. Still, we wanted to play it safe and stay relatively close to the terminal. We planned our Saturday adventure while Jacob and I switched back and forth between the front seat and the bunk. It is a challenge to find privacy in a crowded bunk, but we did OK.

Wes did not bother with a map, as he remembered seeing signs for Independence Park and felt he knew how to get there. When you are not looking for something, you see it everywhere, and when you are, it is nowhere in sight. We weren’t lost, exactly. We were temporarily in the wrong place.

At a stoplight, a Kenworth rolled up alongside us, and Wes told me to roll down my window. He called out to the driver for directions to the Statue of Liberty.

“Turn around and take 440,” the driver said with a sympathetic smile. An enormous Paul Bunyan statue in a nearby parking lot cheered us on. About a half hour later, we were parked (Wes had to pay for two spaces) and in line for the ferry, shoulder to shoulder with the other tourists.

The Statue of Liberty is as impressive as any guidebook states. Under a cloud-streaked blue sky, we felt an emotional tug on our American pride. We took several photographs, walked around her base a couple of times and then made a mad run for the last departing ferry. Unfortunately, the ferry we boarded was headed for New York City, and we were parked in New Jersey. We looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders. There wasn’t any other option, so we decided to just have fun.

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After a moment of silence at Ground Zero and several hours spent buying street-vendor merchandise, we took a water taxi across the harbor. The truck’s freshly polished rims and tanks stood out in the poorly lit lot. It had been a very long day. We were starving. The roach coaches had vacated their spots.

“In the mood for White Castle, Jake?” Wes asked. “Aren’t you the kid that is always asking that we go there?”

“Sure Grandpa,” Jacob answered with a huge smile.

We ordered a dozen or so half-dollar sized burgers and a couple of fries. I looked at Jacob for a moment and thought to myself, “He will never forget these times with his grandfather.”

Before I knew it, we were back in the cab headed toward Newark. A young boy slept in the top bunk, wearing a green foam Statue of Liberty crown.

Susan Dyer, a freelance writer for more than 20 years, has been sharing the cab and the open road for a year now with her partner Wes Schilling – an owner-operator for more than 25 years.

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