Essays: On The Road And A Little Off

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Guest Writer: Ken Whitford


Dear Panama:

I arrived back at my humble abode on October 1st. Almost 3 months on the road, and I noticed a strange sense of transition: California is feeling less and less like my home, and the inside of my Freightliner FLD seemed to be begging me from the yard in Fontana to cut my home time short, and return to my faithful, "true love". The only assessment I can make is that I must have gone through some sort of mental reconditioning. The reason for the lengthy stay out on the road was due to the fact I was waiting for my wife to complete her training to be a bona fide trucker, and join me as my team partner.

This whole thing of a life upheaval seems to be my way of dealing with reality that when it comes to bills, house payments and other financial obligations, I can easily set them aside, and pretend they don't even exist. ("Yeah, just send me the bill. I'll cut ya a check as soon as I get it!") Along with the fact that I realized by leaving California, then randomly returning every month or so, that the general population lives in such a pressure cooker, that most folks aren't even aware of their less-than-civil habits. Particularly driving habits. And either through sheer ignorance, or possibly fear, for the most part folks are afraid to do much thinking on their own.

And of course, with corporations owning and controlling most media (particularly AM radio talk stations) the current trend is to follow Rush, Bill and others of their ilk, into nose-diving into the earth, much like the military flying team, the Blue Angels did about 15 years ago, when I believe the number one pilot, officials surmised, sneezed or something, and became disoriented and took her in at about 500 mph. The remaining 4 other members followed suit. So goes John Q. Public. But lest you think its strictly a California phenomenon, its not: California just happens to be the lake where the stone first hit.

I've had the opportunity to really sink my teeth into music again. My current fave is Jules Shear's "Healing Bones" album. Probably one of the greatest, unheralded works to have been published. And coming home, I learned one of my favorite pickers was involved with it. Steuart Smith. Most notable with his talents heard on most Rodney Crowell albums.

I had to catch up (as I don't have a laptop yet) on all I-net goings on, and had to read all your essays. Being a trucker (or Captain of the Highway) I chuckled at your description of the mud-flapless rig you were following. No. Not a case of fuel conservation, but just another driver who didn't (or did but didn't give-a-shit) do a pre-trip. The pressure on a driver to be in an ever state of motion is so great, that drivers take the chances on citations and begin their journeys with or without (but mostly with) required accouterments. Oh, the things you would see and hear if you were a fly on a piss-puddle at a local truck stop. To hear some drivers talk, sleep is something they remember as something harking way back to their youth . . and some of the grizzled faces you see, you might well believe it.

Meanwhile the boys in D.C. allay the fears of the public by instituting bone-headed laws and regulations that usually have nothing to do with the problems out on the road. Little things like fatigue. God bless their pointy-little-heads!

Anyway, still looking forward to landing at the TA there in LaVergne. As a matter of fact, I'm seriously thinking of becoming a transplanted citizen somewhere in the South. Northern Tennessee, or even the rolling hills of Alabama. Either it was fatigue speaking, or I had an epiphany of sorts, that California is a big time producer of disease, strokes, heart attacks and other maladies associated with the luxury of being able to say that one lives within the confines of her borders. And Tuesday's re-call election should stand as a benchmark low rating to the gullibility and malaise that most Californians live in. My opinion is they (we) are getting what we deserve. First clue should have come years ago, around the Reagan administration when the creed, a government for the people, by the people, was probably a buzz-word joke for many residents on Capitol Hill ("Hey! We're people, ain't we?!")

Once again, I appreciate the stories. I send links to most friends I feel are capable of digesting such fare. Oh, and one more aside: I find through my stats from the web site that a good portion of my many, many viewers (yeah, right) go to the photo gallery page, and a lot of the KF&TTJB's pic's are the ones most viewed (and probably ripped). But that could also be on account of the fact that the rest of my stuff is dealing with mostly the local primitives.

Take care, Panama, and I apologize for the length. It's just that my fingers haven't lately been afforded the luxury of transposing my many brain farts to paper.


Editor's note: Mr Whitford's e-mail address is