Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Memories of a Traveling Publisher ~ A Wild Ride

Some time ago, I think around ’04 or ’05, Todd Gray and I were coming back from Origins up in Columbus, Ohio. We were in Old Blue and had no camper shell. I can’t imagine why we went to a convention without a camper shell, but the cause and effect of such things are best not riddled over much. We tarped the cargo of course, but not much more than that.

At any rate, we were moving along as travelers are wont to do. After loading up we hit the road, somewhere around 5 in the evening. We took 71 headed to Cincinnati, Ohio, the first leg of our journey. We passed through the corn fields of that beautiful state, crossed the Ohio River at the aforementioned city and slipped on into the Blue Grass State, Kaintuck as Johnny Cash calls it in The Road to Kaintuck.

From there we went to Louisville and along one of my favorite interstates, 65. On that road its an easy drive to Nashville, Tennessee, as the road is usually open and not too crowded. As we crossed down to Tennessee the sun began to slip beneath the horizon. In short order we were headlights only, driving along. About this point Todd fell asleep. That boy can sleep in any moving vehicle as long as he’s not driving. If he’s driving he’s good for as long as the wheel is in his hands, when its not, he’s not, and he’s usually sound asleep.

We hit Nashville and turned left on 40, heading west to Memphis, anticipating crossing the Mississippi river and heading on home to Arkansas. Its still a five hour drive from Nashville and I was worn out, and so I pulled over to get some Dr. Pepper. He switched seats to take over and relaxed while I fished for my favorite beverage. Not driving, he promptly fell asleep. When I returned I played hell getting him to wake up and let me in the truck.

Off we went, and before long the dark sky lit up with lightning. The forested hills along that stretch are little more than black silhouettes, ominous shadows that ring in the plaintive lights of your little truck as it passes down the long highway. The flashes of light changed that, outlining the hills and trees in perfect detail, making what was ominous, suddenly baleful. We could feel a storm coming but had no choice but to plow on.

Somewhere on that dark, lonely road, about 11 or so, the weather turned. With windows wide open, as Todd and I do when traveling together, we could feel the weight of it and smell the moisture everywhere. What the lightning presaged gave us a go and the sky opened up. I remember it was a bad one, that rain fell like no tomorrow, beating the wipers in a flood they couldn’t contain, coating our headlights to flickering shadows, driving our windows shut, and hammering that tarp loose in the back. We had it tucked and not tied and those tucks in the back gave way right quick, so the tarp took on a life of its own and the cargo was as exposed as if under a bed sheet

Todd asked me “what do you want to do”!? I told him only one thing to do, “drive faster! use the cab to protect the cargo!” So on we went, plowing through that rain too fast and too slow all at the same time. It felt like a tunnel of water. The battering on the windshield drowned all but our maniacal exuberance, cascaded across the windows in unending rivulets, and whipped back into the cab through the open sliding glass in the back window. The tarp battered back and forth, loose now all up and down the load, as it strained to cling to its hold in the face of those wild winds and falling water. The submerging lasted forever, or so it seemed, and our exuberance began to give way to exhaustion and we both began looking for a safe harbor. To pull over without sure protection was to doom the load so we had to keep a sharp eye for a gas station. One after another slipped by, sometimes we didn't see them, sometimes their lights were off. It seemed to never end as the water harrowed our cargo.

After awhile we found an abandoned truck stop, whipped in to rest and ride it out, fix the tarp and enjoy the remnants of our Dr. Pepper.

It was a wild ride.

Old Blue just before retirment.

No comments:

Songs from the Drowned Lands ~ Kernaghan

Recently I took a trip to New York (the city) and needed something to read that I could easily carry on the plane. I don't really buy pa...