How on earth did I do that? And where did the time go?
My odometer turned over half a million miles on my 2007 GMC pick up this month. What scares me the most is that this truck is only a fraction of the miles I have traveled in my life – and many of these miles were traveled on to farms at all hours and all weather conditions.
My first car was a Ford Falcon Sprint built in 1963. It had a sporty V-8 engine with a 4 speed manual transmission, bucket seats, and a convertible top that I would drive in the summer with the wind blowing through my hair. There was no air conditioning or power steering. It had an AM radio with 6 buttons you would pull out to set on a selected station, then in the future, a push of the button would move the dial through a set of strings to find the tuner close to the vicinity on the tuner of the station I wanted.
It was cold in the winter. It was a fun car to date girls in, though the stick shift wasn’t helpful. I drove this car through my first college years. As I got older, I started to drive larger vehicles. I’ve always hated small cars. If I fall into it and climb out of it, I’m not interested. I really don’t know where that came from. Maybe it was a previous life where I was a teamster driving 6 or 8 horses pulling a heavy load behind the straining horses.
But there is a part of my life when I was determined to become an over the road truck driver. Yes, this horse vet would close his eyes and pretend to drive a long nose Peterbilt working the gear shift through the shift pattern as I drove my van across the country. I was living in Santa Barbara, CA for a moment in my life and was driving back to New York. It was 1974 when the CB (citizens band) radios were popular.
I got in touch with other truckers by keying the microphone and saying, “Breaker, breaker 1-9, this is the Buckaroo eastbound on 80 at mile marker 202. How we looking my way? Y’all can be hammer down west bound for 20 miles.”
Then someone would respond, crackling through the static, “Bubble gum flashing a couple of miles ahead Buckaroo. Better back it down.” And I would check my speed as the flashing red light on top of the Trooper car came into sight.
It was through one of these conversations with a trucker named “Mr Period” that my life of truck driving changed forever. “Hey Buckaroo, ya got Mr Period coming up behind ya, if that’s you in the yellow van.” The conversation went on for miles. I found out that he was called “Mr Period” because all the girls were talking about him. I’m not kidding. Pretty stupid, I know. He drove an International Transtar cab over.
We were close to Evanston, IL and we decided to pull over and check out the town. We ended up crashing a wedding reception. This was way before the movie, “The Wedding Crashers” and it was fun, until someone asked us to leave. But it was fun dancing with the girls who were drinking.
Mr Period and I parted that night and I never saw him again. We were just gypsies on the road. I found a place to sleep, then headed back out the next day. This is where my trucking dream really started.
I pulled over in a rest area on the interstate between Louisville and Lexington, KY where I saw the most beautiful cab-over Peterbilt pulling a flat bed of equipment for the military. The drivers and I started talking and I told them how much I wanted to drive something like their truck.
Now here is where you won’t believe what happened. Just call me stupid right now and get it over with.
I had several cases of Coors beer in my van I had bought in Colorado and was bringing it back to NY. I told them this. Remember, Coors was not delivered east of the Mississippi River back then. Their eyes lit up and we struck a deal. For a case of Coors beer, they would let me drive their Peterbilt to Lexington.
Yup, I had no license to drive it, I had never driven an 18 wheeler, and their load was valued at over $300,000. But they wanted the Coors, so I climbed up and they gave me quick instructions on how to shift a Fuller 13 speed manual transmission. Then one of them got into my van and we convoyed out of the rest area, east bound on the interstate.
I ground the gears, but I had been imagining for years in my mind how to drive a rig like this. Down the road I drove, looking into the side mirrors, seeing the load behind me and my van beyond following. I was in heaven and really didn’t care if they stole my van, beat me senseless, and threw me into the woods along the road. I was in heaven and every minute that passed was wished by me to be repeated rather than end. Soon though we were pulling off an exit and a place was found where we parked, exchanged hand shakes and beer, and I drove off in my very small van, pretending to shift gears for the next hundred miles.
So driving has been in my blood since that day. I ended up obtaining training and getting my Class 1 license and drove 18 wheelers to supplement my income as a student at Cornell during my undergraduate and veterinary years. Before graduation, I had purchased my third pick up truck and installed a fiberglass vet unit onto the frame and started my mobile ambulatory practice in 1984.
I am guessing that I have driven millions of miles in every kind of weather condition and in motorcycles to semi trucks. However, it has been since becoming a horse veterinarian that I have really become good at it. From 1984 to 1998 I drove all over upstate New York traveling from one farm to another. Then, for about 3 months I took a small hiatus after selling my veterinary practice and drove a long nose Peterbilt with a Spicer 18 speed transmission hauling motorcycles, jet skies, snow mobiles, and four wheelers all over the north east for a man who hated me and tried to do everything he could to make me fail. The worst that he did was stack me beyond the 55 foot length and set the crates to 14 feet, 2 inches high then send me down to Brooklyn, NY where the bridges were only 12 feet 6 inches tall.
I did not fail which after 2 months of this earned his respect. He was sad to see me go, but I was hooked on horses and just did this for 2 months of fun.
Since 1998, I have been traveling between Florida to New York every month. The truck you see here has traveled one lane snow covered roads in Vermont to the streets of Manhattan. It is this opportunity that I started writing “Travels With Doc T™” and taking “BarnPics™.” Over the past 7 years I have written about my travels and I am starting again. Every month I will write again and bring you tales about my gypsy life as an over the road truck driving horse vet with a camera.
I hope you enjoy these stories and pictures. I look forward to bringing them to you every month right here on my blog and in my news letter. Doc T