Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Riding shotgun on the Spirit truck

The grand finale of our 2013 MATS trip was a strange one – how to get home.

As we were enjoying the annual spectacle in Louisville, Mother Nature laid a whopper on us in the form of a massive snowstorm back home in western Missouri. It engulfed the KC metro area, and on the weather radar we could see it heading west and spreading south as it developed.

So after the show, our OOIDA staff took off in a convoy of minivans for a nasty trip that included slugging through the zero visibility and heavy snowfall much of the way home.

I got particularly attached to Sassy
during the trip
I rode home in OOIDA’s tour truck – the Spirit – with driver Jon Osburn. We didn’t tag along with the rest of the group. We left later, after all the booth stuff was loaded up. Our challenge was to route the Spirit around the mess, so Jon and I swapped the short way home for the long way around in a gamble the roads would be better.

We went way south through Kentucky all the way down to Paducah, across the Missouri bootheel and over to Springfield, MO. We were hoping to skirt the big storm and had our fingers crossed that by the time we snaked up through Missouri late Sunday night, the roads would be clear. It was a good call on Jon’s part. Although we got cold rain and fuel-mileage-sucking wind, we dodged icy roads and big snow.

Twelve hours on the truck was a blast for me, riding up high in the Pete, feeling pretty cool. Jon’s half-Schnauzer half-Jack Russell (Sassy) nestled on my lap. I’m taking in every mile of the trip. When we crossed the Mississippi River, it seemed to me that we turned and crossed it again. I looked at the signs.

I say to Jon: “Now we are in Illinois!”

He immediately says to me: “Now we are out of Illinois.”

Yep. It was that place where in one short mile you drive three states – Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri. You truckers all know where that is, but it kinda threw me off.

We pulled into a TA at I-55 and Hwy 80 in Matthews, MO, and eased up to the pump right by the building. It was getting dark, but the lights of the building lit up the Spirit Truck like a massive spotlight. I thought to myself how awesome it looked. I ran inside while Jon was fueling up. It was not a big bustling place. Five or six truckers stood in line. Everyone seemed quiet, tired, wet and cold. I got back to the truck, and Jon went in to pay. He was gone awhile, and when he got back he was laughing.

I say to Jon: “Still a line at the fuel desk? I saw there was just one girl on the job.”

He says to me: “Yes, she was doing something for someone, so I signed up a new member.”

We rolled past Springfield, MO, and headed north, closing in on home. On MO 13 south of 50 Hwy, I’m texting Jami Jones who is keeping track of where everyone is, what the weather is, etc.

Jon is swearing and muttering about some circles. Sassy leaps to her feet, alerted to shifting gears. Then I saw it: a dreaded traffic circle. No one gave a single thought to a truck when they designed this one. I think they used a pattern from a grade school playground dodge ball circle.

Jon maneuvers the 53-foot trailer around the danged thing, gritting his teeth and muttering under his breath. As he was explaining to me how much he hated traffic circles, we came upon another. In the dark, on snow-covered roads, he eases around a configuration made for a tricycle. A short distance later, another. We were in traffic circle hell.

Would you believe we did four of these little traffic donuts before we pulled onto 50 Highway? FOUR.

The journalist in me pondered who the heck came with this idea that was supposed to be a safety enhancement and why they didn’t ask how handy they would be for the tractor-trailers that run the SAME roads. But after we came out of the fourth one last night, I stopped overthinking it and simply agreed with the way Jon explained it. They were invented by evil forces … really stupid evil forces.

1 comment:

William Decker said...

Benefits of roundabouts: no left turns, no chance of being t-boned at an intersection, no chance of not seeing the oncoming vehicle and crossing in front of it, no traffic light, if the power goes out you can still navigate the intersection.

My truck is about 80' long. Truck has a 310" wheelbase pulling a 53' trailer. I run through these roundabouts almost daily in Wisconsin. I have no problems with them at all. I'd rather be moving through a roundabout rather than sitting at a red light waiting for the non existent cross traffic.