By the way, I should preface today’s entry by noting that all the entries posted so far were not written on the dates attached to them. They were scrawled on scraps of paper (fuel receipts, spare pages from my log book) during phase one training, when I had no access to the internet. I now have a laptop and even, now and then, an internet connection, though I can’t count on having the latter every day. So what I’ve been doing is posting as frequently as I can get access, in an attempt to catch up with the present. To give you an idea of how far behind I am, the following was written on the 4th of July.
My current (and last, one hopes) trainer has had a yen to see the Grand Canyon for some time. If ever, he says, he has the right route and enough time on it, he intends to drop his trailer and bobtail out to peek over the edge. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the company would frown on such an excursion.
A regular company driver would certainly be fired. This guy, though, has bought into the deal whereby he pays the company rent on a truck, pays for repairs and fuel and insurance, and in turn gets a higher rate per mile. (The wisdom is, don’t sign up for this unless you’re willing to be married to your truck. Every day not driving costs you money.) Also on the plus side of the ledger is that the truck is ‘yours’ in ways that, for a company driver, it is not. So this theoretical sightseeing expedition would not make the company happy, but they probably wouldn’t actually fire him over it.
Tsotne is from the Republic of Georgia, by the way, has been in America for seven years, and has been driving for three. And will be quitting, possibly to open a pizzeria, as soon as I get off his truck and he can get dispatched back to the yard. So his dream of seeing the Grand Canyon will very probably not be coming true.
But on the 4th of July we are in Moab, Utah. With almost 48 hours to spare on this run. Which is a killer for Tsotne financially but does give him a damned good excuse to have a run at Arches National Park.
And so, after a night in an extraordinarily scenic rest area, I park outside the gate and stay with the truck while he jogs the half-mile in to the gatehouse. He gives me the all clear; yes, they have told him, we can drop our fifty-three foot trailer in the parking lot by the visitors’ center. I trundle in towards the gate, committed now, as there is no possible way to turn around on this side of the gate. We pay our ten bucks, the woman in the ranger uniform giving us a winsome smile for free along with our park guide and map.
Unfortunately, there seems to be, on a first survey, no way to get ourselves either into or out of the aforementioned parking lot without running over all sorts of curbage. Which is not good for the tires. We stop, get out, examine the situation. Tsotne, that clever Georgian, finds the one solution to the Tetris puzzle facing us. It takes some ticklish maneuvering (and fortunately there are but few cars in the lot so early in the morning) but at last we are parked. True, we are taking up eight or ten parking spots and closing off an aisle, but didn’t they tell us we could park there? A park ranger walks by as we uncouple the trailer, pretending not to notice us.
And we’re off. Your intrepid correspondent is driving. Having lived for years in Colorado, I can enjoy the scenery without being completely overwhelmed. Tsotne is a kid in a candy store, snapping pictures madly as we go, having me stop at every pullout to snap more pictures and have me snap some of him, in multiple poses, against multiple dramatic backdrops.
We can’t stay forever, and almost all of the arches are a hike off the road. Tsotne chooses Delicate Arch, as it is fairly close. It is positively delicious to have my feet on good honest dry rock and dirt instead of sticky asphalt, to inhale the heady scent of sage instead of the more usual odor.
There is Delicate Arch in the distance. Tsotne snaps a few shots of it, has me snap three of him. We walk back down the trail (Lord, what a relief to stretch my legs), lumber back down the road.
The parking lot has filled us some in our absence. Fortunately, being clever truckers, we have parked in such a way that we cannot be blocked in by unthinking four-wheelers. As we hook up, some tourists scowl at us. Others, bemused, snap pictures.
On the road again, Tsotne is in a cheerful frame of mind despite our crummy load (too much time for too few miles). He proudly notes that we have very probably been the first semi-truck in history to have braved the winding roads and cramped parking lot of Arches Park. It also feels good to have been a little naughty. “For once,” he says, “we have managed to have our own little day of independence.”