The classic film “The Wizard of Oz” featured several things. Tornadoes. Flying demon monkeys. Mean talking trees. An impractical road made of golden bricks.
Mostly, though, it contained the thought of home.
For generations, home was the place to be. Did people want to visit Spain or see the Eiffel Tower? Sure, but they would also like to sit on the couch, listen to their 400 pound radio and never leave their hometown until one days they inevitably die from a mysterious and unstoppable illness like typhoid fever or dysentery. People died a lot easier back then.
Much like everything else, this began to change in the 1960′s. Published in 1957, “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac did just the opposite of a Judy Garland movie. Inspired by him, thousands spent the decade traveling, romanticizing the life of motels and crappy restaurant food.
If they had ever driven a Penske truck, that romanticism would have taken a quick swan dive.
As long as I can remember, I have been one of those people who loves the thought of travel. Going to different places, experiencing new things has an undeniable appeal. Even after loading approximately 500 metric tons of stuff onto a truck, I still felt a bit off excitement about the trip.
I hopped into the truck’s cab, the “Smoky and the Bandit” theme stuck in my head. I was ready for adventure, ready to experience the open road.
That lasted an entire half hour.
Driving cross country is not ideal for those of us without attention spans. I quickly found my mind drifting. I pondered the history of street lines. I assume the first person to suggest yellow met some resistance. They probably found it too garish. My vote would have gone to taupe, but I guess that’s why I’m not in the street designing business.
I finally settled into a groove around hour two. I really felt like a truck driver. I wished for a CB radio just so I could tell the other drivers that “Mother Goose has left the outhouse.” I do not know what that means, but truck drivers are always saying crazy things like that.
The rest of the trip is a blur of giant drinks, giant restroom trips, and trying to figure out why a Penske truck would not come equipped with a cruise control. It is a very standard feature in modern vehicles. My 1992 Explorer does not have much, but it definitely has that. Get with the program, Penske!
After hundreds of miles and enough podcasts to make me despise Marc Maron, I arrived at my destination. I pulled up to a stoplight and there next to me was another truck driver. A professional.
I looked at him. He glanced back. I might have been imagining it, but I saw a slight nod, an approving glance. A nod telling me, ” Hey, man. You’re in the club. Let’s go buy some cheap hats at that truck stop down the road.”
More likely, his head was stationary and mine was moving. I had a lot of caffeine and there is a fair chance I was so jittery I looked like I was mid-seizure. With just the right amount of jittering, everyone looks like they are nodding.
That’s a lesson Kerouac should have focused on.