Pine needles in my pants. Just another day as a truck driver.

What. A. Long. Day.

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Getting loaded.

It actually started yesterday. We stopped at our shipper – a plant nursery kind of place in Oregon. It was beautiful day to wait for a 4-hour load, with a scenic view of green rolling hills and rows and rows of hundreds of different plants, shrubs, flowers and trees. The outside air smelled sweet, the office let us use their clean bathrooms, fill up our water jugs under their filtered water cooler and pet their resident office cat.

The guys loading us built racks and loaded our reefer trailer with around 38,000 pounds of living, wonderful plants. What a cool load to haul (literally! 45°. I’m hilarious.)!

There was this note on our paperwork that read, “driver must tailgate product.” We knew that meant we’d probably be unloading or helping unload… or something. We didn’t really know what we got ourselves into. Yet.

We had a day off waiting for this load, so our sleep schedules were a little off. Adam started driving while I tried to sleep with only a little success. I took over around 3am and he slept for only a few hours before getting up to help me navigate to our four destinations – all Home Depots. All of them were tucked into really tight little spaces where it just doesn’t seem like trucks should go. There were low trees, parking lots full of cars and pedestrians, weirdly-placed curbs and sharp turns.

Since we were delivering to the garden centers, I didn’t have to back into any docks. Honestly, I’d have taken dock-backing over what we ended up doing, which essentially involved Adam and I unloading the entire 38,000 pounds of plants. A lot of those pounds were single-potted evergreen shrubs that we had to carry one-by-one and place onto pallets. I don’t even know how many plants we carried to pallets. Hundreds.

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Collecting pine needles in my pants and pockets.

I’m not going to complain much, though. I enjoy good, hard work, we had fun doing it together and we figured out a pretty good system, leaving us feeling proud of what we accomplished. The only bummer was that we were both working on little sleep making us slap-happy for a while, which was fun, but it still really made for a looooong day.

We made our four stops and unloaded lots and lots of those little trees and plants. It was still my shift, so I drove in between deliveries. Everything went really well. I was squeezing our rig in and out of the maze of parking lots and the backsides of department stores. Traffic was everywhere, and I did okay with it until we reached the Boise area – our last stop. I was tired. Not falling-asleep-at-the-wheel tired, but just worn-out tired.

This led to me nearly bawling my eyeballs out of my head for the first time driving the truck. My fatigue and a one-second scary situation where I nearly merged into a pickup truck that was in my blind spot caught me just wrong. My eyes filled up heavy with tears. It scared me. I should’ve known that truck was there! I need to be aware of what’s around me – always! How did I miss this!? I was thanking God nothing happened, but also beating myself up about it. Before I let the waterworks explode out of my face I took some deep breaths, only letting a couple of tears fall. I had to keep my $#!* together and stay calm. The traffic wasn’t going to disappear behind my tears and I needed to stay alert. Thankfully once we arrived at our last drop my shift was done and Adam drove from there. I was just mentally done.

We made it through the day incident-free, and that means success. We even had a turn signal light go out on our truck at our first drop, which required changing an appointment time to later (so we could stop to get the light repaired), but then the turn signal magically started working again. It ended up working out because as it turned out, we needed that extra time to unload the trailer. Each drop took a couple of hours.

Our fun little system – A guy with a forklift would lift a pallet jack up onto the trailer, Adam would wedge the forks under the racks and place it on the edge of the trailer where the forklift dude would lift it off and take it away. Then forklift dude would place a pile of pallets on the trailer, we’d wedge the pallet jack under them one by one, load it up with plants (usually about 12 each), then wheel them to the edge of the trailer where forklift dude would again lift them down and take them away somewhere. Repeat. A lot.

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A rack of plants and a wall of single potted evergreens inside the trailer.

It was an experience, it was kind of tough work, and I did end up with my pants, bra and pockets full of pine needles from all the 4-foot tall evergreen trees I hug-carried, but we did it. Every load from now on just might seem easy after today!

Now… we clean out this super-dirty trailer full of dirt and plant bits, a few slugs and spiders, then fuel up, shower, get some solid sleep and get back at it tomorrow. Hopefully with an easier load!

Whew. What a day!

Tonight I love the smell of fresh, cute baby pines.

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Turns out I'm not too terrible at using a palette jack. Keep me away from those fork lifts though!

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)

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Portland

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I-84 West heading into Portland. I LOVED this drive. Complete with rainbows and a view of Mt. Hood!

When we were told our next load was going to bring us to Portland, Adam and I both smiled and cheered. “All right!”

Being a holiday weekend, we had to deliver on Tuesday instead of Monday, so we hauled some butt to get there a little early… for a really awesomely fun reason. We had PCT hiker friends in Portland!

Adam sent out a message to a group of hikers and friends that we could remember off the tops of our heads that lived in Portland. I know we missed some of you, and you must let me know so I can let you know next time we’re in town!

We were really excited to hear almost everyone could make it out to see us! We found a truck stop on the edge of town that had a restaurant next door, and we coordinated a meet up. What fun!

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Aloha, Mr. Green, Toots Magoots, Fun Size, Hunny Bunny, Hedgehog, Bramble, and Tanner behind the camera.

We brought everyone out to the back of the truck stop where rows of big rigs where parked and gave them a grand tour of our truck, neatly tucked in with all the others. Then we went to the restaurant, ate food, talked trail memories and caught up on a few “whatchya been up to’s” and discussed our next big adventures we hope and dream to make. More PCT thru hikes, hiking unfinshed PCT miles, the CDT, the Te Aurora, a 50-mile run in the mountains, a marathon in Paris, Macchu Picchu, trail angeling… These are my people!

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Field trip-style truck tour!

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You could fit A LOT of hikers in a big rig! Next Pickle Jar for trail angeling should be a truck like this! Imagine the rides to town!

After dinner we jumped in a couple of cars and head to a nearby theater to watch a movie. We saw X-Men in 3D. We ate copious amounts of delicious popcorn and I gulped down a ginormous Sprite. My favorite thing ever was right after the movie when Fun Size leaned over and said, “well, guys… I’m gonna do a quick resupply and hit the trail right away… get in a few night hiking miles.”

For a second – just a teeny, tiny moment I fell back to trail life. I was convinced for just that sliver of a moment that yeah… we were all just going to hit the trail after we left that theater. Then I laughed while silently pouting inside. It was good, though. It was an overwhelming comfortable feeling, and I thank you, Fun Size, for that awesome moment. You make me smile.

Saying good bye was sad as always, but my hopes are that we’ll meet up like this again soon. Portlandians – please message me if we missed you! I’m going to start a list!

Later in the evening, Kris and her girls Missa and Erica came out to see us, too. Hedgehog stuck around, so the six of us hung out at the restaurant and drank… get this… pie freakin’ milkshakes! You pick your pie and they mix it into a milkshake! Oh heavenly deliciousness! I had peanut butter, there was a strawberry rhubarb, a peach and a smores. Yum! It was really nice to see Kris and the girls – they were following my blog last year and met me on the trail for some epic personal trail magic. They brought treats, soda, Kris gave me a foot massage, and they hiked with me for quite a nice stretch. It was another cool reunion.

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Erica, Missa, Kris and me

A big, huge thanks to everyone for coming out to meet us! You made that the best day of work ever!


Tonight I love clean fingernails. I know it’s totally unrelated to my post, but hey… I have no rules for my “tonight I love.” Anything goes! So really, getting the dirt out from under my fingernails… it feels so nice! I loves it.

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Also at the Portland truck stop: in-cab movie time. We saw "Smokey and the Bandit II."

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Pinball!

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A crazy pretty flowering tree at the truck stop. There's joy everywhere when ya' look.

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)

A pretty day on the road

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A vibrant morning in North Dakota.

I drove 640 miles today, using nearly all of my 11 driving hours. That’s a record for me! I feel kind of macho. Just kind of. :) I took a half hour nap around 6am, a short potty break around 10 and another half hour somewhere around 1:30pm. Now Adam’s driving and I’m sitting back in the passenger seat enjoying the Montana countryside and snow-speckled mountains off on the horizon. It is an absolutely beautiful day.

I was so tired during my first break that I just slept, but on my second break I found a little hiking trail up the hill behind the restrooms at the rest area. I hiked up and inhaled the sweet aroma of mountain pines and sage. I just love that combination! There were also flowers to enjoy, and even a small cactus! There were signs warning me to watch for rattlers, but unfortunately I didn’t get to see any today.

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Flowers!

When we stopped to switch shifts I found a great set of stairs to run up and down a few times, and took a fun mirror photo of me and Adam with the blue sky dominating the background.

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A fun mirror photo.

Now I’m relaxing, preparing my mind for sleep, watching amazing Montana fly by outside the passenger window. I keep staring off into those mountains wishing I was up there – sweating and freezing at the same time – crunching my feet through the bits of snow that’s left, scooping water from fresh, cold, snowmelt streams while looking for a flat spot to camp for the night. Ahhh, the hiking bug is not temporary in me. It completely permeates my entire being and keeps me dreaming and scheming all the time.

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Montana! You're being too pretty! I can't take it much longer!

But really… this is a pretty sweet deal I have at this present moment, too. I’ve got Adam next to me, we’re both in a super-good mood, sharing these experiences together, and again… it’s a warm, perfectly pretty day!


Tonight I love the blue sky. It’s such a happy-maker.

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A new sticker for our truck!

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My and Adam's first truck stop meal as a team - popovers at a Norwegian restaurant in Menomonie, WI. Yum!

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Happy day on the road. I LOVE this job!

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)

A low tire leads to my first creeper

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I enjoy my morning shift. Sunrises!

My day started around 3am. We were at a rest area. A very full rest area. Every truck parking spot was taken and there were more trucks parked on the ramps and along every curb in the lot. Adam was just finishing up his shift, so he meticulously weaved the trailer between several other parked rigs, dropped me off so I could run into the restroom, pee and brush my teeth as fast as I could. This was a unique rest area where he was able to make a loop and come back around – compared to most where it’s just an on-ramp/off-ramp kinda’ deal.

When I got out, he was parked near the exit, side-by-side with a Werner truck. I grabbed my gloves, opened the hood and began my pre-trip inspection by the light of my Maglite.

As I walked around the truck, I thumped the tires with our hammer. I’ve always heard the normal “thump!” and the hammer has always bounced back with a nice, tight bounce… until this time. I thumped one of the passenger-side trailer tires and the hammer didn’t bounce and reverberated a low “thud.”

The reason we thump the tires, or kick them as some truckers with steel toe boots or iron feet sometimes do, is to check for low air pressure. On our cars it’s easy to tell – there’s one tire, so if it’s flat you see it. Since trucks have dual tires, the other tires hold up the one that’s low so it’s pretty hard to tell. That is, until you smack it with a hammer.

We had a low tire. Crap. We couldn’t hear any leaks amongst all the idling trucks and buzzing reefer units, so I finished the rest of my pretrip and we head out to the very next truck stop just down the road.

This is when I observed the weirdo. Surprisingly it was at the truck stop – not the rest area.

I pulled around the maintenance shop, and handing the shop attendant my driver’s license as collateral, he handed me an air hose to hook up to their machine outside.

I hooked it up, walked around the truck to the low tire… and there stood this guy.

Pants pulled up high over his belly, he stood under the eery glow of the empty row of fuel pumps – just two pumps away from where I was parked. I ignored him and continued my tire project. Adam was inside using the restroom. I silently hoped he was gonna’ be quick about it.

I squatted down to remove the cap on the tire valve and looking over my shoulder I noticed the weird dude had walked a little closer and stopped just on the other side of the nearest fuel pump. At first I thought he was going to ask if I needed help, but he just stood there. And stared. While adjusting his pants button… buckle… something.

Um… what was he doing? I really wasn’t sure, but I worried this could get very awkward very fast. I gave him a dead-serious glare, all the while ready to sternly tell him, “I have a tire thumper and I’m not afraid to use it, buddy…” and just then I noticed behind him was Adam! Oh thank God. The creeper saw Adam walking towards me, turned around and walked back to the row of sleeping semis behind us with his hands in his pockets. He never said a word.

I can’t really say for sure he was going to do anything weird, but I wasn’t taking any chances – I was on the defense. It was still dark in the early morning, there really wasn’t anyone around where I was, and I wasn’t getting any friendly vibes from the guy.

Anyway, with that situation resolved (thank you, husband, for being big, unintentionally and appropriately intimidating!), we aired up the tire from 30 psi to 70 psi and Adam heard the leak. There was a small hole right in the middle of the tire tread.

We were able to pull it into the shop right away (no wait at 4am!), and after a text to our maintenance guy back home, and a phone call to our night dispatch, we were set up to get a retread on our tire. It didn’t take long and we were back on the road.

What an eventful morning!

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The latest and greatest multi tool. And a not-as-scary-as-I-wished angry face.


Tonight I love our 3-1/2 pound tire-thumping sledge hammer. It’s my newest best friend.

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)

Home is wherever we are

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Home.

On our last break from work we head to Phillips to attend the funeral of Adam’s grandma Grapa. Funerals are always hard, but it was nice to see a lot of the cousins and family on his side that we don’t see very often, and I even got to meet some I haven’t before. That was pretty cool. It was a nice service, and it was good to be home for a couple of days.

I titled this entry “Home is wherever we are” because that’s how we’re currently living. We are no longer staying with friends, although they’ve all extended offers to let us crash now and again – we really do have wonderfully supportive and gracious friends! When we’re there, we’re home. When we’re driving the truck, we’re home. When we’re visiting family, home. You get the idea.

We had an extra day before heading to Phillips for the funeral. We decided to try out another “home” that we’ll be taking advantage of a lot this summer: a campground.

We collected our tent, sleeping bags and camping odds and ends from storage over the past couple of weeks and organized them into the ol’ Pickle Jar. This past Tuesday night we bought a bundle of firewood and a site at High Cliff State Park. This home was fantastic.

It was a Tuesday night, so it was sooo quiet. Adam went for a hike while I went for a run, then we met up and head back to the campsite. We had a fire, complete with roasted sausages, beers and perfectly carmelized, gooey marshmallows. We even got in a game of cribbage. I lost, but it was close.

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A relaxed run on the park's trails. This felt SO good!

I wonder where else we’ll find “home” over the next few years? I wonder if we’ll end up getting a cheap apartment? Or maybe a small camper? Who knows… so many possibilities lie ahead, and we really don’t mind where we go or end up. We’re out doing it all together, and it’s pretty fun so far!


Tonight I love the lingering scent of campfire. 

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Trilliums are out! Spring is here!

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Love love love.

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Remnants of a squirrel dinner.

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There was a robin that was constantly trying to fight itself in our car side mirror. Thanks, buddy. Jeez!

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Oh my gosh. Perfection.

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Spring is my favorite season, and green is my favorite color. This makes me feel happy.

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Spring limey green fabulousness.

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)

Wind gusts and a tippy truck

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Waiting out the storm under an overpass.

I drove the big truck through a pretty bad storm today. Worst one for me so far! Of course, I don’t have much experience yet, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t just being overly paranoid. Other trucks were driving slow with their 4-ways, too. Other trucks were parking under overpasses and being just as cautious.

It was about 3:00am and I was in Nebraska. It had been raining pretty hard for the past hour already, and the lightning show was impressive, consistent, and actually pretty cool. Then it started raining so hard I had to slow down a little, and I was really starting to notice the water building up on the road. Hydroplaning had already been on my mind, but even more so now. My leg was already feeling the fatigue from not using the cruise all morning when the rain came down even harder. I had to downshift and activate my 4-ways, and I was now travelling 40mph in a 75mph speed zone, but I was still relaxed – no white-knuckling… at least not yet.

I was about 40 miles west of Lincoln when I drove through a couple short bouts of hail. I flipped the radio to the weather band. It was broken up, but I was able to make out “severe thunderstorm warning.” Well, duh! I turned the radio on a local channel in case any new warnings were to come up. That was coming in better than the weather band channels, anyway, which eventually all turned to solid static.

Then these wind gusts started to blow across the road. I felt the truck shift, and I could actually start to see the gusts carrying patches of rain across the road. Then the truck would sway. Then again. I tried to remember what they said at school – was it at 62mph gusts that you need to get off the road and try parking into the wind? 60? I didn’t know what these gusts’ speeds were, anyway, and without taking a hand off the wheel and my eyes off the road to check my phone, I wasn’t going to find out as soon as I wanted, or needed to. From how I was rocking, I was pretty sure getting off the road was probably going to be a good idea. Soon.

I slowed down even more and hollered to wake up Adam. I tried twice, but I could hardly hear myself over the pouring rain and wind. The third time I literally screamed, and he got up. He got on his phone to find out that there were potential damaging winds up to 60mph in the area. We started to feel it even more. The truck was actually feeling tippy with each gust – like at any moment the driver’s-side tires might inch up off the road. Okay… NOW I was gripping that steering wheel as if I could hold the truck down the harder I grasped it.

We started scoping out off ramps, underpasses and the one rest area too far up the road. The first two overpasses we went under were already occupied by other truckers, 4-ways barely flashing their way through the rain. Then I saw the faint line of another underpass coming up. I turned on my turn signal and made my way over to the side of the road, but I pulled up a little too far and could still feel the wind pushing us back and forth as the gusts came over the road. I waited until there was no traffic behind me and backed up about half the length of our rig. Ahhh, still windy, but MUCH calmer. Brakes set. Not moving.

We sat under that overpass for maybe 10 minutes with a FedEx double behind us and a couple of cars on the other side. Even cars were getting out of the wind! It started to die down just a little bit, and I head out to that rest area up the road. I was able to decompress a little and let the color come back into my knuckles.

Then just like that, the winds died down, the downpour turned to a drizzle and it brightened up a little.

Whoooo! What a freaky ride, man! Times like this I am SO thankful to have Adam here with me. We both know neither of us ever have to worry about waking the other up if we need them. I’m glad he was up with me through the worst of that storm…

…and glad I made it to the rest area – for more reasons than one! 


Tonight I love lightning. I know it can be damaging, but it sure is pretty on the horizon when it’s still dark out!

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)

Takin care of business

Our weekend was chock full of to-do list items and we got almost all of it done. We drove to Phillips and swapped out the Jeep for the Vue (Pickle Jar), unloaded some storage items at my folks’ place, visited family, enjoyed bloody marys and a bonfire, did laundry, saw a movie at the theater, attempted to pick up my TWIC card for work, got the Pickle Jar cleaned and its oil changed, Mother’s Day gifts taken care of, grocery shopping, a wonderful “thank you” dinner with Ken, Pam and Crayton for letting us stay with them while we worked our way into this new lifestyle (seriously, you guys rock),  benefits paperwork signed and turned in, mail picked up and gone through, license registration done, and a few odds and ends I’m sure I’m forgetting.

Once we started work, it was Adam’s shift, so he got our load picked up and the trailer all ready to roll. After getting so much done, we finally hit the road in the truck and we both sighed. We were glad to get everything done, but after all that hustle and bustle, driving for work felt easy going. And hopefully our next day off will be a little less busy!

Right now it’s 6pm and my bed time (wow… we just passed a time zone. Now it’s 5pm. So confusing!). Adam and I are trying to get on our schedule that we planned, but we started a little off because of the weird weekend sleep we got. We’re catching up quick, though. I got in about 460 miles today, starting just before sunrise. I drove through Iowa and into Nebraska where the weather turned warm… well, hot, actually! My window arm even got a little pink from the sun! At our shift switch a couple hours ago, we swung into a Pilot, took showers and changed into shorts. I ate healthy and light today, got in a quick little 10-minute workout, and purchased a lumbar support that seems to be helping my back a lot. It’s been a good, productive day.

Adam’s driving now, and I’m tucked in, relaxed by the forward, bumpy movement of my bed. I’m being lulled to sleep by the only consistent sound around me, which is the soft hum of the tires on the pavement below me. The curtain between the cab and bunk keeps out almost all the daylight, and I’ve got my own little temperature control back here set to keep me nice and cool.

I plan to get up around midnight, eat some breakfast, do some exercises, brush my teeth, pre-trip the truck and be driving by 2am. If we can both drive pretty steadily tomorrow, we may have a little window of down time before our appointment!

It’s just another day of life on the road!


Tonight I love that I don’t get car sick. Can you imagine!?

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)