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

What. A. Long. Day.


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.


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.


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.


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)


4 thoughts on “Pine needles in my pants. Just another day as a truck driver.

  1. Hey Rob, thats funny stuff, if it stays green through the winter it must be an evergreen, in reality that candy bush you are carrying is a Arbor Vitae and that is impossible to grow up here in our yard anyway because the deer eat it like it’s candy, cedar are high in protein, if your close to death, you can survive on it, but it tastes like pine needles eat cheese!!! Later

    • You know, I thought so too. I don’t know my trees as well as I’d like. The tags on them said evergreen something… I thought evergreens had the short poiny needles and cedars had the flat ones. These were flat. I was confused. ;)

      • Dendrology (study of trees) was absolutely the best class I ever took in school. Turned a wall of green into new friends.

        Pines generally have needles (fir trees also have needles). Cedars tend to have “flat sprays”, sort of like a juniper. Those definitely look like cedars, although probably some ornamental variety and I only know the native ones.

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