That one rough day


I’ve seen online videos of truckers ripping the tops off of their trailer in a big curl like the top of a sardine can because they drove underneath a bridge that was too low. It put a fear in me. I never, ever want that to happen to me!

Even though we trip-planned for a total of six hours, going over routes, zooming in on Google maps, checking for restricted routes and low clearances – we still encountered a low bridge. What if I’d have looked down at my speed for that second I noticed the clearance sign? Or sneezed? Or anything? It was posted right on the bridge, so there wasn’t much time to think. Now what?

This was the scariest part of our bad day, but several other things happened that added up to a cluster of stress that broke us both at some point during the day. Looking back, it doesn’t seem like it was too big of a deal, and of course things could always be worse, but at the time it was just too much. So many things went wrong throughout the day that they just piled up, and honestly, I can’t even remember them all.

We had four drops (deliveries) and three picks over two days. That’s a lot of stops for us over-the-road team drivers! The appointment times were tight, but we were told that if we showed up early, they’d take us early, and we could run ahead of schedule. Our last drop was set for 2:00pm, but our first pick was also set for 2:00pm. They were in the same time zone and an hour and a half drive apart. There was just no doubt from the other side that we’d be ahead enough to make them. If everything had gone more than perfect, meaning we did get ahead, it might’ve been a better day. Instead it just didn’t work out that way.

Our first drop: We showed up two hours early and after waiting an hour and a half we got unloaded. We were a half hour ahead. Well, it wasn’t quite what we hoped for, but it was still better than being behind!

We avoided a major traffic backup on our way to the second drop and cheered that it was going to be our lucky day. Wrong.

Our second drop: We showed up at 8:30am for a 9:00am appointment that one guy said he thought was for 10, and the other thought was 11. Oy. We got a door, backed in and sat until we felt them first enter our trailer at 10am. Now we were more than an hour behind and our other appointment times had to be changed, but we still had to race the clock and get there before they left for the day.

Our third drop: The route took us down a narrow, residential street. The kind with no painted lines, and cracked pavement that slopes off into soft gravel shoulders. Our customer was a carwash that we were delivering some parts to. Pulled up, got unloaded, backed into a street behind us, and took the turn out as wide as we could until we saw that the trailer tires weren’t going to clear the decorative field rocks lined along the corner. I ended up pulling forward into a guy’s lawn (with him directing us to keep going once we hit the grass), and while inching past a tree, we were finally able to head out to our last drop.

Our fourth drop: Oh, Pennsylvania Hwy 40. We checked the atlas. No low clearances or restricted routes. Turned off the highway and were moving right along, anxious to finish up our last drop, all the while checking minutes tick by. They were apparently only open until 3:00 and it was almost 3. Our GPS said we were 2/10 mile from our turn when I looked up and saw the yellow diamond-shaped sign posted on a railroad bridge: 13′ 4″. We are 13′ 6″. There was traffic behind me and the lanes were dropping from two down to one. My only option was to stop. In the middle of the road. I wasn’t going to clear it! Now what?

I activated our 4-ways and we scoped an abandoned parking lot to our left as we just sat there stopped in the main traffic lane. Was it big enough to turn around in? Could I make the turn? I flipped on my left turn signal and waited for a break in oncoming traffic. It was busy. I finally began my turn, taking it as wide as I could to avoid hopping the curb as much as possible. My turn brought me face to face with a fire hydrant. Too short! I had to stop and back up as traffic piled up in front of us and behind us. I stayed calm and watched the other drivers as I took my good ol’ time maneuvering as safely as I could into that old parking lot. Thankfully the cars around us were being patient and not rushing me with their horns and middle fingers!

I pulled in, set my brakes, and took a deep breath as I rested my forehead on the steering wheel.

We quickly figured out an alternate route, but as it turned out, it wasn’t all that much better. We navigated a tight, unorganized residential area with old men sitting on their porches watching us crawl by at 5 mph as both Adam and I plastered our faces against the windshield, watching the low power lines slowly miss the top of our truck by probably inches. We took tight turns around and up steep, short hills until we finally arrived at our destination. A sign told us trucks weren’t allowed where we came from. News to us, but I totally get it! I did not feel like we belonged on those roads!


A bad sign for a trucker - so many low powerlines!

After all the scary maneuvering to get there, this warehouse we were at had nobody around. We walked around looking through dirt-fogged, broken windows, knocked on locked doors, and admired the open docks that grew viney weeds inside and out. It looked completely abandoned! I thought for certain we had the wrong address. We eventually got in touch with the customer and they were going to come out to meet us. It was the correct place. Even getting backed into the weedy docks was a challenge. I could explain how that all went, but then this already super-long entry would be twice as long. That was another adventure for the day in itself.


A very abandoned-looking warehouse.

Adam got directions from a local to get us out of there without having to go back from the way we came, and with one more crazy turn, we were finally on our way out of there. Sigh… only three more stops.

I finally broke when we stopped to switch and I was able to let my guard down. I held myself together pretty well, only joining Adam on a few raised-voice tirades about bad directions and stupid maps and how Pennsylvania hated us. Even though I wanted to shut down and cry a few times, I breathed deeply and did what I needed to do to get done what needed to be done. But at the rest area while Adam was outside looking over the truck, I pulled our e-log screen towards me to change my status to off-duty, and the whole damn thing came unmounted from the dash and crashed onto the floor. I lost it. I busted into a fit of giant tears, hyperventilating as Adam crawled up into the truck and immediately put his arms around me. He understood. He just said, “I really need this hug, too.”


New location for our elog. The floor.

Yup, rough day.

Did I mention that this trip started with an animal encounter of the “cracked our fender” variety? Yup. We should’ve been more mentally prepared for a bad luck streak right then! Adam was heading through Milwaukee in the pitch dark of early morning, in four lanes of traffic with cement highway dividers, when a small deer jumped up, over and directly into the side of the truck. We didn’t even feel it, but at the next stop we noticed a hole in our fender. Thankfully it was just cosmetic damage and nothing functional like a light, but it was still something we had to report and deal with.


Fender damage from a suicidal critter.

That night we slept at our shipper, lined up along a muddy, narrow road with milk trucks passing by every few minutes. It was a busy place at 10pm! I even had to don my safety vest and stand out in the road so we could back up enough to get us parked for the night. I didn’t care. We were glad to be done for the day. And we weren’t moving.


How I felt at the end of the day.

The next day started with pouring rain and lots of mud, but nothing horrible happened for which I was entirely thankful. Our third and last pick had us waiting for 10 hours. Ten. We slept, watched a movie, I went for a walk, watched a few minutes of a boring baseball game over the hill, and just waited.


Taking advantage of the unique opportunity to sit under the sun, in the grass and watch a few minutes of some random baseball game next to the shipper.

Finally we made it home a day later than what we hoped for, but we were on our way to a four-day weekend, and at that point we were already putting it all behind us.

It was rough, emotional, tiring and trying, but I do appreciate a good challenge, so I’ll take that from it. I’m sure I learned a lot, too. One good part of all this is Adam and I stuck together as a team and handled it the best I think we could. After all of that, I’m convinced we make a pretty good team.

Tonight I love runs out west. That’s where we’re headed today. Yay!


Before the bad day, Adam and I enjoyed a stop along the mountain-y Hwy. 20 heading out of Idaho and into Montana - just west of Yellowstone.

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)


4 thoughts on “That one rough day

  1. Picked up your blog from last year’s PCT walk and stayed on for the writing! Just wanted to say, thanks for blogging! I enjoy reading along. And to echo Beth’s comment – yes, I now see semis in a new light thanks to having looked at the inside through your writing. Keep truckin’! ( Heh heh, sure you’ve never heard that one, right. )

  2. Yup, that sounds like truck driving alright. I think your bad days will make you appreciate the good days more. A truly bad day is one that you can’t use the phrase “It could have been worse” afterward. Don’t worry though, after a bunch more bad days it’ll be easier to see that traffic pile up around you without worrying at all. I’ve had so many bad days in the last 13 years of otr that I mostly just expect it now. That way when nothing bad happens it is automatically a good day. ;) Happy trails!

  3. I look forward to your post and always read right away.! I must say I am more conscious and courteous when driving near a semi and it’s directly from what you have shared on this blog. Roll on the miles and if you are ever in Bellingham Washington would love to connect!!! You two are awesome

  4. Wow. That’s so great that you and Adam can help each other through such rough times. Way better than being alone or with some random co-worker.

    I don’t know how far west you might get, but I can hear the ocean from my house at night when the traffic dies down. If you ever come to Humboldt County California, please let me know.

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