The TA truck stop in Troutdale, Oregon. I’ve been there a couple of times, now. One thing you don’t want to do is turn left when exiting the parking lot. It’s a one-way street with three lanes going to the right.
Guess what I did yesterday morning? Yup. Exactly that. I went the wrong way… on a one-way street… in a freakin’ hard-to-maneuver gigantic semi truck. This is not a good situation from many angles. Oh, the emotions that flowed through me as I worked my way out of this pickle I got myself into!
First, upon realizing my mistake when I noticed the white arrow painted on the road pointing at me, I got this weird knot in the deepest part of my belly. It was an undefined, not-yet-processed fear. “Oh, sshhhhooot.” I whispered to myself. I pulled to the side of the road and turned on my fourways as I immediately went into “what the hell do I do now” mode.
My second emotion kicked in, and to my surprise it was a simple calm. Everything slowed down. I woke Adam as I inspected the intersection in front of me thinking I may need him to spot traffic for me as I back up to get turned around. I felt like I took ten minutes looking around and thinking of options. Can I make a u-turn here? Do I need to call for a police escort? Can I just back up?
The third emotion was humor, thanks to the sweet beardy-faced guy in the white mini van. He turned onto the road towards me (going the correct way) and stopped next to my truck. With his window rolled down, he looked up at me and said in a very calm voice, “Hey sweety? You’re goin’ the wrong way.” I smiled at him, snickered uncomfortably and replied, “yeeaaahh. I know. Thanks.”
Before my fourth emotion took over, I spotted my solution – an old, pot-holey gravel parking lot across the road. As I made my way to my left, making a turn towards the parking lot, Adam came up front and sat down. That’s when the short burst of anger kicked in – I think because I had someone to release it to.
I scrunched my eyebrows hard and gripped the steering wheel as if I were trying to squeeze out whatever was inside of it. “Why am I so f#*$in’ stupid!?” I exclaimed as I rounded the corner and somehow calmly continued to fix my error.
As I slowly cranked the truck around in the gravel, the anger quickly subsided and I suddenly found myself trying to hold back a few tears – and failing at it. Any strong emotion will usually make me cry, and they all came to a head now that I was in a safe position with the truck. I was embarrassed, scared, angry and ashamed. I was also okay. Safe.
In school and in all my training, complacency has been brought up several times in discussions. Once you start getting comfortable in the truck, and you gain a little confidence, you make some mistakes that you never thought you’d make. You become complacent. Is this where I was? It must be. Time to take a few steps back and check myself because mistakes like this one… I will not accept from myself.
I was lucky. It was about 4:30am, so there was hardly any traffic. However, if there had been traffic, I wouldn’t have turned into it, so maybe that’s not lucky. Either way, I felt lucky to have the time and space to safely fix my mistake. I could’ve gotten a citation for this, or worse yet, I could’ve caused an accident. Neither of those things happened. Besides mental bruising from beating myself up about it, the truck and I came out unscathed. Thank God.
I’m still very new at this whole truckin’ thing, and I’m making some mistakes. Big ones and small ones. I’m learning from them and allowing myself to swallow pride and take a few steps back when I need to. I don’t need to act like a pro. I’m not a pro. It’s okay if I never am a pro. I just need to be safe and keep learning from these experiences, as sucky as they can be.
After I had my truck pointed in the proper direction I took a few deep sighs. “I gotta’ put this behind me and move on with my day.” I said it out loud. This is another thing I learned in school – you can’t stay hung up on that snowbank all day or you’ll never get anywhere. Learn and move on. I still had four deliveries to make and I needed to stay clear and calm.
I let myself comfortably slip back to the basics after that blunder – two hands on the wheel at 10 and 2, slow down to a crawl through intersections and make six attentive traffic checks at each one. Mirrors. Signs. Think. Slow everything down.
Three deliveries went smooth, and the last one brought me to downtown Portland, navigating a sleeper cab and 53′ trailer down streets and around corners where I just didn’t feel like I belonged. I got my big truck shimmied alongside the curb, facing the wrong direction, and taking up almost the entire side of the road. Big truck… small spaces… traffic, bikers, walkers, shiny black Beamers parked inches from me.
Just another ding-free, white knuckled experience to add to my day! On the way out of Portland I slowly approached a tunnel that looked too low (but thankfully wasn’t) and navigated through traffic that had me holding my breath and clenching my teeth.
Oh, and the day started with discovering locked gates at our receiver where we planned to park overnight, a reroute to a truck stop, a faulty turn signal, a visit to the maintenance shop, and actually getting a parking spot at 3:00 in the morning! That was all before my wrong-way turn and crazy Portland deliveries. Not many dull moments with this job, that’s for sure!
Our pick up wasn’t until the next morning, so we ended that day in a most incredible way. First, a truck wash. It felt good to get the fuzzy layer of insect carcasses off of the truck. Then… a few of our PCT friends came to hang out! What a fun night. We got to see Fruit Basket, Treekiller, Lighthouse and Fun Size. We did truck tours, had dinner, watched a movie, had drinks (sodey pop for me), ate dessert, and endured some gut-busting laughs. (I love you guys!)
I don’t really see it as being a bad day, just a busy one with a giant “oopsy.” And it was all made better being topped off in such a good way with some great people. In the end, I wouldn’t change a thing.
One thing is for sure – I will NEVER turn left out of the Troutdale TA again. EVER.
Tonight I love being a truck driver. Even when it’s tough.
Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!