Walk

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Winter magic: White snow, still, sunshine, gray sky.

What is this strange sensation I feel inside of me as my legs move so rhythmically? It’s like a small flame that just lit up from a dull ember. Like a match that had just gone out but strangely reignited and lit up again. It’s small, and it’s weak, but it’s warm and it’s glowing. It warms me from the inside out and reminds me of when that flame was a bonfire out of control, not that long ago. It’s still there – that little flame. If I can just keep it going. I will because I must. Step after step just to move in no particular direction and to no particular destination. Just to go. Forward, onward, to anywhere. You know what I really love?

To walk.

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Winter tree. The things you'll see. How happy you can be.


Tonight I love…
to walk. A lot. On and on. Forever.

Time to think and quiet the mind

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A quiet, soft-pastel morning in Iowa.

I’ve self-diagnosed myself with a violent case of wanderlust. I know. Big surprise, right? Truck driving is keeping me comfortable, but it feels as though I’m often times teetering on the edge of running away into the mountains that I’m driving past and disappearing. But I won’t. I’m not that nuts, and don’t think I’ll ever get that bad. But those kinds of thoughts fuel my daydreams as I drive along for hours on end. I might have to put these “daydreams” to use somehow, though – maybe a fictional short story or something. I’m getting the bug to write something of substance, so maybe…

So after a rough week I’m figuring this thing out, and I feel a ton better. And since I’m feeling better, my mind has been a little clearer and quieter. Having a quieter mind and lots of time to think was good for me this week. I came to a sort of conclusion about my recent mini-bout of depression. I think it was the result of a series of thoughts that collided with particular timing.

I started thinking back when I worked at the office. I worked Monday through Friday, 8-5. I had weekends off, a gym membership that I used regularly, Friday happy hour with my girlfriends was a regular occurance, I was usually training for some sort of race and running a lot, I had quite a bit of paid vacation time, weekend backpacking trips with my Meetup group colored my calendar, and I almost always had a bigger trip in some stage of planning.

So why trucking? Right? Let me tell you right away, I’d do it the same way if I could do it over. I’ll say it again – I loved that office job, I loved that company, and I especially loved the people I worked with. It was hard to leave. But I needed a change, and mostly, I needed adventure. Adam and I came up with a fun plan, and we’ve stuck to it, and I’m really proud of us both for doing that. I’m glad, too, because here’s the thing – I really do love this job!

With that being said, I think I’m creeping towards the end of the “honeymoon stage” of this new and exciting career. That certainly doesn’t mean it’s boring, that I don’t like it, or that it’s any less exciting (it is winter after all, so there’s plenty of excitement!) – it just means I’m getting settled into this new way of life. This settling gives me time to compare it to my previous work life, and I think that’s where I took a wrong turn. Talk about comparing apples and oranges!

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Truck shadow, morning glow.

It’s about transition. I’ve done a whole helluva lot of transitioning (and not little stuff) in the last year and a half and I am entirely grateful and happy beyond comprehension about the experiences I’ve had. Some of that transitioning surrounded a thru-hike of the PCT for goodness sake!

So I feel better now, remembering (and knowing) that I love what I’m doing and that this adventure is exciting, too. There’s a purpose for it all, and while it’s okay to miss things from my past, I should focus more on my current, awesome situation. I miss things, people, experiences and situations a lot, but that’s a good thing – it just means I’ve got a lot of amazing things, people, experiences and situations in my life TO miss. And for that I’m thankful.

So on the funny side of things, I just need to stop acting like a spoiled little brat (I admit it, I am) and recover from this. Yes, I’m totally dangerously obsessed with backpacking, and of course I want to just backpack ALL THE TIME. Unfortunately that’s not gonna get me a paycheck or pay off my student loan debt. But at least I truly love what I’m doing and I’m enjoying this ride! It doesn’t have to be perfect all the time. How boring would that be?

As Modest Mouse sings in their song “Lives,”
“If you could be anything you want I bet you’d be disappointed. Am I right?”

Ya’ know, I don’t know if I actually agree with that quote or not, but I’d be willing to try! Haha! But really, it’s probably like having all the money in the world – you could get anything you want, but it would still not be enough. And on top of that, what would there be left to dream about? Dreaming is pretty fantastic. I don’t ever wanna’ stop.

What this all boils down to is a quote by David Allen that’s pretty much become my life’s mantra:

“You can do anything but you can’t do everything.”


Tonight I love that I received three really nice, unrelated messages by friends out of the blue, right in the middle of my little sad phase – before I wrote about it here – three little smiles that came at a really good time. I was fragile and needed to know I was cared about without having to ask. Someone was listening to my prayers. ♡

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Everything is frosty and white. And cold.

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I have a love/hate relationship with Wyoming right now! So beautiful - but its driving weather! Ugh!

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A peek at the truck dash - listening to the Foo.

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Windmills.

Burnout and emotional wreckage

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It was a tough week. Adam and I both had mini breakdowns and decided we were feeling burned out and in need of some sort of break. At least just a little more than our schedule and the weather has been allowing us.

This week started with a detour to avoid a two-feet-of-snow storm in the Sierra that we didn’t want to drive through. We drove west to Salt Lake City on our normal I-80 route, then south on I-15 to Vegas and past the Pacific Crest Trail in Tehachapi. Again, sadly, we couldn’t hang out. One of these times we’ll have a few spare minutes and I’ll jump on the trail for a short jaunt. Ahh, anyway… we were there in the wee hours of the morning and already on a tight schedule because of the Sierra detour. We did end up stopping close by at a truck stop for almost three hours due to 80 mph winds. When the winds stopped rocking our parked truck violently from side to side and we finally got going, I saw a truck that had tipped over and dumped their load of tomatoes on the road. We were late for our first appointment that morning, but glad we waited… and glad we didn’t tip over, too.

Somewhere in these first few days I slipped into a mini-depression relapse. I was a total mess, crying for no reason, then crying for big reasons all blown out of proportion, then not really caring, to feeling hopeless, and letting social media somehow exacerbate it all, piss me off and eventually forcing me to get a grip and spill my guts out to poor Adam, stay the hell away from all the negativity on Facebook while sadly missing all the fun stuff, even though that was all making me more sad while I felt sorry for myself because I wasn’t seeing my friends and family enough and wanting to pack a few things in a bag and run away into the woods where I needed so very desperately to be, all because I was over-tired, burned out and depressive. And somehow a giant run-on sentence feels like the best way to describe those painful days. It was ugly. And it’s hard to admit, but I’m still not complety over it. Unfortunately. It’s a viscous cycle I’m working on jumping out of before it takes over. But I’m at least feeling normal again, and things are feeling way better – so those that love me, don’t worry. I’m okay. It just feels good to get some of this crap off my chest, ya’ know?

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A beautiful, tangled-green bush I saw in Arizona - and totally visually described how my head has been feeling this week. Which is somehow calming.

Our third and last delivery took too long. They were behind and we ended up waiting for two hours – even though I was a half hour early for this one – and this hold-up made us a half hour late for our pick up, which was an hour’s drive away.

Know what happens then? Your noon pick up turns into a 4pm pick up because all the other trucks get in before you so they still get in closer to their appointment time. While it makes sense, it’s super frustrating when it wasn’t any fault of your own and you end up feeling punished for it. After being loaded (we were literally the last truck there), Adam scaled, slid tandems, scaled again, and finally drove 20 miles up the road for a better scale – and we finally got going after probably 6:00. A long day.

On the way back towards home we took another detour route to avoid “potent storms” in Wyoming. Our new route’s forecast looked dry and perfect. It lied to us. When Adam woke up to get ready for his shift, he opened the bunk curtain to see giant snowflakes splattering into our windshield as I drove along. It was the straw the broke the camel’s back. He fell apart. We just held on for each other as best we could this week while the other had their tantrums. I’m thankful we’re together out here and can be here for each other. This is much harder when we’re miles apart. We’ve been there and done that plenty!

So now we’re home finishing up some needed time off – just enough for errands, a dinner date, a little shopping and a movie. Our spirits have lifted after getting these things done, receiving a little encouragement from our driver manager, and now we’re hitting the road again with hopes for decent roads and, well, just an on-schedule, smooth run… off we go.

To stay sort of sane, I took a lot of photos this week. I played with a few of them in my Instagram* app, but only posted one. What a weird week for me. Anyway, here’s this week’s scenes in photos:

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A rainbow sunset in Wyoming

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Really cool canyon roads in Utah - and new scenery for us on our detoured route.

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Heading into Las Vegas. That lit-up city can be seen for MILES away.

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Despite an emotionally wrecked week, this made me smile. These hills in CA have been brown, yellow and dead all year. They've been getting a lot of rain - and now everything was vibrant green and wonderful! Look at those happy cows!

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An Arizona Joshua tree. If I could only somehow attach how it smelled here. I stood in this spot for 10 minutes just breathing and smelling the air. It smelled like perfect desert and sweet sage.

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Spiny pickers in Arizona.

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Part of our trip back was on Route 66. I'm gonna walk it some day.

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New Mexico's ominous sky that snowed on us for hours.

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Then it fogged on us in Kansas (and later in WI).

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Finally close to home. Plugged into a dock, waiting to be unloaded.

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The end of the week. We got our truck and trailer washed. What a gloomy day, but at least it wasn't freezing out!

*if you’d like to follow me on Instagram, search for _toots_magoots_

Tonight I love journaling. Sometimes it feels like it’s all you’ve got. Even though that’s never true, it’s a small comfort in tough times.

Flashback thru-hike entry – 2006

A little throwback journal entry from 2006 when I thru-hiked the American Discovery Trail with my mom. We sure had some fun! (Check out the rest of the journal here.) This is one of many funny things that happened on that adventure!

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Mom and me towards the end of our long hike - at the Golden Gate Bridge!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Starting Location: Beaver, UT
Destination: Milford, UT
Today’s Miles: 24.30
Trip Miles: 3755.50

Hiking Humiliations

Elevation: 4965 ft.

Weather: Storm dodging, sunny, cloudy, nice!

We got a good, early start this morning. But we quickly learned a good lesson. Listen to this one (it’s funny now, after it happened)!

First of all, hiking can be humiliating for a girl. Sometimes you have to go to the bathroom, and there’s just no place to go with cover. I specifically remember a time in Kansas along the hwy when mom and I had to prop our packs in a “V” and go… and happily wave to passer-by’s. They knew what we were doing, anyway. Why not be friendly?

Anyway, back to today. We learned that if you have to go potty in a ditch, with an incline, be sure to face the backpack UPhill. If you face it downhill… you end up with your pants around your ankles, falling backwards from a squatting position, rolling into the bottom of the ditch with your bare backside facing the road, praying no cars go by because you are completely stuck having a 40-pound backpack on, and being unable to get up, laying in a ditch – laughing and crying at the same time. And then, to top it all off, the irrigation sprinkler in the field behind you turns on, while you’re stuck in the ditch with your butt hanging out, and it soaks you. Yup, it happened. For confidentiality reasons, we won’t use any names… 

The good thing about this situation, is that the day can’t really get worse – only better. And it did. We giggled about the ditch thing all day, the weather treated us well, and we hiked happily over a small mountain range. People driving by stopped to say “hi,” including a ranger, a local Yardley couple, another couple, and a small family. The people in Milford are very nice.

Tomorrow we’re heading into the Wah-Wah desert – where there is NO wah-wah. It should be called the nowah-wah desert, don’t you think? Anyway, we have Jeff, from Beaver dropping water for us, so we’ll be good to go. And we probably won’t have phone reception for a few days, so try not to worry. Jeff, our water dropper also drives by twice a day to do the mail route, so he might be keeping an eye on us. We have great angels!

Hey – remember – backpack faces UPhill! 

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Our little yellow tent set up in the desert.

To see the rest of this journal from the 2006 American Discovery Trail thru-hike, click this link for our first day on the trail!


Tonight I love reminiscing. That ADT hike was quite an incredible adventure!

A busy winter so far

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Sometimes even though the roads aren't the best, the view almost entirely makes up for it.

I have really been wanting to write – I even have a list of topics I’d like to write about, including a few recent experiences, but I can’t focus for some reason. We’ve been busy. We were both crying for a little time off in these past few weeks, but it only came as a partial day here and there – just enough time to get our laundry, shopping and planning for the next trip done. We had a few days for Thanksgiving, which was really nice, but with the 7-hour round trip and many things to do while visiting home, we still craved time off – I mean like sit and stare into space for hours kinda time off. Maybe sleep in. You know, relaxing, veg-out kinda’ stuff. It’s good to have lots of work because it’s a good paycheck, it’s job security, yadda yadda yadda. But we were both feeling on the edge of burning out. I blame winter, honestly. If the weather hadn’t been sketchy in a few spots and the roads were dry instead of icy, I think we could just keep rolling on forever.

Winter as a truck driver is a lot different than summer as a truck driver. In fact, as I was delivering the other day – finding the receiver, battling local hurried traffic, taking tight turns, checking in and conversing with warehouse workers, setting up in small parking lots, battling filthy, slush-covered trailer doors and finally backing into a dock, I thought to myself, “when did this become the easy part of the job and just rolling down the freeway for days become the tough, stressful part?” The answer came immediately. “Oh yeah. Winter.”

Okay, to be fair, it’s only been winter-y in spots – not constant – which is kind of what I envisioned winter trucking to be like for some reason. Like every single day and every mile to California and back was going to be a blizzard with no visibility and roads glazed in black ice. Thankfully there are the occasional dry, clear stretches that allow us to use our cruise and drive 60mph, clear our head, relax and listen to (and actually be able to concentrate on) an audio book.

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This is a slippery road. Pretty, but slippery.

So basically it’s begun – I’ve started testing my limits with winter driving in this gigantic, super-heavy truck. I didn’t really have much choice – if I shut the truck down every time a snowflake fell, I’d never get anywhere. And trust me, the thoughts linger – “Is it too slippery? Why does it seem like I’m the only truck driving in this crap? Do I have time to stop? Is that plow dropping salt? Sand? Shit! I can’t see when people pass me! Is that wet, or just ice? How cold is it? Why won’t that huge ice chunk melt off my wiper?” You know, basic stuff like that. It makes me also question at what point I DO call it a day and pull over. If the “chains required” signs start blinking, I stop. That’s a no-brainer. But it’s tougher decision when you’re driving in North Dakota where they aren’t going to make you chain for flat, gusty ice-snow. And I don’t want to wait until I start seeing jackknife trucks and spun-out cars in the ditches, either.

So I drive on. Carefully, slowly, super-alert. I know if I’m uncomfortable I can shut it down, but I want to be sure it’s necessary, too. Know what I mean? It’s like there’s this line where it goes from, “yup, this is sketchy, I better go really slow,” to “oh crap, I need to find a place to park and wait this out. Hopefully a spot with a toilet.”

But where is that line for me? Is it pretty much the same for everyone? I’m sure it varies a little, according to comfort level. So I’m trying to find that line for me. But it’s a white-knuckle journey sometimes – and it’s exhausting not using cruise control for eight hours straight. Seriously. What the heck did truckers do before cruise control and power steering? Sheesh! Anyway, it makes me doubly tired at the end of the day, so we’ve been driving, sleeping, driving, sleeping, drivi…. well, you get the picture.

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And then there's these roads - it's 15 degrees, foggy, and there's no spray coming off the tires of any passing vehicles. This means ice. Not cool.

I’ve had two situations so far that kind of stand out – the kind that makes me pucker up a little bit, grasp the wheel a little tighter and whisper “shoot-shoot-shoot” in quick succession under my breath.

The first was in Wyoming a couple of weeks ago. It was very cold and snowing, so the snow wasn’t sticking to the roads yet. Another truck was passing me on the left and I had a guardrail on my right. I was driving pretty slow – maybe 30mph. On the other side of the highway a plow was pushing snow, and as he went past, the wind grabbed a giant plume of his plowed snow and it flew into our lanes of traffic. I couldn’t see two feet in front of me for probably ten full seconds. I just let off the fuel and kept the truck as straight as I could, knowing there weren’t any curves directly in front of me. When it finally cleared, I took a breath. Every time anyone passed me that day, it was another short-lived but terrifying whiteout.

The second was in Montana. The road had a hard-packed layer of slippery-white, shiny snow with another layer of lighter, blowing snow on top of it. It was slick. I climbed up a big grade, and as I got closer to the top, my nerves started to knot my stomach. Here we go! I had to descend. When you’re going downhill in a truck, momentum grabs you and wants to throw you down that hill a million miles per hour. We were told over and over to never-ever change gears going down a large grade. If you get stuck out of gear, you’re pretty much coasting downward with 80,000 pounds pushing at you. You’d be pretty screwed. So it’s crucial to pick the right gear so you can keep control of your speed before you start rolling on down. The last thing I want to do is brake on ice, but unfortunately with the whole momentum thing, braking is necessary. I slowed myself to a near crawl and got the truck into 7th gear before I started down, so I was going about 20-25 mph all the way down. I was able to brake softly to maintain my slow speed, and I experimented with the low setting on the engine brake to help. I’ve recently learned through reading other truckers’ experiences that using the engine brake on ice is a bad idea – it only slows the tractor, so the trailer might want to go faster and swing out in front of you. I think I was going slow enough that it wasn’t having that effect. I made it down the mountain safe with cramped knuckles and a pale complexion – but a little smile (mostly of relief) and a little more confidence. While scary, it was good to get a feel for my first slick mountain descent. I don’t expect that to get any easier, but at least I know it can be done.

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Slickery winter road. Ice-snow covered in more snow. Going downhill. Yup. Yuck.

And so winter continues, while I continue to hope I don’t have any super-dramatic stories to share, because that would mean something happened. For now I prefer the boring, uneventful, safe trips. Yup, I’ll stick with that for now.


Tonight I love dry roads.

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Here's another one of those times when the roads might not be great, but it's okay to drive super-duper slow. You just get to soak in the scenery a little longer.