Throwing up in a truck stop bathroom.

A few months ago I was driving the big rig through town in Fremont, California after a delivery. There was a car pulled to the side of the busy street, parked at an angle, flashers on, and its passenger-side door was hanging wide open. Next to it was a lady bent over, projectile-vomiting into the grass. I thought, “what would happen if I got sick on the road?” I stopped thinking about it quickly because any scenerio I came up with just sounded… well, sucky.

I now have a little story to tell. If you don’t think you can stomach a puking story, you might not want to read on. I get long-winded as usual, and detailed because I’m kinda’ weird.

I woke up this morning at 2:23am. Usually I’m up around midnight, I exercise, eat breakfast, clean up, get dressed and I’m on the road driving around 2 or 2:30am. I don’t remember my alarm going off or anything. I do like to sleep, but it was actually a little unusual for me to sleep this late.

I swung my feet over the side of the bed and sat up. I immediately felt light headed and shaky. I laid back down, head spinning. “What the heck?” I thought to myself. I took a few deep breaths and sat up again.

“I don’t feel so good,” I said to Adam. A wave of nausea hit me. I thought maybe I was just hungry. I did a 24-hr fluid fast yesterday, which I’ve done a few times before, and each time I’ve felt good the following morning. Not this time. I don’t know if it was the fast getting to me or if I caught a bug, but I was not well.

I got up slowly, leaning against things to balance. My arms felt weak and it was a chore to get dressed. I decided I’d eat my newly-discovered yummy breakfast. Maybe I was just overly hungry. I had no trouble gobbling down my creation of steel cut oats, chia seeds, flax meal, brown sugar, cinnamon and soy milk that I soaked overnight. As soon as I was done my stomach did another somersault. My face turned clammy and my arm hairs stood on end.

“I have to go to the bathroom.”

Adam was parked at a TA truck stop where we were going to switch, so I got myself together and head inside to use the bathroom.

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve had this puking issue. I cannot seem to throw up without uncontrollably going #2 at the same time. (Is that TMI? Oops.) Anyway, no big deal, usually. I’ve adopted the obvious strategy of sitting on the throne with my head draped inside an empty waste basket sitting on my lap. Then you just dump the waste basket contents into the toilet, flush and wash the waste basket in the tub. This strategy also worked well in a hotel room during my 2013 PCT thru-hike when I caught the 24-hour flu that was traveling up the trail.

When I sat down in the bathroom, I thought, “okay, maybe I don’t have to puke. OH. WAIT. YES I DO,” as a strong wave of nausea came over me. Then it left as suddenly as it came on. I took a deep breath and looked around me at my options for the next wave that I was sure was coming. Not much around. Do I risk straying from my strategy and just toss my oats into the toilet like a normal person? But what if it doesn’t work? Okay, yeah. That’s not an option – I still have to walk past the two dudes at the penny slots (we were in NV) on my way back out to the truck.

To my right was the small metal trash can women use to toss their used feminine products. I know you’re cringing as you read this. I cringed when I thought it. I slowly opened the lid and peered inside as if I expected a clown to jump out at me. It was empty! With a fresh trash liner! Oh, thank the Lord! I pulled the super-thin, see-through bag out and inspected the seams. Looked shaky at best, but this was a better option than the alternative.

I was warding off the inevitable by placing my head down by my knees and breathing deep each time a wave hit, stronger than the previous. Finally I decided I really needed to just let it happen. I sat up, my arm hairs stood up, stomach knotted and twisted, forehead beaded with sweat, and the final stage – my mouth started to water. And there ya’ have it. Blecht!

I’m probably already crossing a line sharing my detailed puke story, so what the heck – wanna’ know the one advantage to throwing up your delicious, sweet, cinnamony breakfast within 20 minutes of eating it? It covers up the taste of the stomach acid and disgustingly still has a sort-of pleasant flavor coming back up. (Why do I find it so much fun to share these things!? Sorry, readers. I can’t help myself!)

Anyway… the bag held and I felt a ton better. I cleaned up, gargled some water and went into the store and filled my coffee mug with hot water.

Back at the truck I started to feel yucky again. “Oh, no,” I thought. “How am I going to drive?” I envisioned myself throwing up in a Wal-Mart grocery bag as I drove down the highway. This is bad.

I worked up the energy to walk around the truck to do my pre-trip inspection and get this. The dude parked next to us decided it was a good idea to dump his leftover casserole on the ground in a pukesque-looking splat. Bad timing, jerk-face. I gagged a little and stepped over it.

Back in the truck I made myself a puke bucket. I didn’t have a plan regarding my “puking issue” but at least I’d have half of my problem figured out. I used a small plastic container with two Wal-Mart garbage bags doubled up tucked inside. I put a couple of paper towels in the bottom and set it next to my seat within easy reach. If I had a sudden urge, I could grab it and do my thing efficiently.

I started driving and was doing okay. I told myself that if I got light-headed or dizzy, I’d pull over immediately. I knew there was a chance I might not be able to drive if this didn’t get better, but while I was feeling okay I thought I’d hit the road and feel out the situation. I had a few more light waves of stomach-knot, but then I just got tired. Exhausted. I pulled off at the next rest area after only an hour driving. I crawled into the bunk with Adam, cuddled up to him as close as I could and fell asleep. For two hours.

When I woke up, I noticed immediately that I felt a hundred times better. In fact, I was hungry! I ate, I drank some decaf coffee, I drove, and sang along with the radio bouncing in my seat. I was back to me just like that with no more episodes the rest of the day.

Being sick sucks. And it sucks more when you’re not in a place you’re comfortable in. I guess this is one of the little things I still need to figure out. For next time. Which I hope never comes.

I have no idea what that was all about. Flu-bug? Empty, mad tummy? Fluke-puke? Who knows… I’m just glad I didn’t have to use that rigged-up trucker’s puke bucket.

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Trucker puke bucket. Add a diaper and I'd be all set! Haha!


Tonight I love feeling good. And my oatmeal, still… which is pretty surprising.

I owe you all a pretty picture for suffering through that with me.

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The road to the sky? Utah...

Okay, a couple more:

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Adam driving at sunset.

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Sunny California.

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9 thoughts on “Throwing up in a truck stop bathroom.

  1. Getting sick on the road is not pleasant. I’m hoping the Womens bathroom at the truck stops are cleaner than the Men’s side. If I had to stick my face anywhere near a public toilet that looks like a museum of pubes & poo spackle I would probably puke so hard my skeleton would shoot out. If anything splashed back up at me I’d forever be wondering if I caught some kind of herpegonosyphilaids…or ebola…ewwww…..

  2. Actually, I love a good honest post. Thank you.

    Personally, puking is one of my least favorite, do whatever I can to avoid, experiences. But I love it when you finally bring it up and immediately feel better. Sort of like in my 46 years I’ve learned, if you’re walking around for a while wondering if you should take a shit or not, you should probably take a shit, and you’ll probably feel a lot better! TMI?

  3. I’ve been there. Being sick seems to suck more when on the road. It tends to make me wish for the times I’ve had a bathroom next to my bedroom. Having a plan helps along with not being alone. Your blog posts tend to make me feel less alone out here on the road. Thanks :-)

  4. I’ve done that puking in a walmart bag driving down the road, because at the time when I got sick I was driving an 18-wheeler down an 2-lane highway with NO BERMS. Absolutely no place to pull over and even just lean out the door! It was awful and to make matter worse, when wave #2 came, the walmart bag did not want to stay open (due to the weight of puke in the bottom, and me with nothing else available at the time to puke in as this was a daily drive, not an OTR situation) so I kind of puked all over the steering wheel and driver’s seat. THEN, a few hours later when I was almost to my destination, (after finding a pull-over spot to cleanup as best I could with a few tissues and not much else!) a yellow jacket flew in the open window and down the back of my jeans and stung me on the bum three times before I could scoop it out, also stinging my hand in the process but by then had almost no venom left. I’d had my jeans unbuttoned to relieve the pressure on my sore tummy, and the bee flew down the gap that left in back. That was the start of a 24-hour stomach bug, and left me so weak I was barely able to drive my car home from the place I left the truck. I did mange to clean up the truck and remove the driver’s seat cover to take home to wash, before the next driver got in the truck. I also ammonia’d the truck cab and left him a note apologizing profusely for the puke smell. It was probably the worst moment of my truck driving career. (which was only about 6 years long, but still)

      • Oh, it’s definitely a laugh! It’s a great story to pull out when there is occasion. The bee stings just topped it off perfectly to make it a great story. haha! :)

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