RENO, NV - The wind blows hot and relentless across the desert, nothing in its way to block or slow it down so it picks up speed until it's strong enough to blow anything down. Driving on I-80 today, I watched a cloud of dust rise up and turn into a dust devil as I approached it. It picked up twigs and carried them into the road, spinning its own mini-apocalypse right on the blacktop. So I slowed down, made sure no one else was around me on the road, braced myself, white-knuckled the steering wheel, and drove through it, because there was nothing else to do. It blew me clear to the edge of the left lane with its sheer force pushing against the trailer, a terrible vibration through the whole truck, the trailer fishtailing a little as I tried to steady it all back to the right lane. Hours later, I'm still a little on edge.
And that's what it's been like, emotionally. No matter how much I brace myself and try to prepare for what the days bring, it just bowls me over, leaves me edgy and exhausted. Lots of "Oh god what have I gotten myself into?" moments on all those long and lonely roads, when friends don't pick up their phones and those hours just stretch on and on.
For the five days I've had my truck, I have not stopped running as hard as possible. They way the company has been scheduling me, I have barely had time to stop for the federally mandated 10-hour sleep breaks before hitting the road again. Ten hours is just barely enough to sleep, eat, and shower. This also means that my sleep breaks come at different times each day, not letting me get on any sort of regular schedule. So I drive for 10 hours, then stop and eat crappy truck stop food because I need a real meal and I can't bear to be in the truck anymore, then I crawl back in the sleeper and pass out, get up, start all over again. No real downtime at all. Like right now: I pulled into this truck stop at 5pm local time, and in order to deliver this load on time I'll have to get out of here at 3am. It's still light out and I can't sleep, hence the Internet-time.
I've been told that usually drivers that just get out of training get pretty easy loads with big windows of time, but this has not been my experience. And this kind of frenetic scheduling was one of the things that made training so hellish for me. I know that this sort of running is the only way to make money in this business, but my sanity can't handle it.
There are a lot of things I've learned about myself lately. About my own limits, physically and emotionally. And I'm discovering less and less of a need to prove things to myself and the rest of the world, and trying to figure out what that means for me as a truck driver.
I'm supposed to be home starting this weekend for five days, and I'm already dreading getting back on the road. Five days doesn't feel long enough to make up for the last five weeks.