BY Rich T.
Hello Mrs. Newsletter Editor Ma’am, in order to best relate the topic of the first portion of this article to those reading it, I need you to volunteer for a small experiment, and hopefully no one will get injured in the process. First Mrs. Newsletter Editor Ma’am, go to your fridge and grab a bunch of grapes. Don’t do like I do and fill all your pockets with grapes thus acquiring a bunch of them, but rather a small handful still attached to the stem. We only need one or two for our experiment and the rest are to crunch on as they are rather delicious, especially this time of year. Now take your grapes and head to your woodshed, stopping by your shop for the biggest hammer you can find. Now take a grape, place it in the middle of your wood splitting block. Next, take your big hammer and hard as you can bring it down squarely on the grape. Not much left of the grape, right? Now Mrs. Newsletter Editor, Ma’am using your vivid imagination, transform the grape into a guy on a bicycle. Let’s put some of that tight slickery clothing on him because we want our guy to be fast. And put a helmet on his head because we want our guy to be “Safe”. Now let’s put him on a particular skinny not very straight stretch of highway, which we have thousands of miles of here in Montana. Using your imagination again, turn the hammer into a large, loaded log truck about to come around a bend in the highway only to discover our bicycle guy on his side of the road and lots of oncoming traffic. Unless the truck can manage to stop, the outcome is going to be similar to the hammer and the grape experiment. Question for you Mrs. Newsletter Editor, Ma’am… Why would anybody in their right mind jump on a bike and put themselves into that situation? (Personally, I am of the opinion that a Grape has just a bit more intelligence than Mr. Slickery-britches on the bicycle does…)
Paul Uken and I used to spend a lot of time in Helena, way back when Uken was “little” doing PLH stuff like having meetings at the large cube of a building containing the Headquarters of the Montana Department of Transportation. Yup, we had some real “Fun” meeting with the engineers in charge of putting traffic lights on highways that when they turned red, trucks could not stop for. (They pretty much told us that they knew way more about traffic control than we did, and gave us a cookie and sent us on our way… And what a fun bunch the gang in the “Roundabouts” office were to visit with…) We also met a few times with the Director of Montana Department of Transportation’s “Bicycle Division” about our concerns with them being okay with bicycle riders riding where they ought not be riding. If I remember right, we were told that they were a vital part of the tourism industry and we should just learn to tolerate them… Luckily the squishings have been few and far between, but as the number of Grapes on Bikes steadily increases, it’s getting to be a real challenge avoiding them. Especially anywhere along the highways in a straight line between Glacier and Yellowstone Parks. There are bicycle touring companies that bring big Bunches of Grapes and just turn them loose on narrow stretches of two-lane highway, pointing them in the direction of where they need to be by dinner time. (Lots of fun dealing with 40 or 50 Grapes on Bikes strung out for miles on skinny-shoulderless roads. No warning from the tour company whatsoever… No signage or flaggers… Just Grapes on Bikes, and an old multi-colored van with TourAmerica.com painted on the side loaded with their camping gear and extra pairs of slickery britches…) And as dangerous as a large truck is to these Grapes, I’m inclined to think that the Speedball in the SUV racing to the other Park, not paying very much attention to the fact that they are driving a vehicle whilst texting selphies to their pals out further west, are the Grape Squishers one needs to be more concerned about.
Moving on Mrs. Newsletter Editor, Ma’am, now is a good time to delve into the subject of retirement… When’s a good time? Depends on the particular person, I’d say… Last spring, I had the privilege of hauling a few loads out of James Stupack’s “Wild Montana Wood” Yard and had a good visit with James about the whole retirement thing. Whereas neither one of us is in a situation where when you turn some magic number age, they bake you a cake, give you a gold watch and send you on your way. That particular form of retirement is not really practical for either of us we figured. And neither of us has any desire to drag a little car behind a motor home in search of warmer climes, as we both are quite fond of cold weather. Then James made a really good point. “Why quit doing something that you love doing?” Good point… Except for the belligerent firewood customers and having to haul thru the bumper-to-bumper Gallatin Valley traffic, I’m actually still having a blast! Mr. Stupack is right. Retire when it is no longer “Fun”. And that shall be the plan. Long as I can still get up that darned ol’ loader ladder, I shall carry on…
Sadly though Mrs. Newsletter Editor, Ma’am, it’s time to let the Truckstop Article go… Seeing how I’ve already done the retirement from writing once, and I am now actually on my version of the Brett Favre/Tom Brady post retirement comeback that I think has produced more Articles than my pre-retirement writings, now’s the time to find some young “Whippersnapper” to turn it over to. Twenty-three some years of Truckstop Articles, and still proud to say that every single one of them is an original, but I have flat run out of ideas about what to write about. That said Mrs. Newsletter Editor, Ma’am, I shall now close my final Truckstop Article. If you have read my Articles long enough you’ve probably picked up on my passion for music, and yes, I really do listen to a lot of ABBA. And Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” really is one of my all-time favorites. I will leave you now with some lyrics of another one of my all-time favorites from EmmyLou Harris’s song “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight”. Seems rather fitting…
“Mary took to running with a travelin’ man Left her momma crying with head in her hands, such a sad case, so broken hearted.
She say, Momma I got go gotta get outta here I gotta get outta town
Tired of hangin’ around I gotta roll on between the ditches.
It’s just an ordinary story ‘bout the way things go
‘Round and around nobody knows, but the highway
Goes on forever, that ol’ highway rolls on forever…”
(It’s got to end somewhere, and I’m gonna go find it.)