A series of stories and experiences when driving across our beautiful lands in North America looking out the window of a semi-truck
My story starts in Calgary, Alberta, set in the foothills of the beautiful blue Canadian Rockies. Calgary is a huge sprawling city of diverse culture and a thriving, bustling optimism which doesn’t die even in trying times. Although there is something for everyone Calgary stubbornly clings to its’ origins – Cow Town. This is a city where the night-clubs and dress code of blue jeans and cowboy boots refuses to apologize for the roots of Calgary – a unique western ‘cowboy’ town. No one has to be a cowboy – but it’s maybe better to not try and change those who want to be.
Calgary’s mystical illumination and skyline is also a unique sight, with lights winding around hills ever flowing and covering the land for endless miles. Inside the city of over a million people it is hard to find a real ‘cowboy’ – so I found the next-best thing – an asphalt cowboy – a truck driver.
When George decided to drive long-haul we already had two young boys and certainly meant I would have to stay home even though I longed to see the wondrous sites he would be seeing. But with a little ingenuity and with that optimism we pride ourselves for in Calgary, I figured out a way. Surely our parenthood status counts for more than a school or teachers. With assurances the boys would do their ‘homework’ the teachers really couldn’t stop me. To this day I have no regret for taking my children out of school to ‘travel’ the countryside.
Las Vegas, Nevada
It was supposed to be a short trip. George got the coveted job of driving a huge flat-bed trailer in honor of the MGM Grand opening. The trailer opened into a huge TV screen that would show outsiders the party inside before for the Grand Opening the following day. The surprises in store were unknown to me or the boys.
It was near Christmas and I thought a Christmas without snow would be a good thing to experience. But travelling through the mountains of Montana – with visions of those westerns I had read as child and the movies I had seen I began to wonder if that wasn’t just ‘fiction’. Montana is huge but even as we drove further south with each mile – there was snow. Then travelling through Idaho’s boot and into Utah, it was the same. There was snow, just like there was in Calgary. After passing Salt Lake City a huge sprawling city beside a salt lake, the weather started changing. The snow disappeared. When night came – the road was empty and every hill we top revealed yet another. The moon was huge and lit up the skies almost like daylight. I started getting tired thinking Las Vegas was set in a dessert – so where was it and these hills – some call mountains – seemed endless.
I sat up straight and my eyes rounded. On the I-15 there is a short stretch of road that winds through the cliffs and narrow a canyon I had read about– those red jagged rocks were fascinating. After we moved into a more open area – we were now in Nevada. It was night and all I could see were the black forms of mountains.
It was late when we got into Vegas. The boys were sleeping. We stopped on the outskirts of town and stayed at a motel across from the Flying J truck stop. I wanted to explore the flashing lights and rolling neon signs I saw in the distance, but it was too late.
Flying J’s, Petro’s and all those other truck stops became my friend – the oasis of relief and a place George could pull his truck in and park. The food was good, the store always had a variety of items, some surprising, local crafts, jewelry and clothing. To this day I enjoy truck-stops. I can only imagine what they mean to those drivers on the road all the time.
First – let me say Christmas lights and decorations are wasted in Las Vegas. The road signs and casino lights everywhere overpower them too much. I barely noticed that Vegas decorated for Christmas unless I bumped into a tree. But further surprises came when we discovered we were part of the set-up team for the MGM Grand and that gave us such benefits we couldn’t have imagined. Our room – brand new and unused was free. We stayed in a Marilyn Monroe suite. We had passes for the party the night before the Grand Opening and there were rows upon rows of delicacies and exotic foods. While others watched on the big TV Screen – we were inside enjoying all that was offered. The boys were active and excited as they had spent the afternoon in the MGM’s entertainment park – enjoying the free rides and the free food.
The Vegas strip was all I had envisioned and so much more. Together with the boys we saw – Merlin defeat the dragon outside the Excalibur. We saw the pirates sink a British ship outside Treasure Island and we watched a volcano erupt outside the Mirage. For the first few days none of us could get enough of Vegas. Then, surprisingly, we started getting tired. The noise of clanging machines, laughter and voices made my ears ring. I wanted to go to eat in quiet places and George and I stayed in our rooms to watch movies. But our boys at ages 14 and 12 weren’t ready to be quiet. Shaun, my older son, started calling to make reservations for evening shows and they both attended the buffets faithfully. Life was good.
Now, I was getting impatient to go home as it was nearing Christmas. But George got a call – he had to wait in Vegas. They were going to send the TV to New Orleans. I was upset until I realized we were together and it didn’t matter where we spent Christmas. My thoughts were not challenged when they discovered the TV had to be returned to Canada, before it could be brought back to New Orleans. Otherwise he would be ‘inter-stating’ which was illegal. Rules and Regulations are sometimes very strange in the trucking industry.
But two days before Christmas we left for home. We made it back in time – and I want to thank the USA for their cheap turkey as I picked one up in Montana. The price was so much better than Canada’s prices.
My first trip Riding Shotgun was amazing and thrilling. It definitely called for more experiences.