By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 2/28/2020
Topics/Keywords: #18-Wheeler #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver #TruckDriving Page Views: 265
An entry from Alternate Roads: Paul S. Cilwa's Truck Drivin' Journal

Thursday, September 12, 2002

I'm still sweaty from yesterday's mishap.

After leaving Oakland, still looking for a safe place to stay and still without any word from Second Shift Support over the Qualcomm, I saw a sign for Walnut Creek. Now, I've been in Walnut Creek; I taught a few programming classes there, and have a couple of pals in the area. I didn't expect to call them; after all, I didn't have a working phone (my cell phone is pre-paid, and the pre-pay was paid out) and I couldn't leave the truck, anyway. But I felt like I knew the place enough to be comfortable there. In fact, I had a specific shopping center in mind. It had a generous parking lot, as I recalled, and restaurants, and pay phones, and was just the place to be…and what could be safer than upscale Walnut Creek, where even the street people wear…well, there aren't any street people. They aren't allowed.

So I got off the freeway at the appropriate exit, and drove down the street where I remembered the shopping center was. Yes—there it was! I turned into it…

And immediately realized that it wasn't nearly as large as it had seemed when I was there in a rented Ford Esquire. I felt like Gulliver among the Lilliputians. Each one of my eighteen wheels was the size of one of the startled shoppers' grocery carts.

Unable to go back, I tried going forward, praying that there was more room than there seemed. There wasn't. I was as inextricably stuck in that parking lot as a member of the Bush family is inextricably linked to Big Oil.

Finally, a young man came out of a restaurant to help. He worked there, and realized that no one could park at his restaurant as long as a big rig was taking up the whole thing. Besides, this gave him an excuse to get outside. He was very patient, which was fortunate, because it took ninety minutes of backing up five inches, moving up five inches, backing up five inches, moving up five inches, and so on and on, before I was able to get back on the street.

I'll never look at a shopping center parking lot with ease again.

And now, though I was out of the lot, my problem remained: Where could I spend the night in the truck, where we would both be unmolested? Obviously Walnut Creek was not a truck-friendly town. So, I got back on the freeway and continued in the direction I'd been heading.

But not for long. A sign warned of a toll booth ahead. I had very little cash, and had no idea how much the toll for an eighteen-wheeler would be. Five dollars? Fifty? I didn't dare take a chance; so when I saw a sign saying "Last Exit Before Toll" I took the exit, and at the end of the ramp, arbitrarily turned right.

The was little traffic on this road, and the area seemed vaguely industrial. But, just ahead, I saw a pull-out—you know, a space off the side of the road that had been cleared for trucks to pull off the road to allow backed-up traffic behind them to get ahead. I had to estimate its size, of course; and after my debacle in the parking lot I wasn't sure I could trust myself very well. But it seemed big enough, not only to park in, but for several trucks to park in; and even room for me to turn around, which I would have to do in the morning.

I pulled in.

It lay alongside a marsh or shallow reed pond. At first, I worried about mosquitoes; but none ever showed up. On the other side of the pond was a power plant, with all its lights twinkling and reflecting in the water. I appreciate the irony of a power plant, in energy-starved California, burning with enough lights to put Las Vegas to shame; but it was really very pretty and peaceful as the surface of the water tossed the reflections to me.

On the other side of me, beyond the road, were railroad tracks. At first I worried about hearing trains all night, but in fact none ever came. I think it was actually a siding, and sometimes some cars would move, but it was a whisper-like sound, not the huge rush of a locomotive.

And there was even a Port-O-Let. Not just any old, filthy one, either; this one was brand-new—the wrapping was still on the toilet paper.

Yes sir, this spot was a find.

I opened my door windows part way, but kept the doors locked and ran the seat belts through the door handles, then the chair armrests so that no one could break in. I also opened the cab vents and windows. I love sleeping in the night air, and it was a delightful temperature, probably around 70 or a little less.

I slept wonderfully, though I do remember some dream involving the Queen of England. Well, at first it was the real queen; then, she morphed into Julie Andrews playing the queen.

Since I didn't have a load, I was in no hurry to wake up. When I did awaken, though, I found one of those mobile restaurants called a "Roach Coach" was parked in my pull out. So, I got out and bought breakfast!

All in all, it couldn't possibly have been a better place to spend the night.

And a load did come in, sending me back to Oakland; and, what's more, they wanted me to have pallets! Which I didn't, anymore; so they said they'd have to charge the customer for them. Whatever. My new load was going to Laredo, Texas—my first really long run—and the map program on my computer showed the best route would, again, take me through Phoenix.