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Highlights of the move cross country included being stranded for 15 hours in the U-Haul while Highway 58 in California was shut down due to snow, eating one of the best plates of rice and beans I’ve ever had, doing Kegels as we passed the Grand Canyon, and learning that I could spend five days with Simon without interruption and not feel inclined to jump out of the truck and hitchhike my way to New York.

I also was exposed to a bunch of different jobs and individuals who otherwise would have remained a mystery if I’d remained in the hipster-filled puddles of Portland. Below are some toils observed in transit.

Commercial Truckers

One of the most obvious things that you notice when driving across country is that there are a lot of semi-trucks. The term “a lot” is a serious understatement here, it seems that nearly every other vehicle on the road is some form of mud-flap flipping, large blind-spot boasting, roar-of-the-road horn honking big rig. And a large percentage of these have drivers who wave and honk and are basically as friendly as a human being can be behind the wheel of a vehicle where you’re not a passenger.

Another thing that’s almost as copious as the wide loads themselves are the billboards that pepper the skyline. Throughout each state we traversed there were countless signs broadcasting every type of business, Church, or organization. Some, usually those for diners or buffets, were advertised as having a discount with a valid CDL, or commercial drivers license. If it means I can get an omelet and toast for less than three bucks, sign me up.

A CDL doesn’t require driving school, oddly enough. It’s simply a method of testing your knowledge of basic driving skills and truck know-how. Both written exams have to match the state that’s issuing the CDL, and the instructors who prep and test must have professional certification identical to the state instructors.

If commercial trucking is something that revs your engine, you can check out this article on preparing for your commercial truck driving license. Roadmaster Commercial Trucking School is also a good resource for all things rig related.


Anyone who has seen me eat a meal knows that I cannot waitress. Fortunately for the dining public, not every biped is as clumsy as myself. Three meals in particular leapt out as being exemplary while we wheeled our way to Oklahoma:

Penny’s Diner
Bettyjeane was our waitress, and she made our breakfast that much brighter. Penny’s is a quasi-1950s greasy spoon that serves the railroad workers in the neighborhood and those like us who were just passing through Yermo, California. I highly recommend their veggie omelet, and they have vanilla cola made with actual syrup. Good stuff.

Casa Blanca Café (located at 1201 E Second St Winslow, AZ 86047 (928) 289-4191)
Simon and I are big fans of Anthony Bourdain’s work, and we’ve learned from No Reservations that in order to get a good meal in a strange place, it’s best to ask the locals. The assistant manager of the Motel 6 we stayed in that night pointed us towards Casa Blanca, which lay at the end of a desolate stretch of road once referenced in an Eagles’ song. While the interior didn’t vary much from the standard Mexican places I used to frequent in Portland, the rice and beans, and the blue corn chimichangas, absolutely strayed from the average, entering into the transcendental. The woman who waited on us told relayed how Casa Blanca was her grandmother’s restaurant, and she’d been working there since she was eleven years old. Now a mother of a teenager herself, she and her daughter served us some history of the city while we ate some of the most incredible food of our lives.

I’m not a big fan of Denny’s, but after spending the night sleeping in the U-Haul (and peeing outside of it) a Grand Slam was more than enough to boost my mood. The woman who helped us get fed after a night subsisting on each others’ company and not much else deserves a medal of honor. She not only provided breakfast, but the number for California highway information. If you’d like to join the Denny’s ranks you can check their career opportunities page.

And if you need California highway information, you can check out the department of transportation website here.

Ranch Hands and Railroad Workers

On our journey we were lucky enough to encounter those who tend both to livestock and to laying down tracks. These men have long days, filled with the kind of labor that makes us city kids squirm. From laying ballast  to cattle branding, I could not handle a single hour in their shoes. Moreover, I can pretty much guarantee that they could kick some serious ass if pressed.

If you’d like to read about the technical elements required to become a ranch hand you could check out this article or this great career profile on being a cowgirl or cowboy.

You can also check out a site by railroad workers for railroad workers or their union site.

Kudos to cowboys and railway workers. Seriously.

Highway Patrol

Lastly, at eleven-thirty on Friday night we were stopped by a Texas state trooper who looked half our age. While I was terrified that he was going to arrest us if he found the bunch of bananas I’d accidentally left in the back of the U-Haul (smuggling fruit across state lines!) he instead just issued us a warning about the tags on the truck and sent us on our way wondering how we could get ourselves a Panasonic tough book and a nifty uniform like his.

Wanna become a Texas state trooper? I don’t think it’s easy.

Be safe traveling as you make your way to and from family and holiday happenings. I hear that Portland is completely shut-down with snow. I send you my sympathy, Pacific Northwesterners. Now I’m going to go and lasso me some tofu.

Feel free to swap cross-country tales, drop me a line at AinsleyDrew at gmail dot calm. And thank you to all who donate. It makes our holidays, you know, happy.

Hire us, we’re hungry for work!


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