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guest blogger: salena of the daily rant | Bleeding Espresso Bleeding Espresso

guest blogger: salena of the daily rant

We have a guest blogger today here at BE, none other than My Camera Fairy herself, Salena of The Daily Rant. You know I love Salena and her blog, so I’m going to keep the intro super short and let you get right into her fabulous post.

But not before I ask you to also go visit me at Italy Magazine for this week’s Guarda! column: The Candelieri of Sardinia! Buon weekend!

——————

Hair coiffed and perfume spritzed? Check.
Manicure done and toes polished? Check.
Eyeliner straight and lip gloss shining? Check.
Flip-flops and matching purse ready to go? Check.
Silver hoop earrings in place? Check.
Cleavage gently heaving? Check Check.

Give or take a few items (but never the lip gloss), this is my daily checklist. It’s what I do to get ready for my work day. For some of you, this may be run of the mill. For others, it may be over the top. For me, it’s my oxygen. My atypical girlie checklist makes me an anomaly in my industry, because where I make my living takes place behind the wheel of a big rig.

Let me share a quick statistic with you: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over three million truck drivers in the United States. 4.5 percent of them are women.

I am one of those women.

And this is what I drive:

In addition to my personally imposed checklist, I am required by the Department of Transportation, adhering to a federal standard, to conduct a real pre-trip inspection. Before heading out on the road, I have to check fluid levels, belts, hoses, tire pressure, brakes, air pressure, lights, exhaust system, trailer integrity, etc. I have to make sure everything is in excellent working order before taking to the highway.

In my blog, The Daily Rant, I have documented my lifestyle by keeping a daily account of where I’ve been, what I do and what I think. The latter can range from my praise of all things Dunkin’ to my biggest pet peeve, poor customer service. That’s where the rant part comes in.

I have written more than 1,100 blog posts, with over 500 of them including photographs. I have traveled in 49 U.S. states (I’ve also been to Hawaii, but obviously not in the truck!) and 11 of the 13 Canadian Provinces & Territories. I have been to every major city in America, most of the major cities in Canada and countless small towns in-between. I have traversed the peaks of the American and Canadian Rockies, had my feet in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, driven the ALCAN Highway to Alaska and snorkeled in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. I have seen the majestic beauty of the Siskiyou Mountains in the Northwest and the indigo haze of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Southeast.

I knew before I even hit the road that I would love to drive, but my boyfriend Ed (of my blog’s “Eddie Friday” posts) suggested I join him as a passenger first, since life on the road is not for everyone. He wanted to make sure I liked it before I spent the money and time to go to school for my license. So he gave me a job being his load dispatcher/secretary/bookkeeper/Girl Friday and I stayed out on the road with him for two years before I went to school to get my very own CDL (commercial driver’s license). I’ve had my CDL for over two years and now we drive as a team.

We are on the road over 300 days of the year, driving over 150,000 miles during that time and covering the United States and Canada extensively. I’ve learned a lot from Ed as he shares his knowledge and experience of over twelve years and 1,500,000 miles behind the wheel. I know I have many years to go before I hit the million mile mark, but by the time I get there, I’ll be an old pro with all the tips and tricks he’s passed on to me!

Upon hearing how many hours a day we drive, one of the first things most people seem to want to know is, “How can you sit for that long??” Valid question, I suppose, but what they don’t realize is that in this job, I get up and move more than I did at the desk job I had the year before I went on the road. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the sitting around part, as I am the Queen of doing nothing; which the size of my ass confirms every time I buy a new pair of Capri pants.

In case you’re wondering, and even if you’re not, being a truck driver is not responsible for my generous proportions. I’ve always been what my grandfather would call “a big girl”. That said, I would not be seen out in public wearing big ‘ol prairie skirts and baggy clothing ala Kirstie Alley in her pre-Jenny Craig days. I assure you I have not fallen into the sweat pants and wrinkled t-shirt trap you see a lot of the women out here dressed in, and I most certainly do not subscribe to the “I’ll never see these people again, who cares what I’m wearing” philosophy.

From those previously mentioned manicures and pedicures to the lip gloss and trademark silver hoops, I have maintained every aspect of my femininity, and the best compliment I can ever receive after telling someone what I do for a living, is for them to say “You don’t look like a truck driver.”

For those of you wondering what I do look like, here is a little collage representing several versions of me on the road (and no, there are not any that depict the actual size of my ass, but you can see a full length picture of me here and I won’t even make you read through all of my archives to find it!):

In this job, the stops are so numerous, I often feel as if I’m on a tour of all the bathrooms and bookstores in North America. We stop so many times for me to take a pee break, I fear Ed is going to make me start wearing a diaper just so we can get some work done. We generally stop (and get out of the truck) for breakfast, lunch and dinner, in addition to taking breaks for a frosty beverage, a hot latte or an afternoon in Barnes and Noble. I’ve even been known to be persuaded (and by that, I mean dragged kicking and screaming) to go on a walk with Ed. I have been to malls in every state and several Canadian Provinces, including the largest mall in the United States; the Mall of America in Minneapolis, MN and the largest mall in North America; the West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

The type of freight we haul varies daily and we never know what we’re going to get. Some days it’s lumber, steel and pipe; other days it might be military equipment for our troops at home and abroad. More specifically, some of the items we have hauled are: nuclear submarine parts, spy plane components, million dollar jet engines (one was worth $4.7 million dollars and went up to Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada for their Maple Flag 40 exercise), radioactive medical machinery, steel plating for armoring military vehicles and the actual armored vehicles, gardening supplies such as mulch and peat moss, commercial air conditioning units (to Newfoundland, Canada of all places!), auto parts out of Detroit, assembly line equipment for an evaporated milk factory, submarines from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, satellite components for NASA, shipping containers filled with various items (like thousands of pencils from China), mobile office units, accessories for military housing in Alaska, aluminum fabricating machinery, equipment to measure underwater earthquakes, construction equipment like Bobcats and scissor lifts, fencing for the Mexican border, and provisions for major disaster relief efforts like Hurricane Katrina and the Minneapolis bridge collapse. We’ve even hauled live honey bees from California to Florida, used to pollinate our crops!

I’ve done a lot of jobs in my life, from my first one bussing and waiting tables in my family restaurant, to managing a movie theater, being an operator for the deaf, working at a four star resort, masquerading as an “admin assistant” in an office, making people beautiful selling Estee Lauder cosmetics and hawking Sabrett’s from my very own hot dog cart; but driving a truck has been by far the best job I’ve ever had, for a variety of reasons.

The very first thing that struck me about this job was the absolute freedom of it. I don’t punch a time clock, I don’t have to be at a job on any specific day at any specific time for any specific set of hours. That’s not to say I don’t have a responsibilities to be somewhere, but from the time I leave the shipper to the time I arrive at the receiver is up to me, as is the in-between time. I sleep when I want, drive when I want, eat when I want, dawdle for as long as I want and do pretty much everything else on my very own schedule. No one looking over my shoulder or breathing down my neck. Although, I do sometimes feel Ed’s eye wandering in my direction now and again, but the freedom of being self-employed is like nothing I’ve ever known. I’ve always worked for someone else and had to play by their rules, which is so not my style.

The second noticeable difference from any other job I’ve held, is the money. As self-employed owner-operators, we make more in one month than I used to make in one year. And it’s not even hard. At first, I was shocked it was even possible, but now I challenge myself to find loads that will maximize our revenue and minimize our work. I will load our trailer from end to end, using every inch of it, to get the most pay for the least amount of effort. It’s sort of like that old Marine Corps adage, “Work smarter, not harder.”

I mention the money to illustrate how this profession provides more than just the freedom of an unstructured work day. There are many reasons to choose a particular career, but in this one, the money isn’t the only goal for me. It’s not about the money itself but what the money represents, which is far more valuable to me. And what I value at this point in my life, is time; the more money I make, the more time I have, and with that time comes my third and perhaps favorite reason for loving this job. The travel.

Even after being on the road for four years, I am still amazed at how much this country has to offer. The people, although the same in their humanness, vary widely in their personalities, characteristics and even appearance based on where you are in the country. It’s amazing to me when I can look at someone and say, “You look like you’re from Minnesota,” and not only be close, but sometimes, right on the money.

Being a native New Yorker, my accent, although not strong, is very recognizable in many of the places I travel. I stand out like a sore thumb in the South, but I get just as many people from other areas of the country asking me where I’m from. I love seeing how and where people live. I enjoy talking to the locals and many times, have exchanged e-mail addresses or phone numbers with people I meet on the road. Ed doesn’t understand it, but I’ve had complete strangers hand me their telephone numbers and say, “you must call me next time you’re in the area!”

I most enjoy traveling the rural roads, which we don’t do very often as it’s not as expedient or as safe as the interstates, but there are so many gorgeous little places off the beaten path that sometimes I resort to begging so Ed will acquiesce. In these places, I’ve found sights that range from the smallest church in America and the largest cow in the country, to the ice cream capital of the world.

Instead of just talking about places I want to go, I visit them. I don’t have to save money for an annual vacation, put in my request to get the time off and keep my fingers crossed hoping that no one else in my office asked for the same block of time. I go where I want, when I want. I don’t have to wonder what the people of North Dakota are like, I get to meet them. And when I’m itching to get a little grease on my fingers because I’m yearning for the taste of a real Philly Cheese steak sandwich, I can go to Pat’s.

Instead of watching the History Channel to experience historical sites, I am able to immerse myself in them. I’ve walked the halls of George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate on the Potomac River, seen the faces of our Presidents carved into Mount Rushmore, strolled in the garden of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s home perched on the banks of New York’s Hudson River, stood on the grounds of countless military forts, and wandered the streets of numerous Civil War cities; and as with most of the places I go, I take pictures.

Here is a sampling:

You can see all of the pictures I have taken by delving into my blog archives, or you can see a collection of my favorites on my Flickr site. Just click here.

This job is more to me than just supporting the infrastructure of a nation; that’s the bigger part of what I do. I’m a small cog in the wheel of getting goods delivered. The American Trucking Association has a slogan: Good Stuff. Trucks Brings It. I am one of those three million drivers that bring the good stuff. And that makes me proud.

It’s that pride that makes me thrilled to talk about what I do, and this post has allowed me to do just that. If you read my blog, you will gain some insight into the days when Ed is making me laugh or driving me crazy, when I want to strangle the cashier in Target or how I’m plotting to disable the sun because I can’t stand the heat it projects, but for the most part, the good outweighs the bad and I hope that comes across in this post.

I thank Michelle for allowing me to share my world with some of the people in hers. Reading her blog and many of the ones she’s turned me on to has opened my eyes to the world of people living their dreams. Whether it be in the hills of Calabria or the cab of an 18-wheeler, I think the best thing you can do is pursue the things that make you feel alive and give you joy. Be open to new adventures, mingle with different people, date someone who isn’t your type, try a new food, and listen as Michelle has said in one of her posts, to your core.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you have to be all woo-woo and Zen-like, but it is important to balance the have-to’s with the want-to’s.

22 Beans of Wisdom to “guest blogger: salena of the daily rant”
  1. 08.15.2008

    Cool, really cool. I have always wondered about the women who drive professionally. Thanks for filling me in.

    Judith in Umbria’s last blog post..Gnocchetti di spinaci e ricotta

  2. “Whether it be in the hills of Calabria or the cab of an 18-wheeler, I think the best thing you can do is pursue the things that make you feel alive and give you joy. Be open to new adventures, mingle with different people, date someone who isn’t your type, try a new food, and listen as Michelle has said in one of her posts, to your core.”

    Amen!

    I loved reading about your job Salena. A few years ago I was trying to help a director find financing for his documentary on big rigs. I find this world really fascinating.

    I cracked up reading about your refusal to rock the “pre Jenny” Kirstie get ups. It must throw people for a loop to meet a female trucker driver and one who does not look like what the stereotype suggests.

    How fortunate you are to be able to do what you love, with someone you love, travel, set your own hours, write and meet interesting people.

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..Siamo in Ferie/We’re on Vacation!

  3. Gil
    08.15.2008

    All I can say about this post is WOW! Salena you are the classiest truck driver I have ever heard about. What a great story and beautiful pictures. Small world about the “Jewish Alps” my Mother’s family operated dairy farms, a creamery and produced Italian cheeses around the same area. I remember hearing about the cows in Grand Gorge, the creamery, boarding house and cheese making operations in North Blenheim. During WWI the supply of Italian imports dried up and my great grandfather, his brothers, and all of the children left NYC fro the “Alps”.

    I’ll have to stat bugging you on your own blog.

  4. what a great post. I’ve read a bit of Salena’s blog before…and what a great perspective 🙂 The photos are always great too.

    Also, congrats Michelle again on your Italy Mag article. I’ll go check it out now 🙂

    erin :: the olive notes’s last blog post..sunflowers and contemplations

  5. Yeah Salena! (I always wondered what to call you – I was thinking of you as “Bella Venere,” which also suits).

    I wonder if we shared any highways on my trip across the country this summer – your comments about armored vehicles made me think of a convoy of flatbeds hauling Strykers I wa driving with on I-40 in California and Arizona.

    Anyway, loved traveling the road with your sistren and brethren. Hope to see you out there one of these days…

    paul of crazy like whoa’s last blog post..Where I’m from

  6. 08.15.2008

    That was the coolest post! Thank you so much for taking the time to write about what you do, now and everyday.
    Stay safe and I definitely will be back to read your future posts!
    Michelle I can see why you love her blog so much, she’s a beautiful inspiration.

    Lucy’s last blog post..10 Minutes From Home

  7. 08.15.2008

    Wonderful post. It’s very nice to “meet” you, Salena.

  8. 08.15.2008

    Judith: I’m glad I was able to fill you in on our life out here. And I just got back from saving your Gnocchetti recipe for when I get back home and can cook! Gnocchi is my fave!

    NYC/Caribbean Ragazza: I’m all about throwing people for a loop in this biz. You should see me in winter when I’ve got my red pashmina thrown around my shoulders – so not the typical trucker garb!

    Gil: Thank you, thank you! How about them Jewish Alps, huh? I just got an email from a family member with facts about Orange County, NY where I grew up – seems cheese was big there – Philadelphia Cream Cheese was invented in Chester, NY in 1872 and Velveeta was created in 1923 in Monroe, NY – just mere minutes from where my family currently lives!

    Erin: Thanks. Hope to see you over at my place again soon!

    Paul: I thought the same thing about you! WHERE was he? We’re always out there, so keep your eyes peeled. We actually do the Boston area a lot too – maybe one of these days we’ll meet at Mike’s Pastry to have a canoli!

    Lucy: Thank you. Looking forward to seeing you at The Daily Rant too!

    Ninotchka: Nice to meet you too! Thanks for the kind words.

    Salena’s last blog post..Come Visit Me In Italy!

  9. Tina
    08.15.2008

    A woman who drives an 18-wheeler = mega super hot! That is so awesome! You really brought a smile to my face today. Thank you! And have a good weekend.

    Tina’s last blog post..What I did

  10. 08.15.2008

    It’s so funny… I spent a lot of this morning talking with a good friend about how to live your life to give yourself joy, and I think it’s a lot easier than people give themselves credit for. Life is always about choices.

    Your post was fascinating and wonderful, and it sounds like your life is, too.

    jen of a2eatwrite’s last blog post..Bling Fling Thing Part I

  11. 08.15.2008

    Michelle – I also loved the article on the Sardinian festival – I’d never heard of this and it was fascinating and looks like joyous fun! I tried to leave a comment but it wasn’t clear to me that it worked when I did.

    jen of a2eatwrite’s last blog post..Bling Fling Thing Part I

    Thanks Jen; I did see your comment there after a while…grazie 🙂

  12. What Tina said!

    Also, Michelle: I love the breezy way you say “Here at BE…” It’s a place! A happening!

    Buon ferragosto e buon weekend a tutti voi.

    paul of crazy like whoa’s last blog post..QotFD

    That’s right! That comes from all my abbreviating in emails to Cherrye….

  13. Ariana from Chicago
    08.16.2008

    Salena, you rock, honey. How refreshing to see a woman bustin hump in a man’s world. And loving it.

    So my all important super critical question for you. I can’t bear to live without the answer.

    What the heck is that nail polish color you have on your piggies?? Gotta get me some.

  14. 08.16.2008

    Tina: I’ve always wanted to be mega super hot! I’m glad you liked the post. I have to say – dancing the tango? Pretty mega hot yourself!!

    Jen: Glad you liked the post, and keep giving advice on how to live joyfully. Just today I tried to drill that concept into the head of my 20 year old cousin. She has an opportunity to do a semester (5 months) in Parma, Italy and she’s hemming and hawing about it. Scared, I think. But I keep telling her to DO IT! I have even used Michelle as an example. She just HAS to go!

    Paul: Thanks there! I’m serious about that cannoli at Mike’s!

    Ariana: I’ve always wanted to do a “boy’s job” – too bad it took me almost 20 years to do it! As for the color of my piggies? That’s my summer staple! It’s called “Pompeii Purple” by OPI. I wrote about it here: http://bellavenere.blogspot.com/2006/05/summer-staples.html
    I am seriously NEVER without it! It turns a tanned foot into a masterpiece!! LOL

    Salena’s last blog post..Come Visit Me In Italy!

  15. 08.16.2008

    Great post. I LOVED your intro, particularly, ‘check, check’. Good stuff.

    casalba’s last blog post..Taverna La Staffa

  16. 08.17.2008

    *WOW* Salute to you great lady. What a great great post & what an absolute eye-opener! I love everything about what you do, the hard work, the beauty & the rants that you manage to log & blog about…*BOW* to your spirit & the way you’ve written the post! Man, I love it! I worked in airport operations, tarmac, cargo,bomb scares & all many years ago, which was challenging, but not as your vocation is….WAY TO GO!

    Deeba’s last blog post..CHICKEN KORMA…MAKE MINE HOME-MADE!

  17. 08.17.2008

    How cool is she! I’m going to have to join the rant.

    We have occasionally seen women driving trucks in Italy, and I’ve made an effort to check the number plate to see which country they were from.

    My dad drove trucks for a while, and I drove with him a few times on school holidays – another thing that inspired my love of travel I guess – but in Australia in those days a woman truck driver was unheard of. I’ll have to see if things have changed when we soon go on the road to update the Rough Guide to Australia.

    Thanks, Michelle!

    laradunston’s last blog post..Making connections: the lock of love

  18. 08.17.2008

    Casalba: Thanks! Yeah, the “check, check” often helps. I think I passed an inspection in California because of it! LOL

    Deeba: Greatly appreciate the “WOW”. Thank you. Sounds like you’ve had a few cool jobs too!

    LaraDunston: Please keep an eye out for those Truck Drivin’ Sheila’s when you’re out on the road traveling through those woop woops!

    Salena’s last blog post..Popping Good Time

  19. 08.17.2008

    Thank you for the insiders view. I drive a lot and have wondered many times about what this lifestyle must be like. I find your insight fascinating, and I appreciate the time you took to give us the tour!

    What an amazing adventure.

    Scarlett & Viaggiatore

    Wanderlust Scarlett’s last blog post..Showers, Surprises and Suppositions

  20. 08.18.2008

    Great guest post. I will have to go check out ‘The Daily Rant”!

    Thotlady’s last blog post..Glenn Beck

  21. 08.18.2008

    Wanderlust Scarlett: It was my pleasure to give you the tour! Thank you for reading and commenting.

    Thotlady: Thank you. Please come on over and check me out anytime!

    Salena’s last blog post..Another Day, Another 32 Things About Me

  22. jaredshotwoman
    08.19.2008

    wow i think imma cry lol….you two are an inspiration to me! thank you! you only live once right? this was just what i needed to kick myself in the butt and do what i always wanted to do…to read two women’s blogs doing what they love is just awesome,amazing and wonderful! Thank You!

    Aw, thank YOU for the wonderful comment 🙂 Now go…do!

Michelle FabioMichelle Fabio is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer living in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy and savoring simplicity one sip at a time. 

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Recipes

 

Homemade apple butter
Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins
Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins
Prosciutto wrapped watermelon with bel paese cheese
Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake