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On the road to Laramie

In to the Wind

May 16, 2012
By Mike Gilchrist , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Shifting gears a bit and doing something I have never done before, I met my friend and neighbor Derek at the head of the lane. He is driving a Freightliner. A freightliner is the tractor part of a tractor trailer combination.

My intention was to experience what it is to be an over the roadtrucker, and catch a ride out to Laramie to visit my uncle Jim.


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are held to a whole book of rules to which they must comply. I got a glimpse of the scope of that fact when Derek handed me the "book."

Small, thick, and comprehensive, I glanced at a few of the sections to grasp some of the subjects about which we spoke.

My uncle Jim has a brain tumor. It has been a somewhat gruesome regimen of radiation and chemo treatments the past few moths for him. Aunt Char has been dealing with quite a lot since the cruel disease entered their lives. Mine is a trip to see both of them and perhaps lend a hand for a few days.

Derek had to carry an empty trailer from Toledo to Grinnell, pick up a load there and take it Des Moines. Actually, we were delivering doors and windows to four different Home Depots in the greater Des Moines area.

When I was young, I thought Uncle Jim was a cool guy. When he was younger, he used to race motorcycles. That was before Aunt Charlene told him it was either her or the bikes, or something like that. They've been married 50 some years, so I guess the bikes didn't win.

There is this, alien to me, a formula professional drivers use to determine the length of time they can drive before they have to take a ten hour break. These rules, because of the diversion of the deliveries in Des Moines and a trip empty back to Grinnell to pick up a full load destined for Colorado, caused that drive timer to expire in extreme western Nebraska; specifically, at the flying J Truck Stop in Big Springs.

Here soon, the drive timer will be reset after the requisite 10-hour down time. Derek is still sleeping. The inside of that sleeper cab is much like the inside of a small efficiency apartment. There is even a bunk bed sort of arrangement at the back of that cab. I scrambled up to the top of the rack, and slept the best I could, considering the eternal activity and truck movements one finds at a 24 hour truck stop.

I am sitting down at a booth in one of the aisles in the truck stop tapping these keys and writing this column. It's 52 degrees and crimson tints on the eastern sky hint both the sun is rising, and that it is going to be a glorious bright day.

Once we get under way, we will be heading at a measured rate of speed towards Wiggins, Colo., where one of my cousins, Jim and Char's daughter Pam, from Eaton, Colo., is meeting me and taking me the restof the way into Laramie.

Trips to Wyoming and Colorado when I was a kid were frequent and exciting. Uncle Jim has always been an outdoorsy sort of fellow. A hunter and fisherman, some of those special kid memories involve Uncle

Jim and float trips down the North Platte River out of the mountains above Laramie.

Uncle Jim worked as a fireman in Laramie. During spare time, the firemen made what was called Platter River spinners. They looked a lot like the Mepps variety, and are what we used to catch trout on those floats down out of the mountains. Those same firemen also had a fine collection of inflatable rubber boats, which we used on those float trips.

Manyindelible memories have been etched into my brain because of those float trips and my uncle Jim.

The day is about to begin in earnest; Derek is up and I'm back in the "clubhouse" pounding again on the keys. Soon, we will be underway again, and we will be heading at a measured rate of speed towards Colorado, and my rendezvous with Pam.

An observation from the road: Interstate 76, which begins on the far western side of Nebraska, is the point where you turn off I-80 to head south towards Colorado. I-80 then continues on to Wyoming.

Off I76, to the north, it appears, at least in this part of the state, Colorado is embracing wind power in a big way. There are miles of white monoliths dotting the ridge line. Because I76 angles SW, the line of windmills fades into the haze before the actual end of this massive deployment.

In western Nebraska and NW Colorado, there are huge cattle feed lots as big or bigger than any I've ever seen in Iowa.

Huge wheeled irrigation units are the norm for agriculture in western Nebraska, and in eastern Colorado. Water moving through the devices turns gears on the wheels, and the irrigation booms irrigate in a large circular fashion.

Pam picked me up and we made the trip over the summit between Cheyenne and Laramie. The country here is as beautiful as I remember, although because of a persistent drought looks a little brown.

Uncle Jim looks remarkably well. In fact he looks much better than I had anticipated. I am up early, finishing this column so I can get it filed with my editor.

We talked for quite a while after I got here. I wanted him to know the memories I held so dear regarding the things he did with me as a kid have left a positive and indelible mark on my very being.

Uncle Jim,just know you are one of a kind and a special person to so many of us! I will see you again soon!

Last night we put a web cam on Aunt Char's computer so the two of them can Skype, or video conference with other members of the family. Like many contemporary families, ours is spread to the four winds, and indeed the four corners of the country.

By the time you read this column, I will be back in Toledo, and back to my routine. However, now I can visit with them regularly from home, using the technology.

Until next time--

You can read past columns by visiting and clicking on the "Local Columns" button at the bottom of the page.

In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2005 - 2012 Mike Gilchrist.

Readers, feel free to contact me at via email, or write

to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.



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