After the Jackson show, while Bozo and I were loading the trailer, I asked, how many hours in your work day? His reply, not as many as yours. Later I got a little noisier, and asked him what kind of money did truck driving pay? His response was just what I wanted to hear. More than you make. So both of those answers gave me something to ponder. I already had my commercial drivers license, and driving a big diesel truck, alone, no attitudes and stinky feet to deal with, which can be a problem on a crew bus,were very appealing to me.
Loaded up, we headed to Birmingham, then on to Atlanta, Georgia, and a show at the Fabulous Fox Theater built in 1929. There was talk that the Fox was going to close and the show was a scheduled benefit to help save the Fox, with special guest Dickey Betts from The Allman Brothers Band. The show was a roaring success. The crowd demanded encore after encore, and The Fox Theater is still open on Peachtree Street, Downtown Atlanta.
With a day off in Atlanta after the Fox show and a night at Rosie’s Cantina for the band and crew and a few too many Margaritas, the tour headed to Jacksonville, Florida.
We started having trouble with the RV along the way to Jacksonville. Jerry did some troubleshooting and a little tinkering and got us going again. After Jacksonville, the next show was in the very Historic city of Savanna, Georgia and the RV started acting up again. We needed a piece to the carburetor linkage that had come loose and lost along the way, so we removed the engine enclosure inside the RV, and Jerry operated the throttle by hand, while one of us drove on to Savanna. You do what it takes to make the gig.
We were a little over two weeks into the tour, there were quite a few folks from Dallas that were traveling on the band bus, so Willie brought another bus on to the tour, to give the band a little piece and quiet. Poodie, Willie’s stage manager, said we had a few days off between Savanna and Chicago and the crew bus was going to Chicago via Dallas, to drop those folks off.
At this time there were changes made on tour. Poco departed the tour, for reasons I do not know. Well maybe I do but I ain’t saying. Tom Paul Glazer and Waylon Jennings were added to the line-up.
The show in Chicago was at the Aerie Crown Theater, right on Lake Michigan. Scooter and I had not been able to visit much, so after lunch, we eased over to the water’s edge, to visit a few minutes, to reflect a little and catch up on a few thangs. Who would’ve thought a few years out of High School, we would be in Chicago, on tour with Willie Nelson and friends.
While loading the trailer, after the Chicago show, Bozo asked if I would ride with him, to the next gig to keep him awake. He said he had not had any sleep during the day and was pretty tired. I told him I would be glad to. We finished loading the trailer, shut the doors, showered; I told Jerry I was going to ride with Bozo, and we were on our way. The first couple of hours, I was in the sleeper, getting the restful sleep my body needs.
Bozo woke me up, asked me if I wanted to learn how to drive a big truck? I said hell yea! There was a rest area a mile up the road, he pulled in and went over a few thangs about shifting gears. He showed me where the shift pattern was on the visor, and the first thang he said, you only need the clutch to start and stop. When you take off, watch the tachometer, run the RPMs up to 2100-2200, then start your shift. Pull the shifter into neutral, and around 1700RPMs Start pulling the shifter into second gear, it will slip into gear real smooth before 1500 RPMs, and you are on your way. Same way with the other gears.
We got out of the truck; he went to the restroom, and I did a walk around, kicking the tires and checking the lights on the truck and trailer, making sure they all were working. When Bozo returned to the truck; he said to get on up there behind the wheel.
Climbing into the truck on the driver side for the first time, I was filled with excitement and anticipation. The view is very different in this seat. A lot is going on. You have the steering wheel, the handle for the trailer brakes, the speedometer, the tachometer, and a bunch of gauges on the dash. There are a red and yellow push-pull knobs for setting the parking brakes, an AM/FM radio, and cassette, and a two-way CB radio for communicating with other trucks as you run down the highway. The seat is air ride, with the push/pull button just under the front left side of the of the seat.
Most semi’s, have a Jake brake that is used when coming down a long steep grade, on the downside of a mountain, to slow the momentum of the truck, without having to use the truck and trailer brake. There are usually three switches. Flip one switch, and it shuts down two cylinders, and the compression from the two inactive cylinders will slow the truck down some. If one is not enough, then you flip the second one, giving the truck two more inactive cylinders of compression drag, and if that is not enough, then you go for the third. As the truck nears the bottom of the grade, you start flipping the switches back to the on position, and the cylinders will return to active, and you have all your power back, and your brakes are not smoking, and you just keep on trucking.
Bozo refreshed his log book, and I was ready to go. I gave the engine fuel as I let the clutch out, and we were rolling, eyes on the tachometer. I ran it up to 2100 RPMs, and started my shift without the clutch, just like Bozo said and around 1700 maybe a little less, and pulled the shifter into the second position without a scratch. Bozo said you got it, just remember how long you are when you pass someone, and into the sleeper he went. Wake me up when we get near a weigh station.
As a kid, my mother would drive us to Houston, before the interstate highway system was built, and all traffic would have to go through all the towns along the way. I remembered how the trucks would sound as they would go through the gears when taking off from a red light. They would wind the engine up to a certain sound every time they would shift. That sound was embedded in my memory. That memory helped me with the shifting, and I was confidant in my ability to shift without a clutch from then on. Trailer trucking 101, on-the-job training.