This here's the Rubber Duck... - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

This here's the Rubber Duck...

BREAKER ONE-NINE, this here's the Rubber Duck...

HAROLD WAS a real-life Rubber Duck for years. It'll mean nothing to you if you don't remember the song. But your mother will explain.

We met in a cafe where he worked and gave us free coffee because he'd enjoyed our company. "I drove all over the US," he said. "Sometimes I'd park up and enjoy an area and drive on at night, and then I'd remember places and take my family back there afterwards. It used to be that truck drivers could make $70-100,000 a year but now, what with the economy being what it is, they're lucky to get maybe $50-70,000 a year. And then your expenses are high, the cost of being on the road. Truckstops charge $10 for a hamburger, things like that.

"And then you're away from your family for so long. That was the hardest bit."

You got a copy on me, Pig Pen, come on...

He wasn't your image of your everyday truckie, Harold. Round-faced, attentive, expressive with his words. The sort of man you'd say was bright but perhaps had never been spotted at school and taught accordingly.

"I got out of doing it full-time and then I drove just hot jobs when they called me. But it's surprising how many hot ones, urgent ones, there are."

I asked about the pressures on drivers, not least because for all my respect for them, we do share the same road and they are both bigger and faster. Coming up against a truck, while it rarely happens, is one-sided.

"Officially, you're only supposed to drive ten hours a day," Harold said, his use of "officially" making it plain that it was an ideal rather than a practice. "But you usually unload in the morning, say eight o'clock wherever you've delivered. So you have to drive there and wait while they unload you, which can take two hours, and that should all be part of your time. And then when the truck's cleared you call the dispatcher and tell him you're ready to go and that can take another hour and a half or two hours to find you another job. So that can be 150 miles away and you have to drive over there and get the load and then you drive 10 hours through the night.

"Well, I can tell you that I often had to slap my face to stay awake, or get out and walk round the truck in the cold air to revive myself. But some guys, believe it or not, they take drugs. But they can do that for two or three days and then that's when they start having accidents."

This here's the Rubber Duck and I'm about to put the hammer down!

He spoke of the trouble drivers had when they crossed state borders, of the way, he said, inspectors at the boarders ticketed drivers as a way to raise money for the state in difficult times.

"You go into California, say, and there's a whole team waiting for you. You drive on to a ramp over a pit and they're in there giving you the once-over. Now, there are slack-adjusters on a truck's brakes and each truck has ten of them. And the slightest bit of play and that's a $100 ticket.

"No, that's not a job for me any more. I've had restaurants and I used to grow Christmas trees. Now I don't grow them because it's cheaper to buy them elsewhere, and then I take them to Chicago and sell them there. It's been a while since I've thought of myself as a trucker any more.

Let them truckers roll, ten-four!

Rubber Duck's on the right
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