Saturday, March 21, 2009

Family Reunion, Part II

I am officially a MATS veteran. And it feels good.

On my first day in Louisville, I ran into old friends. Of course, Diesel Dave Sweetman and Suzanne Stempinski (Red the Happy Hamster for the CB set) joined all of us from OOIDA home office. Both are longtime members, lifelong truckers, and writers for the magazine, but we really don’t see them much.

Suzanne is based out of Illinois, Dave out of Florida. They’re like extra-special phone buddies. So it’s a special treat for all of us to see them at Mid-America.

But it didn’t end there. Paul Abelson, the magazine’s senior technical editor, joined us Wednesday. And then, during the day, early arrivals started to pour in.

Candy, a Life Member of OOIDA and a frequent caller to our program – as well as someone we consider a good friend – stopped by the Spirit to see Barry and me. She was with member Ron Terry and his wife. All three are working the booth for the St. Christopher Fund. We’d have talked all night, but Barry and I had to get back to the hotel to do more work.

While they were talking with us, trucker, country music singer and all-around good guy Leland Martin stopped by. Leland’s a very active supporter of the industry and the folks in it, and he’s also just plain fun to chat with.

And as if that wasn’t enough, suddenly, out of nowhere, Don Turkelson drives up. Don is also a member, a longtime trucker, a former military chaplain (with some great stories and insights from that experience) – and he was the winner last year of Arrow Truck’s Back on the Road Contest.

Don had to leave the profession after he was shot during a truck hijacking. Arrow, Volvo, OOIDA and others put him back on the road. Great story. Great guy.

I was talking with Candy, the Terrys and Leland, while our producer Barry went over to talk with Don.

It really is like a family reunion. These are great people, and it’s a real joy to see them.

That’s why I think I’m officially a MATS veteran now. I come here not only to work, but to renew old acquaintances, to see friends, to meet new friends, to take part in a community I’m proud, I’m honored to be invited into.

And yes, that feels pretty darn good.

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