Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hugs, gears and tears

I am a lot of things, but one thing I'm not is sappy. Anyone who knows me will vouch for that.

At least I'm not usually very sappy. But the end of the Mid-America Trucking Show every year turns me into the sentimental sort.

I've spent the past four days cramming my head full of information on EGR and SCR along with the grand debate swirling around the two 2010 emission-standard technologies. It's been press conferences full of new technology - some of which blew me away, like Grote's new LightForm strips of LED diodes no wider than 1/10,000th of an inch.

OOIDA members have been quizzing me and the rest of the folks - including our fearless leaders Jim Johnston and Todd Spencer - at the booths (yeah, we had three locations counting The Spirit truck) on every issue under the sun.

We've talked about speed limiters, electronic on-board recorders, diabetes waivers, tolling, cap and trade emission credits, tax breaks on fuel-saving technologies, increased taxes on truckers (remember Mt. Vernon's 2-cent tax on diesel only), longer-heavier trucks, bad broker practices, fuel surcharges ... you name it, I promise OOIDA folks were tested on it.

As usual, those in attendance met some of the coolest people you will ever meet. I am not kidding when I say I saw Aaron Tippin cruise down the hallway of the South Wing with no "handlers" at all. A few folks spotted him, asked for an autograph, and he politely stopped, chatted for several minutes, signed show programs and disappeared into the crowd.

Yeah, he gets truckers.

We heard the awe-inspiring stories of Jorge Orozco Sanchez, the 2008 Goodyear Highway Hero, and Dennis Lott, a dedicated professional driver, veteran and father, who today realized his dream of becoming an owner-operator. Arrow Truck Sales and its industry sponsors announced Lott as the winner of Arrow’s Back On The Road 2009 campaign. Check out the video of Don finding out he was "back on the road" here.

Both these unassuming men made your heart feel good just knowing that people like them do exist.

Then there are always the crazy, crazy things you see. I'm still a bit puzzled by the dude in the white tights and orange tutu. Must have lost a bet.

And, the show's unofficial end would be the announcement of the Paul K. Young Memorial Truck Beauty Competition - or as we have dubbed it, the "trophy dash."

This year's event started a little different. The folks putting on the competition recognized several people near and dear to the show truck community who have passed away recently. They did it with class and style. There wasn't a dry eye in the house.

The show then shifted gears, and the hard work and commitment of professional truckers were honored. The applause, slaps on the backs, high fives and more tears - tears of pride this time - were all a part of the fun. The picture above is one of the trucks receiving honors. Suzanne Stempinski will give you a full update later.

After that, for me it's hugs, promises to keep in touch, and watching friends disappear into the sea of show goers, with a part of me counting down the days until I return before I even leave.

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