Hidden Treasures-Sightseeing from the Truck
One of the joys of being a truck driver is the ability to visit many different places while being paid for it. While there is not a lot of time to actually stop and see an attraction very often, many great scenic sights can be seen through the windshield.
One of my favorite things to look for is old houses and downtown buildings. Last year, I was dispatched to pick up a load in Vandalia Michigan deadheading from Elkart Indiana. As I came up on a county road to highway 60 just west of Vandalia and stopped at the stop sign, across the street was a beautiful old house under renovation. I thought I would stop back after getting loaded to take some photos.
When I did just that, parking on the wide shoulder, I saw that there were people around now so got out to see what the deal was on the old house. Come to find out, a historical society was renovating the house to become a museum about the Underground Railroad. The docent (guide) allowed me to enter the house and told a little about the history. Before the civil war, many slaves escaped along a set path called the Underground Railroad comprised of people who would hide the now free person to get them to safety. The Bonine House, as the old house is called, was a major stop along the railroad. Click here to take video tour of the house. I take great pleasure when I load in Vandalia to check on the restoration work.
Some old houses that are now museums have ample room to park a truck or at least an expediter straight truck or bobtail. The Villa Louis in Prairie du Chien Wisconsin is the house that started my love of old houses when I was a child. Built at the site of the original Fort Crawford on an island alongside of the Mississippi River in 1844 by Hercules Dousman, a factor for John Jacob Astor in the fur trade, the Villa Louis site is now a historical complex including the house, the fur trading building and Fort Crawford museum. There is room for expedite straight trucks or bobtails to park on the east side of the complex. While there, one can take a walk along the river and see the other historical buildings left on the island or see the rock wall where riverboats used to moor.
Seeing old town’s downtown areas as one drives through can provide a lot of fun if one is into historical architecture. Fancy concrete art decorate many buildings and in some towns that are dying, someone who still has a business going on may have their building front painted in a courageous color.
Even if one does not have time to stop other than perhaps quickly on the shoulder or in a scenic pull out, beautiful scenery abounds along the highways and byways.
As a truck driver, people are always asking me if I have seen this or that site. They do not understand the nature of our jobs as truckers, we see many great views, but most are through the windshield. For instance, I was taking a flatbed load of sump pumps to Page Arizona north of the Grand Canyon. I kept seeing signs for the Grand Canyon so was looking for any sight of it, I never saw it. When I got to the conservation station to deliver, I asked the man where the Grand Canyon was along the way. He asked had I looked to the left as I went around a sharp right hand curve. When I replied yes I had looked, he asked if I had seen a line in the ground like the part in a dinner table...that was the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Yes, I had seen that, I was tickled, I had gotten to see the Grand Canyon!
The other thing we truckers are always asked is what is the most beautiful part of the country. For me that is a hard question to answer because I can find something beautiful to look at wherever I am, even if it is colorful graffiti on a building in an urban area. However, the most beautiful place for me is along the Mississippi River in southern Wisconsin because that is where I was raised so is home, yes; I am an old river rat. Combining hills to compete with the Ozarks in southern Missouri, with the majesty of the Mississippi River and the old river towns along the way, that part of the country provides satisfaction on many levels of my sightseeing criteria.
Another area of the country I enjoy is along the Columbia and Snake Rivers in the Northwest. You can see fishing boats, sail boats and sail boarders on the water and waterfalls along the hills. The rest areas provide historical information about before the dams were built so it is educational too. One of the most interesting places in the Northwest I have been is Mist Oregon west of Portland. There is not much in Mist these days, but there is the oldest continuous business building in Oregon. Starting out as a saloon and dance hall in the early 1800’s, it was a general and antiques store with a soda fountain counter when I was there in the early 2000’s. The proprietors were very willing to share the history of the building. You can get there easily coming from Portland in a truck, but do not try to come in or go out on highway 47 from highway 30, there are 130 hairpin curves on it in 30 miles, only logging trucks are allowed on it.
Finding things of interest to you to visit is easy in today’s world of internet access and you should have on board a motor carrier’s atlas. The atlas shows many points of interest along the roads that you might have time to stop and see or look for as you go by. Before getting off an exit to visit somewhere, it is good to google the site if it is for instance a museum, to get the number to call to see if it is accessible by truck; some are, some are not.
It does not matter what your sightseeing interest is, as you travel around the country you will find it. Wildlife, old houses or barns, windmills, historical sites or beautiful scenery is all around you, you just have to look out of the windshield to see them.