Chapter VIII Making Time on the Road


Now with everyone loaded; the air conditioning system working; and knowing we had solved the problem; it was time to get on the road. The dilemma, however I had been up since 6 AM that morning working with the coach.


That was 18 hours ago. Adding driving through the night to the 18 hours would make the run somewhere between 30 to 36 hours straight without sleep. thought about using one of the church coach drivers to give me a break; however, the company insurance would never have accepted that. So we were left with just me to get the coach to Alexandria, VA.


Several asked if I would have trouble driving that many hours to which I responded that we would find out. A good friend, Jerry Norris, was a chaperon on the coach.


I confided with Jerry the only problem I might have would be between the hours 2 to 5 AM. Once the sun started coming up it would be OK but those last few hours might be a problem.


Jerry said that he would come forward and talk me through that time frame. I felt confident that we could make it with his help.


Mark, my little hyperactive 10 year old son, came forward as were we leaving Nashville to help also. He kept telling me about chocolate milkshakes, ice cream, and anything else he knew I liked to help me to stay alert. I could not help but laugh at his effort. You just had to love him.


The coach was silent as most of the kids had gone to sleep. There was a low murmur but even that was getting quieter and quieter. The kids had a long day as well.


In the Two Rivers Church gym, they were allowed to play ball. The activity took more out of them. By the time we were 50 miles into the evening run it was total silence. Not a sound was being made as we pounded the pavement toward Alexandria.


Jerry came forward at 1:30 AM to help keep me awake. We talked quietly about different things that were going on in the world. He did a great job helping me to stay alert.


But about 2:30 AM, he confessed that he too had been up the entire day. He could not stay awake any longer. I said it was OK for him to go sleep with his wife who was on the coach also.


Now it was mine all by myself. For awhile it was OK. I was tired YES, but I was also alert. I was glad it had worked out that we could keep the coach. I also felt confident we had solved the problem with the air conditioning system.


We were back where we started. We had a brand new Eagle Model 15 with less than 5,000 miles and we were going to Washington, DC for two weeks.


The Model 15s had cruise control. They also had a 7 speed manual transmission. You could get them up to running speed in 7th gear; set the cruise control; and pretty much just sit there between the lines and let the coach do the work.


The unit had a Series 60 500 horsepower Detroit Diesel engine power unit. The Series 60 engine is the power unit on 18-wheelers that are used to move 80,000 pounds up and down the highway. Put the engine in a smaller unit such as a coach with less weight and you had complete freedom to let it do its thing. It could take you over the hills with little effort.


It has been told by other drivers that you could be going up a Colorado mountain with a 7% pull and pass a speed limit sign adding 10 miles to the speed limit hit the cruise button twice and it would climb to the new limit quickly. I had no reason to question the power. It had plenty to do what was necessary.


However, with no more than I had to do couple with the hours I had been in service without a break the monotony was horrible. I found myself getting extremely sleepy.


Image result for professional 18 wheeler driving at night photosI had used a particular technique driving the Model 15s. You can actually stand and drive a coach down the highway. With the cruise control holding the speed, the engine handling the power, the transmission taking it forward, all you had to do was to steer the coach.


I could actually stand behind the steering wheel while looking forward and steer the coach. For a change of body circulation, scenery, and responsibility, I would stand to get some relief while still driving.


This helped me to stay alert for awhile but it was not the solution. I would found myself sitting back down still fighting the elements of fatigue again and again.


Every facet of professional driving was being forgotten. My mental state was being affected by over-powering fatigue. It was causing me to look past the obvious.


Even the pictures that I recalled of coaches going off the highway with luggage and bodies strewn about the highway as if in a war zone would have helped. However, I was too tired to recall them.


I put them out of mind as quickly as they surfaced. I did not want to admit the possibility that could become a reality had passed through Knoxville, TN; had gone through the split with I-40 going south; and moved north on I-81 into Virginia. There were several hills in front of me but as I have said they did not require my total attention.


None of the hills in Virginia were near the magnitude of the Colorado hills; however, they created challenges for some 18-wheelers with full loads that had to work to get over. The Model 15 was just floating over.


Had we run east through West Virginia, we would have faced many hills that would have required my full attention, however, there was little concern when it came to hills in Virginia.


Tired YES! Committed to making it YES! Not only were we were making time at the moment on the road, we were making up lost time on the road.