A driver makes his truck a sight to behold around the world
Hank Good • Monticello, N.Y. • Driving for 38 years
I can remember from a young age loving the big trucks around me. Although I was born in Germany, with a German mother and a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers father, I remember watching the big trucks in the tunnels of New York City when my father worked there as an engineer.
I loved to bombard the drivers at the truckstop diner across the street from my elementary school with questions. As I got older, I got a little more clever. I would trick drivers into giving me rides in their big rigs after my paper route, and then I would help them unload at the supermarket. I was just excited to be riding in a truck.
And so I was ecstatic when it came to buying my first semi which would one day be known as the Highway Hilton. It was royal blue with lighter blue stripes, a Kenworth K100 Aerodyne — my cabover. It was July 23, 1981, when I got my truck and took it to work. It took them a month to get it ready for me, but I wanted all this stuff to be done to it, like aluminum wheels and lights on the cab and so forth.
From there my trucking adventure came to life. I started acquiring ornaments for my truck and getting things painted on it. More lights were added all the time and the truck lit up whole parking lots at night. I started going to truck shows and that’s when I got the name for my truck. There was this camper on the road and the driver let me over. Then this little old lady got on the CB — she was driving the camper — and told me I had a Highway Hilton. I knew that was the name for the truck.
In 1992, I got a great opportunity. I was sponsored and asked to participate in an International Truck Show Tour in Europe with the Highway Hilton. I took my cabover to Europe in a freight-only ferry. I had so much fun on the trip that a year later a friend and I, the late R.A. Johns III, better known as Streaker, went on a second run to Europe, me in my Kenworth cabover and Streaker in his Peterbilt. We became great friends and even made a little extra money at the shows by selling signed photos of our trucks and T-shirts.
But that trip wasn’t the last time I traveled to Europe to drive a truck. I went back in 1995 to drive a Mack for an ad agency.
The American-made truck wasn’t well known there, and the Europeans didn’t know what to do with the long hood or how to double clutch. On this trip, I spent 18 months traveling around Europe showing off the Mack and even did a Christmas tour driving Santa around to different stops before I came back home to the U.S.
Now, after eight years off the road due to a back and hip injury, I’m driving the Highway Hilton II, or HII for short. The new truck, a Kenworth W900-L, is already acquiring the famous décor that Hilton No. 1 had. And I also have a new passenger these days — my dog, Bear.
While I missed driving the whole time I was off the road, I picked up a lot of new enjoyments. Photography has always been my hobby and now video is too. I volunteered at many organizations, including the fire police, where I still work today.
As for the first Highway Hilton, it has a million and a half miles and is still running strong. It was restored while I was recuperating from my injuries, but these days it’s just for looks. I always miss my cabover when I’m hauling, but I don’t mind the roominess of my new truck.