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Terry Alberter • Youngstown, Ohio • Driving for 13 years
I always say that I’m a firecracker because I was born on Independence Day, but any woman would have to be when it comes to learning to stand on your own two feet in a man’s business.
When I was 15 I got my driver’s license in Casper, Wyo., and started hauling steel pipe in a Diamond Rio 18-wheeler out to the oil field. My parents were workaholics and taught me that if I wanted something, I had to work for it. Now, I have my own truck and have driven just about everything: flatbeds, reefer, dry box. I even hauled for NASCAR.
I was offered the load of a lifetime in February of 2009. My boss called me one day and told me he had a great load for me if I wanted it, from Tracy, Calif., to Anchorage, Alaska. I had never been north of Vancouver and was a little freaked out, but when he told me that I would be delivering MREs (meals ready to eat) to soldiers who were being deployed to Iraq, my attitude changed. I thought, “You know, everyone does something for the troops. Why can’t I?”
I left for Canada on Feb. 20. At the border they tried to explain what I was in for, crossing the Glacier and Caribou Mountains going into Anchorage. It was a very hard drive. My top speed was 30 mph and my slowest was 3 mph. The temperature was between -60 and -100 degrees Fahrenheit the whole time and winds were blowing at 60 mph.
There was a lot of area, but the roads were winding and narrow for 3,000 miles. Fuel stops were 500 to 700 miles apart and I could go six hours without seeing another car on the road. When you fueled, you had to drop your trailer and use a husky station, either back up or use a hose underneath.
The people there are so nice. One time, I was really exhausted and needed to rest. I stopped at this Ma and Pop station and restaurant. I told them I was new and it was my first trip, and I needed to know where to go to park my truck and get some rest. They plowed a spot for me right then and there by their store for my truck.
Two drivers made sure I knew where to go for every fuel stop and how many miles between each one. When I got to the base, I was one of five trucks that were scheduled to be there. Somehow I made it there first, and I was the only woman driving, too. It was like the whole base was there to welcome me. They unloaded the MREs right onto the plane. They were ready to ship out. I felt proud to be a part of that.
I came home with a completely different attitude and a new respect for driving. Now I know to take everything I learn today, and build for tomorrow. If I ever get the chance to do a load like that again, I would do it in a heartbeat.