I had a dream…..
Truck ride in 2003 - Frank's birthday present
Throughout my whole life, I´ve loved to drive along the motorway with all the different big trucks. I used to tell my family that in my next life I would like to be a trucker. After having heard this more than a thousand times, I got the most incredible birthday present from Frank in 2003 – 4 hours driving a huge truck! With the kids and Frank in the back, I was driving that huge thing - what fun. Frank was very proud because it was such a good present.
For some time now I have been telling my friends that I wanted to do a truck drive – it was on my list of things to do during my lifetime. The problem was to find the right trucker. I found him with the help of friends from Kleve; they all praised him as a very honorable man. His reputation was so good that I became curious; we met for dinner in August and made the appointment for the truck drive in November.
The day before we left I got a bit nervous because I had only known the driver for a few hours. However, with money and a credit card in my bag the escape route was open. Later I learned that the trucker had similar problems about me – thinking that I would be a high-maintenance princess. He wondered if I would tell him after a few hours that I did not like to stay on the truck. But none of this happened.
The adventure started. A friend of Arnd – the trucker - gave me a lift to the Ruhr-area and we met on a parking lot at Bottrop. First on the trip was a visit to the “Großmarkt” – the grand market in Hamburg. What an experience! We arrived late in the evening and after 23.00 we were able to unload the clementines from Spain. (You must always look for Usia – the best clementines.) Then we slept on the Großmarkt - of course in the truck (I had the upper bed). Life on the Großmarkt is very busy and I was fascinated by all the big trucks.
In the morning, I met Arnd’s boss. She was a very good looking Spanish lady and did not show her surprise to find a female visitor on the truck. Next thing she invited me to have a look at the “Flower market”. My first coffee on the truck got cold because we enjoyed the flowers so much.
After loading paper rolls for Madrid and a nice wash for the beautiful truck we drove via the Netherlands to Belgium. The next morning it was time for a shower. Arnd showed me the way to the shower for men. I did not mind using it since it was clean and efficient. With my towel around my neck and the hairdryer in my hand I took off to find a plug. Strolling around the corner I ran into a huge trucker with a fat belly in his undershirt and a razor in his hand. I stopped dead and he nearly hurt himself with the razor. Pretending to be cool I ignored all the men coming and going and left the place neat and clean – just to find out that on the opposite side there was a shower for ladies! Arnd never noticed that. (Typical man!)
We had a stunning trucker breakfast and proceeded to France. In the evening, we drove through Paris. Seeing Paris from the height of a truck is really something. Via Bordeaux we crossed the border at Biarritz, drove the Somosierra Pass and found another place for a shower. This time I was clever enough to look for the ladies shower. I found it, but because it is rarely used and very clean, some clever guys decided to use it as well. OK – I did not mind.
We came to Burgos where we had to stop for 45 hours according to law. We parked on a truck stop with restaurants and a fuel station (that means a proper toilette).
First night we had dinner at one of the restaurants. Next night we dined in the truck: Champagne, Salmon and Caviar, candle light and classical music. It was an interesting evening with all the huge trucks coming and going. Next to us parked a British truck with even more horsepower and a good looking young driver covered in tattoos! Next morning my contact lenses were missing – we could not stop laughing when Arnd went to the garbage bin: an empty Champagne bottle, the remains of our salmon and caviar and among this, my contact lenses. Because we had the whole day, we ordered a taxi and drove into Burgos. I had never heard of Burgos before but it had the most incredible cathedral. It took us quite a while to see all the different chapels. We ended up in the local museum where we could not stop laughing (we almost got kicked out because of that) about the exhibited pictures, which really looked a bit weird.
The next day over breakfast we got a phone call from the boss and had to rush to Madrid, arriving at midnight. Because time ran out (there is very tough control about driving time) we had to unload in a hurry. I was very impressed with how much skill Arnd got the huge truck up to the loading ramp. Myself, I cannot even park my small car properly.
From Madrid we proceeded to Murcia. We had to go for the annual check up of the refrigeration unit and had lunch at a small bistro. I nearly got into big trouble with a Moroccan hooker who thought that I was laughing about her because Arnd and I had such a great time. We had to leave in a hurry to avoid problems.
We had to load the truck at three different places with broccoli and salad for Denmark. I had a shower without disturbance. Via Valencia we went to Luxemburg and had another nice Champagne dinner at the truck stop. Sitting very high you can overlook everything – and like in action TV, in front of us the police stopped cars and made the people unload their suitcases etc. They found quite a lot of illegal petrol and were obviously looking for drugs. Arnd and I enjoyed watching from our truck; we looked like those two old guys Statler and Waldorf from the Muppet Show. Colleagues call the truck cabin an aquarium – because of the design of the windows.
After breakfasting in Spain and France under olive trees we finally got to chilly Denmark. I liked it so much that instead of going home I continued on the road. We unloaded and went back to Hamburg. We had another break of 45 hours and the truck went for a service. The next morning we surprised our friends Anna and Dieter who live in Hamburg. I asked them if we could come for their famous champagne breakfast. Frank and I used to sleep at their home when we visited in the past, and of course they asked about our current accommodation. “We sleep on the “Großmarkt” in the five star Hotel Renault.” They did not know what to think about that… We had a great time with them and after 4 hours of breakfast, explored Hamburg on foot. Next day after a stroll on the Christmas market we stayed some time in the HGV workshops and I had plenty of opportunity to talk to other truckers. It is a very tough job and they actually do not have time for a family. They experience quite a lot of stress and pressure with the driving times, bad weather, traffic jams and crazy housewives on the motorway. I learned a lot about their lifestyle and their problems.
In the end, I received a plea from Malaika to come home and had to leave “my truck” in Hamburg.
Thinking about the trucker, I have been extremely lucky. Arnd was very good company. We enjoyed the same music and had a lot to talk about. It could not have been a better experience and I intend to go on tour with him again next year.
I am now very knowledgeable about the different trucks. Malaika is already suffering because I point out every detail when we meet a truck on the road. My favorite - of course after Renault Magnum -is Scania. I agree with Arnd that the Iveco is quite ugly. DAF has a pretty big cabin, preferable to MAN and Mercedes. I know all about a combination and tandem truck, a tautliner with Edscha top and the difference between a tank and a silo trailer. Our truck is a Renault Magnum 500 PS, total weight 40 T. The Trailer is 13.60 m long and it is a Thermo King Cooler that can be opened at the back and on the sides. Total capacity of petrol 1150 l.
To cut a long story short, I made it! My dream came true and I enjoyed it so much. Thank you to the people that made it possible: Arnd, the trucker, will be a very good friend for a lifetime; Maria for allowing me on the truck; Papa Remmen who gave me a lift to the truck stop; and my kids Malaika, Bianca, Claudia+Robin for not complaining about their crazy mum going wild!