2020 Unsung Heroes: Truck Drivers, Jake Shellum on 50K Jones Soda Bottles
Jake, my husband, was an over the road truck driver for over 8 years driving flat bed and step deck, across the country. A truck drivers intimate life is not known by most. They are there next to us everyday on the highways but do we really see them? Most go unnoticed and unappreciated. The men that are missing home, on a deadline, running empty, longing for their own beds, wishing they could see their son's first steps as his wife calls to tell him about them. They might not have gotten to shower today, or the day before, they don't know if their load home will be ready yet or if they will miss the upcoming holiday. These are also the men getting yelled at, cut off, uncertain of when their next meal will come, if the truck stops will be full or have food for them. Driving in rough conditions: snow storms and thunderstorms. Through tired eyes and weary backs from sitting for 11 hours. Half hour breaks and time clocks to try to out run.
Recently, a company called Jones Soda, asked for submissions for an Unsung Heroes project for their soda labels; as the Covid 19 2020 pandemic has taken place and affected so many. They have always showcased peoples images and stories on their labels -- a company that believes it's customers lives are worthy of showcasing and spreading inspiration throughout the world. I have always loved their labels and seeing what would be on the next bottle or under the cap! I submitted a photo I took of Jake and our daughter, Chevelle, in front of the Semi. Jakes photo was one that they felt drawn to, so they picked it for some of their labels, and they asked about his story. My head and heart was filled with so much I wanted to share, and so I decided to write this up for all to read. Truck drivers carry America, bringing you the things you needed to get by. Do we forget the men and women who left their families to bring us what we needed to keep going, all during a time where the normal uncomfortable life on the road, become even more uncertain and rough? Do we see the challenges they faced or face to this day as our year is closing out? No job out there should be compared against the other, all of these stories deserve to be told. We can see those around us day to day and offer some more understanding, gratitude and love for the world in which we all play such an important part.
|April 2020 : the start of the Covid pandemic. The kids all had to stay home from school. We painted a rainbow on our door to represent hope, and I grabbed some Jones Soda from the store to take the stress off the kids, as it's their favorite drink.|
Before the Covid 19 pandemic, Jake's life as a truck driver consisted of being away from home for a week to two weeks, sometimes more, sometimes less. He lived a life away from his family and friends, most of the time alone, to provide lumber, brick, steel to America. Working for not enough pay, simply doing it because he loved it. Truck drivers salary has decreased as years have come; what used to be a job where they made a good amount to be away from home, has now become a job where men do this simply because they love it, not because it pays well. Asphalt cowboys, roaming the open roads on a 18 wheeler. . . free and at peace. They love their trucks and their freedom, but it always come with a price. Missing babies be born, school plays, holidays, birthdays. . . their hearts constantly torn between two things they love. Laying down at night, alone, ready to wake up early and drive long hours and do it all over again. Eager to load, unload, load again. Rush hour traffic, uncertain roads. Not knowing if the truck stops will be full. If they are it means parking at a rest stop only able to use the bathroom and having no access to anything you may need.
Some truckers, like Jake, have a microwave, fridge and pantry type items with them so they can make food. Overall you can't carry much in a fridge that will last if you are out for more than 5 days. Eventually you need to buy food somewhere, or stop to eat something from a restaurant. Most truck stops have showers, and if you can pay for them, you can shower while away from home. Sometimes the truck stops get full, as they only have a certain number of spots, and if they do you have to find the next closest place to park for the night, before you run out of driving hours on you clock. Trucks now days have computers in them that regulate how long a driver can spend loading, for a break and driving. If you drive even a few minutes past your allowed driving time, you can be fined for it. This makes it hard when it’s uncertain where you can or can’t sleep or eat.
When Covid 19 came to America, Jake was on the road, a few states from home. Over the course of two weeks, he went to Arizona to our home in Northern Minnesota, to Maine and back home again. State borders and businesses started shutting down. His loads home cancelled, and closed down for fear of truck drivers spreading anything to them. He had to wait for a day, sometimes more if a load cancelled, not making any money or knowing when he could come home.
Gas stations pulled any deli or premade foods/sandwiches from the shelves; and restaurants no longer offered inside dining (including fast food). An 18 wheeler is obviously much to large to even attempt going through a drive through and fast food restaurant's are not suppose to serve walk ups. Grocery stores changed hours and most weren't open during the hours he needed or they were too far out of the way for him; as he literally had a ticking time clock for how long he could drive each day. Too much time spent trying to get food meant he would be late to his appointment to unload, or late to get the next load. Showers in truck stops were closed, and many truck stops changed hours to let less travelers in. Even, in some states, the rest areas shut down their facilities. Which meant that if a trucker needed to stop for the night there to sleep, he would be without a bathroom that entire time.
Jake unsure he could get home or what would be waiting for him the next day. Afraid of what drastic new changes could happen the next day. Unsure if he should come home to us, after passing through travel centers where hundreds of people where each day; could he be already infected and be bringing this home to his pregnant wife and 7 children? Being a truck driver during the pandemic meant even more sacrifice and risk for him and his family, but he did what he loved to do anyways, to keep our country rolling. We were happy to lend our daddy, my best friend to the road so he could deliver products that are the backbone to our lives.
Jake is still a truck driver, but recently retired from going over the road. Something else that changed with the pandemic was our children being able to attend school. We knew they would have to be home this year and so, he found work with a company in which he can be home every day and night now; to help his family even more. He is always doing what the next best thing is. Him leaving his job broke our hearts, and in so many ways, fulfilled them as well. We miss the Peterbilt every single day, and Jake misses driving it. I love having my husband home with us, no longer missing those once in a lifetime moments; but I miss the giggles of our children when they run up to that big rig after he parked it in the yard and run into Dad's arms. So many of us have had to adjust our lives and change what we knew as normal during this year, it has been a rough journey for many of us.
Thank you to the truck drivers of America, missing their families and running on scraps, to give us what we need. And thank you to their families, who are missing them.
Keep shiftin, Stay loaded. ;)
Look for the labels in stores in January 2021!