Lessons from Roads Less Traveled - The Van Guys
Written March 20, 2013

Comments At End of Article

Hugo, Rudy, Jose, Ken

Friends and Neighbors.

I mentioned last time that a friend was worried about me getting "knocked over the head" on my recent journey. Audrey seemed to have special concern that the Mexicans might "do me in" even before she heard about the following incident. My mother felt the same way when I went into Matamoros on spring break from college many years ago.

Audrey even mentioned her concern on a visit with her grandson with his wife in attendance when she told of my walking exploits. "Oops, I opened my mouth too wide," she told me. It hit her big time that the wife's family had Hispanic heritage. Oh, she must have blushed.

One of the sweetest and swiftest moments of the trip occurred after a few days of walking past beet and potato fields in Eastern Idaho. All day long, trucks were hauling here and hauling there, hauling this and hauling that. The crews worked hard, long hours and the trucks must have burnt up huge supplies of gas.

I only spoke briefly with one worker prior to my stop in Aberdeen, Idaho, one evening, after which I returned to the road. Interestingly, there were few cafes in the little town and it seemed that the only one open was the Hermanos Mexican restaurant. I had a break and a meal. But, I left moaning to myself that the enchiladas were "not so good." I did fill up on root beer and carried some with me for the road.

But, you know, things can change in a few heartbeats. The sun was fading in the west, it was 15 long miles to American Falls, and I hadn't a clue where I was going to park for the night.

I trundled along and noted in the distance a van abruptly pull off on the side of the road. Then, it quickly made a U-turn with traffic coming in both directions. I thought, "This driver has some nerve."

Within a minute, the van pulled up next to me. The side door opened, and I heard, "Do you want a ride?"

I had to make a quick decision. The question seemed to answer itself, "Yes." I pulled off my gear and threw it, my flag and myself into the vehicle. The van made another U-turn in the midst of more traffic.

I proceeded to meet Rudy, Hugo, Jose and Ken. They were potato truck drivers, at least for that present time period. They had been hauling one sort of produce or another from field to depot 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 4 months.

They most generously took moments from their short evening respite to give me a lift. Rudy was the spirited and audacious driver and did the talking along with Ken, the gringo. Hugo and Jose spoke little English. But, they apparently knew how to work.

I learned just a little about their labors and lives in the few minutes on the drive. I took their recommendation for the evening's encampment and watched as Rudy cruised down to American Falls Lake. He dropped me off for the night very close to the Lake's campground.

As I jumped out of the van, I asked if I could take a quick photo. "Just one," said Ken.

We shook hands, waved and smiled. And, I added, "Gracias," a few times.

As the darkness settled, I proceeded to find a spot next to a Russian olive tree overlooking the lake. It was a warm and quite comfortable night for a lone traveler.

American Falls Lake

I was thankful for a great rest stop and the kindness of my Hispanic truck driver friends.

I will be sure Audrey reads this somewhat detailed version of the story. I will let her and you decide what lessons might be learned from this Incident in Idaho.

Muchas Gracias to Rudy, Hugo, Jose and Ken. And much the same to all of you.




Very nice ... the book and its cover, I suppose.
I found it amusing to see you walking with the wind the other day ... hands out, almost running ... perhaps you need to get some wheels and hold up your flag as a sail?

Mr. E.


Loved this!  And what a gorgeous lake - really makes me miss Idaho.  Gracias - Adios :)



Nice post.
Good story on how easily we can judge others, specially if they are different in some way, shape or form. Glad that reality and first hand experience often prove our preconceptions wrong.
Really feel sorry for the working conditions these guys have. Seem to be on the illegal side of things. But I am no expert on the American employment laws.
Again, good to see how the world, the Universe, people (humanity) is capable of random acts of kindness. Yes, blessing come in many ways, even in wording such as: “Want a ride?”. At the end, we are all on the same ride and we never travel alone. Better to travel acknowledging the company that we have and that can make its presence felt at any time and in any way.
Good on you for taking the time, making the effort and having the courage to go out there and experience the world first hand. Nothing beats personal experience. Then glad you shared it,even though it is not the same as personal experience but the lessons are there for us readers to find and enjoy.


It seems that very often it's the people at the bottom of society that give the most.

Mr. Sympatico

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