I pulled out of Jackson in my new (used) truck just as the sun was setting. The rest of my team was three hours ahead of me, so I knew I was on my own–in the dark–if something went wrong. This was not a comforting thought, but at least I had Bill to “protect” me (read: run into the woods alongside me with his paws over his head, screaming, if something went wrong).
I had never really driven a truck before, and this 2007 F250 diesel felt big. When contemplating what to buy, I had told everyone that I wanted whatever truck and trailer Barbie would drive: something small and cute, and perhaps even pink. This truck was certainly not a Barbie-mobile, except maybe in that it is a lovely shade of mauve, with tan accents and leather interior.
At the moment I drove out of the dealership, it was still filthy, so filthy that I didn’t even want to touch the steering wheel, so I stopped once more at Target to buy a steering wheel cover and cleaning supplies, which I would be using at the soonest possible moment. After speed-wiping the car down as best as I could with antibacterial wipes, Bill and I were again on our way.
On the highway, I cringed each time I had to pass someone, as I wasn’t sure how much space I was really taking up. Of course, I had my mirrors, which, on this truck, are awesome because they’re made for towing. They have two parts: one to see the cars around me and one to see my trailer tires. Even so, I just wasn’t yet comfortable in my space. To be fair, I probably wouldn’t have been comfortable in any driving space, as during the 26 months I lived in Japan, I didn’t drive much at all. My new life behind the wheel was definitely going to take some getting used to.
About four hours into the drive, as if to punish me for my new, enlarged carbon footprint, Mother Nature began to cry. No, to bawl. By this time, the road was pitch black and lonely, save for kamakazi truck drivers flying by me. Earlier I had figured out my cruise control, but I didn’t know where my windshield wipers were. Of course, I figured that out pretty quickly, too. (I’m learning that there is no better way to figure out something new than to get thrown into using it.) Poor Bill. He hates rain, and the sound of wipers terrifies him. As he shook violently on the floor in the back, I added Rain-X to my checklist of things to buy.
We pulled into the Walmart parking lot in Knoxville where the team was spending the night around 2 a.m. on Thursday. I parked the car and breathed a sigh of relief as I crawled into my bed in Robinson’s box truck and snuggled up with Bill. It had been a long, scary day, but it was over, and I was one step closer to picking up my trailer, which I planned to do on Tuesday.
I considered getting the truck detailed, but Alex told me we’d be waiting at Walmart until about 6 p.m., which was when we’d be allowed to get into the Thompson-Boling Arena to start rigging for the weekend’s circus. With nine hours to kill, I figured my time would be well spent detailing the car myself. I didn’t have running water or even a vacuum, so I had to make do with gallon water jugs and Spot Shot carpet shampooer. I used a brush to really work the shampoo into the carpets and then paper towels to blot up the filth. This method actually worked pretty well.
I spent about four hours cleaning out every nasty nook and cranny, and in the process, I fell in love. Under all the dirt, my new truck was a stately chariot. In addition to the heated mirrors and the standard things you expect in a truck, it has the following:
- Electric seat adjustments and pedal adjustments (awesome for short people)
- Steering wheel controls for heating/air and stereo in addition to cruise control
- Tons of space and storage space; it’s like a roving living room
- Bluetooth (installed that weekend–totally awesome)
The truck had previously hauled a horse trailer, so there was hay everywhere. On the upside, that also meant it was already wired for towing. The gooseneck hitch wasn’t exactly what I needed, but Camping World turned out to be right down the street from the stadium, and they were able to install the correct fifth wheel hitch while I was rigging.
The weekend’s shows with the Hamid Shrine Circus were incredible. The University of Tennessee Knoxville campus is beautiful, and the stadium is enormous. It holds at least 20,000 people, and during every show, it was pretty full. When we were about to start out act, and the announcer said, “Let me hear you scream!” the crowd’s roar was deafening. This was a new experience for me, and it made me feel like a rock star (thank you, Knoxville!).
I performed flying trapeze and lyra in each show. After working outside at the Mississippi County Fair for two weeks, flying inside was crazy. The lights on us were incredibly bright and directed right into our eyes on the pedestal, which made it very difficult to see. If I looked out to the side, I could see the audience, but I couldn’t see our black net. It was like we were just flying in space. But, hey, it’s Robinson’s job to catch me, not the other way around. I don’t need to see in order to flip! 😉
It was hard to keep my mind off my upcoming road trip. As soon as we were finished rigging, I would be heading out alone-ish (with Bill, of course). As my team drove to winter quarters in Sarasota, I’d be going north to Elmyra, New York, to pick up my fifth wheel from a very nice man named Skip. Then, I’d mosey southeast to New Jersey to visit my family for a few days. After that, I would make my way to Florida.
I had no idea what to expect of the next week. I figured that by the time I got to New York I’d be comfortable with the truck, but then I’d have a new challenge of towing a fifth wheel for the first time. But, again, the best way to learn to do something is to just do it, and I’d be doing this for 1,400 miles.