Since the truck was in Dallas and the trailer was in Boise it was just a simple matter of picking up the truck and heading north. I did have one stop that was a touch out of the way but was one of the major reasons I decided to pick the truck up in Dallas. My friend Bill Meredith is from Rogers Arkansas and was diagnosed with cancer in 2005. I've known Bill since I was about 20 when I first started working in Instrumentation at Prudhoe Bay and he had worked with my Dad since the early '80's. Bill had been working with us at Alpine before he was diagnosed cancer and the last time I'd seen him was when he came by the hospital to see my Dad after his aneurysm in 2005. That ended up being the last trip Bill made to Alaska. I called him on a regular basis and kept promising to come see him but was never able to make getting to northwest Arkansas work out logistically on any of my trips. He had a rough spell in December and I decided that I'd better make good on my promise of coming to see him. Heading east into Arkansas is NOT the fastest way to get from Dallas to Alaska but it was well worth the detour.
When I flew home from work in February I had a ticket to Dallas and since it hadn't even thought of snowing at home I was OK with spending 9 days on the road. So after a trip to Costco to get some Zone Bars, beef jerky, and two cases of 5 hour energy (that's over 200 hours of energy by my calculation)I was set to hit the road. I planned to fly into Dallas on a Thursday because Robin King, another one of the guys I work with lives 45 minutes west of where I bought my truck and my plan was to pick up the truck and then spend the night at his place before heading to Arkansas. On the flight into Dallas I sat in the row behind two other guys I know from work and as we descended into Dallas FT Worth Airport we all realized where all the snow I'd been hoping for ended up. The day we landed Dallas recorded over 14 inches of snowfall at the airport. The flight in looked as though we were landing in the Arctic because it was all flat and really white. I had called the Truck Dealer from Seattle and told him I'd be in around noon and he said he would try to pick me up but he had four inches of snow on the ground at his place and wasn't sure if he'd be able to make it. He said I may have to get a hotel for the night but I told him my backup plan was to catch a ride north with Robin from the airport if he didn't make it.
When we got off the plane Robin was on the phone with his wife who told him they had eight inches of snow at home and he was on his own. My backup plan was out the window. Luckily for both of us, it ended up that the Dealer had made it down and Robin caught a ride with us. After we did the paperwork and got squared away with the truck we headed to Robin's place where we could hardly find his driveway under the snow. After dinner Robin stayed up until almost midnight helping me install a set of Lightforce driving lights on the truck. These turned out to be a must have and I owe a thanks to my friend Eric Maxwell for convincing me that they were necessary.
My plans for Friday through Monday were rock solid (in my mind anyhow) and I didn't want to stray from them or the whole trip could run long (little did I know then), so when I was told I might have to get a hotel in Dallas I was pretty stressed that I could be a day behind before I even started. Luckily everything worked out and I was on the road to Arkansas Friday morning as planned although it was a few hours later than I hoped because Robin's guest bed was all too comfortable so I slept in a bit.
Most of the snow had melted off of the road by the time I headed out of Texas and into Oklahoma. Bill has been telling me for years how pretty it is in Arkansas with the Ozark Mountains and lakes. I wasn't convinced that I was near mountains of any type as I was driving across southeastern Oklahoma but as I turned north after I got close to Fort Smith Arkansas the scenery changed drastically. It was a really pretty drive the rest of the way into Rogers, making the last of my six hour drive go rather quickly.
When I saw Bill it didn't seem like it had been over four years since I'd last seen him since we talked so frequently. He looked much better than I had imagined he would after such a long fight with cancer. I finally met Bill's wife Libby after years of talking to her on the phone and that evening we visited, ate takeout from Outback, and watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. Bill and I talked at length about work, life, and his fight with cancer. When he was first diagnosed I think the doctors gave him something like a year to live and had no known treatment for his type of cancer, but he kept the most positive attitude possible and took each day as it came. His humor and wit had not diminished at all after all he had been through. The next morning we had coffee and Libby fixed us some breakfast before I had to leave for my next twelve hour leg to Cheyenne. Having the opportunity to visit with Bill made the whole trip. He passed away six days after I left.
There is a driveway out there somewhere.