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A roundabout tale of life on the road

I began my career as a professional truck driver in April 2002. I had recently relocated to Grants Pass, where I found it difficult to obtain gainful employment. Each day, I kept seeing listings for truck drivers wanted. I knew I had the ability to drive, although I realized that driving a big rig was more involved. I decided to go for it.

I enrolled in a Southern Oregon truck driving school, and upon completion was hired as a trainee by Schneider National. Schneider had an excellent training program that lasted six weeks, one week of “boot camp” that included classroom and behind the wheel training, one week of classroom training learning about log books, Qualcomm and other procedural requirements, and four weeks with a “training engineer” over the road.

About eight months into my new life on the road, I encountered my first roundabout, also known as a traffic circle. It was in a small town called Boise City, Oklahoma, on US 287. I was heading south toward Ft. Worth, Texas. Unfortunately, I got confused in the roundabout and took the first right turn after entering the circle, which put me on US 56 heading toward New Mexico.

I realized my mistake within a mile or so, however on this narrow, two-lane highway there was no place to turn around. There is a song that says, “Give me 40 acres, and I’ll turn this rig around, it’s the easiest way that I’ve found.” Well, that singer sure had it right. Rather than continue without some plan, I pulled off the highway onto the shoulder — big mistake! It had been snowing, and there was just enough snow on that shoulder to reduce the traction, and when I tried to pull onto the highway, the wheels would not gain traction. I was stuck. I got out my camp shovel and a bag of Ice Melt that I carried, and I tried to improve the traction under the drive tires of the truck.

Shortly, a kind soul in a late model, heavy-duty pickup truck with dual tires stopped to see if he could help. To this day, I still remember this local rancher’s name — Clarence Deakens. He offered to give me a tow to help me get moving if I could provide the tow strap. I had load straps on board, used to secure freight in the trailer. We used this to hook the tow hook in the bumper of my truck to the tow hitch on his pickup. Hallelujah, it worked. All I needed was a little help to get moving, I was able to apply gentle throttle in my truck to help as the good Samaritan eased ahead with his pickup.

Eighteen years later, and I still dislike roundabouts. They always make me very nervous, and I think to myself, I would like to meet the traffic engineer who thought up the concept of a traffic circle and give him/her a piece of my mind.

Sharon K. Rogers lives in Grants Pass.

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