The Key West Route

Dear Munchkin and Peanut,

Friday’s post got me thinking back to when I was little and my dad drove semi-trailer trucks on a daily route for Mutual Wholesale. They didn’t allow passengers, but when he did the Key West route, the deliveries were hours away from the warehouse, and his was the only Mutual truck out there. So nobody would know, except for the staff at the businesses receiving deliveries, and he’d built up a rapport with them.

It was a really special day when I rode along. We didn’t do it too often because I got to skip school. I had to wake up earlier than normal, too, and in the dark of the early morning, Dad would park the big truck right in front of our house and lift me up to climb in. We packed the cab with our lunches, snacks, drinks, and plenty of books, games and activities – and my school work – to help keep me occupied while Dad was driving. Often, I’d go back to sleep for a while as we headed south on I-95.

Once I was awake again, Dad and I would talk, play “I Spy” and other car games, listen to music, discuss the scenery, and just enjoy each other’s company. My favorite part of the drive was the 7-Mile Bridge heading into the Lower Keys. Dad always asked if I needed to make a bathroom stop a little while before we reached it. It normally took us only about 10-15 minutes to cross the bridge, but if there was a traffic jam or a problem with the truck, it might be considerably longer.

At each delivery stop, I had fun weaving in between the boxes in the back of the trailer. I helped find the right boxes, opened doors as Dad pushed the hand truck, and sometimes there were small, light boxes I could carry, too. There was often a little banter between Dad and the recipient as they took care of the paperwork. Some of the businesses even gave me a little treat. Then Dad would give me ride on the hand truck on the way out, and if there was room, he would spin me around, go over bumps on purpose, run in circles or go “really fast.” I loved those rides so much that sometimes I pestered him while we were still walking the boxes inside, and he had to remind me to be patient.

At some point in the afternoon when the trailer was mostly empty, Dad would park somewhere and lay on a pallet in the back for a nap. He wasn’t getting much sleep because he had to leave so early in the morning and got home late each night, and he’s always had trouble staying awake while driving with the sun in his eyes. Sometimes I napped, too; other times I just read my books, worked on school stuff, or played quietly.

When we were done for the day, Dad parked the truck in front of our house again while we got all my things out of the cab so Mutual wouldn’t find out I had been there. It was dark, and late for me to be up, and I would be in bed again by the time he returned the truck to the warehouse and got back home. The Key West route was a very long day, and I was tired at the end. But it was a whole day of just Daddy and me at a time when we didn’t get to be together very much.

Dad stopped driving the trucks and transferred to the warehouse when I was around 10 or 12. It’s been decades since those special days. But whenever I hear, read, or think about Key West, the feelings come back, and I am thankful for the memories.


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