Posts Tagged ‘exercise’

Guest post: You Can’t See America from the Trucker’s Lounge. By Kevin McKague

November 26, 2012

Where there’s a will, there’s a way
Photo by Kevin McKague

Hey there, folks. Todd here piping in with a few words before we get started with today’s guest post. As many of you already know, I use my blog as a venue to share my thoughts about things related to trucking. I save the deep, insightful, well-researched articles for those other Web sites. But every once in a while, I want to cover a subject that I know precisely diddly-squat about. This is one of those times.

After following the adventures of Kevin McKague on his Twitter account, I approached him for the job of covering for my ignorance of exploring as a trucker. He rose to the challenge. Not only did he turn out a heck of a blog post, but he’s also one of those nice guys on Twitter who can make you laugh, even if you totally disagree with the subject of the tweet. That’s a rare thing, so if you all aren’t following @KevinofMI on Twitter, you should start cutting yourself in shame right now. Or you could just click the link and avoid the inevitable pain. I hear blood stains are a bear to get out of clothing.

Since I’m a lazy bum who rarely goes exploring, I doubt I’ll be back after his post with any of my own thoughts. After reading this post, I will say that I felt more of a desire to see what I’ve been missing all these years. I’m not sure if I’ll follow up with any action, but hey, at least it tempted me. Maybe one day I’ll go out on a limb and try something I’ve heard about in the past. I think they call it “taking a walk” or something like that. I trust that y’all will enjoy this guest post as much as I did. So with that, I’ll shut my turkey-hole. Take it away, Kevin.

You Can’t See America from the Trucker’s Lounge. By Kevin McKague

I became a truck driver in my mid-thirties, after years of hating my career in retail management. I wanted a job that offered more security, that could withstand the ups and downs of economic tides, and that couldn’t be outsourced. Most of all, I wanted more adventure. I had always loved to travel, but I didn’t enjoy the kind of travel arranged by travel agents and tour guides. I love spontaneity, and the serendipitous moments of finding things you didn’t know existed. I love getting on a highway and literally taking the road you’ve never taken, just to see where it went.

I often run into drivers who believe that it is impossible to really enjoy a spontaneous travel experience while behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler. While it’s true that many places are off limits to us, (you won’t find truck parking or any truck routes to the Grand Canyon or the Statue of Liberty) you can find plenty of adventure if you are willing to walk a few blocks from the truck stop Subway shop. These opportunities are not hard to find, if you want to find them. In the days before smart phones, I would simply consult my Rand-McNally truck atlas, and start walking towards the closest interesting looking town or neighborhood whenever I was stuck in a truck stop for 34 hours. Today, there are apps for that! By the way, the Google Maps mobile apps include a lot of trails, and the “directions for bikers/pedestrians button” can point you towards them. Or if you don’t have a mobile device, AllTrails.com is an excellent way to find places to explore.

Western Maryland Rail Trail
Photo by Kevin McKague

One of my favorite stops along my current dedicated run is the Western Maryland Rail Trail in Hancock, Maryland; just off of exit 3 on I-70. Park at the Liberty Truck Stop, and walk across the street to the C+0 park entrance. You can also access the trail at exit 12. Look for the brown traffic signs by the side of the freeway stating “Rail-Trail access”. There you will find over 20 beautiful miles of paved trails built on a former rail line that travels along the Potomac River. I carry an inexpensive bike in the passenger seat of my truck for such a location (see the picture at the top of the post). The trail has plenty of wild life, in fact, twice while riding I’ve been joined by deer that have come right up to me when I wasn’t looking. One fawn ran alongside me for a few yards and then sped off into the woods as soon as I looked directly at him.

Casinos offer another opportunity for side trips. Even if you don’t like gambling, many casinos offer truck parking and shuttle buses. The drivers of these busses, by the way, don’t know or care if you don’t actually stay in the casino. Once during an extended layover in Moline, Illinois, I took advantage of a shuttle offered by the Rhythm City Casino in Davenport, Iowa, just across the Mississippi River. There I found walking and biking trails that followed the river, and crossed over in two spots allowing you to shop and eat in two states. The Davenport casino is also within walking distance of Modern Woodmen Park, the home of Minor League Baseball’s Quad Cities River Bandits, an affiliate of the Houston Astros.

The Ameristar Casino in St. Charles, Missouri offers truck parking, and while walking nearby I noticed that the parking lot is right next to the Katy Trail, another rail-trail that runs across nearly the entire width of Missouri. To the south of the casino is a nice wooded area with smaller dirt pedestrian trails that remind me of something Huck Finn would’ve found comfortable. Just to the north about a block is the historic city of St. Charles, with some good food and interesting architecture. Next to the Missouri River in town is a sign marking the location of an early campsite of the Lewis and Clark expedition. I don’t normally gamble, but the casino offers free fountain drinks inside (DIET COKE? Yes, please), and a cool Dean Martin themed slot machine that plays “Ain’t that a kick in the head” when you win.

In 2011, just a few days after we killed Bin Laden, I visited the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The official memorial site had not been built yet, but was completed in time for the 10 year anniversary of 9/11, and I’ve been told that trucks are still allowed in on weekdays. As always, I would recommend that you call first to make sure this policy hasn’t changed before making the trip in. The roads to the site from the Pennsylvania Turnpike are legal for trucks, but depending on which way you come in, some are very hilly and challenging for those with heavy loads. If you’re comfortable with dropping your trailer, there is a truck stop with a big lot in Somerset, at exit 110, (look for the National Memorial signs off of the turnpike) so you can bobtail in. Somerset also has plenty of good restaurants and some nice architecture. I recommend the Summit Diner, on 791 North Center Avenue, just a short walk away from the truck stop. If you feel comfortable approaching the subject with strangers, most of the people in Somerset and the surrounding areas have stories about what they saw the day when the world almost literally fell on them; 9/11.

Don’t forget to consider using mass transit when you can. Los Angeles offers a $5 pass which allows you to travel any city bus or subway (yes, LA has subways, who knew?) for the entire day. Early in my driving career, while stuck near Commerce City, a simple call to the LA Metro office got me all of the info I needed to get a map and make my way down to Long Beach. There I found plenty of nice restaurants, shopping, and beautiful boats to look at down by the docks. The beach there is sandy and clean, and it’s a good spot to have a picnic lunch while watching boats and tourists. From Long Beach I went up to Hollywood to look at the Walk of Fame. Like the casinos, Hollywood was never on any of my lists of things to do or places to visit, but once I got there I had a blast.

Now that the T/A Travel Center in Nashville, Tennessee has been re-built after that devastating flood in 2010, you can park there, walk across the pedestrian bridge, and visit one of the nicest, most entertaining cities in America. Even if you’re like me and don’t like Country music, it’s quite a different thing to see an up-and-coming artist live. By all means, just walk into the first bar that has live music drifting out of the door. Many of these shows are free. (Stick to the Diet Coke, you have to drive in the morning.) The library has a nice art display and will allow non-residents to use their computers and Internet. The State Capitol allowed me to roam freely when I was there. I wandered onto the House floor and into the Supreme Court Library. Ask the guard about the marble staircase handrail with the bullet hole. I won’t ruin the story for you, but let’s just say there is more than one way to stop a filibuster.

The key here is to expect the unexpected, and look for adventure each and every time an opportunity presents itself. Use your smart phone apps, and maybe keep an extra fully charged battery with you in case you get lost. The older I get, the more I have come to understand that the sayings that sounded like silly clichés when we were young are true. You truly only live once. While you’re sitting in a truck stop listening to drivers complain about the same things you heard drivers complain about in the last truck stop, eating yet another Subway sandwich and watching another repeat of Law and Order, you could be discovering something.

By the way, what is it with Law and Order? Is there a 24/7 Law and Order channel? Does the Department of Transportation actually require that Law and Order play non-stop in every single truck stop in America? But I digress.

This is a beautiful country we live in, my friends, it would be a shame to only see it from the freeways.

Kevin McKague is a father of three and a truck driver, and is probably somewhere between Flint, Michigan and Baltimore, Maryland at this very moment. He is a recovering elected official, having briefly served on the Davison, Michigan, city council. He is a media junkie, a social-media addict, avid reader, traveler, and optimist. He does not want to buy anything from you. He can be found online at Twitter.com/KevinofMI, at Flickr (http://flic.kr/ps/wg49J), and his Instagram ID is Kevin_McKague.

Videos: How To Do a Full-Body Workout Inside the Cab of a Semi

January 5, 2012

Okay people. It’s the beginning of a new year. We’ve all spent the holidays stuffing ourselves with turkey, pumpkin pie, fruitcake, and roast beast. Then many of you drank enough to drown a hippo on New Year’s Eve. Then in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day, you promptly puked every last calorie of your holiday gluttony into the floorboard of your best friend’s car. Better make that your EX best friend’s car. So what’s next?

Why, it’s New Year’s resolution time, of course! Personally, I don’t make resolutions. I’ve pretty much mastered the art of disappointing myself enough without the added pressure of a bunch of resolutions that I know I’ll never keep. But I know some of you are gluttons for punishment, so this post may help you out.

Undoubtedly, at least one of you out there have decided that this will be the year you’re going to get in shape. Well, I’ve got something that can help you out. It’s really designed to help truckers, but it can be used by anyone. It all started when I decided to start working out and being the whiner that I am, I started tweeting about it. That’s when I got the question:

“How do you do a workout inside your truck?”

Man, I’ve been asked this question at least a million times (give or take 999,996). In the past I’ve always said, “One of these days, I’ll make a video and show you.” Today is that day.

I’ve made two videos, each of them a little under 15 minutes long. In typical fashion, I’ve tried to spruce them up a bit with a little bad humor. I’ll let you decide whether I succeeded or if I earned a spot on the FAIL Blog. Doing these videos has taught me one thing for sure. Video is hard. As long as it takes for me to write a blog post, it’s much quicker than doing videos. So don’t be expecting this to turn into a video blog anytime soon.

As a matter of fact, let me give you a bit of a disclaimer here. The audio and video quality isn’t exactly what I’d call stellar. In fact, it kinda sucks. I tried using both of my good video cameras, but neither of them had a wide enough lens to get the shots I needed in such a cramped space. That left me with the built-in camera and microphone on my computer. And sometimes they just weren’t up to the task as you’ll easily see by some poorly framed shots. Unfortunately, I don’t have one of those fancy pants new MacBooks with the high-definition camera. I’ve got the older, “it sucks but it’s better than nothing” camera.

The lighting made it worse. I tried to shoot during the daylight, but the contrast between the sunlight and the interior of the truck made it virtually unwatchable. So I shot it at night, using only the interior cab lights in my truck. I did the best I could, so don’t be too mean when you leave a comment. You were planning to leave a comment, weren’t you?

So what have we got for you today? Well, Video #1 is the Introduction and the abs workout. Video #2 is the dumbbell workout. Perhaps another disclaimer is in order here. I am NOT a professional trainer. Never have been. Never will be. So do all these exercises at your own risk. Start out easy and work your way up. I’d tell you to see a physician before you start any exercise program, but you and I both know that you’re not going to give a doctor any dough for something as trivial as that. I guess there really isn’t a lot more to say, so for once, I won’t. Here you go. Let me know what you think by leaving that comment we discussed earlier.

One last thing. This is a G-rated video. I’m wearing a short-sleeve shirt and shorts. Trust me. You really don’t want to see my Austin Powers chest hair. Enjoy!

Here’s a couple of links that might help:

The Men’s Health Abs Diet Workout

Proper techniques for dumbbell exercises

Health and Trucking

January 11, 2010

I’ve been thinking about my health more lately. I’m guessing that it’s got something to do with the fact that my father-in-law recently died twice during a fairly routine operation. Thanks to a couple of jolts of electricity, he’s still around to torment me. Guess I didn’t pay the doctors enough.

I recently read where a doctor told a trucker that the average life expectancy of a truck driver after he retires is seven months. Seven months? Gee, I’m hoping he’s speaking of truckers that spend their entire careers behind the wheel and finally give it up when they’re 70. I don’t really know. What I do know is that it’s reeeeeally freakin’ hard to be healthy and drive a truck.

The job itself isn’t exactly a sweat-inducing full body workout that produces glistening six-pack abs. Cripes, we sit behind a windshield all day and stare at the road. Go hang out at a truck stop for a while if you want to see the consequences of driving a truck for a living.

Drivers who are stooped over due to bad backs, drivers who limp, and drivers with enormous front butts are just a few of the maladies. That’s not even mentioning some of the more common unseen side effects, such as hemorrhoids. Thank God that can’t be detected by passers-by. A beer gut hanging out from underneath a too short tee-shirt is enough for this kid. Now that I think of it, maybe it’s the ol’ hems that’s causing all the limping. Eeeww.

As with most health issues, it all boils down to those two things that make people unhealthy: diet and exercise. Or should I say, lack of.

Try this. Go into a truck stop restaurant sometime and look at a menu. Not exactly healthy fare, is it? Sure there is usually a limited selection of healthy options, but you know the old saying: “Man cannot live by grilled chicken breast alone.” Well, it’s something like that anyway. Even if you could stomach the same food every day, it’s expensive to eat in the truck stops.

Another reason it’s so hard to eat healthy as a truck driver is time. Granted, solo drivers have to shut down for 10 hours after driving for 11, so time isn’t as much of a deterrent as it is for team drivers. The Evil Overlord and I can vouch for this. As a team operation, the truck can pretty much be moving 24/7 without breaking any laws. You know this and your bosses are well aware of it, too. Therefore, tight schedules often dictate how much time you have to eat properly.

After a three-year break from trucking, The Evil Overlord has been back in the truck with me for a little over a year now. Before she quit, we seemed to have plenty of time to eat right, even though we didn’t always choose to do so. Because we didn’t eat healthy most of the time, we both gained weight.

When she finally decided to crack down on the eating habits, she went on a special diet which required her to do some light cooking and meal preparation. Back then, she always had time to do what was necessary, and as a result she lost over 40 pounds. To her chagrin, I dropped down to my ideal weight too, but much quicker than her.

Times have changed. I don’t know if it’s the poor economy that’s affecting the contracts between carriers and their customers or what, but extra time is something we rarely have now. Nearly every load we run has very little extra time on it. Lack of time leads to bad food choices. If you don’t have time to prepare your own meals in the truck, it’s doubtful that there’s time to eat from the healthy section of the truck stop menu either.

They don’t call it fast food for nothing. Yes, I know that fast food joints have a healthy menu too, but let’s be honest. Who goes into Jack-in-the-Crack and orders a salad? Yes, we should, and we sometimes do, but more often than not, the smell of burgers and chili fries gets the best of you.

So you can see that it is possible to eat a somewhat healthy diet, even if you don’t have much time. You just have to want it really bad. Now on to the second half of the problem: exercise.

The arguments that apply to diet are also good for exercise. A solo driver has mandatory down time, so all they need is a handful of willpower. They have time to walk, jog, run, jump rope, or even lift weights. As a solo driver, I managed to lift weights two or three times a week. The key is making sure you have access to a shower afterward. That is, unless you don’t mind whiffing your own B.O.

Even better, I figured out a way to work out inside the cab of my truck. Every time I tried to do my workout outside of the truck, I always had a slew of drivers come up and interrupt me. Any excuse to stop the pain was good enough for me, so to stick with it I devised a way to do it inside the cab. Plus, there’s air conditioning in there.

Now that I’m part of a team operation again, my workouts have come to a screeching halt and what appeared to be pectoral muscles peeking through have turned into mini man boobs again. No thanks, Kramer. I don’t need a “Bro” yet, but I’ll keep your digits handy, just in case.

In the beginning, The Evil Overlord and I did try to walk for some exercise. Even back then, there wasn’t enough time to cook and exercise. Cooking won out and 40 pounds less flab seems to indicate that we made the right choice. Exercise nowadays? Utterly impossible with our time restraints. Sure, every now and then we might have a slow day with some extra time, but the only thing inconsistent exercise brings is unnecessary pain in places you didn’t even know existed. Sorry, but that ain’t happening.

So it all translates to this. If you’re going to drive a truck for a living and want to refrain from developing a fourth chin, you need to have two things: a willpower of steel and a set of tolerant taste buds.

I’m thinking that a bip to the back of the head now and then from someone who cares about your health more than you do might help too.

*So how do you eat healthy and exercise while on the road? Or do you? Leave your tips, tricks, questions or comments in the Comment section. And as soon as you wipe that Big Mac juice off your grubby mitts, please share this post with a friend or 42. Thanks.*

Meeting Myself

October 15, 2009

I just had a strange encounter in the peanut butter isle. No, I didn’t decide that mustard should replace my beloved strawberry preserves. Although that does give me a devious plan. I think I’ll try to get one of my nephews to eat a peanut butter and mustard sandwich. Maybe I’ll throw in some cash to sweeten the pot. Anyway, what really happened was that I ran into myself from two years ago.

I was listening to some tunes on my iPhone when a guy walked up and started talking to me. I really hate that, but I hit pause anyway. He was asking me if peanut butter ever went bad. Truthfully, I told him that peanut butter doesn’t last long enough around me to know the answer to that particular question. He laughed, saying that he had found a half-eaten jar under the bunk in his truck. I said, “Well, I sure know the feeling of losing stuff in my truck.” He raised his eyebrows in surprise and said, “You drive a truck?” I just love it when people can’t believe I’m a trucker. So, similarity number one.

As is typical in trucker conversation, the next question was, “Who do you drive for?” Well, I never reveal my employer on the web, but I’ve got no problem doing so face-to-face. No, we didn’t drive for the same company, but the two company names were so similar that we had a laugh about it. Similarity number two.

He went on to comment on my lack of a belly (very anti-truckerish) and said he was just starting to work on making his disappear. He told me he was an ex-Marine and expressed how disgusted he was with himself for getting out of shape. Now it would have been really cool if I had been in the Marines too, but I wasn’t even in the ROTC, let alone the real gun-toting deal. Anyway, I congratulated him on his decision and he began to show me the food he was buying and telling me how he tries to eat in the truck as much as possible. I agreed that was the way to go. The Evil Overlord and I figured that out years ago. As he said, “They serve too much food at truck stops.” So there’s similarity number three. We both try to eat as healthy as possible and stay away from fast food and truck stop restaurants. And believe me, that’s strange in the trucking industry.

Similarity number four came when he asked if I worked out to stay in shape. I told him that I had a couple of years ago when The Evil Overlord had quit trucking and I was running solo. He said he had just bought a set of dumbbells that he was going to use when he was away from home. I went on to tell him how he needs to find a way to workout inside the truck if at all possible. When he looked at me skeptically, I told him that it could be done and proceeded to tell him how to position himself to do certain exercises. I went on to explain that if he tried to do his workouts in a truck stop parking lot, he would have constant interruptions from truckers who wanted to talk his leg off. On that subject, why can’t anyone ever talk your beer gut off? Why is it always a leg or an ear? Anywho, he thanked me for the tip and admitted that I was right about that. We’re men, for Pete’s sake. We can’t be expected to count reps AND carry on a conversation at the same time.

Similarity number five was realized as I was preparing to leave. I wished him luck and he said, “God will help me stick to it.” “He certainly will,” I said. Two or three years ago, I had decided that I should give God a little more respect than I had in the past. I started to read my Bible and pray every morning and I started listening to some Christian podcasts. I told him this and he said that he had strayed too and he was trying to get back into the habit of opening his Bible everyday. He decided that the first step was unburying his Bible so that he’d remember. Good call, man. So this fifth similarity caused the sixth.

He said he was trying to quit cussing. I laughed and said, “This is getting weird.” I told him that I had quit cussing a couple of years ago when I started reading the Bible again. He laughed and said, “Man, it’s sooo hard when you’re out here with all these truckers.” I assured him that he could do it. I also made sure he knew that I fall back into my potty-mouth self every now and then, especially when I’d like to nudge some four-wheeler into the ditch for being a moron. I thought it might help him when he caught himself slipping. You know, for some strange reason, when you start reading the Bible you realize that your mouth could use a whole case of Palmolive dumped into it. God’s weird like that.

As for the seventh and final similarity, well, some things are just hard to believe. As the conversation wound down, he stuck out his hand and said, “Man, it was nice to talk to someone who has been through all this recently. I didn’t catch your name.” As I stretched out my arm, I replied,“Todd.” His hand stopped in mid-air. Through squinted eyes he said, “Seriously?” I grinned and said, “Don’t tell me your name is Todd.” It was.


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