I stood waiting with a small group for the “unofficial” kickoff on truck show eve. The setting was the Kansas Speedway infield, where show vendors, OOIDA staffers, board members and families were gathering for some barbecue and blues on the eve of the Association’s big 40th anniversary event.
Cars and shuttles were rolling in, and the handshakes and welcomes were genuine.
Just as dusk began to set in, someone in our group had a great idea.
“Let’s go check out Victory Lane.”
That sounded like fun, so nine of us made the short hundred-yard stroll. We had Randy Schwartzenburg, K.C. Brau, Randy Boswell, Elizabeth Young and Mark Lowthrop, all from Trucker Buddy International, along with Terry Nicholson and Phil Nenadov from Available Trailers and Russ Cramer from Overbye Transport in the group.
|From left to right: Randy Schwartzenburg, Elizabeth Young, Mark Lowthorp, Randy Boswell, Terry Nicholson, Phil Nenadov, Russ Cramer, K.C. Brau (Photo by David Tanner)|
There was so much more than a photo op waiting for us when we arrived at Victory Lane. There was an epiphany.
Here we were, at a place reserved for winners, whose dreams and hopes and countless hours of hard work are validated.
Nothing could be more fitting on this particular evening and on this particular weekend.
From humble beginnings, what started as a small group of “mad truckers” fighting for the rights of professional truckers was now on the eve of its 40th anniversary celebration.
OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer introduces
OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston,
crediting Jim with the reason OOIDA
still thrives today. (Photo by Nikohle Ellis)
Little victories. That was the epiphany. This whole thing, all of the people here, all of us associated with OOIDA and the truck show, all of the members, the guests, the families, the staff, the hard-working men and women who move this country and make it great.
The moment was not lost on the group, and we talked about it. I really felt it when we went inside, and OOIDA Vice President Todd Spencer introduced President and CEO Jim Johnston to the enthusiastic crowd.
“This Association is here today because of this man, Jim Johnston,” he said.
All of those years and all of those victories, the one-on-one battles in D.C. and in the courts, standing up for truckers. The fact that OOIDA has more than 150,000 members.
|Life Member Gary Carr (Photo by David Tanner)|
“Nice to see you, Gary,” I said to one of them the following morning. OOIDA Life Member Gary Carr was among those receiving an OOIDA Safe Driving Award on the truck show’s festival stage.
“It’s nice to see anybody,” Gary responded. He truly meant it. Not too long ago, Gary had a heart attack while walking to his truck. Quick timing and excellent medical care likely saved his life.
And here he was, on stage at the truck show, receiving an award for 19 years of safe driving from OOIDA and from guest presenter Anne Ferro of the FMCSA. That stage was Victory Lane for Gary and the others, and another one for the Association.
“Fifteen years ago we had 40,000 members. Now we have 150,000,” said Life Member Ken Becker, when I asked him about his little victories. “I am proud of that and I’m proud of all the things we have worked for. We are a good team and we tackle problems as they come along. It’s not about the problems you face; it’s how you overcome them.”
Truckers are constantly faced with the odds. They must abide by rules and regulations that people far removed from trucking make for them in D.C.
Delivering a load safely, professionally and on time can be a struggle, and many truckers look at each day and each load seriously. Each load delivered and each safe mile traveled are a victory.
How about all of those truckers who fight causes of their own? Whether it involves health care, pets, charities or locating missing truckers, someone has to fight the fight, and they deserve recognition.
People were deadheading to the truck show, some of them hundreds of miles, just to make sure they got the opportunity to celebrate together, whether in small groups or at the keystone events. Some were just fine hanging out in the parking lot with their show trucks – each one of them a work of art and a product of extra effort.
If getting there is half the battle, we got there. For one great, fulfilling weekend, we got there.
Victory Lane is more than just a physical place. It is a validation. Celebrations there are real.