Million Mile Mama - Karen Bartley
By Heather Hogeland
My Choice for this month’s Million Mile Mama is a dear friend from our show trucking days, Karen Bartley. Karen has retired from trucking now, but she did not retire until long after she surpassed the 4 million mile marker in her career.
It all started back in 1965 for her, when she would hear those big trucks motors and engine brakes traveling up and down the roads of Montana. She became intrigued with them and spent a lot of time around them at her uncles’ place where there were many operating in her uncles logging business.
She wanted to be able to drive, even though, back then, driving trucks was not something girls did, but Karen saw it as a challenge she very much wanted to undertake. So she set about convincing her uncle to teach her how and he made sure she did it right by rapping her on the knuckles with a wooden dowel if she messed up a shift!
Karen drove for a few companies throughout the years including Parker Refrigerated and Little Audrey’s to name a couple, but ended her career at Navajo Express out of Denver, Co. Karen ran by herself for around 15 years, both locally hauling logs and lumber, as well as cross country pulling vans and reefers hauling swinging meat and lots of produce from coast to coast.
When she started her career, Karen was too young to legally cross state lines driving commercial vehicles so she was running within the state until her 21st birthday. After that, all bets were off, she ran everywhere and anywhere she was dispatched. Karen started out long before there were ladies showers in truck stops or cell phones to keep in immediate contact with home. It was a much different world then.
In 1980 Karen married her husband, Don ‘Pops’ Bartley and her solo days came to an end even though her trucking career did not. She and Don ran team for Parker, then for Navajo after they bought Parker out. Throughout her career Karen Bartley drove many kinds of trucks and pulled any type of trailer built, hauling anything that needed hauling from the northwest (She has lived in Washington most of her life) to anywhere within the United States and Canada, she even hauled into Alaska once!
An article that gives tribute to women in trucking that have achieved over a million safe miles in her career would be remiss if it didn’t include one on Karen. I am blessed to know this amazing woman personally and am proud to call her a friend. Karen and Don ended up showing Navajo Express company trucks for 7 years, showing 3 different trucks throughout those years. They amassed hundreds of trophies through their efforts and shined those trucks as if they owned them! They were both out there all night working on readying their entries along with the rest of us.
All of the ladies out there driving today owe Karen a debt of gratitude for blazing a path for them; we wouldn’t be where we are in this industry without her. Thank you Karen for your 37 years of safe driving and for your mentoring efforts along the way, we appreciate you!