Setting The Pace

Roger Clark
February 2024

As you may have heard, Dave Sweetman has retired from trucking. For many years, he was the one who put words to our miles out here, leaving us breathing a sigh of relief, empathy, humor, or anger. Funny, forthright, engaging, and sometimes painfully honest, Sweetman has been our portrait of the American trucker.

I’ve never met him. Talked to him on the CB in Arizona one time, but he passed me on I-10 like I was fifteen feet wide. Oh, wait. I was that big, hauling an oversize air cooler from California to New Mexico. But I did get to tell him how much I enjoyed his contributions as a driver and writer. 

 He was the inspiration for launching my own writing career, and we each have hundreds in the bank for our efforts. Although we write for different publications and speak with different accents, there are more similarities than differences. 

We’ve both been owner-operators. We’re both lifetime members of OOIDA. We both share a passion for service, excellence, patriotism, and humor. Dave is younger than me and better looking, but he gets recognized at truck stops. I’m invisible standing in front of my own picture at the post office.

 But there’s one other thing I share with Sweetman, and that’s a sudden retirement due to health issues. For Dave, it’s Covid combined with other issues, and we know other issues would escalate that illness. Yet I’m confident he will prevail. Our heroes always do.

For me, nearing the end of a marketing tour in 2016, a heart attack put me on a six-month vacation. Then in 2019 I had bypass surgery, which initiated a second six-month break, and now my 2023 Christmas present is a pacemaker. 

This little gadget the size of a Zippo lighter regulates my heartbeat but instantly dynamites a trucking career. No If’s, And’s, or But’s about it. While part of me is relieved to be free of traffic jams, road rage, 2:00 AM start times, and four-wheeler follies, another part of me is already missing the camaraderie and solitude I often enjoyed on the road.

 Reading Dave’s columns for twenty years or so has been a beacon of hope for an audience wanting nothing more than peace in the ranks, parking at night, fuel for the APU, and a settlement check in direct deposit. In a world overflowing with political strife, climate hysteria, and financial instability, it’s always been uplifting to read about his outreaches, successes, relationships, and professionalism. 

Whatever the future holds for Ambassador Sweetman, I reckon it will benefit everyone around him, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. Wherever he is, prayers of the Movin’ Out Magazine family will join up on his behalf. That’s also how it’s supposed to be.

 Meanwhile, my pacemaker is a marvel of technological wonder, sending a continuous readout via phone app to Medtronic in Minnesota. It even has a built-in defibrillator, which notifies the manufacturer, who calls my cardiologist, and they contact the funeral home. Well, okay, they don’t have the mortician’s number, but they certainly have mine.

Meanwhile, I expect to keep working, (and writing), because someone must keep track of the trials, tribulations, funny stuff, and penalty flags that adorn every mile marker on the continent. 

My favorite Sweetman story goes back to his days hauling cool cars for Horseless Carriage, and a guy he called Bozo. He may not even remember it, but I can’t forget! That sums up the power of his written words, I reckon, and a best friend I’ve never even met.