Truckin’, I’m a goin’ home. Whoa whoa baby, back where I belong,
Back home, sit down and patch my bones, and get back truckin’ on.*

Spent Saturday in a meeting with others members of the Harley Owners Group, planning a rational rally that is expected to bring about 2,000 motorcycle riders to Roanoke in June and featuring rides that will bring those riders to Floyd County and surrounding areas for four days.

Sunday brought a pleasant ride down to Ridgeway, south of Martinsville, for breakfast at Clarence’s Steakhouse, followed by a ride over to Smith Mountain Lake.  Most of the group headed back to Roanoke but I took a run on Rte. 122 to Bedford, stopping to visit the D-Day Memorial.

An uncle landed in the first wave to hit Omaha Beach in that pivotal event in World War II.  He survived but died in an automobile crash in Florida after the war.

June 6 — D-Day — is pivotal with me for another reason. On June 6, 1994, fifty years after that historic day, I took my last drink of alcohol.  On June 6, 2017, I will celebrate 23 years of sobriety.

It wasn’t a remembrance of a historical event a half-century earlier that drove the decision to stop drinking after 35 years.  It was a series of things, including an “intervention” by good friends and my wife, that made my take stock of my life at that point and attend my first meeting of Alcoholic Anonymous in the basement of a Lutheran Church in Arlington, Virginia.

I remember that day vividly and I also remember my first drink of booze, a glass of Floyd County moonshine from the still of Cleophus Sowers in 1963 in a room at U-Toll-‘Inn just south of Floyd.

The drink came from a woman who introduced me to more than drinking on that night in the motel.  It took 35 years to quit drinking.  As for the rest? No comment.

After the ride back to Roanoke Sunday, I sat in the Dairy Queen on Orange Avenue, enjoying a dipped cone, and thought about an varied and mostly enjoyable past.

It included living as a young child in Gibsonton, Florida, home of the “carnies” who wintered there.  After my father died in an industrial accident, we moved to Floyd, not far from my mother’s native home of Meadows of Dan.

We later moved and spent too many years in racist Farmville, where the Prince Edward County School Board school board and supervisors closed the public schools to avoid integration and created an all-white “private school.”  That experience drives my hatred of racism that continues today.  Selling a photograph of a Ku Klux Klan meeting to the local paper sparked my interest in journalism.  Ben Bowers gave me a job, at age 10, taking more photos for the Farmville Herald.

We left Farmville to move back to Floyd, where I discovered cars, girls and good times.  Pete Hallman, editor of the Floyd Press, and his English teacher wife, Ruth Hallman, helped shape my writing and newspaper skills.  I served as school photographer for two years and then put my learning to work at The Roanoke Times in 1965.

If managing editor Woody Middleton of The Roanoke Times had not fired me in 1969 for reasons that were both valid and my fault, I probably would not have found an ad in Editor & Publisher magazine and called John Focht, managing editor of The Alton Evening Telegraph in the metro area of St. Louis. I flew out to St. Louis a couple of days later and had a new job with more pay and benefits before I returned home that night to pack.

The 12 years in Alton gave me a needed chance to hone my newspaper skills and bring my raging ego under control — a battle that continues to this day.  It also led to meeting Amy.  We plan to celebrate 40 years of marriage in December of this year.  I hope to reach age 70 two days after that celebration.  We left Alton in 1981 for Washington, DC, and a series of adventures over the 23 years we lived in Arlington County, including world travel with visits to hot spots and conflicts and vacations in exotic locations.  In 2004, we left that life behind and moved to Floyd County in 2004 — a return for me and a new home for her.

As Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead wrote and sang in the song, Truckin’: “Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been.”

Yes, it has, but that’s what makes a long, enjoyable, life worth living.

Truckin’ got my chips cashed in. Keep truckin’, like the do-dah man
Together, more or less in line, just keep truckin’ on.

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*Truckin’ written by Jerome J. Garcia, Philip Lesh, Robert C. Hunter, Robert Hall Weir • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group