Truck driver talks life on the road
SARANAC LAKE — Bonnie Kerfoot delivered Bitters and Bones’ new brewing setup on a covered flatbed trailer Wednesday morning, after making the 3,000-mile drive from Portland, Oregon.
Kerfoot’s home is in California, but she lives on the road, driving supplies, gas and antennas all over North America. She goes home around two days a month.
Kerfoot is college-educated. She said she was a “white collar” worker in the health care industry before the recession hit in 2008. She was 48 years old that year and suddenly found herself laid off and looking for new work.
In 2008, no one was hiring. Kerfoot’s years of experience didn’t seem to matter to employers. They wanted to see a degree. She got tired of unemployment and went to the California Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. They asked her what she wanted to learn to do, but there was only one option they gave — trucking.
“An unusual amount of our drivers have advanced degrees,” she said. “If you want to know, the average age of a trucker is 55.”
The work’s OK, she said. She doesn’t mind getting dirty. On Wednesday, her hands were black after an hour or so of unloading equipment and packing up her gear.
Kerfoot’s true love is linguistics. She minored in English in college.
“Language is so fascinating!” she said.
The words she used to explain how her last name is spelled aren’t the usual “kilo, foxtrot, romeo” ones the military uses. She goes with “kangaroo, frankfurter and ratatouille” instead.
As she rolled up the straps that held down the brewing tanks, a crank slipped and she pulled her hand out. Don’t want to take thumbnail off, she said.
“It’s easy to get an injury in this job,” she said.
To stay safe, Kerfoot said drivers have to stay in shape and pay attention to what they’re doing at all times.
Every trailer is different, she said, and this one is “not the best.”
The trailer she used to transport the bar’s new brewing equipment is called a conestoga trailer. It’s got a removable tarp covering the load, so it can be accessed by all sides while keeping the load dry.
Kerfoot said the conestoga trailer gets its name from the covered wagons the pioneers used when they trekked across the continent and took the Indian’s land.
Now she uses them to carry brewery equipment, escalators and rocket fuel for Space X flights around the country for Smokey Point Distributing. The company specializes in oversized loads — material too big or heavy to fit in the typical “dry van.”
She’s been with this company for almost three years and likes it.
“They treat us like human beings,” Kerfoot said.
But the job requires pushing herself.
She’s got advice for truckers starting out. Put away all your tools right away, or you’ll drive off with them, she says.
As she finished packing up her truck, Bitters and Bones co-owner Jimmy Williams offered her a lunch inside.
“Golly, that’d be great!” Kerfoot said.
After a hot meal, she was back on the road, heading out into the expanse of America.