Road Warriors

“Life is a highway

I wanna drive it all night long

If you’re goin’ my way

Well, I wanna ride it all night long”

~ Tom Cochrane

I’m sitting in a lounge chair with a pool directly in front of me and four large palm trees off to my left. The temperature is about 70 degrees under overcast skies (the least nice day since I arrived in Scottsdale, Arizona four days ago). Back home in North Carolina, my friends and family are experiencing a mid-January arctic blast that is keeping their temperatures below freezing for highs. I can’t help but smile a little bit of a devilish grin as I relax in temperatures 40-50° warmer. This is just one of the perks that happens to come along with my job – a job I never even knew existed seven years ago.

A handful of people go through life and remain in the same career the entire time. I think that was more common decades ago, but I’m sure it still happens from time to time. Some people make career changes but still remain in a similar type of job or position as they previously had. And then, there are those who make what I would call an extreme career change. I feel pretty confident that I fall into that category.

For 16 years, I was a public school teacher. I spent seven years teaching 5th grade, eight teaching middle (oh, the horrors of middle school) and one year teaching high school. On top of teaching, I coached cross country and track. My life consisted of managing 25-35 children every day while trying to keep them excited and engaged in learning. My days of lesson plans, grading papers and projects, filling out report cards, attending meetings and everything else that went along with the life of a teacher came to an end around seven years ago. I knew it was time for a change rather than remaining in an occupation with which I was becoming more and more disillusioned.

When I left teaching, I went to work for a good friend who started his own construction company. My experience in construction was pretty limited other than minor projects I had taken on around the house. But, over time and with guidance and direction (I was now the student) of my friend, I became quite proficient in the building of decks, garages, sunrooms and additions to houses. It felt good to see what I accomplished at the end of each day, unlike with teaching where you may never really know what you accomplished.

After a year or so, another friend introduced me to a company he had been working for. The position required a great deal of travel and wasn’t ideal for him, so he suggested the job to me. After an interview, I was hired and started working a job that I never even knew existed. The company basically goes to PGA tournaments and builds venues for other companies such as FedEx, Tito’s and Nike just to name a few. My very first trip with the company was to complete a hospitality tent for AT&T in Augusta, Georgia. Since that trip, I’ve solely focused on building what is called the Fan Shop – the tent where people buy merchandise at each tournament.

For the past five years (minus a COVID year) I have traveled to about a dozen cities a year to set up and tear down the Fan Shop. It’s the reason I’m sitting in warm Scottsdale now. Basically, I’m similar to what some refer to as a roadie. Most of the time, I fly to the city I’ll be working in, rent a car to get around and then rent a 26-foot box truck. The company hires truck drivers to transport our trailers to the locations I’ll be working in. There, my crew and I will spend anywhere from a week to a month (depending on the size of the Fan Shop) building a store with floor fixtures, walls and everything else needed to display and sell merchandise. Once everything is set up, another company comes in behind us and actually sets out the merchandise to be displayed and sold. When the tournament is over, my crew and I return, tear everything down, pack it all back up in the trailers and off it goes to the next tournament. It’s hard work, but I don’t mind it, even at 50. Plus, I have a great crew of young men (most of whom are half my age) who work hard and make it fun.

Some other perks (other than being in a warm climate when my friends are freezing their buns off) are getting to see the many unique parts of the country. I’ve visited the cities enough to know them fairly well and can even get around most of them without a GPS now. My favorite perk by far however is the FOOD. Here in Scottsdale, I will eat lunch several times at one of the best authentic Mexican restaurants I’ve ever been to. In New Orleans, I always order the raw and char-grilled oysters (my mouth waters just thinking about it). In Jacksonville, Florida, some of the best collard greens and BBQ sandwiches I ever tasted were prepared in a small hole in the wall by a burly man with one arm they called “Lefty.” Sadly, he sold that restaurant a couple of years ago, so I’ll have to find another one the next time I’m there. When I go to Hartford, I routinely eat at the local delis and pizza places (up north is where you find the best subs and pizza). In Memphis, more barbecue and ribs are on my plate. If I’m not out eating, then in the evening I’ll go out and explore the local nightlife. I enjoy getting out, having a few adult beverages and meeting new people every now and then. In fact, on one of my trips to Memphis, I had a gentleman approach me at a bar and ask if I was Tommy Fleetwood (for those who don’t know, he is an English pro golfer who at one time had long hair like myself). I could have easily messed with the guy, but I was honest and told him I wasn’t.

Many people ask me if being on the road so much is hard. While I’m not going to say it’s easy by any means, I do still enjoy it, and that’s really what counts.

The year ahead is going to be one of the busiest in a while. From Scottsdale where I sit writing this article now, I’ll spend almost another 180 days traversing the country and going to 13 different cities. This year, I’ll end up in Montreal (a city I wrote about last month) for the President’s Cup.

As they say, life is a highway. I can surely attest to that. Being on the road constantly isn’t easy, but hey, somebody’s got to be a road warrior!


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