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Trucking, Horses…and Life
By Ann Jamieson
Alaskan ice road trucker Lisa Kelly has traveled the most dangerous roads in the world, and she knows the importance of delivering your load. While ice roads are only temporary, they are a lifeline. There are no railroad tracks that go where the ice roads go, no cargo planes that can land at remote Alaskan or Canadian villages. The supplies and machinery Lisa delivers are critical, items that these villagers depend on for schools, for food, their heating, for their very lives.
Lisa is known throughout the world for her part on the History Channel’s Ice Road Truckers. She says, “I love the places and the adventures that I've had because of trucking. I would have never been on TV if I had not decided on trucking. And then I would have never travelled the world to India and South America and had that whole experience. Plus now I get to travel to England eight times a year and I’ve been to Sweden and Finland as well. I have had so many experiences that I have a hard time listing them all but feel like I've been lucky enough to live life twice over already.”
She also loves “the fact that I get paid to drive around in my pjs and listen to music all day and sleeping is part of the job. The fact I have a bed right behind me at all times is definitely a plus.”
The downsides of trucking are “I find sitting still is very hard and the long hours are very hard. Trucking is a lifestyle, not a job. Sometimes I’m gone for several months at a time and I have to find animal sitters and make sure home doesn't fall apart while I'm gone. It’s also very hard on your health and it’s slowly catching up with me.”
Lisa is well known for her love of challenges and her ability to meet them with persistence and resourcefulness. “Challenging yourself helps you learn more about yourself and what you are capable of. It makes you a stronger person and keeps you alive. It keeps you growing as a better person rather than becoming stagnant and stuck in a routine. It takes me out of cruise control and makes me learn things I would never otherwise have learned and one of those things is how to be a better driver and a more valuable employee.”
Many of the challenges Lisa meets are ones most of us will never face, life or death questions that require instant decisions. When asked how she learned to meet those challenges, Lisa replied, “The biggest thing is there is no failure. You might try something and you fail but you take a break and reset, then you try again. And over and over you learn what doesn't work until you learn what does work. When you are hanging off a cliff you can't quit. You find the strength within you and you have to make things happen…and you get a sense of self-worth and a pride in accomplishment when you finally make it through. Soon it becomes a well-practiced habit and things come more naturally.”
Lisa includes four horses in her family: Skye, a spotted Tennessee Walker, Rocky, a miniature with a character far bigger than his diminutive size, Ace. a Gypsy Vanner, and Breya, a red-headed Morgan/Quarter Horse cross. Alaska is home to a surprising number of horses: some work on ranches and farms while others are recreational or show horses.
When Lisa isn’t hauling loads, she is often relaxing with her horses. Hauling them compares in some ways to driving a tractor trailer rig, but not so much in others. “All the skills I've learned in trucking apply to how I drive my horse trailers. Backing is a lot alike, except longer trailers are easier to back because their reaction time is slower whereas a short horse trailer tends to whip right around so it takes a bit more precision.
It’s different because I have living animals that I have put lots of money and love and time into and they are the most precious cargo I haul. So I muster all that I have to make sure they are safe. I might haul loads on dangerous roads and dangerous places or snow storms that I would never take my horses on. Freight is freight but my family is a whole new ball game. I'm just glad that I have the trucking experience to pull from while driving my babies around.”
We’re all horse lovers, and we’re all (well, almost all) truckers…no matter where we and our horses live.
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