Getting to Boise from Salt Lake City takes only five hours, yet for Gene and Dave, the simple day trip is an opportunity to escape the established routine of their homes and enjoy time shared with friends.
Gene England, president of C.R. England Trucking, and his wife, June, often travel around the United States picking up loads and delivering them whenever Gene needs an excuse to leave Utah. Often on these trips, the Englands invite other couples along for the ride. But when they invited Dave and Rosalie Kimball along for a trek to Idaho, they had a few challenges to address first.
Dave had a stroke in 2006 that paralyzed the left half of his body, so when Gene invited him and his wife to share a ride to Boise, he was hesitant. Dave voiced his concerns to the Englands over the height of the truck and his ability to get in and out of the cab. Gene simply asked, "Do you still have one good arm?" Dave said "yes," and that was all Gene needed to know.
"Dave has had a little different situation than some of the people we've traveled with," Gene said. "But we can overcome it."
With the help of a mechanic, Gene added a winch to his rig that allowed him to lift Dave into the cab at the push of a button. The day before the couples left, Gene and Dave tested the new addition to his semitrailer to see if it could get Dave into the cab. It did, but Dave got a couple of cuts on his arm for their efforts.
"Gene is doing this for friendship," Dave said, as Gene made preparations to get him into the cab Friday. "Not many trucks have a built-in winch to lift somebody. I have trouble gettin' into regular vehicles, so this seemed like a challenge, but Gene said it could be done."
Since his stroke, the Kimballs haven't got out much because Dave has been focused on his rehabilitation and regaining his ability to move independently, they said. Rosalie added that she is excited to get out and do something different and is thankful to Gene for extending the invitation.
"I'm in physical therapy and have been gaining more mobility. I can walk with a cane, a little bit without it, but not much. This trip is gettin' us out, it's a full change in our environment," Dave said. "I'm expecting an adventure. I've never been in an 18-wheeler before."
Gene, on the other hand, is no stranger to big rigs and has been driving them since he was 14 years old and working for his father, he said. Now 88 years old, Gene has been driving for decades, and June said he still gets behind the wheel on a regular basis, though now he limits his travels to trips with her. Gene quickly rebutted though and told June not to lock them into that pattern.
"He's still a good driver and he's healthy," June said. "But I'm there to keep him going in the right direction."
Dave and Gene met more than 30 years ago because Dave was Gene's father's doctor. At some point in their friendship, Gene became one of Dave's patients, too, and they've maintained their friendship ever since. Despite the length of their friendship, this is the first time the two couples have traveled together. But everyone was excited for the vacation.
Once they make it to Boise, Gene knows of a hotel that serves hot cookies and milk in the evening, and the group is planning to stay there for the night. Before leaving, Gene double-checked with June that the Rook cards were packed for the trip so they all could play a game of cards in the night."For the past several years, we've taken couples with us, June and I, all over the East Coast, Florida we were in Atlanta here a month ago," Gene said. "We stop at night in a hotel. We've had friends for many years that do this."