Despite some notable exceptions (Winnipeg in January, and Toronto in February to name a couple), I try to plan my winter trips to warmer climates. It helps to cut down on the inevitable winter weather travel delays, and has the added benefit of allowing me to see the sun a couple of times between December and March. So it made complete sense for me to plan a February trip to Texas…except I happened to choose the three days in February when Abilene got hit with a winter storm and the temperature dropped to a high of 32 degrees. (It had been 78 degrees there three days earlier). The local authorities closed schools, shut down highways, and did everything they could to keep motorists off roads. A local fire chief said “It’s just solid ice. It’s literally just like a skating rink out there.” So much for my best-laid plans.
I landed in Dallas, where the skies were clear. It was chillier than I expected, but there was no snow in sight. I checked into my hotel, had a quick dinner there, and turned in for the night. The next morning, I stopped in to visit Kim Freund and the team at Southwest Leasing NationaLease. We had a chance to catch up on changes to their business, as well as updates to the NationaLease programs. Once Kim found out that I was planning to drive to Abilene then Amarillo that same day, she wanted to get me on the road as soon as possible, since she had heard that the weather conditions were much worse west of Dallas where I was headed. She shared a couple of stories of her own adventurous drives through West Texas, even when the weather was fine, then kindheartedly admonished me to make sure I had a full tank of gas and good directions and sent me on my way.
The road conditions were actually starting to clear up by the time I reached Abilene, but I saw plenty of evidence that a few hours earlier had been much worse. There were cars and trucks overturned in the center of the divided highway, and a significant accumulation of snow and ice all along the sides of the road. Luckily, C & W NationaLease is just off the main road, but I could tell that the side roads had mostly not been cleared, and now were a mix of melting snow and ice that made driving on them quite treacherous. I was glad to safely arrive there to meet with Vic Corley. Vic entertained me with stories about the mishaps the winter storm caused, like their electric gate freezing shut, and trucks having to be hooked to a wrecker and towed over the small hill in front of their shop. We discussed our supply management and Reciprocal Service programs, among other topics, such as his new twin grandbabies.
As I was getting ready to leave, Vic told me about the new shop they just opened in Lubbock, and invited me to stop by on my way to Amarillo. I definitely wanted to see it, so I made a quick detour and drove by. I was sorry to get there after the shop had closed so I couldn’t say hello to any of the team there, but they have a great new location! By the time I reached Lubbock the roads were completely clear, and there were barely any traces of snow remaining. The rest of the drive was unexpectedly easy, and time passed quickly as I observed several interesting things along the way. The oil wells, so common in this part of the country, share the landscape with the more recent addition of wind farms. Acres of cotton fields, now barren except for the occasional cotton boll missed in the harvest, stretch across the miles. Each of the dusty little towns along the way seems to be anchored by a cotton gin, some of which appear to still be operational, although very quiet at this time of year.
Shortly after nightfall I pulled into my hotel in Amarillo. Tired and happy to be done driving, I met up with Dean Vicha, NationaLease President, for a late dinner in the hotel restaurant, and was pleased to find my very comfortable bed just a short time later. It had been a long day and a long drive, and I was grateful to have missed the worst of the weather. The next morning, Dean and I headed over to Bruckner NationaLease to meet with Brian Bruckner and Damien Finger. We had a great conversation about our supply management programs, our technology initiatives, and our Reciprocal Service system, as well as their business and the opportunities they see ahead. We also had a chance to learn a little more about the history of the company. Brian’s grandfather started the business during the midst of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl and persisted through the toughest of times by focusing on serving customers, a value they continue to uphold to this day. Thankfully, I didn’t have to make the drive back from Amarillo to Dallas, although the skies were now sunny and clear. I flew out of Amarillo and made it home to Chicago safe and sound.
On the road, like in life, you never know what adventure awaits you around the next corner. It could be a snowstorm, a tumbling tumbleweed, or a stretch of unobstructed highway. Many of our members started their businesses in uncertain times, when they didn’t know what the next day would bring. Economic shifts, wars, natural disasters, and government regulations significantly impacted their companies, yet they survived and thrived through the generations, always with their customers in mind. Their persistence and unwavering focus on what’s ahead has made NationaLease what it is today. Despite our best-laid plans, there will always be factors outside our control. I am confident that no matter what challenges or opportunities may come our way, NationaLease members will find ways to forge ahead. A little bad weather never stopped us before.