Traveling can be hard. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. I write about the great places I go and the great food I eat. What can be so hard about that? Well, I’m certainly not complaining, but what I don’t write about are the less glamorous aspects of travel: the delayed and canceled flights, the encounters with airport security, staying at a different hotel each night. Once, as I was checking out of a hotel, I said to the front desk clerk, “Checking out of room 623.” She said, “Ma’am, we only have 3 floors.” Despite these challenges, I always look forward to my road trips, and this month’s would take me from Richmond, Virginia to Charlotte, North Carolina.
I arrived in Richmond pretty late in the evening, so I found my hotel and turned in for the night. The next morning, I made my way over to Old Dominion NationaLease. I hadn’t been there since they moved their headquarters to a beautiful new space in lovely, wooded office park. John Congdon gave me a tour of their new digs, then introduced me to Nick Wells, their new Vice President of Maintenance. We had the chance to talk about the upcoming Maintenance Managers Meeting in Chicago on May 24-26, review some of our Supply Management programs, and discuss a variety of other topics, including Whit Congdon’s new baby! Congrats!
I had a long drive ahead of me, so I left Richmond and headed west toward Roanoke. After checking into my hotel, I ventured out and found a local favorite restaurant right around the corner. Hollywood’s specializes in serving traditional southern dishes with a twist so, of course, I had to order the Fried Green Tomato BLT. The food was great, and the waitress made sure I felt right at home. They even had a sign that said “Traveling? We want to know where you’re from. Ask for a push pin.” I had been preceded by many other travelers who had already marked their spots on the map.
The next morning, I visited the folks at Virginia Truck Center, a NationaLease Member. Russ Ellet and Mary Caldwell, along with a few others, met with me to discuss the NationaLease programs and how they can utilize them most effectively. Their business has grown so much that they are nearly bursting at the seams. We could barely fit into Russ’s office for our meeting. Their solution is well underway though, as they are currently under construction to expand their facility.
From Roanoke, I headed south to Winston-Salem, and arrived at Salem NationaLease just in time for lunch. Doug Chase and I drove past the rows of Bradford Pears in full bloom to Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar. Bad Daddy’s started in Charlotte in 2007 and now has 18 locations throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Colorado. Not surprisingly, they specialize in burgers. On Doug’s excellent recommendation, I ordered mine with the sweet potato fries. We discussed their business and Doug shared some great ideas on how NationaLease can best serve our members. Being March, the conversation naturally turned toward March Madness, especially since Doug is a proud Butler University alum. After lunch, we went back to Salem’s headquarters, and I met with Tom Teague. In addition to the other topics we chatted about, I had the chance to hear the highlights of their recent 50th anniversary celebration.
From Winston-Salem, it was just a short drive to Wilkesboro, where I was spending the night. My hunt for a good local spot for dinner brought me to Cagney’s. As I walked in alone, a sweet elderly gentleman was paying at the counter. He looked up and said, “Don’t you have a young man to take you to dinner?” I had a feeling that I wasn’t going to be able to give him a satisfactory explanation, so I just smiled and said, “Not tonight!” He wasn’t alone in his concern for my unaccompanied dining. Twice during my meal, I was similarly interrupted by well-meaning older fellows making sure I wasn’t discouraged about dining solo. The rustic decorative sign in my booth probably didn’t help matters.
The following morning, I had the pleasure of meeting with Charles and Steve Ellis at Fleet Master, Inc., a NationaLease Member. I updated them on a variety of our programs, and learned about how their business is doing and about the economy in the area. We also discussed our purchasing and capital equipment programs. From there, I drove over to Claremont and met with Danny Abernathy at Catawba Rental Company, Inc., a NationaLease Member. We went to lunch at the charming Rock Barn Country Club, where I got to see more of those lovely Bradford Pear trees and chat with Danny about a variety of topics, including some recent and upcoming events: the AmeriQuest Symposium, the NationaLease Spring Business Meeting in conjunction with TRALA, and the NationaLease Annual Meeting.
I headed south toward Charlotte for my return flight, but with lots of time before departure, I called Jim Smith at McMahon Truck Leasing, a NationaLease Member. He offered to meet me for dinner before my flight, so we went to the Historic Fourth Ward’s neighborhood tavern, Alexander Michael’s, or “Al Mike’s” as it’s known by the locals. Over dinner, we had the chance to discuss the recent Masters Club event, where McMahon’s Fred Schmidt was named Top Salesman of the Year, as well as the upcoming 20 Group meeting that Jim would be hosting at McMahon’s Charlotte facility. As my flight time was fast approaching, I left the cozy pub and made my way to the airport, and back home.
Traveling can be hard. But the rewards are far greater than the difficulties. For every airport delay or nameless hotel room, there is a spectacularly blooming Bradford Pear, or unexpectedly delicious fried green tomato. Even more rewarding are the kindnesses I encounter from both friends and strangers along the way. The friend who is willing to accompany me to an impromptu dinner, and the stranger concerned about my dining alone both bring a moment of happiness to my journey. While I am on the road, I often think of the drivers behind the wheels of all our members’ trucks. They spend far more time than I do traveling. What a comfort it must be to them to know that no matter where the road takes them, there will be a NationaLease member, whether friend or stranger, to take care of their truck, and knowing our members, bring a moment of happiness to their journey.