Members of the Family Center E-list hosted by Layover.com are adamant when they say their group is not a lonely hearts club, but they admit their hearts are sometimes lonely. When the loneliness sets in they dial-up, log on and chat about their lives, loves and longings.
When the lonesomes set in, trucking wives like Nina (rhymes with Dinah) Ammons of Ellensburg, WA, know they can find a warm heart and a kind word online. She is the wife of OOIDA lifemember Joe Ammons and joined the list in April of 2000 when Joe was first contemplating becoming an owner-operator.
She found the list members very helpful with information about the business and tips on how to succeed.
"You can get online and say 'I need some help' and it's there," Ammons said. "I would go looney bins without it.
"It helps a lot knowing I can walk over to the computer and type something and get a response back from someone who knows what I'm talking about."
Ammons' comments are echoed by list members from across America.
"It's like a life line across the country," said E-list member Mary DeFord, wife of trucker Bill DeFord.
Speaking on her cell phone from the cab of Bill's truck somewhere in the great Northwest, Mary said she "participates daily, sometimes three or four times a day," sending e-mail to other E-list members and logging in for live chats on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
"People outside the trucking industry don't understand the trucking lifestyle," she said.
That lifestyle - the lure of the open road and freedom to be your own boss - is often a lifestyle of conflicting needs for truckers' family members, who want their drivers home but know that they need and want to be on the road.
Having been a driver herself until cancer forced her from behind the wheel, Mary DeFord knows first hand why her husband has been on the road for 35 years. She also knows what it's like to be the one who stays at home.
"I know he loves his truck and driving and I wouldn't want to take away something he loves so much," she said, adding that getting used to the stay-at-home life has been a challenge for her.
"But with the E-list we (trucking wives) are not alone anymore."
The E-list, which was launched in February 1999, recently broke the 200-mark for membership, according to informal records kept by list moderator and trucking wife Carol Kiley. Participation is open to anyone with Internet access and a relationship to the trucking industry. The majority of the members are truckers' spouses and significant others, along with a few drivers.
Sometimes, a wayward would-be Web Romeo stumbles into the online conversation by mistake.
"People who aren't truckers' wives figure out pretty quickly that we are not what they were looking for," DeFord said. "We're not a lonely hearts club."
To help cement the growing bond felt by the list members, Kiley, a former driver herself, helped take the group to a new level last year when she organized a "reunion" of the women who had never before met face to face. The Atlanta event was so popular that the trucking wives decided to make it an annual gathering, this year meeting in June in St. Louis.
"I had the opportunity to meet several members of the list," said Kiley, a Land Line reader. "Each time I met one of the ladies, it created a more personal bond and a deeper friendship. I thought that everybody should have the opportunity I had.
"After you meet someone in person, you read their (e-mail) posts in a different way. It puts the facial expression and laugh in the e-mails, and it gives voice to what you read."
DeFord said she enjoyed the reunions so much that she will "never miss one."
Fourteen women from nine states attended the 2004 reunion, visiting the sites in St. Louis and taking advantage of every minute to chat face to face instead of screen to screen.
The trucking wives visited the Gateway Arch, had lunch at Union Station and shopped in the historic river market area. Some of them made a trip to the Big Pevely Flea Market and a few adventurous ones enjoyed the thrill of trampoline bungee jumping.
A pajama party brought lots of laughter and the exchange of regional gifts: one brought a copy of the "Da Yoopers Glossary" from Michigan; another gave away a road apple shot glass from the Pennsylvania Amish Country; and a pair of Hillbilly Penny Pinchers from a member in the Missouri Ozarks sparked giggles all around.
On the final evening of the reunion, everyone gathered in the hotel lobby for group photos. They had dinner together, went swimming and piled into each other's rooms for one last chance to visit. Some stayed up till dawn to make the most of the time.
E-List member Cathie Yoesel said the reunion was nothing like she had imagined and more than she could have ever dreamed.
"I have never laughed so much in my life," she said. "I have never been more surrounded by love ‑ other than the love of my husband and kids. I have never survived on so little sleep."
Yoesel, DeFord and Kiley all likened their daily communication with other list members to having morning coffee with friends. But, DeFord said she found out personally what kind of support the E-list family offered when her daughter was traveling across country.
DeFord's daughter was on a bus trip with small children when she ran out of cash. After reading DeFord's e-mail posting seeking suggestions, an E-list member in the Chicago area met the daughter at a bus station and gave her $100 and a bag of coloring books and other fun stuff for the children.
"These women understand, no matter what's going on," DeFord said. "There have been members whose husbands have been stuck on the road and (other members) give them a place to stay. We take care of each other that way."
The Layover.com Family Center E-List is open to anyone with a relationship to the trucking industry. Members share the daily happenings of this unique lifestyle via e-mail. To join the E-list, visit the Layover's Family Center atwww.layover.com/familycenter/elist.html and click on the appropriate links.
- by Coral Beach, staff writer.