For two OOIDA members from Illinois, life now means friends, laughter and a famed alter ego
By Charlie Morasch, staff writer
It's 3 p.m., and Jim McCarter is looking for his wife inside the Walmart in Oak Grove, MO.
"She was supposed to be buying
a bedsheet," says Jim, who wears
a belt buckle with the iconic
mud flap girl.
A pair of comically thick, round glasses are hinged on the right pocket of Jim's cargo pants. They're the only evidence of his much more downloaded and now famous alter ego: – "Bobby Boofay."
Some 14 hours ago, Jan and Jim McCarter started their day in Kentucky. By early afternoon, they've arrived east of Kansas City. Tomorrow they'll head to J.B. Hunt headquarters in Lowell, AR, for a meeting.
In between eating a chicken dinner and talking with friends this evening, the McCarters will post messages on Facebook, Twitter and their personal website. Through social media, they've become more than a friendly couple with a lease-purchase truck.
Are the McCarters tech-savvy truckers who on a whim created Bobby Boofay, the goofy truck driver character whose YouTube videos are popular with kids and adults?
Or are they a well-matched pair of romantics who have reinvented themselves yet again, continually bringing fun to the grind of day-to-day trucking?
The answer to both questions, of course, is yes.
A whirlwind courting
Jim and Jan met in 1994, and instantly the two were inseparable. Two weeks after they met, they married.
"We just knew it was right," Jan said.
At the time, Jim was performing in one of 20 community theater productions he's acted in.
Growing up in northern Virginia, Jan performed as well. In fact, her family performed songs and shows for audiences in nursing homes and a local prison.
When Jim and Jan met, Jim ran a plumbing operation he'd started with a few tools and an old van. In a few short years, it had grown into an efficient and profitable business.
After boosting the company's annual revenue to more than
$1 million, however, Jim realized that the toll of 18-hour days stressed his family and his health.
"I popped my head up over the clouds one day and went, 'Wow, life is really passing me by,'" Jim said.
After some reflection, they decided to make a change.
They sold the plumbing business. Jim and Jan left many friends and family members to move to the Florida Keys.
The couple lived off of that money for about two years, before embarking on their trucking careers as team drivers. Eventually, they decided Jim would handle driving duties.
"One of us had to always be driving, and the other one had to be taking their rest," Jan said. "We get more time together now."
The couple shares another common bond: physical limitations.
Jim has limped every step he's taken after sustaining life-threatening injuries during a car wreck in the 1980s.
Jim got into his friend's 1983 Chevy Blazer before realizing the driver was drunk. His inebriated friend began racing on the rural Tennessee back roads. Moments later, the SUV flipped 14 times, ejecting both men and killing Jim's friend.
Jim landed nearly 120 feet beyond the vehicle's resting point, and was revived four times en route to the hospital with massive head wounds. One foot had to be surgically reattached, and the other was broken in six places.
At the hospital, he remained in a coma for four days. He lost his job and home after the wreck, and spent three years in physical therapy learning to walk again.
Jan's health troubles surfaced subtly.
Three years ago, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis – which gives her heavy fatigue and sometimes causes her to slur words.
Jan's medical condition – combined with the couple's desire to spend more time together – led her to give up her share of team driving with Jim a few years ago.
Sometimes, Jim says he wonders why he survived his near-death experience.
"My purpose in life, I think, is to do what I really like to do," he said. "I like to cheer everybody up and put smiles on their faces."
About a year ago, Jim started posting his homemade videos on YouTube.com. As a joke, he put on comically thick glasses, and called himself Bobby Boofay. The name and the act took insider jabs at everything from drivers to trucking issues to restaurant buffets.
In November 2010, a trucker named Rick stopped by the truck and met Jan and Jim. He told them how he was having a horrible day, but decided to watch some Bobby Boofay clips.
Like Rick, many have told them they enjoy the clips because of their insider nature.
"He said it got him straight in his head again," Jim said. "Maybe that's why I'm here. It could be."
The attention from Jim's alter ego hasn't been all good.
Some have complained to the McCarters that Boofay is reinforcing a stereotypical image some have of truckers, to which Jim counters, "Hey, it's comic relief, buddy."
The popularity of Bobby Boofay, as well as Jan and Jim's positive approach to trucking, has led to them getting to know hundreds of drivers across the country. It's also helped them bring issues that are important to truckers to managers at their motor carrier, who have listened to them.
"This opens up doors," Jan said.
Like many trucking families, Jan and Jim hope to one day work jobs off of the road.
Jan, however, doesn't think the pair will get off the road anytime soon.
For them, life on the road is a pleasant mix of home cooking, good storytelling, meeting up with friends old and new, and talking about the issues facing the industry such as truck parking.
And sharing some laughs.
It's a combination that makes work fun for them – one that helps them blur the line between daily obligations and old-fashioned fun.LL