April 14–From riding a camel to flying in an acrobatic airplane, Myrna Spicer is busy crossing items off her bucket list.
There are still some things the 79-year-old Salinan intends to accomplish before she “kicks the bucket” — hopefully not for a long time to come. The list includes bungee jumping, skydiving, riding a zip line and taking a camera safari to Africa. There’s also a few things she knows she’ll never do, like “visit the moon,” but she’s determined to fulfill most of her desires.
On Friday, Spicer crossed off the No. 1 item on her list: Driving a semi tractor.
Spicer was able to do this through the efforts of Jenni Jones, director of sales and marketing at Salina Presbyterian Manor, the retirement facility where Spicer recently moved. When Jones looked at Spicer’s bucket list and saw No. 1 was to “drive an 18-wheeler,” she knew she could make it happen.
“I always love it when people make a bucket list and follow their dreams, and doing anything I can to enrich Myrna’s life is a joy,” she said. “I knew this one was feasible.”
Jones contacted a longtime friend, Jerry Bogart, who owned a 2014 Peterbilt truck that he leased through Doug Bradley Trucking in Salina. After being told of Spicer’s bucket list desire, Bogart was keen to help out.
Spicer, accompanied by family members, met Bogart in the parking lot of Doug Bradley Trucking at 680 E. Water Well. Bogart’s plan was to put Spicer in the driver’s seat and sit in the passenger seat to supervise and lend a hand if needed. After Spicer put the truck into gear, they would take several laps around the parking lot. Not having the proper license to drive a big rig, Spicer couldn’t take it out on public streets.
“It’s going to be fine,” Bogart said. “I’ll be in there with her, and if something happens I can shift it down really fast.”
Spicer, a retired teaching nurse at Kansas Wesleyan University, said driving a big rig is something she’s wanted to do ever since the 1970s when friends in Arizona let her drive their garbage service truck. The trouble was, Spicer said she didn’t know how to drive a stick shift at the time and “nearly stripped the transmission.”
This time around, she didn’t believe the same thing would happen to her.
“I’m a little nervous, but I think I’ll have a ball,” she said. “It’s just something I’ve always wanted to try.”
At about 2 p.m. Friday, Spicer climbed into the driver’s seat of the blue truck, buckled up and listened to a few tips from Bogart on positioning and turning the wheel and shifting gears. After Bogart climbed in the passenger seat, Spicer shifted the truck into gear — and nearly stalled it out.
“That was my fault,” Bogart said later. “I had it on too high of a gear. Then she had her foot on the brake. But we got it all done, so it’s good.”
After settling into fourth gear, Spicer relaxed and began enjoying the experience, circling around the large parking lot six times and tooting the truck horn. Of course, it helped that a flatbed trailer was not attached to the truck cab. Bogart’s job primarily entails hauling large, heavy transformer units for the Solomon Corporation.
After Spicer finished her truck trek, she climbed out of the cab looking as if she’d just run a particularly grueling marathon. But she also was nearly giddy with happiness.
“It was a little more challenging than I expected,” she said. “I couldn’t get it in gear, and that bothered me. The funnest part was going fast. I never went fast, but fast as I could. I’d do it again if I had the chance.”
As Spicer crossed the No. 1 item off her bucket list, she tried to decide what her next goal would be.
“If I was rich, then I think I’d go on that African safari,” she said. “But it’s probably going to be roller skating. If I could roller skate on a nice sidewalk, that’d be great. Zip lining wouldn’t be hard, either. And I got three or four more rivers I need to run.”
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