John Of All Trades: Golfer, Restaurant Owner and Truck Driver
In talking with Driver Solutions program graduates, we usually find that just about everyone has an interesting background or story about why they decided to start a truck driving career. Sometimes people want to become truck drivers because they have experience in the industry or have driven before. Other times, the decision to go into the trucking industry is all about trying something new, getting away from the daily grind and having the chance to travel the USA. John Keaton is one of those drivers with a unique background prior to trucking.
Q: Tell us a little about your background. What made you get into trucking?
A: I’m 36 and I’ve been a golf pro for most of my life. I got out of golf and got into the restaurant business where I bought and started my own restaurant in Virginia. The economy went to crap though and after five years I shut it down because I wasn’t making money like I should have been. So I got back into the golf business and went down to Florida to teach, but I just didn’t like or enjoy it because my passion was for the game but I wasn’t getting to play.
It just so happened my best friend was a musician at the time and was out on tour. He asked if I wanted to come on tour and help with merchandise after I quit my job. When I did that, I fell in love with traveling and being on the road. When the tour was over, I was looking for something to do. I was searching around on the internet and saw USA Truck’s job posting saying they’d pay for my CDL if I’d come drive for them. So I signed up, and that’s my background. I wasn’t ready to settle down and be in one spot and I wanted to continue traveling, so I decided I’d see what truck driving is like and I’m loving it.
Q: Had you ever been in a truck before school?
A: I had never been in or even opened the door to an 18 wheeler before I went to CDL training. I’ve driven a u-haul before for moving, then the tour bus I drove a couple times, but never a semi. We did a week of class training, and that Friday was the first time I was ever in a big rig. It was intimidating but awesome.
Q: What was it like the first time you got behind the wheel?
A: I’ve never been scared to try anything new so getting in the seat was intimidating just because the vehicle is so long, but it wasn’t scary. My trainer at USA Truck was good; patient, easygoing, and walked us through every step. He stood next to the mirror and talked me through different maneuvers. By the time we got out on our first roadtrip, it felt natural to me.
Q: Heading into this new career, did you have thoughts on what it would be like on the road and has that been what you expected?
A: It’s exactly what I expected. I wanted to be alone for a while. I lived and worked in the restaurant for 5 years and never left. I needed some alone time. I didn’t even want to team drive because I wanted to be alone. USA put me with an awesome trainer named Mike. We still keep in touch.
Honestly there’s not been any surprises good or bad – it’s exactly what I expected. I drive from one place to another, stop the truck, eat, and relax. It’s very peaceful. Surprisingly easier than I thought it would be too, aside from the initial intimidation. When you’re not scared of it it’s very simple. Just don’t hit anything! My basic theory is back off in traffic. I’m the slow guy letting people pass me. USA Truck gives me plenty of time to get where I need to go. If you’re any good at maps this job is simple. Figure out where you have to go, how much time you have to get there, and you just go. It’s fun and easy. I really enjoy it.
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