SHELBY, N.C. — When Timothy Bradshaw, a truck driver, met Heidi Bowlby in 2011 through a mutual friend, he had no idea he’d end up teaching her how to drive a rig just a year later. He certainly had no clue they’d be partners — both personally and professionally — with three children and forever to go.
As Bowlby walked toward the bar where she was meeting Bradshaw for a blind date, she saw a man smoking a cigarette outside the bar. She thought, “Oh man, he’s cute,” but didn’t think he was the man she was there to see. But once he entered the bar and she realized he was her blind date, they danced the night away.
“We’ve been stuck together ever since,” Bowlby said with a laugh.
At the time, Bradshaw had been a truck driver for 35 years. He learned how to drive a truck at age 16, when a man who hauled cattle and livestock taught him how to drive a 1970 GMC with a two-speed axle.
“I drove it one time and I was hooked,” Bradshaw said, adding that his love of driving hasn’t waned during his now nearly five decades on the road. “I just love driving the truck.”
In 1984, Bradshaw got involved with heavy-hauling trucking with Metro Lines of Transportation, a small company with only three or four trucks. Working with two of his three brothers, Bradshaw did team driving out of California for three years before the company dissolved.
Bradshaw then moved to North Carolina to drive for another company, Kennedy and Son. When that company dissolved, Bradshaw looked to find his place with a right job before starting his own trucking company with Bowlby.
When he met Bowlby, trucking was the only career Bradshaw had ever known. Bowlby, on the other hand, had never even been in a truck — much less thought about driving one herself.
“I was in a dead-end job,” she said. “It was never even a thought for me to get on a truck.”
Bradshaw said he suggested teaching her so they could drive together. It wasn’t the first time he’d trained future truck drivers: He taught all three of his brothers, plus four of his friends, his uncle and, finally, Bowlby. She’s now been driving for nine years.
“Believe it or not, she was a lot easier to teach than (them),” Bradshaw laughed, as he referred to his past trainees. “When I taught my older brother to drive, he wouldn’t get over 55 miles an hour. Once he got to 56, he’d be hitting the brakes. He was scared because (the truck) was so big. But they all turned out to be good drivers.”
Once Bowlby was trained, the couple worked as company drivers for three years. “It was the only thing that made sense at the time,” she said.
But their shared career came with a challenge. After the couple had their first children together, they discovered they didn’t want to miss those first smiles, first words and first steps.
Bradshaw suggested they get their own truck. That way, they could be their own bosses, spend time together as a couple and be with their three boys, Dakota, 10, Nicolas, 3, and Lukas, 1.
“I was like, ‘I literally know nothing about it,’” Bowlby said. “’I’ve never even owned a business. I went from waitress to truck driver, and now you want to run our own company.’ It was a big jump. But we ended up with our first vehicle.”
That was when Bradshaw and Bowlby started getting creative. They recognized that as owner-operators, they could now have a say in their time off, their time together — and their trucks.
The engaged couple bought their first truck in 2015, and it looked a typical truck. It was plain, a standard size and just what the couple needed to launch their own trucking company.
But Bradshaw and Bowlby wanted more than just a truck. They knew they wanted to stand out, so they started looking for artists to decorate their rig. Rather than using a traditional wrap for their truck, which can cost as much as $15,000, they wanted to create a truck that blended the couple’s unique personalities.
“The truck is a mixture of me and him,” Bowlby said. “He is more of the fantasy type guy. He loves dragons and wizards and skulls, that kind of thing, so one side is all him. He gave the artist ideas of what he wanted. As far as colors and exactly what it looked like, (the artist) had free reign on artistic ability. The other side is a horizon, and I feel like that’s just a reflection of our job in general. It’s the things that we see all the time because we get to see scenes that look like that. I thought it was the perfect reflection to have a pretty side of the truck and a more unique side of the truck.”
“We find that typically, adults or older people, they love the horizon side of the truck, and the kids, they’re more for the dragons,” she said.
The artist, Trent McCauley, is located in Butte, Montana, and this was the first time he had ever painted a whole truck, Bowlby said. In total, it took McCauley four days to create the $10,000 traveling painting.
Their oldest son, Dakota, favors the dragon side of the truck, while Nicolas and Lucas haven’t quite decided which side is their favorite.
The couple now have three trucks, with plans to paint the rigs in the future. The next one will feature Bradshaw’s love of the band Iron Maiden. Of course, the couple will use the same artist.
The rig has also caught the attention of CAT Scale folks. In 2017, the couple’s truck was one of 60 trucks featured on CAT Scale Super Trucks Cards. The couple agree that the attention certainly helps their trucking company, dubbed No Destination Trucking, capture attention both on and off the highway. Along with the unique truck decor, Bradshaw and Bowlby wanted their company name to stand out.
When the two were choosing the company name, each of them would suggest a name, then the other would reject it, Bowlby said. Finally, Bradshaw casually mentioned that the trucking company wouldn’t really have a destination. Then, it was like a light bulb flashed.
“That’s it!” Bradshaw said — “no destination” could be the name of their company.
“That’s kind of funky, because we’re a trucking company and we’re going places — but in aspect, you really don’t have a final destination, right?” she said. “A lot of people love it, but every once in a while, you get one or two that they’re like, ‘Well, that just doesn’t make sense.’ But it’s a unique name.”
Either way, the name gets the company noticed. Because of it, Bowlby often uses a quote attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson — “Life is a journey, not a destination” — as a motto for No Destination Trucking.
“The work that we have put in to get to where we are is the reason why we are where we are,” she said. “And without him (Bradshaw) … I couldn’t have done it without him, and vice versa. I think us being a team like we are, has really built something that I’m proud of.”
Bradshaw’s said his achievement of 45 years on the road doesn’t always top the achievement of getting to spend his time with Bowlby and their children. At the end of the day, it’s his family that makes him the proudest.
“I’ve been with Heidi longer than I have anybody,” he said. “And I’m not going to go anywhere.”
Hannah Butler is a lover of interesting people, places, photos and the written word. Butler is a former community newspaper reporter and editor for Arkansas Tech University’s student newspaper. Butler is currently finishing up her undergraduate print journalism degree and hopes to pursue higher education. Her work has been featured in at least nine different publications.