After two years on the road, Lori Hendrickson, and her cat, Kali (pronounced like the shorthand “Cali” for California), are tried and true when it comes to trucking together.
Kali, a 9-year-old domestic shorthair is the oldest of Hendrickson’s cat crew, which also includes two males — a black cat named Vesper, and Simba, a black and gray tabby. Kali is the only member of the crew that hits the road with Hendrickson.
Vesper and Simba aren’t left behind as Hendrickson’s least-favorite companions; rather, the pair are Kali’s least favorites. At home, it only takes one look from either of the two males for Kali to give a warning growl or hiss at them from across a room.
“It’s like, ‘Calm down! They’re not even doing anything to you,’” Hendrickson said with a laugh, noting that Kali’s personality is the complete opposite of the other two cats. Where Vesper and Simba play and run around together, Kali is more like a “cranky old lady” — at least when she’s at home.
Trucking transforms Kali into a completely different creature.
“When she’s in the truck, she’s loving and she’s calm,” Hendrickson said. “It’s like at a complete snap of the finger, she’s like two different cats. I can barely stand her at home because she’s growling and hissing all the time, but then we’re in the truck and she’s sweet and loving. It’s like, ‘Who are you?’”
Trucking provided a much-needed transformation for Hendrickson, too.
Just two years ago, she was working as a non-emergency medical transporter, pushing wheelchairs and driving people to and from appointments. She had some “regulars” and was familiar with the routes between their homes and doctors’ offices.
But Hendrickson wanted more. She had no clue that Kali did too.
Traveling the world was Hendrickson’s dream, but lacking the funds to do so, it impossible. Then one day she realized there was really nothing holding her back.
“I finally had it,” Hendrickson said. “I want to see more. I want to do more. I’m single. I don’t have kids. I don’t have anything tying me down.”
She thought, “Let’s do this. Let’s do something for myself.”
In the two years Hendrickson has hit the road as a professional driver, she hasn’t regretted making that decision — especially since she can bring her feline friend along.
Hendrickson says Kali is a true trucking cat: She gets in a little “igloo” or onto the bed, and she stays there until it’s time to eat or visit the litter box. When Hendrickson stops for food or checks into a shipper or receiver, Kali stays put in one of her favorite spots.
“I swear, she gains like 10 pounds because she doesn’t want to leave (the truck),” she laughed.
In part, Kali is a great trucking companion because she is wary of the outside world, Hendrickson said. On the other hand, Vesper craves outdoor adventures, and Simba will run if he gets spooked. Because of the loud noises at truck stops, shippers and receivers, Hendrickson said she would be worried about Vesper or Simba running off.
If Kali hears loud noises, she runs under the bed or hides behind the pillows. That’s why she makes the perfect trucking pet, even though she’s grumpy at home. Those growls turn into purrs when Kali is in the truck — until it’s time to go home again.
“Even just going the one mile from the truck to the house, she will literally sit there and meow the whole time, because she’s not happy about being outside of the truck,” Hendrickson said. “So she’ll sit there and meow and be all upset.”
As Hendrickson’s first cat, Kali may be the most spoiled. When Kali was just a kitten, Hendrickson retrieved her in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, an hour away from her hometown.
“During the hour-long car ride, I was just thinking of any name and would say it to her to see if a name would perk her up or get her attention,” Hendrickson said. “(Kali) was the one name that every time I said it, she would look up at me.”
The two have shared a special connection ever since. That connection grows even stronger when the two hit the road together for about a week at a time.
When she’s not driving, Hendrickson likes to watch other people drive in demolition derbies and races. As a child, she says, she fell in love with watching all the vehicles get smashed together when her dad took to events.
“I just fell in love with watching it,” she said. “It’s one of the things that me and my brother go and watch all the time. It’s just our thing that we love to do.”
The farthest she’s traveled from to see a demolition derby is Iowa. However, she noted, trucking allows her to enjoy watching drivers all cross the U.S. Those weeks on the road not only help Hendrickson find entertainment, but also to find and love herself. The added benefit is seeing the world.
“In two years, I have seen all 48 lower states,” she said. “I would have never been able to do that if I just stayed where I was. I love it. I wake up in one state and then I get to go to bed in a whole different state. I get to do it over and over again.”
Of all areas in the U.S., her favorite area is the Southwest.
“I’ll stop somewhere for a rest break and see the view, and it’s just a reminder of why I’m doing this,” she said. “With the desert and the mountains, it just puts me in complete awe and it’s so beautiful.”
Kali, on the other hand, is indifferent to the scenery or locale. Kali just wants to be in the truck.
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.