Husband and wife team drivers Ryan and Bernedette Hood came to the truckling life by very different routes.
Ryan, a legacy driver whose love for the open road runs generations deep, was destined to live life behind the wheel from an early age. Bernedette developed an interest in the industry later, in 2015, while seeking a change in professional direction.
Once the two fell into each other’s orbit, however, the future was set for the Canadian born and raised drivers.
“Ryan and I had met in high school back in 1991, but our paths went different ways,” Bernedette said. “We reconnected in 2015 or 2016, somewhere around there. When we got together, I decided, ‘Well he’s a trucker and I’m a trucker, why don’t we truck together?’”
It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
“We decided to drive together, and we lived together in the truck for two years solid,” she said. “After two years, we realized we actually liked each other enough that we wanted to get married. Once you live in a shoebox for that long you get to know somebody very intimately.”
One of the biggest issues the couple had to navigate together had less to do with where they lived, what they hauled or where they went on their runs — and everything to do with what they brought along on the road.
Trucker cats, to be specific.
“Traveling with animals was something brand new,” Ryan admitted. “I had a dog that I had from a previous life, and I would take him now and then. He and I would go exploring together. Before I met Bernie, before we got together, I had a dog once in a blue moon.”
The couple laughs over those pre-feline days now, and with good reason. The couple has a total of seven cats. While usually there are only a couple along for any given ride, there have been periods in their relationship where as many as five felines made themselves at home in the cab.
“We’ve had five of them in the truck at one time because we didn’t know how long we were going to be on the road and we had a pretty big truck,” Ryan said. “At the time, it was our own truck, and it didn’t happen very often. We were just kinda stuck for a little while and we had nowhere to put the cats, so we said, ‘You know what? Let’s just take them with us on the road.’”
Today, four of the couple’s cats take turns traveling the road in pairs.
“Bullet and Nefer are the original two and then we took Cleo and Narmer,” Bernedette said. “We got all our cats as kittens, and Nefer and Bullet kind of are like a pride. Bullet is the alpha male and Nefer is the alpha female. Bullet would nurture the kittens as we brought them in and Nefer would keep them in line.
“It is quite an interesting dynamic for cats when you start introducing kittens. And then when you put them in a truck together, it’s even more curious,” she continued. “Bullet really takes his job as head very seriously. He won’t even play with the laser pointer. He’s like, ‘These are my kids. I’m watching them.’”
While Bernedette’s love of feline fluffballs brings one dimension to the road-worthy relationship, Ryan’s lifelong devotion to fitness brings another aspect to life in the rig. Weights and dumbbells travel wherever he goes, the better to help him stay toned and in shape. He says it’s a habit he developed early in life.
“When I was in high school, I actually wanted to be a firefighter because I realized I had a lot of energy and I needed to put that energy to good use,” he said. “Plus, I also liked to work in the community and be involved with people. So, I was striving to be a firefighter coming out of high school.
“I’m very conscious of my health. If you were to meet me, you probably wouldn’t think that I’ve driven 3 million miles over almost 30 years of driving a truck, because I don’t look like your stereotypical truck driver,” he continued. “One of the biggest things that I started right out of the gate was eating right and making sure whenever I’ve got down time — whether it’s a 30-minute break or my 10 hours, whatever it is — I will make the time to be active.”
Not unlike Ryan adjusting to having cats in the cab, Bernedette had to get used to Ryan’s workout regimen.
“One thing Bernie had to get used to was my up-and-down, always-on-the-go, always-moving, can’t-sit-still lifestyle,” Ryan said. “She had to get used to me being outside at four o’clock in the morning at a rest area, working out with my barbells and plate weights and dumbbells. Even when I’m driving a truck, I have to have music going. I’m constantly moving at something. It’s something I’ve always had. I’ve always been a very active person.”
For her part, Bernedette says she’s paid more attention to her health and fitness since marrying Ryan, but she hasn’t quite reached his level of intensity.
“I work out sporadically. I don’t like effort like that; I don’t like sweating,” she said. “You put a cheesecake or a barbell in front of me, I’m going for the cheesecake, hands down. But I’m more disciplined in my eating and looking after my physical health now.
“I had a bit of a medical scare two years ago. At that time, I was quite chunky, so being with Ryan helped me to get that scare under control,” she explained. “I’m eating better, losing weight, getting healthy and getting my body back to what it should be. But I’m not going nuts for exercise. I walk more than I lift weights.”
The duo, who haul tankers for Winnipeg, Manitoba-based Jade Transport, just switched from a Volvo tractor to a 2020 Peterbilt Model 567. During their driving career they’ve traveled all over the lower 48 U.S. states and every Canadian province except Newfoundland.
These days, they’re on a dedicated run between Imperial Oil in Sarnia, Ontario, to a paper mill plant in Tennessee, enjoying the partnership they’ve forged in life and in work.
“We know each other’s habits,” Ryan said. “We know each other’s likes and dislikes when we’re on the road. We know what to do and not do.”
It’s the “purr-fect” match.
“When we’re in the truck together, it’s our own little world,” Bernedette said. “Ryan and I get along famously. We bitch at each other like everybody else, but in our little world, everybody else is out of it. When we’re in the truck together we’re home.”
Dwain Hebda is a freelance journalist, author, editor and storyteller in Little Rock, Arkansas. In addition to The Trucker, his work appears in more than 35 publications across multiple states each year. Hebda’s writing has been awarded by the Society of Professional Journalists and a Finalist in Best Of Arkansas rankings by AY Magazine. He is president of Ya!Mule Wordsmiths, which provides editorial services to publications and companies.