DENVER — All his life, Troy Miller says, he was “only waiting for a moment to be free.”
While Miller’s first choice of a career path was to follow the written word — he studied English literature at Colorado State University — he says the open road has empowered his exploration of creativity and self-confidence during his 12 years of heavy hauling.
“I never went to a trucking school,” proclaimed the 30-year-old Miller.
Instead, he learned trucking “the old way” from veteran drivers. While in college, he met two drivers he considers to be the “greats” of trucking — Gary Disher and the late Bobby Ewing, who showed Miller the ropes when he first entered the trucking industry.
Today, Miller has accumulated more than 1 million miles through lowboy heavy hauling and is an owner-operator with Black Diamond Auto Transport.
While Miller might have learned about trucking in the old-school, traditional way, that doesn’t mean his lifestyle stayed traditional.
Tattooed from the neck down — nearly 40 tattoos in all — he enjoys a colorful life, eating a rainbow of vegetables as a vegan, and he is a proud member of the LGBTQ community.
His favorite (and most recent) tattoo is an image of two hands releasing a blackbird, allowing it to fly toward a rainbow of colors. The hands are that of Ciara Sleeth, Miller’s best friend who encouraged him to come out to his friends, family and trucking colleagues.
The blackbird tattoo, inspired by The Beatles song of the same name, features the lyric, “You were always waiting for a moment to be free.” After nearly four years as an openly gay trucker, freedom is all Miller explores on the road. Through trucking, he says, he is free to be himself, to see the world, to cook and create unique vegan dishes, to express his visionary mind, and to have time for his friends and family in Colorado.
During the winter, Miller sometimes takes jobs pulling a reefer trailer, but it’s rare. Most recently, he spent four months driving a route through California. While the change of scenery was nice, he said, he values his time with his family more.
“When you end up with these delays and produce ships to load or unload, it can make getting home much more difficult,” he said.
Getting home to help his family when needed is important to Miller. Recently, his eldest brother, Greg, suffered a heart attack in Fort Collins, Colorado. As his brother recovered, Miller stayed with his family, using his love language of cooking to support his family in a time of need.
Miller puts his family first, and his tattoos reflect that devotion. A half-sleeve tattoo features cartoon characters and animals that represent each of his family members, either through a favorite animal or a family memory. For example, when the movie “Madagascar” was released in 2005, the family agreed that Miller’s younger brother Cory definitely fit the character of one of the penguins, Skipper.
Miller happily shows off a tattoo image of Skipper playing the bagpipes. Miller’s other brother, Greg, is represented by a Badtz-Maru penguin from Hello Kitty, and his mother is depicted as her favorite animal, a puffin, holding a set of knitting needles and wearing a Hello Kitty bow. An image of Eeyore with an airplane represents his father.
While driving a truck might seem a far cry from a literary career, Miller draws inspiration from his time on the road to express his creativity. While on the road, he takes photos for 10-4 Magazine; when not actively driving, he writes.
Taking a pencil to paper to express himself through words has always come naturally to Miller, who says he received straight A’s in the subject at school. Over time, his talent guided him to draw inspiration from postmodern French philosophers such as Albert Camus, as well as Russian literature by Leo Tolstoy.
“If you asked my parents, they would say I had the gift of gab since I was a kid,” he said. “Writing always came fairly easily to me. It’s not that I’m the greatest writer in the world; it’s just something that always made sense to me.”
Miller’s word-filled brain made English literature a natural choice when it came to choosing his major in college, but the story is different once it shifts to his interest in photography.
“I did not set out to be a photographer,” he explained.
During his sophomore year of high school, he needed just one more fine-arts credit to move on to 11th grade. He heard through the grapevine that photography was the easiest credit to earn, so chose it to avoid another class burning through his mental energy.
That first class had him hooked, however, and by the time he graduated from high school he had five semesters of photography under his belt.
The darkroom entranced him as he learned to develop film and prints and then enhance them with enlargers and special effects. He’s now switched primarily to digital photography, but fondly remembers the days of film, keeping those skills close whenever he has a need to shoot or write articles.
Along with a deep love of literature and photography, Miller has long been fascinated with trucks.
“Trucking happened because even before the reading and writing, my parents told me, before I could even say the word, ‘trucks,’ they could tell I loved trucks,” he said with a laugh.
While growing up, garbage trucks sparked his interest as he watched them going back and forth in his neighborhood. That initial interest “dumped” a load of love for all trucks in his brain. His love for trucks took over his childhood room: All his books were about trucks, and his LEGO sets were model trucks.
As a teenager, Miller dreamed about living on the road, even while he was practicing photography and developing his writing skills.
Today, he lives out that dream of life on the road — and he keeps a copy of William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and his cameras close by in case inspiration strikes.
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.