Ric Pike always has to eat a little crow when he tells the story about how he became a professional truck driver.
“I thought it was an easy job, that I could do it without any problems,” Pike said during a recent interview with The Trucker. He’s now nearly three decades into his career.
The Oregon native started his professional life as a pressman at a plywood mill. It was a tough job — one that he was eager to step away from when the opportunity arose to haul the wood instead of helping to make it.
Pike said he learned how to drive a big rig “the hard way,” in a 1957 Kenworth equipped with a five-in-the-floor transmission and a soot-belching 230 Detroit diesel engine.
He soon discovered that trucking wasn’t as easy as he thought — but even so, he still took a shine to it. After a few years of transporting plywood, he moved on to hauling logs.
“That really kept me on my toes,” Pike said. “I was 18 or 19 when I first started out, so I learned as I went.”
After a stint of driving timber in the Pacific Northwest, Pike hit the road to try his luck as a long-hauler pulling a dry van.
“About that time, I met a guy who was running reefer, and he said he would teach me everything I needed to know about it, so I went along with him and drove reefers for about 15 years,” Pike said. “Then I went into flatbeds. I worked for six years doing that; then started doing oversize loads.”
Over the years, Pike has hauled everything from yachts to pieces of a Titan missile.
It was during that Titan missile haul that he met his wife, Suzzanne.
At the time, he was making runs between Seattle and Los Angeles along Interstate 5. One day, while rolling near Modesto, California, Pike said he heard a woman on the CB, asking for someone to talk to.
“I picked up the CB, and we started talking,” Pike said, noting that the other truckers listening in were jealous that Suzzanne seemed to like him and not them.
“She was with her mom, hauling a horse to her sister’s house, and I was heading her way,” Pike said. “We kept rolling and agreed that we needed to meet somewhere. So we pulled over and got something to eat with her mom.”
Suzzanne’s mom convinced her daughter to go for a ride with Pike in his rig. They immediately hit it off, and were married not long after.
“I had (had) basically no sleep when I met them,” Pike said. “So, when Suzzanne got in the truck with me, we talked a lot, and we kept talking with her mom (on the CB). That was great.”
Hard times befell Pike in the years after meeting and marrying the love of his life. His original rig was stolen, and he said he almost lost everything. He credits his nephew, Steven, for helping to save him.
“I have to give credit where credit is due, He really came to my rescue,” Pike said.
Unfortunately, the bad luck kept coming for Pike. Recently, his beloved rig, which has been featured on a CAT Scale card and as a CAT Scale Rig of the Week, was involved in a wreck in Oklahoma City. After stopping for backed-up traffic, he was rear-ended by another rig. The impact propelled Pike’s tractor into the trailer of the rig in from of him.
“It did $30,000 in damage,” Pike said, pain notable in his voice. “I have been down 180 days off the road.”
Pike’s beloved rig is no ordinary piece of machinery.
He bought the 2005 Peterbilt 379 about five years ago for his son to drive — but he ended up rebuilding and driving it himself.
He stretched the frame to 310 inches, updated the paint, added a lot of chrome and installed dual-revolution lights in green and blue to match the paint job.
Pike’s wife has nicknamed the truck “Belligerent,” saying it’s unique, full of life and doesn’t care what other people think of it.
For performance, Pike is running a 550 CAT heavy-haul program with a PDI tuner. He also added 8-inch stacks with old-school rain guards.
On the inside, he installed a 40-inch TV, cabinets, hardwood floors, a microwave and a pressure cooker.
He said he hopes to have it back soon and get back on the road.
When he’s not trucking, Pike enjoys being a “gearhead,” tinkering with one of his many motorcycles or the classic 1969 three-door Suburban he’s rebuilding.
“Recreation is my obsession,” Pike said, describing his down time spent working on his bikes and the Suburban.
“My dream is to get a moving van or enclosed auto trailer and dedicate the first 30 feet of it into living space, then load my motorcycles and hit the entire bike circuit,” he said. “I want to go to bike show after bike show.”
Pike won’t say exactly how old he is, only that he is “between 50 and 60,” but if you talk to him long enough, it’s obvious that this truck driver still loves being on the road, whether it’s on a Harley or in his Pete.
As for changes he has seen during his career, Pike says the electronic logging device, or ELD, is one of the “best and worst” things to come along.
“I hate it with a passion,” he said. “I am old school — go till you fall down. On the good side, the ELD, in a lot of ways, is actually cool once you learn how to operate it. It keeps you out of trouble and makes it so you don’t have to run as hard.”
For now, Pike is just waiting to get Belligerent out of the shop and back on the road.
In the coming months, he’ll either be behind the wheel of Belligerent or hunched down in the saddle of one of his motorcycles, rolling along the open road.
“I’m always ready to go,” Pike said. “I am ready to get moving again.”
Born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and raised in East Texas, John Worthen returned to his home state to attend college in 1998 and decided to make his life in The Natural State. Worthen is a 20-year veteran of the journalism industry and has covered just about every topic there is. He has a passion for writing and telling stories. He has worked as a beat reporter and bureau chief for a statewide newspaper and as managing editor of a regional newspaper in Arkansas. Additionally, Worthen has been a prolific freelance journalist for two decades, and has been published in several travel magazines and on travel websites.