This Designated Driver is No Ordinary Joe
Need a laugh? Go here.
Even if you don’t have 25 minutes to kill, just drag the little thing at the bottom of the screen to the 18:29 point and watch the last five minutes. It’s worth every click.
Don’t worry; it’s safe for work. And because it’s about trucks you can do it on company time.
First thing you’ll see is an elegant brown Freightliner conventional with $125 worth of fireworks blowing off the fifth wheel and meter-high flames pouring out the stacks. That’s followed by a biker-looking guy in a Harley Davidson muscle shirt scrambling out of the smoldering mess afterwards.
The truck nonsense was the climax of the 2012 South Shore in Motion weekend celebration in Bridgewater, NS., held August 10 and 12. (southshoreinmotion.ca). I’ll tell you more about that later.
But first, you have to know about the guy in the muscle shirt. His name is Joe Uhlman and he is a crazy man.
Crazy in a nutty, unpredictable do-anything-for-anybody, whacky, flirty, generous-uncle kinda way. He's the kind of guy who likes burning out trucks. (“It’s good-ole redneck fun,” he says.)
Joe’s a guy who recently took a former colleague’s urn and ashes for a last ride in his Peterbilt. “I placed the urn on the seat beside me and put the seatbelt on and everything.”
Joe describes his colleague and sister-in-law Starlene Conrad thusly: "I gotta tell you, she’s some good lookin’ woman. When we’re getting the show ready and them trucks are backing in, the drivers tell me ‘you know that sister-in-law of yours is an awful jayzuz distraction. How the hell are we supposed to concentrate with the likes of her running around?’”
Until five days ago, I’d never heard of Joe, or Starlene (great, great name!) or the South Shore in Motion Show.
But last week, Joe cold called me to ask if I’d list the 2013 South Shore in Motion weekend in our calendar of events.
First I heard of it, I said, but if it’s trucky and in Canada, we’re interested.
I promised to list it.
Half a dozen phone calls and a few days later, I’ve promised to actually go this year. You would too, if you met Joe.
At one point Friday afternoon, as soon as I ascertained that Joe was out in his truck; I called his wife Jane, at home. I didn’t want him hearing.
“Why?” I asked Jane, “is your Joe such a talk magnet?” She knew exactly what I was talking about.
I meet lots of great characters in this industry, but I’d barely spoken to Joe twice and I’d already felt like we’d been beer parlour buddies. (It’d be a cheap night out, actually; Joe hopped “on the wagon” years ago.)
We talked about his Spiderman-motifed 1977 Harley Shovelhead; we talked about the fact that after local entrepreneur and farmer Mike Beaumont hired Joe to drive one of his Freightliners part time, Mike surprised Joe by having the truck decked out in complete Spidey–style decals, courtesy of Pleasantville Signs in Bridgewater. “My CB radio handle has been Spiderman since 1970, and Mike knew that.”
“No matter where I go, whenever I park that truck people want to get their picture taken with it.”
He and Beaumont just finished restoring a regal-looking 1999 W900B. On the back of the cab, there’s a painting of a bucking bull. (“It was,” Joe said, “done by R&B Paint Shop here in Bridgewater. Wait Peter, I lied to you, It’s R&P, as in Peter.” Nice touch Joe.)
He also said they brought in a local artist Andrew Burgess to produce that beauty.
I noticed something: He was always spreading the credit around. Even though he was the one doing the talking, he kept pushing the focus of the conversation away from Joe.
That’s Joe all over, according to Jane.
“People are always payin’ attention to him but he’s never looking for attention,” she said. “You should see him when he’s handing out trophies for the truck show, Joey’s not only announcing the winners, he’s telling stories about everybody whose name he mentions. Everybody loves it when he does that.”
And remember Starlene from a few paragraphs ago? She’s married to Jane’s brother, so they’re all like family and Joe says “Nothin’ would be happenin’ around here if it weren’t for Jane and Starlene.”
“Of course we men wouldn’t be anywhere without the women, right?” he added.
And the South Shore in Motion show wouldn’t be nearly as big as it is without Joe. He was brought on board a few years ago to see if he could bolster the truck presence in the show and last year he got it up to 68 rigs. Jane says he did it all by phoning his buddies. “And Joey’s got buddies everywhere,” she says.
“Go over to the south shore in motion website,” Joe says, “There’s oceans of photos and you can get an idea of how much fun it is.”
But I saved the best for last.
Joe told me — and I'm holding him to this — that if I make it down to next year’s event, I could get a spot in the “Celebrity Lawn Tractor Race.”
I love my job.