••KEEP••Lee Pitts Mug
Lee Pitts is an independent columnist for The Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press; you can email them at leepitts@leepittsbooks.com.

I love the night. The darker, the better. I would have made a great night watchman or werewolf. A lot of people fear the night and are called noctiphobiacs. Thomas Edison was the most famous one, and maybe that was his motivation to invent the light bulb. It’s said he failed over 1,000 times before he finally got the light right. He must have really needed a nightlight.

Unlike Indians who were said never to travel at night, it’s always been my favorite time to travel. For 40 years, I drove a minimum of 50,000 miles a year going to cattle auctions, and I’ve driven to 48 states and would have made 49 had there been a decent bridge to Hawaii. I wore out a car every three years and drove six straight Oldsmobile Cutlasses into the ground to the point they were burning more oil than gasoline. I also liked Lincoln Town Cars, but they were tanks and had the turning radius of an ocean liner. Plus, I believe you should never buy a car you can’t push to the gas station. I’ve owned only one vehicle that wasn’t American-made, and I was embarrassed about it, so I wasn’t that sad when I went out to the garage one day, and it wasn’t there. I called the finance company to report it missing, but it turned out they were the ones who took it.

I come by my love of the night, honestly. My father was a long-haul “semi” driver, which makes it sound like he was only part truck driver. I spent many a night in my father’s KW or Kenworth for you laymen. Unlike my old man, I never had to rely on those little white pills or strong coffee to stay awake. One 32 ounce glass of fast-food iced tea and I was good for 500 miles, and it’s quite possible it was my bladder that kept me awake.

One reason I drove so much at night was I hated staying at motels, and I’d drive all night to get home rather than stay in one. After my stroke five years ago, I had to quit driving, and I haven’t stayed in a motel since then. Had I known the joy of staying at home, I might have stroked out earlier.


I even slept in my car during the gas “crises” rather than sleep under another man’s covers. Yes, youngsters, there was a time in this country when we couldn’t get fossil fuel, and anyone who lived through it will tell you it was an awful time in this country and the long lines to get gas wrapped around several blocks—so good luck with the Green New Deal and getting rid of all fossil fuel. I hope you have a reliable heater in your hybrid because it can get mighty cold at four in the morning sleeping in your car.

I liked the lack of motor homes and cops on the road at night. I collected tickets in practically every western state because I was too cheap to buy a “fuzz buster.” My most memorable ticket occurred in Buena Vista, Colorado, at three in the morning when I blew through the sleepy town going 20 miles faster than the speed limit. The cop was shaking like a belly dancer’s castanets because it was the first ticket he’d ever given, and I practically had to write it for him.

I also liked the camaraderie I felt with the truckers at night, and I loved stopping at truck stops, checking out all the neat stuff in their stores, and gassing up on chili beans at the counter with my fellow road agents. I never had a CB radio but instead listened to trucker radio which consisted mostly of UFO sightings, conspiracy theories, and questionable financial advice.

I like to think that driving at night was kinda like the old days when cowboys would take turns riding around the bedded bovines, singing bawdy songs to them to keep them from stampeding. I was a traveling man, a “cowboy of the road,” and I liked the thought that I was still working when most people were still asleep. I miss midnight, and every once in a while, I’ll get up just to howl with the coyotes to remind myself that the best time of day is night.