Maybe I was being foolish, but I preferred to think I was being optimistic as I began the drive toward Grand Rapids in March. Despite the fact that virtually every other time I had driven that route I had encountered white-out conditions and multiple-car pileups along I-94, I chose to believe the sunny and clear weather forecast and cheerfully headed north.
The (finally) longer days made driving pleasant in the late afternoon sunshine. As the sun began to set, I decided it was time to stop for a bite to eat. I was coming up on Michigan City, Indiana, so I did a quick search and found a Mediterranean restaurant called Chickpea. I set my navigation, and was pleasantly surprised when I found it in a cute little house. I ordered at the counter and got a heaping serving of rice, hummus, falafel and chicken shawarma topped with toum, a Lebanese garlic sauce that I could have eaten an entire bowl of. I washed it down with a glass of orange blossom lemonade that brought back memories of vacation in Florida with Grandma. There is no question that the next time I’m anywhere near Michigan City, I will be making a stop at Chickpea.
The rest of the drive was uneventful, and I made it to Grand Rapids, checked into my hotel, and turned in for the night. The next morning, I met with Tom Bylenga at Star Truck Rentals, Inc., a NationaLease Member. We discussed the purchasing programs as well as the Spring Business Meeting in conjunction with TRALA. I also got a chance to tour the office and say hello to lots of old friends, including Dave Bylenga, Ashleigh Bylenga, Kristen Siebert, Lonnie Vis, Jim Kennedy, Kyle Hillman, and Heather Kimble.
From Grand Rapids, I headed east to Detroit, and made it to Kinnie Transportation Group, Inc., a NationaLease Member in time to meet with the group before they went home for the day. Eric Kinnie and Zach Leonard had lots of great questions, and I was able to share information about several of the resources NationaLease has available to our members to help them with everything from insurance to training. I also got to hear more about their business. They recently celebrated their 100th year in business, and it was great to hear stories about their customers and the ways they have continued to serve them over the decades.
I found my hotel, and checked out the local restaurants. One place looked intriguing, and better yet, was within walking distance. About 10 minutes later I found myself inside Moro’s, and felt like I had stepped back a few decades in time. The dark wood, dim lighting, and white tablecloths looked like something from a movie set. The waiters in tuxedos, and the busboys in white jackets only added to the old-school ambience. My veal dish came with a salad that was prepared tableside and tossed with olive oil and vinegar. Although not typically fond of salads, I cleaned my plate, and could have eaten another. I reluctantly declined dessert, full from the bread, salad, and veal. To my surprise, the waiter returned with a bowl of apples, oranges, and nuts, along with a nutcracker that undeniably originated in a prior decade. It was the perfect touch to end an experience that was an homage to an earlier time.
I started the next day with a short drive to Leoni NationaLease, where I met with Mike Leoni, Raza Mooraj, Tom Hayes, and Tony Esquina. We discussed the upcoming events including the Maintenance Managers’ Meeting and the NationaLease Young Executives Club, which are both in Chicago this year as part of NationaLease’s 75th Anniversary celebration. We also discussed our purchasing programs and our capital equipment programs that allow our members to provide value to their customers by passing on the savings they receive.
I started my drive back toward Chicago, but I had one more stop to make, in Montpelier, Ohio. Montpelier sits in the northwest corner of Ohio, almost at the spot where Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio meet. I stopped in to meet with Larry Dean and Joe Huston of Transport NationaLease. We discussed our supply management programs, upcoming meetings, and our Reciprocal Service program. We also discussed the maintenance challenges they have had, along with many other members, over this long and difficult winter. Keeping the trucks in good repair and safely on the road is not easy in the extreme conditions many of our members faced over the last few months.
I left Montpelier and headed for home without a snowflake in sight. My optimism (foolishness?) paid off, as I had a wonderful trip meeting with old friends—and eating great food—without a moment of inclement weather. In 1734, Alexander Pope wrote the line “Hope springs eternal in the human breast…” That sentiment has definitely stood the test of time. It is as true today as it was almost 300 years ago, and it is fortunate for us that it is so true. Hope allows us to believe that spring will finally come, even after an interminable winter. It enables us to move forward toward a goal when it isn’t in sight. And I’m sure it is what drove the founders of NationaLease 75 years ago to put together the blueprint for something that had never been done. I’m certainly glad their hope and optimism. 75 years later, the journey continues…