Steve MacDonald of Vacaville traveled across America in late October and early November with his dog, Buddy, to encourage people to vote before or on Election Day. This is the second story in an ongoing series chronicling his trip. — Editor
Retired union activist Steve MacDonald of Vacaville is more than 2,000 miles into his “Fire Trump Tour,” a combination of his friendly personality and his SUV towing a pickup truck bed converted into an 8-foot trailer with white-painted plywood panels all around, topped with American flags and colorful lettering painted on the wood.
With Buddy, his 10-year-old beagle in a seat behind him, he left his Gonzales Drive home Oct. 18 and, so far, has driven his 1991 Chevrolet Suburban eastward to Las Vegas, southward to Phoenix, then eastward again through New Mexico and Texas, northerly through Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, then eastward into Illinois, Kentucky, and into Ohio, where he left Tuesday morning to return to Vacaville, saying, “My work is done” promoting the Biden-Harris ticket and Democratic Senate candidates in several battleground states.
A longtime former member of Local 490 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, MacDonald, 67, the father of three who worked as a trucker for the Lucky Stores distribution center in Vacaville, said the tour idea is something of an extension of his decades of union activism but his primary mission was “to get people to vote.”
Before he left Vacaville, he figured his trailer would elicit some opposition — honking, vulgar gestures, partisan shout-outs and the like — when other drivers, particularly Trump supporters, get an eyeful of the trailer’s hand-painted messages, among them “Fire Trump,” “Hire Biden Harris,” “Thanks America,” and “Vote Vote Vote.” And whatever state he was in, MacDonald also included signs about Democratic Senate candidates.
Throughout the trip, except for a stretch in west Texas, the trailer and signs have drawn mostly friendly waves from passers-by on roadways and curious stranger walks-up to chat when he is occasionally parked, MacDonald noted in a series of emailed updates and phone calls to The Reporter last week and Tuesday morning.
But that changed at 1 p.m. Tuesday Eastern Standard Time, mid-cellphone call as MacDonald headed toward the Indiana border, when a driver, he said, purposely tried to force him off the road.
“It just happened! The first one!” he exclaimed, citing, with an incredulous tone in his voice, his logging 1.5 million safe-driver miles for the Teamsters and the fact that he never had “a chargeable accident” during his employment.
For a time, he drove his vehicles along the highway shoulder until the other driver — probably an angry Trump supporter, said MacDonald — had passed.
He recalled the Twitter user who, using a smartphone, captured on Friday a so-called “Trump Train,” a group of Trump supporters, driving pick-up trucks and waving Trump flags, surrounded and closely followed a Biden campaign bus as it drove up Interstate 35 in Hays County, Texas, which has turned into a battleground state this election season. The video clearly showed at least one minor collision of a Biden staffer’s vehicle and led to Texas Democrats, citing safety concerns, canceling three scheduled campaign events on Friday.
The president did not condemn the actions of the Trump Train drivers, and MacDonald said his tweet “I LOVE TEXAS!” encourages such highway behavior and the threat of supporter violence in general nationwide.
“The guy’s a lunatic,” MacDonald said forcefully. “He’s going to be an ex-president.”
Last week, MacDonald said his swing through west and north central areas of the Lone Star State led him to believe that parts of Texas are “definitely a hostile area” for Democrats.
Speaking just before being forced off the road, MacDonald said he spent the morning in Columbus, the state capital, and visited an election center there.
“I called to a couple of the guys managing the traffic there,” he said. “There were just a couple of drop boxes there. People were just streaming in. The parking lot was full. They had some voting going on but the majority were just dropping ballots into a box.”
MacDonald stayed there for about 45 minutes, then left, but he said people “got pretty happy” to see the trailer.
“The Democrats … they feel liberated when I roll through,” he said. “It’s amazing.”
As he continued to drive toward Indiana, MacDonald said he was not tired, because, as a longtime truck driver, he was accustomed to traveling long distances.
“I’ll get Buddy out and walk him” at a rest stop, he said, adding that it would be a 10-minute break “and if I get tired, I’ll take a nap and drive some more.”
“My mission is done,” added MacDonald and said he would not visit his sister in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula after all, citing the coronavirus pandemic.
So he continued his return to Vacaville.
“I want to get a jump on these Trumpers,” he said, alluding to election results that would begin to be tabulated later in the evening on Tuesday. “I think it’s going to take a couple of days to know (who won the presidency). Trump is going to lose big.”