Photographer Jim Steinberg hitches across the country for his new project |

Photographer Jim Steinberg hitches across the country for his new project

Margaret Hair

A sunset lights up the Mojave Desert on the third day of local photographer Jim Steinberg's trip across the country. He is collecting stories and photos of truck drivers, the things they see and the people in their lives. The pictures will be used in a backdrop for the play "Mama Hated Diesels." The show opens for a two-month run at The Denver Center for the Performing Arts on March 19.

This shot from inside driver Daniel Gibson's truck is among the photos featured in Jim Steinberg's online journal chronicling his road trip across the Western states.

— For the past week, Jim Steinberg has been hitching his way across the Western states and into a different way of life.

He's been negotiating rides with truck drivers, walking up to them at truck stops in Arizona, Utah, California, Ne­w Mexico or any of about 10 other states.

From those drivers, Steinb­erg is gathering stories and photos — of the road, of the inside of the cab, of the people driving and of a road-warrior lifestyle.

"You're not just capturing a moment. You're really trying to create a body of work that represents a lifestyle — because the world of truckers, having been involved in it now, it's a totally different world," Steinberg said.

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The photographer and longtime Steamboat Springs resident is out on the road for the second of three stretches that will add up to about 6,600 miles. When he's not riding in a truck, Steinberg will cover the ground in his yellow Volvo station wagon, "Ole Yeller."

The car's odometer hit 546,618 miles Thursday morning.

His photos and stories will serve as a backdrop for an upcoming production at The Denver Center for the Performing Arts. "Mama Hated Diesels" — a collection of true trucker stories set to road-ready, popular American songs — opens March 19 for a two-month world premiere run at the Denver Center.

Showing beauty and grit

Randal Myler, who wrote the show with Dan Wheetman and will direct the Denver run, said he commissioned Steinberg based on his mastery of landscapes and his work on a previous collaboration.

"We knew we wanted some visuals to go with it, and a sort of looking at the world through the windshield of a truck sort of feel, and Jim seemed like the obvious choice to us," Myler said.

Myler and his co-author wanted to show "what the truckers were seeing on the road — not just the scenic beauty of it, but also the grit of it, too," Myler said. The duo's play reflects the pitfalls along with the beauty of the trucker lifestyle, he said.

"It's a whole life and a whole subculture, and it's just fascinating, and in many ways it's disappearing, or it's moving to giant corporations," Myler said, noting that the independent trucker has become a scarce breed.

Steinberg's photos will be projected on two large screens at the back of the stage, on "what will almost look like billboards," Myler said. He said he hopes the images will add to the audience experience during the show's speeches and songs.

Keeping America moving

On the road somewhere north of Albuquerque, N.M., on Thursday afternoon, Steinberg said the truck drivers he's approached for photos, stories and rides have been happy to share details about their lives.

"I hear lots of interesting stories, everything from how many wives people have had, how many kids from various wives, getting stuck out in the road, which cops are good, which cops are not good. … There are a lot of good stories," he said.

He said he hopes to give Myler about 1,000 photos to choose from at the end of his three-part trip. In those photos, he hopes to show the people who "keep America moving" in settings from snow-covered lan­d­scapes to farm fields.

"They deliver the goods to the country that keep things going, and they're very proud of that, and they're thrilled and excited that somebody wants to do a show about them," Steinberg said.

Steinberg saw part of "Mama Hated Diesels" performed in summer 2008, when Myler brought a partial first draft of the play to the Perry-Mansfield New Works Festival. Steinberg is co-chairperson of the New Works Festival, and The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust sponsors the annual summer workshop. The Steinberg Charitable Trust also will sponsor The Denver Center's production of "Mama Hated Diesels."

As part of an effort to keep Myler updated on his photo project, Steinberg is writing a blog about his travels. He updates the journal daily at After this two-week travel stretch, Steinberg plans to be back on the road to finish the project in February, he said.

For more

Photographer Jim Steinberg is posting thoughts and photos from his multistate photo project following truck drivers here. Those photos will be part of the backdrop for an upcoming production at The Denver Center for the Performing Arts. The show opens March 19. Learn more about the show here.