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Life & Lyrics- “Working on the Highway”

Published on January 14, 2013, by in LeeLee Blogs.

Working on the highway, laying down the blacktop

Working on the highway, all day long I don’t stop

Working on the highway, blasting through the bedrock

Working on the highway, working on the highway

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band


I absolutely adore my cousin John.  Okay, fine…I’ll admit…he’s technically my cousin through marriage since he married my gorgeous and fabulous cousin Roseanne back in 1996, BUT I just feel as if there’s a bloodline relation.  Love him! If I had to list adjectives to describe John, I’d include vivacious, animated, fun, dedicated, and loving.  John can certainly light up a room and guarantee fun and laughter.

John wedding

One of my favorite and one of the most hilarious memories involving John happened at my engagement party in 1998.  The drinks were flowing, the music was loud, and the dance floor was crowded.  All of a sudden, John grabbed my arm and twirled me all over the dance floor.  All eyes were on us.  John had so much fun swinging me around the dance floor.  We were bustin’ a move.  It felt like a workout at the gym. It felt hot, hot, and hot.  What does John do?  He decides to take his gorgeous designer suit jacket off while still dancing and throws it into the crowd.  Things start flying out of the suit jacket including my engagement card/gift. The moment was so out of control and funny. It caused quite a scene.  But that’s John.  It’s all about having a blast and going nuts.  Who cares if his suit jacket landed in someone’s pasta plate and my gift card nearly hit someone in the face!!!! We took command of the dance floor.  Dancing with the Stars…watch out! Our dance number earned us….10…10…10……minus that darn disco ball trophy.

Yes, there’s a wild side to John but there’s also an admirable and responsible side to him too.

Working on the highway, laying down the blacktop

Working on the highway, all day long I don’t stop

Working on the highway, blasting through the bedrock

Working on the highway, working on the highway

John had aspirations of someday becoming a superintendent for a huge construction company.  Once he graduated high school, he began his construction career with a paving and asphalt company.  He was a quick study and learned the paving business with ease.  He showed a genuine skill and comfort while working with tar and concrete.  His skill-set was so obvious and natural that it earned him the nickname “concrete John”.

John truly enjoyed the paving business even when he just pushed a wheelbarrow.  The work helped pay the rent and was “paving” the way to reach his ultimate career goal. He experienced every aspect of the business.  While paving supermarket parking lots, a normal job consisted of pouring tar that reached temperatures between 600 and 800 degrees and working with tar kettles.  Not exactly easy work and needless to say… the safety concerns.

For an 18 year old, the job was intimidating and scary at times especially when he experienced a tar kettle explosion on a job site.  Thankfully, the local fire department saved the day and everyone escaped without injury.  It’s a work day John will never forget.

After three years of working with tar, John was motivated to take his career to the next level.  He took a course and passed all the necessary tests to earn his commercial driver’s license.  Obtaining this license opened up more responsibility and opportunity.  At the age of 21, John knew how to drive a 55-foot truck and operate serious construction equipment…a paver, roller, excavator, and backhoe.

highway john

John worked on jobs in Bergen and Hudson Counties in New Jersey and by the time he was 24, he gained enough experience and knowledge to estimate jobs.  With more responsibility came more motivation.  John was ready to leave the parking lot and start “Working on the highway”.

john- working

John decided to join the Union as a laborer and took on a new job.  He still worked with concrete but this time he was dealing with multi-million dollar jobs and building bridges, placing pedestals, abutments, and wing walls on the Garden State Parkway.  He climbed up the construction ladder rather quickly.  In his late 20s, he became a Foreman and was responsible for a 12-man crew.  Some of the men were twice his age.  Although the job was rewarding, it often felt regimented and monotonous.  The job was simply just a stepping-stone.  Once again, it was time for John to climb the construction career ladder.

By 2001 and with several years experience under his belt, John achieved his goal.  He landed his first superintendent job for a New York based construction company. He was “working on the highway” …several highways…the New Jersey Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway, the New York State Thruway, Highway 87, Route 1 in Trenton, Route 17 in Ramsey, and Route 46 in Lodi, New Jersey.

john- meadowlands

John’s working day was jam-packed.  As a Superintendent, he was in charge of three crews and all the aspects of set up…everything from police and traffic patrol, safety signs and cones, and material.  Without a doubt, the job was daunting and stressful at times.

John admits he never really functioned on enough sleep.  Lack of sleep was part of the job.  “Working on the Highway” was extremely demanding and tough on the body.  He worked overnights and tried to sleep during the day.  Ha! Not easy.  Ever try sleeping while the sun is peaking through the shades? Trust me, it sucks! Overnights were brutal for John and sleep became a luxury…especially with a growing family and babies crying.  However, the most stressful part of the job was dealing with Mother Nature and her impact on job production and costs.

Most of the time, John felt as if he was a gambling man with a degree in meteorology. He grew addicted to weather forecasts and even had Doppler radar in his trucks.  After all, the materials needed for “Working on the Highway” are weather sensitive.  The critical decision of putting a crew to work came down to the weather and John’s call as a Superintendent. Every job broke down into hours and minutes and was driven by costs and profit margins… but ALWAYS at the mercy of Mother Nature.  She played a key role. John’s ultimate career job came with enormous pressure.  In the end, he had to answer to executives and owners.  Essentially, he was gambling with their time and money.

When John looks back on his “Working on the Highway” career so far, he takes pride in being part of transforming New Jersey’s road systems and infrastructure. He still holds a love and appreciation for the job.  In fact, he would even encourage his sons to pursue a career in road construction as a civil engineer.

Justin on Jobsite

John believes “ there’s no better industry than highway roadwork.  The roads were never built for the amount of traffic and the size of vehicles that travel on them today.  From an engineering point of view, it’s truly amazing.”

John is a real success story.  He did it his way and on his own.  His motivation came from within.  John’s  journey about “working on the highway” is what’s truly amazing to me!


john- machineLeeLee


2 Responses

  1. Julia

    What a success story! Talk about ‘blasting through the bedrock’!

  2. Angel

    Hard work goes a long way.