Originally published June 24, 2013.
Any way you add it up, Julie Whitacre's numbers are through the roof.
The big number, though, is 1 million.
That's the number of times, as of this summer, that she's slipped a copy of The Huntington County TAB into one of the orange tubes dotting Huntington County and the fringe areas of adjoining counties.
That's the most newspapers ever delivered by any TAB carrier who has continuously maintained a route in his or her own name, says Russ Grindle, co-publisher of The TAB.
"And she's had the least amount of complaints of any of the carriers," Grindle says.
Whitacre says she doesn't plan to end her streak anytime soon.
"I'll probably do it until I can't do it anymore," she says.
Whitacre had spent 20 years in factory work and was employed as a maintenance technician at Parkview Apartments when she took on her first TAB delivery route in 1998.
"I just wanted to do something different," she says. "And then I found out I really liked it."
Newspaper delivery, she says, gave her enough flexibility to do something else she really liked.
"I played in a band back then, and delivering gave me an opportunity where I could still do my music," she says.
The band back then was Once Again; she still plays, but now in the band Acoustic Rush, based in Roanoke. She handles guitar and vocals as the group performs at benefits and American Legion posts around the area.
Whitacre delivered three other motor routes and two walking routes before settling about 12 years ago on the two routes she has now. Those routes extend from the south side of Huntington to Markle and Zanesville, keeping her on the road for about seven hours each delivery day.
Occasionally, she'll take on an extra route for a carrier who needs the day off. She points proudly to the
fact that she's only needed a substitute twice in the 15 years she's been a TAB carrier.
"One was for a funeral, and one was on my birthday," she says. "I just decided I was going to take my birthday off that year."
Whitacre delivers 630 copies of The TAB each Monday and Thursday. That adds up to 65,520 newspapers a year for just over 15 years, and when you add in the extra routes she's delivered as a substitute, the number of deliveries rises to the million mark.
Whitacre drives about 300 miles a week - "give or take," she says - putting her mileage at more than 230,000 over 15 years.
She says she's gone through some five vehicles during that time.
"A vehicle probably lasts on a route a good three years," she says. "It does wear and tear on your car pretty good."
She always has a second vehicle ready as a backup, she says.
She delivers the routes solo.
"I like being out by myself in the boonies," she says.
Bad weather doesn't slow her down - much.
Sometimes, she'll run into a flooded road and have to backtrack to avoid the deep water. When the roads are really bad, her normal seven-hour day might increase to 10 hours; on a couple of occasions, she's had to stop and wait for icy roads to improve before completing her routes.
"That rarely ever happens that I don't finish it," she says.
Extreme heat may affect her timing. On a normal day, she starts out around 8:30 a.m.; when it's really hot, she may start her deliveries as early as 3 in the morning.
"You've got to be able to drive and be out in the elements," she says.
Whitacre starts her route on foot, delivering copies of The TAB to residents of the Rivergreen Apartments Senior Citizen apartment complex near Hier's Park. There are about 40 units there, and she'll stop and chat, occasionally helping someone take out the garbage or some other task.
"Then I shoot out 224 and start my route," she says.
She gets waves from farmers who recognize her and occasionally meets up with some of her customers.
"If they're out, they'll stop and talk to me, see how I'm doing," she says. "And I'm always friendly with all the dogs that come out and bark; I talk to them."
She's seen the area change - lots of new houses in the Markle area and outside of Zanesville.
She says she's seen her share of accidents.
"A couple of accidents have happened right in front of me," she says. "I haven't forgotten about that.
"You've got to constantly be watching out your rearview mirror," she says.
The popularity of cell phones has made the roads more dangerous, she says.
"Since they have cell phones and texting now, it's more dangerous to drive," she says. "Now, there's so many people texting; mostly young women, texting all the time. They don't pay attention to you."
The wildlife can be exciting.
"One time a big, beautiful peacock was running with female turkeys, and they ran out in front of me," she says. "I figured it was somebody's pet and got loose.
"Then one time, I saw a pig eating with a chicken along the side of the road. They were just eating together."
While Whitacre spends Mondays and Thursdays on the road, she can be found inside The TAB office on Etna Avenue two to four additional days of the week as part of a crew that inserts advertisements and flyers into the printed paper, a job she took on about two years ago.
And once a week, she takes care of the mowing and landscaping around the building, a job she's had for the past six years.
"Then I play with the band Saturday night, Friday night," she says. "Sunday is my only day off, and we have band practice on Sunday.
"So between playing the music and working here at The TAB, it works out real good for me."