TRUCK STOPS OUT ON THE ROAD...
BY GLORIA FAYE BROWN BATES
Traveling by big truck... the inside like a luxurious motor home... I love it! Skip and I both drove team on our big truck... yes, Skip slept behind me in that big old bed... while I drove that big truck!
I learned to love big, nice truck stops along the way. I also, learned to love even the smallest, shabbiest truck stops on the road. Each one was a safe haven for a truck to stop, the drivers feel safe enough to sleep, rest there.
Most truck stops have nice showers where drivers could enjoy. I loved going inside to the driver's lounge to take a nice, hot shower. In the driver's lounge would be bigscreen tv's with seating like at the movies. There would be movie theaters in there for drivers at some truck stops, depending how big, how fancy. There are laundermats, barber shops, restaurants, 'everything' at truck stops.
I love the giant truck stops that had jacuzzis in them, huge shower rooms, all white and sparkling. Thick, white towels and bath cloths, and lots of water pressure. One could even have a massage if they desired.
I loved to sit and eat supper with other drivers, listen to their stories, their experiences on the road. I loved the bright lights, colors of the truck stops. I loved the hustle-bustle of truck drivers and 'regular' people coming and going ..constantly.
One could see runaways, homeless people, prostitutes at the truck stops. Each hoping to get what they wanted or needed from the drivers who entered the truck stop. Usually it was money, or a ride, or a 'date' they wanted. Like with Skip and I... even a prostitute had a proposition for 'both of us'... she'd 'do the both' for a certain amount of money. I learned to 'not be shocked' when we were approached... soon, after it happened so often, I learned to just smile and go on. They were on their path in life, so... was I.
There are alot of scammers at truck stops, especially near the casinos out west. They gamble and lose all their money, walk across to the truck stops nearby... and begin to weave their stories to fit each driver they encountered. The regular story was that their car was broken down 'somewhere', their children were waiting for them to get back. They needed money to get to where they were going, and they were hungry. Sometimes, Skip and I would let ourselves 'be taken' and hand over money. We'd justify it by saying 'at least in our hearts we know what we gave the money for... no matter the scammer had other things in mind to use the money for'.
Truck drivers are easy to scam if it's done 'just right'. They are away from their families....... children, wives, mothers, fathers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts, so forth. If someone approaches them 'just right' and 'make the right sounds'... and reminded them of one of those special people they love.... that driver will pull his hard-earned money out to help them. These people 'know' that... and they pull out all the tricks to separate a driver from his money. I began to learn them and quit giving my money away.
Homeless people .... now, I care about homeless people, though they can be sly and tricky, too. I didn't like the ones who had 'that gleam' in their eyes and would try to con me. I could 'see' the ones who were quiet and never asked for anything... those were the people I noticed. I wanted to make a little difference in their life. Many times Skip and I did make a difference with food, money, and paying for a night for them to stay in a motel... where they could get away from their life on the streets for just alittle while. We wished we could do more, but... we did the best 'we could'.... hopefully others did the same behind us and kept the 'good things' going.
Some truck stops were dangerous, some rest areas were dangerous. One driver that was our friend, also, drove for the company we drove for. We were always meeting him out in California somewhere on our routes. One particular time we met him... we didn't recognize him for the bandages on his head... but, we recognized his truck. He'd been beaten up, robbed and left for dead in a rest area we always stopped to sleep at on our way on I-5 North in California.
That particular rest area also, 'had prostitutes coming out of the bushes' literally ...each night. They would slip to the trucks under the blanket of darkness, servicing drivers and making their money. It was a dangerous world... in that truck stop/rest area. It wasn't well lit at nights, one could get hurt just as that driver did.
Another driver we knew from our company was a woman who drove alone. We met up with her on one trip out west... she had been attacked one night walking the long walk a driver has to walk from the giant parking lots at truck stops.... to just simply go in to the bathroom, or for whatever reason. She came back to her truck that particular night, as she neared her truck.... she saw a man close by. Of course, one would think it was just another driver, she didn't feel alarm. She got to her door to unlock it when she felt the man come up behind her... what happened next one can guess. She was raped brutally ... no one knew it was happening.
All one can hear in those truck parking lots are the sounds of big truck motors, and the smell of diesel fuel. Strangely enough ...as sissy as I am... I love it! I feel excitement today 'inside' when I hear the motor of a big truck, or a Greyhound bus, and smell those diesel fumes. It's intoxicating! I want to go, to travel down that highway... looking out the big windshield! I love seeing 'everything' from the very different people, real blizzards most people only read about, storms you wouldn't believe if you've never experienced them when they 'come up out of the blue'!
No matter how weary and road-tired one was... even the smallest, shabbiest truck stop became 'home' for a little while. Who cared if you felt safe, and could shower and eat a good meal? The ones I didn't like were the ones where once in a great while we'd stop at... were 'strange'. The people would be strange, the atmosphere just didn't feel good at all.. we didn't want to hang around them... these were ones way out in the desert or 'out of the way'. One could make up horror stories visiting truck stops like them.
What a contrast between working in a hospital setting, in a office wearing the prettiest dresses, and high heels! That's what I did prior to going to truck driver school, and began driving with Skip. Skip taught me the 'important' things about driving a truck. Out west driving a car or truck isn't like driving here in North Carolina... no, not at all. The mountains 'out west'... you can't even imagine, nor do they compare with anything 'back east'!!!
The dangers are only too real 'out there' if one isn't alert at all times. The driving conditions are never the same.... one trip all could be 'perfect weather'... the next trip could have a white-out/blizzard or a blinding dust storm. These are storms that if were 'back east' ... no one would believe... they've only read about them.
The winds could be horrific, blowing trucks over. I've been in alot of these winds, dust storms, blizzards, outrunning tornados up on I-40 in the Texas Panhandle... I was with my hero, Skip. I felt safe with him behind the wheel... so, would you if he were in control in such fierce weather. He's 'cool as a cucumber'!
I have felt our truck lift up and almost go over while traveling at high speeds down the interstate. I have been in and have driven in the famous fogs one read about in California. Hair-raising, adrenaline pumping, butterflies in the stomach rides! Sometimes... too much excitement for me! I've watched as a big truck lifted up and went over out on the plains where there aren't trees, only sand... allowing the wind to blow forcefully ...nothing breaking its speed.
I have many stories of 'on the road again'.... it's a 'whole other world out there'............ it's as wonderful as it is as ... dangerous. It's exciting both in a good way... and in a 'bad' way. Nothing ever stays the same, it's never boring ... one can keep their finger on the pulse of their country traveling from one end of it to the other, and back.... constantly for years. We traveled almost in every state when I drove with Skip.
Truck stops... home away from home... safe haven... grew to mean alot to me on the road. I could see the lights shining at nighttime and feel excitement knowing that once I get to the truck stop... we could get our showers, supper and.... rest. We could be be 'safe' there for the hours while we slept... we were in the safety of numbers... hundreds of other trucks like a .... wagon train in the old days. In the desert.... one could imagine......... and 'see' in their minds how it could be.... just like in the stories you read about.
Truck stops could be like the main place in town one went to when coming into town back in the old days. Hitch up your horse, park your big truck.... come on in, pay for a shower and fresh towels, and a nice, clean bed to sleep in (we did sleep at the motels when we had time).
Truck stops.... I am at home when I am at a truck stop, I know them so well. My eyes can scan and I 'can see' things the ordinary, everyday traveler never sees when stopping at one... just like I used to be. Two worlds co-existing... side by side.... as close as you and I walking inside a truck stop... your world and my world would be different...yet while one looked at both of us............ we would look like we are in the same world. We are, but... we aren't.