My childhood was filled with moments of passing right by a Live Buffalo I could Pet and a Real Teepee I could Explore. Whether we were moving halfway across the country (yearly) or driving to see my grandparents (holidays and summers), my parents had the unwavering goal of getting there as fast as possible.
The map of America in my mind was filled with Travelodges (and its inexplicable logo of a sleepwalking bear), truck stops, and the occasional Stuckey’s.
The Stuckey’s stops were exercises in disappointment. So many plastic horses, feathered wind chimes, and elaborate key chains that no one would buy me.
The truck stops were a little scary. They looked OK at first: like a normal gas station or convenience store. But they had these secret rooms in the back: diners, stores, entirely different gas stations where only truckers were allowed.
Far away, truckers were our friends: honking at us as we made the universal “please honk your trucking horn at us” motion from the back window of the car. In the heydey of CB radios, we learned their secret language. 10-4, we were their good buddy. In my stepdad’s more magnanimous moments, we sometimes joined in. Did anyone have their ears on?
But in person? That was another story. Truck drivers in person were large and loud and possibly a little bit dangerous.
Truck stops have rebranded themselves in recent years to the friendlier “travel plazas”. And why not. They have everything: showers, laundry rooms, hair salons, massage therapists, churches.
For full-time RVers, not just heading out camping for the weekend, a truck stop can be better than an RV park: free parking, easier to get to, and all the amenities except maybe a view of the lake.
Truck stops are definitely better than Walmart parking lots because you wake up to freshly brewed coffee (10 cents off with your Good Sam card!).
The biggest rule is to stay out of the way of the trucks. When I’ve asked the clerk about overnight parking (which unlike at Walmarts and Cracker Barrels, you really don’t have to do), the refrain has always been the same: don’t block the lanes where the trucks need to drive, don’t park in one of their spots. Fortunately, my Roadtrek can park anywhere, so I can just pull into a quiet spot and I’m set for the night.
But What About Those Massages, Really?
On the one hand, the idea totally makes sense. Truckers driving all day long surely have aching backs. But on the other hand…
I read on a trucker message board that they’re totally legit, with one guy providing the evidence that he only gets offered something extra about every 1 in 10 times.
So maybe mostly legit.
But What About the Showers?
I was talking with someone about truck stop showers and she was appalled. Taking a shower with all those truckers?! It turns out that trucker showers are about the nicest you’ll find on the road. Nicer than even the most luxurious RV park. They’re a lot like the showers in international airport lounges, complete with fresh towels (you have to bring your own towels to RV park showers).
They’re each in their own room with a key. And they are not cheap. The going rate seems to be about $12.
Truck stops also have the best shopping, especially if you’re looking for cooking equipment powered by a car cigarette lighter.
Which sometimes I am.
The night after the hiking trail as road adventure, I drove from Colorado into Kansas. People talk a lot about how boring the Kansas landscape is, but I found it beautiful. Like a lemon sorbet after the dark, rich filet mignon with mushroom sauce that is the Colorado forest.
It was getting dark and stormy, with torrential downpours alternately with lighting strikes down to the ground just off in the distance. Was I supposed to stay in the car and keep driving? Was that safer than stopping? Was I going to get hit by lightning? Doesn’t rubber in tires keep you grounded or something?
I finally decided to stop at a truck stop with an attached Denny’s. The TV was tuned to the Weather Channel: Weather Caught on Camera. They were showcasing a storm in Colorado.
A clear reflection of our times, someone caught in a mudslide/flood had used his iPhone to record another vehicle that was sliding into what seemed like sure death and that footage was followed with video from inside the sliding vehicle, as that driver also was recording with his iPhone.
I decided that was the Weather Channel’s way of telling me I’d made a good decision to stop for the night.
Although it certainly made me realize I was lacking some inner fortitude in not recording my own near brush with road-based death the day before.