This Morning, I Showered At a Truck Stop

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.

trucker chapel

trucker hair salon

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.

truck stop

But What About Those Massages, Really?

trucker massage

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).

truck stop shower

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.

kitchen appliances

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.

Kansas

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.

37 thoughts on “This Morning, I Showered At a Truck Stop

  1. I fully expect (and hope) to use a travel plaza shower one day. But, I wonder how earnestly the showers are cleaned between uses…

    • Hmm. I dunno, although they look pretty clean. But they’re definitely cleaned more between uses than campground showers (which are cleaned I’m guessing once a day or so). Also, I always wear flip flops no matter what shower I’m in. (Well, other than yours! heh.)

    • I travel quite a bit. I have definitley used the showers. I have found a full time cleaning staff on hand to get things ready for the next person. Some of them are complete bathrooms. I was at a Ta truck stop and they even had a mint by the sink. It reminds me of a motel bathroom. Im sure not all are are as nice.. But if you use a chain like loves.. TA.. Or pilot you will have a good experience. If you are traveling it is worth the time 🙂

    • They are cleaned after each use. Those of us who have ever waited two hours at a Pilot because they have only one person cleaning showers can attest to the fact they are usually cleaner than some showers at home.

    • TA (Travel centers of America) & petro travel centers do clean beyond a wild imagination for the most part. Pilot, flying j and loves , I recommend your own towel , the ones they supply are used to dry the floors that aren’t even swept afterwards.
      Cleanest showers you’ll find are Petro and TA, I’ve seen those people on their hands and knees with a small brush scrubbing the tile grout behind the toilets. You’ll never see that at the others. I even bought the 2 guys cleaning a 20 dollar pizza one time at to show then my gratitude.

    • showers at a truck stop are extremly sanitary and clean. better than your average motel. They are large, private and spotless. They are sanitized and chloroxed after EACH use.

    • My shower at a TA I got from a trucker friend was awesomely clean. And for a guy making minimum wage to do such a good job cleaning up after dirty truckers and their baby gravy I tipped as well. Didn’t have much but he got a pocket full of change at least. Please tip its worth it.

    • Only a few years too late, but that depends on the management at the store.

      My fiancé managed a Pilot in Quartzsite, AZ and she made sure they were spotless between showers, though they only had bleached deep cleaning about once a week.

      Petro and TA both do a great job of cleaning after each shower.

    • I shower several times weekly in truck stop showers. I’m not a trucker but the tag-along wife of one. My rule is “shower shoes every time “. 9 of 10 of the showers I have encountered are as clean or cleaner than my home shower. There have been a couple of these showers that have been more luxurious than any hotel or resort shower I have been to. Check out Little America travel center in Flagstaff AZ for a good example.

    • Legitimate truck stops such as Pilot, Flying J, Petro (has the best by the way) Loves, TA…employ full time hosts that clean the showers thoroughly between each guest.

    • The showers are always cleaned after a use. I used to be Security at a truck stop. They’re really nice. You get anywhere from 30-60mins in the shower for $12-$15 dollars.

      • Our family (me, hubby, 2 daughters (12&10 yrs old)) will be van driving in kentucky and west virginia this coming memorial weekend. If we use the shower at the truck stop, do we have to pay for each person? Or we can just pay for 2 adults and the kids can just share with us?

        Thanks.

        • Some truck stops have a larger shower areas (primarily for truck driver couples) but even for those that don’t, you likely won’t have to pay extra for the kids. I imagine each facility varies but I’ve found the employees are very nice and accommodating. You could always call ahead to the truck stop you’re planning to stop at and ask too (as you get close and know which one is convenient to stop at).

    • As a truck driver of 6 years and Owner Operator, I feel I can speak legitimately on this matter. There have only been a few times in 6 years I’ve seen slacking in the cleanliness. Almost all of the truck am stops, pilot/flying J for example give extra special attention to the cleanliness of their showers. I’ve almost always found them to be above standard!

  2. Next time stand at the trucker kiosk and ask one for a shower. I’m a trucker, and give away free showers all the time. We get them free with each 50 gal fuel purchase. Happy trails.

    • I know your post was over a year ago, but I have a question. If I declare that I’m a driver, am I required to show proof? Just curious, I can make myself look like an idiot with absolutely no help at all!

      • I’m not sure what the advantages would be of declaring that you’re a driver. You can (for example) use the showers whether you’re a driver or not. (Most of the perks like free showers are based on fuel purchases (crazy amounts of fuel for anyone other than a truck driver.)

    • WOW Pokey, that is so AWESOME that you do that I don’t know of many that do that!! I’m going OTR with my little brother, I just not to bad to where I can’t enjoy it!!! I have a messed up knee and low bk pain. I just pray I can last 2-3 wks!! My oldest brother use to be an OR then drove localy. Now he is retired and will be 80yrs young in Sept!! Enjoy the open road!!!

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  4. Flying j at exit 109, I 90. Ellensburg, wa. The dirtiest shower I have ever seen. The dirt on the fan was so thick you couldn’t see the blades. I wouldn’t wash my dog in that place. DO NOT STOP THERE TO TAKE A SHOWER. It is a slap in the face to the flying j chain.

    • Yeah, it’s not known to be the best, sadly. (Since it’s the only one for miles around.) I’ve stayed the night there, although I haven’t showered there.

      • Hi, really enjoyed reading this thanks for all the info! My husband & I are getting ready for a long distance road trip in our Van. I was wondering if you could tell me some good apps or trucker sites to download. We’ve always stayed in motels on our trips but this time we are just wanting to “Van-Camp.” thanks again & Blessings

        • AllStays is a great app. It lists all kinds of campgrounds (private, county/state/national, etc.). It has lots of details and reviews for each one. It also shows you truck stops, rest areas, Walmarts, and so on. That’s the app I tend to use the most.

          This page lists the states that allow overnight parking at rest areas:
          http://www.frugal-rv-travel.com/rest-stops.html

          overnightrvparking.com (which has both a web site and an app) is focused on free places to stay overnight. I think it’s $25 for access. (Although other than truck stops and rest areas, the free stops are unlikely to have any facilities.)

          I like the RoadsideAmerica app, not for places to stay, but just to find out what cool stuff is nearby to check out.

          I use the Yelp and TripAdvisor apps all the time to find good places to eat or check out.

          Have fun on your trip!

  5. I never used a truck stop shower till after a hurricane. My water line got pulled up by the root ball of a tree and I didn’t have a choice. On the second day, the manager recognized me and ask why I was still there. (She thought I was a driver) I told her about my water being out and the waiting list for a plumber and she didn’t charge me for anymore showers for the next 3 weeks. Awesome lady. The showers were cleaned after each use. No problems.

  6. I stopped at the loves truck stop on 9/9/16 went in for a shower took a little while bbut finally got one.I proceed to take my shower and when done I began to dry off. the towel I had smelt like B O I had to reshower and took wash cloth and my hair dryer to dry off. I told the attendant and all she said was we wash with powder and ok. was very unprofessional .I believe the towel ha d been used and redeye shamefull!!!!! my company buys fuel on a regulag base and I use my points there too I was surprised at this. this happened on i85 xit 7 in salisbury nc

  7. Did you just compare Kansas with lemon sorbet and the Colorado forest with mushroom sauce and filet mignon? I get it, I get it…..Main Course to Desert….

  8. I recently went on a trip with my truck driver son ,I had the best time of my life. I felt like a puppy with his head out the window, taking in everything I saw. I took showers at the truck stops. I saw them being cleaned after every use.,towels being washed,clean towels put in .It was a nice way to spend time with my son, since we live in different states.
    PS. He got permission from boss for me to go.

    • Most otr companies allow friends or families. Iam getting my cdl end of the month. Idk if mom and I could last that long together lmao jk

  9. My grandson is currently having to live in his car and parking at Walmart at night. Is there anyplace he can take a free shower. Doesn’t have money to pay for one. Has a job now and needs to stay clean. Does anyone know if a place close to Montgomery tx

  10. And the $125 joining fee for the YMCA is waved during the month of January!

    When we travel we often find public swimming pools and shower before and after swimming. A good way to get to wash your hair and often quite cheap, about $4

  11. I just want to say thank you for your article. It was just what i needed to hear. My husband and i are Mobile HYBRID Technicians and travel constantly. Hotels sure do get expensive to only stay at for 2-3 hours.!! Most of the time we just need to freshen up. As far as the cleanliness of the showers Im willing to bet they get cleaned more than most home showers do!! Mine included.😄😄😄

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