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Friday, August 22, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 8/18/2007

Truck-stop meal one route to understanding big-rig drivers

The excuse to stop at the Iron Skillet at a Petro plaza to learn directions was lame.

With both Michigan and Ohio maps in the front seat of the car and automobile club help just a cell phone call away, finding the best way to Toledo from 50 miles south of Fort Wayne on I-69 was more than possible.

To be truthful, I was suffering a period of repentance.

After screaming about semi drivers and their highway habits for months, I decided it was time to consider the other side of the coin - or of the road - and join them.

They just scare me to death. I am not so frightened that I stay home, but it is scary when my car, Henry, and I are sandwiched between three or more of those big rigs. It has become a new road game to count the number of trucks ahead and behind. Don't be surprised if it comes to 9 or 10.

But, that particular morning, something drew Henry into that parking lot and me into truckers' territory. I had crossed the line. I was far outnumbered.

My reason for sharing the experience is to suggest that we motorists - you know, the standard drivers who were on American highways first after Henry Ford entered the automotive industry - make an effort to know the men and women in those long, high, powerful trucks.

We may as well learn to understand that they have a life too. While we may be heading to a family gathering or an important business meeting, the truck drivers have schedules that are equally important to them.

One of the drivers across the aisle from where I was eating pancakes and eggs explained. "They don't keep the warehouses open after 9 at night. We have to get there or be held up overnight for the delivery," he said, adding that he and other drivers think warehouses should stay open later.

I was a nice lady at the truck stop, smiling at everyone. I did such a good job melting into the group, that a driver who had joined the conversation asked, "Don't you have AC in your truck?" when I complained about the weather.

I wanted to say yes, my rig had air conditioning. But I confessed I was just an ordinary motorist driving an ordinary car, I was hungry and sort of lost, and hoped we could be friends.

I was serious when I predicted that some day - years from now - the truckers would have their own roads and we would have ours.

The drivers laughed heartily. They are certain that will never happen, but I still think it's a good idea. Railroads have designated "roadways," and I believe that there now could be more trucks on the highways than railroad cars on the tracks, or at least almost as many.

The guys did make one suggestion that could be solved more easily than my idea about separate roads.

They believe there would be less highway congestion if the trucks were given the left lane to stay on and not the right one as they are now. Their reasoning is that most exits are off the right side of the highway. Cars exit far more often than trucks, they said. So if the trucks stayed in the left lane and the cars in the right, the exits would be more easily accessible to the vehicles using them the most.

I am making it my business to stop at more truck stops, and perhaps other motorists might like to follow suit. The large complexes are a different world than the usual gas stations, where the average motorist stops for fuel and a beverage.

They are equipped with a wide range of merchandise, from clothing to gifts for the family back home, and showers. Full service restaurants usually have a buffet as well as menu service. The pancakes and eggs were OK, though I am not sure truck-stop food lives up to the top rating it once had.

You don't have to eat, but you could have just a cup of coffee. I find that the drivers are talkative, friendly, and opinionated. They have road maps in their heads and seem to enjoy giving directions.

When I asked for the best directions to Toledo, three drivers jumped in with answers.

Each recommended route was different. I took the one with the most miles on two-lane country roads to savor the farm scenery in my air-conditioned "rig" and think about the nice people I had met at the truck stop.



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