Monthly Archives: August 2019

Still Truckin’ to Truck Stops

Some travelers find truck-stop culture so foreign that upon entering, they reach for their passports.

I, on the other hand, grew up regarding a nearby truck stop as a highlight of my week. Neither of my pastor-parents felt like feeding five children after Sunday morning services, so — during that pre-McDonald’s era — they took us there for lunch.

We older siblings sat at the counter on fabulous red stools that twirled if our parents weren’t watching.

Seated nearby with toddlers, Mom and Dad occasionally missed a few tricks. However, misbehavior resulted in banishment to the station wagon, so we children didn’t try many.

We also would forfeit exploring a tabletop jukebox. We hoped other diners would spend their nickels and play our favorites. Occasionally, we approached the big jukebox, awestruck as it plopped, played and removed 45 rpm records as if by magic.

Truck stops have changed. Iowa 80, touted as the largest in the world, includes not only stores and eight restaurants, but a laundromat, library, business center and movie theater. Individual showers and a “dogomat,” where Fido also can get a bath, are available too. The kicker: Iowa 80 also boasts its own chiropractor and dentist.

If my childhood truck stop had featured a dentist, I might have stayed in the station wagon.

I also might have clung to the back seat if my parents had visited South of the Border in, of all places, South Carolina. Not that I wouldn’t have celebrated yummy Mexican food, piñatas, and other Hispanic delights. However, that truck stop also features a lagoon full of snakes, alligators and crocodiles. After riding with five kids hundreds of miles, Mom and Dad might have found the urge to unload us a little too tempting.

I gladly would have unbuckled to visit one truck stop in West Virginia, featuring art exhibits and theater. I’d gladly go there now. A plate-sized tenderloin sandwich and Shakespeare? Doesn’t get any better than that.

For some truck stop enthusiasts, abundant merchandise trumps even tenderloins. Where else can you find leopard-skin Bible covers or pink Harley-Davidson, metal-studded dog collars? Enough crossbows and knives to fight off an orc army from The Lord of the Rings should it invade the truck stop?

No other establishment boasts plaques with an animated, skeletal Big Mouth Billy Bass belting “Bad to the Bone.”

Even the most ardent devotees, however, admit many truck stop stores feature items they’d rather not explain to children and grandchildren.

Days ago, I reached for lip balm, only to discover it was labeled “Free-range Chicken Poop,” touted as Grandpa’s intensely organic cure for chapped lips.

At truck stops like that, I reach for my passport.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite find at a truck stop?

No Garden of Eden

After writing a novel, I emerged from my cave, craving ice cream, conversation and sunlight. A Moose Tracks sundae equaled ice cream therapy. Hubby, waiting for a coherent word from me, took grunts as a portent of better things.

I drank in sunlight. Summer morning air. Green, living things.

Unfortunately, most were weeds. Thousands of Klingon sticker weeds had conquered garden and flower beds.

A flabby author’s perfect therapy: a down-and-dirty battle to rescue oppressed plants. To arms, garden warrior!

I donned grubby jeans, T-shirt, baseball cap and tennis shoes, all of which remembered the turn of the millennium.

Hubby: “No PJs? You’re wearing real clothes?”

For him, it was a long novel.

We bathed in sunscreen as if with war paint, then took up weapons: hoe, rake, hand spade — and cushy kneeling pad.

The sticker weeds jeered at my weak knees. Their lackeys — purslane, marestail, purple deadnettle and, of course, dandelions — joined in. (I researched weed names on a Purdue website. Battle Rule #1: know your enemies.) But I didn’t look up Klingon sticker weeds. I knew dangerous aliens when I saw them.

Weed phasers would have been nice additions to our weaponry cache. But Hubby struck vicious blows, hoeing squash and cucumbers. I attacked beleaguered tomato plants’ foes.

Tanned cyclists zoomed past. Hubby eyed them longingly, but continued valiant efforts. Ponytailed runners wearing designer attire and perfect makeup stared as if they hoped what I had wasn’t catching.

Whew! After a morning-long battle, we showered, wolfed sandwiches and Hubby went to work.

I peered out the back door, wanting to savor the view of our perfect garden again.

My jaw dropped.

An overloaded mulberry tree branch had dropped like a bomb, bending tomato plant cages. Smaller branches, leaves and mashed berries smothered veggie rows.

The mulberry tree was in cahoots with Klingon sticker weeds!

Such perfect timing. The moment Hubby left the driveway, the tree had unleashed its barrage.

I yanked at the big branch. It barely budged.

“You think you’ve won, Klingon-sticker-weed lover? Well, you’ve got another thing coming.”

A giant swoosh of anger can fuel a woman. Armed with hedge trimmers, saws and my husband’s old Boy Scout hatchet, I reduced my enemy to sawdust. Well, not exactly. But by afternoon’s end, I’d removed most of the mess.

Superwoman still couldn’t move the big branch. When Hubby returned, he sawed it into sections and hauled them out.

Once again, I savored the sight of tidy rows of vegetables.

Ah, the sunset. The fragrant summer evening. Green things that were legal.

A tired writer’s perfect therapy.

Exactly what she needed to send her back to her laptop forever!

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Does gardening relax you or wipe you out?