Since I may not know you, I’m not sure how much of Amarillo, Texas you are familiar with, but as I sit here in San Jose, California, in the pouring rain, I’m writing this poem about a truck stop on the east end of Amarillo – on I-40 – that I used to ride my bike to on the weekends. It was called the TA (Truckstops of America), which later changed to Travel Centers of America. It was at Exit 81 just east of the Amarillo airport. I loved that place. It was a blistering-hot bike ride from my house to there, filled with thorn-burs and Texas panhandle dust, but I loved to go into the cafe and get a strawberry milkshake. The coolness of the air conditioning was a welcome relief. And I’d draw pictures of the trucks I liked that were parked outside. Then, I’d ask the waitress to give the drawing to the driver, if I noticed him in the restaurant. Once in a while, my dad would be coming to town, and he’d stop in for fuel before heading home. I’d head up there to meet him and then ride with him back to the house. And, of course, dad’s truck was the absolute coolest one cruising the lot! Anyway, I moved away from there in the summer of 1990, and only passed through on occasion throughout the following decades. These days, the place is no longer in business. The buildings are still there, but the formerly busy oasis is now overgrown with weeds, and only visited by passing tumbleweeds. It can only hear the rumbling of the passing trucks as they thunder by on I-40, but nobody stops in there anymore. It’s sad to me, but I still remember it fondly. So, that’s what this month’s poem is about. Interestingly, in my quest to locate pictures of the place, I inquired several resources, including neighboring businesses. But the best part is the fact that some of these pictures are thanks to my friend, Gypsy, who lived across the street from me when I lived in Amarillo for 7th and 8th grades. I have not seen or spoken to her in 27 years, and this poem about my memories of those childhood days at the truck stop have connected two old friends from several years back. Thank you, Gypsy, my friend, for taking the time to get some pictures (along with a few of my other trucking friends), and for reconnecting with me after nearly three decades.
THE OLD TRUCKSTOP
By Trevor Hardwick
Dear abandoned truck stop, oh how time has flown,
I’m turning gray, and by the way, your lot has overgrown.
I used to visit you a lot, when I was just a boy,
I’d ride around your parking lot, and that would bring me joy.
The people who took care of you, where did they all go?
And too much time has passed, since your lights were all aglow.
A summer day would find me, in the booth of your café,
Sippin’ on a milkshake, while I’d waste the day away.
Drivers came from all around, and parked within your rows,
Do those rigs still roam the land, I guess no one really knows.
You were still alive and well, in nineteen eighty-nine,
A pit-stop near the interstate, and a favorite one of mine.
I recall your pay phone booths, your pinball games and such,
Those are things that nowadays, we don’t see so very much.
Your greasy diesel island pumps, their fragrance filled the air,
Your sign was like a beacon, letting drivers know you’re there.
Your travel store had trucker-garb, like buckles, boots and caps,
T-shirts, TVs, VCRs, and various mud-flaps.
But now it’s all been boarded up, and trucks just rumble by,
You’re buried in the tumbleweeds, and I just wonder why.
And oh, if I had only known, it was my last time through your door,
And if I’d only known, I’d never see you anymore.
If I had only known, one day your pumps would all run dry,
I might have hung around awhile, I might have said goodbye.
But now your buildings stand alone, with no one serving meals,
And now your broken parking lot, has forgotten 18-wheels.
Now your former freeway sign, is just a carcass on a pole,
Barely noticed anymore, by truckers as they roll.
But I remember you for sure, and I miss the times we’ve shared,
I wish you weren’t just left to die, like no one even cared.
I saw you, not too long ago, in the setting Texas sun,
On old Interstate 40, east of Amarillo, just off Exit 81.