Never judge a book by its cover. Well, that old adage is sometimes easier said than done. For me, it was my dentist. I met Dr. Joe Martin a few years ago at the Brooks truck show in Oregon after he and his son pulled up in his beautiful Pete 359. Shortly thereafter, during the day, I learned that Joe was a dentist in Eugene, which sort of threw me off, but in a cool way. Needless to say, that following Monday morning, I called my old dentist to tell him that I had found a new dentist. Let’s just say that the book of Joe Martin could never be judged by its cover!
Joe’s earliest memories behind the wheel took place in the early 1960’s, around the age of 15, in the northeastern California town of Chester. Joe’s dad owned a bar in town so, needless to say, he knew everybody, which made it easy for him to land his first job. Joe went to work for Collins Pine Lumber Co. during the summer and school breaks, doing everything from driving off-highway water trucks on the logging roads to setting chokers for the loggers on the landings. Occasionally, he even got to drive the company’s orange Kenworth log trucks. It didn’t take long for Joe to get the hang of things out in the hills, which turned into a really cool way for him to make a little spending money during his high school years.
After graduating from high school, Joe moved to Chico, CA and began working on a degree in Biology and Chemistry at Chico State. Although he was working hard in college, Joe just couldn’t stay away from the trucking scene – well, that and the fact that he never took a loan to pay for any of his extended education. Again, during semester breaks, Joe found himself trucking, doing everything from belly dumping, flat bedding and fuel hauling. It sounds like Joe was studying for his PhD in trucking, as well!
Shortly after earning his degree from Chico State in 1970, Joe decided to take a break from the whole classroom grind and get back to the fun stuff on a full-time basis. For Joe, the “fun stuff” was truckin’ around in anything with a flashy paint scheme, plenty of chrome and, preferably, aluminum wheels all the way down. He pulled reefer for Pirkle and various others, hauling back to Chicago and other places out east, basically just bouncing back and fourth for a couple of years until 1972 when he entered graduate school at the University of Oklahoma to get his PhD. Graduate school, to say the least, was tough. Joe found himself looking out of the windows at the university, missing the road more and more each day. Finally, after about eight months at the University of Oklahoma, Joe said to himself – in his own words – “To hell with this” – and walked right off campus.
After leaving the university, it didn’t take long for Joe to find himself sitting in the seat of one of Tom Inman’s cool reefer rides headin’ west! A year or so went by and then Joe decided to move back towards his home in California again, but he got side-tracked in Colorado when he was given the opportunity to drive for none other than Coors. Now this gig was worth sticking around for – well, for at least a couple of years.
But Joe’s calling was still coming from California, so off he went. Halfway through 1974, Joe made it back to his home state when he moved to Thermal, a small town east of Palm Springs in the California desert, where he started driving for his good friends Carl and Clyde Spatz, hauling various things, while living with Carl and his family. Later, in 1975, a long awaited phone call came – it was Joe’s mom, calling to tell him that he had been accepted into the dental school at the University of Minnesota. Joe hated to leave Carl and his family, but he was excited to make the move to Minnesota and begin the four-year dental program there.
The dental program at the University of Minnesota was more to Joe’s liking, so 1975 turned out to be a very good year – and it got even better when he started hauling for local companies on the side. Joe became a fill driver for various trucking companies that winter during the Holidays, and became good friends with someone whose father was the CEO for the Allstate Peterbilt dealerships around Minnesota. Before long, Joe was hopping onto planes, flying out of the Twin Cities on Thursday nights and travelling to Fremont, CA where he would pick up brand new Peterbilts right from the factory for the dealerships. Having to be back at dental school on Monday, Joe hauled butt back to Minnesota in the new Peterbilts, hoping to be home by 4:00 a.m. Monday morning so that he could catch a cat-nap before heading to class. I doubt that any of Joe’s professors even knew what a west-coast turnaround was, but dental school was not cheap, and driving those brand new Peterbilts back to Minnesota was paying the bills!
In 1979, Joe graduated and became a full-fledged dentist. I bet you are wondering where he decided to set up his first practice. Well, in the cab of another truck, of course! Joe still felt like he had more miles to cover and that dentistry could wait a little longer. So, there he was, back to hauling whatever they put in the box, over to the West Coast and back – those were good times for Joe.
Then, one day in Rye Patch, Nevada, Joe pulled off I-80 into a truck stop for some fuel. All dusty and buggy from the trip, Joe washed off his windshield as he pumped his fuel and then pulled out. He probably hadn’t slept for a few days, and as he looked off to the right with I-80 west in his passenger window, he thought, “What the hell – I might as well try to put all of this schooling to use!” And that was Joe’s last run. Joe made his way back to Minnesota and then packed up everything he owned and made his way out west to Eugene, Oregon, where he intended to finally start his dental practice.
To start a brand new practice you need clients, and Joe had a plan for that. Joe ran down to the local truck stops every day and handed out his dentistry flyers to truckers and passers-by of all sorts. His list of clients grew slowly at first, especially around 1984 when the economy went south for awhile. To fill in the financial gaps, Joe started trucking part time on the days when he did not have any appointments. Joe’s solid work ethic and passion for trucking paid off once again, and by the next year, when the economy began to turn around, Joe’s client list began to grow. Drivers and their families from companies like Gordon, Maks Wood Products, Interstate, Kooy’s and more started coming in from all over to see Joe and his team. Since then, Joe’s life, both in and out of the office, has just got better and better. He married his wife LouAnn in 1998 and, together with their 12-year-old son Patrick, the couple has seen Joe’s practice grow to over 7,000 clients.
Although Joe already had a neat red and white A-Model Kenworth, he just had to have a Peterbilt. So, in September of 2008, he sold the KW and bought the sweet ride seen here from some folks in Los Angeles. Joe’s incredibly-clean “hobby truck” is a 1985 Pete 359 Long Hood with a 265” wheelbase, a 63” flattop, and plenty of shine. When Joe got the truck it had been painted dark blue with “Porsche Purple” fenders (they look black in most light) and had fresh rubber on polished aluminum wheels. After fixing up some wiring issues, Joe added some extra stainless items including the deck plate, quarter fenders and a rear light bar, and then had a lot of polishing done. He also did a little work inside, which features a cool grey interior with a molded fiberglass overhead console. Powered by a B-Model Cat engine backed by a 15-speed transmission, Joe loves to cruise the truck all over town with his family just for fun.
Although Dr. Joe Martin is a dentist by trade, he never forgot where he came from or what helped pave his way – trucks and trucking! So, if you live near Eugene, Oregon or truck through there from time to time, look Joe up – he’d love to work on your teeth and tell you some stories that we just couldn’t print here. It would be hard to judge this book by its cover because Joe’s “book” would be a dentistry textbook, but hidden inside, tucked tightly between those scholarly pages where most cannot see, is a 10-4 Magazine filled with all of the things Joe really loves!!