Truckers are losing the independent truck stops as the “big boys” put them out of business. Sadly, there are so few true old truck stops left and we are now losing yet another one – Jo Ann’s Gear Jammer Truck Stop & Café in West Valley, Utah. After 12 years of giving outstanding service, Jo Ann Patience has to close her doors due to the sale of the property she leased. One of her loyal customers (Kevin Beach of Magna, Utah) put a message on the 10-4 Facebook page asking us to give some thanks to Jo Ann for all the loyal service that she has provided throughout the years. That message sparked this article.
In his message, Kevin made the comment that Jo Ann’s was one of the last truck stops that you could pull into for fuel and not have to give your blood type, date of birth, etc. Having had distribution through Jo Ann’s for many years now, we at 10-4 knew of the location but had no idea of its significance and importance – it’s just one of those things you don’t think about until someone brings it to your attention. This little truck stop helped Kevin fall in love with trucking, which has been his career for the last eight years. When he was a little kid, he would watch trucks pull in and out of the truck stop, and he would eat breakfast and lunch there with his dad all the time (it was good home-cooked food). When I talked with Jo Ann, she told me, “Of course it was good food – I had to eat there, too!” She served the same things that she liked! Kevin told me, “The little guys do matter, and the little truck stops matter, too.” That is so true – and in the world we live in today, it’s harder for both to stay in the game.
I really enjoyed talking with Kevin, who at only 27 years old holds dear the old-school trucking values, and worries about where the industry is headed. He is proud of his truck and thanks his father for helping make his dream of truck ownership become a reality for him. He told me that he is proud to be able to work with his dad, and I didn’t get to talk to Kevin’s dad, but from what I heard from Kevin, I am sure that he is just as proud to be working with his son! Kevin said it’s rare that a kid wants to work with their dad, and that is true. Years ago, it was almost a given, but today, not so much. His dad helped him finance his first truck and get his dump truck business started with a 359 Peterbilt when he was 19. He admits that most of the work he has done is local, but he is happy to be driving or shining on his truck and home at night with his wife and their puppy kids.
I have to admit, I always love talking to a woman who started trucking “back in the day” like Jo Ann. The stories we have to share are all similar and good for a laugh now, even if they weren’t so funny at the time they happened. Jo Ann told me about being with her husband at a port and the officer told him that she couldn’t be in the truck and that he would have to pack her up and put her on a bus home. He told the officer to go outside and tell her that himself. Jo Ann asked the officer if he had a chauffeur’s license, and when he said “no” she informed him that she did and pulled it out, along with her medical card, and then asked him if there was still a problem. “No,” he said. When the officer went back inside he told her husband, “That’s why you sent me out there,” to which he replied, “Yes, it is – have a nice day, we are out of here!”
Before her trucking career, Jo Ann was going faster than I would feel safe in saying 99.99% of the truck drivers out there. I don’t know of any truck that will do 290 mph! Shirley Muldowney broke down the door in regards to female drag racers, and then Jo Ann ran through it, racing a top fuel dragster from 1978 to 1986 (back then she was Jo Ann Reynolds). Jo Ann told me that the truck stop sits next to the drag strip, and when she would hear them firing up the cars, she would turn and walk away. She still has a car in the garage, and it’s ready to run. She has been invited to the Cacklefest, an event featuring vintage drag strip warriors and their machines, but I think after talking to her, she would want to do a lot more than just make some noise with that car.
After nine months of cleaning, remodeling and getting everything ready, she opened the doors to Jo Ann’s Gear Jammer Truck Stop & Café on November 8, 2001. It was a really tough time, being so soon after 911, and she already knew that when she got started it would not be easy because the access to the truck stop had been recently changed and it would be a little harder for drivers to find and get into the truck stop (it was no longer right off of Highway 201). But she made it go, and for 12 years it paid her bills and gave 13 people a job. Jo Ann told me that they are all people that she likes and they always gave her a reason to smile. She is going to miss them, and all the drivers. Her truck stop was a good place to eat, not only for drivers, but for the locals and non-trucking public, as well.
I could hear the fondness when she told me about her first truck – a 1979 A-Model – and even more fondness about her gray 1953 Kenworth with black fenders, a butterfly hood, a V-8 Cat and a 10+4. I asked if it had a set of “sticks” in it before she told me about the transmission. Today, most drivers think a set of sticks in a truck is an anti-theft device! If you don’t know what “sticks” are, it’s when there are two transmissions instead of one, so there are two sticks inside. Today, more and more companies are going to automatic transmissions, so maybe one day in the not-so-distant future, having one transmission that you have to shift might be something in the history books and what the old-timers talk about, like the two-stick trucks of yesteryear that they all talk about now.
Jo Ann is proud to be a trucker. She shared a story about getting a haircut one day, and when some of the other women asked her what she did for a living and she told them that she ran a truck stop, a couple of the women wouldn’t even talk to her after that. Well, the next time she needed a haircut, of course, she drove the truck and parked it right out front! She then sat these women down and explained to them, politely, how basically everything they have – their food, clothes, the materials to build their house, etc. – was all brought on a truck. One woman apologized. I have to say, driving your big rig truck down to the local beauty shop is a pretty good way to make an oversized statement!
Thinking about it now, I can’t believe that the T-600 Kenworth will be 30 years old in another year or two (2015). I can remember back then thinking it was the ugliest thing they had ever done to a truck. Now, fast forward 28 years, and we are on the verge of losing the classic trucks, like W-900’s and extended-hood Peterbilts, forever. We can’t even imagine what trucks will be like 30 years from now (do we even want to). Personally, I am very happy that I got to start trucking when I did, and not now – the game is completely different (and not for the better) these days.
When doing a little research on Jo Ann’s Gear Jammer Truck Stop and Café for this article, I found this review on City Search – Jo Ann had never seen it, so I read it to her while we were talking on the phone. Dated July 09, 2010, the reviewer said: “Genuine all-American truck stop. Jo Ann knows drivers, trucks, and the whys and hows of the mom-and-pop truck stops in America. She is not only gorgeous, but she bakes the best apple pie in the country and ensures the goodness of all the menu items. I’m retired now, but I hope to get out there again for another visit. Thank you, Jo Ann, and may God bless!” That’s a pretty darn good review!!
And speaking of her menu, one of the things Jo Ann liked to do was take pictures of her customers’ trucks when they were out on the fuel island, and then have them printed on the menus. All of the menus were different, and her “regulars” loved going through the piles of menus, always messing them up, looking for a picture of their truck. One of her regular customers, and the one that helped us to get a 10-4 Magazine rack in Jo Ann’s Gear Jammer, was one of our past cover truckers, Pat Johnson (February 2005). We haven’t spoken to Pat in a while now, but his cool red Peterbilt can be seen in one of Jo Ann’s “menu pictures” here. Many nice rides have graced Jo Ann’s fuel islands over the years, and her unique menus were a special way to thank the drivers. Today, she still owns a 1985 Peterbilt 359 with a mechanical Cat engine, which will allow her to be able to run into California until 2015, if she chooses to. After that, who knows? When it comes to trailers, with a dry box, a reefer and a flatbed, she is still very versatile.
If you are in the Salt Lake City, Utah area on June 29th, Jo Ann will be holding the 1st Annual Shriners Crippled Children’s Truck Show at the Valley Fair Mall (I-215 at exit 3500 South). There will be no winners and no losers, just participants. It is not how much you spend, but that you come out and help support the cause. I could hear a passion in Jo Ann’s voice when she talked about these kids and the time she has got to spend with them in the past. Starting at 9:00 in the morning, I hope that some of you, especially her old faithful customers and those who appreciate the old way of doing things, will be able to participate in this show. The Shriners is a wonderful organization. For more information, call (801) 557-2101.
Jo Ann’s Gear Jammer Truck Stop & Café was where you could find a 10-4 Magazine rack in Salt Lake City. Now that it is closed, we are pleased to announce the rack’s new location, thanks to Jo Ann, will be Dunn Oil, located at 1881 W. California Avenue, Salt Lake City, UT (just off I-215 on California Avenue in West Salt Lake City). If you need more information or directions, their phone number is (801) 975-7188.
In doing my research about Jo Ann’s Gear Jammer, I also found some interesting facts about other old truck stops that I will share in future stories. There isn’t much we can do about the changes coming down the road in the trucking industry, but it won’t ever hurt to remember the road that got us to where we are and salute the people that made those memorable stops we had along that road. Our hats go off to Jo Ann and her truck stop for being one of those memorable old locations, which will surely be missed.