For most truckers, the fast lane is the place to be, but some guys run in a different gear. At just 39 years old, Jake Bast of Wells, NV knows how to get the job done and how to get it done right – but he is in no hurry. Learning everything from watching his father (and a few other very influential people), this young man is cut a little different than your average driver, and it shows in the way he carries himself, in the way he communicates, in his level of work ethic, and in the trucks he drives and how he keeps them. Obviously, the rigs he saw rolling up and down the west coast in the 1980s with his dad left a big impression on young Jake, but he was also heavily influenced by the men that drove those stellar classic rigs, which helped steer him into the unique “lane” he operates in today.
Throughout his life, like his father Bob Bast, Jake has jumped between ranching and trucking. Much of his story involves cowboy stuff like ranching, roping, rodeos and horseshoeing, but, as most of you know, trucking has a way of pulling you back, time and time again, no matter how hard you try to fight it. When interviewing Jake for this article, much of our discussion was dominated by Jake talking about his dad, and it was evident that this man was Jake’s hero – in both life and trucking. So, it only seems right to spend a little extra time going over Bob’s story, as much of it helped shape Jake into the man (and truck driver) he is today. Plus, Bob has a pretty amazing story of his own!
After getting out of high school, Bob got drafted in 1970 and sent to Germany for two years. Getting out in 1972, Bob went to Bob Smith’s horseshoeing school in Sacramento, CA and was doing some ranch work in California when he met Will Hanson at a bar. At the time, Will was hauling produce and the two struck up a friendship. Later, Will taught Bob how to drive and he began trucking. At some point, he went back to ranching, but after meeting his wife Vicki and getting married on St. Patrick’s Day in 1979, he went back to trucking, because being a cowboy does not pay very well. Oddly enough, about nine months after getting married, their son Jake was born in December of 1979.
Around 1980, Bob began driving a cabover Freightliner truck and trailer for Schaldach that was leased to Blackburn. A couple years later, Bob got the opportunity to join the team at Dirksen Transportation, which was just getting started. Larry Huffman had a truck at Dirksen, but was moving into the office, so he offered the spot to Bob. At the time, to get hired at Dirksen, there were strict requirements which included getting voted in by the other drivers, painting your truck in the company colors, exposing your financials to the owners (so they were sure you could handle it) and a dress code. Boy were things different (better) back then. Can you imagine what trucking might be like today if strict requirements like these were still in place? Bob was one of the first ten drivers at Dirksen, which went on to be a huge outfit in California, and later got bought out by Gardner Trucking.
Driving Larry’s truck all over the west for Dirksen, in 1985 Bob decided to buy his own new truck – a 1986 Freightliner cabover with an Alloy box and trailer – and put it on at Dirksen (it was truck #18). After mounting a big square bumper on the front of his cabover, a bumper originally made for a conventional truck, Bob got the nickname “Big Bumper Bobby” – and it stuck with him for the rest of his life! Around 1990, he left Dirksen in search of greener pastures. Pulling the box off his rig, cutting the frame down and mounting a fifth wheel, he started pulling whatever he could. This only lasted about a year, then he sold the truck and moved on.
Taking a job at Swift – yes, you read that right, Swift – they had just started a can-hauling division out of Stockton, CA for Pepsi, and it was a pretty good gig. Swift was a big company then, but not the behemoth they are today. Pulling a 57’ trailer, he ran between the Bay area and Casa Grande, AZ. After doing that for a while, he took a job pulling a flatbed for Transport West hauling lumber. When asked which of their nice, newer trucks he wanted to drive, he pointed to an old 50s Kenworth conventional parked in the corner and said, “I want to drive that!” Pulling a set of doubles, this was a nice 2-axle truck, painted in Bob’s favorite colors, maroon with black fenders (he always loved those Frampton trucks), with a 220 Cummins hooked to a 4+4 set of sticks. Not long after that, Bob was getting burned out and decided to step away from trucking, taking a “regular” job at a local winery in Lodi, CA.
Through all of this, Bob’s son Jake was absolutely enamored with his dad, with trucks and trucking. He went out with him every chance he could and did a lot of miles on Hwy. 99 in the jump seat of that Freightliner leased to Dirksen. In high school, Jake was probably the only kid who had anti-glare lights in the windshield of his pickup and toggle extensions on all his switches. But of all the trucks his dad drove, that old KW conventional, the last one he drove for Transport West, was his favorite. Jake loved going out with him in that rig because, as he put it, “It was loud, it smoked a lot and it smelled like diesel. What could be better than that!”
Much like his father, in high school Jake was very involved in ranching, roping, raising animals for the County Fair, horse shows and all that cowboy stuff. As a kid, Jake loved to go down to the yard in Ripon, CA to see all the trucks and hang out with the drivers. He couldn’t wait to drive! His dad gave him an old burned-out CB radio, which he mounted to the handlebars of his bike. He would also take this broken radio with him when he went out on the road with his dad and then pretend to talk to all the truckers around them. Jake thought it was completely normal to stop 10 times between Stockton and Los Angeles (about a 350-mile stretch) to wipe the truck down, because that’s what dad did.
Once his dad got out of trucking, Jake began to focus on cowboy stuff again, but he really had a hole in his heart for trucking. After his parents divorced when he was 15, he took a summer job at Kennedy Meadows Resort & Pack Station in the mountains of California, taking people on guided hunting, fishing and camping tours using horses and mules to carry the gear. While there, he began doing some horseshoeing, even though he wasn’t properly trained. After that summer, wanting to learn the trade correctly, he attended Bob Smith’s horseshoeing school, the same guy who taught his dad how to shoe! Not having any money, Bob was gracious enough to give Jake a full scholarship, and to this day, Jake feels secure in the fact that he has a second career to fall back on if he ever needed to.
During his senior year of high school, Jake started looking for ways to be near trucks. Along with shoeing horses full-time, he took part-time jobs at a feed store just off the highway (where he could see the trucks speed past), at a CB shop on I-5, and a livestock yard, where he helped load trucks. One day at the CB shop he met Larry Mann, who was hauling cattle down to Chino, CA on a regular basis. Desperate to hitch a ride with anyone, Jake would go to Southern California with Larry every chance he could. He also met a guy who worked for Con-Way Western Express, that told Jake they had jobs available in Stockton. Jake ended up working there at night, shuttling trailers and loading trucks.
Through one of his neighbors named Ben Hitchcock, Jake got a job washing trucks for Kenny Bauer in Galt, CA. Ben drove one of Kenny’s four Freightliner cabover truck and trailers and, like Larry Mann, hauled cattle to Chino, CA. Jake went out with him as often as possible, too. Truth be told, Jake did some “undocumented” driving on some of those trips with Ben, and he learned a lot. Jake loved washing those trucks, but his favorite part was pulling them into the wash bay and then backing them up into their parking spots – this is where Jake really learned how to back up a truck and trailer. Jake openly admitted to me that he would have washed those trucks for Kenny for free just to get to move them!
Meeting a guy who hauled sheep with a Dodge pickup and a double-deck gooseneck trailer, Jake started running all over California hauling sheep. When the guy decided to buy a semi, Jake went and got his permit, and not thinking much about it, he had a friend “sign off” on his training so he could get his CDL. At the time, he was only 20, so he wasn’t supposed to be leaving the state, but when the guy started booking loads in other states, Jake just went. Well, after getting stopped in Oregon for speeding, the State of California promptly revoked his CDL (for numerous reasons).
After losing his CDL, he went back to just driving the Dodge pickup and hauling the sheep, which was completely legal. Stopping for food in Lodi one day, he met Barry Johnson, who was also hauling sheep. After some discussion, Barry said he had a friend, Byron Gonzalez, that could help him get his CDL back, and then he would give him a job hauling equipment. Wanting to do it right this time, Jake showed up for his orientation for his CDL training along with several others on the morning of September 11, 2001. Well, you can imagine how that went. The trainer was a bit distracted and freaking out (like most of us were that day), and after Jake and a few of the other recruits with driving experience proved they could circle the parking lot and shift a few gears, the papers were signed and the class was over – and Jake was once again a bona-fide CDL holder – and has been ever since.
Running for Byron Gonzalez, Jake was driving a 2-axle 1994 short-hood Peterbilt 379 with a matching set of doubles between Central California and Los Angeles, and he was in heaven. He liked it so much, he never went back to drive for Barry. His dad was still working at the winery, and Jake made a habit of stopping as often as possible to have late-night dinners with him. Jake would stop on the exit ramp, wipe his rig down, and then slow-roll into the winery parking lot. Then, his dad would walk around the truck and point out everything he missed and offer suggestions about where to put extra lights and such, with his favorite saying being, “What if…” (insert one of his ideas here). Jake loved these dinners and cherished this cool time he got to have with his dad.
When the run to Los Angeles came to an end, Byron put Jake’s truck on with Larry Mallick, and he started running all over the west. Still pulling the doubles, it got harder to find loads, as most customers were now wanting regular flatbeds, so Byron told Jake to find a nice used 3-axle tractor for him to buy. Finding a 1997 Peterbilt 379 that was previously an Oldland truck, Byron bought it for Jake to run and then hooked him to a stepdeck, which he ran all over the place, including back east, until 2002. After Byron’s business partner passed away, he sold everything and shut down the operation.
Spending some unwanted time at home, another one of his neighbors came to the rescue. Bob Baer Sr. (his son Boomer and his olive green and black 1962 Peterbilt were featured on our cover back in 2002) had been leased to Chemical Transfer for decades, hauling sulfuric acid and molten sulfur, throughout California. Bob offered to sell Jake his truck, along with the job, so at 23 years old, Jake bought his first truck – a blue 1995 Freightliner Classic XL with a CAT and a 13-speed. Chemical Transfer put Jake to work, running chemicals throughout the 11 Western States. He was running hard, and he loved it!
Running hard takes its toll, and eventually, if done long enough, will burn you out. Such was the case for Jake, who decided to sell his truck and take a ranching job in Northern Nevada. Over the next few years, he bounced between trucking and ranching, until he met Kelli, who was training horses in Central California. Just wanting to be near her, he took a driving job hauling cattle for Doug Hummer. Once the season ended and things got slow, Jake got a call from his ranching friend Dan Iveson. Dan wanted to know if Jake was interested in taking care of about 4,000 head of cattle on a remote ranch in Northern Nevada for the summer. After agreeing to do it, Jake asked Kelli, who was going to go with him, “Should we get married first?” And she said yes! Not the most romantic proposal, but the two got married on April 18, 2009, and two weeks later they were living in a small cabin, on an isolated mountain, with no electricity. The ranching gig was only supposed to go through the summer, but it ended up being more than a year.
At some point while Jake was trucking, by chance, he met Will Hanson at Jubitz Truck Stop in Portland, OR. As mentioned previously, Will is the one who taught Jake’s dad Bob how to drive. After reuniting his dad and Will, the three became great friends. Will was running a heavy-haul operation in Texas and needed some help, so Jake and Kelli, always ready for an adventure, packed up and moved to Texas in 2010. After working in the oil fields with Will for a few months, Jake immediately saw the opportunity there, bought a CAT-powered 1995 Peterbilt 379 (with the help of Kelli’s parents), and began running steady between Houston and North Dakota.
After about a year, Jake’s dad decided it was time to leave the winery (after 15 years), get his CDL again, and get it on this action. Jake found his dad a maroon and black 2003 Peterbilt 379 and Bob moved to Texas to start trucking with his son. For next year and half, these two were inseparable, running nose to tail. It was the first time Jake was able to truck with his dad, and he absolutely treasured it. Unfortunately, after Barack Obama got re-elected president for a second term in 2012, oil became the enemy of his agenda, and this booming industry collapsed overnight. Bob saw the writing on the wall and immediately quit, heading back west to haul hay, while Jake and Kelli stuck it out for a few more months before also making the same decision.
After hauling hay and other freight for a short time, Jake went back to work at Mary’s River Ranch for Dan Iveson in Northern Nevada. Spending time with his dad was priceless, and Jake vividly remembers him leaving his house one evening. Crossing a nearby cattle gate, Bob’s trailer lights flickered, triggering Jake to have a nice childhood memory (his dad used to flash his trailer lights “goodbye” whenever he left the house to go trucking). Unfortunately, less than 24 hours later, on October 18, 2013, after suffering a sudden aneurysm in his heart, Jake’s dad was gone. With no desire to truck anymore, Jake just decided to stay at the ranch.
After about a year passed, Jake’s mom asked him, “When are you going to buy another truck and get back to where you belong?” Hearing this from his mother was eye-opening, and it helped Jake make the decision to begin exploring his options, even calling Clint Moore at Kansas City Peterbilt about maybe buying a new truck. In the meantime, he was also considering who he might want to run for. Knowing that he wanted to pull a flatbed and be at a “cool” company with a good reputation, he immediately thought of RAM Transportation in Brownsville, OR. Calling Dale Latimer at RAM, Dale didn’t think much of it, telling Jake, “Come see me when you are serious.” But Jake was serious!
The very next day, Jake was sitting in Dale’s office. It didn’t take long for Dale to figure out Jake’s deal and the two really hit it off. Dale offered Jake a job driving a company truck until he bought his own, and he took it. Jake and Kelli moved into a “temporary” home in Wells, NV, and four plus years later, they are still there.
Not wanting to buy a new truck, Jake found a CAT-powered 2001 Peterbilt 379 that needed some work and sent it to Brent McGrath at Brent’s Custom Trucks in White City, OR. Brent has built some amazing rides over the years, but Jake is not the type of guy to just drop off his truck and let someone else customize it – he helped a lot with the build. In fact, for the last month, he lived with Brent and his wife Jackie at their house while he helped finish the project. This all-white truck, with an old-school vibe in honor of his dad, attracted our attention at the Truckin’ For Kids Show & Drags in Irwindale, CA in 2018 enough for us to give Jake our Sponsor’s Choice trophy, which we personally pick.
Featuring a now-filtered (DPF) CAT 6NZ hooked to a homemade 5+4 two-stick setup and 3.55 rears, the truck has a 301” wheelbase, a custom interior, an air-ride front end, double diamonds painted on the grill, teardrop Double Eagle windows (mounted sideways on the sides of the sleeper), pinstriped flames on the fenders (done by Kuzn Jack), and so much more. But the coolest thing on this truck, in our opinion, are the lights. Seeing this truck at the Brooks Truck Show in Oregon a few months prior to the Truckin’ For Kids event in 2018, Jake’s unique combination of LED bulbs and glass watermelon lenses (thanks to Copper at Hub City Chrome in Oregon) produces a noticeably-different yellow color and an exaggerated star-burst lighting effect that is second-to-none.
The white 379 was put into service at RAM in February of 2016, pulling a refurbished 2006 East flatbed customized to match the truck, which he bought from RAM. In late 2018, Jake bought his first brand-new piece of equipment ever – a 2019 East flatbed – which he and Brent fully customized to match the truck. Jake ran a total of six loads with this newly-mated combo, and then bought his next truck in October of 2018 – the 359 on our cover and center and on these pages – and put a driver in the 379. But not just any driver – a great driver named Alan Koch who keeps it in tip-top shape and has no problem running a two-stick truck every day. Jake couldn’t say enough nice things about Alan and his 13-year-old son Bill, saying, “Without these guys, the whole thing falls apart!”
Chasing his 359 dreams, Jake bought an extended-hood 1986 Peterbilt 359 in late 2018 from a guy named Luis from Arizona. A year prior, Luis had bought the truck from Everett Ford in Missouri, but he never picked it up or did anything with it. So, Jake bought it from Luis but picked it up from Everett, who had used it locally for a while, until taking a company truck driving job and parking it. The truck was in great shape, but it had been sitting for a while and needed some work. Jake’s good friend Justin Lang picked it up for him, took it home, and got it roadworthy for Jake to drive home.
After getting it back out west, Jake had some work done to the engine by Larry Stevens, a mechanic at RAM and CAT expert, and then picked up a load heading to South Carolina for its maiden voyage. Jake knew nothing about the 400-hp B-Model CAT under the hood, so he really leaned on Larry to get it running right. And he nor the truck disappointed. On that first run, the truck lost an alternator in Colorado on the way out and then a wheel seal in Arizona on the way back, but other than that it ran great. Jake did three or four more east coast runs, fixing any gremlins that arose, before starting to do any cosmetic exterior or interior work.
This beautiful 1986 Peterbilt 359 has all factory matching numbers (cab, chassis, 63” flattop sleeper with a small opening, B-Model CAT engine, 15-speed transmission and 3.42 rears) and features an older but still really nice Midnight Metallic Blue paint job (which looks like black with blue metallic flakes up close), along with Metallic Cobalt Blue stripes with Metallic Silver outlines. The frame was stretched to 306 inches by Stuart Loewen at Nor Cal Custom Trucks, and then 56 holes were filled before he sprayed new metallic paint on the frame. Jake has no idea how many miles are on the truck, as the 6-digit odometer says about 500,000 miles – so he doesn’t know if it is 1.5 million, 2.5 or more. But, based on the tightness of the truck, he figures it’s probably 2.5 million, but he really doesn’t know for sure.
The rig’s exterior features factory headlight brackets and buckets with newer LED bulbs, 6-inch pipes, LowPro 24.5 rubber (he runs “all position” tires all the way around for uniformity and a smoother ride), dummy spotlights, vinyl fender bras and a deck plate cover made by The Bug Screen Man in El Paso, TX. Other exterior details of this non-air-ride truck include bus glass with the tint at the bottom, wind and rain deflectors on the side windows reminiscent of the 1980s, a custom visor made by the guys at Brent’s Custom Trucks to emulate a popular California-style from back in the day, (7) glass cab lights and (2) long horns with no covers.
Following his old-school roots, Jake also mounted dual Luberfiners under the driver-side door (one for oil and one for power steering fluid) which are currently non-operational, but he likes the look. Like all his trucks, lights are essential, and he made sure to put plenty on this one, as well, including some classic style “double bubble” blue lights underneath. Jake plans to replace the current rear light bar soon with one that has just three lights across each side, instead of four, to match the lights on the back of the sleeper and his trailer. The final exterior “detail” we will mention here is a bullet hole in the back of the sleeper, which Jake is keeping, but that is a story for another day!
Moving inside the truck, Jake really knows how to dress up an interior in the classic 1980s style. Featuring the original blue upholstery and door panels, Jake added blue shag carpet, (4) anti-glare lights, had Kuzn Jack pinstripe the dash, and searched and found old blue gauge labels from the now-defunct company, Colorado Customs. If you look closely, there are details all over the cab and sleeper, including an RC Cola tap handle on his Johnny bar, an old-school CB with a linear extender mounted underneath, chrome steering column and trim pieces under the dash, snap caps everywhere, and a custom clutch pedal featuring a blue bicycle handlebar grip. On his glove box, Jake mounted an old placard from a “movie” machine, given to him by a friend, and the key lock assembly fit perfectly into the “peep hole” you’d look into. He even modified his ignition key, cutting the handle down and melting it into a blue die from a casino in Reno. But the coolest thing is back in the sleeper under the bed – a real PBR beer tapper (an idea he got from his friend Justin Lang)!
Currently running about 60 trucks (half owner operators and half company trucks), Jake feels “at home” at RAM and cannot thank owners Dale Latimer and Dale Middlestadt enough for how well they treat him. Pulling a 2006 Ravens flatbed owned by his driver Alan Koch, Jake runs 47 of the lower 48 states (one does not welcome his old engine anymore), hauling mostly building materials and mill equipment.
A couple years ago, Jake’s wife Kelli decided that she wanted an old truck to take to the shows with her husband, so they found and bought her a 1955 narrow-nose Kenworth. Equipped with a 350 Small Cam Cummins and a 10+4 two-stick transmission, Kelli put about 100 miles on the truck, driving it up and down the road in front of their house, learning how to shift those sticks. They took the truck to Brent’s Custom Trucks for a few things, and Kelli told them exactly what she wanted. She calls the truck “Puff Puff” because it smokes like a chimney! Between trucking and horses, these two do not have any hobbies, except for maybe rodeo fun (one year Jake joined a four-man ranch roping team that qualified for the Western States Finals).
When asked about what the future holds, Jake answered, “Who knows!” He has been known to make big life decisions when his phone rings, so I guess it just depends who calls. He loves being at RAM and feels it is where he is supposed to be. At some point, he will be forced to replace his old 359, but when that time comes, he will do what he has to do to keep truckin’ because that’s who he is. At almost 40 years old, he feels blessed to have never worked a day in his life, and he can’t imagine what’s next. But one thing is sure, he will get there at his own pace, with his own style, and in his own lane, because that’s “Life in the Bast Lane!”