I sure love running the big roads. Those wide-open interstates offer relatively uninterrupted travel and plenty of room to set the cruise and mind my own business. But as much fun as the big road is, I still have a heart for the roads less traveled – the old two-lane highways. These smaller roads may slow me down a bit, but they also add a refreshing perspective to my daily routine. The little towns and businesses along those back highways really seem to take me back in time, especially the little diners and truck stops that cling to the wholesome home-style vibe. The big chain truck stops have their benefits, for sure, but I find it especially refreshing to walk into an old truck stop that time hasn’t touched. One that isn’t a cookie-cutter replica of the last place I stopped. I also appreciate an older establishment that bears some representation of the local community they’re a part of (maybe some pictures and memorabilia adorning the place that give me a snapshot of where I’m at). Perhaps they don’t offer amenities that are as up to date as the overgrown convenience stores on the big road, but their charm and character make them unforgettable. It’s been a while since I’ve been to Shoemakers Truck Stop near Lincoln, NE, the Boise Stage Stop east of Boise, ID, or the Giant Truck Stop near Gallup, NM, but even though they are big establishments, I remember them being different than the rest. Jubitz in Portland, OR and Iowa 80 in Walcott, IA are some other big places with a different vibe, but the little dirt parking lots, with a waitress and a cook, and a family atmosphere, with local pictures on the wall, win my heart every time. I encourage you to take the time and swing into that little dive you’ve been flying by – I bet you’ll meet someone you’ll never forget, and you’ll probably be back, too!
By Trevor Hardwick
I could tell when I came in here,
This is not the kind of place I thought it’d be.
There were pictures on the wall,
That I assume were likely taken locally.
The lady with the coffee pot, the apron,
And the pen above her ear.
She welcomed me inside and said,
“Have a seat, and I’ll be right with you, dear.”
I slid into an empty booth,
A fly was buzzin’ between the blinds and glass.
I glanced around the room,
And felt like I had traveled to the past.
The jukebox in the corner,
Took nickels if you’d like to hear a tune.
I heard it play Don Williams, then Haggard,
Then Johnny Cash and June.
An old plaid shirt and padded vest,
Was at the counter, stirrin’ in his cup.
While a greaseball in a paper hat,
Was cookin’ food and shouting, “order up!”
Some lighted numbers, one through ten,
Were hanging from the ceiling by the bar.
Meant to call the server when an order’s up,
I guess that’s what they are.
I half expected tile floors, menu screens,
And cashiers in a row.
Instead, I found an old-school dive,
The kind I figured vanished long ago.
An actual land-line telephone,
Affixed to every table in the joint.
And a “load board” screen hung on the wall,
Displaying drivers loads they could appoint.
A friendly face would fill your cup,
And drip a little extra across your plate.
She’d treat you like a friend,
Regardless if you came from out of state.
It’s been awhile, I realized,
Since I had taken time to simmer down.
This fast-paced world we’re living in,
Has got me blowing past these little towns.
It sure feels good to come in here,
And patronize this little mom and pop.
A perfect little place to pause,
In a world that never really seems to stop.