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24 Hours At A Truck Stop

Three Shifts, Three Truck Stops, And Four Idiots In A Pickup

Photography by The Diesel Power Staff

Diesel Power editor David Kennedy wondered what it would be like to spend an entire day at a truck stop-just to see what happens during three shifts in a world that revolves around diesel. He tried to recruit as many people from the office as possible for this "fly on the wall" diesel surveillance mission. Many co-workers cocked their heads to the side like a dog told to calculate sales tax, then asked "whyyyy?" before declining the invitation. Then, three idiots were wrangled into a voyage to Barstow, California, for a full day in one of the busiest trucking hubs in the nation.

Why Barstow? Although it is home to less than 40,000 people, the town is one of the main connections between California, Nevada, and Arizona. Believe it or not, 60 million people travel through Barstow each year. We figured this would be the location for a perfect storm of diesel activity. We picked a Friday, with a full moon, during the peak of summer travel season, and spent time at three different truck stops to make the most of our day. Here's what we "learned."

1:15 p.m.After assembling troops from all over the northern half of Los Angeles, we headed east in Project Tow Missile, an '06 Dodge 3500 Quad Cab dualie, and programmed the navigation system to take us to Barstow, California. This was the first time the project truck had been asked to haul up steep grades since it received a Banks after-cat exhaust and gauges to monitor the exhaust gas temperature, boost level, and transmission temperature. The EGT stayed around 600 degrees Fahrenheit and raised to 1,200 when the engine was pushed hard during a climb. The transmission stayed super cool in all situations-never rising above 170 degrees-and we were impressed by the constant boost on tap provided by the stock Cummins turbo.

3:31 p.m.We arrived in Barstow and found a wide variety of combination trucks at three main truck stops including those made by Kenworth, Mack, Peterbilt, and Volvo, to name a few. Our crew included Diesel Power editor David Kennedy, art director Mark Snyder, feature editor Trevor Reed, and editor of Jp Magazine and resident goofball, John Cappa. The truck stops we inhabited included a giant travel center with a restaurant and video arcade, a medium-size truck stop with a diner, and a small truck stop/Dairy Queen.

3:46 p.m.Military equipment sightings are a common occurrence at truck stops, especially those near bases and other government facilities. Just a few minutes after arriving in Barstow, we spotted this set of super heavy-duty trailers riding on Michelin X C-20 Pilote radial tires. We estimate the three-axle trailers can haul about 5 tons each. The axles are leaf sprung with gas shocks, and there is a large airbag built into the hitch. During our trip we also spotted a Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit (ROWPU) on a flatbed and an eight-wheeled camouflaged Light Armor Vehicle (LAV) with crowd control mortars.

4:10 p.m.After a tour of the parking lot, we explored the store inside the largest truck stop. We found everything from big-rig LED replacement lamps and CB radio sets to an orange Pontiac GTO Judge model car and this leather vest with tassels modeled by Cappa. He decided not to buy the vest when he buttoned it up and realized it was "made for the ladies." Cappa did purchase this "California Generic Postcard" for his girlfriend who was understandably concerned about his choice to spend half a weekend in a pickup with three guys at the truck stop.

6:12 p.m.We ventured away from the truck stops for a snack at the legendary Barstow McDonald's built inside an old passenger train. It's located on historic Route 66 (now Main Street) next to Interstate 15. Some say this is the busiest McDonald's restaurant in the country, but Ronald McDonald himself found time to sit down and share a soft serve ice cream cone with Cappa.

7:36 - 7:47 p.m.Another trip to one of the truck stop shops resulted in Cappa buying a Heater Meals beef and potatoes nuclear fusion meal in a box. It's actually the same technology in Meals Ready-to-Eat (MREs) used by our armed forces. Instead of plutonium, the self-heater is made from powdered food-grade iron, magnesium, and salt. When water is added to the pack, it almost instantly raises the temperature by 100 degrees causing the food pack to boil-as art director Mark Snyder found out the hard way. For some reason, Cappa was surprised the potatoes came in a brick, but he liked the meal and says he's buying more packs for an upcoming trip on the Rubicon Trail. We send our condolences to his travel mates.

9:38 p.m.David and Cappa helped save the world from video game terrorists after we all ate a hearty meal at the diner inside the largest of the truck stops. At that meal, the dynamic duo had gone the healthy route with a chicken sandwich and a tostada, while Mark and I enjoyed homestyle meatloaf and a burger that came topped with a slice of fried provolone cheese, respectively. In addition to the restaurant and video games, this hub had two professional masseuses on duty to relieve the stress of long-haul driving. Before you start thinking of dirty jokes, you should know the massage tables were in plain sight, plus we never saw a single "lot lizard" (prostitute) roaming any of the parking lots as we had been told to expect (by Cappa).

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