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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Inspections And How To Avoid Them

New Mexico should be one of the safest states states to drive in as far as accidents involving semi trucks, since it's the sixth highest state in number of inspections of commercial vehicles and drivers.

Rigdig, a company something like Carfax for trucks, assembled some US Department of Transportation data and says New Mexico conducts  eight inspections per lane mile (lane mile = they count up the miles in all the lanes, so I-25, I-40, US 550, etc., which have two lanes on each side, account for double the lane miles, as if there are two highways going side by side. I don't know why they'd give inspection data in this form. In searching the web for the explanation for lane miles it seems they are used mainly by highway engineers.)




The following chart gives some indication of what they are actually looking for when they inspect a truck and its driver in New Mexico. It's based on what tickets are actually written. (Number 2, "Hours," is drivers hours of service = log book.)

"Speeding" must be when they decide to inspect you when they stop you for speeding. I've seen state DOT officers inspecting trucks on the sides of interstates and service roads in Albuquerque, and I was inspected once at the foot of Tijeras Canyon. The officer didn't give me any tickets but told me to clean out my truck. There was a lot of stuff piled up on the passenger's side floor that he said restricted my sight out the little window in the passenger's side door, which many trucks have and are supposed to help eliminate your passenger-side blind spot, although I don't think they really do, at least I've never thought to take my eyes off the road or off my mirrors and look through that little window.



Incidentally, I've noticed something dangerous about street lights and blind spots. On many expressways throughout the country now, which I-40 and I-25 in the metro Albuquerque qualify as and are designed like, in some stretches there's one big row of very bright street lights going down the median, but none on the sides. It's getting darker in the morning now when I come back from Holbrook and I've noticed that those lights create a big dark shadow on the passenger's side of a semi.



If a car is in that shadow, and also in your blind spot - i.e., it's beside you and too far forward to pick up in your passenger side rear view mirror, but not far enough ahead to be seen over the side of your hood - the car is invisible. After I come down Nine Mile hill and pass the Coors exit, as I'm approaching the Rio Grande, I move two lanes to my right to be in the lane for I-25 north, and those lane changes bother me more and more every morning. There is often traffic speeding off Coors onto I-40 going into town and it doesn't take one long for someone to get into that blind spot.

There's a way of changing lanes that helps, that I learned from a safety director at a big company who was a retired state cop. He taught you to put on your signal, move a little into the lane, just your tires, wait a bit, then gradually move the rest of the way, which gives car drivers a chance to get out of the way. That's fine in most cases, except there are some very aggressive drivers, and late for work in the morning drivers, who will take any open space that's there, no matter if your turn signal is on, no matter if you're already partly occupying the space, no matter if your vehicle outweighs theirs 10 to 1.

Roadsides

If you look at New Mexico on that map above, the little car on New Mexico means 60 percent or more of the inspections are "roadside," meaning a team has gone out and set up an inspection site somewhere.

Between Albuquerque and Santa Fe you may have noticed a semi permanent site for doing this after you come up the big hill from San Felipe.

Some states have separate department of transportation police. In many states, as in New Mexico, a division of the state police is in charge of commercial motor vehicle enforcement. They run the weigh stations, where inspections are usually done, and for roadside inspections, they have a little trailer they pull around, with portable scales that they can haul out have you drive on one axle at a time.

Usually they just cordon off a part of a rest area parking lot and put a sign out on the freeway directing trucks to pull into the rest area, where an officer is waiting and either sends you back out to the expressway or directs you to "pull over there" and get an inspection.

I've been inspected at the rest area on the west bound side of I-40 just east of Moriarty, as you come down into the beautiful Estancia Valley from the hills. I was the last inspection of the day, one of the officers said. He chock-blocked my wheels and had me sit in the cab and work the lights and horn and brakes while another officer went through my log book and permit book and another one rolled under the truck on a creeper. This is all pretty standard and takes only 15 or 20 minutes, less if it's the last inspection of the day.

The officer on the creeper, a young woman, rolled out from under the truck and with a smile on her face announced that she had found a "cracked brake shoe." The officer in charge wrote me what they call a "fixit ticket," which means I wasn't put "out of service" but could proceed to the nearest truck stop and get the defect fixed. There's even a place on the ticket for the diesel mechanic to sign off on the repair. (If you are put out of service you have to call someone to come out there and fix whatever it is. A measurable portion of my life has been spent waiting for whoever it was to get there.)

I'd never heard of a cracked brake shoe. I proceeded to the Rip Griffins in Moriarty (now a TA) and since I was driving for a big company out of Tulsa had to call them and get the repairs authorized. The old mechanic working the road repair desk hadn't heard of a cracked brake shoe, either, nor had the mechanic at Rip Griffins, but he looked over my truck and finding no brake shoes with any cracks in them shook his head and signed off on the ticket that he couldn't find nothing to fix.

I've looked at many brake shoes since then and sometimes wondered if the young inspector hadn't been looking at that gap where the two brake shoes on each wheel almost meet and thought it was big crack. It doesn't sound all that plausible but it's the only explanation I've come up with.

PrePass

New Mexico is one of a few states where the weigh stations never close; the big ones, that is, at the states lines on I-10, I-40 and I-25. Smaller ones, like at Shiprock, close at night but the big ones are even open Christmas Day. Most trucking companies, and more and more owner operators, have some variation of a system whereby, as you approach a weigh station, about a mile before you get there, a transponder in your truck communicates with a transponder hanging over the interstate on a big arm, and if your company has a pretty good safety rating -- which is based on your past inspections, tickets and accidents -- you're signaled to bypass the weigh station. They do it with computers.

A company called PrePass instigated this and has most of the country covered. They have agreements with the various states, including New Mexico's, to install the highway transponders and hook into their computer systems. PrePass is a wonderful thing. Most PrePass sites are in conjunction with weigh-in-motion scales embedded in the roadway, and when your weight is OK and it decides you're safe enough and you get that green light, a heavy load is lifted from your shoulders. Mine anyway. Most truck drivers I'm sure.
 
PrePass was the only bypass system for the first 20 years of it but now competitors are getting in on it by using your cell phone as the transponder. Somehow cellularly they communicate with the state or the federal computers and can give you the bypass signal in a few seconds. Here's what's on the iPhone "app" page for one of them, Drivewyze.


Apparently the image on the right hand side is the "ready" state and on the left is what you get when you get the bypas. Not shown is the screen that has the red light and says 'Pull into the weigh station and hope for the best.'

Since I went into business for myself I haven't had PrePass. I tried to call them a week or so ago while I was getting loaded over on Chappell Street (or Chappel Street depending on which street sign you're looking at) but they were already closed. I don't start work until 6 p.m.

I just now downloaded the Drivewyze app and am ready to try the trial version, which simply alerts you that you're approaching a weigh station. I'll see if that works out at the Gallup weigh station, which I have to pull through every night on my way back from Holbrook. To get the full bypass feature I'll have to buy a Drivewyze subscription at $15.75 per vehicle per month, according an article about it in Overdrive.

I don't know if I'd even get a bypass signal. Being a new company, around 18 months now, I just this summer had my "new entrant" safety audit, and haven't yet been issued an official safety rating.

I have to go through the weigh station at Gallup every night as I come back from Holbrook, and it would be nice to bypass it. It's costs me about five minutes, and I do a time sensitive run (have to be back before 6 a.m.,) so the five minutes is five minutes I have to make up, i.e., it wastes fuel, and it's nerve wracking to pull into any weigh station. I can't think of any good thing that has ever happened at one.

The last time I was inspected at Gallup in April the officer told me their computer flags me for an inspection every six months, so at least I know that. Still, as you approach the booth, where the officer sits staring at his multiple weight and nuclear materials and who knows what readouts and at his two computer screens, you just don't know if he's going to wave you on by or turn and slide open his window and tell you to pull around in back and take all your paperwork inside. Somewhere between Holbrook and Gallup a light could have burned out, an inside trailer tire could have gone flat, a mud slap fallen off, an air line might have started leaking and making that little hissing sound you can't hear but only when you slow down, you just never know.



Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Gaza - The Elders Speak

A Concise and coherent explanation for the Gaza Massacre and for Israel's earlier rampage in the West Bank was published today in The Guardian. It's been stated before. I wrote about it July 23. Now Jimmy Carter, former US president, and Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, explain what really happened to precipitate these two horrendous events.

Namely, the two main Palestinians factions, Hamas and Fatah (the PLO), had reconciled. Israel could not accept that - they need Palestinians to be divided - so they slaughtered almost 2,000 Gazans and went on the earlier rampage of murder, mass destruction and mass incarceration in the West Bank, which, by the way, was the reason Hamas began firing rockets into Israel. That, and the fact that Israel had been firing rockets into Gaza, which I also wrote about July 23.

Carter and Robinson also lay out the solution. The UN needs to investigate, the US and other powerful Western countries have to back the UN, the blockade of Gaza has to be lifted, and Hamas has to be recognized as a legitimate political force that expresses the legitimate political will of a large number of Palestinians.

Carter and Robinson also correct the endlessly repeated factual error that Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel.


Note: Carter and Robinson belong to a group of elder statesmen who call themselves The Elders.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Including America



There have been massacres like this in Gaza in 2003, 2009, and 2012, and after each of these a ceasefire was declared and terms agreed to. In each case Israel violated the terms of the ceasefire by assassinating Palestinians with rockets fired into Gaza. Also in each case, the blockade of Gaza by Israel continued in violation of the terms. Food and medicine and building suppplies with which to rebuild the damage were kept out and produce and manufactured goods were not allowed to be exported. Israel controls Gaza's borders.

In each case, American media says nothing about Israeli rockets being fired into Gaza. It's likely most people you see on TV don't know, but the Israelis know, and the US government knows.

Both houses of the US congress, including all of New Mexico's delegation - Martin Heinrich, Tom Udall, Michelle Grisham, Ben Lujan and Steve Pearce - have voted in approval of the ongoing slaughter in Gaza, and to send Israel more weapons and ammunition, which Israel is now using to step up the rate of slaughter and to bomb hospitals in Gaza (four) UN shelters where displaced Palestinian families are hiding (five) and schools.

Are our congress members ignorant? Or are they just telling us that their fancy titles are more important to them than Palestinian lives?


Please take a look at the following chart, which records Israeli and Palestinian deaths per day since January 1, 2014 - Israelis are blue figures, Palestinians red - recalling that the ongoing genocide in Gaza that Israel and the media like to refer to as Operation Protective Edge only started on July 8, and then tell me who started it.


Source: IfAmericansKnew.org





Monday, July 28, 2014

China In Latin America

In the previous post, in the context of the declining influence of the United States in Latin America as more countries there break free of the traditional US dominance and experiment with Leftist economic models, I mentioned China's growing role in Latin America.

In 2010, China loaned more money to Latin American countries than the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the US Export-Import Bank combined, and it's loans there have totaled US$100 billion since 2005. It is fast approaching the US as the region's largest trading partner and its trade with Chile, Peru, and Brazil, Latin America's biggest economy, exceeds that of the US, while it has become the second largest trading partner with Mexico after the US(1).

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro last week signed new deals for "development projects in energy, mining, industry, technology, communications, transport, housing and culture" worth US $18 billion.(2)


1 China in Latin America

2 Venezuela Receives US$18 Billion of Chinese Financing, Signs 38 Accords

Also

Where Xi leads, Abe follows? China, Japan compete in Latin America

Latin America has power to reshape relations with China - but will it use it?


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Mel

The country of origin of the greatest number of refugee children arriving at our southern borders is Honduras. Almost all the refugees are from Central America, and as has been pointed out by Roberto Lovato of UC-Berkeley, of those, are all from countries that have followed US prescribed Reaganomics/Neoliberal economic policies, such as Honduras and Guatamela, and none of them are from the countries that have broken free of US dominance and gone their own, Leftist ways, countries like Nicaragua and El Salvador.

I was reminded of that this morning when I saw a tweet from Manual Zelaya, who is often called Mel, the former Honduran president who was ousted in an Obama Administration/Hillary Clinton State Department backed coup in 2009. Zelaya has become active on Facebook and Twitter in the past few months and today posted a picture of himself and Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro that was taken at the PSUV (Venezuelan Socialist Party) congress that's underway in Caracas.

Nicholas Maduro in red, Mel Zelaya with glasses
It's been quite a ride these last few years for Mel Zelaya. A wealthy Honduran rancher and bonafied member of the Honduran oligarchy, after becoming president of Honduras in 2006 Zelaya veered to the Left. He had implemented many programs benefiting the poor people of his country, which the US ruling elite doesn't like to see happen in its back yard -- witness Cuba, the Sandanista's Nicaragua, Allende's Chile, or any number of other examples -- and when Zelaya began having cordial relations with Venezuelan Socialist President Hugo Chavez, el Gringo lowered the boom.

The US also tried, earlier this year, to oust Maduro, who is carrying on in Chavez' footsteps in trying to find another way, one that benefits the majority of the people of his country and not just the wealthy few. But that extra-legal effort by the US failed.

It had been directed and funded by the US State Department's CIA and USAID respectively and carried out in collaboration with the Venezuelan oligarchy. It consisted of often violent, sometimes deadly street demonstrations by middle and upper class Venezuelans and of acts of economic sabotage by the oligarchy, and was aided and abetted by the US media, which ran almost daily stories about the protests, all of which repeated the same set of false statistics about Venezuela's economic condition and predicted its imminent collapse.

Gone now from US media stories that originate from Venezuela are the false statistics and predictions of doom. And in the last week, first Ecuador, and then Brazil, which also have Leftist governments and have broken free of US dominance, recalled their ambassadors from Israel in protest of the US backed, US funded, congressionally approved slaughter of the citizens of Gaza (while the US continues to be Israel's sole supporter at the UN.)

Also last week the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, stopped off in Cuba to pay his respects to Fidel Castro, on his way back from a tour of Latin America where he attended the BRICS Summit and also summits of Latin American and Caribbean leaders. BRICS -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa --  is an economic cooperation alliance that operates outside the influence of the US, and of those US dominated tools of Western economic imperialism the IMF and World Bank.

Photo DW.DE
In other words, Xi Jinping was in Latin America, and Cuba, too, no doubt, to talk about money, about making Chinese investments in those nations, and not the kind of investments made by the IMF and World Bank, which require receiving countries to adopt Reaganomics/Neoliberal "structural reforms," i.e., to slash social spending and lower taxes on the rich and increase them on the poor, as countries like Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain have been required to do, which sends the countries' economies into spirals of decline and makes them essentially cheap labor pools for foreign banks to scavenge from. The Chinese are known for not attaching any strings to their investments and have demonstrated that all across Africa.

Things continue to change south of the border. Not everywhere, and not all at once. Latin Americans may have replaced the now nearly irrelevant US-dominated Organization of American States, the old OAS, with their own regional alliance, CELAC, to which party the US wasn't invited, but the US still controls important nations down under like Columbia and Uruguay. And children may still be fleeing the violence and oppression in the hellhole that is post-coup, US dominated Honduras, but Mel Zelaya is on Twitter and Facebook, and in Caracas, smiling.







Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mowing the Grass - Death Toll Near 800

In Israel some people refer to the periodic slaughtering of Palestinians in Gaza as "mowing the grass."

Keeping down the population.  Israel, which already has taken most of historic Palestine, wants all the land.

Four hospitals in the small enclave, which Israel controls the exits to, have been bombed. Pregnant Palestinian women have been disproportionately targeted. Now a school.

Our entire New Mexico legislative delegation is on record as approving of this massacre. Both houses of congress have passed voice vote resolutions defending Israel's right to "defend itself." There was not one vote of opposition in either chamber.

Death chambers.





Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Slaughter in Gaza

"In 2011, the projectiles fired by the Israeli military into Gaza have been responsible for the death of 108 Palestinians, of which 15 where women or children and the injury of 468 Palestinians of which 143 where women or children. The methods by which these causalities were inflicted by Israeli projectiles breaks down as follows: 57% or 310, were caused by Israeli Aircraft Missile fire, 28% or 150 where from Israeli live ammunition, 11% or 59 were from Israeli tank shells while another 3% or 18 were from Israeli mortar fire." ( United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), which keeps detailed data on casualties in Palestine - more here.)


 Every two or three years Israel goes on a killing rampage. In between, the killings sometimes dwindle to a few a week. I recently posted one of the weekly PCHR reports that detail the killings, house demolitions, detentions and so forth that Israel invokes on Palestinians, non stop, year after year.

The US media and the US political establishment all echo the Israel public relations line to justify the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from land Israel wants. Say what you will about the little home made rockets Palestinians fire toward Israel, but they are always in response to an upsurge in Israel's extra judicial murders of Palestinians. If there's a cease fire between Israel and Hamas, Israel breaks it. If there's an election coming up in Israel, more Palestinians will be killed following a barrage of propaganda from the Israeli government about how Israel's very existence is being threatened.

The Electronic Intifada details how Israel began this latest  round of violence by provoking rocket attacks from Palestine.

It's important to remember that recently there have been two rampages, one in the West Bank, where the old PLO is in charge, which was supposedly about three youths being missing, although Israeli officials, it is now known, already knew the boys were dead when the rampage began.

Now it's in Gaza, where Hamas is in charge.

Just prior to the first rampage the POL and Hamas agreed to stop fighting each other and unite, confirming Israel's worse fears. It's not widely known but Israel if not created Hamas made it into what it is today, to be a counterweight to the secular PLO. As UPI reported in 2002:

Israel and Hamas may currently be locked in deadly combat, but, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials, beginning in the late 1970s, Tel Aviv gave direct and indirect financial aid to Hamas over a period of years.

Israel "aided Hamas directly -- the Israelis wanted to use it as a counterbalance to the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization)," said Tony Cordesman, Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic Studies.

Israel's support for Hamas "was a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious alternative," said a former senior CIA official.







Saturday, July 19, 2014

Number of Palestinians in Gaza Slaughtered by Israel Tops 314

 In Israel, the periodic slaughters in Gaza -- the modern, US-supplied Israeli Army, Air Force and Navy bombardments of the defenseless, trapped (by Israel on three sides and the US backed military dictatorship in Egypt on the other) population of Gaza, who have nowhere to run  -- are sometimes called "mowing the grass." Trimming the population of Gaza.

It's been suggested by Vijay Prashad that this particular massacre at this particular time, which follows closely on the heels of the recent rampage in the West Bank by the Israeli Army, may have everything to do with the recent rapprochement between Hamas and the PLO, which is one of the things Israel fears most.

Recall that after 1967 Israel promoted and helped build up Hamas so that it could act as a counterweight against the PLO, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which has morphed into the Palestinian Authority that has nominal control of the Occupied West Bank.




Above: A Palestinian man holds his daughters, Shada and Lama al-Ejla, who were injured in an Israeli tank attack, as he leaves al-Shifa hospital on July 18, 2014 in Gaza City. (Photo: AFP - Mahmoud Hams). Published in Al Akhbar English with a July 18, 2014 article about the ongoing slaughter by Israel of Palestinians trapped in Gaza.



Saturday, July 12, 2014

Big Creek Limited Partnership




I came across a web site that tracks who gets what in the way of USDA farm subsidies in New Mexico's First US Congressional District.

The leader in recent years has been Leroy C Cravens of Encino, NM, who received payments totaling $646, 924 from 1995 through 2012.

Cravens got the payments in the form of "Conservation Subsidies," "Disaster Subsidies," and "Commodity Subsidies," the latter category including "Livestock Subsidies," "Wool Subsidies," and "Sheep Meat Subsidies," according to the web site, which is run by the Environmental Working Group.

If you click on any one person's name  in the First District table it gives a breakdown of that person's take. Clicking "Next" at the bottom of the page reveals more names. Native and longtime New Mexicans may see names they recognize. I recognized the name of Patsy Guinn, a realtor in the Estancia Valley, where I used to live. The names of those who, like her, have received just a few thousand dollars, go on for page after page.

Some people are hidden behind corporation names or ranch names. Doing a search of that name sometimes reveals the owners. For example, Number 22 on the list, Two Arrow Inc., which received $72,566 in the 1995-2012 period, is, according to Bizpedia, owned by Rowena Green and Terri League.

They were easy to find with a simple internet search. The owners of number 11 on the First District list, Big Creek Limited Partnership, are more opaque.

Big Creek Limited Partnership received $100,000 in 2012 in the category "Disaster Subsidies," which places it 11th on the list. Nothing about the company's owners comes up after almost an hour of internet searching, not with a general search, or searches of specific web sites like the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, where you'd expect to find a company that does business in New Mexico.

The fact that Big Creek Limited Partnership's owners don't show up anywhere makes it stand out. It's even numbered, $100,000 subsidy is unusual -- most are odd amounts -- as is the fact that that the "Disaster Subsidy" was the only kind of subsidy it got. It got it for just that one year, and yet that amount places it high on the list. A shell company, set up to receive an illicit payment, might have a similar internet footprint.

If I was writing a newspaper article about the subsidies I'd want to look into the anomaly of Big Creek Limited Partnership. If I was actively working in the newspaper field I'd probably know who to call or where to look to find out who's behind that company, and what the $100,000 "Disaster Subsidies" payment was for. If I couldn't, I'd want to know why. If they are doing business here and aren't registered with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, I'd have to know why not.

There are, however, various bits of information on the internet about the company, but they only make it seem more mysterious. The web site Manta, where Big Creek Limited Partnership does show up, gives an address for the company of Vaughn, NM. It also lists, under the company's name, the names Wade Ranch and Old Burgeute Ranch, and there's a phone number. What are these two other ranches? Were they bought out by Big Creek Limited Partnership? If you took a drive out to Vaughn and asked around, someone would probably know something.

Another web site, Topix, gives a more complete address, 7971 US 54, Vaughn, NM, 88353, but otherwise gives less information than Manta.

The "street view" images at Google Maps for that address, oddly enough, were taken at night. I've never seen that before.




Panning out in Google's "earth view" does give a daytime view, but reveals that the address, on the east side of Vaughn, is uninhabited range land.






Google isn't always right, but the phone calls and maybe your little day trip to Vaughn would probably clarify things. It could be nothing, it could be something. If it was a case where someone knew that by filling out a form you can make yourself a quick $100,000, that would be one thing. If was a case where someone in the Martinez Administration had to grease the skids for the payment to be made, and there was also a campaign donation involved, that would be something else.

I'm not really implying that that's what it is, but I did want to put the thought into your head. It's in mine. Based on what I've learned I can't rule it out.


Perspective

I'd want to see how the subsidies handed out in New Mexico's First District fit into the big picture of Agricultural Subsidies, in the state and in the US. Is this small potatoes? If so, what's the real story? I'd like to know what Leroy C Cravens of Encino thinks about his subsidies. How do they fit into the picture of that kind of business? Do they coincide with his politics or contradict them?

My first thought was that his $646, 924 in subsidies from 1995 through 2012 might cover his expenses, leaving whatever he gets from selling his sheep or cattle as pure profit, but that might not be the case. And how would the two women who own Two Arrow Inc. explain their sizable subsidies or Patsy Guinn the realtor her smaller one?

The subsidy that farmers who are using public land get that comes in the form of the cheap use of our land isn't included in any of the Environmental Working Group's charts, nor are the costs of environmental destruction caused by cows and sheep scalping the landscape and allowing invasive species to overtake native species, or the resulting dust storms and erosion and the effects of all that runoff on lakes and streams. That might be looked into and mentioned in a story like this, and be the subject of another one.





Monday, July 7, 2014

Iowa 80

Iowa 80 at some point in the past - this is before I was ever there so at least 20 years. Around that, judging by the trucks.



An email update from a trucking trade publication noted that the Iowa 80 Truck Stop's annual jamboree is going on next week. The Iowa 80, in Walcott, on the west side of Davenport, is said to be the world's biggest truck stop. I've been there quite a few times, although I just as often stopped at a Pilot across the interstate to fuel up because it was easier and quicker. For the Iowa 80 you have to go down a side road a little ways, and wait while trucks back in and pull out. It's just so busy and so huge. If you need to go inside you might have to park a quarter mile from the restaurant/store/all kinds of other things in that place.

It has what might be the most well equipped store for trucker stuff. The people who gussy up their trucks could be seen wandering the aisles. If you've ever seen a real shopper walk into a Wal Mart and pause as they get inside the door while they mentally map out their adventure....

When I was driving flat bed I always stopped at Iowa 80 to get bungee cords - those rubber straps with the hooks at each end you fasten down tarps with - because they were so cheap. I'd buy one or two boxes of fifty for probably $25 each.

There is, however, a pretty good restaurant there. Cars can park up front by the building.

The truck stop life. When you're on the road like that, you're basically driving all the time. Anything you do besides driving, like eating, showering, washing laundry, takes time out of sleeping. Often you don't have time to stop and eat. You have to grab something to go. But when you can squeeze in an hour, or when you have time at the end of your driving day, there are certain truck stops you stop at. They are your familiar places. Someone to wait on you, a warm, always tasty meal. Conversation if you want it. Just a few minutes when you're not going. Not under pressure. Not having to do anything but just sit there and not have to do anything for a little while.

That's what the note about the annual jamboree at the Iowa 80 reminds me of. That's why, now that I'm no longer driving over the road, when I'm home here and want to go out to eat, sometimes I just go to a truck stop.