Ambassador Tom Kyrk: Truck stop solutions to family and trucker travel

Whether you drive a truck for a living, a camper during family vacations, or a personal vehicle on a daily commute, every one of us has seen some very interesting things at stops along the road. Some of the more unusual things I have encountered over the years, specifically at truck stops like Pilot, Flying J, and Love’s, include the following:

The “As Seen on TV” section: Truck stops seem to carry some of the largest selections of these late night infomercial products. After all, what truck driver doesn’t want to give himself a pedicure with a Pedi-Egg after a long drive, or put on fake nails with glittery butterflies, or make Zoodles better than anyone?

The exotic foods: Many truck stops, especially in the South in states like Louisiana, carry gator sausage. You know, alligator sausage, from alligators. Not exotic enough? Perhaps you would like to have a date milkshake, or an ostrich egg omelet. Stops throughout the country carry regional specialties for sale in their restaurants or takeout aisles. You can even find the dreaded Lutefisk up in the frozen tundras of Minnesota. Another regional delicacy that a northern boy like myself cannot understand is the ubiquitous boiled peanuts. All I can say is: “Really?!?”

The decor: What driver or traveler could resist improving vehicle interior decor with a genuine gator head, rattlesnake or pet scorpion mounts? Yes, someone thought it was a great idea to stuff and mount these items, and crazier than that, people do buy them. (In case you are wondering, I do have an extreme snake phobia. You won’t find these in my truck.)

The household items: Most truck stops also cater to home life, because many truckers — like family travelers — may need items like pillows or a big fluffy blanket. Sandwich makers, cooking skillets, and other 12-volt kitchen appliances are also commonly found at truck stops, making these stops excellent resources for camping or hiking. Did I mention showers? Long trips with multiple family members of all ages may end with a nasty in-car disaster. Thankfully there are plenty of places to quickly clean up yourself, your children, and even your car.

The tech products: Drivers of big rigs typically use CB radios to communicate with dispatchers and other drivers. Some also carry police scanners to stay ahead of changing traffic conditions. However, that’s not the only type of tech products you’ll find, because drivers are also carrying smartphones, laptops, and tablets that require consistent charging to keep up with family, friends, and colleagues, just like families who are traveling on long trips. In addition to ToughTested products like the Pro+ charging cable that protects over surge, or the Pro-Comm Bluetooth headset, travelers can also find mobile DVD players, phone cases and power banks to charge on the go.

But the craziest item I have ever seen in a truck stop is for man’s favorite faithful four-legged companion. It is called a Joy Stick. It is about three feet long of all-natural chewing fun for pups of all sizes and chewing levels. If you have never seen one, let’s just say Ferdinand the Bull is not a very happy bull at this point; he’s lost the joy he brings to the ladies he knows. A few truck stops even sell walking sticks and canes made from Ferdinand. As I was writing this, I talked with several friends about the odd things we find in truck stops.  We realized that what may seem off to many people are perfectly normal to us — except for Ferdinand’s walking cane, of course!