The American truckstop is a vital part of our nation's infrastructure. It is the first place a trucker runs to in times of crisis. If a national emergency arises, then you find trucker's gathering around televisions quietly listening, then later discussing. And while many of us are not that verbally sophisticated, we are generally a pretty smart and hard working class of people. Because truckers understand the importance of our language, many of us were dismayed and puzzled when large truckstop chains began calling themselves "stopping centers, travel plazas, and so forth." At that time Flying J was rising to power, and the management was after tourist dollars. Drivers started waiting in long lines to make large fuel purchases behind regular travelers purchasing pop and chips. We all resented this move toward tourism, and we longed for the old time truckstop where tourists were welcome with limitations, and truckers were held in high esteem. Cashiers would remark that "they" made more money from tourists buying pop and chips, than "they" made from big fuel purchases. I was always quick to point out that each little fuel truck was a mini fortune on wheels, and it certainly didn't rise up from the ashes of pop and chips.
When Travel Centers of America bought out some of Rip Griffin, truckers were very unhappy. We predicted a drop in the quality of food and service; this did not occur at most locations. Now that TA has bought Petro, many of us drivers out here for 20 years or more are rather paranoid as this merging plays itself out.
However, I am a bit ashamed of my blog post condemning my recent experience at the TA in Las Cruces. It is true, I did have a hair on my egg. In the large scheme of things, and over the history of our time together, maybe a hair is not such a big deal. I know that if I have trouble in Las Cruces, that my TA is going to be right there to help me out. I have confidence in the power of the trucker dollar. I am sure the management of TA/Petro is willing to listen to our suggestions and complaints. The divide between drivers and truckstop operators has sadly become quite wide; we all need to work on positive dialogue instead of quickly writing a truckstop off our list.
Truckstop operations has plenty to complain about when it comes to driver behavior. Some of us throw trash, drive like idiots in the parking lot, and mistreat staff. I feel like some of these problems are a result of the diminished importance of the truck in the "travel center" community. Many drivers feel marginalized by the emphasis on tourism...this is more pronounced at TA than Petro. However, I blame Flying J primarily for this departure from truck to tourist. Because words really count, I wrote TA completely off for quite some time because of their "ROAD KING" points card. I started driving in 1981, and I was the first woman behind the wheel that many people had ever seen. I was offended by what I considered a sexist attitude coming from TA upper management. However, I am extremely happy with the new Ultra card, it really is a wonderful deal for all of us.
My long history with truckstops includes some very hair raising experiences, but I know the upper management of TA/Petro is capable of listening to our ideas. I am hoping the next time I stop in Cruces I get a great egg. We should expect high quality service and clean facilities, while giving management time to grow.
I stopped a few times recently at the TA in Ogalla, Nebraska. I do recommend this stop to anyone traveling corridor 80. Breakfast was fast and hot, really tasty, and the staff was considerate and professional. I bought fuel at a competitive price, and had no issues with the cashiers, they were efficient and the store was clean. The coffee was hot and fresh. The showers were wonderful, newly decorated, excellent water pressure, and super clean. I look forward to stopping in Ogalla again.