Friday, January 28, 2011

Dispatch Me Home – stories from the road

We are loaded down with acronyms like FMCSA, NAFTA, NHTSA, CSA, ATA and HOS to name a few. Going to the websites of these can provide useful information, but you will also find stuff that you don’t want to hear and that makes you wonder “what are these people thinking?”

Some sites are more enjoyable and provide the latest news, regs, etc. – in fact, everything trucking. I’m partial to and Also,

Another trucking site I like is American Truck Historical Society.

Two I stumbled into a while back are “DMH,” or the Dispatch Me Home website, and the Dispatch Me Home social site. They are both relatively new. They have been up about a year and a half. DMH was founded by Greg Martin, author of Dispatch Me Home, and his partner in crime – Bruce “Bandit” Weiser. The social site was built by Bandit in order to allow drivers and their friends and families to become interactive in the DMH project. It’s about sharing knowledge and experiences from the road and helping the public to see our industry in a better light.

You can go to the DMH web site and surf around or better yet go to the DMH interactive site and sign up. There’s no cost and you can get your own page where you can post stories, comments, and up to 25 photos on your page. Most are pics of trucks, but they don’t have to be.

On the homepage there are over 500 photos, some members’ photos, some not. There is everything from show trucks to antiques. Just one rule: Keep it clean; there may be truck drivers looking in. Bandit checks everything that’s posted. I’ve never seen anything off-color get by him.

Pictured above is a 359 Pete. Here’s the story behind this photo and how it’s connected to Dispatch Me Home.

I met a guy and his father at the Wildwood Florida I-75 Chrome Shop show a couple years ago, and I saw them again last year at MATS in Louisville. They are truckers in the United Kingdom and have a 359 Peterbilt they are restoring and putting into show truck condition. Anyway, I turned them on to DMH and they have several photos of their pride and joy posted. They told me they would post a driver’s view of what it’s like trucking in the UK, regulations, fuel costs, etc. It’s stuff like this I enjoy, being a former truck show participant.

I also hooked up with a couple from Tacoma, WA, that we used to do the truck circuit with. Sometimes we will get in there and reminisce about some of the fun things we had showing our trucks. Stories like like waxing ice at Louisville and being sand-blasted with wind and 110-degree heat in Las Vegas before it went inside at the convention center.

DMH has a two-hour radio show hosted by long time trucker/DJ “Big Al” Weekley and his wife Queen Bee – broadcasting real trucker tunes, classic country and bluegrass with a bit of inspiration for us all. The show originates in Blackwell, OK. Big Al keeps you posted on trucking news and DMH news. I had the honor of being DMH Member of the Month a while back, and Big Al recognized me several times over a couple of days. The show runs 10 a.m. to noon Central Standard Time. It repeats from midnight to 2 a.m. You can listen to the broadcast online.

Greg Martin’s book, “Dispatch Me Home,” is soon to be released as an audiobook. It’s about Sam the Man, an American trucker. The book tells about a better time in America when friendships meant everything and a firm handshake sealed a deal. The long-term goal is turn the book into a movie and roll the proceeds into a DMH home building and a hall of fame. For Greg and the Bandit, the DMH website, book, movie and hall of fame are all an attempt to bring our public image back from highway zeros to highway heroes.

So, come on in, the water’s fine. Every driver has stories from the road. Share yours and meet some nice folks.

(Photo courtesy of Bruce Wieser.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Farewell to Willie’s Place

On Sirius XM, the “Willie’s Place” channel is advertised as “The honky tonk that never closes.” But the entertainment and truck stop mecca an hour south of Dallas that bears the same Willie’s Place moniker is taking its final bow under that name.

The last day of operation for the fuel stop, restaurant, entertainment venue and saloon at Carl’s Corner in Hillsborough County is Monday, Jan. 31. New owners will reportedly take over Feb. 1.

The confirmed business development was a bit slow to see daylight. Some of us heard the news two weeks ago from OOIDA Member Jan McCarter, who was at Willie’s Place and heard the news from employees. Later, she posted on Facebook a scanned copy of a note that was alleged to have been written by Willie Nelson himself.

Employees told Land Line about the closing in confidence a few days ago, and now co-owner Steve Gilcrease is confirming some details to local media.

Financing was the biggest obstacle, Gilcrease said, as the complex took out a multimillion-dollar loan and could not pay it back.

“We tried to negotiate it down, but everything fell through,” Gilcrease told KWTX.

The banks filed a foreclosure lawsuit against the company, WN Truck Stop Inc., in April 2010. According to KWTX, a new owner will be handed the keys on Tuesday, Feb. 1.

At the time of this posting, it was not known what would happen to the “Willie’s Place” satellite radio channel which broadcasts from the theater at the truck stop.

Carl’s Corner is named after the truck-stop’s owner, Carl Cornelius, who incorporated the 15-acre complex and serves as its mayor. He and Nelson are long-time friends.

Nelson, Cornelius and Gilcrease are partners in a biodiesel venture known as BioWillie. The BioWillie biodiesel plant located in back of the truck stop will remain in Nelson’s control, according to the TV report.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jack LaLanne, wellness pioneer

At the start of the new year, many are motivated to start a fitness regimen. It can be difficult to adhere to a routine on the road, but Land Line’s February issue will feature a workout designed specifically for truckers to do in-cab. The magazine is now on the press and should be in the mail later this week.

Part of the inspiration for that article was a man who pioneered personal fitness. When the article – written by Staff Writer Charlie Morasch – was in the planning stages, we considered mentioning Jack LaLanne’s long life and dedication to staying fit. We even mulled some quotes from him we could have included in the article. In verifying those quotes, we found ourselves Googling his name and were amazed to read of his activities in his senior years.

Jack LaLanne died Sunday, Jan. 23, at age 96. My younger friends think of him as a slightly eccentric guy who did fitness stunts, but he truly was a fitness pioneer.

“The Jack LaLanne Show” inspired countless viewers – many of them women – to keep moving, eat right, and stay trim.

I remember my mother, Audrey, moving her chair into the living room and exercising faithfully with her buddy Jack LaLanne in the late ’50s and ’60s. As I recall, she wore capris just like Mary Tyler Moore and tennis shoes.

My mother remembers Jack’s wife, Elaine, helping him with exercises and joining him on his television show. As a young girl, I often joined my mother in front of the black-and-white console TV to do bends, leg lifts, jumping jacks and listen to Jack talk about nutrition and fitness.

My father was no slouch either. He was a research engineer and would come home to lace up his white tennis shoes before jogging and doing exercises – decades before it was fashionable.

My mother was motivated by Jack to lose weight after each pregnancy and to stay active. It may be partly due to him that she still hikes and remains her ideal weight.

“I really was a follower of him, and some of my friends were also,” she said. “We were all young mothers in Texas City,” she said. “He was amazing, and his wife was, too.”

Jack was often asked why he exercised throughout his life.

“I do it as a therapy. I do it as something to keep me alive. We all need a little discipline. Exercise is my discipline.”