Monday, December 23, 2013

Oh there’s no place like the truck stop for holiday shopping

I hate shopping, Christmas or otherwise. Well, I like shopping for groceries, but that’s because I like to cook said groceries … but I digress.

Perhaps it’s the long lines, the maddening crush of people, or maybe I just never got over the fact that it seemed like every single one of my mother’s weekly shopping excursions to the mall, or wherever, always seemed to cut right into the heart of my Saturday morning cartoons as a kid. But somewhere along the way I acquired a passionate distaste for the practice.

While online shopping has certainly helped to keep me from turning into a full-on Scrooge at this time of year, somehow, some way, I always find myself rushing around at the last minute to get that one thing that somebody on my list desperately wants (and which I somehow have forgotten to acquire ahead of time).

Many truckers no doubt know the feeling of dashing through the snow right around Christmas to round up presents for loved ones. Whether you’re like me, and you avoid shopping on general principle, or you’re like countless others who spend 300 plus days of the year on the road and in the cab, it can be stressful as all get-out trying to wrangle those gifts.

Until I came to Land Line in February, there was one place I’d never really considered for those DEFCON 2-level holiday shopping emergencies – the nearest truck stop.

Our friends at Love’s Travel Stops sent us an updated list of more than 100 items they’re offering to help truckers and patrons polish off the last of their Christmas shopping. This year’s specialty items focus on a “Retro Revamped” theme centered around classic toys like Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots and the Slinky. A life size 40-inch leg lamp made popular by the movie, “A Christmas Story,” rounds out the throwback theme.

The company’s most popular 2013 Christmas items include:
•           Mini plush tigers
•           30-inch hobby horse and unicorn with sound
•           Fancy Puppies in a Purse
•           Round plush animals
•           Mattel Die-Cast Monster wheels gift pack
•           18.5-inch standing stuffed penguin
•           Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots
•           Retro Slinky
•           Semitrailer with construction vehicles

Love’s certainly isn’t the only truck stop catering to shopping needs of truckers during Yuletide. A trip to the nearby TA Travel Center and Petro Stopping Center in Oak Grove, Mo., revealed both had a wide array of toys, clothing, DVDs and other electronics for sale. A pretty robust selection for sure.

So I’ve decided to heck with the parking problems and long lines at the big box stores. The wife and I are headed home to Joplin for the holidays and I gotta swing by Love’s. If my dad didn’t already have a desk-sized version of the leg-lamp, that 40-inch model is what he’d be getting from “Santa” this year. Who knows? Maybe our nephews would like those Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robots as much as I did when I was a kid. 

May your journeys be safe and swift this holiday season. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from all of us at OOIDA HQ. 

Truckers for Troops: Team Jami wins the branch challenge

Photo by Nikohle Ellis
During the Truckers for Troops telethon, veterans and supporters of the five armed services have competed for the last several years to see which branch called in the most to donate to their fellow troops. Of course, it’s all in fun, but this year the competition really heated up.

When truckers called in, I can testify that the phone crew kept a careful tally on a huge bulletin board. It’s become a contest with no small amount of interest.

That’s not really surprising. About 57 percent of OOIDA members are military veterans. Many have sons and daughters serving right now. Truckers are generally a community of people who passionately support our troops.

This unofficial “branch challenge” began during the radio telethon a few years ago. People would call in a give a shout out to their former branch. The membership department started keeping track. When OOIDA’s trucking news radio show “Land Line Now” Anchor Reed Black – proud Army veteran – found out about the challenge he boasted that his fellow Army vets would likely exceed the efforts of all other branches put together.

Land Line Magazine Managing Editor Jami Jones was in the show’s studio when the statement was made. She could not let that go without a challenge, so she offered to lead the team that would include all other branches. Truckers who called in to participate also “cast a vote” on behalf of the branch of choice.

Team Reed and Army was a consistent winner the first couple of years, but last year votes from branches other than Army pushed Team Jami to victory.

In the early hours of this year’s telethon, Reed Black had clearly pulled ahead. But that lead fell in the last days due to overwhelming support from the other branches, including one vote on behalf of the British Royal Navy.

On Friday, OOIDA’s Membership Department announced that the 2013 Truckers for Troops branch challenge was again won by Team Jami.

“This is just a fun contest,” says Jami. “The real winners here are the troops who are reminded by our efforts that we are thinking of them, and we appreciate what they do.”

The first congratulations to Team Jami came from OOIDA President Jim Johnston, a Navy veteran. However, it was rumored this week that OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer, an Army veteran, was asking for a recount.