Truck stop story

The parking lot at Rosecrans, Taylor, and Pacific Highway - a conversation with long-haul drivers

They fuel up on Miramar Road or at the So-Cal stop in National City. If they pull in at night, truckers coffee-up at Aunt Emma’s in El Cajon or at Denny’s on Miramar Road or on Rosecrans Street.
  • They fuel up on Miramar Road or at the So-Cal stop in National City. If they pull in at night, truckers coffee-up at Aunt Emma’s in El Cajon or at Denny’s on Miramar Road or on Rosecrans Street.
  • Image by Tom Voss

Hey, Foxy Jaws, where’s a flop stop? We be makin’ three tracks in the sand an' we gotta get offa the licorice stick.” When a dozen CBers tell Daddy Longlegs where to park, No Show’s voice comes over the strongest. “Pull your hammer back,” he tells the trucker. “Pull your horns. Watch your donkey, flyboy,” No Show advises Daddy Longlegs to slow down and watch behind. “Keep the bugs off the glass and the bears off your trail.”

“Keep the lipstick offa your dipstick and the bears outta your britches,” Latrine Lips comes through.

“Catch ya on the flipper. Down and gone,” Daddy Longlegs mutters, as he hangs a U-turn into a Pacific Highway lot. sliding his eighteen-wheeler in between Four Winds and North American moving vans. Wearily, he stomps out his next-to-last Camel and crawls into the sleeper. He presses the sheets, and in two minutes the big guy is snoring louder than Fourth of July firecrackers.

Big rigs carry lumber, cattle, reefers (refrigerated units), airplane parts, office supplies — loaded up, they can be forty tons of steel, aluminum, and fiberglass. But now, most of the eighteen-wheelers lumbering in and out of San Diego parking lots are bedbug haulers (furniture movers), and that means hard times. Almost as bad as hauling lettuce.

The first time they hit Swabby City — which is how San Diego is known on the CB — high riders scout around for a “candy store” till they find out there is none. A candy store is trucker talk for a full-service truck stop that provides fuel, bulletin boards, laundry, truck-washing, and check-cashing facilities, and showers. “If you fuel up, the shower is free. If you don’t, it costs five,” explains one of the big riggers. “They got a lounge where we can shoot pool and hit the tube or the video games," adds another. "After we feed our faces, if we got twenty-four hours left, we get a room. Otherwise, we do our logs and sleep in the rig." The full-service truck stop has DOT (Department of Transportation) scales for weighing loads. And on phones at tables near the counters, truckers can call the dispatchers while the battery acid (coffee) stays hot.

After dark, the farthest edges of those candy store parking lots draw long-haul truckers who want contraband truck parts, dope, and California turnarounds (amphetamines). Other diversions, too. "There’s plenty of easy pieces around. Anyone can get a little bit for thirty bucks, sometimes less. Jus' order it up on the CB, they come right over to the big rig," grins a driver whose CB handle is Never Was. (A floater is a free-lance truck driver - he drives whenever he can get a load - and a sometimes lumper. A lumper hangs around a parking lot, making himself available for eight to ten dollars an hour to help load a trailer.) “Maybe that’s why there’s no candy store in San Diego,” he figures.

According to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, there’s no zoning ordinance against having a full-service truck stop in the county. Several years ago, in fact, the Southeast Economic Development Corporation proposed a full-service truck stop on vacant land ii the Southcrest area, but when the community objected to the proposed site because the noise would disrupt an otherwise tranquil residential area, the project was scrapped. Because San Diego is bound on the west by an ocean and on the south by Mexico, we are a destination where trucks unload, rather than a crossroads. There are more goods coming in than going out, especially household goods. Although nearly 400 trucking companies are located here, and although electronic and computer industries are burgeoning, there is still no demand for bulky raw materials. Thus the demand for full-service truck stops is not as pressing an issue here as in such crossroads as Los Angeles, Atlanta. Denver, and Dallas, for instance.

So when they reach San Diego, long-haul truckers are forced to make several inconvenient stops. They fuel up on Miramar Road or at the So-Cal stop in National City, and they wash their clothes wherever they find a Laundromat. If they pull in at night, truckers coffee-up at the all-night Aunt Emma’s in El Cajon or at Denny’s restaurants on Miramar Road or on Rosecrans Street.

The junction of Rosecrans, Taylor, and Pacific Highway has always been truckers’ ground. Fuller’s El Rio Motel, strategically located next to Fuller’s Liquor Store on Rosecrans, a block west of Interstate 5 and two blocks south of Interstate 8, is where Never Was converses with an owner-operator of a truck with Kentucky plates and a Four Winds load. On the bulletin board in the motel office — which Never Was uses as his official mailing address and message center — is a notice that reads, “Attention line drivers. Experienced household, military, and commercial mover, clean cut, have transportation. Have worked for all major van lines — Allied, Mayflower, etc. $9 hour.” .

The two men aren’t interested in the plea for work. The subject of their current discontent is the “new breed” of truckers. “They give us a bad name. All they care about is rock ’n’ roll, a gal down the road, an’ a joint,” says the Kentucky trucker as he shows the desk clerk snapshots of his five grandchildren. “To get insurance, I gotta have a drug test every year." He pulled in the night before after having hauled a load of game show prizes from Vancouver to Hollywood. As owner-operator — a gypsy, in truckers’ parlance — he owns the tractor and the company owns the trailer. The Kentuckian is picking up a few loads going to Florida, which will get him closer to home. He needs a few lumpers to help load the trailer and pick up another Florida-bound load in L.A. Never Was agrees to help. He hasn’t been on the road since last October, when things slowed down. He says he'll get back from L.A. on his own.

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