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Duct tape and Truckstops and Coffee, OH MY!

Posted in Stuff with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 5, 2010 by Jessica Lada

My laptop has an annoying little problem. The screen does not like to stay propped up where I put it. Instead, it falls backwards or sometimes falls forwards and smacks me in the knuckles. It does this even when I’m sitting on still, level ground. Now imagine this temperamental laptop in a bumpy 18-wheeler. I don’t have one of those fancy seats (like Will does) with the air suspension that makes them float around over the bumps. My seat is bolted to the floor of the truck. It doesn’t slide forward or tilt back. It transfers every bump in the road directly to my butt. In order to keep my laptop open so I can type, I ran strips of duct tape from the edge of the screen to the bottom of the keyboard. It’s more than a little ridiculous, but it’s working so far.

My fiance drives a grain hopper. He loads soybean meal in Emporia and hauls it to Sherwin, Kansas and Fairland, Oklahoma, and once we went to Paris, Texas. He usually reloads soybeans somewhere and then hauls them back to Emporia. We drive the same roads every day and see some of the same places and same people. If you ever happen to drive these areas, here are some tips.

Eureka, KS – SONIC: had the absolute best tater tots I’d ever had. Usually when I go to Sonic, either the oil isn’t hot enough or they don’t fry the tots long enough because they aren’t crunchy like they should. These tots were golden brown, steaming hot, and absolutely delicious.

Oswego, KS – SONIC: You might be able to tell I’m a fan of Sonic. Normally their onion rings are okay. Not the worst or the best I’ve ever had, but at least they’re made with real pieces of onion rather than minced onion like Burger King. But the onion rings at this Sonic were not the normal Sonic onion rings. They were about 100 times better. These were as good as the rings from Nu-Way or Red Hot and Blue.

Chetopa, KS – THE HORNET’S NEST: Not only does Chetopa get the AWESOME TOWN NAME AWARD, The Hornet’s Nest wins for best cheap roadside fry diner. It’s a little hole in the wall right along the main drag. It has a huge menu and it’s incredibly affordable. Their cherry cokes are top notch (none of that artificial flavor crap) and only $1.50 for a large, no happy hour necessary. Their menu boasts fried catfish, nineteen different sandwiches, tacos, burritos, chili, four salads, burgers anywhere from a small single hamburger for $0.95 to a large double bacon cheeseburger for $4.95, and an array of fried sides: French Fries, Tator Tots, Suzi-Q’s, Onion Rings, Cheddar Bites, Okra, Cauliflower, Mushrooms, and chicken nuggets. Gravy, chili, or cheese can be added to just about anything on the menu. And for dessert you can have a turnover, candy apple delight, or chocolate or vanilla ice cream in a cone, cup, banana split, malt, shake, or sundae. Last night we tried the curly fries, onion rings, fried mushrooms, hamburger, Texas toast, cherry Coke, and a chocolate malt, all for about $15. We called and ordered carry out (620-236-7860) from about 10 miles away and it was ready when we swung through Chetopa.

Parsons, KS – STOCKYARDS TRAVEL PLAZA: This is the best truck stop I’ve ever been to. The bathrooms are clean and well-lit, the coffee refills are only $0.75, and in the 15 minutes that it takes to fill up the truck you can get Chester Fried Chicken or fresh diner-style breakfast. For $3.50 you can get two eggs any style, a mound of fresh hashbrowns, four strips of bacon, and white toast. And then there’s the Oreo cookie cream pie for dessert. *Drool* It’s just about as close to truckstop heaven as I’ve found.

BETO JUNCTION – TA truckstop: I already talked about this one in a previous post, but I have to mention it again. The food is fantastic and the bathrooms are decent now, except for a weird ledge in the middle of the women’s room floor. Apparently, the bathrooms used to be notoriously bad and even inspired Will to write a song called “Go Behind the Trailer.” Yeah. Once Kansas bans smoking statewide, this travel stop will be fantastic. Until then, stick to the nonsmoking section and expect trucker sized portions of fantastic food. On our two visits, Will had their smoked brisket (with plenty of smoke) and the taco buffet. I had the spicy chicken quesadilla and the best char-grilled burger I’ve had in ages. Prices are reasonable, portions are large, service is great, and the other side of the building has just about any kind of appliance you need made with cigarette lighter adapters.

While I’m at it, Will wants me to add that Gauldings in Yates Center has the worst coffee in the world…at least in his opinion.

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Crossroads (and I’m not talking about that awful Britney movie)

Posted in Stuff with tags , , , , , on June 5, 2010 by Jessica Lada

There’s a place where the highways cross and wide swaths of asphalt and gravel form a massive parking lot with room for hundreds of trucks. It lies between Burlington, Emporia, Topeka, and Ottawa, and it’s called BETO Junction. It isn’t a town but a window into a niche of society that most people have never seen. But this little spot is a sample of the backbone of society.
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You walk through the rows of diesel behemoths and look at the vast array of cargo. Some are grain trucks and some are tankers emblazoned with hazard stickers. Others hold untold freight. Chances are, most of your possessions were once hauled in a truck like these. Your favorite dress, coffee pot from walmart, leather sofa, and last night’s steak dinner.

The truck stop restaurant has an incredible menu and the biggest cinnamon rolls I’ve seen in my whole life. They’re bigger than my head. They also have a lunch and dinner buffet with fried chicken, real mashed potatoes, and different features depending on the day of the week.

There’s another truckstop phenomenon known as “lot lizards.” CB radios can be great entertainment. As we left BETO my fiance handed me the CB and prompted me to do a little social experiment.
“Any drivers looking for company?” I asked.
“Where you at, honey?” a voice responded, eager.
Will and I stifled our laughter and I asked, “Where do you want me to be?”
“Now that’s a good question!” the driver chuckled. “I’m over at the BP.”
Will and I laughed and kept driving. After a while the fellow said, “Guess you must be across at TA.”
“Yeah,” I said, “It’s pretty busy over here tonight.”

I thought Will was going to bust his stitches he was laughing so hard.

It all goes to show you there’s a story to be found everywhere you look and even in the places you don’t.