Big trucks! Big food! Big ceramic eagles – and even bigger truckers! You’ll see all this and more at the World’s Largest Truckstop on Iowa 80. For the unwary though some truly scary Surreal Trapdoors are lying in wait just for you.
You think I’m kidding? Read on, my friends, for the tale transcribed herein truly happened.
Ed and I were heading down to Santa Fe, New Mexico to attend the Hillerman Writers Conference. Hwy 80 took us through Walcott, Iowa where we spotted WLT’s neon sign. Hungry and tired, we pulled in and parked our tiny Miata sports car well away from the fleet of tractor trailers.
WLT covers 75 acres of land and provides parking for 900 trucks. An estimated 5000 visitors trek through the 67,000 sq ft complex every single day. The building sports 9 restaurants, a 60-seat movie theatre, a TV lounge with leather recliners, 24 private showers, a barber shop – even a dentist and a chiropractor!
If you want to bling out your truck, you will never find a better selection of lights and fancy exhaust pipes. Even art! In the 2-storey, 30,000 sq ft showroom, we admired the mural on the show truck as it spun round on a rotating platform. Its cab featured comfortable sleeping quarters, a DVD player, a microwave oven and a state-of-the-art navigation system: a trucker’s life looks pretty damn awesome!
Off we went to the cavernous 350-seat café which lay in perpetual twilight except for the bright spotlights on the extensive buffet and salad bar. Several solitary, weighty, middle-aged men were seated along one of the U-shaped diner counters. Feeling out of place – and wimpy – we slipped into two seats well away from them, perused a menu the size of a road sign and ordered.
As we waited for our burgers, it became apparent that the men at the counter were having a long-range conversation with one another.
“I don’t see nothing wrong with hitting my boy,” said the older, grey-haired guy on our left. “My daddy whupped my ass. Did me a world of good. No govermint’s gonna tell me how to raise my kids.”
“Damn right!” echoed down the line.
The waitress set a plate with a 5-inch pile of sliced raw onions down in front of the heavy-set man sitting on the opposite side of the counter directly in front of us. He wiped his black goatee with a paper napkin and dug into the crunchy offering.
“I wouldn’t want to ride in his truck tonight,” said Ed, not so sotto voce. I elbowed him, but Goatee wasn’t listening. The waitress had placed 5-inch plate of fried bacon down next to the onions.
“I gotta problem,” declared Old Trucker as Goatee tucked into his meal. “My neighbour and her cats. Damn cats keep coming into my garden to do their business, you follow? Only one way to handle things as far as I can see. My 9 mm pistol.”
“You don’t want to waste 9 mm fire power on a cat,” Goatee said between bites. “The cat’ll just explode. A 22’ll do the job and the ammo’s way cheaper.”
“Well, I got a 1000 rounds of 9mm just sitting round the house. Wouldn’t want it to go to waste.”
Ample evidence that our counter companions weren’t Democrats. I’d guessed right, go figure. Two timid Canadians down their burgers, paid fast and with cash then took refuge in the truck showroom.
Refuge? Hardly. One of the weirdest Surreal Trapdoors in my life was about to open. Tune in next Monday, Readers, for my tale of the beer-swilling Pomeranian.