Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Diamond in the Rough - Truck Stop Review

Farris Truck Stop - Big Rigs Restaurant
Faucett, MO
I-29 exit 35


This is the type of place I love to find.  The diamond in the rough.  It's the real truck stop. Sure Love's and TA's are truck stops, but they are the new age, big box truck stops of the "new and improved" world of today.  The REAL truck stops are the time tested and survived, old-fashioned mom & pop type truck stops. The family owned businesses where you are a person, not a number.  Sure maybe everything isn't spic and span clean in some places, but the food and customer service are second to none.  And after a long day on the road, that is exactly what you want.... no need!

Thanks to my favorite app, Trucker Path, we found the Farris Truck Stop just up the road from our delivery location.  We were hot, our AC just went out, and I really didn't feel like cooking in the truck tonight, but a home-cooked meal is something we both needed.  He said he remembered this stop from years ago, just couldn't remember exactly where it was. Yay, Trucker Path!  The reviews of course were mixed, but we looked at the good with the bad, divided down the middle and decided it was still a good call.

The parking lot is huge.  The app claims 75 spaces, and I'd say at least that if everyone parks responsibly.  As I write this it is after 1:00 am and there are still quite a bit of open spaces.  They have a locally certified scale here.  It's not CAT certified scale, but the regulars swear on it's accuracy.  At $7.00 for first weigh and $3.00 for reweigh, if you needed to to get your tandems right for the Missouri chicken houses I'd say it's a fair price to pay for at least "close enough".  They do have fuel here, but no DEF.  I didn't look at the prices as we didn't need fuel this time; however Missouri fuel is by are far cheaper than other states. They also have free Wi-Fi, but at least from the truck it was slow.  It probably works better from inside.

Let's get the bad over with first shall we.  I had to use the ladies room.  To say it was the worst I've been in would be a lie.  I've been in a lot worse, but I've been in a lot better.  The floors were in serious need of a good mopping and the sinks and counters were grimy.  It wasn't that the ladies had trashed the restroom, it just looked as if it hadn't had a thorough scrubbing in quite sometime.  That leaves me to wonder about the condition of their showers, and hotel rooms.  This is not a place I would stop for those amenities unless there were no other options.

The store area was tidy and their prices were favorable.  Many things were marked much less than what you would spend at a chain named truck stop.  Not a huge variety, but a decent selection of foods, snacks, nick-nacks, and truck supplies.  Of course the lady behind the counter was friendly and joked with us as we walked around to stretch our legs after dinner.

Now for the good.  Actually, the really good! The Big Rig Restaurant is part of the truck stop. It's a pretty good size inside, and of course broken up into sections.  There is a driver section that also appears to be a "smoking" section.  I believe the laws in Missouri still allow for smoking in restaurants, where many states have elected to ban that practice.  We sat far away from that area so the few smoking did not bother us.  The restaurant was clean, the booths comfortable.  And they have real, REAL sweet tea.  Granted these days I have to mix mine half sweet, half unsweet due to medications, but oh it was still so good!  Our waitress was prompt and friendly.  The food arrived freshly cooked to order and hot.  To say it was delicious would be an understatement. We both got the special of the day, a guilty pleasure.  A breaded and fried pork tenderloin with homemade mashed potatoes and creamy gravy with lots of pepper!  The tenderloin filled the entire plate, and the gravy nearly overflowed!  Our waitress made sure to fill our tea and checked on us several times, but in a courteous way without being intrusive to our meal and or conversation.

While we were eating I witnessed something truly touching.  There was an elderly couple who had just finished their meal.  The man was using a walker and the lady a cane.  When they got up to leave two of the young waitress came over from where they were standing to help them both all the way out to their car.  Good hearted, down home, old fashioned, real genuine, customer service with a smile!  Kudos to Big Rig for hiring such attentive staff and to these young girls' parents for raising them with manners and caring.

This is a place I plan to keep on our must stop at again list.  You take the good with the bad. It's old.  It's unique.  It's a diamond in the rough. These are the real truck stops, the ones that cater to truckers, that have been around for ages.  These are the ones that we as truckers need to show our support to so they can stay in business.  I plan on writing them a thank you letter for the excellent meal and customer service with a little friendly, gentle encouragement to try to pay closer attention to the ladies room.  Lets help build these places up instead of letting them continue to become run down!

Tired, FULL, & ready to relax


~Sierra Sugar

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Trucker Path (pampered) Puppy


Missy the pampered #TruckerPath puppy.


8:30am call time meant getting up at 5:30am for tea, coffee, getting dressed, pretrip inspection of the truck, and of course walking the four-legged, furbaby, Missy.  We had an hour and a half drive from New Braunsfel to a ranch west of Austin by the name Raimer Ranch for the filming of the Trucker Path commercial. We had to roll before I could do my makeup, so that was done on the road.  Did you know it's not easy sitting on the bunk in the back trying to put on makeup while he drives down a two-lane Texas back road, up and down hills, with bumps curves, and switchbacks?  It's amazing I didn't exit the truck looking like a clown! But our interview was first in the morning, so you do what has to be done.  Plus they wanted picturesque shots and video of our truck throughout the day all the way up through sunset.  It was going to be a long day.  


A long hot day in the Texas August heat.


Usually the heat doesn't bother us, or the dog too much.  The truck has a good AC. Even when we sit for a while we keep it idling with the AC and fans going.  Texas heat is arid, dry, and not humid like Florida. But at 115 degrees you don't need humidity to feel the heat.  Today we knew he and I would have to suff... endure the heat at least.  Missy would maintain her usual spot snoozing on the bed in the comfort of the air-conditioned truck.


Arriving on set early the crew was just setting up for lights and sound. We met the director Gina and the assistant Director Zane.  Then we were informed due to sound the truck would need to be shut off throughout most of the day.  We were told, however, not to worry, they had a cool place for Missy to stay.


This cool place turned out to be her very own 28 foot travel trailer complete with air-conditioner already cranking.  


The DOG had her VERY OWN trailer!  Talk about PAMPERED!  


The talent and crew were in a shaded garage with fans.  Fans.  But the 20 pound dog was escorted to her own private trailer to relax and snooze all day in cool and comfort.  Periodically, people would go check on her, pet her, take her for a walk, make sure her water was fresh.  Oh and when the filming was done the entire crew just HAD to come love on her.  

Next I expect her to start demanding for filet mignon treats and a golden collar. Maybe her own star on Hollywood Blvd? But no, she didn't let the pampering go to her fuzzy little head. She continues to snore all day in the truck sucking up the AC and hogging the bed.  That's my little Missy girl and I wouldn't have her any other way. She deserves all the pampering she can get!


Thank you to both the production company, Region C, and to  Trucker Path for everything you've done for Allen and I, but also for treating my little puppy like the pampered superstar that she is to me.


~Sierra Sugar

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Truckers it's time to #FixTrucking

#Trucking link and hash tag courtesy of Trucking Social Media



Last night we pulled off to get fuel, but trucks were backed up onto the road and couldn't get into the truck stop.  Come to find out it wasn't the the fuel lanes that were full, it was a truck that was broken down right at the entrance. The driver was on the CB asking for help, no one was answering.  There were a good six trucks between us and the guy in trouble.  Allen started talking to the guy on the CB while we found another way to the fuel island.  I ran inside to let the fuel desk know they had a truck broken down outside.  Apparently, no one else had alerted them.

After we fueled up Allen went over to physically help the poor guy with his truck.  He had a CAT motor that was completely out of fuel.  He didn't know about priming the fuel system or using ether for the air filter.  He wanted to pour diesel directly into the air filter like a carbirator on an old car. He didn't even know where the filter was.  Allen managed to get him moved out of the way after two bottles of ether.

How is this relevant to the article below?  All the trucks behind the guy who were stuck were ignoring him on the CB.  They never got out to see if he needed help.  They were sitting in their trucks playing on their tablets or talking on their phones.  The one who did get out only came over with a nasty attitude and a nastier mouth, cussing and yelling at him to get out of the way.

No one knows how to work on their rigs any more.  No one wants to learn how to fix anything.  No one wants to help anyone.  No one has any common courtesy or patience any more. Every one wants to be Mr. Billy Badass super trucker.  Well let me tell you, by doing that all you succeed in doing is bringing yourself and the entire industry down! 

Please people take some time to learn your equipment.  It is your livelihood.  If you can't fix it, don't drive it! Help one another. Talk to one another. Be considerate. Be kind. Show some common courtesy.  Use common sense.  Look out for each other. Let's be the professionals and the brotherhood and sisterhood... essentially the family we are supposed to be.

~Sierra Sugar


http://truckingsocialmedia.com/time-is-now-to-fix-trucking/

Friday, August 7, 2015

Tough Tested - "Driver" mono earbuds Review

I have been hesitant to write this review because it isn't entirely a positive review.  It isn't entirely a negative review either.  I struggle with saying negative things about great companies such at Tough Tested.  After a bit of internal debate and a talk with the always wonderful Gigi, I realized they don't become great without overcoming those little bumps in the road.  This is where Tough Tested shines! Their customer service and their willingness to work out the kinks.


A while ago I received a set of their Driver Noise Control Mono Earbuds with In-Line Mic as part of a gift pack for winning a contest. Also included in the pack was their Tech Gear Bag and an iPhone charger.  Being an Android user I was unable to use the iPhone charger, but it made a great gift to a friend who loves it!  Review of the Tech Gear Bag will follow shortly.

The Good:



All of Tough Tested's earbuds come packed in a study hard plastic case that while sealed and secure it is not "adult proof".  You know that dreaded so called child proof stuffed that dulls scissors, breaks can openers, shatters ceramic knives, and sends c14 explosive running away in tears.  Thank you Tough Tested for not using that stuff!  


Also, in a sea of black cords, Tough Tested stands out with a touch of Orange.  After all Orange is the New Black.  And in the trucking world Orange is safety too.  It's easy to see. It's nice touch.  


The single over the ear hook is comfortable even for small ears.  It doesn't pinch or dig.  I especially loved Tough Tested choice of earbud tips.  They offer two; the standard half sphere, and a diminishing three tiered set.  Both sets come in a soft silicon.  For me having small ears and even smaller ear canals the tiered set were the most comfortable.  



The in-line mic has a clip that allows it to be placed anywhere on your shirt for maximum control of voice output quality.  There are volume controls and a switch for EQ when you just want to listen to music, and voice for when you are talking on the phone.  Now let me tell you the sound quality is EXCELLENT even for a single earbud.  Whether you are listening to music, youtube, or an important business conference you are going to hear everything, and hear it comfortably.


The Bad:


Unfortunately, people on the other end could not hear me very well. No matter where I placed the mic, even holding it up close to my mouth I was told I sounded muffled.  This was a problem with the Marine set as well.  I tried using both sets with a different phone and in different conditions with no change.  After talking with a few other people who have used the Tough Tested earbuds we came to the conclusion that it was most likely an issue with the pitch/tone of my voice not being compatible with the internal mic settings, as they have not had this problem. For those that don't know me, I have a soft, unique highish pitch voice. Men and women with a stronger or deeper voice have no problems talking into these and being heard by those on the other end.  After talking with Gigi, we plan on getting together at GATS and doing a few tests to work out the kinks.  Now that is customer service!


The Overall:


Despite actually being unable to talk on the Driver Earbud set at this time, I still would give Tough Tested high marks for quality, durability, versatility, comfort, and customer service. After GATS I plan to do an update on the earbuds and see if we were able to work out the voice issues.  

If you are looking for a sturdy set of comfortable earbuds to wear while you are driving that are both durable and offer good sound quality I would recommend any of the Tough Tested brand earbuds, single or double.  Please don't let my issue stop you from trying them. I've spoken with several people who use them regularly and it appears my situation is unique.  Beyond that, their custom service is top notch!  If you're not familiar with their brand of products look for them in any of the major truck stops, especially Love's.  

Or you can check out their website:  http://mizco.com/tough-tested/
From there you can find both their Facebook and Twitter links!  If you're going to GATS make sure to stop by their booth too!



~Sierra Sugar



Friday, July 31, 2015

Exciting Opportunities!

Teaser Revealed

The other day I mentioned I had a surprise that I couldn't reveal yet.  Well things are pretty much confirmed now.  Some of you might remember the interview I shared from Trucker Path.  

Trucker Path

Trucker Path is an app that truckers and travelers use to help find parking and stopping places across the country.  It's helpful for for locating both major chain truck stops, the old mom and pop stops, rest areas, parking, restaurants nearby, Wal-Mart, hotels, and more.  Every place has user reviews so you know what kind of place it is.  How far away, what exit, what side of the road, etc.  We love it! 

Ok, so the BIG news?

Allen and I use the app all the time. After I spoke with them at MATS to do some cross promotion for Missing Truck Driver Alert Network they ended up interviewing me, as I previously mentioned.

Earlier this week they contacted me about a promotional video/ commercial they are filming.  Trucker Path wants to have me and Allen in it!  They've made arrangements with their production company to get us down to Austin next week for filming.  The video will premier and play the whole time at GATS. I didn't know this, but apparently Trucker Path is one of the big sponsors at GATS, so I'm kind of blown away and excited all at the same time.

The AMAZING RRE team

Allen's company, Roadrunner Expedite, has been wonderful in working with us to give us the time to go there, company shirts, etc.  Such a fantastic team and group of people!! So of course shout outs to Jim, James, Laura, Scott, Nicole, Patrick, and entire dispatch team!  Y'all totally rock! 

~Sierra Sugar

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

South Dakota Rest Areas are Possessed

It was an innocent visit really, no need for the senseless attack.  I was just sitting there minding my own business as it were, when out of no where *BAM* or rather *SPLASH* all over my back were streaks of icy cold water. Startled, I jumped to my feet.  Nearly toppling over as I spun around in the small confining space, I both cursed and thanked those close walls as my forgotten pants fell to my ankles. With my now soaked back pinned against the locked stall door I watched in horror as the possessed icy water continued to spiral upwards out of this South Dakota rest area Ladies Restroom toilet and attack the walls as it once attacked me.  Then all went silent.  As quickly as it started it stopped.  The water stilled.  I pulled my pants up and rushed outside where he was waiting for me like always. 

Yes, he helped me clean up.  

No he still hasn't stopped laughing.

[This was experienced and written back in April.  Yes, I had a good laugh at myself, you can too!  Ladies, just be forewarned.  If you're traveling through South Dakota and stop to use a rest area facility at night, the ghosts are pranksters!]

~Sierra Sugar

Monday, July 20, 2015

Riddle Me This

How can I feel perfectly content in our average (read small) 73" sleeper "big truck", yet feel claustrophobic traveling up and down the highways here on the East coast of the US?  Logic dictates that there is more room outside the truck than there is inside, right?  But as I stare out the windows each day at the trees and the green I can't help but feel a sense of being closed in, trapped.  All I want to do is retreat to the comfort of the sleeper of the truck to write or draw.  Where its small, where it's safe.  How does that make sense?


I remember the first Twilight book, don't judge me, the books were good, the movies awful. After Bella left Phoenix and arrived in Forks, Washington everything was green and wet. The huge trees crowded her view.  She missed the brown of the desert, the view you could see for miles.  The first time I read the books I didn't quite understand that.  You see, growing up in Florida, yes the beaches and ocean, but also trees, trees, nothing but trees. Trees, and grass, and swamp, and green.  Green everywhere.  Pine trees and great big beautiful Spanish Moss Oaks hundreds of years old crowd the roads, arching over them, canopies protecting all below from the sun and rain.


But you know what else comes with the South and its oceans, and green, and trees, and rains?  Humidity.  The air itself literally weighs on you like one of grandma's heavy quilts. Except this quilt has been soaked in hot water and its steaming you while you bake underneath in the sun, roasting, suffocating.  It's heavy.  It's like trying to walk through hot, sticky, melted butter every day.  But when you live in it your whole life, you don't know any different.  That's life.  You grab an ice cold glass of sweet tea, pull your hair up into a ponytail, and go on.  Open-toe shoes are your best friend.  Cotton breathable clothes are a must for survival in the saturated heat.  Panythose?  Forget about those!  Except for hanging your onions and apples.  AC, big paddle fans, trips to the beach, river, springs, or any other cool watering hole are the elements of survival for summers in the South.  And everywhere you look is green.  Even the beaches.  I didn't know any different, and I couldn't imagine a place where brown and dry would ever be considered beautiful or comforting.


Then I climbed into a big truck.


My whole world changed.


Our first trip out he took me to Seattle by way of Salt Lake City.  After, we went down through Utah.  I was literally rendered speechless and into tears at the beauty of the barren red rock.  For the next 7 months we traveled back and forth across the US.  Up to Seattle and back to Nashville.  Across Utah, Arizona, Colorado, out to California and back.  I saw New Mexico, all over Texas, even up to South Dakota and the Black Hills, Kansas and the great plains.  But everywhere we went, I was always happy to go back west, to Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico.  Especially Utah, Montana, and Wyoming for some reason.  Each for similar and different reason.  Utah for its breath-taking barren beauty.  But all of them for the wide open spaces.  (queue Dixie Chicks) I felt free and alive out there.  I could look and never get tired of what I saw.  My mind would wander with ideas.  I realized for the first time I didn't feel crowded.


And then we'd head back East.  About the time we would cross the Mississippi River I could feel my mood change.  The roads felt darker.  The trees were taunting me, teasing me.  They hovered, their branches reaching out to snare me.  It felt like a trap.  They were going to hold me back East forever and never let me see the beauty of the West again.  I could feel my anxiety start to rise and my depression start to sink into my chest.  And suddenly I understood what Bella felt.  I longed for the brown.  For the dry, or dryer.  I longed for the wide open spaces.


Everyday we run, well he does.  He drives.  Expedite keeps us moving and busier.  It was a smart move.  But as a solo expedite driver freight lanes are limited.  Meaning, we are limited to the Eastern part of the country.  Don't get me wrong, I've seen some beautiful things I never would have seen.  Expedite gives us lighter loads, we can take some different routes, off the beaten path.  I count myself lucky to see the things I have.  Yet, every day I feel those trees closing in on me, mocking me.  I try to look beyond them in vain.


The outside makes me feel claustrophobic.  It's too small.  Yet the 73" of our sleeper is my safety.  For now atleast.  Until we can figure out a way to get to those wide open spaces once again.


~Sierra Sugar.