You don’t have to spend a ton of money to treat your mandatory breaks like mini-vacations

December 2019/January 2020

Wendy Parker

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You may have been everywhere, man, but where have you stopped for a minute to get out and look around?

Before the mob starts poking me with pitchforks about the lack of time anyone has to do anything other than drive, look for parking and sweat traffic, let me tell you that I get it.

What I also get is that a broke-down truck don’t make a dime, and neither does a driver who has crippling health issues. Mind you, not all those issues are visible. Mental health is suffering right along with physical health in this industry. The “go, go, go” to beat the electronic clock and “fight, fight, fight” for decent rates is taking a toll on professional drivers.

Not everyone uses it, but the 34-hour reset in the hours-of-service regulations is there for your benefit. Taking the time to remove yourself from the truck, even if it’s just for a few hours, is a good thing. Nothing clears the mind and helps with relaxation like fresh air and visual stimulation that doesn’t involve looking at the rear-end of a four-wheeler for hours at a time.

The following are a few suggestions for some “Line One Layovers” that are not only inexpensive, they’re accessible when you’re out on the road.

Santa Rosa, N.M.

Located off I-40 between Amarillo, Texas, and Albuquerque, N.M., Santa Rosa is a great place to plan a layover. Close proximity to attractions like The Blue Hole, Santa Rosa Lake State Park, and a quaint downtown stretch of historical Route 66 that includes the Route 66 Auto Museum make this area a great stop for some refreshing out-of-the-truck relaxation.

Each of the big three truck stops are represented within 5 miles of city center. In all, there are approximately 289 commercial truck parking spots, 21 showers, multiple fuel islands and service bays, 24-hour food, ample access to laundry facilities, and the ability to reserve spots ahead of time, making this one of the most truck-friendly side trips.

The Blue Hole is free to visit and has limited tractor-only parking. There is no overnight parking, and there is no charge to park. It’s not recommended to expect space on holidays or weekends, but a Wednesday afternoon in early summer would be a likely time to find the least congestion.

Be advised – the water is really, really cold. Part of the enjoyment is watching people’s faces when they bite the bullet and jump in.

An afternoon at Blue Hole can be done for free and is thoroughly enjoyable.

It’s beautiful, clean and considered one of the best natural “swimming holes” in the world.

There are picnic tables and shaded spots to sit, as well as a park area to explore. It’s a smallish park, easy to navigate on foot. Definitely worth a stop even if you don’t want to take the freezing plunge or a scuba-diving class.

Within walking distance of Blue Hole is the Santa Rosa Visitor Information Center in which there is an abundance of literature about the area and points of interest. Park Lake does allow RVs and may consider a tractor-only parking situation. Campsite reservation is seasonal, March through September.

Route 66 Auto Museum, situated between I-40 and Route 66, is within walking distance of truck stops and also has visitor parking for up to three tractor-trailers. Admission is $5, but owners Bozo and Anna offer a $2 discount for veterans and active-duty or reserve military. They also welcome truckers. It’s definitely a friendly spot.

This is a great spot for a day stop. A brand new ’50s-style cafe is set to open on-premises after the first of the year, offering full diner-style meals in a sit-down retro experience. More than 30 custom classic cars are on display – gear-heads will really love this place. Open seven days a week, the unusually early opening hour (7:30 a.m.) gives folks who don’t stick to a regular nine-to-five schedule an opportunity to get in and out before lunch.

Uber, Lyft and car rentals are available in the area. Remember, there are a lot of car rental agencies that will pick you up at truck stops. Also inquire about any discounts they may give to CDL holders or veterans, if that applies.

Crater of Diamonds State Park, Murfreesboro, Ark.

Give me 37 and a half acres between Texarkana and Little Rock and I’ll show you one of the only places the public can search for diamonds in the soil of their original source.

Crater of Diamonds State Park is a little farther off the beaten path than some care to travel for a side trip, but the potential pay-out is limited only to the amount of sifting, digging and searching you care to do in a day.

The park itself has limited tractor-only accessibility. There is no overnight parking for tractor trailers available. This is definitely a day trip. Reserved commercial parking and truck stops are verifiable in Arkadelphia, which is about 45 miles from Murfreesboro, where Diamond Crater is located.

Mining tools are available for a daily rental fee and prices vary. If you take your own tools, an adult can sift as much dirt as their little heart desires for $10 per day. This park does not offer discounts for military or senior citizens. Children 6-12 are $5 per day. Kids 5-and-younger dig for free. The park is pet friendly as long as the animal is leashed and under control.

Everything you find is yours to keep. This isn’t as gimmicky as it sounds. There have been some substantial finds at Crater of Diamonds.

If digging in the dirt doesn’t sound relaxing, there are hiking trails and a wildlife observation blind for park visitors to enjoy free of charge.

Bank fishing from the Missouri River, stocked within the park by Arkansas Game and Fish Commission regularly with trout, requires a fishing license. Check with the Ranger station for information about one-day or visitor short-term licenses.

Mammoth Cave, Ky.

The stretch of I-65 between Elizabethtown and Bowling Green sees many commercial vehicles. Parking is sometimes an issue, but again there is reserved parking available at multiple locations along this well-traveled path.

Elizabethtown itself is a beautiful little city, full of quaint antiques shops and local restaurants. There’s an abundance of antique architecture to set the backdrop for a historic costumed walking tour every Thursday evening between June and September.

Historical downtown areas are not big-truck friendly, but Uber and Lyft are available in the area and operate to and from truck-friendly parking areas that are in close range.

A little further down the way, Mammoth Cave National Park is another side trip worth taking. Located approximately 10 miles from the nearest verifiable commercial truck parking, the park has ample space for tractor-only parking at the visitor’s center, but remember that this is a national park and commercial vehicles are forbidden from using park roads to enhance their own revenue. It’s always a good idea to call ahead if you plan on bob-tailing into the park.

There is no charge for parking or entry to the park itself. Cave tours are divided into different categories of price, and vary from $8 to $30. Operating hours vary with the seasons. LL

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Wendy Parker

Wendy Parker has covered the trucking industry since 2012 after she says she “lost my mind and decided to climb inside my husband’s big truck to travel with him as an over-the road, long-haul trucker.” Her unique writing style that ranges from biting satire to investigative journalism coupled with her unbridled passion for fighting round out a wildly talented stable of writers.