For the first stop of 2020, The Spirit heads to Santa Nella, Calif.

January 10, 2020

Chuck Robinson


On the first stop on a short tour of California’s San Joachin Valley, OOIDA’s touring tractor-trailer heads for Santa Nella, Calif.

Jon Osburn, skipper of the Spirit of the American Trucker, plans to be at the Santa Nella TA Travel Center on Jan. 13-15. It is at the junction of I-5 and Highway 33, Exit 407 from the interstate.

The last time Jon and The Spirit were at the Santa Nella TA in January 2018 is emblazoned on his memory. That happens when you are awakened by some adamant banging on your door in the wee hours of the morning. Some guy shouts to you about a fire. Man, alive, you’re backing your rig in your skivvies, trying to get clear of the fire. All the while, your canine co-pilot keeps asking what is going on and why are you not in bed?

That sort of thing sticks in your brain.

“It almost burned the truck stop down,” Jon recalls. “Fuel islands 2 through 34 were engulfed in fire.”

What happened was a truck caught on fire at the fuel island that Sunday morning. The fire destroyed the truck and damaged nearby fuel pumps and the canopy. No injuries were reported.

Here is a picture of the damage. Try to imagine the scene at night with flames towering above the canopy.

The memories of the years-ago fire notwithstanding, Santa Nella counts Pea Soup Andersen’s restaurant as a claim to fame. It is across Highway 33 from the Santa Nella TA Travel Center. You can’t miss the large lighted windmill there.

The original store in Buellton, Calif., was founded in 1924. The Santa Nella store opened in 1976.

There have been ownership changes over the decades, but still on the menu, from its early years until now, is the all-you-can-eat pea soup. On the menu it is called the “Traveler’s Special.” You can get vegetarian pea soup, onion cheese rolls, Danish pumpernickel bread and a chocolate or vanilla milkshake, and a choice of drink. You also can get pea soup in a bread bowl or get a cup of it as an add-on to your meal.

Whenever you see The Spirit tour truck, go say hello to Jon. He enjoys visiting about the Association’s activities and current issues. You also can join or renew your OOIDA membership for $10 off the regular price there. Also, you can get vouchers for flu, shingles and pneumonia vaccines from him at The Spirit.

Also, Jon has forms for the OOIDA Mary Johnston Scholarship Program, which has been assisting the children, grandchildren and legal dependents of OOIDA members in their efforts to gain a higher education since 1998. Applications and all required materials must be postmarked no later than Feb. 1.

You can find an application on the OOIDA website.

After Santa Nella, Jon plans to haul The Spirit to Wheeler Ridge, Calif., and then to Barstow, Calif, and Ontario, Calif. Here is the schedule.

Pilot Flying J
Chuck Robinson

Chuck Robinson formerly was senior copy editor for a weekly trade publication serving the fresh produce industry. He has served trade publications, horticultural journals and community newspapers for 25 years.