OOIDA’s tour trailer calls at Santa Nella, Calif.

January 14, 2021

Chuck Robinson


Santa Nella, Calif., is a familiar stop for a couple of reasons for Jon Osburn, skipper of OOIDA’s tour trailer, the Spirit of the American Trucker.

The Spirit is scheduled to be at the Santa Nella TA on Jan. 15-17. The truck stop is located at I-5 and Highway 33.

The Santa Nella TA has 216 parking spots for tractor-trailers. Like all sit-down restaurants in California, the diner there is temporarily closed because of the coronavirus crisis.

Warm memories

The last time Osburn and The Spirit were at the Santa Nella TA is emblazoned on his memory.

That happens when you are awakened by some obnoxious 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?

“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.

Pea Soup Andersen’s

The memories of the 2018 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.

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.

As tempting as the menu might be, it is take-out only right now. Still, take-out might be quite a bit better than nothing.

Stop by when you see The Spirit

If you see OOIDA’s tour trailer, stop by and say hello to Osburn. He enjoys visiting about the Association’s activities and current issues. He usually has copies of Land Line Magazine to hand out. You can join or renew your OOIDA membership for $10 off the regular price there. Free face masks are available for anyone with a commercial driver’s license at The Spirit. You also can get forms for uninsured drivers to get flu, shingles and pneumonia vaccine vouchers at The Spirit.

After Santa Nella, The Spirit is scheduled Jan 19-21 to be at the Wheeler Ridge, Calif., TA Travel Center and then Jan. 22-24 at the Barstow, Calif., TA.

Here is the schedule for The Spirit. LL