OOIDA’s tour trailer heads to Montana this week

June 1, 2020

Chuck Robinson

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Next up for OOIDA’s tour trailer are a couple of stops in Montana. The Spirit of the American Trucker is first scheduled to be at the TA Travel Center in Laurel, Mont., on June 2-4.

The Laurel TA is at Exit 437 from Interstate 90. There are 80 truck parking spots there. The website says the Laurel TA Cafe full-service restaurant is open.

The Laurel TA is about 400 miles from The Spirit’s previous stop in Hot Springs, S.D. It is less than 20 miles southwest of Billings, the largest city in Montana. Just south of I-90 between Billings and Laurel flows the Yellowstone River, which The Spirit crossed in Billings.

The town’s name memorializes a flowering evergreen shrub that grows in North Carolina, the home of a railroad official in 1882, according to the Laurel Chamber of Commerce website. Previous to that there had been a railroad station there named Carlton.

Laurel was a big railroad town. In fact, it was home to the largest railroad roundhouse between St. Paul, Minn., and Seattle. Laurel was chosen instead of Billings because there were fewer residences crowding the railroad.

Oil has been historically important to the area. Cenex Harvest States, a cooperative oil refinery, is in there. It began on 1930 as the Laurel Oil & Refinery Co. Read a short history here, in a 2008 article published in 2008 in the Billings Gazette titled “Laurel at 100.”

Cenex operates another refinery in McPherson, Kan.

Being smart around protesters

With protests taking place in cities across the U.S., it was heartening to see some drivers playing it smart while he was on the way to Laurel, said Jon Osburn, skipper of The Spirit.

While on the road, Jon passed some trucks hauling construction cranes to downtown Rapid City, S.D. They apparently got wind of the peaceful protests in downtown Rapid City and decided to pull over and wait it out.

“We do have some drivers paying attention,” Jon said.

Protest areas are bad places for tractor-trailers, and OOIDA has warned members and drivers to be wary. Try to avoid the areas, OOIDA suggests. Realize that your truck insurance may well exempt damage incurred in areas where a state of emergency has been declared or where are riots or civil unrest. Read more advice here.

Stop by when you see The Spirit

If you see The Spirit tour truck, stop by and say hello to Jon. 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. Also, you can get vouchers for flu, shingles and pneumonia vaccines from Jon.

After Laurel, Jon and The Spirit are scheduled to stop in Missoula, Mont. Here is the schedule.

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.