OOIDA’s tour trailer returns to Carl’s Corner, Texas

March 1, 2021

Chuck Robinson


Carl’s Corner, the next stop in Texas for OOIDA’s tour trailer, is something of a legendary place because of its storied past.

The Spirit of the American Trucker is scheduled to be at the Carl’s Corner Petro on March 2-4. It is at Exit 374 from I-35E, just south of Dallas.

Carl Cornelius opened Carl’s Corner in 1984, and he seemed set on making it a memorable landmark. He commissioned an Austin, Texas, artist to create some 10-foot frogs that were installed on the roof of the place, according to an account from the Austin American-Statesman.

There was a bar there too. Part of Cornelius’ marketing strategy was to have a woman whose handle was “Treasure Chest” coo into a CB mic, encouraging drivers to stop for drink.

That was one phase of its legendary past. The next began in the early 2000s, when Cornelius was thinking of getting out. Country music star Willie Nelson was a friend. Nelson came up with the idea of Willie’s Place, a truck stop selling Willie’s biodiesel fuel with a restaurant, convenience store and a concert theater. Willie’s Place opened in 2005, but closed in 2011. SavingCountyMusic.com has a few photos from those days and some remembrances upon the closing of Willie’s Place.

TravelCenters of America LLC, owner of Petro Stopping Centers, took over in 2011, and there was a fitting grand opening celebration.

The place is different now than it was in those legendary times, Osburn said, but that doesn’t mean worse. The showers now are nice, he says, and it is great to have a shop there. Also, the parking lot is not a dust pit anymore.

Even so, the bar is gone and stage is used for storage now. No more are adult beverages served, and no more great acts playing there. The Iron Skillet there now is great, he said, but back in the day, when a pal of Willie’s ran the restaurant, it served the biggest chicken-fried steak in the state.

“It’s nice now, but not the same. It’s very clean, and the folks that work there are nice and fun.” Osburn said. “It’s a great place to stay near Dallas and Fort Worth.”

Another name among the legends

Another name added to the list of legends connect to Car’s Corner is that of OOIDA life member Bill Ater Jr.

Ater was named a TA & Petro Citizen Driver in 2016. With the award, TravelCenters of American, which operates TA & Petro truck stops, recognizes drivers who earn public respect for the industry through their good citizenship, safety, community involvement, and leadership.

At the time, Ater was driving for Landstar. He has been driving for 42 years and had helped with relief efforts after a dozen hurricanes taking truckloads of supplies to the devastated areas.

As part of the Citizen Driver honor, the recipient gets to choose a TA or Petro travel center to be dedicated to them. Ater lives in Arlington, Texas, and chose Carl’s Corner.

Talk among drivers? Diesel prices

The top topic of discussion among drivers who have stopped by The Spirit has been the spike in diesel prices. Fuel for The Spirit increased 30 cents per gallon in 14 days from Laredo, Texas, to Bay Town, Texas, Osburn said, and it jumped 10 cents in one week.

This is the 17th consecutive week of rising diesel prices but in recent weeks the increases haven’t been just a penny or so. Check out the diesel price report here.

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 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 drivers without medical insurance to get flu, shingles and pneumonia vaccine vouchers at The Spirit.

After Hillsboro, OOIDA’s tour trailer is scheduled for Texas stops in Carl’s Corner and Terrell.

Here is the schedule for The Spirit. LL


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.