OOIDA’s tour trailer stops in Steel City, aka Gary, Ind.

July 16, 2020

Chuck Robinson


The next stop for OOIDA’s tour trailer is Gary, Ind.

The Spirit of the American Truck tour trailer is scheduled to be at the Gary Petro from Friday through Monday, July 17-20. The Gary Petro Stopping Center is at Exit 9 from I-94.

The Gary Petro has 400 parking spots for big trucks and 16 diesel lanes. It is west of the I-94 interchange with I-65. It opened in 2013, and the interior commemorates the city of Gary, also known as “Steel City.”

Steel City

Gary was founded in 1906 by United States Steel Corp. as home to the company’s Gary Works steel mill. Gary is named for the founding chairman of U.S. Steel, Elbert Gary.

In a blitz of construction, U.S. Steel built a dozen blast furnaces and dug a canal to Lake Michigan for shipping.

U.S. Steel also laid out the original city and paid for a water and sewerage system for a city of 200,000 people, according to a history feature from the Indianapolis Star. Heat and gas for the town were by-products of the steel plants. Lots were sold with requirements that construction of homes or commercial buildings be started within 18 months.

COVID-19 masks available at The Spirit

Professional truck drivers can get a free mask from OOIDA’s tour trailer when it stops next in Rochelle, Ill.

OOIDA is distributing thousands of free masks to truck drivers at its stops throughout the U.S. These are some of the 15.5 million face masks that the U.S. Department of Transportation announced it would be. About 2.1 million masks were designated for highway and motor carrier workers.

OOIDA secured about 12,500 masks to distribute as part of its efforts to make sure that truck drivers have access to personal protective equipment.

While no one likes wearing masks, they are required to be worn in public and inside businesses by many states, counties and cities. You can learn more about various states’ mask requirements at Land Line’s COVID-19 page.

Lewie Pugh, OOIDA’s executive vice president, said the masks are available for truckers who want them. He acknowledged that some drivers are frustrated about the mandates. The Association also is neither supporting nor not supporting the mask wearing.

“We understand the frustration you have with having to wear these masks,” Pugh said. “We also know that drivers and the public are required to wear them in certain areas. So with that we are just trying to help supply you with them so you can do your job. If you don’t want one, you don’t have to take one.”

Truckers who have stopped by The Spirit have been appreciative of getting a mask, Jon Osburn, skipper of OOIDA’s tour trailer, said.

“You’ve paid for these already with your tax dollars, so go ahead and take one for when you need it,” Osburn said.

County orders to close truck stop restaurants because of the coronavirus are having a toll on truck drivers, Osburn said. The orders are leaving only fast-food restaurants open, and often not even allowing outdoor tables widely spaced for social distancing.

“They’re tired of eating in their trucks. They want to go in and have a sit-down meal,” Osburn said.

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. In addition to a free mask, you can get vouchers for flu, shingles and pneumonia vaccines from Jon.

The next stop for The Spirit after Gary is Monee, Ill. Here is the schedule.

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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.