The Spirit stops in Grand Island, Neb.

September 4, 2020

Chuck Robinson

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One question on the mind of truckers – including Jon Osburn, skipper of OOIDA’s tour trailer –stopping at the TA Travel Center in Grand Island, Neb., might be where is the grand island itself?

The Spirit of the American Trucker tour trailer is scheduled to be at the Grand Island TA on Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 7-8. It is at Exit 305 from I-80.

Grand Island is 95 miles west of Lincoln, Neb., and 45 miles east of Kearney, Neb.

The city is named for an island in the Platte River that has been lost because the river was dammed for flood control, explains on the Grand Island Tourism website. Early settlers were German.

The Grand Island TA is northwest of the I-80 and South Alda Road interchange. On the southeast corner of the interchange is the Crane Trust, which is dedicated to protecting the habitat of for whooping cranes, sandhill cranes and other migratory bird species. Their offices are in a converted Nebraska Nature and Visitor Center, but the facility is closed now because of the coronavirus.

Sandhill cranes create quite a sight in spring when they migrate. National Geographic named this annual migration event as one of North America’s two greatest natural wildlife phenomena, the other being Alaska’s Caribou migration, says the Grand Island Tourism website. March is the best month to see them, and Visit Nebraska offers suggestions where to do that.

Grand Island is the birthplace of actor Henry Fonda, who grew up there and near Omaha, Neb., where his father owned a printing company. He got into acting then the mother of Marlon Brando talked him into joining the Omaha Community Playhouse, according to his obituary in The New York Times.

A huge truck and some scared drivers in Albert Lea

At the stop in Albert Lea, Minn., The Spirit had a huge truck as a neighbor, reports Jon Osburn, skipper of OOIDA’s tour trailer. The truck has a 166-inch sleeper.

“It not only has a bathroom, but it has a ceiling fan,” Osburn said.

OOIDA's tour trailer, The Spirit, next to a truck with a huge sleeper
Photo by Jon Osburn, skipper of OOIDA’s tour truck, the Spirit of the American Trucker

Also in Albert Lea, many drivers talked about being uneasy about picking up and delivering in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., for fear of being caught up in protests or angry mobs. Many are being careful to be out of the area before evening.

“One driver said, ‘I’m loading in St. Paul and driving to Portland, Ore. I guess I shouldn’t buy a lottery ticket today,’” Osburn said.

A bill to increase penalties for protesters obstructing traffic access to a highway, airport or public transit was vetoed by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton in June, reported Land Line State Legislative Editor Keith Goble. State law allows penalties of 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. The legislation would have raised the penalty for obstructing access to one year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine.

Avoiding protest areas is wise, Doug Morris, OOIDA’s director of safety and security, said in late May. If a truck driver comes across a protest or violent situation, truckers should keep their doors locked and windows rolled up, and they should stay in the truck if at all possible.

Stop by when you see The Spirit

If you see OOIDA’s tour trailer, stop by and say hello to Jon Osburn, its skipper. 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 at The Spirit. You also can get vouchers for flu, shingles and pneumonia vaccines there.

After Grand Island, OOIDA’s tour trailer is scheduled to stop in York, Neb., and then Salina, Kan. Here is the schedule for The Spirit.

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.