Overdrive Extra

Randy Grider

Another trucker finds Joe’s Truck Stop the hard way

| November 09, 2012

Joe Faulkner built this wall decades ago to keep runaway trucks out of his yard and house. Youngsters dubbed it Joe’s Truck Stop.

The latest run-in with Joe’s Truck Stop occurred Wednesday, Nov. 7, when a truck driver failed to make the 90-degree turn along Highway 35 at the bottom of Lookout Mountain in Fort Payne, Ala. The driver was airlifted to Chattanooga with undisclosed injuries.

Joe’s Truck Stop in Fort Payne, Ala., may sound like a charming, old-fashioned mom-and-pop establishment, but names can be deceiving. I was reminded of this Wednesday afternoon when yet another trucker learned how treacherous a place it is.

In fact, Joe’s Truck Stop is not a truck stop at all. It’s a wall built a half century ago along Alabama Highway 35 by local resident Joe Faulkner to keep truckers descending Lookout Mountain from running into his yard and house. Wednesday’s crash injured a trucker who couldn’t make the 90-degree turn at the bottom of the steep grade. His rig jumped the lower part of the wall and crashed into the late Faulkner’s former house.

A little more history on how this trucker, like many before him, ended up at Joe’s Truck Stop:

In 1935, Faulkner built a house on Fifth Street, directly in front of a mountain road. Alabama designated the road a state highway in the 1950s, and it quickly became a shortcut to major roads linking cities like Huntsville, Ala., and Atlanta.

Truckers not used to the grade often burned out their brakes on the two-mile mountain pass. The first year it became a state route, 13 trucks went through Faulkner’s yard. One by one, he lost every tree in his yard to truck crashes. Trucks spilled loads of chickens, watermelons, cows, logs, lumber and steel onto Faulkner’s yard, porch, and roof. He once awoke to find three circus trucks in his yard.

After various state officials failed to make good their promises to fix the situation, Faulkner built a four-foot-thick concrete wall reinforced with wire, grader blades, steel pipe, and the chassis from two Dodge trucks. Local youngsters are credited with giving the wall its moniker.

Joe’s Truck Stop is now both infamous — several truckers over the years have been killed here — and famous, thanks to numerous websites that herald it as a roadside attraction. Andy Duncan, a former editor for Overdrive, even included it in his book, Alabama Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff.

I grew up in the Fort Payne area, and Joe’s Truck Stop was a common landmark. But if you are a trucker and find yourself using this notorious route, please be careful. Joe’s Truck Stop is one place you definitely don’t want to “drop in” on.

  • jescott418

    Maybe we just need more intelligent truck drivers? Its like building crash barriers on highways. They are not there to stop people from crashing. We know people will crash. All it does it make the crash more survivable. Same goes for air bags, crumple zones and so on. The thing we have not improved on is educating the driver and making the driver better.

  • Milkman

    Companies are in such a hurry to get bodies behind the wheel, they neglect to teach proper hill climbing and descending procedure. I have a two stage PAC brake in my truck and I have never had any problems with this hill or any others with heavy loads.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000327521515 Jason Haggard

    Your comment in itself doesn’t bode well for the industry, if you are relying on your engine brake to get you safely down a grade then you might be as dangerous as an improperly trained driver. If the engine brake fails and you have now idea how to descend a grade without one, then you might just be the next visitor to Joe’s Truck Stop

  • Barbara Moori

    Thanks for sharing the information, this post will create an awareness for truck drivers who have to cross the Joe’s truck shop.

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