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.