The signs sometimes don’t tell the whole story

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The big three have a bad habit of leasing only fuel pumps in rinky-dink truck stops and slapping signs on the building, thus making unsuspecting people such as myself think they’re going to get a big-three shower experience, when in fact, bathrooms in these facilities are actually tents out back with holes dug in the ground and “showers” consist of water hoses you have to share with the cattle haulers between washouts.

This is somewhat irritating to unsuspecting people such as myself, because I’ve come to trust that Petro/Loves/ Pilot/Flying J showers are generally in better condition than El Guapo’s Mexican jail bathroom, which, even with the pesky mile-long hole in the floor, contained higher sanitation standards and technology than the bathroom facilities at the “not really a J” in Harding, Mont. I especially liked the giant, moldy trash can full of used towels artfully placed inside the one operable shower – it really added to the “you’re going to contract something penicillin can’t cure” ambiance of the whole place.

I’ve taken showers in some extremely questionable places, and I try to value the varied flora and fauna my immune system has had the opportunity to battle. Instead of looking at it as a bad thing, I try to see the good in subjecting myself to the herptafluffalupugus virus on a regular basis – I sure as heck don’t get sick much, and the fact that I still have ten working, intact toes is a credit to my body systems (and the religious use of shower shoes) in general.

That being said (and most of it is a filthy lie, because I hate gross showers and would like to bitch incessantly about them, but it gets old, even for me), it still irritates me to find a Pilot or Flying J listed on the truck stop app, and think I’m going to get a nice, hot shower at the stop. It really sucks to pull up and find brand-new Pilot pumps in front of a dilapidated 7-11 that accepts your Pilot points for showers at Aunt Millie’s house, a block away. (This is also a filthy lie. I’ve never showered at Aunt Millie’s house, but I did shower in what I’m pretty certain was a fish-cleaning shed in Delaware once, although it was so dark and slimy, so it could have been the innards of a whale, who knows for sure, but I’m certain it’s where I developed my resistance to slimyfunkygross disease – thanks, Delaware!)

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I could go on with the bad, but why remind myself of the vaccinations I need when I can always go back to our favorite stops along the way to renew my faith in the fact that there are actually a few big truck stops who care?

When we’re out West, we always visit Jason Storey in his Pilot at exit 53 in Colby, Kan. This guy does a bang up job of managing the stop, and he’s there about 18 hours a day. It’s been a while since we dropped in to visit, but we always know we have a decent, clean place to stay in Kansas, because Jason and his crew make sure of it. And we appreciate it.

George and the smiley kids at Arby’s at the Pilot in Troy, Ill.George and the smiley kids at Arby’s at the Pilot in Troy, Ill.

Consistently, and without fail the Pilot in Troy, Ill., is where we find comfort. Time and again, we go there – it’s usually our last night on the road before we head home – and we find happy people doing a great job. I don’t know what’s in the water there, or why their employees seem to be so dang happy to offer a clean, well-managed stop, but I want more of it. Every single time we go there, we’re pleasantly surprised at the level of cleanliness and comfort the staff offers. And we appreciate it.

So sally forth, warriors of the road, shower on and keep America moving in a clean and orderly fashion. Or just wear shower shoes. Especially if you’re showering in Delaware.