Friend of Overdrive’s founder recalls Mike Parkhurst ‘wasn’t afraid of nothing’

user-gravatar
Updated Jul 24, 2021

truck drivers in front of a semi-truck holding signs with the text shutdown #2 january 31 until as long as it takes on themThis trucker shutdown, beginning Jan. 31, 1974, was one of the protests Overdrive founder Mike Parkhurst championed. The photo was taken in Los Angeles.

He might be 82 years old, but Donald Ridzon’s memories of Overdrive founder Mike Parkhurst haven’t dimmed. “I’m telling you, that guy, he wasn’t afraid of nothing,” he said. “He was always willing to dive into something that was different. He never backed out of it.”

Parkhurst, who died seven years ago on July 21, indeed thrived on plunging into all sorts of ventures peripheral to the scrappy monthly magazine he launched in 1961. Overdrive routinely skewered railroads, Teamsters, truck makers, law enforcement, regulators and government as a whole. With that as a platform, Parkhurst helped organize shutdowns. He established trade organizations intended for owner-operators. He opened a fancy resort for haulers passing through the Los Angeles area.

Read more in Overdrive's weekly 60th-annversary series of lookbacks on trucking history, and that of the magazine itself, via this link.Read more in Overdrive's weekly 60th-annversary series of lookbacks on trucking history, and that of the magazine itself, via this link.And then there were movies. Of the few projects that made it to completion, his biggest achievement was the feature-length trucking drama “Moonfire.” It was made during the 25 years he owned Overdrive, before selling it in 1986 to what’s now Randall-Reilly. Our recent 60th-anniversary coverage of the film, released in 1972, prompted Ridzon to contact Overdrive.

“The first showing was in a Columbiana movie theater and I was there with my family,” said Ridzon, who still lives near Columbiana, Ohio. He’d already been a member of the Parkhurst-founded Roadmasters group, so he was glad to meet Parkhurst. There were no real benefits to being a Roadmaster member, Ridzon said, but “if you had a Roadmaster decal on your truck, you were top-notch on the pile.”

Many years later, Parkhurst stayed at Ridzon’s house near Columbiana for a month, trying to raise funding for another feature film that was going to use Ridzon’s truck. As with “Moonfire,” Parkhurst had written the screenplay. “It was all about the strikes we’d had back in the old days,” Ridzon said. “The money part didn’t come together,” so the project never took off.

Ridzon started driving professionally as a teenager. "You got to have big balls to do what I did," he said. "I climbed in a truck when I was 16 or 17 years old." That was illegal since he wasn't old enough to have his driver’s license updated to a chauffeur’s license in those pre-CDL days. He got caught twice, but eventually got legal credentials.

[Related: 18 years old and hauling in 1917]

“I still haven’t quit to this day,” he said, though his hauling is limited to occasionally assisting his sons in the family business, D.W. Ridzon and Sons, which is licensed to sell aftermarket Peterbilt accessories like headlights and nameplates. He’s kept his Detroit-powered 1971 Peterbilt 359 that he bought new 50 years ago for $21,900.

For more background and anecdotes on Parkhurst’s wide-ranging forays as trucking activist, unabashed owner-operator advocate, and trucking industry entrepreneur, check the stories below. They include comments he sent me shortly before his death about one of his most outrageous  projects, the Roadmansion resort for drivers:  

**Overdrive's Roadmansion: A driver's oasis in 1967
**Overdrive founder 'spent his entire life trying to better' trucking
**Roadmansion photo gallery, background from founder Mike Parkhurst
**Memories: An Overdrive model, splurging on ice cream and a forgotten profile of founding firebrand Mike Parkhurst

Showcase your workhorse
Add a photo of your rig to our Reader Rigs collection to share it with your peers and the world. Tell us the story behind the truck and your business to help build its story.
Submit Your Rig
Reader Rig Submission