Editor’s Page
Dragons, diaries and Joe Dirt

Sandi Soendker

The Dragon. Last issue, we featured a story about the stretch of U.S. Highway 129 through the Smoky Mountains, specifically the 11 miles that crosses the border between North Carolina and Tennessee. This road, known as the “Tail of the Dragon,” twists through more than 300 curves in just over 11 miles. C.W. McCall would describe it as “hairpin county and switchback city.”

For OOIDA President Jim Johnston, Mark Reddig’s story “Beware the Dragon” took Jim back to the days when he was pushing a rig up and down the road.

Jim says he was going from Pennsylvania down to Maryland to deliver a load. He got off the turnpike onto a road that turned out to be “the Highway from Hell.” This road went on and on, curve after curve. At the end, his arms ached and he was worn to a frazzle. When he reached the receiving point, the guy there said, “How do you like our new highway?” Jim said, “What new highway?” That’s when he found out about the new road that ran exactly parallel to the “snake” he’d just driven.

OOIDA scholarships. If you grew up in a trucking family, you’ve probably heard plenty of stories like Jim’s. Darren Stafford grew up a truckin’ kid, and, in this issue, you’ll read an essay he wrote describing how growing up with a trucking dad impacted his life. Darren is the son of OOIDA member Lewis H. Stafford Sr. of Cambridge, MD. This essay earned him a $2,000 scholarship from OOIDA. More on the five recipients on Page 46.

Uglypuppy diaries. Speaking of trucking families, during June Safety Month, online readers really got to know OOIDA members Renee and Mark Taylor and their pre-school age son, Lee. We asked them to do a “compliance diary” and they agreed. According to our webmaster, from May 31 to the end of June, almost 4,700 online readers read the Taylors’ daily diary.

Mark and Renee, who do business as Uglypuppy Exploration out of Warren, AR, wrote a journal detailing every single day of the month of June. We published it on both of our Web sites, and We regret that our print edition subscribers didn’t get a chance to read their “Safety Month Journal.” As one member/reader from Texas said, “It was good in that it contained the carefully chronicled daily hassle that no one in the industry speaks of with regularity.” A special thanks to the Taylors.

Jessica’s back home. In the past months, another family of Land Line readers has been chronicled daily by worldwide media attention at a level few people in the world experience. A heartfelt congratulations to owner-operator Greg Lynch and his wife, Deadra, other family members and friends, who by the time this magazine arrives in their mailbox in Palestine, WV, will have their daughter, Pvt. Jessica Lynch, home again. This afternoon, a West Virginia trucker e-mailed me a story about Pvt. Lynch from the July 16 Parkersburg Sentinel with the note, “You gotta love this kid!” In the Sentinel, staff reporter Connie Dale writes that Debbie Hennen, county assessor and one of Jessica’s good friends, reports that Jessica told her she is getting her hair back, although right now the former POW thought she looked like Joe Dirt.

And the tote board says. As some of you know (a few of you have been there all the way), 2003 is OOIDA’s 30th year representing professional truckers. October has been designated our anniversary issue and by that issue, it’s our goal to hit 100,000 members. As of the morning I wrote this, our membership department reports we have 98,285 members.

Where’s the Spirit? In the “OOIDA on the road” column by Woody and Paula Chambers, we have a new “where was this photo taken” contest going in each issue that’s been really fun for readers and for our staff, too. The brainchild of Wild Bill Rode, the first contest photo was of the OOIDA tour truck strolling by “The Thing.” We quickly learned that every trucker knows where this “Thing” tourist attraction is located. For our May issue, we featured the truck parked in front of Freedom Hall at the Kentucky Fairgrounds. The rule is simple: The 30th caller to get it right wins $50. Calls were nonstop and most correctly identified the building in the background.

Says I to the crew, “This is just too easy; there isn’t anywhere in these United States these drivers don’t recognize.” So we got sneakier. The July issue featured a mystery shot of the OOIDA truck rolling past the Texas Canyon rest area off I-10 in Arizona. I’ll admit I was surprised when the phones immediately started ringing with the right answer and the exact mile marker. OK for youse guys. On Page 53 of this issue is the new mystery photo. And this one should keep you stumped for a few days.

Next truck show: Dallas. On the calendar for Sept. 26-28 is the truck show at the Dallas Convention Center they call GATS, which stands for The Great American Trucking Show. OOIDA and Land Line will be there. Come by booth 1107.