Chicken dinner news

By Sandi Soendker
managing editor


Covering member news and the happenings in trucking is much like reporting community news; it’s just that our community is bigger than most. Sometimes the real fabric of this news is not headline stuff, but simply personal highlights of our lives. Newspaper folks affectionately refer to this as the “chicken dinner news.” Hearing and reading these stories always makes our big old coast-to-coast neighborhood seem more connected.

The late Richard McGrew, OOIDA member and photographer, told me once if you don’t believe how big the trucking family is, look around. How long does it take to see a truck?

During the September hurricanes, our trucking community was a particularly close-knit family. We kept in touch with many, both at home in Gulf States and on the road.

Danny Schnautz of Pasadena, TX, was in the path of Ike. His home and office is near Houston and Galveston Bay. Danny’s a longtime member of OOIDA and operations manager for Clark Freight Lines in Pasadena.

In an e-mail one Friday a.m., Danny said he and some “volunteers” were in the office doing paperwork, getting trucks paid, taking calls from brokers looking for empty trucks, and watching Ike online. He later e-mailed me via his BlackBerry: “It’s here.” That was as he left the office and headed for the house.

OOIDA member Gary Coe lives in Baytown, TX, about four miles from the Gulf Coast. While many of his neighbors headed inland, he and his wife and four Yorkies rode out the storm. Gary’s truck was parked, and he told us they had plenty of food, water, ammunition. Gary said that during Rita they evacuated, and he wanted no more of that mess.

While Gary, his wife and dogs hunkered down in Baytown, many Texas OOIDA members were on the road, cell phones in hand and an ear to the weather. OOIDA member Kenneth Becker of Montgomery, TX, was in North Dakota as Ike churned toward Texas. He called me from an oil field where he was working and said he was getting ready to see how his hometown fared with Ike.

Armed with satellite and laptop, he had his hometown punched in and monitored everything from Stanley, ND. Elisabeth and the kids were home in Montgomery, 55 miles northwest of Houston and endured the storm without Ken – who also missed Katrina and Rita because he was trucking. Don’t feel sorry for Elisabeth, though; I know her and she’s no cream puff.

Meanwhile, in Corpus Christi, OOIDA member Zhonzie Gering kept an eye on the destruction, but mainly it was business as usual for Gering Transportation. Zhonzie echoed what other truckers reported: “Times are tough.” Hurricane or not, he was working. We heard that more than once.

OOIDA Life Member Joe Martin of Porter, TX, is president and CEO of Boo Boo Cat Productions, creators of “Truckercise.” Joe reports his house and the office were destroyed by three giant oak trees that were victims of Ike’s winds. Joe says it will take a while to rebuild, but the good news is that his Truckercise business is still getting attention from trucking media. Joe, meanwhile, is still trucking. For more on Joe’s plan for exercising from the seat of your cab, visit truckercise.net.


Life Member Eddie “Texas Sun” Conrad has a neat new graphic on his truck. It’s a poster of Eddie, flanked by two other OOIDA members, Leland Martin of Mansfield, MO, and Howard Salmon of Anderson, CA. Here’s the story behind the poster. Eddie says Leland has a new CD out, and one of the songs on Leland’s CD is called “Shake a Truck Driver’s Hand.” Howard – a trucker and a Trucker Buddy – has a new CD out, too. One of his songs is called “Who Would They Look Up To.” Eddie came up with the idea of promoting trucking and the music of his two friends with this poster graphic. Tom Pullman of Mobile Signwerx, Fort Worth, made that happen.

Eddie, who is leased to Fikes Truck Lines and lives in Arlington, TX, sent us some photos of his “Cowboy Cadillac” with the poster mounted on the side.


Member Ray Shankle of Deerwood, MN, called us awhile back to let us know that one of his favorite old truck stops was open again after being closed for five years. Staff Writer Clarissa Kell-Holland followed up on the opening of the historic Shenandoah Truck Stop on I-70 near Cambridge, OH. It took awhile, but because of permit battles and other problems, they’ve been opening bits and pieces at a time.

Ron Myers, a former trucker and partner in the family-owned business, contacted us on Sept. 20 and let us know it was “D-Day.” The Shenandoah Restaurant was officially open for business. Ron said, “We are cooking right now and passed our inspection earlier today.” Ron wants to thank everyone for their patience. We want to thank Ron for his tenacity. The Shenandoah will fill a big need for truckers traveling along Interstate 70. As truckers know, the closest truck stops are at least 60 miles away in either direction.


A family of OOIDA members from the Wooster, OH, area, knows more than a bit about trucking with nearly 250 years of trucking experience under its collective belt. The Miller family was honored recently as the 2008 Great American Trucking Family by Trucker’s News.

Touted as ambassadors for trucking by friends and truckers on the road, the family has seven members currently driving truck – with a long history on the road behind them.

OOIDA member Wilson Miller and his wife, Wanda, together have 102 years behind the wheel driving team. Their son, Greg, and his wife, Leesa, also have a substantial career behind them with 34 and 17 years of driving respectively. Their other son, OOIDA member Mike Miller, has logged 32 years on the road. OOIDA Life Members Dennis and Carol Miller, who drive for FedEx, have a combined 62 years of driving experience. LL