By Bob "Cowpoke" Martin, Columnist
Carl Carstens is a name that may be familiar to anyone who's been involved in truck shows and various events in the past 18 years or so and to many more truckers who have pride in their ride and want to enhance its appearance.
I'm talking about Rockwood Products' owner and founder and a guy whose heart is really invested in the trucking industry.
I first met Carl at the Iowa 80 Truckers Jamboree in 1994. Carl was there selling African rosewood interior accessories, working out of his van. I bet the folks at Iowa 80 are glad now that they didn't take offense and run him off.
About the time I started making a pest of myself on the phone with Carl and showing up at Rockwood Products, he was getting into the stainless accessories. Today, the Rockwood stainless accessories are the top of the line. Most chrome shops, better truck stops, Peterbilt and Kenworth dealers carry the Rockwood line of accessories.
For a long time everything he did was for Peterbilt trucks, but he finally developed a full line for Kenworths. That's fine. KW and Pete are Paccar family.
Carl is an ovalhead extraordinaire. He could be the point man for those of us ate up with Peterbilt … and there are many of us.
I had some good times at the shop, getting him to make custom pieces for me, a couple of which ended up in production.
My favorite memory is when I got picked for a spread in Peterbilt's magazine, First Class. The editor who had the assignment told me he had access to a Lear jet and could meet me anywhere for the photo shoot and interview; just figure out a when and a where. I couldn't wait to call Carl.
Carl seemed just as excited as I was and asked where we were going to do the shoot? I told him "at Rockwood Products" and the phone went silent for a long time. He was blown away. Since then I'm sure he has met with many Peterbilt higher-ups, but back then he was just an ovalhead like the rest of us.
Carl is involved with a lot of charity truck shows like the Truckin' For Kids event in Irwindale, CA. Rockwood designs and furnishes the trophies for these shows and others, including the Mid-America Trucking Show at Louisville. They make most of the other truck show trophies look like bowling trophies.
Personally, I think as far as charitable actions go that Carl outdid himself sometime early last year by donating, along with some sponsors, a 2004 Peterbilt. He had planned on restoring the truck but instead donated it to the Clarion County Career Center in Shippenville, PA, for the Diesel Technology Class project. He sent along all they would need to create a drop dead interior.
The youngsters brought the truck, aptly called "Extra Credit," to this year's MATS, where they earned a special achievement award and a trophy. It looked like most of the class was there. What an experience MATS had to be for them. They got a firsthand look at the trucking industry they never could have gotten in the classroom.
The Clarion County deal is a good Carstens story, but now there's another one that happened right in my (Indiana) backyard.
Recently, Carl was part of a project that turned a rusty old truck cab into a slick simulator and delivered it to Alex Bashenow, a Special Olympics athlete who has autism and loves trucks. The cab, donated by Jim Raines of S&J Truck Sales in Fort Wayne, IN, was painted by Hoosier Truck and Trailer.
In July, Carl picked up Alex Debogorski ("Ice Road Truckers" star and the young man's hero) at the airport and headed to the Bashenow family home in Whiteland, IN, where the cab was being delivered by OOIDA Member Ron Huey to the Bashenow's family garage. Now young Alex has a place where he can "drive" all over the country.
Our Land Line Field Editor Suzanne Stempinski did the story in the August/September magazine. A lot of people had a hand in this, but there was Carl again, always in the thick of helping someone.
As for Carl's famous trophies, I was lucky enough to receive one at this year's MATS too, along with congrats/get well cards signed by many people. Carl signed it with a note that I was "a good friend to Rockwood."
That cuts both ways, my friend. Carry on.LL