Simply put, there are no strangers at MATS; there are only friends. The ones we already know and the ones we have yet to meet.
And while it’s easy to get caught up in the preparations, the cool new products and the overall buzz of the grand poobah of truck shows, make no mistake; the Mid-America Trucking Show is and always will be about the people.
|Sandi Soendker, Dave Nemo, Joyce Brenny, Donna Kennedy|
It starts long before we hit the floor running on Wednesday during show week – i.e., Press Day – and it doesn’t end until we’ve made our Saturday round of handshakes and hugs at the trophy dash in the Kentucky Expo Center or out in the annex parking lot at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
It’s fun, and it’s work. It’s the best kind of work. The smiles are genuine.
Ask any one of us what we do when we get new calendars. We open them up to March and block out the Mid-America Trucking Show. It’s a spring ritual, even if the weather this year didn’t feel very spring-like. We faced and raced a Midwest snowstorm on the way home, but that couldn’t dampen the spirit of the show.
|John Miller, Bob Miller, Howard Dobbins|
Family and tradition is very important to many patrons and presenters. Take OOIDA Life Member Bob Miller and son John of Mount Pleasant, IA, for example. They stopped by the Association’s booth to get John’s membership renewed and to talk about the latest goings on. Big Land Line readers, they never miss a beat. When the truckers say the economy is getting better out there, we have got to believe it is because they are the first to notice the changes.
Life Member Howard Dobbins, a friend of the Millers, showed me a photo of his ’59 Mack and ’51 Fruehauf trailer. He says he intends to bring that classy combo to a certain show coming up later in the year.
|Dave Tanner, Gordon Johnson|
Gordon Johnson, life member from Fredericktown, OH, said his home state could soon see its “Slowhio”nickname go by the wayside. He dropped by the booth to tell us he’s been watching the state budget bill that includes a 5-mph increase in many highway speed limits.
While roaming the Expo Center for some photo opportunities, I met Tom and Joyce Henry from Jeffersonville, IN. Tom had an expediting business at one time. They were showing their grandson Trent around the show.
|Trent gets a fake tattoo from Katie Nelson|
Trent seemed a bit shy, or at least in awe of the chrome and music filling his senses, but he did like the fake tattoo stuck on him by the gals at the Detroit Radiator booth. It was one of the many “truck show moments” we were fortunate to see or be a part of, and it made for a cute photo.
|Robin Clark, Sandi Talbott, Jimmy Ardis|
While Trent was on the shy side, shy is definitely not in the vocabulary of one outspoken Jimmy Ardis – a senior OOIDA member and owner-operator who goes by the handle Carolina Monkey Gouger. In fact, the first thing he said to me was, “Want to take a picture of the best-looking truck drivers you ever seen?”
How could one pass that up? Friends Robin Clark, a Carolina barbecue aficionado who drives for Salem Carriers, and Sandi Talbott, an OOIDA life member leased to Cargill, had “Monkey Gouger” nametags. Never a dull moment around these folks.
Speaking of shining moments, I was very pleased to meet OOIDA Member Marlaina Betnaza face to face.
We’ve talked and corresponded about bridge heights and GPS issues in New York. She and husband Greg write and post some outstanding photos on their blog, Life with No Fixed Address. I was very impressed with Marlaina and their passion for life on the road.
|Paul Hartley, with Jami Jones|
|Dave Tanner, Joanne Ritchie|
Dedication is what makes Joanne Ritchie tick as well. Joanne is the executive director of the Owner-Operators Business Association of Canada, or OBAC. I shared a little known fact about Joanne with a gentleman at Detroit’s engine exhibit, and she thinks I made “much ado” about it. But not everyone can quote Shakespeare at will and apply it to everyday situations. I know I’m not so good at it. I’m the type that thinks “Out, damned spot!” is someone giving their dog a scolding.
With that, we’ll turn to pets. Many truckers travel with pets, and there are pet charities, grooming and pampering going on in many places. We saw a cat on a leash in the Papa John’s lot. The best I could come up with is that it was on some kind of “leash purchase.” I digress.
The spirit of charity was in full swing at the show. We know many of the folks who drive the St. Christopher Fund, and it was good to see them.
Out at Papa John’s, burgers and brats on the grill mean valuable dollars going into jars and containers to help others.
Medical issues of truckers or truckers’ families fuel the engine under many of the charitable causes.
|Little John with Yogi's truck|
“Little John” Leistra, a member from Mount Brydges, Ontario, pulled me aside to tell me a story about the truck he’s currently driving.
“I have been entrusted with the care of Yogi Bear’s truck,” he said. Yogi, aka Ron Terry, is currently out of trucking, but folks like Little John wanted me to wish him well in the blog.
The late Dale “The Truckin’ Bozo” Sommers and Rusty “Yoda” Wade were in the hearts and minds of many on the lot. Their efforts to help others, especially truckers, are legendary. Many a dollar was given in their name during show week.
|Becky Black, Buck Black, Shelle Lichti|
We ran into more friends out on the lot. Buck Black, a therapist and relationship specialist from Indiana, was catching up with a few truckers. We’ve met Buck at several events recently, and he knows how tough it can be to be out on the road for long periods of time.We can all use a bit of grounding or a word of encouragement from time to time, can’t we?
One thing that always encourages us at the truck shows is the amount of support we see for OOIDA and Land Line. We know who we work for, and that is the members. It’s always great when we meet new members or see familiar faces.
You don’t see many OOIDA life member stickers on pilot cars or pickups, at least according to Life Member Richard Moran of Cheboygan, MI. It was worthy of a picture as we made our way through the lot.
But just as I had taken a snap of Richard and his pickup, I was whisked away by another life member, Doug Weber. Actually, he rarely goes by Doug. He’s the “Stray Cat.” And he has no leash.
“I’ve got a new name for the show out here (on the lot),” he said. “Pork Chop Diaries: The Burgers and Brats Edition.”
Not bad, Stray Cat. Not bad.