A month ago, I wrote about what a great time was had by all at the Shell Rotella SuperRigs event near San Antonio, and I encouraged anyone who was worried about the trucking industry to take some time to attend, because it’s all good.
Now, fresh off a weekend in Walcott, IA, for the annual Truckers Jamboree, I’m afraid I have to add another item to any trucker’s bucket list.
To compare the two events is apples and oranges, but I can objectively state that Walcott is big, way big. Attendance is typically well north of 40,000 folks. (Of course, event host Iowa 80 bills itself as the “World’s Largest Truckstop,” and there’s hardly a slow day on the site, special events or no.)
But while SuperRigs had a decidedly South Texas fandango feel to it—the music was thumping, the trucks airbrushed and lowered—Walcott was the state fair: a crowded midway with trucks on either side, a large dining tent featuring pork ribs and hot dogs, fiddle-led country bands playing to an audience seated on hay bales. And, not to stereotype, but Midwesterners are so, so nice, it’s bothersome: “After you.” “No, after you.” … Please, somebody, just move along!
And all of this in a sea of corn, stretching to the horizon in all directions. I think the stalks grew a foot during the three-day event.
Of course, greatly contributing to the throw-back feel of Walcott was the antique truck display. While SuperRigs was all about a vibrant here and now, there’s nothing like dozens of trucks from decades past, mile markers of 20th century America, to lend some perspective.
First, it’s miraculous to see the old trucks in such great shape—what a great job the owners do, and how wonderful it is to talk with people who are so passionate about their hobby. For a few, these were the trucks they first drove. For many, however, these were the trucks they remember riding in with their fathers, and they’ll get a little emotional recalling their earliest memories of the road.
But it’s the juxtaposition of trucking then and trucking now that makes Walcott unique and outstanding. Because on the next parking aisle down, the new show trucks stand gleaming—and massive. And computerized and connected.
Yet, it’s not the really hardware that interests me.
In 40 or 50 years, I’d like to talk to kids I saw in the Iowa 80 restaurant, the ones that came in from the parking lot where the everyday trucks and truckers with loads were parked. What sort of memories will they have of traveling in the truck with mom or dad way back in 2015? Will any these kids look back and recall these days so fondly they’ll want to restore those laughably primitive trucks that are the state of the art today?
And that begs the question: Suppose, just like in Field of Dreams, some 50 years from now we found ourselves emerging from an Iowa cornfield. Instead of a baseball diamond and the chance to play one last game, a trucker gets a chance to deliver one last load. I imagine truckers from 50 years ago could adjust pretty quickly to driving today. But what would today’s drivers have to know in 2065?
What is Iowa 8o—what is trucking—going to look at the 86th Annual Walcott Truckers Jamboree?