Fast food isn’t anything new to those of us in the trucking world, but it sure is growing at truck stops since the pandemic.
We all know getting a 75-foot tractor and trailer into Cracker Barrel isn’t going to happen. I took my bobtail into the parking lot of one in Eloy, Arizona, once and thought the restaurant staff were going to need CPR. Options and choices are mainly fast food or truck stop restaurants. There are very few mom ’n pop’s left out here. If you can find any full-service truck stop restaurants still open after the last two and a half years you’re lucky.
Let me add here that many drivers today cook in their trucks. There are many that should be five-star chefs considering what I have seen come out of the cab of a truck. I have been served truck-prepared meals that range from a full home-cooked breakfast off the griddle to the most tender prime rib I have ever eaten. I’m grateful for all of my friends that have figured out how to maintain an 8 X 8 space with your bed in the middle and a kitchen stashed somewhere! My hat is off to these hardcore roadies! I have tried it, but just can’t master past a microwave and a Road Pro portable stove set in a milk crate so it doesn’t move. I find I have paperwork stashed in my microwave more than food put in it. I’m sorry, but I can’t wash dishes in a public restroom, either. Besides, when I try I make a big ol’ mess! Those able to cook good meals in their trucks are the best.
However, fast food comes into play for every driver, everywhere at some point in time. Thanks to detention at docks and uncontrollable situations, I know I try to keep my little itty bitty refrigerator stocked with cold deli sandwiches and snacks.
I am going to keep trying, though… My mastery of cooking in a truck is on the horizon. In the meantime, I’m going to talk about what we all are guilty of – fast food choices!
If you are a truck driver, we all know there is a Subway in just about every truck stop (no matter what chain) across America. I’ll start with Subway because it’s my first choice and my usual go to. I am a picky, finicky, meat and ‘taters kind of girl,but when I realize I need to eat healthier I go to Subway. Hey – Jared did it, so why can’t I do it too? There’s always something on the Subway menu that even I will eat. And it’s healthier than another five-pound bag of M&M’s in the passenger seat. Being picky, I always go for tuna on flatbread. But first thing when ordering tuna, check the date it was made! Some get a little cranky when you ask this, but without knowing that date I’m not eating it. Yeah, we all know how old tuna on the road turns out.
Another favorite is Arby’s! Yum – a good hot roast beef sandwich and some ‘tater cakes. Once again, it’s the ‘tater cakes that get me. Just wait – they’ll show themselves again before I am through. Now Arby’s is good for salads and cold deli-style sandwiches on the chain’s healthy plan. It’s just I am not seeing vey many Arby’s anymore. I see most of them in older Pilot locations or sometimes beside a truck stop. Arby’s breakfast isn’t my favorite but I can definitely be in and out and start my day from there.
Next is my childhood favorite that I haven’t outgrown. McDonald’s!! Do you remember the song, “McDonald’s is a happy place” or the all-famous Big Mac jingle? Do we ever forget? LOL! Now McDonald’s is my all-time go-to when I don’t have a clue what I want to eat but I know it’s got to be fast. Mornings in my world are best started with an Egg McMuffin, hashbrowns and a large vanilla iced coffee. (This is the only kind of coffee you will ever see in my hand.) Any other time of day I’m all over a McDouble, or a quarter-pounder with cheese (btw, if you didn’t know, they are cooked fresh to order) and/or a fish sandwich. Of course if I can sit down to eat it, a Big Mac with extra sauce! Anybody else hungry yet?
Burger King is another choice over Wendy’s for me. That’s probably because I eat my Frosty with my french fries dipped in it before I eat a hot cheeseburger.
And there’s a new option I found at the Petro in Wilmington, Illinois, that I have taken a liking to. I found a second one in the TA in Morris, Illinois, last year, so hopefully they are going to be available in other TA/Petro locations. Chicago has some great little places known for Philly cheese steaks, so being in Illinois makes sense, at least kinda… Those two locations (and hopefully more) served signature fresh philly cheese steak that I’m now addicted to. Actually it is where I decided to try green peppers. And now I love them!
Don’t get me wrong – there are a few truck stop chains that have their signature restaurants like Petro Iron Skillet and Petro Country Pride. Others brought in restaurant chains like Denny’s and IHOP. These are great for our 10-hour breaks or for a 34 reset of HOS. And although mom ’n pop restaurants are now few and far between, they top everything I have written about here. We’ll get into some of those soon.
The downside – be it fast food, sit-down service or grabbing a snack – is time and availability. Many fast food restaurants used to stay open 24/7 – as did the truck stop restaurants. Now, the limited time of operation is tough on anyone driving a truck from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
This is the time (if they’ve been restocked) for the world-famous ROLLER DOG! Roller dogs come in so many flavors these days it’s unreal. The one that is my favorite? The good ol’ AMERICAN plain hot dog (which I then smother in ketchup, pickle and mustard. The best roller dogs I’ve found are at LOVE’s Travel Stops. They’re fresh and always available – 24/7/365.
Fast food is a staple in our lives out here on the road – as it is in most American families at some point and time. It’s not the healthiest eating but there are healthy choices at all fast food restaurants. No matter what I am craving for the day – be it an Egg McMuffin for breakfast or a tuna on flatbread, I know that I can also find yogurt, fruit and salads. And, of course, there’s always an over-abundance of snacks of every kind.
Now that I have made myself hungry (and probably you are too), don’t forget one thing. Life on the road for a truck driver changes every day. And there are never any two days alike. Becoming routine isn’t in the cards for us, so we learn how to win in a different way – especially in eating. Home-cooked meals are what we dream of riding 650 miles a day. But we all live in reality – at the end of the day fast food isn’t new to us and we learn where to find what makes us healthy and happy.
Until next time, from me to you … drive safely, be somebody’s smile and don’t forget your prayers!