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Truckin’ on Thanksgiving

first_img This year, the diner won’t be serving a traditional Thanksgiving meal. In fact, the place is closing at 3 p.m. today. Regulars can come by to eat daily specials and pumpkin pie but will have to find another place for dinner. That’s typically how produce drivers Sam Johnson, 54, and Ed Hallowell, 52, celebrate Thanksgiving. Standing outside Mike’s Diner, the Portland, Ore., the drivers said they’ve spent holidays on the road for years, eating Thanksgiving dinners at truck stops and other restaurants from Fresno to Florida. Over time they’ve become holiday buffet aficionados, knowing what places will give them the biggest bang for their buck, where homemade meals are cooked up and what places are better left in the dust. “Pressed turkey is depressing,” Hallowell said. “Some platters are good, but it’s not like being at home.” Across the street at the Pilot Travel Center, hazardous-material driver Mark Weaver, 49, stroked his chin as he recalled his former long-hauling days, sometimes being gone from home for more than a month at a shot. He never knew where he’d be for Thanksgiving, because his loads varied from one place to the next. He, too, found friends along the way at truck stops. But now he’s local. No more weekends or holiday trips for him, a status earned over time, he said. Looking at the walls of trucks riding past on the nearby I-5, the Duarte man said holidays alone on the road can be one rough ride. “These are the last of the cowboys out there,” he said. Sue Doyle, (661) 257-5254 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals “Since they are truck drivers, they don’t go home much. So basically the restaurants they stop at are family. A home away from home,” said Lacey Cimino, a part-time waitress at Mike’s Diner. Cimino, who has served plates of eggs and bacon there for four years, said all the wait staff knows the regulars by first name. And when the holidays come, they celebrate like family with decorations, food and presents. Last year Cimino received boxes of candy and gift cards to Starbucks and other well-known places from those regular faces. The 16-year-old said she’s often compared to daughters and nieces at home. “I’m like everybody’s daughter because I’m about that age, so I try and make it nice for them,” she said. The diner sits on Castaic Road among a sea of 18-wheelers pulling off Interstate 5, past clusters of tidy housing tracts and windowless warehouses. The street caters to the industry with 24-hour fast food, gas and showers. Motels with blinking “low rate” signs are sprinkled about. CASTAIC – Sitting alone at the diner’s bar, Rick Spohler digs into his lunch, but not before the waitress scolds him for touching the piping hot plate. Spohler, who transports antique cars for a living, laughs, saying he can’t help himself. He’s hungry. He’s on the road, and he has to get going. Like many inside Mike’s Diner, a mom-and-pop truck stop where strong coffee brews 24 hours a day, Spohler has a delivery to make. The 47-year-old will be on the road for Thanksgiving as he makes his way to Colorado Springs and will stop off somewhere in Arizona or New Mexico today for some turkey, cranberries and stuffing. The New York resident won’t be home for the holidays, but like many big-rig drivers, Spohler finds a makeshift family on the road at joints like this one that become more than just a place to stop and eat. last_img read more