It was 10 p.m. when I reached Kingdom City. Fresh water filled a labyrinth of potholes in the parking lot of the Iron Skillet Truck Stop. The depositor, a monstrous thunderstorm, fled the scene, churning east down the highway, framing its bulbous cloudage in flashes of lightning. I got out of my car and stood between puddles, and stretched muscles that had been trained to fold into a driver’s seat.
The truck stop bustled with energy. Travelers buzzed, electrified in the wake of Mother Nature’s almighty fury. The yellow light from the diner windows looked warm and inviting. And the smell from deep fryers stuck like fish hooks in my nostrils.
Quietly, I observed truckers and travelers taking a break. Families and couples and messengers and locals flowed in and out of this fuel center, this nerve center, this pit stop. The wall behind the service counter bore a backlit photo of the Arch. And Mark Twain Lake. And the Capitol. Nice touch.
Round the clock, there’s food, souvenirs, and food. And souvenirs.
A family entered the main door, engaged in a lively debate. Mom and dad wanted to head south to Branson. The kids begged to go north to see Tom and Becky’s Hannibal. I wanted to offer a suggestion, but stayed silent. Within minutes, they had resolved the issue: They’d stay an extra day.
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