Dennis Schlanger, 56
Dennis Schlanger wished he was gripping a can of cold beer.
Most of the truck stops on the West have bars, he said. But this one, in Lexington, Va., does not serve beer.
On this night, he ate chocolate ice cream alone. Sitting in a booth near the restaurant's window he watched the sky outside go black as the usual dinner crowd of travelers waned.
Ms. Schlanger, a 56-year-old with a dark leathery face and straight square teeth, is from the first town on the Mississippi River - Bemidji, Minn.
He remembers clearly the day he decided he would drive a truck. He was young and strong, loading trucks for a granite company near his hometown.
"It looked like it would be easier than working at a factory," he said, looking toward the table.
For nearly three months, Mr. Schlanger has been on the road. The truck he had parked for the night was full of frozen bread dough, and he was on his way back to Minnesota.
He has always seen himself as a truck driver, but this may be his last trip.
Mr. Schlanger has no family. The only person he visits in Minnesota is the local bartender, he said.
"I am a hometown drunk," he said.
His blood pressure has gotten worse over the years because of his drinking and he is worried his health will shorten the career he loves.
He doesn't want to be told to walk away from the life he has built for himself on the road, but it may be for the best.
"My miles have been cut and I sit for nothing," he said. "The truckers today are big (jerks). A truck never used to back another in. Now they do."