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Truckers' rest stops take on new look

It wasn't all that many years ago that truckers would roll into truck stops, refuel their 18-wheel rigs, grab a quick meal, then get back on the road again. That was about it.

It wasn't all that many years ago that truckers would roll into truck stops, refuel their 18-wheel rigs, grab a quick meal, then get back on the road again. That was about it.

My, how times have changed. Now truckers can grab a shower, wash their clothes, watch a movie, get their sore backs adjusted, enjoy a full-body massage to relieve their aches and pains, and even get their dental work done in some parts of the country.

More than 800 trucks stop every day at the Petro Travel Center just off Interstate 94 at 45th Street South in Fargo.

That's one of the primary reasons Dr. Richard Farris, owner of Farris Chiropractic, decided to establish his practice there.

"I had read about other chiropractors going into truck stops, and I was always intrigued by the idea," says Farris, a 46-year-old Ohio native.

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"My original idea had been to get a mobile trailer and move from truck stop to truck stop, but then I met with Petro owner Danny Schatz and he offered me an attractive lease arrangement, so here I am."

Over-the-road truckers take a beating, says Farris, even in an age of air-ride seats and other amenities they would have never thought possible a few years ago.

"Even in the ergonomic age we're in now, there are still complaints inherent to certain professions," says Farris. "With truckers I see a lot of upper back and neck complaints."

Farris says accessibility is important to truckers, who are often on the road for days or weeks at a time.

"They get home for a weekend and often nothing's open so they can't get the care they need," says Farris. "Now I've got some of them calling me from 40 miles out asking if I can see them when they roll in here."

Farris, a graduate of Logan Chiropractic College in St. Louis, came to Fargo in February from Watertown, S.D., where he'd practiced since 1986. His wife, Kay, had earlier been transferred to Fargo by Microsoft Great Plains.

In many ways, truckers are a lot like farmers, who made up a good part of his South Dakota practice, says Farris.

"They want to be relieved of pain and get back out and get the job done."

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He found out that mornings aren't good for truckers because they're too busy. So Farris changed his hours from 2 to 8 p.m. five days a week.

"Most nights this place is jammed full with trucks," says Farris. "I never know what kind of a day I'm going to have when I walk in, but I really do love my work and I've been able to help a lot of people."

Farris is also licensed to give Department of Transportation medical examinations. All truckers must get these exams every two years and carry a current "medical examiner's certificate." If Farris detects medical problems, he refers truckers to professionals.

Often when truckers come in for DOT exams their blood pressure is up, says Farris.

"It's very stressful driving big rigs hours on end in traffic, in poor road conditions or in bad weather," says Farris.

When Farris finishes with them, they can walk outside his door and get a massage from licensed massage therapist/reflexologist Valerie Hanson.

It seems there's something for everyone these days at truck stops.

By Erin Hemme Froslie

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Ben Lee stepped inside the Cass County Courthouse Tuesday intending to pick up an absentee ballot.

Instead, the 23-year-old, home on leave from Edwards Air Force Base in California, voted right then and there.

Lee was among 242 Cass County residents who cast their ballot Tuesday in the early voting precinct that opened the same day.

The first-day turnout was larger than expected, said Cass County Auditor Mike Montplaisir.

The purpose of an early precinct is to ease the flood of absentee ballots in the weeks leading up to a general election and to give voters more options, he said.

North Dakota legislators changed election laws in 2003 to allow for early precincts.

People can still apply for an absentee ballot, especially if they want to mark it at home, Montplaisir said.

"Otherwise, it's simpler and faster to just vote," he said.

Kayla Bakkila, who recently turned 18, decided to cast her first vote early because her mom, Debbie Bakkila, encouraged her to do so.

"I've waited in line 2½ hours to vote before," Debbie Bakkila said. "When you finally get to vote, you feel like you're being rushed."

Corinne Busek of south Fargo voted early because she's made up her mind on the candidates and issues. She didn't see any point in waiting until Nov. 2 to make her decision official.

Regardless, she said she wouldn't have applied for an absentee ballot just to vote early. But voting in an early precinct felt more like participating in the election, she said.

"Other people were doing their same duty at the same time," she said.

Arlene Boyum, 74, voted Tuesday to ensure nothing, such as sickness or snowstorms, keeps her voice from being heard. This will be an important election, she said.

David Bergquist voted early because he travels a lot. As a resident of Fargo's Oak Manor Trailer Park, which is being torn down, the 63-year-old also expects he'll move before Election Day. He wanted to make sure he votes before that.

Montplaisir expects 8,000 Cass County residents will vote before Election Day. His office already has mailed out 4,000 absentee ballots. He estimates about 15 percent of total votes will be cast early.

Until Nov. 1, Cass County residents can vote from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays at the courthouse, 211 9th St. S., Fargo.

Readers can reach Terry DeVine at (701) 241-5515 or tdevine@forumcomm.comReaders can reach Forum reporter Erin Hemme Froslie at (701) 241-5534

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