LAKE STEVENS — The gleaming orange Peterbilt 389 truck cab has a mean chrome bumper guard, 18 speeds, dog toys and the scent of cigars.
What’s up with that?
Shawn Dirksen, 45, a cigar-smoking, TikToking Lake Stevens flatbed truck driver, travels coast-to-coast with his rescue pitbull, Bonnie.
The rig is “The Orange Crush.” Dirken’s CB handle is “Stogie.” He’s the dude behind the wheel at @stogiethetrucker on TikTok and “Stogie from the Road” on YouTube. Bonnie is the star.
They keep three eyes on the road.
“She’s the one-eyed wonder dog. The ongoing joke is that I’m her sidekick,” Dirksen said. “We’ll be driving through Atlanta and someone will be like, ‘Stogie, is that you on the CB?’ and I’ll say, ‘Yeah,’ and they’ll say, ‘What’s Bonnie doing?’”
The orange cab is a Bonnie beacon. Her name is on the side of her door.
“I’ll come back from fueling up and people are like, ‘That’s Bonnie from TikTok,’ and come up and be taking pictures with her,” he said.
Think your pain at the pump is bad?
“It’s about $1,100 to $1,200 to fill it up,” he said.
Dirksen started driving three years ago after a decade as a certified tobacconist in the cigar industry in Georgia. Tobacconist is a real title.
“Equivalent to a wine sommelier,” he said.
He and his wife, Katherine, a certified nursing assistant, moved to her home state of Washington a year ago. He works for Taylor Transport Inc., based near Atlanta. He’s gone a month, then home a week.
“I’ve always wanted to be a trucker,” he said. “I used to have my dad take me to the truck stop to look at trucks when I was little kid, that’s how long I loved it. Truckers were the coolest job on the planet.”
The videos are to take people along for the ride, he said: “I want to humanize truck drivers. They don’t think there’s a beating heart behind the windshield.”
Brittany Nelson, Taylor safety driver and human resources spokesperson, said Dirksen’s social media coverage puts a face to trucking.
“A lot of people look at truck drivers as being in their way,” Nelson said. “People don’t have the respect they need for these drivers, who are away from their families for weeks and months at a time. They didn’t stop during the pandemic. They kept going.”
Nelson said a dozen or so of the company’s 220 drivers have dogs.
“It’s good for them to have a companion in the truck with them,” she said. “We have a lady who has birds. When you talk to her on the phone, you hear a little tweeting in the background.”
Dirksen drove solo his first year.
“I was incredibly lonely,” he said.
Bonnie changed that. He found her at a humane society in Atlanta.
“She was a bait dog,” used to train fighting dogs, he said. “She was overbred and missing hair. She still actually had stitches in her eye when I got her.”
Bonnie took to the road right away.
“We’ll be driving and I’ll say, ‘Can you believe that someone just pulled out in front of me?’” he said.
She doesn’t answer.
“She plays with toys or is out cold,” he said.
@stogiethetrucker #fy #foryou #ASOSChaoticToCalm #foryoupage #CowboyBebop #fypã· #truckersoftiktok #truckdriver #truckdog â¬ Driving – Tatum Talks
Dirksen parks “The Orange Crush” at an Arlington truck stop on breaks home before hitting the road for a month. The cab barely fits in the driveway of his Lake Stevens townhome.
He did a truck open house a few months ago for the neighbors.
“I had about 26 kids come by with their families,” he said. “They loved all the gauges and the lights and the chrome and to climb around in the back.”
Dirksen polishes the cab by hand. His wife helps pack supplies. Bonnie gets a monthly BarkBox of goodies.
His favorite stretches of open road are in Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and parts of Texas.
“I can just sit back and ride,” he said.
East Coast traffic is the worst: “It’s like being attacked by bees.”
He listens to country music or comedians.
“You have to be careful not to listen to too much news and protect yourself psychologically. I listened to a lot of news when I first started trucking and I felt myself turning into the grumpy trucker,” he said. “I try to be the happy trucker.”
He and Bonnie bunk in the cab, which includes a memory foam mattress, kitchen gear and a 32-inch TV.
“I sleep better in this truck than at home,” he said.
He stays overnight at rest areas or wherever he can park his rig, such as the following account from the gravel parking lot of a little grocery store in the Nevada desert:
“I was sitting outside in my lawn chair,” he said, “smoking a cigar next to my truck, and Bonnie’s laying on a blanket, and I’ve got my little grill with a steak and I’m listening to George Jones on the radio and some guy walks by and goes, ‘That’s about the most American thing I’ve seen all day.’”
Dirksen patronizes old school truck stops, when possible.
”Those are getting devoured by big corporate chains,” he said. “Now it’s self-checkout lanes, and all you can get are those microwavable sandwiches or rotating hot dogs. That, or fast food. The days of Flo the waitress coming up and saying, ‘What can I get you, darling?’ Those days are over.”
Some things never change, though.
“When we see a little kid do the arm pump at us, it makes our day,” he said. “Even when we see adults do it. I’ve had full-on bikers come by on Harleys and do the arm pump.”
Andrea Brown: firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.
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