August 5, 1999


Update, March 2002

This entry reflects my experiences in August, 1999; I have since received e-mail from the new manager of Herb's, who informed me that my entry does not reflect the present reality. In view of the fact that the search engines seem to love me, this could mislead the public and even harm the business, something I never intended to do! In fact despite the remarks below, I did (sort of) enjoy the rustic atmosphere.
Anyway, I invited the manager to comment here. This is his response:

I recently saw your online journal on the web and think that some things could be straightened out. The way that it is written in the journal, Herb's is a low class establishment with not much to offer except greasy food for truckers who smoke. This has changed over the past 6 months, as Herb's has been completely renovated and has changed for the better.

New to the truckstop is a redesigned restaurant, brand new fuel pumps, three commercial diesel dispensers, showers, laundry facilities, new washrooms, a convenience store, a games room and a lounge for truck drivers with cable TV.

All of these items make for a better, more customer friendly environment, with focus on quality and convenience. Our staff are trained in English and French, and will be happy to help you in any way they can when you visit Herb's.

Thank you for taking this into consideration, and I hope to see you here soon!

David P. Anderson

Herb's Service Centre -- Hwy. 417 and 34, Exit 27
Vankleek Hill, Ontario, Canada
(613) 525-2120 Fax: (613) 525-0699
24 Hour Restaurant, Towing and Fuel Service

Here is the original entry:

We had a house guest last weekend.. Younger Son's Best Friend who moved to Ottawa three years ago. His family was visiting here but he wanted to stay a few extra days to attend yet another rock concert with the gang.

The main problem was, how to get him home again? Ottawa is a two hour drive and hubby was uninclined to be THAT good a host. As for me, I detest highway driving, and only do it in dire emergencies.

A compromise was reached, wherein Best Friend's Father, who had a day off on Wednesday, would meet us halfway (literally).

There isn't much between the outskirts of Montreal and the outskirts of Ottawa, besides fields and farms. Miles of pastureland, dotted with neatly rolled up bales of hay. Occasional groups of cows, mostly lying down on this day.. my mother once told me that means it's going to rain.

The halfway point is near the small Ontario town of Vankleek Hill, and consists of a crossroads (highway exit) and exactly one establishment... Herb's.

Herb's is a truck stop/gas station/private air strip. Really. As you approach it you see a small shack (the restaurant) painted completely in thick bright red and white stripes. At first glance it appears to be an American flag but there are no stars. Only stripes. A larger building, which looks like a barn but is probably some sort of airplane garage (hangar?) looms behind the shack, and is painted the same way.

Going up the driveway, you're confronted with a choice of paths. The one to the right has a huge number 4-0 painted on the pavement, and a few tiny airplanes (smaller than our car) scattered to the side. We cleverly deduced that this was the runway, and drove to the left.

Best Friend's Father hadn't arrived yet, and I'd promised the kids lunch (anything to avoid making it myself) so we went in. We'd been to truck stops before, on our many trips to Florida, but I don't remember a smell quite like this one. A mixture of strong tobacco and body odour. The place looked passably clean though, so we sat down quietly, avoiding making eye contact with the other patrons.. mostly male, large, and unkemptly-bearded. The walls were not much more pleasant to look at.. cartoon murals depicting, well, Herb's..

Hubby and I just had coffee but the kids wanted burgers. I know these places are supposed to have the best food, but it looked rather ordinary, and I'm just glad they didn't get sick!

Father appeared soon after, and seemed a bit annoyed that we'd ordered. Guess he was in a hurry or something. The kids ate, and then went to inspect the bathroom. Apparently you can buy a "cock-ring" there in a vending machine for only $2.00 (Canadian.. a real bargain!) They needed to know what was selling in the ladies room so I investigated.. you can get perfume, sanitary pads, and a random choice of erotic pleasure device.. massage oil, European condoms, or "Oriental" ring. I guess "cock-ring" isn't too enticing a term for the ladies.

Best friend and his stuff were duly transferred to his father's car, and they hurried on their way. We left Herb's, but it didn't really leave me (the smell, that is) for the rest of the trip home.

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