People are in the phone booths at the old Hawk-I Truck Stop in Coralville, IA. But they're not calling dispatch or a broker or their wives and kids. These are campaign workers, and the old truckstop is being used as a temporary local field office for Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore.
The Hawk-I closed in early December after 33 years of serving long-haul truckers and local regulars, according to the Iowa City Press-Citizen.
Today, past the chainlink fence at the lot entrance, there are blue campaign signs on the restaurant windows. At the front entrance, just above the signs that read "Hawk-I Truck Stop Closed," new signs read "Gore Headquarters Open." (A "Gore 2000" sign outlined in Christmas lights on top of the truckstop violated local ordinances and was taken down.)
The city of Coralville bought the truckstop in April for $4 million. The site will be developed into a hotel and convention center. But the city doesn't take over the property until March. That meant it was open for the crucial couple of months before the Iowa presidential caucuses, to be held next Monday, Jan. 24.
Inside the truckstop, for-sale signs still hang on light fixtures, while pictures of Gore and newspaper articles hang on the walls. The metal salad bar is now home to piles of campaign paperwork, while some restaurant booths have become makeshift partitioned offices for campaign staff.
While they admit having campaign headquarters in a former truckstop might seem unusual, Gore officials say the location right off of Interstate 80 makes it very visible and easy for volunteers to find.
A truckstop also made a campaign appearance last weekend as the backdrop for a press conference with another presidential hopeful. Republican Gary Bauer used a Flying J truckstop in Clive, IA, at the junction of Interstates 35 and 80, as the backdrop Saturday for a meeting with reporters.
Bauer said he wanted to use "this great crossroads here in Iowa" as a way to emphasize that he differs from his Republican counterparts on trade issues. The conservative Bauer chided the Clinton Administration for not maintaining the country's borders.