It hit me hard when I realized just how early I would need to wake up in order to be a functioning and personable photographer for the “Nashville 6 A.M.” assignment. I decided on a whim to capture my initial wakeful moments before heading to the truck stop to make “real” photographs. I got out of bed, pressed a couple of buttons, and stood there while the shutter snapped in succession from my tripod. Some of you may be natural early birds. Others, do you feel my pain?

Words and Photography by Stacey Irvin

Nashville plays host to a diverse array of transient populations on a daily basis. Most of us share the road with truck drivers on the highways around town, but rarely do we have the chance to meet them and learn their stories. This early morning assignment inspired me to explore a place just minutes from my doorstep but miles from my daily experience: Travel Center of America on North 1st Street.

Still half asleep, I entered the Country Pride restaurant and took a seat at the counter. After placing my order, I noticed the huge “Counter Reserved, Professional Drivers Only Please” sign above. Fortunately, the truckers didn’t take offense, and when I told Pippy the waitress of my transgression, she just smiled and joked, “If anybody asks for your CDL, just tell them you left it in your cab.” Pippy graciously allowed me to photograph a little behind the scenes, including Anthony the third-shift cook.

The next morning they helped introduce me to some drivers at the counter. I also met people in the travel store where Marie, aka Granny, and Brandy cheerfully greet customers. I marveled at the bizarre display of dolls that hangs from the ceiling over isles of knick-knacks and auto supplies.

Quintrell the mechanic let me spend some time in the shop while he inflated tires and changed oil. Kit from Pennsylvania showed me her truck and introduced me to her three traveling-companion chihuahuas: Turbo, Sassy, and Wizard.

There are too many great characters to mention in this article. This early morning introduction has inspired me to pursue the truck stop as a longer-term project.

For more about Stacey Irvin, please visit




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