Lane congestion

As Big Chief Truck and Auto Plaza C-store manager Shelby Ryckman approached her workplace 5 miles southeast of Fergus Falls Tuesday she encountered a trailer sitting on U.S. Highway 59 separated from its tractor. 

Shelby Ryckman has found the Big Chief Truck and Auto Plaza on County Highway 82 to be an interesting place to work. 

The plaza’s C-store manager ran into one of the more bizarre experiences Tuesday on her way to work. As she approached the plaza on Big Chief Road about 7:45 a.m. she could not help but notice something wrong. 

With busy Interstate 94 next door, commuters on County Highway 82 are frequently required to slow down and even stop for the semis as they head to and from the plaza, which occupies a few acres of land north of the four-lane. What they are usually not required to do is drive around a 53-foot trailer parked across half of the two-lane highway. As she watched she could see the semi from which the trailer had come unhitched, blocking the southbound lane of 82. The driver quickly removed his semi from the southbound lane.

Pulling up to the stranded trailer, Ryckman jumped out of her pickup and checked the situation as vehicles approached the crowded intersection from both directions.

“I’ve seen some things happen here,” Ryckman said Tuesday. “It was one of our customers. I felt bad for them and I didn’t want anyone to get hurt.”

She took it upon herself to direct traffic around the big trailer until another semi was able to back under the stranded trailer, hook up to it and tow it back into the plaza parking area.

Ryckman believes a mechanical problem with the semi prevented the original hauler from backing under the stranded trailer and pulling it off the highway. 

Ryckman did not know the identity of the unlucky driver who inadvertently dropped his load but she noticed that he quickly realized what had happened.

“He came back right away,” Ryckman said. “Another guy went and got his truck and moved the trailer.”

It was ironic but appropriate that the trucker who helped him was a first responder.

By the time Otter Tail County deputies arrived the obstacle had been removed.

With so many people and vehicles traveling the four-lane freeway at all times of the year the plaza is a real hub of activity. Ryckman has had an opportunity to speak with customers from all over the United States and all over the world in her six years on the job.

She has also witnessed some strange events - like the time a few years back when someone ran into the station’s gas pumps.

“You never know what you’re going to see,” Ryckman said.

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