I don’t know how many people in the central New York area have actually ever been to the Pilot Gas Station / Truck Stop on 7th North Street in the Liverpool / Mattydale / Syracuse area. It’s about 1/2 mile off Route 81 once you get off, maybe 1 mile total when you get off Exit 36 of the NYS Thruway, get on Route 81 South, then immediately get off. Across the street from the light there at 7th North Street is Tully’s, and if you turn right there are a bunch of hotels, a Denny’s, a Chinese buffet, a Dunkin’ Donuts, and some other smaller things.

But Pilot has been there for the longest time and it’s to the left. It pretty much stands alone, and its gas prices are often very competitive with either the Sunoco station at the corner of 7th North and Buckley or, if you went further, the Hess station at the end of 7th North and Electronics Parkway.

Why am I writing about Pilot? Because I had the occasion of being there last week during the late evening hours meeting the guy in the picture above. His name is Rasheed Hooda and he’s on a quest to visit 40 states in 2 months, driving around in his Kia Sedona, the back of which he’s converted into a bed, and meeting people around the country that he’s known online for years and finally having the opportunity to meet in person. I’ve known him online for 8 years and he lives in Houston. I wasn’t going there, so he came by here.

It was a good time, but that’s not what this post is about. Instead, it’s about things I already knew about Pilot and some things I learned by being there late into the evening. It seems that night time offers a much different slice of pie than what most people are expecting; at least what I was expecting. I might have suggested meeting him at Denny’s had I known what might be coming, and yet it wouldn’t have made this post as entertaining.

Let me tell you 4 things to know about Pilot on 7th North Street:

1. It’s not just a Pilot, but a McDonald’s as well. On one side is Pilot, which is larger than your traditional gas station convenience store because it offers so much more than just food. If you want to buy a car CD or DVD player, they’ve got it. You want to buy new clothes, they have them. If you want to take a shower you can rent a private bathroom for $10 that has a shower. If you want to spritz with cologne they have that.

And then, if you want to eat and relax some, you have the McDonald’s side with lots of seating and a TV; it’s all good and it’s clean; at least as clean as they can keep it.

2. They’ve got electricity and wi-fi. By electricity, I mean if you have a truck, an RV, or just want to rest for the night and run some of your electronics in your car, you can hook up in the back area and get it done. They have free wi-fi inside the McDonald’s area, but I’m not sure if you can access it in back without being inside.

3. It seems that it’s now cool to tell people that you just got out of jail & don’t care about the police. At least that’s what happened when I was there, as this guy kept going out and coming in and yelling and screaming it over and over. After the police finally came and chased the guy off I talked to the manager about it. He told me that it was the third time in two weeks that someone has come in yelling at him using that same exact phrase; how strange. And this guy thought he was black, as I don’t know any white communities in the country where he could have learned to speak like he was.

4. But that’s not all when it comes to people. We saw all sorts of people coming and going during the 3 hours I was there. We saw soldiers and their families. We saw young people and old people. We saw some Mennonites, which I thought was a bit strange because I knew there was a Mormon revival of some kind in town but didn’t know if they were associated with the same event or not. There were other people who were loud talkers. The manager told me the worst people come in late Thursday and Friday nights, never Saturday nights (I guess once you’ve been drinking you have different places you like to go), and that he deserves combat pay; I didn’t disagree.

Having said, there are also lots of nice people. The guy who took the picture above was a very nice guy. The manager was actually very nice, and the guy working the desk in Pilot was nice. Some younger kids came in whom I wasn’t sure were even 18 year but were without their parents and they were well behaved. So, it was an overall nice place to be, except for the few people ruining it for everyone else.

I had a nice time visiting with my friend, and it was an interesting night hanging around in the Pilot / McDonald’s. However, I think I’ve had my fill of late nights like that, so I’ll be staying home or looking for something a bit of a step up next time someone comes into town late to meet me. At least the sweet tea was wonderful. 🙂

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