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Columbia Missourian

'Truck Stop USA' kicks off second season Thursday

By Bobby Watson
April 4, 2012 | 8:18 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — "Truck Stop USA" is back for another run.

The Travel Channel show that put Columbia on the map begins its second season with back-to-back episodes starting at 7 p.m. Thursday. 

The 13-part season again features Joe Bechtold, general manager of Midway Travel Plaza on Interstate 70, and his employees hosting spectacles and events such as mud runs, rodeos and motorcycle stunts.

"Personally, the notoriety is the most exciting aspect of the show," Bechtold said. "The fame and attention the show has brought — will bring — to Midway and Columbia is pretty cool." 

Bechtold said shows like his don't usually have high prospects for subsequent seasons after the first one wraps. 

"The network told me they interviewed 500 truck stops before deciding on Midway," Bechtold said. "And that only 15 percent of the shows that get a whole season are continued into a second one." 

The premiere episode of the new season will follow Bechtold and his crew as they prepared to host the September 2011 Epic Mudrun Race at Midway, according to the Scripps Network Interactive website.

The Midway team's tasks included mapping the race course and locating obstacles to challenge the competitors. They also provided a huge pasta spread the night before the race for runners who traveled to the truck stop from across the country. 

On the morning the race was set to begin, Bechtold's crew discovered a dangerous design flaw at the finish line that threatened to shut down the event.  They raced against time to mend the race course. 

"The episode should be pretty cool," Bechtold said. "Because at least 1,000 competitors from last year will get to watch themselves competing. We already have competitors signed up for this year's race. Hopefully, we'll see a huge jump in registration online."

In the second episode at 7:30 p.m., he books a stunt jumper for a bike rally to jump 80 feet over a semi-truck.

Season one, which premiered Aug. 3, had similar themes. Episodes included a goat swap, a Quidditch competition among college students, motorcycle drag races in the Midway parking lot and a visit from country music legend Willie Nelson.

In another episode, Geno's Under the Gun Tattoos, which is located at Midway, challenged body ink enthusiasts to test their pain tolerance limits. Geno originally offered an unlimited tattoo session for customers who wanted to pay $500 up front for all the ink they could endure without passing out. The challenge is ongoing.

The Travel Channel belongs to Scripps Network Interactive, which also owns HGTV, the Food Network and the Cooking Channel.