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Early at the Oasis 2 a.m. to 3 a.m.

Photo by RaeLynn Ricarte

Chevron’s Ruben Guitierrez checks out Jason Kopp’s motorcycle during the Mosier rider’s 2 a.m. snack stop.

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

July 30, 2005

All-night service station attracts all kinds — bikers, night-owls, travelers

Jason Kopp of Mosier decided to stop at the Chevron Food Mart for a candy bar while out for a motorcycle ride about 2 a.m. on Thursday.

The allure of the warm summer evening was just too great for him to resist. So, Kopp had decided to take his Yamaha Royal Star out for a spin. He was pleased to find a place open where he could satisfy his sweet tooth with a giant Snicker’s bar.

“When you’re young and you want to be free you just get up and go when you want to,” he said.

Nickie Wassard pulled into the all-night station to refuel her truck and check its fluid levels. She was returning home to Kennewick, Wash., and needed a break from the monotony of freeway travel.

“I was starting to nod off with rock-and-roll music and that’s not a good sign,” she said.

A very inebriated Brian McDonald was driven to the waterfront business by a sober friend, who was on the hunt for something to assuage his hunger.

Cruz Chaparro came in for his usual cup of coffee before crossing the Hood River toll bridge. He was headed for White Salmon, Trout Lake and Underwood to deliver fresh copies of the Oregonian. Chaparro was joined in the search for caffeine by several other newspaper carriers, who were all starting their work day while customers slumbered.

About 2:30 a.m., Gene Nelson also filled his travel cup with steaming java. He was heading out on his daily commute to Portland where he is employed as a tanker truck driver.

“Since this is the only 24-hour station between Troutdale and The Dalles, we get a steady stream of people all night long,” said Mike Dahl, cashier.

He and Ruben Gutierrez, who was kept busy pumping gas, said the business traffic during the wee hours of July 28 was busier than some days — but slower than others.

“If you can’t sleep at night come visit me,” laughed Gutierrez, who washes each windshield until it sparkles and offers to check oil levels.

“We try our best. And there are fairly nice people out there who sometimes tip you when you do their windshield,” he said.

Neither Dahl nor Gutierrez spend much time worrying about robberies during the night hours. They said it is nonproductive to think about the possibility — so they just don’t. In fact, there really isn’t much spare time to ponder the issue since, in between customers, they are busy with maintenance chores and restocking shelves.

Both men do remember a recent accident where a vehicle rolled into the building after the driver failed to properly set the brake. Gutierrez was in the cooler setting up beverages when the bottles began to shake like there had been a small earthquake.

“I watched him pull in and I thought he was stopped but he just kept going and all of a sudden there was a ‘kerthunk’,” said Dahl.

He said many of Chevron’s customers are from a nearby hotel and often have interesting tidbits to share about their travels. Dahl got to handle his first Euro dollar during a transaction with a client from Italy.

But it is the regulars that both he and Gutierrez most enjoy chatting with. From the log truck driver that comes in every morning for two bottles of Mountain Dew, to tired orchard workers who are looking for a pick-me-up snack. Since Gutierrez is bilingual he comfortably exchanges quips with Hispanic customers.

“It really amazed me when I first came to work here how many people come in here at night. It’s always busy,” said Dahl.

There are now three hours until he and Gutierrez end their shift at 6 a.m. They are about ready to brew new pots of coffee in preparation for the high volume of weekday commuter traffic.

“Around the Clock” is a one-hour-at-a-time weekly series of articles to be published each Saturday through Dec. 24.

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