The Tow Truck Philosopher of the Eastern Mojave
by Mark Sedenquist
Greg Parker may been "officially" out of the towing business since mid 2002, but on Saturday night I saw tangible evidence that the tow truck driving community still counts him as one of their own. Greg passed away last week, and I was fortunate to spend the day in Barstow reveling in the colorful stories about his life and passions. As dusk fell over this historic Route 66 town, I witnessed a send-off lit by hundreds of amber-colored strobes mounted on nearly fifty tow vehicles of any every type and description. A crowd of friends, former colleagues, and family gathered on the east end of Barstow's Main Street to parade down historic Route 66. The entire procession was shepherded by an honor guard of four California Highway Patrol vehicles and included classic cars, off-road racing dune buggies, two super-charged "horseless" stagecoaches, and scores of motorcycles, SUVs, sedans, and those aforementioned tow trucks, including more "super tows," (those mammoth trucks that can tow 18-wheelers) than I have ever seen in one place.
I had the opportunity to interview Greg almost exactly ten months ago while doing research for my guide book to Interstate 15. For a time, Greg operated the only 4 x 4 tow truck in the Barstow area. I first realized he was no ordinary driver when he told me of a number of cases where he had sensed that an accident had occurred before he received a call from a dispatcher. He also used his psychic abilities, especially the technique known as "remote viewing," to find motorists who were broken down out in the desert and unable to tell the highway patrol dispatchers where they were. Greg's original 4 x 4 tow truck -- a familiar sight to everyone in Barstow -- was in the honor procession on Saturday night. I had learned earlier that Greg took great delight in rescuing stuck 4-wheelers with his 2-wheel drive Toyota 4-Runner.
"He loved those tow truck drivers and the work they do," Greg's wife Betty told me at the twilight procession. She also recalled how many times he missed family dinners and holiday gatherings because he was pulling people out of a ditch or providing mechanical assistance along a remote stretch of highway.
I saw Greg only twice in a decade, but he had an incredible knack of becoming an instantaneous friend. At the memorial service, his buddies and cohorts shared stories of his legendary kindness to strangers in need. Many also recalled his penchant for explaining the world and his place in it with a unique theory of energy and matter that he had developed over the course of his lifetime.
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