They're the same kind of people you find ramming quarters into the slot machines at all hours in Las Vegas, except they don't throw their money away and they have only one vice: fishing.
Ranny Isenberg and Bill Boston were already early Sunday afternoon. The bags were packed, the rods broken down, the motor oiled, the coolers iced and full of grub. They'd been to church and bade farewell to wives and families.
Around 4 p.m., Jerry Almy rolled in from Woodstock, Va., his tiny Toyota camper truck crammed to the hilt with gear, the aluminum john boat precariously on the roof, the sleeping racks down over piles of equipment.
Almy is no giant, but Boston is big and Isenburg could double for Man Mountain Dean if the wrestler couldn't make a job. They thrust their gear into the burdened truck and clambered into the cab, bursting out windows and squashing Boston in the middle.
And they rolled.
They rolled and rolled, driving in shifts and dispatching one man at a time to the sleeping rack as the crush up front became unbearable. They stopped once off the concrete ribbon of I-95 for hamburgers and at quarter to 4 the next morning they turned out, bleary-eyed, in the little town of Santee, S.C.
It had been 11 hours on the road and the men were mad it hadn't been 12. It meant they were stuck in the Truckstops of America restaurant for 1 1/2 hours before they could fish.
That first day was disaster. It was cold; it was raining hard: Almy's boat was leaking 10 gallons an hour and Boston and Isenburg couldn't keep their 2 h.p. outboard running.
Worst of all, the fish in huge Lake Marion, confused by the wrathful weather, wouldn't bite. The anglers landed only six crappie all day, all on Almy's stringer. Boston and Isenburg were disgusted, tired, wet, foul-tempered.
"I'm not going back in those bushes (the cypress and tupelo tree groves spawning ground for the crappie)" said Isenburg. "I don't know what it is, I don't go for that kind of fishing. I'll just throw out the anchor tomorrow and fish in the creek."
Naturally, he changed his mind the next day, after a restful night in the Fort Watson motel at $10 a night.
"I asked the lady if she minded if we put three in the room," Isenburg said. "She said, "I don't care if you put 26 people in there, it's $10 a night."
It was a charming, restful night as the trucks roared on 95 and 301 outside the front door. Isenburg and Boston shared one bed, making 450 plus pounds on the aging mattress.
It was Almy's 150 pounds that sprung a spring.
"He woke up in the middle of the night howling," Boston recalled. "We couldn't figure out what he was crying about . . . he was all alone on the bed. All he had to do was roll over."
Tuesday was worse. Fifty m.p.h. winds buffeted the little john boats as the anglers worked from tree stump to tree stump from dawn to dusk. They landed eight fish.
Taking stock of their fortunes, the men shifted sleeping quarters to a cheaper motel. "I can't even remember the name of the place, if it had one," said Almy.
Finally their luck changed. Wednesday broke clear and mild, the winds abated, the stars crowded the skies at dawn's first rays.
A visitor from Washington met the trio before dawn at the truck stop. He thought he recognized them but decided not. "Just another bunch of truckers," he thought.
Isenburg and Boston and Almy fished until Friday, rising every morning at 4:30, fishing to 7 p.m., grabbing dinner at the truck stop and keeling over by 10 so they could get up and do it all over again.
They fished hard, drifting the creek at dawn and nightfall and working the trees in the heat of the day.
The last two days Isenburg and Boston slept in the truck at the fishing camp so they wouldn't waste time getting to and from the water. Finally the fish were biting.
They left Friday with 20 pounds of crappie fillet plus assorted pickerel, bass, rockfish and yellow perch they had accidentally picked up. Isenburg had to get back in time to work on and supervise a roofing job for his church. He is paperhanger by trade. Boston, a life and health insurance salesman had a side job as a musician.
And Almy had to recover.
"It takes me two or three days to get over a trip like this," Almy said."We fish for fun, but we like to knock ourselves out."
Isenburg looked up from his evening stupor as he pounded down a Truckstops of America more-than-you-can-eat special.
"My wife never can understand why I come home from fishing tireder than when I started."