Web Extra! Slideshow

Scroll down to see a slideshow with more photos

Eight-year-old Owen Metric was wide-eyed and curious standing in the small driver’s space of his pen pal’s semi-truck.

“It’s cool,” the Irving second-grader said about the rig, minus the long trailer, that was parked Monday morning in the Oak Park elementary school lot at 1125 S. Cuyler.

Mike Striegel, the 52-year-old pen pal, hauls for a national food distributor that he’s worked for the last five years. Three of those years, Striegel’s been a member of Trucker Buddy, an international nonprofit that links drivers with school kids as pen pals. Along with mentoring, the program helps educate kids in geography, reading and writing, according to its Web site, www.truckerbuddy.org.

Striegel, a Chicago native who lives in Kankakee, visited Donna LoCoco’s class at Irving on Monday to meet his 23 pen pals. He’s corresponded with the class via e-mail since December.

Trucker buddies e-mail the teacher, who shares each letter with the class. Trucker buddies also send pictures from the road. The enthusiastic class broke out with a few “whoooas” as they walked to the Irving lot and saw the big blue cab.

“I can’t believe it’s so tall and has so many buttons,” said Owen, who was among the first kids to go inside the cab. All 23 got the chance to see Striegel’s small bed, cooler and TV set, just behind the driver and passenger seats.

“I liked it because it’s so small and it looked new inside,” Remy Gajewski, 8, said of the rig’s interior.

Armani Allen was dazzled by the truck’s height. “I didn’t know the truck had so many wheels in the back,” Armani said.

Monday was Stiegel’s day off.

“The kids get a kick out of seeing the truck,” he said. “And they want to know so much about me, my family home life, my dog – just all that stuff.”

They asked more questions during his visit. They wanted to know how tall and long the truck is, how much gas he uses, and why he wanted to be a truck driver. The cab, Striegel said, is 13 feet 5 inches high. He normally hauls two long trailers together behind the cab that’s about 20 feet long. The rig takes 213 gallons of diesel fuel, he said. In all, Striegel’s logged more than 450 miles on the truck.

He said that when he was kid growing up in Chicago, he saw trucks running along the roads and wanted to drive one when he grew up. The kids asked what music he listens to while on the road. Striegel said he likes a variety of music, but also listens to sports and talk radio. Listening to books on CD is another of his favorites.

Striegel, who’s been a truck driver for 17 years, warned kids about the danger of walking in front of large trucks.

“Always look the driver in the eye. You see how high this is?” he said, pointing to the front grill. “If you walk in front, the driver won’t see you.”

After show and tell about his truck, Striegel visited the classroom, where his pen pals had a small party for him. LoCoco has had other trucker pen pals for her students, but Striegel was the second to visit Irving.

Join the discussion on social media!