The first time Steve Sims witnessed a "Monster Truck" event, he knew it was something he wanted to do.
Sims, of Virginia Beach, Va., managed to become a part of the big rig experience through bartering.
He operates a business, Custom Stone Company, in Virginia, which also does countertop installation.
Sims got driver Dennis Anderson to bring his big-wheeled vehicle, "Grave Digger," to his son's birthday party. In return, Anderson wanted new counter tops.
"I've always went and watched (the Monster Trucks)," Sims said. "I'd sit in the stands and say, 'I can do it.' I just knew I could do it."
Today, Sims owns and drives his own monster truck which he calls "Stone Crusher."
Stone Crusher is one of the modified vehicles appearing in the Advance Autoparts Monster Jam, which is at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Sims got his first truck in 2004. He hired Gary Wiggens as his driver. When Wiggens got hurt in 2006, Sims got behind the wheel and has been competing ever since.
He no longer drives that original truck. Instead, he built a new rig. He said it costs about $150,000 to $200,000 to construct such a vehicle.
Safety is a priority of Monster Trucks, he said. "We roll over quite a bit, but safety is involved. When we roll over, we don't know if we're upside down or on our wheels."
He said all drivers are custom fitted, with seven or eight belts keeping them in the truck.
Driving Monster Trucks has taken Sims to Las Vegas, Texas, and other big cities. But, he said, "I try to stay more on the East Coast, closer to home."
He said he's a family man and sometimes has his family accompany him to Monster Truck events.
His 18-year-old son, Steve Jr., is a college student but has been bit by the Monster Truck bug. He has his own vehicle which he calls "Hooked" and is based on his enjoyment with fishing.
One other son, age 14, has a truck he calls "Bullet Proof" which he uses for mud races.
"My 2-year-old daughter has a little Jeep.," said Sims. "She races around the property."
Monster Truck events have been very successful for Sims. He was in the World Finals in 2008 and for two years in a row was on the winning team.
Sims said being in the World Finals in Las Vegas have created lasting memories. He recalls, "I didn't really expect to do that well. Actually, I didn't do well in racing, but I did do well in freestyle. Getting out there with all of the top names, and being able to hang with them after such a short time being behind the wheel really boosted my self-esteem.
This is the first time Sims is competing in the Monster Truck event in Wilkes-Barre. "I'm looking forward to it," he said.
He said, "Driving Monster Trucks is more of a family atmosphere. But when we get in the trucks, we race."
He said the competition is tough but the drivers help each other out, especially when an emergency occurs. "If your truck is broken, other crews will help you."
"The bottom line, though, is winning," he stressed.