Dexter Filming Locations: Big Phil's Truck Stop


The location: Big Phil's Truck Stop.

Q. What is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. Big Phil's Truck Stop.

Q. Where is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. Somewhere between Miami & Jacksonville, Florida, "off the 91 exit".

Q. When did we see it on the show?

    A. In Episode 11 (of Season 4), "Hello, Dexter Morgan.

    Dexter is driving in his car, stalking trucker Stan "The Man" Beaudry, and using a CB radio to find him.  He puts out a call asking about him, and another trucker responds that he just saw him pulling into the truck stop "off the 91 exit".

    The scene opens with a wide pan of the surrounding area.  We see a pyramid-shaped refinery building and some tall freight elevators in the distance, as trucks driving by on the highway. A sign at the street reads "Big Phil's Truck Stop - Open 24 Hours".

    We then see what appears to be a large parking lot almost filled with big rig trucks, centered around a long red trailer with a handful of blue tables sitting outside. A sign atop the red trailer
    says "Order Here".

    (Another sign says the stop includes a "full service station, restaurant, showers, laundry room, TV room, games, computer room, telephones & a truckers lounge", but we don't really see much of this - except for phones and that red trailer, which is obviously the restaurant.)

    Next, we see Stan Beaudry, an older man, sitting at one of those blue tables, finishing off a coffee.  We can see behind him that a menu of fast food on the sided of the restaurant.

    Beaudry walks back to his truck, and just as he's putting the keys in the ignition, Dexter grabs him from behind. He winds up taped to Dexter's usual killing table, and goes out shouting a barrage of threats.

    Dexter then plants evidence in Beaudry's truck (hair from Arthur's hairbrush, a photo of Arthur's daughter, and Lundy's Trinity books), all designed to convince the police that Beaudry is the Trinity Killer, so that they will never suspect Arthur - leaving Dexter the opportunity to kill Arthur himself.

    ( He had previously planted additional evidence in Beaudry's shack home, and it works - convincing the police that Beaudry was the Trinity Killer. )

Q. What is it actually in real life?

    A. A public boat launch.

Q. Where can I find it in real life?

    A. This scene was filmed in the parking lot of the South Shore Launch Ramp, located at 590 Queensway Drive in Long Beach, CA, just down the road from the Queen Mary.

    The lot includes 140 parking spaces, providing access to the boat launch, restrooms, and a small grassy park (with a few picnic tables at its north end).

    This is the same launch ramp they used (just minutes earlier in the same episode) as Johnny's Jet Skis.
    And in the previous season, it was the location of the breakwater murder.
    But as far as I know, this is the first time they used the parking lot itself as a filming location.

    To make the empty lot resemble a truck stop, they brought in a lot of big rig trucks & "truckers", set up the red "diner" & its blue tables, added a few telephones and newspaper racks, and put up at least two fake "Truck Stop" signs (one out by the highway, the other near the channel).

    The bridge you see in the background is the Queensway Bay bridge. The bridge leads from mainland downtown Long Beach (just west of the Aquarium of the Pacific), across the mouth of the Los Angeles river, over to the area where the Queen Mary and the Hotel Maya are located. The launch ramp is about 130 yards north/northwest of the (southwest) end of the Queensway bridge., and the park lies to its northwest.

    Here is a Google StreetView of the parking lot, as seen from the highway:

    I shot the photos below in Sept. 2008.

    The parking lot where they filmed the truck stop scene is for both a boat launch and a small park.
    The top photo shows part of that small park, while the bottom photo shows the boat launch & part of the park.

    Here is an aerial photo of the parking lot. And here is a map link.

    The launch is just a short distance from the Hotel Maya.  "Dexter" shot several scenes near the Hotel Maya in Season 2, including Dexter & Lila at a sunny poolside cafe, Dexter & Lila at an expensive restaurant after dark, and Doakes shooting a man aboard a boat moored at a local dock.

Q. How the heck did you figure out where it was?

    A.  This wasn't easy. Even though I once actually parked in this lot, my attention then was focused on park, the boat launch, and the shoreline view across the bay, so I didn't recognize the lot itself (filled by the producers with trucks) as the camera looked in the opposite direction, out towards the highway that runs past the park.

    What did draw my attention in the scene was that pyramid-shaped refinery building, a distant view of the Desmond bridge in the distance, some freight elevators, and the fact that the lot was near some body of water. All of that added up to the obvious conclusion that it was filmed at the harbor, near the border of Long Beach and Terminal Island.  But where exactly?

    So the first thing I did was to search the area for that pyramid-shaped refinery building. I found one quickly enough, but then I found several more! Their location told me the lot was probably somewhere along the L.A. River/Queensway Bay.

    What finally led me to the right lot was a brief shot of the riverbank across the Queensway Bay pool side, in the background when Dexter is tossing the bags full of Beaudry into the back of his car.  Here it is:

    As you can see, this particular portion of the river bank had a few scattered bushes growing on it, a patch of grass to the right (after a stretch of bare dirt) and a small palm tree. That was unusual, since most of the river bank in that area is simply covered with rocks.

    Also, at the top, above the bank, you can see what appears to be part of a black & white vertical-striped building.  I happen to know that there are at least two such buildings on Ocean Blvd in Long Beach. So I found those buildings, then looked down towards the channel from them.

    Using Bing's Birds-Eye view aerial photos, I searched the banks of that channel, looking for the same pattern of bushes, grass and that a tiny palm tree. I found it across the bay, on the shoreline at the Golden Shore marina. (Here is an aerial photo of that same bit of hedge-spotted shoreline.)

    Once I found it that shoreline, I drew a line across the bay, in the direction of where the camera should have been, based on the angle of the shoreline seen in the scene. It led me to right this parking lot.

    Once I knew where it was, everything else fell unto place. Using Google StreetView, I verified that one of those pyramid-shaped refinery buildings (the one at the corner of Pier F Ave and Harbor Plaza) lined up perfectly with the park, just as it appeared in the opening pan. And better yet, a small street sign, visible in pool side a side view during the initial pan of the highway, can be spotted just outside the parking lot.

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