A museum for trucking

Sept. 12, 2008
“We hope to help spread the story of trucking to the public, to the schoolchildren, to travelers and to make today‘s truckers more proud of their roles.” -Carolyn Moon, wife of the late Bill Moon, who founded the Iowa 80 Truckstop outside Walcott, Iowa ...

We hope to help spread the story of trucking to the public, to the schoolchildren, to travelers and to make today‘s truckers more proud of their roles.” -Carolyn Moon, wife of the late Bill Moon, who founded the Iowa 80 Truckstop outside Walcott, Iowa

About, oh, 12 years ago or so I got the chance to visit Iowa 80 - billed as the world‘s largest truck stop - courtesy of tour set up by Bandag (long before it got bought by Bridgestone). What an amazing place - not only HUGE (covering 200 acres) but unique, too, with an on-site movie theatre, dentist office, barber shop, and plenty of home-style food provided by its gigantic restaurant to serve the 5,000 people who come through the truck stop every day. Even a fleet of its very own snow-removal equipment is ready to roll at a moment‘s notice to deal with the big blizzards that hit Iowa from time to time.

[The front door, if you will, to the Iowa 80 truck stop.]

Delia Moon Meier, Iowa 80‘s senior vice president, personally guided us around her family‘s pride and joy. Founded by her father, the late Bill Moon, in 1954, Delia told me way back then that her family strove to make Iowa 80 a special place for truckers - one of the reasons why its hosted the one-of-a-kind “Walcott Truckers Jamboree” (part show truck Mecca, part country fair) every year since 1979.

[The Jamboree in full swing. Photo by Tom Schoening, Peterbilt of Des Moines.]

One of things she showed us back then - tucked away in a little steel building on one corner of Iowa 80s massive acreage - really got my interest. Within were hundreds of antique trucks - restored to near mint-perfect condition - packed together like sardines: a veritable roll call of all the different kinds of vehicles that hauled freight in this country since the literal dawn of the trucking industry.

[Just some of the antique trucks the Moon family has painstakingly restored over the years. Photo by Tom Schoening, Peterbilt of Des Moines.]

These antique trucks were a personal passion of Bill Moon, and Delia told me he hoped to one day put them on display for truckers and the public alike as a kind of visual timeline, to remind everyone of the important roll trucking played in the nation‘s history.

[The new museum, in all of its glory. Photo by Tom Schoening, Peterbilt of Des Moines.]

Well, that dream finally came true this year with the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum - a building comprised of 5,000 square-feet of display area to show off some 40 trucks at any one time (and also housing a gift shop, restrooms, and movie theatre) with another to the 20,000 square feet of storage space to house the hundreds of trucks painstakingly restored by the family. The whole shebang cost $1 million to build, but it was nothing but a true labor of love for the Moon family.

[Carolyn Moon, wife of the late Bill Moon -- Iowa 80's founder -- officially opens the trucking museum to the public. Photo by Tom Schoening, Peterbilt of Des Moines.]

“This museum celebrates trucking history,” Delia said. “We are passionate about preserving the history of trucking and are excited that we can share it with the general public. Visitors will have the opportunity to see some very rare and unique trucks, as well as enjoy learning interesting facts about trucking.” She noted that, while there is no set admission fee to the museum, donations are requested. Museum hours are Wednesday thru Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays, 12 noon to 5 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

[An aerial view of Iowa 80 gives you an idea of just how big the place is.]

Tom Schoening, marketing and communication manager for Peterbilt of Des Moines - one of the many dealerships owned by Sioux City Truck Sales in Sioux City, IA - stopped in to take some pictures at the museum‘s grand opening this past July and found himself duly impressed by the trucking heritage on display.

“I thought the new museum addition greatly enhanced the antique truck display facilities,” he emailed me “It provides ... historical information to help explain the importance of the transportation industry in the U.S. during the past 100 years. These nostalgic displays are a must-see for transportation enthusiasts while driving on Interstate 80 in eastern Iowa.”

[Iowa 80's repair facilities keep truckers rolling.]

Not too shabby for a place that began as just a small, white enamel building with two diesel pumps, one lube bay and a tiny restaurant, located in the middle of Iowa cornfields. Today, Iowa 80 is a brand and a corporate conglomerate, with the Iowa 80 truckstop now part of the Iowa 80 Group that also owns and operates Joplin Petro Truckstop in Joplin, MO; Oak Grove 70 Petro Truckstop, Oak Grove, MO; and the Kenly 95 TA Truckstop in Kenly, N.C.

The company also operates special “Truckomats” truck wash centers in Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia, as well as the ubiquitous CAT Scale Company, too.

I can‘t wait to go visit Iowa 80‘s one-of-a-kind trucking museum myself - that‘s one trucking adventure I really look forward to.

About the Author

Sean Kilcarr 1 | Senior Editor

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