TA Walcott marks five decades of giving truckers what they want

By on March 26, 2014
Iowa-80

Truckers have always come here, because the Walcott Iowa 80 Truckstop has always been here for them. It opened in 1964 — before Interstate 80 and its Exit 284 were even finished.

Founder Bill Moon had taken over operations of the site, which was built for Standard Oil, within a year of its construction. In 1984, he and wife Carolyn purchased the site, which the Moons then continually expanded and enhanced over the next three decades. All told, TA Walcott Iowa 80 has seen 28 expansions and remodels, and now includes the Iowa 80 Kitchen, a 300-seat restaurant; dentist, barbershop, chiropractor’s office, laundry, 24 private showers, 60-seat movie theater, food court, custom embroidery and vinyl shop, convenience store and much more. Outside there are 16 diesel lanes, a seven-bay truck service center, three-bay Truckomat truck wash, CAT Scale and even the Dogomat Pet Wash. The lot can hold 900 trucks, 250 cars and 20 buses.

There’s also the Iowa 80 Truck Museum, where Moon’s collection continues to grow and expand, and the Walcott Truckers Jamboree, a special event for truckers, held in mid-July.

Around 5,000 customers come in each day and the goal is to keep things fresh, adding in new services and attractions, says Delia Moon Meier, senior vice president and the founders’ daughter.

“We’re redoing the restaurant, adding in new fixtures and lighting, and also updating the photos on the wall to showcase our antique-truck collection,” Meier says. “We’re also entirely renovating the gift shop, as well as the store, and producing a book that will talk about our history and future. We’ll have a lot of anniversary events around the Jamboree, but we plan to celebrate all year long.”

Shop ‘til you drop

Jim Morris, who ran Iowa 80’s retail operation for 31 years and now handles all of the buying for the travel store, recalls when the place couldn’t boast about being the World’s Largest Truckstop. “I remember having about 1,100 square feet to work with,” he says. “Used to be, customers would trip over merchandise because we’d get so much in we’d have nowhere to put it. So we’d knock out a wall, expand and remodel, then fill it up again. Now we have 37,000 square feet.”

Good food, no surprises

Over at the Iowa 80 Kitchen, restaurant manager Jeff Peel says it’s a family affair. His grandfather opened the diner 50 years ago and members of the Peel family have operated it, along with the nearby food court, ever since.

“Our motto has always been, ‘nothing fancy, just good food,’ and so people know us for home-cooked meals and comfort food,” he says. “We make sure you have the food you grew up with, the things you might have at a Sunday-night dinner.”

Meals for you

The restaurant staff is happy to tweak just about anything on the menu to meet requests for low-carb, reduced sugar or sodium and other dietary needs. Tables are ready 24 hours a day, and as often as a customer goes for an old favorite, there’s another who gets interested by something new on the menu.

“We always refresh things around here, but it’s never a major change,” says Peel. “Some regulars may not notice, but there is always a way to improve.”

Golden mementos

Visitors can pick up anniversary-related die-cast trucks, hat pins, T-shirts and more all year.

Here’s to 50 more

“My dad never thought we’d be here 25 years, much less 50,” Meier says. “Hitting 25 years was a very, very big deal to him, and reaching 50 is a very major milestone for all of us.”

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One Comment

  1. Dan

    March 28, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    That place (I-80) is awesome! From my first stop, sometime in the 80′s until now it never ceases to amaze me. It is a comfort that despite all the regs placed on drivers to the point, that at times it can, figuratively of course, feel as if the weight of the world is bearing down on us that some honorable people place for our comfort such an oasis as the Iowa 80. A toast to your first 50 & another to your next 50!

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