Also known as Iowa 80, or simply “I 80,” the World’s Largest Truck Stop is located on Interstate 80 in Iowa, just west of the Quad Cities near the IL/IA border. The colossal property spans 220 acres (75 of which are developed), contains 900 truck parking spots, and is home to hotels, restaurants, and proprietors of many different goods and services. Their stats say they host around 5,000 people a day. So what is there to see there? Let’s find out!
Much like South Dakota’s Wall Drug, Iowa 80 has made a tourist attraction in an otherwise unassuming area with not much else around. It is surrounded by farmland and set near a small town of around 1600 people. It sits near the center of Interstate 80, a 3,000-mile stretch of highway that runs from the West Coast in San Francisco, through the heart of America, to the East Coast state of New Jersey. It started as a typical Standard Oil truck stop in 1964, when commercial driving was at its boom, and over time, the Moon family, owners of the franchise store, grew it to become the largest truck stop in the world. Hotels and restaurants and even other smaller truck stops popped up right around it, making it a small city in and of itself.
As far as kitschy goes, Iowa 80 focuses mostly on the actual truck stop elements. Aside from truck service and maintenance options, the facility feels more like a mall than anything, with a massive ‘trucker’s store and showroom,’ featuring every last possible thing a truck driver would need to deck out his or her truck. There are old trucks and new trucks on display, and a 20×40-ft wall display of different LED light add-ons.
The other half of the main level features a huge gift shop with all of your standard mugs, shotglasses, keychains, t-shirts, and other trinkets; a sizable food court with fast food chains you’d see in your local mall; and a buffet-style sit-down restaurant. The upper level is more of a trucker’s lounge type of area, with showers, a movie room, a game room, a dentist, a barber, and even a chiropractic office complete with a DOT physicals option. The walls are plastered with hundreds of pictures of old trucks, trucking fun facts, and “Did you know?” type of trivia about Iowa 80 and its history and daily stats. The exterior has several murals they describe as “selfie spots.” The entire place is roughly four times bigger than some of the larger truck stops out there.
Also on the property across the street is the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum. It features dozens of different styles of trucks dating back to the early 1900’s, a trucking hall of fame, antique toy trucks, and other trucking and truck stop memorabilia. The walls are adorned with vintage advertising. Like most museums, guests are encouraged to look and not touch, but admire and appreciate history. Its mission statement is about the “restoration and preservation of antique trucks and trucking artifacts so that the history of trucking may be shared with the general public.” Unfortunately in the off-season, they are closed Mondays and Tuesdays, so I wasn’t able to explore it fully. Perhaps another time.
Image Source: facebook.com/iowa80truckmuseum
Although Iowa isn’t always everyone’s first choice for a road trip, there are some great things around the state. And if you’re ever passing by, it’s worth stopping in at Iowa 80. There’s something for everyone there, even it it’s just to look at the old trucks or grab a quick snack. The sheer size of the place itself is a spectacle, and it may even give you a new appreciation for the underappreciated industry that keeps the country moving.
While in the area: The Quad Cities are a fun place to explore along the Mississippi River, and Antique Archeology, of American Pickers fame, is just down the road in LeClaire, IA, along with Buffalo Bill Cody’s birthplace and museum.