When Iowa 80 Truckstop opened for business in 1964, the interstate highway system was still years from completion. But Interstate 80 was up and running at Mile Marker 284, just north of Walcott, Iowa, the truck stop’s location.
Plans for an interstate system had actually begun 40 years earlier when Congress had passed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944, which chartered a “national system of interstate highways.” But, it takes money to make things happen. And since no specific funds were allocated in the legislation for construction of interstate highways, progress on the project was slow at best.
That all changed after Dwight D. Eisenhower became president in 1953. Eisenhower, for whom in 1990 the interstate system was renamed the Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways, had traveled cross country and knew there was a need for a better transportation system to tie the nation together.
There also had been an increase in the use of highways in the post-World War II era, and a better system was needed for the shipment of freight and as a way to efficiently move military equipment and people in times of emergency.
The result was the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1954. Unlike its predecessor, the legislation provided funding — $175 million of it — for building more than 40,000 miles of highways.
But it was soon determined that that wasn’t enough money to get the job done, so additional legislation, the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, authorized the expenditure of $25 billion. The interstate system was now on its way.
That bill also imposed some nationwide design standards for the new highways: at least two lanes in each direction, minimum lane widths of 12 feet, a 10-foot paved shoulder on the right side and the capability of handling speeds of up to 70 miles per hour.
In the early 1960s, as sections of the interstate highway system were being built, the people at major oil companies like Standard Oil were paying attention. They realized truckers would soon be leaving the two-lane roads and traveling the interstate highways. Oil company officials also knew that truckers would want to buy the fuel for their rigs along the interstate.
Enter Bill Moon. He was an ambitious young man who had served in Korea, then gone to college on the G.I. Bill, studying chemistry, as a means of achieving a better way of life.
After graduation he had hired on at Standard Oil as an industrial salesman. Then, a few years later as a district representative, Bill had been one of the scouts the company sent out to find likely locations for truck stops along interstates.
In eastern Iowa, Bill struck gold. He discovered a piece of farmland along I-80 that was close, but not too close, to the growing city of Davenport. The site was roughly six hours from Detroit and Omaha and three from Des Moines and Chicago. He wisely considered Walcott, Iowa, the perfect place for a Standard Oil Co. truck stop. The company agreed, and Iowa 80 Truckstop opened in 1964.
Bill always considered Iowa 80 his baby and he was thrilled to have the opportunity to take over its management as lessee in September 1965 when the original lessee departed. Bill brought his longtime friend, Tom Campbell, on board as his partner.
Back then Iowa 80 was a fraction of the size of the current facility, which is known far and wide as “The World’s Largest Truckstop.”
There was a small truckers’ store, one lube bay, a restaurant and a dusty, gravel parking lot. But business was growing each day, and so were Bill Moon’s visions and ambitions.
In 1969, Bill started a truck wash company, Truckomatic. Known today as Truckomat, the company operates 12 locations in 11 states.
In 1977, while still busy with Iowa 80 Truckstop’s operation and Truckomat, Bill founded CAT Scale Company. He realized that truckers often had to pay hefty overweight fines because the scales of that time period could not weigh a tractor and trailer together, and that often resulted in an inaccurate weight.
The new scale company would revolutionize the industry by introducing the first totally automated, full-length platform scale that could weigh both truck and trailer together.
In 1978, Bill was kicking around the idea of having some sort of appreciation celebration for his customers, the American truckers. He had seen it done elsewhere, but on a small scale. He wanted a real big wing-ding. After lots of planning and hard work, the first Walcott Truckers Jamboree, which now is one of the largest annual trucking events in the world, was born in 1979. In addition to honoring truckers, the new, two-day festival gave dealers a place to display their new rigs where thousands of interested people could examine them, and it gave Bill Moon a place to display the antique trucks he had been collecting and loved to show off.
Iowa 80 was growing, and the Walcott Truckers Jamboree was a wonderful way to end a busy decade.
The 1980’s proved to be just as busy for Iowa 80. In 1982, Bill and Carolyn purchased a truckstop in Oak Grove, Missouri just off of the busy Interstate 70. The year 1984 was notable for Iowa 80 because that marked the moment that Bill and Carolyn Moon, after years of trying, had finally succeeded in convincing Amoco to sell to them the land and buildings of their beloved Iowa 80 Truckstop, which they had operated from nearly the beginning. Bill Moon later told a newspaper reporter: “This corner is priceless.”
Being able to purchase the facility at long last gave the Moons the green light to remodel, update and expand Iowa 80, and they got right to it. Old shop bays were converted to private showers and a drivers’ area, both of which were still rare for a truck stop of that era.
They also remodeled and updated the restaurant and truckers’ store. Expansion for the Moons was taking place on other fronts, too. Hebron, Ohio, received a Truckomat in July 1985. And in 1987, Joplin Petro in Joplin, Mo., a brand-new facility, opened.
Delia Moon Meier, an owner and the senior vice president of Iowa 80 Group, recalls: “Joplin was our first experience with being a franchisee and the first ground-up development that my dad had been able to do since leaving Standard Oil Co. 22 years prior.”
She adds, “Joplin was our biggest location and showed us what a big, first-class facility could do. It also showed us that trucking was changing, and independent truck stops were going to have trouble competing with nationwide chains that could call on trucking fleets and offer
In 1989, Iowa 80 Truckstop added a new store, now famous for its extensive chrome selection and a trademark 1918 Oldsmobile perched above the cashiers’ island.
The Joplin, Mo., facility received a Truckomat in August of 1990.
In 1992, the Moon family expanded Iowa 80 Truckstop’s fuel center and the facility became a TA (Then called Truck Stops of America, now called Travel Centers of America) franchisee. 1992 also marked the untimely death of Bill Moon at the age of 59.
That same year, the Moon family organized as Iowa 80 Group Inc., which has continued to operate and expand several family businesses, including Iowa 80, “The World’s Largest Truckstop.”
Leading the way in that effort has been Carolyn Moon. Raised by a single mother who worked as a teacher and secretary, Carolyn graduated from Southwest Missouri State University with a degree in math.
She then was recruited by Lockheed Missile in California and later worked for Boeing Aircraft in Wichita as the only woman in the company’s engineering and programming departments.
Running a business came naturally to her. Carolyn’s grandfather had lost his Oklahoma farm during the Great Depression. He later opened a restaurant in California and told Carolyn that owning his own business was the only job he wanted to do.
Carolyn and Bill had spent nearly every dime they’d had to become lessees of Iowa 80 in 1965, a year after it had opened, and she had been supportive of his plans to buy the property from Amoco in 1984.
Now, with the assistance of dedicated employees, key managers, her son Will, daughter Delia Moon Meier and Delia¹s husband Dave Meier, Carolyn continued to grow Iowa 80 Group and the Iowa 80 Truckstop.
Delia summed up the company’s philosophy for success in a July 1997 article in Women in Trucking: “The main thing is to just keep trying and do something,” she said. “If you have a great idea, act on it. Find people who agree with you. Move forward — make it work. It’s all hard work. Good ideas and all hard work. It’s more than eight hours a day. It’s a life.”
Iowa 80 Group opened a Truckomat in Oklahoma City in October 1993.
Then, in 1994, a two-year, $4 million expansion began at Iowa 80 Truckstop. There were many improvements. Iowa 80 Kitchen became a 300-seat restaurant with a 50-foot salad bar. Twenty-four private showers were installed, the truckers’ warehouse store was enlarged and a movie theater was added. A Drivers’ Den, which contains big leather chairs, a fireplace and television, was built.
In 1997, The Learning Channel’s “Amazing America” aired a show that focused on trucks and truckers. It had been taped at the 1996 Walcott Truckers Jamboree. Bill Moon would have been proud.
Iowa 80 Group’s Oak Grove 70 Truckstop in Oak Grove, Missouri, also received a huge facelift about this time. The truck stop was literally torn down and rebuilt from the ground up. A $10 million investment in the property resulted in a new restaurant, store, main building, shop and fuel center. Wendy’s and a Dairy Queen opened on site, and Oak Grove Truckstop was franchised with Petro Stopping Centers.
Things continued to happen at Iowa 80 Truckstop and Iowa 80 Group’s other properties in the late 1990s. The May 1998 issue of Fortune magazine devoted 14 pages to a close-up look at the trucking industry. The magazine included a half-dozen page photo essay on Iowa 80 Truckstop and spoke of “the life of today’s coffee-swilling, laptop-toting truckers, who haul 60 percent of the nation’s freight.”
The article also noted the lack of locks on Iowa 80’s doors. That’s because the place never closes.
Iowa 80 Truckstop’s service center was enlarged in 1999, with one bay devoted exclusively to wheel alignments, including three-axle wheel alignments and tire balancing.
In 2000, Iowa 80 Truckstop completed a 3,500-square-foot expansion of the fuel center. That included refurbished canopies over the fuel islands, a food court and patio with outside seating, a larger convenience store, more restrooms and more phones.
Additional Truckomats opened in 2000, too: Indianapolis in April and Laredo, Texas, in July.
Also that year at a ceremony in Des Moines, Iowa 80 Group’s Carolyn Moon was one of five Iowans named Entrepreneurs of the Year at the 12th annual Iowa/Nebraska Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year ceremony.
In 2001, Iowa 80 Group held an open house for its beautiful new headquarters building. It sits just north of Iowa 80 Truckstop. High ceilings create an open-air industrial look in the three expandable wings of the nearly T-shaped, 26,000-square-foot building. Hallway walls are covered not with ritzy wallpaper, like you might expect to find in a corporate office, but with Rand McNally-produced road map wallpaper and real sheets of shiny diamond plate — that’s the non-skid aluminum stuff that truck running boards are often made of.
Cable TV’s The Travel Channel was at Iowa 80 Truckstop in September of 2002 to videotape a segment about Iowa 80 for their “World’s Best” series. The program, called “Ten Best Truckstops,” aired May 27, 2003.
Also in 2003, ground was broken for the new Iowa 80 Trucking Museum, which opened in 2005. The museum, which sits just north of the truck stop and west of the headquarters building, will be a tribute to Bill Moon, family members say. He had long dreamed of building a museum to show the history of American trucking.
In 2004, Iowa 80 Group purchased the Kenly 95 Truckstop in Kenly, North Carolina. The facility is now a Petro franchise and has undergone a complete rebuild. A 65-foot Cape Hatteras replica lighthouse welcomes truckers and travelers. Today, Kenly 95 is the premiere truckstop on the East Coast.
The Iowa 80 Group started a $10 million expansion and remodel of the Joplin 44 Petro in 2010. The new facility has doubled in size and includes a new 15,000 square foot Super Truck Showroom, new Custom Shop and expanded food court.
In April 2011, Iowa 80 Group was awarded the Better Business Bureau Integrity Award. The award exemplifies Iowa 80’s commitment to customer service and dedication to its employees.
Iowa 80 believes the future of American trucking is bright. No other mode of transportation can deliver goods from port or manufacturer’s dock to your door.”
And he and others associated with Iowa 80 Group know they will be around for the long haul, too.
You might say that Iowa 80 Group gives real meaning to the expression “Keep On Truckin’.”