Armchair Field Trip: The World's Largest Truck Stop

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You probably know that Iowa grows a lot of corn. You probably know that the Field of Dreams was filmed here. You might know that Ashton Kutcher is from Iowa, and you might know that Buddy Holly's fatal plane crash was in Iowa. But you probably don't know that Iowa is home to one of the strangest attractions in the U.S. It's the World's Largest Truckstop, located on I-80 between Iowa City and Davenport. Just how large, you ask? Well, it sits on 220 acres, which is about twice as big as Disneyland. Only 75 acres are developed at this point, but the potential for expansion is there.

The I-80 truck stop didn't start as such a behemoth, though. It opened in 1964, when I-80 was still in its infancy, or at least in its toddler stages. It was just a tiny white building stuck smack in the middle of a cornfield "“ two diesel pumps and a restaurant.

semi mural

It grew as I-80 grew and now employs 450 people. The town the truck stop calls home, Walcott, has a population of about 1,500, if that tells you anything. I'm sure people from outside of Walcott work there too, but it goes to show you that it's a pretty huge employer in the area. (Lots of crazy photos after the jump!)

I've been roadtripping a lot lately, so I've had the pleasure of hitting up the I-80 truck stop two or three times in the past two weeks.

Here are just a few of the delights that this wonder offers:

"¢ Several full-sized vehicles. I counted at least five "“ one semi with a mural painted on it, one semi cab, one old-timey car in the restaurant, one truck and another old-timey car hanging from the ceiling. There may have been more.
"¢ A dentist's office.
"¢ A movie theater.
"¢ A chiropractic clinic.
"¢ A barber shop.
"¢ A custom shop, so you can trick out your truck with embroidery, custom vinyl and laser engraving.
"¢ 24 private showers.
"¢ A restaurant that serves about a million cups of coffee and 90 tons of meat every year.
"¢ A car wash for semis (so, technically a semi wash?) that even cleans the engine. A 15-minute wash will set truckers back about $50.
"¢ 75,000 unique items to bring home to your loved ones. And when I say unique, I'm really not kidding:
nunchuks
You know. Nunchucks. Because you never know when you are going to have to defend yourself against a surprise ninja attack.

general lee
I guess these are knives in the shape of guns... with a portrait of General Robert E. Lee engraved on the handle. Why not?

truckers gone wild
Speaks for itself, I think.

presidents playing poker
Those, in case you're wondering, are jewelry boxes with pictures of various Presidents of the United States playing poker together. And the jewelry box plays "God Bless America" when you open it.

alfalfa
Incredibly creepy Buckwheat-like doll... I guess for truckers to purchase and bring home to their kids? Thanks for the nightmares, dad...

Oh, there are more pictures from my stop here, but I'll let you decide if you want to see them.

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August 6, 2008 - 6:30am
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