Established in 1928 at the intersection of U.S. Route 66 and Route 136 in McLean, Illinois, Dixie Truckers Home is the oldest truck stop in America. Founded by a partnership between J.P. Walters and John Geske, Dixie Truckers Home stood for southern hospitality. Walters wanted truckers to know they had a home away from home.
The business started in a small portion of a mechanic's garage which Walters and Geske rented. The cafe was a single counter and six stools where truckers could get sandwiches. As the business started to grow the partners eventually took over the entire garage and the cafe became a full-service restaurant that could seat about 60 guests.
During the Great Depression the Dixie continued to grow thanks to diesel engines and truck drivers who needed a place to eat, rest and refuel. Six cabins were added on the east side of the property for truck drivers who desired a place to sleep, along with exercise pens for cattle.
Free shows were produced for local citizens, including some of the country's first drive-up, if not drive-in movies. People would park in the lot between the cabins and the Dixie, spread out blankets and be treated to performances by live musicians or a screen would be setup from which they could take in a movie. When intermission time came, people would rush into the Dixie for coffee, coke, pie and hamburgers. However, when World War II began, the festive weekends sadly came to a screeching halt.
In 1965 a fire destroyed the original building leaving the fuel pumps and cabins untouched. The next day friends, neighbors and customers came to help clean up. One used his tractor to pull a cabin into place by the pumps. After closing for only one day, that cabin along with a bank of vending machines became the Dixie.
Nearly two years later, the new Dixie opened in the building we use today. In order to better serve future travelers the building was constructed facing the opposite direction towards Route 66's alignment highway, Interstate 55.
Road Ranger purchased the Dixie Truckers Home in 2012. While the restaurant remained open the rest of the facility was closed and remodeled. Wanting to preserve the iconic background of Route 66 and the Dixie, the original signs are still in place and the inside of the new Travel Center reflects the rich history of Route 66.