Monthly Archives: November 2009

Iowa 80 Trucking Museum: A great free attraction. Check out “world’s largest truck stop” too!

Iowa 80 Trucking Museum, located at the Walcott interchange along Interstate 80, offers a large display of antique trucks and is free. Phil Roberts photo.

Rod Denze of Davenport checks out a 1930 Studebaker tow truck. Phil Roberts photo.

Dave Meier, curator of the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum. Phil Roberts photo.

It’s free, making it one of the greatest tourism bargains in eastern Iowa and western Illinois. The Iowa 80 Trucking Museum ( sits just a few miles west of Davenport at the Walcott interchange, mile marker 284, along Interstate 80. And it’s a fine place for motorists on fall folliage-viewing excursions to learn a thing or two about trucking history while taking a break from the road.

The non-profit facility, located just north of Iowa 80 Truckstop, the world’s largest truck stop, was a dream of the truck stop’s founder, the late Bill Moon.

It features a huge display of antique trucks and trucking memorabilia. Many of the trucks displayed — from 30 to 35 at a time, depending on their size — are one-of-a-kind vehicles. Most are from Mr. Moon’s collection and were acquired before his death in 1992. Other trucks at the museum were donated or are on loan.

“I love it,” Rod Denze of Davenport says while making his first visit there.

That’s how most visitors react, according to Mr. Moon’s son-in-law, Dave Meier, museum curator.

“They like that somebody’s actually sharing this with them,” he says. “A lot of people have collections, and they hide them. We bring it all out in the open, and we don’t charge anything to look at it, either.”

The museum entrance, off of County Road Y-40, is marked by a sign. A short road leads to a paved parking lot right outside the door of a new 5,000-square-foot visitor center.

Inside are restrooms; a gift store; several antique trucks, including a 1934 GMC tractor and trailer; a display of antique gas pumps; and the REO Theatre, which features short films on trucking history.

“We always have a movie going, and we offer those for sale in the gift shop, too,” Mr. Meier says.

During a recent stroll through the museum, he spoke of the GMC.

“Today, none of us would even consider taking that truck to Davenport,” he says.

But Mr. Meier says the truck’s former owners drove it daily to Chicago from Mt. Pleasant with a load of livestock on it. “Terrible brakes. No power. No creature comforts. They did it every day. And here we are — none of us like to even drive a car if the air conditioner is broken.”

The visitor center also boasts a new exhibit on vintage electric trucks. The centerpiece is a 1911 Walker electric that was a commercial milk delivery truck.

Four rows of additional antique trucks and other displays are found in an adjoining 14,400-square-foot exhibit hall.

“I love the older cars, and this is equally as interesting” says Mr. Denze, studying an old tow truck. “It makes me smile.”

Mr. Meier says he often accompanied Mr. Moon on truck-buying trips and to truck auctions. “It wasn’t just a hobby,” he says of Mr. Moon’s interest in antique trucks. “He really loved it. It was a passion.”

Sometimes the pair came back with an antique truck to restore, and sometimes they came back empty handed.

Says Mr. Meier: “As with any collector, I think part of the thrill is the chase. And it’s a lot of fun.”

When Mr. Moon died, he owned 60 to 65 trucks. Others have been added since then. Mr. Meier says the trucks on display and those in storage are rotated once or twice per year.

He says every old truck has a story to tell and those stories are documented on large signs displayed with each truck.

“This truck has had a hard working life,” says Mr. Meier, pointing to the large, steel frame rails on a rare Velie, which was manufactured in Moline. Thick beads of weld mark several places where cracks in the frame have been repaired over the years.

If you go:

Admission: Free but a donation is appreciated.

Hours: Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

Location: 505 Sterling Drive, Walcott, Iowa 52773. Phone (563) 468-5500. The museum is just north of Iowa 80 Truckstop at the 284 interchange of Interstate 80.

Iowa 80 Truckstop…..

Iowa 80 Truckstop is billed as the world’s largest truck stop.

Located along Interstate 80 at the Walcott interchange, mile marker 284, Iowa 80’s Web site,, calls the place “a mecca for professional truckers, travelers and RVers.”

Iowa 80 offers the usual products and services travelers want: fuel, restrooms, snacks, a service center and a restaurant. But there’s lot more, too, including a food court with half a dozen fast-food restaurants, a Truckomat truck wash, a CAT scale, a Verizon Wireless kiosk and a 50,000-item store who highlights are gifts and chrome items.

There’s more. Iowa 80 Truckstop has a library and the services of a barber, dentist and chiropractor.

But the best part are the hours. Like the signs on the doors say, “We never close.”

Copyright 2009 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. These stories were printed in October in the The Dispatch, Moline, Ill., and The Rock Island (Ill.) Argus.

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Posted by on November 22, 2009 in Uncategorized


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WDRL honors champion Chad Simpson

Chad Simpson

Tama, Iowa (Nov. 16, 2009) — Champion Chad Simpson and other top drivers of the 2009 WORLD Dirt Racing League season were honored here at Meskwaki Casino and Hotel on Saturday at the WORLD Dirt Racing League Champions Banquet presented by Iowa-Illinois Taylor Insulation.

It was the second championship in a row for Simpson, from Mt. Vernon, Iowa, in the popular Midwest-based Late Model dirt track touring series co-founded in 2002 by Jim and Nancy Wilson, of Gilman City, Mo. Second through 10th in points, respectively, were Denny Eckrich. Tiffin, Iowa; Al Purkey, Coffeyville, Kan.; Dave Eckrich, Oxford, Iowa; Chad Mahder, Marshfield, Wis.; Tim Isenberg, Marshfield, Wis.; Rob Moss, Iowa City, Iowa; Eric Pember, Pittsville, Wis.; Bill Koons, Omaha, Neb.; and John Kaanta, Elk Mound, Wis.

Those drivers in attendance spoke to the crowd and thanked their sponsors, series sponsors, their wives, car owners, crews and others. Simpson received a standing ovation when he was introduced. He gave a heart-warming talk about the 2009 season and what the championship means to him. He also thanked his sponsors, crew, wife and family for their support.

The top ten WDRL drivers all received point fund checks sponsored by Hoosier Racing Tires. There were also product certificates given to drivers by BSB Manufacturing, Fast Shafts, Hooker Harness, Chase Signs and Graphics, Performance Bodies, The Brake Man, Randy’s Race Filters, Champ Pans, MastersBilt Racecars and InterComp Scales.

There was a good turnout of enthusiastic drivers, crews and fans for the electrifying evening, which started with an invocation followed by a delicious dinner.

WORLD Dirt Racing League president Jim Wilson kicked off the awards portion of the program by recognizing and thanking all of the dedicated WDRL sponsors, promoters and officials. His wife and the series’ vice president of administration, Nancy Wilson, then thanked all the women present who support WDRL racing teams. She presented them roses and asked them to stand for a well-deserved applause.

The annual Crystal Rose Award was presented to Mrs. Denise Brinkman, who is the co-owner of Chad Simpson’s car. The award is a very popular one that is given to a very special woman every year. All season long, drivers, crew members, officials, sponsors and car owners are invited to submit the name of someone they believe is deserving of the award and the reason they would like that person to receive it. At the end of the year, the nominations are all taken into consideration and a person is chosen to receive it.

Other awards presented Saturday included the Iowa-Illinois Taylor Insulation Pole Dash Award. Simpson won that points championship followed in order by Purkey, Mahder, Isenberg and Denny Eckrich. Those drivers all received a point fund check from Jim and Julie Groves of Iowa-Illinois Taylor Insulation.

Mahder was the 2009 Chase Signs and Graphics Rookie of the Year. Chase’s Lee Havlik presented Mahder with a check, a new jacket and a certificate for $2,000 worth of lettering. The champion also received a race car set-up program from Intercomp Scales and product certificates from Champ Pans, Fast Shafts and BSB Manufacturing.

Following the awards, there was a drawing for a set of Hooker Harness seat belts, a $480 value, which was won by  Simpson. Bill Koons won a drawing for $800 worth race car lettering given away by Chase Signs and Graphics.

The banquet closed with Jim Wilson thanking everyone for their support of the WDRL and letting them know that he is working on the 2010 series schedule.

For more information on the WORLD Dirt Racing League and photos from the 2009 WDRL Champions Banquet presented by Iowa-Illinois Taylor Insulation, check out the WORLD Dirt Racing League’s Web site,

(It is my pleasure to serve as WDRL media coordinator. – Phil Roberts)

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Posted by on November 16, 2009 in Uncategorized


A jungle boy pays tribute to a great teacher


Doc Hodges watching and listening to birds. Photo courtesy of Halligan McCabe DeVries Funeral Home.

He was a unique individual, and I’m glad our paths crossed.
Lots of folks have made a big difference in various aspects of my life. One of them was Jim Hodges, who died Nov. 1.

As a college kid seeking a major in speech and drama and a minor in business administration at St. Ambrose in Davenport, I took a personnel management class taught by Dr. Herbert J. “Jim” Hodges in the late ‘60s. At that time, Ambrose was a college, not yet a university. And it was a boys’ school, not yet coed.

Jim did, indeed, teach the young men in his class about personnel management, now called human resources. But that’s not all.

He also taught us about people and life, in general, and he did it with a variety of stories, many of which were sprinkled with humor but delivered with a straight face.

Doc Hodges, as we called him, was eccentric and some of his stories dealt with his outlandish behavior and experiences. He studied birds and told us how he had once devised a plan to get a close look at some egrets at Credit Island. He said he created and put on a large, white, feathery bird outfit and was able to walk quite close to the flock. Wouldn’t you have liked to have been nearby with a camera?

Doc even claimed some of the male egrets were sexually attracted to him.

“I made the grade three times,” he proudly proclaimed to roars of laughter.

We enjoyed being around Doc Hodges so much that some of us talked him into inviting us over to his Davenport house high on a hill overlooking River Drive and the Mississippi to eat pizza and socialize one Saturday afternoon. Not many college teachers are that highly thought of by their students.

There was no textbook in the class I took from Doc Hodges because he covered so much material beyond personnel. And he taught us many lessons you won’t find in a textbook.

“Don’t dip your pen in the company ink,” he warned, referring to the dangers of dating a co-worker.

Another lesson I remember well dealt with a choice he said we’d all have to make in the working world. He said each of us had to decide if we wanted to be an “image man” or a “jungle boy.”

Were we willing, he asked, to work for a company (he used IBM for an example) that would dictate how we dressed, what kind of woman we married, where we lived and what organizations we belonged to? Or did we want to work for an employer who, within reason, let us be ourselves and do our own thing? In other words, did we want to be image men or jungle boys.

I’m a jungle boy, not an image man, I decided. And I thank Doc Hodges for helping me come to that conclusion early in my working years. Knowing where I stand on that has been helpful.

I’m also appreciative of Doc Hodges for encouraging me to pass up a job offer with a nationally known company not long after I had graduated from college.

I needed work and had applied for a sales rep position with the firm and sailed through a local interview. The company then flew me to Kansas City for some testing and another interview. That second interview was, frankly, very stressful and left a bad taste in my mouth.

As I recall, two or three people fired questions — like “What makes you think you can do the job?” — at me in quick succession. It was like a police interrogation you see on TV shows.

I know what they wanted to accomplish. They wanted me to spurt out quick, honest answers before I had the time to carefully choose the right words.

It was a highly uncomfortable situation and lowered my opinion of the company. I flew back home thinking I’d performed poorly and would not be hired.

But a few days later, the phone rang and I was offered the sales job. I said yes but had a lingering gut feeling that I was making a mistake.

So I called Doc Hodges, who happened to own an employment agency, and told him what had gone on.

When I mentioned the name of the company involved, Doc asked me the name of its local contact, the person I’d been dealing with. Doc then swore me to secrecy and confided he knew that individual, that the man was looking for another job because the company was a poor place to work, and he wanted out.

Thanks to Doc Hodges, I didn’t take that job. And a better opportunity soon came along.


Following is Dr. Herbert “Jim” Hodges’ interesting obituary, which he wrote himself, courtesy of Halligan McCabe DeVries Funeral Home:

Funeral services to Celebrate the Life of Dr. Herbert J. “Jim” Hodges, 80, a resident of Davenport will be 10:30 a.m. Thursday, November 4th, 2009 in the All Faith Chapel of the Halligan McCabe DeVries Funeral Home, 614 Main Street, Davenport. Burial will be in Fairmount Cemetery, Davenport.

Visitation will be Wednesday, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the funeral home. Memorials may be made to either the Rare Book Room, at Augustana College, or Petersen Lecture Fund, Unitarian Church of Davenport.

He made his final fieldtrip to enter eternity on Sunday, November 1st from his home, in Davenport.

Professor Hodges died a contented, scholarly, but toothless celibate. He saw himself as a perpetual student from whom life was an endless and delightful fieldtrip. He was a formidably learned man. He lived the deeper questions of life and recognized the spiritual being that he was. He was a labyrinthine man, an octagon personality, an aficionado of life, but also had a certain indifference to the more practical aspects of daily life.

He was dropped on the doorsteps of Davenport Mercy Hospital in swaddling clothes in January 1929. He was later adopted by Bert and Inez Hodges who gave him a loving home. He married Beverly A. Cassilly in July 1954, at St. Henry’s Catholic Church in LeClaire, Iowa. She died December 8, 1995.

He graduated from St. Ambrose College in 1954 and earned his Doctorate degrees in Labor and Management, Industrial Engineering, Industrial Psychology and Law.

He served on the faculty of St. Ambrose for 35 years and taught at Palmer Jr. College, Blackhawk College, and all three campuses of Eastern Iowa Community College. While a graduate student he taught at the University of Iowa.

He attracted students to his classes in large numbers with his broad knowledge of the business world, served up in a humorous, if at times a harsh style. He was known as a riveting lecturer and storyteller. His classes started on time and students soon learned to never come late. It was his teaching mission to be a pioneer in the training of women to become managers and executives long before the Feminist Movement.

In addition to his teaching he was active in the business world owning a group of manufacturing and service business. He also maintained a large labor law practice representing employers as well as unions. In the late 1990’s he came out of retirement to manage factories such as he did in his youth.

Other than his family, his great passions in life were books, birds, and photography. These studies resulted in 50 papers published in scientific journals. He photographed the migration of polar bears and harp seals in the Arctic, and the nesting of Flamingos in the Virgin Islands. He was an international authority on bird courtship display and behavior. Jim’s research established the nesting of three new nesting birds in Iowa: The Mississippi Kite, Black Billed Magpie, and the Osprey.

In 1950 he published the booklet on the bird life of the Quad City area. He trained many in bird identification as a leader of the annual, May Dawn Bird Concert at Credit Island. He, along with Rodney Hart, Norwood Hazard, and Richard Schaefer, and Jeanette Graham were founders of the Tri-City Bird Club (now Quad City Audubon Society).

He was a founding member of the Mississippi Valley Chapter of the American Institute of Industrial Engineers. Other memberships include: Iowa Academy of Science-Fellow, Society for the History of Natural History, Illinois Ornithological Society, Iowa Ornithologist Union- Life Member, Wilson Ornithologist Club- Life Member, American Ornithologists Union-Life Member, Association of Field Ornithologists-Life Member, Contemporary Club, The Round Table, Putnam Museum-Life Member, History of Science Society, Mensa International, International Society for Cryptozoology, Sacred Heart Cathedral, and the Unitarian Church in Davenport.
He is survived by his children and their spouses; daughters; Gail (LeRoy) Levis, Davenport, Elizabeth Hodges, (Joe VenHorst) Davenport, Catherine Rech, Maderia Beach, FL, Judith (Rich) Fristick, of Virginia and, and Suzanne (Rob) Schwartz, Westmont. IL; a son, Jimmy Hodges, Jr., Davenport; eight grandchildren and three great granddaughters.

After the death of his wife he aspired to become an ordained permanent deacon in the Catholic Church. However, Rome decided he was too old. He regarded that decision to be on the same level as Rome’s decision on Galileo Galilei. He served at the Cathedral as Altar Boy, lector, and Eucharistic Minister. During the course of his faith journey, in his later years, he became a member of the Davenport Unitarian Church, and immediately enjoyed the companionship of that faith community.

If he knew that he was going to die tomorrow, he would think, so soon? Still if a man spent his life doing what he wanted to do, he ought to be able to say goodbye without regrets. It is not a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled. However, it is a calamity not to dream.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 42 years, Beverly, and his adoptive parents. May they rest in peace.

Copyright 2009 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.

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Posted by on November 4, 2009 in Uncategorized


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