Among the many landmarks to be found along old Route 66 is one that’s known by most aficionados of the old highway: the Dixie Truckers Home in McLean, Illinois, a combination truck stop and restaurant that's been around almost as long as 66 itself. The food is good roadhouse-style grub, proving the old adage that “where the truckers eat is where the best food is found”. The restaurant is decked out in typical 66 style, with old signs on the walls and memorabilia all around.
The year was 1928 when John Geske and J. P. Walters began selling sandwiches to motorists and truckers traveling the new Federal highway. They’d picked a location convenient to folks who might have missed fueling up in Bloomington, and business was good from the start. By 1930 the Dixie had grown to become a full-service operation, with a real restaurant, gas pumps, and cabins in the back for overnight stays. The business expanded further to include weekend live music shows, and the Dixie quickly became a popular Central Illinois night spot.
Today, though the music is long gone and the cabins are a memory, the Dixie is still the place that all the truckers know. It’s open all the time, year round, except for one occasion. That was in 1965, when fire struck and the restaurant burned to the ground. However, the gas station was untouched, and the restaurant was back in operation the next day, relocated to one of the overnight cabins. The restaurant was soon rebuilt and has been in the same building ever since.
The Dixie’s doors nearly closed for good in 2001. John Geske had retired, and turned over management of the operation to a holding company called the Dixie Management Group. Things got worse, and soon the Dixie was in bankruptcy, rescued only when a holding company from South Carolina took over. With the change in management, business began to return to normal and the Dixie was soon back to its old self. A further change came later in the year, when former employees Chuck and C.J. Beeler agreed to buy back the assets from the holding company. Unfortunately, this bid would ultimately prove unsuccessful, and the Beelers retired from the business in 2003.
It appeared as if the Dixie might be retired as well, but the place was sold again, to the Phoenix Management Group II of Providence, Rhode Island. Phoenix has kept the restaurant and gas station open, and it looks as if the future of the Dixie Truckers Home is secure at last. They’re still serving up the best chili to be found on Route 66!
"Dixie truck stop name, ownership will change." The Pantagraph, 29 July 2003
"Ex-owners buy back truck stop." The Pantagraph, 23 October 2001
Teague, Tom. "Searching for 66
." Springfield, Illinois
: Samzidat House, 1996.