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Dixie Motel & Emporia Travel Center - Emporia, Virginia


All along Interstate 95 in the South, there are interchanges where the services (food, gas, and lodging) haven't kept up with the times.  Some of these old comfort stops dated to before the Interstate or opened when the new highway came through.  

The former Emporia Travel Center

Long before Buc-ee's, small independent travel centers that mixed a gas station/truck stop, restaurant, and sometimes a motel lined the Interstate.  Just north of Emporia, a long-gone complex consisting of a truck stop, restaurant, and motel greeted travelers as they exited off I-95.

In the late 1950s, Virginia built a US 301 bypass west of Emporia that would become Interstate 95.  When the road opened in 1959, a small restaurant sat where the newly opened bypass tied back into Highway 301 - today's Exit 12.  By 1968, a truck stop and motel had been built next to it.

By early 2011, the Dixie Motel had long been overrun - its days were numbered.  The old motel was torn down a few weeks later.

The motel was the Dixie Motel, a two-building motor court operating immediately south of the restaurant.  The truck stop was known as the Emporia Travel Plaza.

Interstate 95 dumped northbound traffic here until 1982 - when Virginia's final piece of the Maine-to-Florida highway was completed.

About the only thing of value at the Dixie Motel was this old neon sign.

The Dixie seemed to be thrown together quickly with thin walls and basic amenities and was often a stop of last resort for weary long-distance travelers.  Stories of the motel from 1987 and as far back as 1977 describe the Dixie as the "Psycho Motel," a reference to the Alfred Hitchcock classic.

By the late 1990s, one of the two buildings of the Dixie had already fallen in disrepair, and it appears abandoned as late as 2007.

If correct, the Emporia Travel Plaza may have closed as early as 1996.

The Emporia Travel Plaza appears to have been a glorified truck stop, with ample space allowed for parking around both the travel plaza and the restaurant. The Emporia Travel Plaza could have been closed as early as 1996, as an old tobacco purchase sticker read that you had to be born on this date in 1978 to be 18.  Regular unleaded gas was frozen on old analog pumps at $1.279, and a pack of Salem cigarettes sold for $1.92.

Aerial photos don't show much activity at the Travel Plaza in the 2000s, so 1996 could be correct.

The restaurant (last called Carol's Diner) was the first business at the north end of the Emporia Bypass.  It was also most likely the last one to have been open.

The restaurant may have lasted the longest.  It was last known as Carol's Diner - and a sign advertising 'Pit-Cooked Barbecue' stood over the remnants of two old neon signs that read 'Restaurant.'

When we visited this site in February 2011, we didn't know that all of the buildings of the former Emporia Travel Center were about to meet their demise. By the Summer of 2011, the remnants of the Dixie Motel were gone, and the old restaurant and Emporia Travel Plaza were not far behind.  Currently, a construction company occupies the grounds of all three businesses.

Did you spend a night at the infamous Dixie Motel? Do you have other items on the old travel plaza and restaurant? If so, leave a comment below or shoot me an e-mail.

All photos taken by post author - February 26, 2011.

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