A Trek for the Troops: A report on my
trip to Riverside Iowa's TREK FEST XXII (Jerome
A. Holst © 2006)
"The Journey There"
We started our trip on the morning of Wednesday,
June 21st, 2006. Our vehicle: a black 1998 Chevy
Prizm (stick shift) that gets over 40 miles to
the gallon on the highway. Our provisions: a
satchel of clothing for five days and a red and
white cooler containing a days worth of iced
beverages - ginger ale and diet Doctor Pepper
Berries and Cream sodas. Food: We'll pickup
along the way.
At 7:00am, I pulled out of the driveway in the
Akron, Ohio area. The temperature gauge on my
car read 84 degrees Fahrenheit. As the day
progressed, the temperatures would climb into
the 90s and stay that way for most of the trip.
For entertainment while driving the nearly 1700
miles to and from Iowa) I relied on the radio,
but I brought along a few of my favorite
cassette (yes, cassettes! I haven't graduated to
CDs/DVDs just yet).
My cassettes featured such entertainers as The
Pretenders, Garbage, Pink, The Beach Boys,
Belinda Carlisle, The Cranberries, Enya, and The
Brian Seltzer Orchestra (they do a great swing
band version of Route 66) and, of course, a
collection of TV show theme songs.
Now how could I even think of hitting the road
with out listening to "Green Acres is the place
to be" or "It's a story about a man named Brady"
or bopping to the cool beat of Lalo Shifrin's
"Mission Impossible" or the rugged sounds of the
western series RAWHIDE.
Rollin', rollin', rollin'
Though the streams are swollen
Keep them dogies rollin'
Rain and wind and weather
Hell-bent for leather
Wishin' my gal was by my side.
All the things I'm missin',
Good vittles, love, and kissin',
Are waiting at the end of my ride
As for my route, I could have taken highway
80 across the northern stretches of Ohio,
Indiana, Illinois and finally into Iowa, but I
felt the ride would be more enjoyable if I could
drive slower and see the sites at a more
moderate pace. So over the length of trip, I
averaged 55 miles per hour as I cruised the back
roads and small towns that paralleled the major
A farmscape in Ohio
Our first day out, we traveled route 224
which took us through the Ohio towns of Findlay,
Ottawa, and Ottoville. As we crossed the Ohio
state line, we passed through the Indiana towns
of Decatur, and Huntington where 224 ended and I
continued west on route 24.
Reaching the far side of Indiana, I decided
on a whim to drive south to
Vincennes to revisit the hometown of Red Skelton. This
was a lucky decision, because, later that day
the route I had originally planned using (24)
was hit with harsh thunderstorms which caused
high water on the highways which blocked access
to points west.
Towards evening (about 8:00pm) I stopped to
watch a little league baseball game in the town
of Bricknell, Indiana. I parked in a field
riddled with muddy tire tracks from the previous
rain, but the ground was dry and sturdy enough
to negotiate my way to the baseball diamond.
I took a few snapshots of the game, and
soaked in the ambiance of a quiet summer's night
in a quaint Midwest town. As the game proceeded,
a crowd of supportive friends and family cheered
on the hometown players.
Off to the side of the baseball action, a
groups of teenagers standing near a concession
stand - selling hotdogs and pop - gazed
awkwardly at each other as they performed a
flirtatious mating ritual of shy glances and
After snacking on a few hot dogs, Joe and I
drove through what was left of the evening
sunset to Vincennes, Indiana where we found room
at the inn (Super 8 Motel) and settled in for
Little Leaguers Batter Up!
The next morning, after eating a man-sized
breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon, orange
juice, toast and jam, we crossed over the
Wabash River into Illinois and worked our way
northwest towards Iowa.
Within no time, we came upon a most unusual
site - a garage covered entirely with license
plates. This multi-colored roadside icon
needed exploring, so I made a quick u-turn
back to the garage to take a few photographs.
The owner of the garage, Doug Tolen,
explained that one day his wife mentioned that
the garage needed painting so instead of
messing with paint cans and brushes, he
decided to start covering the garage with old
license plates that he had collected over the
years. Some of which he learned were valuable
and so he sold them to collectors who had
passed his outdoor shrine to automotive
Doug Tolen, owner of "Caleb's Attic" in Shelbyville, Illinois
During our visit, Doug showed us a 1944 license plate
made from resin and vegetable composites.
These type of plates were issued during World
War II so that the metals normally used for
the manufacturing of plates could be allocated
to the war effort. Before I left, I retrieved
an old license plate that had be languishing
in my trunk and donated it to the cause.
A bit further down the road, we came across a
field of wheat. For fun, I took a picture of
Joe reenacting a scene from the movie
In the film, Russell Crowe plays a weary
Roman soldier who daydreams of his farm in
Italy by imagining he is walking through his
wheat fields and lightly skimming the tops of
the wheat stalks with the palm of his hand.
Joe scans the amber waves of grain
Just as I
finished taking the snapshot, the owner of the
farm (a man named Vandevere) pulled up in his
truck and asked if we needed help. He had seen
my emergency blinker lights which I engaged
when I stopped my car.
As we talked, I learned that he and his
brother owned 2000 acres into which they had
planted corn. "It's not as big as some of the
other outfits around," said the farmer, "but
its enough for my brother and I." Their entire
crop would be sold to make popcorn.
The farmer, whose hands were covered with dirt
and grease from a hard days work in the
fields, said his goodbyes with a firm
handshake but then apologized for his dirty
hand. Quickly, he dashed off to his truck and
returned with a paper towel, so I could wipe
away the grime. But it was not a problem for
me. It was a pleasure to meet a man so
dedicated to his craft.
As evening ensued, I was close to the border
of Iowa. The sky had turned to layered hues of
raspberry, peach and cotton candy blue.
Continuing through the darkness, the fields
became alive with the sparkle of fireflies.
With a drop in temperature, a foggy mist soon
covered the surrounding fields corn. The
fireflies within the mist exploded with flecks
of amber and gold as if an army of fairies
were carrying a thousand little torches to
light their way though the dark.
Shortly after midnight, I crossed over the
Mississippi River into the town of Muscatine,
Iowa where Joe and I spent the night at the
Muskie Motel. After watching some TV, Joe
decided to sleep inside the drawer of the
night stand, covered up snuggly with a white
Joe bivouacs in a night stand drawer
The next morning, before continuing
on our "Trek", we drove through the town of Muscatine to take a
closer look at the Mississippi River. The town is believed to be
named after a tribe of Native American Indians who once roamed the
In the 1880s, Muscatine
was a center for pearl button
manufacturing (harvested from clam shells found in the river) thus
earning the nicknames "The Pearl of the Mississippi" and "The
Pearl Button Capital of the World."
Joe surveys the Mississippi River
Famous American humorist Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) once
visited this river town and wrote in his 1883
memoir Life on the Mississippi that "I
remembered Muscatine for its sunsets. I have
never seen any on either side of the ocean that
equaled them." Based on the sunset we
experienced the night before, things haven't
changed since Samuel Clemens days. The sunsets
are still striking. Now, off to Riverside...
Back to Top