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Lincoln Highway Crossed by Jefferson Highway
Lincoln Highway Part 11, September 25, 2009
David McLane (davemclane)     Print Article 
Published 2009-10-07 10:50 (KST)   
Long ago, when it began its existence, the Lincoln Highway was crossed by the Jefferson Highway at Colo, Iowa. While the route numbers have changed to US?30 and 65, US?30 it's still referred to as the "Lincoln Highway" on maps and street signs.

In any case, the site was once the southeast corner of Charlie Reed's farm and Charlie began to sell gas in 1923 and added food and lodging soon after, with his nephew, M. Reed Niland, as his assistant. The place continued to be run by generations of the two families for more then seventy years and came to be known as Niland's Corner. The gas station, cafe, and motel have been restored to their more-or-less original condition except that part of the motel has been changed to apartments and the cafe has a kind of mini-museum. The corner is now owned by the city of Colo.

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Reed's Standard Service Station and Niland's Cafe, Colo, Iowa
©2009 D. McLane

The cafe was taken over by Jerry Sayer in last December and although there are still a fair number of customers, "Business has been slow." It was late-afternoon snack time and when we asked what kind of pie they had, one of the choices was butterscotch. I'm always up for something new: kind of goopy, but went well of the coffee.

Jerry Sayre, Niland's Cafe, Colo, Iowa
©2009 D. McLane

WE SPENT THE NIGHT IN MARSHALLTOWN, most probably at WalMart, and got and early start the next day as I wanted to get a photo of the famous bridge at the east end of Tama. Not difficult to find as it's just off of US?30 in adjoining a small park with a sign board giving its history which ends with, "It stands as a dramatic reminder of time when few roads were paved and the campaign to 'Get Out of the Mud' had just begun."

Side rails of concrete bridge spell out "Lincoln Highway," Tama, Iowa
©2009 D. McLane

What it doesn't say is there's a life-size mural of the bridge over in the business district of Tama.

Life-size mural of the bridge in Tama, Iowa
©2009 D. McLane

CONTINUING EAST, THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY dips south of US?30 and heads toward Belle Plaine. We followed it for a few miles but the highway crew was already at work and there was a long stretch in various states of construction/deconstruction filled with cars and 18 wheelers. So we, that is to say I, as Sueko was still asleep, decided to give it up and head back north to 30. Only I took a wrong turn some place and wound up in Elberon.

There was a small gas station and I was running low and stopped; the owner came out and pumped and said he was the third generation owner.

Just down the road was a small village square and some buildings that looked like they belonged way out west instead of Iowa.

General Store, Elberon, Iowa
©2009 D. McLane

As I was taking a few shots of the western looking store front, Shirley Beery arrived to open the place up. We went inside where she told me the place was owned by Ron and Lisa Wieble who lived nearby. There used to be a real store at the same location but Ron had gathered together material from other buildings and rebuilt it as it is now. Shirley's the cook and had come to start making breakfast for people who come from all over for dinner, although it's mostly locals who show up for breakfast. Two arrived as we were talking. When I asked her how the place was doing she said, "It's done quite well. Ron builds, Lisa's the boss. Not only do people come to eat, they come to take photos."

Shirley Beerly, Cook, Elberon General Store
©2009 D. McLane

WE SAILED ON PAST YOUNGVILLE STATION AND CAFE, which looked interesting but all by itself, no town, so people to talk with. By mid afternoon were on the west bank of the Mississipi in Clinton by mid afternoon.

There's a walking path that runs along the levee and light-house-like towers that have marks showing the level of the river in the flood that did $5 million dollars of damage in 1965. Researching them for this report, I learned they were "singing lighthouses" built by the WPA (Works Progress Administration) somewhere between 1935 and 1943 and had speakers installed to play music for visitors.

As I was walking along looking at the seagulls slowly flowing down river, a woman came up and started talking about the area as she'd seen the Arizona plates and thought I needed to know something about the area. I didn셳 get a chance to get her name as she ran off all of a sudden, but I learned a lot. She said the Lincoln Highway used to cross the river to Fulton, Illinois on the North Bridge but now runs across the South Bridge. She lived in Fulton and told me how many of the original settlers had come from Groningen in the Netherlands and just last month there'd been a "Celebrate: Groningen Windmills" event as Fulton has a windmill made in Groningen and I might like to see it.

I said that I wasn't doing the Lincoln Highway to see things but to talk with people in small towns about how they were doing during the recession. She said that just about the biggest employer in Clinton was ADM (Archer Daniels Midland) which makes things from corn, especially sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). You can't miss the gold dome at the ADM plant when you come through Clinton on US?30, it's 300 feet across and holds something like 60,000 tons of coal. Some years ago the plant employed 35,000 but now only 27,000. We'd seen the dome but had no idea what it was for.

Later on we talked with a group of young people who were fooling around not far from our van and trailer. A couple of them said they were going to Phoenix and asked how things were there. We said we couldn't tell them much as we do our best to stay out of Phoenix and knew nothing about how life was for people their age. When we asked them why they wanted to get out of Clinton they said there was nothing for them there except "drugs and drama, drugs and drama."

IT BEGAN TO GET A BIT CHILLY as the afternoon wore on so we began thinking about where we would stay for the night. There was a small public park with toilets next to the levee and next to that was a parking lot that had a sign saying parking was limited to 48 hours. No problem. We only wanted one night. So we moved our van and trailer down there. A bit curious as there was a diesel engine parked on railway tracks between the parking lot and the levee.

Although we had doubts the track was used very much, around dinner time a long freight came though and later that night the engine that had been parked there left to the north, picked up some cars, came through again going south, and returned sometime later when we were sleeping.

The next morning I woke up just as the sun was lighting up the clouds, grabbed my camera and tripod, and dashed up the levee thinking to get a shot of the early morning sky when the light in one of the small lighthouses was still on. I kept shooting as the sky got brighter and brighter and managed to get one where the lights on the South Bridge were still visible and the sky was still early-morning pinky-blue just before the light in the lighthouse turned off.

Mississippi River, Clinton, Iowa
©2009 D. McLane

Soon after, at breakfast, two guys showed up at the engine that was once again parked next to our van and trailer. I asked them where it had gone last night and they said, "Davenport," climbed aboard, and off it went again.

Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern (DM & E) engine next to parking lot, Clinto, Iowa
©2009 D. McLane

I will also be posting this story to Open.Salon a few days after it I've sent it to OMNI and will then send a newsalert containing links to both websites to my mailing list.
©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter David McLane

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