Wednesday, January 26, 2000

Even colder in Marshalltown, Iowa!

I good day of driving with nice skies and cool temperatures lead me to Marshalltown, on Route 30.  This is another railroad town surrounded by a farming community with a population of 25,200.  Actually, I was surprised to see so much activity in this area, but then with the college town of Ames to the west and Cedar Rapids to the east, this makes for a nice mid-point.  Temperature wise, the forecast is for a low tonight between five and ten below!

I began my drive today just before sunup and the colors in the sky were spectacular, again.  I have been very fortunate to see so many wonderful sunrises and sunsets on this trip.  I drove north on Route 77 through Lincoln, Nebraska, and stopped in Wahoo, Nebraska.  This is the town referred to as the "Home Office" for The Late Show With David Letterman.  There is a large billboard at the entrance to the town testifying to that!  While I was there, I decided to have breakfast at the Wigwam Restaurant, and had a very good meal.  I drove around town and happened upon the Chamber of Commerce offices.  They had a sign indicating that the "Home Office" was there!  The office also happened to be located on Broadway Avenue!  Being the good tourist, I took a picture!  I continued with my drive around the town and stopped at the County Court House to read some information and take some pictures.  The town of Wahoo is a neat town, and it reminded me a bit of a small community in New England.

Back on Route 77 North, I found myself in Fremont, Nebraska.  Founded in 1856, the town derived its name from General John C. Fremont, who happened to be a presidential candidate at the time.  There is a park in town named in his honor.  It is amazing that I am still finding his name along my path!

In Fremont, I came across Route 30, my road to the east!  I turned right, and soon I crossed the Missouri River and found myself in Iowa.

I stopped at a Iowa State Visitor Center and Rest Area near the border and spoke with the person manning the station.  Wally was an older gentleman who volunteered his time to assists visitors with their exploration of Iowa.  We spoke of many topics, and he was a very interesting man.  Originally a farmer in the area, he was able to tell me stories of the original Route 30, "The Lincoln Highway," when it was an unpaved road through the area.  One of the reasons I chose Route 30 was that it was called the Lincoln Highway, one of the first (if not the first) transcontinental roads built.  While much of the route has been modified, there are still opportunities to see some of the remnants of the original track.  Wally also mentioned that just last year, they had a tornado pass over the rest area.  It damaged some of the building, and went on to destroy a steel bridge and seven farms.  The broken trees were still visible in some spots.  Sadly, it took two lives, and many others were injured.  It was eerie to see the trees and imagine what happened to this area that day.  We spoke of other items of history of the region, and about that time, other people came in.  I bid Wally farewell, and resumed my drive.  

The Iowa landscape consists of level land, with areas of rolling hills.  There is a lot of train traffic on the tracks that parallel the road, and while I tried to count the cars on some of the trains, the lengths were remarkable, and I lost count at a high number.  Some of them go on for a very long distance!

While at the Iowa State Visitor Center I noticed a pamphlet for Denison Iowa, the birthplace of Donna Reed!  My next stop...Denison!  This is the location of the Donna Reed Theater and an association promoting acting and technical theater and stage work.  They have a festival every June with workshops and shows.  Next to the theater is a refurbished Soda Shop.  They also sell Donna Reed paraphernalia.  A woman named Julie was working the behind the counter.  She helped me collect some gifts, and directed me to the theater so I could see the facilities.  She also introduced me to Christie, who was working in the theater office.  There were newspapers and articles all over the place.  Christie was in the process of working on a grant for the theater.  My friend Carla knows all about that!  Christie was able to get me information on the June festival, and she had one of Donna Reed's dresses on display next to a picture of Donna wearing the dress.  It was a pretty dress, but extremely heavy, with all the bead work on it!  The office also displayed many pictures of Donna through her career, and some of the other actors she worked with in film and television.  Donna passed away in 1986 and is buried in Los Angeles.

I went back to the Soda Shoppe and met a dentist who overheard my conversation.  His receptionist was the niece of Donna Reed, and his wife work in a senior home where Donna's mother stayed, so they both got to meet her often.  He had very nice things to say about her, and how she never let the Hollywood attitude take her away from the small town roots she had.  Julie and he also referred me to another museum in town that contained Donna Reed's Oscar statue, but unfortunately, the museum was closed.  Sorry Carla, maybe a road trip in June will do!

I returned to Route 30 east, and after several hours, as the sun was setting, I found Marshalltown.  There was a small cloud in the sky as the sun was low on the horizon, and the cloud glowed so brightly, it was incredible!

Hotel: Thunderbird Inn, Marshalltown Iowa

Gas: $1.40

Click on picture to get enlarged view:

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The road north out of Beatrice.

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Wahoo, Nebraska!

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Downtown Wahoo.  I had breakfast at the Wigwam Cafe, Seen towards the right of the picture.  (The red wigwam above the green canopy gives it away!)

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A view in the opposite direction.

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A picture of "Dave's Tavern," open 24 hours.  Not sure about this place!

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The Wahoo Chamber of Commerce, also serving as the Home Office for The Late Show with David Letterman!

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Another view from the front of the building....

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...And from further away.

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In front of the County Courthouse, this historical marker describes Saunders County as being on the route of the Ox-Bow Trail.

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Interesting courthouse.

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Another John C. Fremont reference!

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Arriving in Iowa!

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An Iowa State Visitor's Center, Where I met Wally. 

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This is the view opposite the previous picture, showing where a tornado touched down the previous year.  New power poles and broken trees are visible.

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Downtown Denison, Iowa.  My car is in the center of the picture just beyond the SUV.  I am parked in front of the Donna Reed Theatre.

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A closer look at the theatre.

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Handprints and signatures of actors and teachers that have participated in the annual festival and workshops. 

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More cement blocks with imprints.  They are determining the best way to display these items.

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Inside the theatre, looking towards the rear of the house.

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Another interior shot looking house left.

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Pictures line the walls in the lobby.

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A dress previously worn by Donna Reed.  

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Donna Reed paraphernalia offered at the soda fountain shop next door.

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A recreation of Bedford Falls, from "It's a Wonderful Life."

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Another Lincoln Highway post.  Notice the snow is getting into more shots!

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The McHenry House, a museum in Denison.

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One more view of the theatre.

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Another incredible sunset!  Not sure what spot the "X" marks!

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