We’re up early in Missouri Valley, Iowa. I forget if we’re meeting at 7:30 or 8:00 for breakfast, and I split the difference, finding Bob and Glenn waiting for me in the lobby when I carry two of my bags out to the van at 7:45. We go nearby to a small restaurant in the back of a gas station and convenience store where there’s a small breakfast buffet. We talk about George Carlin who just died. We had talked about him in the van one day, I can’t remember why. My favorite memories of him are from the old John Davidson summer musical revue show where Carlin in his early (much straighter) years used to mock the bizarrre, rapid fire vocal styles of top-40 disc jockeys. “Wonderful WINO!”
I drive from Missouri Valley to Woodbine along route 30, and we arrive at the Brick Street Station around 9 am. Marshall Scichilone (who owns and runs the old drive-through gas station converted to a coffeehouse) has invited Woodbine’s mayor and city clerk to come and meet us, and the smart young woman who puts together local newspaper, the Woodbine Twiner, is there too with her camera.
It’s one of those situations where everybody is a little awkward and off-kilter because the TV crew is there. Bob gets b-roll shots. We interview several folks. Marshall’s sister-in-law, Norma, is baking pies and cinammon rolls in the little kitchen at the one end of the place. It’s homey and small town and charming. The baked goods are the great unifier. Everyone is charmed by the smells coming from the oven. There’s a coconut cream pie already sitting on the counter. We’re told there’s a berry and a lemon meringue on the way.
The whole place is decorated with a remember-the-good-old-days theme, much of it enhanced with Lincoln Highway signs and memorabilia.
Woodbine has lots of charms, but its long stretch of bricked roadway is what convinced us to turn in here originally as we passed by on Route 30 last year.
We didn’t know there would be sublime cinammon rolls iced with peanut butter. A great combination.
We hang around and shoot and interview till we think we’ve got the structure of a story or at least a snapshot of this place and some opinions on how a small town can try to capitalize on the highway in a world where American history tourism is getting more popular all the time.
We also go to the other end of Woodbine to another old portico-front gas station where we meet Elaine Ehlert who collects Lincoln Highway “stuff” (she says she loves that word) and she’s put together several displays that feature pictures, maps and highlights of the highway as it passes through 13 states. She has books of photos old and new (including her incredible photo documentation of the preservation of the brick Lincoln Way in 2002 when it was re-done meticulously and beautifully.)
We also meet Elaine’s sister, Linda and her two grandsons whom we draft into service as “people walking by on the sidewalk.”
After our visit with Elaine, we go back to the Brick Street Station for lunch. Chicken salad sandwiches are one of today’s specials, and we all get those. There’s a group of people from the University of Iowa (or maybe Iowa State) who are in Woodbine today working on the Main Street Initiative or something like that, and they’re expected back here soon for lunch too. We foresee that the choice of pie flavor may become an issue, so Glenn and Bob and I all make sure we get a piece of Norma’s mixed berry beauty. With ice cream.
Bob and Glenn rig up our little camera mount on the side of the van and they go off to get some unusual angles on the brick streets. I stay at the Station to talk for a few minutes with Nikki Davis from the Twiner who has come back to interview me (and to perhaps more importantly to get a root beer float.)
It’s a great small town, a cool little converted gas station, and we hope we can convince more folks to make the small detour into Woodbine when they’re zipping across the USA on the old Lincoln Highway. It surprisingly feels like home.