July 11, 2012

Roth and Ramberg reach the world's largest truck stop


We slept in a little bit this morning. We crawled out of our beds at around 8:30 am. Every night is a late night on these trips since we shoot as long as we can, maybe grab some dinner, then spend the rest of the night and early morning writing blogs, posting photos and gathering the writing for our magazine app of our trip.  AirHornDanny, as it turns out, is a darn good writer (Dale is the one plowing thru writing the blogs, just to make it clear.)

First stop was breakfast at a retro diner called Rausch’s. A family owned café that was also a gas station until to a few years ago. It’s been in the family for generations. Dana even sat in the chair that President Obama sat at in 2011 when he came thru the town.

Sue Rausch and her husband run the café and also own the mechanic shop in the building next door. Sue was happy to drive home and change into her café shirt. We wrapped up our shoot and all had a piece of homemade pie with ice cream. It tasted incredible! They sure know how to make pies around here.

Last night we met the spunky owner of the local tavern. Her name was Jerri and she runs Moxie’s Mixed Drink. We had an absolute blast meeting her and taking her photo. While we were there, she made a few phone calls and set us up to meet Kerri and Jeff in the morning, to get a tour of the one of the last remaining dance halls in Iowa, Lakeside Ballroom.

We pulled up and saw a large white building nestled beside the Mississippi. Kerri pulled up and we headed inside. Stretched out in front of us was a 70 ft wooden bar that ran the width of the entire place.

After admiring it for a few minutes, we then walked thru a doorway inside to a gigantic ballroom. A stage was located at the far end of the building. The floor was maple and in beautiful condition. The ceiling was covered in white lattice with paper material in behind.

There were great vintage lamps hanging from the ceiling. You could almost imagine the Saturday nights that have happened there over the years. People from Johnny Cash to Willie Nelson have played there. The previous owner let it get a bit worn down and Kerri and Jeff and some other locals decided to buy it rather than see it torn down. As we have learned here, and in many of the towns we’ve been in, that the sense of pride and dedication is almost unbelievable.

We said our goodbyes and kind of hoped we would be back on the weekend to see it in action but we had to move on. There were a couple of highway options, but we decided to take the scenic route and head back toward the Field of Dreams to give it one more try.

On the way there, the drive took us up to a lookout that had a spectacular view of the valley. The small town right beside was Balltown: population 42.

We saw a huge restaurant called Breitbach’s that had a sign saying it was Iowa’s oldest bar and restaurant, and across the street, a feed store with antiques called Skip Breitbach Feeds. Dale wanted to push on, but was fortunately outvoted. The feed store was crazy good. Antiques everywhere, next to flower bulbs, baskets, dried flowers hanging from the ceiling, giant bags of dog food and cat food. It was so awesome we knew we had to get a photo.

It was owned by a man named Skip. We briefly met him but he had to run a few errands. He said he’d be back. His brother Mike owned the restaurant across the street. We went inside the restaurant and met Mike, but he was in a bit of a rush too. We hauled him outside in front of the restaurant and photographed him quickly. Then his brother came back so we rushed to shoot him at the feed store and even managed to get a shot of the two brothers together before they had to go.

Mike insisted we had to have the pork tenderloin and pie. Totally full from breakfast, we had to push ourselves to eat anymore. Well, it was so worth it. One of the best tenderloins you could imagine. The coating was magnificent. They don’t use any sauce on the bun so it has to be good, and it was!

We followed it up with raspberry pie. When they’re busy they sell over 70 pies a day and people come from all around just for a slice. The restaurant as it turns out, was featured on a tv food show called ‘Feasting on Asphalt’ with Eldon Brown.

The place has a great story that we will write about later. It burned down twice and both times the community came together to rebuild. Great guys with big kind hearts!

Another short drive to the Field of Dreams site. When we got there a baseball team was playing on the field. They were the U.S. Military All Stars baseball team. A giant bus was touring them around North America. We photographed a chaplain named Juan, dressed in his full baseball gear. We sort of shot before we got permission from the owners of the ball diamond, so we will hopefully be able to use his photo. 

Next stop. We heard about a drive-in located on the famous Highway 61; famous because of the classic 1965 Bob Dylan album ‘Highway 61 Revisited’. The drive-in was located just south of a town called Maquoketa. We tried to find the owner, but couldn’t track him down. The manager and ticket booth attendant said he may show up. The light was going down so we decided to set up the lighting and hope he showed. Just as the sun went down, Dennis drove up. We took his photo and listened to his great stories about his drive-in. He bought it in 1972 and it is one of only four drive-ins left in Iowa.

He said everyone is happy when they come to the drive-in. Looking around, he was right; many had got there early to have tailgate parties. Families were there with their kids, playing on the swings and taking free rides on a kid-sized train. Surrounded by a cornfield, it’s definitely considered a classic American drive-in.

Dennis was very accommodating as we tweaked the lighting and waited for the dusk sky. Afterward he took us to the concession stand and we shared some popcorn and slushes.  A great experience.

We hopped in the car and drove the last 45 miles to Walcott Iowa; the goal of the whole trip. ‘Iowa 80’, the World’s Largest Truckstop! With a quick look around, we saw rows and rows and rows of semi trucks here for the Jamboree. Off to the hotel, stay up late writing and then back to meet the truckers in the morning!

Over and out.