From coast to coast and from pines to palms. Many of the original “Great American Road Trips” originated on these historic treks called the Jefferson HWY and Lincoln HWY. Linking New York City with San Francisco is the Lincoln stretching across the US from East to West. Going North and South is the Jefferson, connecting Winnipeg with New Orleans. They both have to meet somewhere. That rendezvous point is right here in Iowa and the town of Colo has been the longtime caretaker of America’s corner. We were on our way to Fort Dodge and taking the “rose-smelling” route turned out to be a good call once again. A night in Colo, IA!
We had a 3 hour trip to Fort Dodge to scout our 4th town in our RAGBRAI series, so we thought we would descend on to Webster County the night before and keep our eyes peeled for more Gallivant opportunities. 2 hours into our trip and we had our spot. The Reed/Niland neon lights were illuminating the rural Story County skyline and we couldn’t resist. Dinner and sleeping accommodations were all but set up for us within minutes of arrival. A Colo tradition for decades.
Niland’s Cafe and Museum. That was not a typo. If you had no idea of how important this intersection is, you will by the time you get that piece of pie down. Which Niland’s has plenty of. Made fresh of course!
While Emma took great care of us and our meals, Sandra prepped our room bill while we ate. We we’re handed the check and room key at the same time. Along with a copy of the Iowan Magazine that had a wonderful article about the very place we stopped in at.
A very light rain crept in overnight and we enjoyed the coolness it brought in the morning. We took another stroll around the grounds when Sandra caught up with us. It was 7:00am and she was primed to give us a tour of the historic Reed filling station next door. 7:00am. She was helping to clean up her restaurant at 9:00pm the night before and checking in guests. Sandra is officially on The Iowa Gallivant starting lineup. We’re not sure what the lineup is, but she’s making a run at team cap’n!
The Reed filling station still had the musk of tires and engine grease. Something I hope is preserved for a few more generations. Charlie has long passed away, but he is still very much apart of this area. His humbled home is still across the street and Niland’s tends to bake his favorite molasses cookies from time to time. I wouldn’t be surprised if locals still hear the bell randomly going off at Reed’s. However our inner breakfast bell was going off and we knew Sandra had the grill ready to go for our second meal at Niland’s Cafe. We discovered even more of its history than we did the night before.
We admired the dedication and attention that the Colo crew exuded during our visit. The large museums in Iowa’s highest populated cities and universities are very important and should get as much support as possible. However, even some the most notable historian and curators know that the preservation of our past depends on the folks that cling to the artifacts and the unique education that is tucked away in the small Iowa towns and communities. Many of their precious time capsules are willing to open their doors upon reservation, giving intimate tours to history buffs a handful at a time. The Reed and Niland families have welcomed countless travelers to Colo and their values and ethic is still the best exhibit you’ll see here everyday.