Byway Coordinator Retiring

Sad to say, but this is the last blog I will write as the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway Coordinator. It has been a fun-filled six years in this position. At times it doesn’t seem like that much time could have passed. But it has. As I reflect, we accomplished quite a bit.
Going back through quarterly and annual reports, I learned I gave over 65 presentations to cities, counties, and service groups. Some of these were in person and some virtual. I also manned booths at local celebrations and at the Iowa State Fair. At several community 125th or 150th year celebrations, we had an entry in the parade. These experiences allowed me to meet the people who live along the Byway and those interested in the Lincoln Highway. All are great people with a passion for their communities and I wish them well.

As with most non-profit programs, it takes a village to run a successful program. Thanks to the Prairie Rivers of Iowa (PRI) board members. They helped with events, manned booths, and supported the Byway efforts 100%. To Penny Brown-Huber, PRI Executive Director, I owe her everything. She took a chance on an older person who went back to grad school in her 50’s and gave me the job I know I was destined for. Still remember looking at the job posting and saying to myself, “I can do that. I can do that,” as I scrolled through the duties. Then I read through them again to see if there was anything I didn’t want to do. NOPE! I interviewed and was hired.

To the staff: I appreciate Dan Haug who helps the program by creating maps; Carman Rosburg who does the accounting work, keeps me in office supplies, and volunteers to help with events; and I appreciate those countless interns and now Joshua Benda, our Graphic Designer, as they have and continue to do the design work on interpretive panels and brochures- I owe you all a ton of gratitude. It is your unwavering dedication to your job and your professionalism that kept me motivated.

Mahanay Bell Tower in Jefferson by Mike Whye

The Iowa Byways program has seen some changes. Currently we are working with Travel Iowa with the Iowa Byways Passport Program. This program has allowed all 14 Iowa Byways to be more visible to the public and the program has really taken off. With summer approaching soon and vaccines available, I hope you all will get out and travel around Iowa. We have a beautiful and interesting state with much to see and do. I have new favorites from my travels along the Byway. Some of them are the Tremont and Taylor’s Maid-Rite in Marshalltown, the view from the Elijah Buell Terrace by the Sawmill Museum in the Lyon’s District of Clinton, and the view from Mahanay Bell Tower in Jefferson is breathtaking. You can see for miles and miles from the observation deck. And who can leave out Harrison County Historical Village and Welcome Center near Missouri Valley. Kathy Dirks and staff are so welcoming and they have tons of Lincoln Highway info – and even a movie! I could go on and on.

Old Car at Youngville by Mike Kelly

I appreciate Henry Ostermann who knew the Lincoln Highway better than anyone from 1913-1920. He lost his life in an accident on his beloved highway. And to all those auto pioneers who helped develop roads and cars – if they could see us now with our climate control, GPS, parallel parking aides, satellite radio, video monitors, back-up cameras and large SUVs. That’s all stuff they probably didn’t even imagine could be possible.

I appreciate the folks in the Lincoln Highway Association that brought attention back to the road in 1992 when they re-formed the national association. To Bob, Joyce, Dean, Jeannie, Bob O., Cathy, Lyell, Rex, Mary Helen, Joe, Kathy, Barbara, Mike, Sandii, and Van – your expertise and knowledge of the Lincoln Highway was invaluable. And a special shout-out to Russell Rein, the current LHA Field Secretary, who lives in Michigan. He has answered every question I’ve asked him in a super timely manner. I am amazed at his knowledge.

As I prepare for my last day on April 16th, I am extremely proud that we have a both a Corridor Management Plan and an Interpretive Master Plan to follow that outlines the direction for the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway. And I am over the moon that we can add “ – A National Scenic Byway” to our title. It is time to hand the baton off and let a new person take the lead.

I thank all of you for reading this and for your interest and support of the Lincoln Highway and the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway- A National Scenic Byway. I had to say it one more time!

Jan Gammon

Can Summer 2019 Really Be Over?

Can Summer 2019 Really Be Over?

Can summer really be over? It seems every year it goes faster and faster. We, here at the Byway office, seemed to have packed quite a bit into our last 3 months. Five communities celebrated 150 years this summer- Carroll, Dow City, Grand Junction, Scranton, and Westside. We entered a car into several of the parades and had Bob and Joyce Ausberger, Lincoln Highway Association members, help toss candy out to the crowd in Grand Junction. What a great way to share in the fun!

The Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway took 4 of the 11 days at the Iowa Byways booth under the grandstand at the Iowa State Fair (Aug 8-18) and talked to fair-goers about the unique Byway routes in Iowa. We shared some history in a trivia spinning-wheel game. Everyone, of course, got a prize!

This year our new featured booklet at the fair was about the original 1919 Army Convoy, the Lincoln Highway, Henry Ostermann (the idea man behind the convoy and a man we have written about before), Dwight Eisenhower (who was on the original convoy), and Dwight’s wife, Mamie, (who was born in Boone, Iowa). These booklets are available at some state Welcome Centers and select locations along the Byway route. And of course, you can always request copies from our office at

On August 15th, we unveiled an interpretive panel in the City of Montour’s Maple Hill Cemetery. This panel serves as a long overdue memorial to Henry Ostermann, who served the Lincoln Highway Association as their first Field Secretary and knew the road and the route better than anyone. He had been piloting convoys up and down the east coast in 1917 and came up with the idea to test men, equipment, and roads by taking a convoy across the nation- on the Lincoln Highway. His idea was a reality in 1919. In 1920, on his 21st trip across the nation (and his honeymoon), he lost his life in an accident east of Montour, near the cemetery. In the August-September 1920 Iowa Highway Commission Service Bulletin, the IHC called for a memorial to be placed near the accident site.

In 2019, it became a reality (99 years later). About 25 people gathered to witness this installation. A small program consisted of several speakers: Reed Riskedahl (Prairie Rivers of Iowa Board); Mary Preston (Iowa Lincoln Highway Association President); Dotti Thompson (Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa/Tama County Community Foundation); Rev. John Christianson (Living Faith Methodist Church of Montour), Sue Eberhart (Montour City Council); and Jan Gammon (Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway Coordinator). Gammon also reads words from Rep. Dean Fisher of Montour. Sue Eberhart and Vicky Garske, Montour City Council members, unveiled the panel for all to see. During the program, a few sprinkles fell from the sky. In retrospect, maybe it was Mr. Ostermann verifying his overdue acknowledgement.

A few days later, we celebrated Mr. Ostermann once again as the Military Vehicle Preservation Association (MVPA) retraced the route of the original 1919 Convoy. The original convoy traveled about 6 mph and this modern day group, with vintage vehicles, averaged 35 mph. There was a link to live tracking, so a person could follow the convoy as it made its way across America. Our Byway staff caught up with the convoy in Belle Plaine, Iowa and then saw them again in Tama, Marshalltown, and Nevada. The convoy was impressed by the amount of people who came out to see them- whether on a city street or at the end of their rural lane. Byway staff had helped promote this event in Iowa- sending out press releases, sharing our booklet, and doing interviews with KROS Radio in Clinton and also with RadioIowa. We are most appreciative to the public for their response.

The Lincoln Highway Association will also bring a convoy of classic and contemporary cars, retracing the same route. They will be in Iowa September 6th and 7th, overnighting in Marshalltown and Council Bluffs. They will go a little faster!

Now with fall approaching, its time to regroup and look for funding for future projects. We have some already being planned, so stay tuned!


Summertime on the Byway

Summer has been a busy time along the Byway! I did make it to the Mahanay Bell Tower Festival in Jefferson and rode the elevator 120 feet up to the observation deck of the 14-story Tower. What a view!! It gave me a whole new perspective of the countryside and it was great to see the Lincoln Highway as a ribbon running through it. I also enjoyed the beautiful Thomas Jefferson Gardens and RVP~1875, where they make furniture with only hand tools. Its like stepping back in time and they’ll even show you what they are working on!

Another great tour is the Sawmill Museum in Clinton in the Lyons District on the north side of the city. Lyons was the name of the town where the first bridge linked Illinois to Iowa on the Lincoln Highway. Lyons is now part of Clinton. The Sawmill Museum has great displays of the history of the lumber industry in Clinton. It was a “must see” for me and I recommend it for all ages.

The annual Lincoln Highway Association conference was held in Ann Arbor, MI this year. Participants could tour downtown Detroit, the Packard proving grounds, and the archives at the Bentley and Hatcher Libraries at the University of Michigan. Detroit is not on the Lincoln Highway, but has deep connections to the auto industry and to the men who organized the Lincoln Highway and its route.

Another event, although held in Ankeny, did bring a focus to the the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway when the Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.) Rally had, among many rides, a featured ride to Marshalltown and then to Ames via the Byway. Prairie Rivers of Iowa set up a booth at the H.O.G. Rally and gave out information about the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway and the Byway program in Iowa. Motorcyclists are very interested in the 2-lane scenic views as their ride (journey) itself is often more important than the destination.

The most recent event I attended was the 101st Meskwaki PowWow held just outside of Tama. I enjoyed the music and dancing, native items for sale, and food vendors. I especially liked the Indian fry bread. Next time I’ll try it as an Indian Taco. Although they invited the spectators to come join in the last dance, I did not. I’ll do that next time as well! Pacing myself.

I am able to travel the state along the Byway and learn more about the communities and their history, strengths, challenges, and plans for the future. We continued the Corridor Management Plan community input meetings,having now held 15 of them across the state. By meeting many of the community leaders and members in each town, we have been able to gather insight into what the Lincoln Highway has done for their community and what it can do for them in the future.

Many communities and counties are working on future ideas as well such as the Story County Cornerstone to Capstone (C2C) project and the plans for the Nevada downtown streetscape. The Boone Historical Museums are partnering with the University of Iowa in developing their 4 museums. I have been working with residents and government officials concerning bridges in the city of Tama and in Linn County. A new Grant Wood mural has been painted on the side of a building in eastern Iowa. The overpass outside of Grand Junction will be replaced in the next few years. There are so many more projects and Ideas in different phases along the Lincoln Highway. It will be exciting to see them all come to fruition!

We are working on a baseline measurement of the economic impact of the Byway. If you are traveling the Lincoln Highway, please stop in one of these locations and fill out a survey about your trip: Sawmill Museum in Clinton, the Belle Plain Museum in Belle Plaine, Lincoln Cafe and Wine Bar in Mt Vernon, John Ernest Vineyard and Winery outside Tama, King Tower restaurant in Tama, Niland Cafe in Colo, Greene County Museum in Grand Junction, Mahanay Bell Tower in Jefferson, Cronk’s restaurant in Denison, the Harrison County Historical Village and Iowa Welcome Center in Missouri Valley, and the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs.

There will also be a survey for residents to fill out and we should be rolling that out this fall, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, let’s get traveling the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway!

Getting to Know the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of getting to know the Byway. John Mazzello, the Corridor Management Plan project coordinator, and I have been traveling the across the state holding public meetings. The input from individuals and professionals has been stellar! It has been fun getting to know the communities and see what they have to offer to residents and Byway travelers.

Where do I start with the scenery I have seen? The first day of traveling, everything looked all brown and yucky from winter’s cold. Then a good rain happened in the night and the next day it seemed all the buds on trees and bushes had sprung to life. The grass started greening too. For so many past springs, I have worked in an office and not really been able to witness the “Spring has Sprung” phenomenon!

I have seen many wetland restoration projects along the Byway. I especially like the one to the west of Tama near the Otter Creek Marsh and in the Iowa River Corridor Bird Conservation Area. This area is rich in Meskwaki Nation history and their love of this land. It has an interpretive site detailing the Meskwaki story. A mounted binocular allows you to see the birds and wildlife that inhabit the area up close without disturbing them.

Nearby in Toledo is a cow and calf sculpture high on a hillside that honors Norma “Duffy” Lyon, the lady who for years sculpted the Butter Cow at the Iowa State Fair. (Although Toledo is NOT on the Byway- it’s close enough and I just have loved the Butter Cow at the Iowa Sate Fair for years!)

The trip to Clinton was fun because we traveled across a bridge to Illinois and came back across it to see what people’s first impressions would be of Iowa. I liked that Clinton incorporated the “L” in the Lincoln Highway logo with the “L” in their town name. It is such a great river town and has a long lumber industry history. Many historic mansions are still intact from its heyday when Clinton had the most millionaires per capita due to the lumber industry.

In Western Iowa, we learned that Jesse James was rumored to have hid out in the hills recuperating after a shootout. Carroll County has a history of bootlegging operations tied to Al Capone. And Abraham Lincoln once owned land in Iowa. There are so many more stories that came to light during these meetings. I can’t wait for us to compile them and share them in a more formal way!

And every trip needs to include food. We ate at Sister’s Country Kitchen in Logan. My chef salad at lunch was so huge, that I had the rest for supper! I also had a sandwich at the Lincoln Cafe in Belle Plaine that was very tasty. Wished I’d taken a picture of it, but I guess that means I’ll have to go back!

This is just a sampling of our experiences and I can’t wait to add to them. Tourist season and festivals are right around the corner! Let’s go explore the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway!