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Iowa's Simple Pleasures (#404)

Tour the Quad Cities on 2-wheels;  follow the same trail as many pioneers who crossed the prairie in the mid 1800s; seek out an angler's paradise in northeast Iowa; and get ready for "BIG" portions and big flavor at a Story County eatery.

Let's go tour the Quad Cities on two wheels. Follow the same trail as many pioneers who crossed the prairie in the mid-1800s. Seek out an angler's paradise in Northeast Iowa, and get ready for big portions and big flavor in a Story County eatery. Join me, Dan Kaercher as I travel the state to bring you these stories next on Iowa's Simple Pleasures.  

Funding for this program was provided by "Friends" the Iowa Public Television Foundation. Generations of families and friends who feel passionate about the programs they watch on Iowa Public Television.  Iowa Tourism. Iowa's tourism industry generates 6 billion dollars annually and supports more than 62,000 jobs. Information is available at to learn how you can support Iowa's economy while having a wonderful vacation in your own state. The Gilchrist Foundation founded by Jocelyn Gilchrist. Furthering the philanthropic interest of the Gilchrist family in wildlife and conservation, medical care and social services, the arts and public broadcasting, and disaster relief.  Iowa Community Foundations. An initiative of the Iowa Council of Foundations. Connecting donors to the causes and communities they care about. For good. For Iowa. For ever. Details at

See the Quad Cities on two wheels on a bicycle or an electric vehicle called a Segway.

Mott:  Ok everything is in your feet, ok? When you put the weight on your heels you go backwards. Put the weight on your toes, you go forward. When you want to turn it is not turning your body, it is in the column itself.

Kaercher: Once the basic driving instructions are down for this two-wheeled electric vehicle called a Segway, the tour of Davenport begins. Riders start out on a trail that parallels the Mississippi River with stops at many points of interest.

Mott:  Right here is one of the Quad Cities and Davenport's prominent pieces of artwork. It is the Dillion Fountain. Also you will look right across here and we have the Figge Art Museum. This is one of the most well-known museums in Iowa. They offer a lot of Grant Wood paintings, and now we will go towards the lock and dam.

Kaercher: While I wasn't on this particular ride. I did get a chance to talk to the owner of Iowa Segway who started his business after taking a Segway tour in Spain.

Mott:  I had such a great time that I - the whole plane trip back I was thinking about how I could bring this to Iowa. We can stop at multiple spots easily. Like if you are on a bus you have to make a stop and get everyone off and then get everyone back on. But a Segway you can just move around. You can stay right on the Segway.

Kaercher: So instead of stopping, Segway riders idle during tours thanks to the vehicle's unique design.

Mott:  They stay up by a computer system with a gyroscope which basically holds the rider's balance at all times. It recalculates the weight distribution several times a second. That is why it holds the rider in place.

Kaercher: It is a novel way to be a tourist and it has at least one rider sold on Segway sightseeing.

Weaver: Well, I ride bicycle almost every day and this is almost like riding a bike. You kind of lean into it and use your knees and - I took right to it. I am not winded, my legs aren't sore; it is a good way to get around. I want one.

Kaercher: The Segway looks fun. But if you prefer a more traditional two-wheel ride, Davenport is also a great place to bicycle. There is a riverfront trail and a scenic way to transport you and your bike across the Mississippi to reach the trails on the Illinois side.

Wine: We have a lot of trails in the Quad Cities. It is a wonderful amenity for connecting people to the water which is what River Action is all about. We started this 27 years ago for advocacy for trails. We had two and a half miles at that time. We have 60 now. Yes and you won't find anything easier to ride because it is all flat. It is flat and wide and in most cases beautiful views.

Kaercher:  Kathy Wine, whose River Action Group works on among other things trail development says navigating the trails is easy.  There are kiosks showing trail maps as well as other signage.  Bike rentals also are available.  Trail users can learn about local history from a cell phone audio tour.  There are RiverWay Art displays including the storm fallen trees used to create a replica of part of the famous Sunday Afternoon Painting by French artist Georges Seurat.  While the art is certainly worth a stop a big draw is the river itself.

Wine:  Any way you want to do it you can get across the Mississippi here.  We built ramps up to the Government Bridge, built a separate bridge across the slue-- and ramped it down and these are open, these trails open every day of the year, 24 hours.

Kaercher:  Bikes and pedestrians can cross the river on land or on the river on the Channel Cat Water Taxi.

Wine:  It is a wonderful people mover and it is a peoples’ bus really.  And we designed it and had the vision for a way for people to get across the river without a reservation, inexpensive, ride all day if you want, get on and off, river hopping if you will, and also hold bikes so that people can do trails as well as hit restaurants or shopping and that kind of thing.  When there is festivals going on in both sides of the river this is the way to get there without having to park and things like that.

Kaercher:  And if you are lucky there will be a knowledgeable passenger on board to give a little tour.

Bolton:  Up here there is a pier and there is - used to be several of them along here that they would put kerosene lamps in them.  And that is how they would mark the channel at night.

Kaercher:  People can get on and off the boat all day, but you may just choose to stay on board for the hour long route.  Then it is off to keep touring whether on foot or your choice of two-wheeled traveling around the Quad Cities. Some of the first travelers to Iowa arrived by oxen or horse drawn wagons.  Some stayed.  Others were just passing through like the Mormons trekking through Southern Iowa. Here in the quiet countryside or rural Wayne County where you may see an occasional Amish horse and buggy on the road it is not hard to imagine the area when wagon wheels from another era traveled here.  I am talking about the Mormons who in the mid-1800s fled fear, controversy, and hostility in Nauvoo, Illinois and journeyed to Utah.  Their trek crossed all of Southern Iowa and there are roadside signs for those interested in those following the route.  Tour information on trail history and on how a famous Mormon hymn came to be written here can be found at the Prairie Trails Museum of Wayne County in Corydon.  I am here with Albert Pidcock, known locally as Pid, who wrote a booklet about the Mormon Trail through Wayne County.  He says he is not Mormon but rather a history buff.

Pidcock:  I talked to people and didn't get much information, much help on it, until I found out that the county was surveyed one year after the Mormons had been through.  And I also found out that the original surveyor’s notes were available in the county courthouse.  I went out and started walking where the field notes indicated the trail should be here.  The particular significance, as far as I know, in Wayne County was the fact that the song which is related to the Mormons was written in Wayne County.

Kaercher:  "Come, Come, Ye Saints" was written by William Clayton.  Moved by news of the birth of his son back in Illinois, Clayton has said to have written the lyrics here at Locust Creek Camp number two during his 1846 journey across Iowa.  The exact site is now on private property but there are historical markers across the road from the camp at Tharp Cemetery.   Well Albert, here we are at Tharp Cemetery in Southeast Wayne County.  Tell me what are the markers that led you to find the spot where the hymn was written?

Pidcock:  A convert from England had a knack for describing where they were at certain times and so this spot, he says there is a beautiful timber to the east, a beautiful timber to the south, and to the north it looks to be upgrade all the way.  And this place fits that description.

Kaercher:  Pid's eight years of researching the Mormon campsites and the trail in Wayne County have been authenticated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City.  The church wanted to spotlight the history and so in 1973 it installed a permanent exhibit at the local museum.

DeVore:  Well, the wagon that we have back there is local.  The other item such as the oxen, all the signage that we have back there, all the hymnals of the various languages came from the Latter-day Saints.  They've definitely wanted to put the exhibit here because of "Come, Come, Ye Saints" because they knew it had been written in Wayne County but until Pid helped do the research they didn't know exactly where.

Kaercher:  Maps that guide you to the cemetery are available at the museum.  Brenda says, while the museums Mormon Exhibit draws visitors from across the country and abroad who are following the entire historic trail the museum does have many other displays.  For example, in the Main Street Exhibit there is the local bank vault robbed by Jesse James in 1871.  There is a 1930s era service station and a separate building dedicated to antique farm equipment.  But if you just want to follow the Mormon Trail the next stop west of Corydon would be Garden Grove in Decatur County where there is an informational sign about the Mormons who camped here until 1851.  Outlines of cabin walls are visible in the grass and a pioneer cemetery is near by.  Here is wishing you happy Iowa trails of your own.  Iowa has a long history of trout conservation.  I went looking for an angler's paradise among Northeast Iowa's hundreds of miles of trout streams.
I am just outside the town of St. Ansgar where sportsmen tell me that trout fishing has really improved over the years due to hard work by several area landowners and some conservation groups.

Kalishek:  Our fishing is better now than it has been in quite a few decades.  That is a great example of cooperation between a lot of different entities.  Between the county governments, the state government, the federal government, and most importantly the private landowners who own land along their trout streams that are willing to do the work, the conservation practices, to improve the quality of the water and also are willing to allow people to fish on their property.

Kaercher:  Leonard Amundson is one of those landowners.  After the putting the land into the Conservation Reserve Program or CRP, the condition of the stream improved.  Now Leonard joins in the fun fishing on his property with other folks.  How do you feel about other people coming on your land in order to fish this stretch of Turtle Creek?

Amundson:  Well, I welcome it.  You know, I like it when they bring their kids here and teach them how to fish.

Kaercher:  Several different varieties of fish enjoy the cool waters of Mitchell County but it is mostly the trout, walleye and bass that motivate these anglers.

Wojohn:  We came here from Charles City, Iowa.  Oh, I got a bite.  Oh.

Unknown:  Did you get it?

Wojohn:  Oh, I was excited.

Kaercher:  Dorie's close call proves how tricky fishing can be.  So we take a drive over to the Cedar River, another popular fishing destination in Mitchell County, to check out first hand these impressive fish.  Now Bill, we know we're not going to catch every species of fish in the Cedar River today.  So, we asked you to bring some along that we are going to return to their habitat.  Tell us what we are looking at.

Kalishek:  Well, we got a couple different species for you.  The first one is a smallmouth bass and this is a species that is fairly abundant throughout the Cedar River.  Fishermen really, really like catching the smallmouth bass.  One of the most fun fish to catch.  This is a very, very nice one.  About an 18 inch smallmouth.  So, quite a nice fish.  I am going to let  him go here so he can take off and somebody has the chance to catch him.  A new lease of life. This fish is a walleye.  Another fish that is really highly prized by fishermen.  This is a very, very nice walleye.  The walleye are in the Cedar River because we, the DNR, stock about 60,000 two inch walleye, fingerlings, every year.  So this fish was raised up from a two inch fingerling, probably about a three or four year old fish, very nice fish.  Any fisherman would be really happy to catch and keep this fish.  Oh, there he goes!

Kaercher:  Oh, he can't wait to get back in there.

Kalishek:  There he goes.

Kaercher:  Bye.  Bye.  From April to October the DNR stocks brook and rainbow trout in Turtle Creek and other area streams as catchable sized fish.  But there is at least one type of fish they can leave to Mother Nature.

Kalishek:  The great success story in Iowa's trout streams is that we have had an absolute explosion of natural reproducing trout.  And this is primarily brown trout but also to some extent brook trout too.  25 years ago we had five streams that had natural reproduction of trout and now we have 36 streams that have natural reproduction of trout.  In those streams we don't have to stock the brown trout in the stream anymore.

Kaercher:  Back at Turtle Creek, I am ready to try this relaxing sport.  I notice that there are a couple of different styles of fishing here.  Fly fishing looks intriguing.  I wonder what the secret is.

Schroeder:  Each guy does, does it just a little bit differently but this is my ten to two.  You're fly casting like this and then when you want to cast it you just let it at the ten o'clock mark, you just let your fly line go and it curls out, puts the fly out there.  Pick it up, same thing.  You want to make as least amount of casting as possible.  Some guys just like to get out there and whip the line and stuff like that but as the fly is not in or on the water it is not going to catch fish.

Kaercher:  Yes, that is a good point.  It is not as easy as it looks but it sure is fun.  Are you trying to plant it in a good spot where you think they are hanging out?

Schroeder:  Well, yes.  Behind the rocks, in the shade a little maybe faster water this time of day.  Break up the surface so that they can't see you.

Kaercher:  Ah ha!  A very good tip indeed.  These fish are smarter than you think.  They can see you.

Amundson:  They like it clear and cold but the fishermen like it a little not so clear.

Kaercher:  Because?

Amundson:  Well, the - if you can see them, they can see you.

Kaercher:  The people fishing here all look like they really know what they are doing and they are having a grand time doing it too.  The rushing waters below this dam on the Cedar River form another favorite fishing spot in Mitchell County.

Taets:  The dam puts a lot of oxygen in and also there is - with oxygen a lot of structure here for the fish to feed off of other fish and crawdads and things like that.

Kaercher:  The 1925 historic dam structure built as a hydroelectric plant still functions and stands guard over the five and a half mile lake created by the dam.  The lake is deep enough and wide enough to provide plenty of room for activities even beyond fishing.

Owen:  The county conservation project we have almost three thousand acres of public lands.  Within those three thousand acres we have six county parks.  We also have about 11 miles of biking trails.  We have equestrian trails, about four and a half miles there.  We have about two thousand some acres of public hunting lands.  We have a wide diversity of recreational opportunities that we have to offer for everybody coming to Mitchell County.

Kaercher:  Experiencing this special area of our state and seeing folks engrossed in such a soothing past time is worth the trip.  It is also nice to know that trout fishing is beneficial to Iowa economically as well.

Kalishek:  We have estimated that between 20 million and 120 million dollars are spent by trout fishermen in Northeast Iowa each year.  So that is quite a bit of money being brought into the local economy.  Iowa is starting to get a reputation as being a pretty darn good place to go and fish for wild trout.  Plus we stock more rainbow trout than other states do and that attracts people here too.  So, we really kind of have the best of both worlds.  We have got the wild fish plus the stock fish and that both attract different clientele.  So we are definitely attracting people here to Northeast Iowa to trout fish.

Kaercher:  Our camera man doesn't mind getting a little wet.  It is worth it to see the smiles fishing in Iowa can bring.

Unknown:  What do you think of that one?

Wojohn:  It is a good paner.  Good paner.  I like them that size.

Kaercher:  If there is one type of food people get passionate about is barbecue.  I am headed into Hickory Park for big flavor and big portions.  From near and far the folks cozying to booths and tables for great barbeque here at Hickory Park know the real meaning of tried and true.

Krough:  Every time we come to Ames we always eat here.

Kaercher:  Why do you keep coming back?

Krough:  We love it.  He always has the pork tenderloin and I have the ribs and chicken.

Kaercher:  Same thing huh?

Krough:  Every time.

Readel:  A lot of people tell us hey, you know we have been coming here for 20 plus years.  We love that things haven't changed.  We love that we know you.  We ask for the same server and we have had her for 20 years.  I think people like that consistency and they like to know that we know them.

Kaercher:  From babies on up, patrons appreciate all the traditions at Hickory Park.  From the seasoned staff to the seasoned specialties on the extensive menu.  Pit Master Mike Damske smokes thousands of pounds of beef, pork, turkey and chicken each week.  A huge job.

Damske:  All right.  This one is ready to be loaded up with some more wood.  Open it up here and I usually adjust my wood a little bit that is already in here.  Throw a couple in.  Shut it back up.

Kaercher:  As you may have guessed Mike uses hickory wood in his smokers.  It lends a very distinctive taste and aroma.

Damske:  It just gives it a really nice mellow flavor.  Not really woody like an oak.  An oak would be really a woody taste to it and we just don't like that.  This gives it more of a mellow smoked flavor instead of so harsh like oak and other woods.

Kaercher:  With hungry customers packing in to feast on barbeque, cooking is a constant for this pit master.

Damske:  Well, we cook pork five times a week.  We cook chickens five times a week. We usually cook beans three times a week.  We do all these meats right here three times a week.

Kaercher:  Mike has been smoking meats here for over 20 years.  He credits his training to Hickory Park owner David Wheelock who recalls a time when these modern day smokers weren't around yet.  Back then there were a couple of challenges.

Wheelock:  Well, both that open pit and the old bakery ovens are quite prone to catch on fire, you know?  The new ones you don't have that kind of trouble and one Sunday I was summoned out of church that the pit was on fire and fortunately it didn't do a whole lot of damage.  But kind of scary anyway.

Kaercher:  Now in its third location in over four decades, Hickory Park brings back fond memories for those who have come here for years.

Griffin:  Most of us are Iowa State graduates and then we like coming to Hickory Park because it has got good meat, fast service.

Kaercher:  It is also a place to make new memories.  Kylie, what is your favorite thing to order here at Hickory Park?  The baby back ribs?  Get it?  Baby back ribs?  Hey, I am not going to let the babies have all the fun.  I am hungry.  By the way in case you haven't noticed portion sizes are a big deal here.

Tarter:  They look down at the food and it is like oh, my gosh.  You know this could feed my whole family.  But we have to-go boxes.  So it is all good.

Kaercher:  Let me show you what I am having for lunch today.  Pure carnivore heaven here. This is the combination dinner.  So, we have chicken.  Hickory Park's own kielbasa.  Ribs, of course and then underneath all that are slices of smoked turkey, pork, and beef.  And then I couldn't leave without having their famous Saucy Southerner which is a mixture of pulled turkey, pork, and beef in sauce.  And it looks like a little macaroni salad on the side.  Oh, I got to go for these ribs.  That they are just taunting me.  So good.  I think I pretty much conquered the whole animal kingdom right on one platter.  Ok, now I just want to jump over to the most popular sandwich here at Hickory Park, The Saucy Southerner.  Oh, yeah.  Besides the main menu which has over 100 items there is an added selection of temptations, ice cream.  Behind an antique counter the ice cream fountain adds a charming centerpiece to the restaurant.  The owner's roots as the former operator of the Dairy Queen carried over to his barbeque business and in my opinion ice cream and barbeque are a match made in heaven. Just let me show you this.  This is the ice cream menu alone and that is all their ice cream creations.  So, you try making up your mind.  Huh?  The perfect way to settle your stomach after over indulging on a barbequed pig out.  I can't help but acknowledge that the food here certainly lives up to its delicious reputation.  But there is another more subtle secret to Hickory Park's longevity and success.

Drury:  I saw a line one day that said you need to earn your reputation each and every day and that is completely him.  He is here every day, all day from morning to night, and making sure that everyone is earning the reputation of Hickory Park.

Kaercher:  Want to learn more about what you just saw on Iowa's Simple Pleasures?  Visit our website at  Here you will discover more about the locations I visited and details on how you can create your own adventure.

Funding for this program was provided by "Friends" the Iowa Public Television Foundation. Generations of families and friends who feel passionate about the programs they watch on Iowa Public Television.  Iowa Tourism. You don't have to travel far to grow closer to family and friends.  From exploring the great outdoors to discovering a new cultural attraction, you're Iowa adventure is just around the corner.  Information on planning your trip is available at The Gilchrist Foundation founded by Jocelyn Gilchrist. Furthering the philanthropic interest of the Gilchrist family in wildlife and conservation, medical care and social services, the arts and public broadcasting, and disaster relief.  Iowa Community Foundations. An initiative of the Iowa Council of Foundations. Connecting donors to the causes and communities they care about. For good. For Iowa. For ever. Details at


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Tags: barbecue bike riding food Hickory Park Restaurant Iowa IowasSimplePleasures Mormon Trail Quad Cities relaxation restaurants Segways tourism travel trout trout fishing


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