Sunday, August 05, 2012

US Hwy 30: Onawa, IA

You might not be impressed when you first drive into Onawa, IA, despite what is claimed to be "The widest main street in the United States." I'll admit it's pretty wide, but the widest? Not for sure.

The town's second claim -- that "Onowa, Iowa" has the highest ratio of vowels to consonants of any city/state name -- is similarly both intriguing and suspect to me. Surely there's some place in Hawaii that's at least in the running, no?

What is undisputed, however, is that Onawa is the birthplace of the Eskimo Pie!

In 1920, a young customer of ice cream shop owner Chris Nelson could not decide between an ice cream sandwich and a chocolate bar. So, Nelson created a chocolate covered ice cream bar which he originally called the "I-Scream-Bar". In 1921 Nelson entered into an agreement with Russell Stover to market and produce the product, and the creation was put on a stick in 1934. The handwritten agreement is part of a display at the Monona County Historical Museum in Onawa.

The rest of the Historical Museum is an amusing collection of "oldish stuff" from the area. There are a few items of note, but it's mostly a hodgepodge with limited documentation and organization. The same is true for the modest Railway Museum, next door at the town's "museum complex."

The Veteran's Memorial Museum, on the other hand, is a real gem. An excellent and substantial collection -- spanning every US war from the Civil War up to the present -- is very well organized, documented and maintained. Veterans of several wars and service branches were on hand, and I found them to be well-informed and engaging. This small but excellent museum is worth a visit if you're anywhere near the area.

I can't say much about another of the town's main attractions -- the Lewis & Clark state park -- because the only thing I was able to see during my visit was a replica of the expedition's keel boat. A large new building is under construction which looks like it is planned to be a historical facility.

So, despite first impressions, there's actually quite a bit of merit to the Onawa area, including a few good places to eat and drink, a nice lake for recreation and some pretty scenery. I've enjoyed my couple of days here and am well prepared to continue west tomorrow… Stay tuned!

Click here to see exactly where I am posting this from on Google Maps.

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