- Associated Press - Saturday, June 14, 2014

CUSHING, Iowa (AP) - For years people have said the best thing to come out of Cushing was Kelly Goodburn. The old Eastwood High School grad earned a Super Bowl ring as a punter with the Washington Redskins in 1992.

Not many towns of 221 people, after all, can boast of a native son sporting the bling of a Super Bowl ring.

Bryan Farr may differ with the assessment. Farr, 38, was recently in Cushing, visiting with locals while taking pictures. He left town on what he believes is the best thing to come out of this Woodbury County burg: Historic U.S. Highway 20.

“This is Americana,” Farr, a meteorologist-turned-bartender-turned-author, told the Sioux City Journal (https://bit.ly/1oyPOuN). The New York native currently crosses the country on the 3,365 miles of this 1926 roadway, repeating a trek he took four years ago that led to his book, “Historic U.S. 20: A Journey Across America’s Longest Highway.”

You’ve seen the Lincoln Highway signs? They’re the result of a push to make the country’s first transcontinental road an historic jaunt, crossing rural stretches and urban epicenters of these United States.

Farr wishes to do the same. Only his aim is a bit north of the old Lincoln Highway, which runs on or close to U.S. Highway 30. Farr’s bullseye: Highway 20. Around here, he’s smitten with “Old Highway 20,” which roughly runs parallel to “New Highway 20” across Iowa, the only state in which it does so from end to end.

U.S. Highway 20 is primarily a two-lane road in most parts of the country.

The old route, which was established in 1926, brought Farr through Cushing, one mile south of the Highway 20 stretch that someday (Northwest Iowans hope) is four lanes. He started this trip on May 22 in Boston, blocks from venerable Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. He’ll end it where the highway ends, one block east of the Pacific Ocean in Newport, Oregon.

“So many people write about U.S. Route 66 and the Lincoln Highway,” Farr says. “I wanted to write about the U.S. Highway 20 experience. I did some research and people responded with stories.”

A contact with the Iowa Highway 6 group, Farr says, shared with him that group’s mission of developing a highway tourism group for that road in attempt to get drivers to slow down and pull off Interstate 80, which runs parallel to Highway 6.

“They told me to do the same for Historic 20 across the U.S.,” Farr says.

He started the Historic U.S. Route 20 Association in September 2012. He met with chamber of commerce officials, the National Park Service and several mayors this spring in Painsville, Ohio, where leaders put in place the first of what Farr hopes is hundreds of Historic Route 20 signs.

“I want to make Historic 20 a travel destination,” he says, “where you can get off from the 65-miles per hour interstate, slow down and enjoy some mom-and-pop restaurants and some Americana.”

Farr has mapped the route, one he details in his book and his website (www.historicUS20.com) and will attempt to work with local historical societies, chamber organizations and volunteers in making the route more user-friendly.

For example, do you know the east-west road that cuts through Cushing? It’s Woodbury County Road D-22. Many here know it as “Old 20,” a names with a little more flair, nostalgia and personality than D-22.

According to Farr, this road should have signs designating it as part of Historic Route 20.

Farr found The Old 20 Bar & Grill along the route in Cushing. The restaurant, which opened in 2004, closed 18 months ago. The eatery took its name from the old highway to which it opened its front door.

“If we can work with Woodbury County and put an Historic Highway 20 sign here and allow people to drive the old 1926 highway, it may bring more people to places like Cushing,” Farr says. “I’d love to put a strip on the back of each Historic 20 sign, so people can scan it and enter it into their phone. That way, you might get a little history about Cushing while you’re here.”

Farr’s initial attraction to the road can be traced to a childhood he spent in the Finger Lakes region of New York.

“Route 20 crosses the northern part of the Finger Lakes and we’d take 20 to get to Buffalo, New York,” Farr says. “Then in college, I bought a camera and started taking day-trips to shoot pictures for fun. Frequently, I took Highway 20 on those days.”

Farr was in awe early this week, recalling a pastoral setting he viewed while leaving Dubuque, Iowa, on “Old Highway 20.” A half-hour later he drove in front of St. Frances Xavier Basilica Catholic Church in Dyersville, Iowa, a community that “Old Highway 20” cuts through. The Basilica was designated a Papal church by Pope Pius XII.

“On the East Coast we have this perception that Iowa is nothing but corn and more corn,” he says.

Traveling Historic Highway 20 across Iowa, Farr has found, those corn fields are interrupted every 10 to 20 minutes by a quiet, quaint town where people smile, wave and ask the traveler what he’s up to. After touring the Basilica, he took his cuts at Field of Dreams.

“You aren’t lost, are you?” asks Dustin Schlenger, an employee with the city of Cushing, who pulls the city pickup within feet of Farr on Wednesday. “We saw you here and figured somebody was lost.”

Upon hearing of Farr’s cross-country trek, Schlenger smiles. He’s driven some of the same route while visiting a friend in Wyoming. Schlenger, like Farr, finds interstate travel fast, but monotonous.

“Someday, I want to get an RV and travel the back roads,” Schlenger says. “I think you can see and learn a lot more by slowing down and going through towns like this.”

Schlenger wishes Farr good luck on his trip and pulls away. He heads west of Cushing to work on the entrance at the Cushing cemetery. It’s one mile from the water tower, connected, of course, on a road that was once U.S. Highway 20.

Farr smiles as his new acquaintance, the rural traveler, zooms over a hill and out of view, taking the best thing to come out of Cushing since 1926.

“I love meeting people like him,” Farr says. “That’s what this is all about. That guy totally made my day.”


Information from: Sioux City Journal, https://www.siouxcityjournal.com

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