By Andy Fales
We’ve reached the end of the greatest week of RVTV ever. I’m not just saying that to be nice; I mean it. We’ve had some fantastic stops in past years–Knoxville, Albia, Nevada, Oskaloosa, and Carroll really stood out–but every single stop this week was off-the-charts great. We estimate that there were at least 1,000 people at each stop we made, and each of them had its own outstanding feature.
Monday – Creston
Mondays are sometimes tough for RVTV. It can be hard to get people fired up on a Monday, and the game itself is still six days away. Not the case in Creston. We parked on the west side of the historic train depot and were immediately greeted by chamber director, Ellen Gerharz, and the city administrator. Ellen is a huge Hawkeye fan and she wasted no time in giving us her take on the state of Hawkeye sports. We were then greeted by the happy owners of the A&G Restaurant across the street who insisted on bringing us box lunches of gyros. The owner is Tony, an exuberant Greek immigrant, and we liked him. We’ve dubbed him “Tony the Greek” from this point forward. Creston had numerous street games and food stands lined up. Some of the vendors seemed to be busy for hours on end. The heat was definitely a factor. Ed Wilson says we topped 100 degrees in Des Moines, so we assume it was hotter yet in Creston, No one was deterred; I’d guess the crowd to be around 1,100 people. That’s the biggest Monday crowd we’ve had, and we were very impressed. We are set up for a great week with the biggest fifth-wheel RV I’ve ever seen from Plaza RV in Bondurant. This place is nicer than my house! Four flatscreen TVs, two bathrooms, marble countertops, a FIREPLACE! Wow! Not exactly roughing it. And Murph & Andy Radio Show sponsor, Rockstar Satellite, has outfitted our home on wheels with the full DirecTV package so we can keep up with our baseball teams and watch the Thursday night NFL game and college football on Saturday, though to be honest, at best we catch a play here and there. We’re totally set for a great week, and the Cy-Hawk fans in Creston have us energized.
Tuesday – Jefferson
Another hot day greeted us as we pulled out of Creston and headed north for Jefferson. My iPhone crapped out on me and Murph’s wasn’t getting any reception (thanks T-Mobile), so without a map, I had to just wing it. I feel like I know our state pretty well, but evidently not well enough as I took a wrong turn and ended up taking a less-than-direct route. We eventually rolled into Jefferson at noon and were greeted by chamber director, Chris Henning, who’d worked hard to put together a big event for us. For the second straight day, the Murph & Andy radio show (2-4 pm, 1460 AM) was sponsored by the Iowa Beef Industry Council, and they provided us with a nice lunch of freshly-grilled steak tacos. We broadcast the radio show from the Greene Bean (love the name) coffee shop just off the square, and Elise was a gracious host. After radio, we met up with our old friend, Annie Ostendorf, a 4’10” stick of dynamite who teaches kindergarten in Jefferson and directs the cheerleading squad at the high school. She’s another town leader and she organized all of the street games and music for the event. Annie’s enthusiasm is always infectious, and she had us fired up. Jefferson’s fantastic Farmer’s Market was going on on the east side of the courthouse, and it really added something special to the event. My wife, Kahala, and daughter, Elin, drove up from Des Moines (with my mother-in-law, Toni) and they did a good deal of grocery shopping at the market. Elin (she’s two) also had a great time dancing with the cheerleaders and Zumba instructors on the plaza beneath Jefferson’s cool Bell Tower. As the dinner hour moved in, the crowd swelled to around 1,500 people, and the food vendors were slammed. It had been about 12 years since WHO TV had broadcasted from Jefferson, so Keith re-enacted the old gag of racing someone to the top of the Tower. Sears was the sucker, this time, as he struggled up the 20+ flights of stairs while Keith took the elevator. We ended the night with some cheers at the establishment across the street–Doc’s, owned by a veteran who flew the Hawkeye flag in an Afghan ER–where we made a bunch of new friends, and then retired to the Trailside Inn along the bike trail. It was described to us as “a bed and breakfast without the breakfast” and it was just that–a beautiful old home restored to its original glory with modern amenities. We DID end up getting the breakfast part, as Bunkers Dunkers brought us a big box of their doughnuts and the Homestead Cafe brought us coffee the next morning. What a great RVTV stop.
Wednesday – Webster City
On the way to Webster City, I told Keith “Deb Brown is the chamber director, here, and she’s really into this event.” I think that was probably an understatement. She sent me a detailed itinerary a few weeks ago that listed a million activities. The police and fire departments met us on the edge of town and escorted us in, and we were joined along the way by a pack of Webster City’s famed “Doodlebugs”–small red scooters manufactured here in the late 1940s that have since become collector’s items. Second Street was completely decked out in Cy-Hawk regalia, and I was surprised to learn that Des Moines Street was, too…and so was the park nearby. Would there really be enough people to fill all of this space? As we holed up inside the chamber office to do the radio show, I was a little skeptical. During the show, we were served some Famous Dave’s “Devil’s Spit” Bloody Mary mix by the Iowa Beef Council rep and I think I can still feel the burn behind my ribs. After the show, someone said “Have you taken a look outside, yet?” I hadn’t, and as I stepped out into the street I was shocked at how crowded it was. People EVERYWHERE! I’ll admit, I didn’t really know what to expect from Webster City. I’d been there once before to do a story with the Doodlebuggers a few years ago, and had gone to college with Karen Van Diest (of the wealthy and generous Van Diest family, there), but other than that, I didn’t know much about the place. Needless to say, I’m now a believer. The DJ in the park worked a crowd of at least 500 people into a frenzy. Tailgaters parked their Hawkeye and Cyclone buses along Des Moines street and partied like it was game day. Michael and I raced Doodlebugs down Second Street in front of a huge crowd at 5pm. Herky and Cy must have taken 1,000 photographs with children on the street. We had a man propose to his girlfriend live on the air during the 6pm news, for gosh sakes! This was the biggest, most spirited, most diverse RVTV stop of all time. There were so many people, we couldn’t fit them all into one camera shot! I’m guessing that we had around 2,200 people, there. We didn’t have time to eat dinner, so we went to the Seneca Saloon for pizza and tenderloins after the 10 pm news. Good stuff. To top it all off, Webster City leaders put us up for the night in one of their new log cabins at the way-cool Briggs Woods County Park. What a fantastic place! It sleeps around 16 and is situated on a lake in the woods. There was a campfire going for us and everything. We had breakfast on the front porch of the place with a group of about 20 city leaders to get Thursday off to a great start. Like every other stop, we were thanked repeatedly by community leaders for doing this for their towns. We’re the ones thankful. As we left, a Webster City council member said, “Your move, Iowa Falls”. Love rivalries.
Thursday – Iowa Falls
We met Iowa Falls Chamber of Commerce director, Diana Theis on the south side of town, where she had the fire and police departments escort us into town, light and sirens blaring. Keith and I were a little worried about the racket we were making coming into town, but shopkeepers and residents walked out smiling to wave at us along the way. We set up next to Estes Park near the statue of Iowa Falls resident, Bill Riley. Just the night before, Iowa Falls had received word that Hollywood superstar, Hugh Jackman, would be coming to town to premiere his new movie “Prisoners” on September 21st at the newly renovated Metropolitan Theatre, so this place was ready to party. Our timing really couldn’t have been better. Just three weeks earlier, I’d come to Iowa Falls to shoot a feature story (to air the night of the RVTV stop) on the renovation of the “Met” and had interviewed Jack Whitesell for the story. Jack bought the Met last year when it had fallen into financial strife, and was pouring $250,000 into interior and digital projector upgrades. He grew up a huge movie fan in the east and his love of cinema spread to his children–one of whom (Patrick) became a powerful Hollywood agent. Patrick now represents Jackman (along with Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and others), so there’s the connection. What a great way to re-open the historic Met! We didn’t have Hugh Jackman, but we did have Michael Admire. Back at Estes Park, Iowa Falls was pushing hard to equal the crowd they’d seen on TV the night before. I had countless people come up to me and say “Do you think we can top Webster City?” Apparently, the two towns have a bit of a “Highway 20 Rivalry” that goes back a ways. The Iowa Falls crowd got kind of a late start, but by the time we went on the air at 5, it was huge. Once more, tailgaters and their buses showed up, and Sears, Michael, Brandon and I were treated to an amazing Cajun crawfish boil! Man that stuff is spicy! My lips swelled up to a comical degree and even though I was still hungry, I had to pull the ripcord early and head for the water bottles. Did mention Keith was still working and settled for pizza delivery from the 503? I’m sure it was good too. Anyway, the stage and stands in Estes Park made for a unique setting that we haven’t had in the past, and it looked fantastic on camera. Iowa Select Farms gave away meals at their huge stand on the street, and the line stretched for well over 100 yards. They served more than 1,400 sandwiches, and since many people there ate elsewhere (or not at all), I’m estimating the total crowd there to be around 1,700-1,900 people. Unreal. That’s the largest Thursday crowd we’ve had. Bravo, Iowa Falls. This place is full of sports fans and people who are clearly proud of their town. The community leaders took us out afterwards, and we had a blast. Many laughs. One of the most satisfying parts of taking this show on the road is hearing small business owners on the square say, “We had our best day in years.” So did we.
Friday – Ames
Plaza RV owner, Scott Edwards, rolled our monster RV into the Jack Trice Stadium parking lot around 9:30 in the morning. He’s tirelessly worked to set up and break down the RV each day, and he’s just a fun guy to spend time with. The RV looks cool parked in front of the stadium backdrop and we’re soon joined by Jamie Pollard and a bevvy of Iowa State fans who’ve driven in from out of town. Another beautiful, cool day (73 degrees at 2pm) and the video we shoot looks outstanding with the blue sky in the background. Our old friend, Jeff Stearns from Fareway fires up a gigantic grill and cooks burgers and steaks for everyone on hand–even the ISU ROTC crew who run the game ball past our cameras. We do the 10 pm news in our usual fashion; in front of a roaring crowd, the ISU band, cheerleaders, Cy, and our friend Tim Gleason and his classic firetruck. John Sears again dances with no shame or awareness. John’s dance moves have become a huge hit. Everywhere we go, we hear four things: 1) “Thanks for coming.” 2) “Hey, Andy. What’s Bugging You?” 3) “John, are you going to dance for us?” 4) “This isn’t really the final RVTV is it?” We think it is. We don’t want to wear out our welcome, or cover the same ground. If it is the end, it couldn’t come at a better time. Great close to the best week of RVTV ever. We’re happy to learn at least two of the towns plan a Cy-Hawk party again next year, even without RVTV. That’s awesome, because we know we’re just the excuse to bring the town together, and everyone loves a party.
All in all, we’ve got way too many people to thank. The towns, their chambers of commerce, their newspapers and radio stations which gave us coverage and helped promote our stops in the weeks that preceded them. Scott Edwards and Dave Peterson of Plaza RV in Bondurant, Chris and Dustin from Rockstar Satellite in Des Moines. Iowa State University for its generous hospitality at the end of the week. Our boss, Rod Peterson, for giving us the time, tools, and freedom that we needed to put this event together. WHO General Sales Manager, Angela Skinner, for setting us up with Plaza RV and Fareway (along with Noelle). On and on, I could go.
As mentioned, we’re planning to take a break from the RVTV road trip for at least a while. We’re flattered to hear from so many people that they’d like us to continue. Perhaps we’ll be back in the future.
Living and working in Des Moines, I think we sometimes forget just how wide and diverse our viewing area actually is. Viewers might see us, but with something like RVTV, we see THEM. We see them, we meet them, we get to know them a bit…and ultimately, we’ll be able to reach them and cover their stories better. This was an invaluable week for us, and we hope that everyone else enjoyed it just as much. Thank for coming along with us.