On a recent Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, I traveled the entire distance of Iowa's "White Pole Road". The White Pole Road essentially runs parallel to Interstate 80 between the city of Dexter in Dallas County all the way to the city of Adair in Adair County with the communities of Menlo, Casey, and Stuart, all of Guthrie County, in the middle.
The road has a lot of history. It goes back over a 100 years and to the early days of automobiles. Their website, which is a wealth of information and road trip ideas, does a much better job summarizing it. It is, at it's very basic level, a stretch of highway with hundreds of white painted telephone poles.
This byway is an important economic development amenity for this area and these communities as I'm sure it brings people - just like me (and hopefully you!) - to come and go an an adventure. It's been well branded and it's less than a hour drive from the Des Moines metro and a little more than an hour from Omaha or Council Bluffs. Travel Iowa, the official tourism effort of the State of Iowa, even has a link to the White Pole Road website which also includes audio files to play as you stop at different points and a couple of "BINGO" cards, too.
Last Friday evening, after working my regular job in West Des Moines, I made the half hour drive over to Dexter to have dinner and check out the community. I'd been to Dexter before, but never really spent a lot of time driving or walking around. It's a small community but it's got a lot going for it.
Each of the communities along the byway had these nice signs in or near their city park. I had no idea that Dexter was named after a popular New York race horse from the late 1860's. I guess that explains the "original one horse town" moniker.
Rusty Duck Bar & Grille
I went over on Friday for the explicit reason of having dinner at the always delicious and popular Rusty Duck Bar & Grille. They are located in the main business district of town.
On weekends, especially if you have a relatively sizable party, it would be wise to have reservations or you may not get seated very quickly (if at all). Since I was a party of one, I found an immediate seat at the bar. That was preferred anyway, as I had a friend from high school working behind the bar that evening. It was fun to catch up a bit.
There's a fire feature that is sort of a big focal point of the modest-sized dining room.
However, there's no other private rooms or extra space for seating - what you see is the extent of it. It's cozy.
While the space may be on the smaller side - there's absolutely nothing small about their portion size. They have a fairly robust selection of menu options.
However, if you are going for your first ever visit, I would order one of the burgers. Why? Well, they are the 2011 winner of the Iowa Beef Industry Council's best burger contest.
I ordered the Bacon Cheese Burger with the 'homie' fries. These burgers are monstrous in size, with plenty of fresh toppings, melty cheese, and nearly a whole hog's worth of bacon (only slight embellishment!). I believe they grind and form these patties on a daily or near daily basis - and you can just taste the difference. They aren't stingy with their sides either. They give you lots of different options for sides. I am sure other options are just as tasty as the homie fries, but I would sure give them the Iowa Adventurer stamp of approval. Maybe next time I swing through Dexter, I'll have to expand upon my menu choices.
Immediately next door to the restaurant is a patio. I am sure it's a good spot to enjoy a beer and a burger during the summer - but it did not appear to be open yet. Perhaps it has something to do with our especially snowy and cold spring?
At any rate, I'd put The Rusty Duck up against just about any restaurant in Iowa - big city or small city - as they are truly legit. Next time you are on I-80 or just willing to drive for a good meal, put this place on the list. Check out their Facebook page to learn more.
After dinner, I drove around town to see what else I could find.
I found the public library as well as a museum that I believe has very limited hours or only open by appointment. I was told it is worth checking out!
I don't know if the Dexter Cafe is still in operation, but I imagine the locals need a good gathering spot in the morning for coffee.
The American Legion building looked like they had some activity going on. I really liked these lamp posts found throughout town.
There's always some nice old buildings to be found in rural Iowa - though not all of them are, sadly, in use anymore.
Of course, it wouldn't be a small town in Iowa without an elevator. Agriculture is the lifeblood of Iowa's economy.
Of course, there was also a Casey's General Store - which is a staple of small town Iowa. They are famous for their pizza and a great Iowa company.
I found a couple of nice church buildings. I always love old church buildings. Like a lot of things, they don't build churches today like they used to.
I found a building that appears to have a dual purpose as both the city hall and the emergency services garage.
There is a century plus year old round community house/ gymnasium that is now used as a community center. It's on the National Register of Historic Places. Very unique. I spotted a similar building while adventuring through New Providence in Hardin County a few months ago. It was not open but I did look in through the windows.
They appear to be getting ready to place some sort of plaque or sign on the grounds of the facility, as I found a recently poured concrete pad and sign stand.
Elsewhere around town, I found a very nice city park that appears to in the process of getting a new restroom facility. It is the "Dexter Centennial Park" and they even have a bell that commemorates this important milestone.
I found a nice veterans' memorial in the park, too.
There is a school on the north end of town.
I saw this old tree "stump" on a corner as I was driving by.
I came back through Dexter on Saturday as the last town on my full tour of the White Pole Road. I had planned on going to see a Bonnie and Clyde historical site on Dexfield Road (north of town), but ended up also finding a site that commemorated a national plow competition held in the 1940's. It was a big deal and even President Truman showed up to speak to the tens of thousands in attendance. I would encourage you to search for more information on this historic event. Here's a transcript of the address Truman gave 70! years ago.
Back in town, I stopped by Drew's Chocolates. They have been in business since 1927 and dip their chocolates every single day, which I am told is very rare. The owner (6th generation in the business) and her son were kind of enough to tell me a bit about their business and let me sample a few things. I bought a package of mint patties for the road. They were amazing.
You do need to go down stairs to get into the candy shop.
But once there, it's all worth it. What a sugary wonderland.
I hope there is truth to this sign about heart health because I will live forever, given my level of enjoyment of chocolate.
Here's an example of the pure chocolate blocks they melt down to make the sweet treats.
I had several samples - all wonderful.
They get lots of business every day from their signage along the Interstate and they have good sales through online orders. They ship just about anywhere - so it might be a good time to think about what you can get for your mom on Mother's Day? Why not support an Iowa business?
Check out their Facebook page to learn more. I'm sure they would love to tell you more about their business if you stop in the store the next time you are driving through the area!
This is the first in a series of posts about the towns and attractions along Iowa's White Pole Road. I was impressed by Dexter and enjoyed the other communities, too. Check back to read more about the other towns.
As usual, whether in Dallas County or any of the other 98 counties, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile for an upcoming adventure. If you have a suggestion or wish to host the Iowa Adventurer, please drop me a note through my website.