Exploring Iowa's White Pole Road: Menlo and the friendly gas station man

May 3, 2018

On a recent 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 than I. 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. 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. 

Previously, in this series of posts about the White Pole Road, I've profiled Dexter and Stuart as well as some historical sites of crimes committed by Bonnie and Clyde or Jesse James and his gang of outlaws.  

 

Next up is Menlo in Guthrie County, a community of around 350 residents.

 

If you are traveling west on the White Pole Road from Stuart, you are greeted by perhaps the town's most iconic feature: the friendly gas station man giving you a big wave. It was commissioned in 1934 and restored in 2013. It is always a good idea to wave back. Check out more information about the sign here

 

 

 

I found a stunning old white building that, perhaps, might have been a church at one point? If I am not mistaken, it seems to now be used as a home. What a glorious piece of architecture. I hope it is well preserved inside.

 

 

In the city park, I found a nice picnic shelter as well as an old bell that serves as a memorial to local veterans.

 

In the downtown part of the city, I found a number of different buildings, including a bank, post office, community building, telephone company, and what appears to be a bar. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had read on the White Pole Road website that I needed to stop at the Menlo Cafe for a piece of homemade butterscotch pie. Unfortunately, the cafe was already closed for the day by the time I got to town. Is the pie amazing? 

 

On the edge of town is a Flint Hills ethanol plant. The renewable fuels industry is very important to Iowa's rural economy.

 

 

I will have to try to stop at the cafe again on my next time through. What else did I miss? Stay tuned for future posts on Casey and Adair.

 

As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile in Guthrie County or in any of the other 98 counties. If you would like to host the Iowa Adventurer or have a good idea, please drop me a note through my website.

 

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