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Road trip to ride in town

Last year’s classic cars pose for a photo in Brooklyn, Iowa. Photo contributed.
Last year’s classic cars pose for a photo in Brooklyn, Iowa. Photo contributed.
Last year’s classic cars pose for a photo in Brooklyn, Iowa. Photo contributed.

A time capsule is stopping in town today.

Today, Friday, Oct. 10, 200 people are expected to arrive in Grinnell with classic cars as part of the River to River Retro Road Trip. The annual road trip, hosted by the Route 6 Tourist Association, will take two days, starting in Davenport, Iowa, spending a night in Grinnell, and ending in Winterset, Iowa.

This will be the first year that the race spends the night in Grinnell. “Grinnell is just such a neat town and so full of promise and character, and the city is very into preserving its historic buildings,” said Dave Darby, who is spearheading the trip as the Executive Director of the Route 6 Tourist Association.

The trip started four years ago, initially as part of a documentary about U.S. Route 6, America’s longest highway, which stretches from Provincetown, Mass., through Iowa, to the Nevada-California border.

“We decided we wanted to get some classic cars on the highway for [the documentary] … And the people had so much fun they decided to do it every year,” Darby said. “We decided it would be a really good way to promote the highway and the locally-owned businesses along the highway.”

The road trip typically generates a lot of attention in the towns it drives by. Participants are encouraged to dress in attire that fits the era of their vehicles, some of which date back to the 1930s. As the road trip drives through towns, many community members will go outside to take pictures of the aged but still pristine vehicles. “It’s like a big parade across the state and people take notice of it,” Darby said.

The trip’s intention is to draw attention to Route 6 and its long history, much of which has been forgotten since the advent of the interstate. “People who travel on the interstate in Iowa, they’re kind of in a rush,” Darby said. “They’re just seeing green signs and overpasses and that’s not the real Iowa … Whereas if you take the two lane, that monotony is gone, you’ve got hills, curves, small towns, scenery, the trip just seems to go by faster.”

There’s no car model year cutoff for the trip; people can bring cars from whichever year they’d like. “If you think your car’s neat, bring it, odds are we’ll think it’s neat too,” Darby said.

The town of Grinnell has set up multiple activities for the members of the tour to partake in while they are staying the night here. The cars will arrive on Friday around 5 p.m. and be placed in Central Park as a small car show for the townspeople to observe.

“Locals in the area who have classic cars are invited to bring their cars into town for the night, too,” said Emily Counts, the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce Tourism Director.

The influx of people is also expected to give a boost to Grinnell’s locally-owned businesses and hotels.

“They’re expecting about 200 people, and they’ll all have a list of restaurants in Grinnell in their registration packets,” Counts explained. “Any time you have a group that big, it helps the local economy tremendously.”

Darby noted that the road trip’s audience has always intended to be local. “[The road trip] is a great attention-getter for the highway and it also gets all the little mom and pop businesses in the towns a little bump financially,” he said. “There’s all these great experiences that we could be having if we got off the interstate. Plus when you spend money on a locally owned business, that money stays local.”

For more information about the River to River Retro Road Trip, visit

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