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Putting Highway 20 on the map

Official promotes travel on historic U.S. 20 route in Iowa

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Sarah Black, of Barnum, looks over an old map of Historic U.S. Highway 20 during a presentation of the Historic U.S. Route 20 Association.

While many people have been paying attention to four-lane U.S. Highway 20 following its recent completion, the route that existed before it shouldn’t be forgotten either.

That’s the message Jay Jay Goodvin told a group of about 25 at the Fort Museum and Frontier Village Opera House Sunday, who gathered to hear him speak about Historic U.S. Highway 20.

Goodvin, the Iowa executive director for the Historic U.S. Route 20 Association, said the old route, which stretches 333 miles across the state — from Dubuque to Sioux City — is a very important part of both state and national history.

He and the Historic 20 Association are looking to bring back the route as a destination for road trippers.

“Locals are keeping the history alive, and new tourists and travelers who want to take alternate routes and rediscover Americana,” he said. “That’s where Historic Route 20 comes in.”

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Jay Jay Goodvin looks over a poster for Historic Highway 20 with its new slogan, “Time to be 20 Again.” Goodvin, Iowa executive director of the Historic U.S. Route 20 Association, wants to promote travel on the historic highway.

Goodvin said four-lane 20 has been beneficial for many people, but one negative impact of its construction is that people no longer travel through small towns that Historic 20 went through.

That’s unfortunate, he said, because Historic 20 has some attractions that may be of interest to the traveling public.

“Every moment someone spends on old 20, the better,” he said. “Whether that’s here in Fort Dodge, Sioux City, over in Dyersville. Because if we get them to stay on old 20 more often, they will start to see how great and unique this highway is through Iowa. It’s going to encourage them to stay on it in their future travels.”

One of the goals of the Historic U.S. Route 20 Association is to promote travel along the roadway. Goodvin said right now, the organization is looking at getting signage installed along the route so people know where it is, because there are times where it’s unclear exactly where Historic 20 is.

In fact, Goodvin said the president of the national U.S. Route 20 Association completely missed the Iowa portion of the road when he drove the entire route from Massachusetts to Oregon.

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Among the items for sale at Jay Jay Goodvin’s presentation on Historic Highway 20 were shirts, postcards and stickers.

Last year, the Historic U.S. Route 20 Association unveiled its new slogan, “Time to be 20 Again.” That slogan is meant to promote the historic route.

“We’re able to promote this highway,” Goodvin said. “We can really show the communities in this area how amazing it can be to see the growth and rediscovery of this highway.”

He added that a lot of towns that old 20 went through based their identities on the road.

“Highway 20 goes through all sorts of different counties and cities and uniqueness here in Iowa,” he said.

Historic 20 went through 13 different counties in Iowa, which includes a stretch in Franklin County that is only about 3,500 feet. Goodvin said it hasn’t been proven, but he believes that’s the smallest stretch of 20 that exists in the entire nation.

He added that one of the best ways to start encouraging people to travel old 20 is by having the people who live in those towns explore it themselves.

“There’s a big push of eating local, shopping local, shopping small, drinking local,” he said. “I always kind of say travel local, too.”

He described it as looking at a hometown through the eyes of someone not from there.

“When was the last time you were a tourist in your hometown?” he asked, adding that oftentimes, people forget about the parts of their town that make it unique.

“It’ll open your eyes in such a way,” he said. “You’ll be amazed.”

“Obviously there’s stuff that’s not there anymore,” Goodvin added. “But you’ll rediscover parts of your hometown that you probably haven’t thought about in a really long time. We get a lot of people that say that, especially when it comes to little areas.”