Classic cars cruise through town

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, September 4, 2013
West Liberty watched around 100 classic cars cruise through town Friday as part of the third annual River to River Car Cruise through Iowa. Every year participants follow the historic Highway 6 from Davenport to Council Bluffs.

However, due to bridge construction on Highway 6 the cars were detoured onto Third St., eventually exiting town on Davis Ave. in order to get back on the correct route. Unfortunately, some vehicles mistakenly turned onto Columbus St. instead.

But many still made it through the downtown area. Residents lined the streets before hand to witness the cruisers.

"It's fun to watch and really neat," said Phyllis Elder of West Liberty. "It makes you think back to when you drove them."

In fact, some residents from town took the opportunity to join in the cruise, including Ken Ruegsegger. He joined the ensemble with his 1977 Thunderbird.

"I've been on four other cruises, but never this one," he said. "I like them because of the camraderie and all the different cars."

The entire event is meant to honor the historic Highway 6, as well as feature small towns and their businesses.

The cars travelled through small towns through out the state.

"The whole idea of the cruise is to get off the interstates and promote local businesses, it's great for the Iowa community," event organizer David Darby said. "The real Iowa is a lot more beautiful than four-lane highways show, we stick to Highway 6 so people can get that nostalgic feeling and see extra towns."

The cruise began in Davenport earlier that morning. During the first leg of the journey they stopped to eat in Wilton and Durant around noon, heading toward West Liberty at 12:30 p.m.

"West Liberty is one of our happier detours," Darby said before the cruise. "Some of the others take us far off the route, but this one takes us directly through town."

They ended the tour in Des Moines on Sunday and turned around to go home.

Vehicles ranged from a 1925 Model T to cars from the 1980s. Darby even invited the drivers to dress in clothing that represented the year in which their car was made.

One of the goals of the annual cruise is to place permanent signs along the entire original Highway 6 in order to promote it. The West Liberty Chamber of Commerce sponsored signs for West Liberty's portion of the highway this year.

According to Darby, about half the route has officially been marked.

The event is called the River to River Cruise because Highway 6 was originally known as the River to River Road.

According to an Aug. 8. column in the Index by Pam Schnittjer, known as the "The Wapsie Experience," in 1910 the governor of Iowa called for a 380 mile route from Davenport to Council Bluffs to improve transportation. Originally called the River to River Road, it became Highway No. 7 in 1920, then Highway 32 in 1926.

"In 1931, Highway 32 became U. S. Highway 6, which was extended farther east and west in neighboring states. By 1937, Highway 6 was the longest continuous east-west route in the U.S. from Cape Cod, Mass. to Long Beach, Calif," she wrote.

According to Darby the rich history of Highway 6 competes with that of Highway 66 and any other highway in the nation.

"Most of the historic portion of Highway 6 is largely the way it was back in 1931," he said. "That's exactly what we follow on the drive."

The cruise itself has grown immensely in popularity in the last three years. There were around 30 cars the first year and 50 to 60 in the second. Attendance has more than doubled this time around according to Darby.

As the years go on, he hopes that the cruise will not only grow in popularity, but bring an increased appreciation for one of America's most historical highways.
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