Tag Archives: mike wolfe


Mike Wolfe’s latest passion project, Nashville’s Big Back Yard is a virtual showroom highlighting 12 small towns between Nashville, TN and The Shoals, AL, giving folks the opportunity to explore unique small town Main Streets and open spaces as an option for relocating to or visiting.

The communities in Nashville’s Big Back Yard represent a new lifestyle opportunity that will reshape the way America lives, works, and socializes.

Mike has always had a passion for small town preservation and community. He hopes Nashville’s Big Back Yard will be a resource for those that are looking to make a move away from the high cost of rent in cities. These rural communities are anchored by two creative urban hubs and the scenic Natchez Trace.

Small is the next big thing! It is time to embrace a simpler, more affordable life in Nashville’s Big Back Yard. The “Back to the Land” movement is here to stay.

Watch the video below to hear Mike with more…


“Uncertain times have a way of making us rethink how and where we want to live and work.”, says Mike Wolfe. “With the changing landscape of American business to include more opportunities for working remote or running a business online, now is the perfect time to make the move back to small town Main Streets and open spaces.”

This area is close to Mike’s heart not only because of his passion for small towns, but because this is his actual backyard! He lives, rides and plays throughout this region and along the historic Natchez Trace, a 500-mile footpath connecting Mississippi to Tennessee. This gorgeous Two Lane drive is known for fishing, hiking trails, picnic stops, and uninterrupted views—not a billboard in sight. Sitting quietly along this historic route are beautiful small towns and rolling landscapes waiting ready to be explored by you.

“We’re all at a crossroads,” explains Mike. “Times like this make us think about what is important for us and our families. What if we could move forward with one foot in the past and the other in the future? Why would we continue to watch the American Dream and it’s history crumble and fade away under our watch when these places still exist — and they need us just as much as we need them.” says Mike.


Follow Nashville’s Big Back Yard on social!






New Regional Movement Promotes Rural Quality of Life in Age of Coronavirus

MOUNT PLEASANT, Tenn. — American Picker Mike Wolfe is joining leaders from 13 rural Middle Tennessee and Northwest Alabama communities to launch a new regional movement dubbed “Nashville’s Big Back Yard.”

Nashville’s Big Back Yard (NBBY) is a region anchored by 100 miles of the scenic Natchez Trace Parkway that connects communities with populations under 5,000 — from Leiper’s Fork, Tenn., down to The Shoals of Ala. In the age of coronavirus, small communities are seeing a surge of interest from people who are drawn to rural living, remote work, and an affordable lifestyle.

“This global pandemic is making folks rethink how and where they want to live and work,” said Wolfe, a rural Williamson County resident who has traveled tens of thousands of miles and gained millions of fans as the star and creator of HISTORY’s “American Pickers” series. “I know first-hand how much rural communities have to offer. Now is the perfect time to think about getting out of the cities, and back to small town Main Streets and open spaces. I’m honored to help shine a light on the communities in Nashville’s Big Back Yard.”

To help roll out Nashville’s Big Back Yard, Wolfe produced a series of social media messages and videos on location throughout the NBBY region. The content is being used on Facebook and Instagram to promote rural Middle Tennessee communities — including Centerville, Clifton, Collinwood, Hampshire, Hohenwald, Leiper’s Fork, Linden, Loretto, Mount Pleasant, Santa Fe, Summertown, and Waynesboro — as well as The Shoals area of Northwest Alabama.

“We appreciate Mike’s support of our movement to engage people who may be looking for a change of pace and a different quality of life,” said Lewis County Mayor Jonah Keltner. “We’ve always considered ourselves to be a vital back-yard support system for cities like Nashville, and we think now is the right time to promote a regional approach to living and working.”

Kevin Jackson, executive director of the Shoals Economic Development Authority, added, “We are pleased that The Shoals area is one of the major anchors for this movement. The Shoals area is uniquely positioned for growth as people move from densely populated cities in search of a better quality of life. This movement will draw national attention to our area and will drive more visitors, including investors, here to explore what we have to offer.”

NBBY is the result of lengthy conversations during COVID-19 spearheaded by Leiper’s Fork philanthropist Aubrey Preston and led by community leaders in a region long known as a destination for musicians, artists, and other creative talent.

“While COVID has dealt a devastating blow to our nation’s public health and economy, it also has led many people and communities to think about who we are and what we do,” said Preston, who has spent more than 25 years working on rural preservation efforts such as the internationally known Americana Music Triangle. “The land is calling people back, and Middle Tennessee and Northwest Alabama have plenty of beautiful open space.”

Preston added: “We’re just saying, come and check us out. Come and play in our big back yard. Come and experience a simpler life.”

Many Americans already are heeding the call. In spring 2020 researchers at the Harris Poll conducted an online survey that found nearly 40 percent of U.S. adults living in urban areas said they would consider moving “out of populated areas and toward rural areas.” The top draws: More wide-open spaces and a more affordable lifestyle.

According to data from the National Association of Realtors, median home prices in Nashville’s Big Back Yard averaged less than $170,000 — nearly 30 percent below the national median home price of $241,300.

Meanwhile, the Pew Charitable Trusts has identified Tennessee as one of nine states implementing “promising practices” to speed the deployment of high-speed internet service into rural areas — enabling more effective remote-work options.

“For decades, our communities have been hit hard by loss of jobs and globalization,” said Rena Purdy, executive director of the Wayne County Joint Economic & Community Development Board. “Now, during this unprecedented public-health crisis, we have an opportunity to boost our rural economies and showcase our quality of life to Tennesseans and Americans who may be looking for a change of pace.”

For more information, visit nashvillesbigbackyard.org.  

Contact: Cindy Dupree

Contact: Judy Hood




This year has given us lots of extra time to update our space. Instead of running to your favorite department store, think unique! Meet the women who are out there pickin’ for your new favorite piece of home decor.

You may recognize Emily here as Danielle’s right hand on “American Pickers” and store manager for Antique Archaeology in LeClaire, Iowa. When she isn’t following up with leads for the crew, Emily is chasing her own! As a frequent estate sale and Facebook Marketplace picker, she hunts for rusty gold in the form of post-modern pieces, 80’s inspired items, or anything unique that sparks a nostalgic memory of her childhood.


“My parents owned an antique business, so growing up, our house was decorated with items that didn’t look like they belonged in that era,” explains Emily. “Plenty of primitive pieces, my dad’s antique decoy collection, the copper sinks and bathtub, Mom’s rehabbed and functional gas Roper stove…I could go on. I love antiques that spark that type of creativity.”

Growing up with a trained eyed and appreciation for the unique, the items that catch Emily’s eye are anything but mainstream.

“What makes picking such a passion of mine is that the pieces I find are all one-of-a-kind and tell a story. You can’t find my Karl Springer tessellated coffee table at West Elm or my Frederick Weinberg wire and mesh mannequin head display at Target. Using antiques as decor allows me to create a happy and inspiring space.”

If your home could use a refresh — think unique! Meet the women who not only run their own vintage shops but are out there pickin’ for your new favorite piece of home decor.


Jamie: The Sweetest Vintage Shop


Inspired by her childhood love for collecting little glass animals, Jamie’s boutique of rare, and eclectic brass items are all hand-picked by her to help add some extra shine in your home — something she has been training for since grade school. 

“The principal wanted to create a showcase featuring student’s collections,” explains Jamie. “My glass animals were selected and displayed for the entire school. I was so proud to show them off! (I still have the dalmatian in my private collection!) Since then, I’ve graduated from school displays to a worldwide audience thanks to the age of Instagram.”

The social media outlet allows Jamie, to connect directly with other vintage store owners/experts as she carefully researches her inventory to make sure you get the best brass for your buck. 

We admire Jamie’s honesty in more ways than one. Not only is she open about being a solo small business owner and picker, between inventory posts, she also talks openly about how her stage four colon cancer treatment is going — a battle she has been fighting since 2014. 

“For the past three years I’ve been successfully running my antique shop on Instagram,” says Jamie. “Not only does this platform allow me to have flexibility with my health, but it also allows me to connect to new and returning customers. My favorite parts of the picking are passing down the stories attached to the item and then hearing a customer share how it has added joy to their home. Mission accomplished. “

We are saddened to share that since releasing this blog, Jamie passed away in the fall of 2021 but you can still admire her beautiful collection on her Instagram here.


Megan: Everthine Antiques



From a young age, Megan grew up visiting her grandma at her Hyde Park brownstone home in Chicago. Megan says being in that house surrounded by her grandma’s antique furnishings and collection of vintage clothing she learned the true value of an item.

“Grandma would tell me things like, ‘Megan, you were born in 1990 — this photograph was taken in 1890. Hold it in your hand, appreciate it, and the story it has to tell. ‘To this day, that perspective still gives me chills and is the inspiration behind my vintage collection.”

Picking is in her blood. Not only did Megan’s parents run their own antique shop, but she also gained some early expierence working in the visuals department at auction houses. 

“My collection has a homey and historical touch to it. The care and research my parents put into their inventory for their store is the same effort I make to ensure you have some understanding and authentication behind your antique. That way when someone walks into your home you can discuss it.”

Did we also mention on top of running her own online vintage shop Megan is a full-time second-grade teacher? The educating never stops!

How to shop for Megan’s collection: For the best selection, browse her Etsy shop daily for her freshest finds!

Shop Everthine Antiques HERE



Chi: Simplychi Vintage


Chi, a teacher turned online small business owner, dives into her local thrift and antique shops in search of earthy, vintage home decor. 

“As a busy mother of four boys, the oldest being 11-years-old, I enjoy picking as a creative outlet for self-expression while at the same time helping feed these growing kids! We’re always together so I try to get them interested in what I do. The boys love going out with me treasure hunt. My oldest is developing an interest in photography so occasionally he’ll help me out with images online.”

You’ll notice, right out of the gate, that Chi has a green thumb. Inspired by her childhood spent around plants, her signature move is challenging herself, and customers, to see anything as a potential flower pot for their home.

“For me, picking is a rush of anticipation wondering what is waiting out there to be found. While it’s easy to get carried away in the process, I have a rule that I only pick up items that I wouldn’t mind keeping if they don’t sell. That’s how I know my inventory is authentically Chi.”

How Shop Chi’s collection: You can browse her collection on both her Instagram and Esty accounts. Chi does also takes requests for particular pieces.

Shop Simplychi Vintage HERE


Now that you’ve got new ideas for refreshing your home, we challenge you not only to support female-owned vintage shops but opt out of the frequent department store run in favor of a garage sale or thrift store instead for your new favorite vintage find!

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There was much to celebrate with the conclusion of The Great Depression and WWII. The economy was beginning to bounce back, soldiers returned home, and in neighborhoods around the country, more automobiles could be found parked in the driveway. 

With daily life beginning to return to normal, there was a hunger to explore beyond the front porch and create happy new memories by taking road trips. All there was to do was pack a bag, pick a direction on the map stashed in the glove compartment, and drive! In no time, travelers would be able to see the rolling landscapes and small towns of America by way of historic Route 66, Lincoln Highway, or any Two Lane backroad — many seeing the country by car for the first time. 

When it was time to pull over and refuel with a good night’s rest, families would follow the buzzing neon signs perched outside the entrances of roadside retreats called Motor Motels.



What made these an excellent overnight option back in the day was their privacy, safety, and affordable rates for families on a budget. (Some Motor Motels only charged $5 a night! Of course, that is not the case today.) 

Motor Motels got their name from the convenience of being able to park your vehicle next to your room. 

Today, many Motor Motels are still in business and provide the same hospitality as they did back in their prime. Because of their limited capacity, they make an excellent option for social distancing while still supporting small businesses. Not only that, many Motels still have their original character and architectural flair making them great for those who appreciate mid-century design, and those looking to create a unique Instagram backdrop. 

 The best part: many Motor Motels are located in small towns that are just as cool and unique as they are!

Here are our top picks for Motor Motels across America. 



Sunset Motel 

Brevard, North Carolina

Open Since 1958

All Photos of Sunset Motel from www.thesunsetmotel.com


If nature and small towns are your weekend escape, Sunset Motel is the place for you! 

Located at the entrance of Pisgah National Forest, the Sunset Motel is a wooded retreat for nature lovers who want the modern amenities that a tent just can’t give — like free wi-fi, cable, fridge, microwave, and coffee makers. The friendly staff here has welcomed guests far and wide for more than half a century, so they are pros when it comes to southern hospitality.

They even have a bicycle washing station on-site to accommodate their more adventurous guests!

After a day of hiking and waterfalls, or mountain biking, freshen up in your room before heading to beautiful downtown Brevard for a bite. Walk beneath the color canopy of the Main Street shops, restaurants, and historic buildings of this town with fewer than 8,000 residents! Top off the day with a drink on your patio as you breathe in the fresh mountain air! (Also worth noting — Cardinal Drive-In is right down the road! Just another nostalgic event to add your Sunset Motel experience.)

More Two Lane Fun Nearby: Do you know less than 45 minutes away is a town with just 706 residents? This town is home to the oldest grocery store in the state, rich in railroad history and on the National Register of Historic Places. Here’s our favorite way to spend time in Saluda, North Carolina! 

Get rates and availability for Sunset Motel HERE




Chalet Motel

Custer, South Dakota

Open Since 1938

All photos of Chalet Motel from http://chaletmotelcuster.com


When you realize the close proximity of the Chalet Motel to Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, and Crazy Horse Monument, it’s easy to imagine the carloads of families who made the journey here to see some of America’s most well-known landmarks. 

For more than 80 years the Chalet Motel has been a “home away from home” for folks looking for an unforgettable overnight experience. What makes this place unique is that instead of staying in traditional motel rooms, guests get to choose the charming Dutch-style cabin of their choice! Note that the cabins are smaller than your average cabin, so this is a great option for couples looking to spend some quality time together. (Yes — the cabins are pet-friendly!) 

The Chalet staff also offers complimentary bicycle rentals, access to their nostalgic board game collection, lawn games, and if you ask, they’ll also point you in the right direction of some amazing local hiking trails. 

More Two Lane Fun Nearby: The Dakotas are home to some of America’s most unique National Parks, like the Badlands — the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the United States. Take a look!

Get rates and availability for the Chalet Motel HERE




Lincolnville Motel

Lincolnville, Maine

Open Since 1950

All photos of Lincolnville Motel from https://www.lincolnvillemotel.com


We’d love to check in to this New England escape as soon as possible! In 2015, the current owner refreshed the Motor Motel’s six wooden guest cabins and four rooms — all with ocean views! Located on 4-acres of open field, guests have access to lawn games, a swimming pool, and a library. The refreshing white paint and minimalistic coastal decor compliment the freshwater beaches nearby. 

To help give you a break from endless scrolling on your socials or streaming your shows, it’s intentional that all rooms do not have telephones or televisions. Guests instead have record players and books at their disposal. Without the distractions, you’ll have more time to enjoy the coastal sunset and sunrises too!

If you feel like venturing into downtown Lincolnville (pop. about 2,000) you’ll find some fresh-caught lobster, antiques, bakeries, and local shops where you can pick up a souvenir.  

More Two Lane Fun Nearby: If your New England adventure stretches beyond Maine, take a drive down “The Quietest Stretch of Road In New England”.

Get rates and availability for the Lincolnville Motel HERE




Blue Swallow Motel

Tucumcari, New Mexico 

Open Since 1939

All photos Blue Swallow Motel from https://blueswallowmotel.com



Historic Route 66 travelers have been making The Blue Swallow Motel a road trip tradition for more than 80 years — and for good reason! Travelers make pullovers here to revisit “the good old days” because many features about this Motel have remained unchanged. 

There are 12 colorful rooms available — all of which are outfitted in retro style design, and even a few original decor pieces from the 1940s when the Motel opened. A few favorites include the 1926 clawfoot tubs, the original bathroom tile work and fixtures, and the pink stucco walls. Showing the authenticity of the Motor Motel, some rooms still have an attached garage! 

Though the rooms may appear to be frozen in an era gone by, they do include modern amenities like cable, flat-screen TVs, and even a functioning 1940s rotary dial telephone! Guests do receive basic toiletries and shower cap upon check-in.

Since the Motel was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993, it’s certain that the buzzing Blue Swallow neon will continue to welcome travelers for generations to come. 

More Two Lane Fun Nearby: If you’re doing some exploring around New Mexico, you’re in luck because you get to experience something rare — the darkest place on earth, Chaco Culture National Historic Park! 

Get rates and availability for the Blue Swallow Motel HERE




Stardust Motel

Wallace, Idaho

Open Since 1968

All photos of Stardust motel from https://www.stardustmotelwallace.com

Travelers interested in the history of the American Wild West should make a reservation at The Stardust Motel. It’s located in Wallace, Idaho, the Silver Capital of The World, but you’ll feel like to struck gold when you check in to your Stardust suite!

You’ll be comfortable in your retro, mid-century style room with amenities like air conditioning, cable TV, a coffeemaker, WIFI, and heat — which will come in handy if your stay is during the Silver Valley ski season.

What makes The Stardust so special is that downtown Wallace is just steps away from your door! Experience the best of the local restaurants, breweries, shops, sweet treats, and more! It’s worth mentioning that Wallace is the only American downtown listed entirely on the National Register of Historic Places!

Even though the population of Wallace, Idaho is just tipping 770, you won’t be pressed to find a more friendly or inviting place! 

More Two Lane Fun Nearby: If the Stardust is booked, how about a night in an old fire tower? Here’s our recommendation for spending the night in the fire towers of rural Idaho. 

Get rates and availability for the Stardust Motel HERE



These establishments were almost considered extinct, but as more travelers cling to authentic, nostalgic experiences, Motor Motels are making a comeback! We hope you’re inspired to give a Motor Motel a try on your next Two Lane road trip. Safe travels and see you out there!



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Welcome To Town

Whether you have come to see us at Antique Archaeology LeClaire before or are coming to see us for the first time,  we want to say, ” Welcome!” and we’re honored to have you in town. We’ve created a LeClaire travel guide to help guarantee that you don’t miss a moment, experience, or bite of all that this town has to show you. We hope you have good walking shoes on!

LeClaire, Iowa is a treasured town for many reasons. More than a century ago, fearless river pilots helped bring LeClaire to life, establishing it as a bustling river town on the Mississippi River. It’s also the city where Mike Wolfe began to discover his passion for the preservation and community by saving LeClaire’s historic riverboat homes, finding his voice on the city council, even serving as a volunteer firefighter for a time! There’s something in their river air that puts wind into the sails of anyone looking to inspire and create.

Birds-eye view of historic downtown LeClaire, Iowa. Photo by Emilene Leone Photography 

Main Street Is On The Mississippi River

Nothing beats a walk down LeClaire’s Main Street, Cody Road. This is a five-block stretch where you’ll find many incredible small businesses and restaurants that make our town unlike any other. (We love how the historic riverboat homes have been transformed into small businesses!) 

LeClaire is one of the few places along the Mississippi River where you can walk right up to the river without interference. This also gives locals and visitors a full view of The Riverboat Twilight. Folks have been taking a sightseeing cruise aboard this triple-decker, Victorian-era 126ft steamboat for decades. It’s one of our favorite ways to learn about LeClaire’s river history, see some wildlife, and get photos of the beautifully preserved riverfront homes. (If you have the time, book tickets for the two-day cruise for an overnight experience!)

Also down on the waterline, is the levee. Not only is it the perfect spot to lay a blanket down and have a riverside picnic, but it’s also a popular location for many town events, like the Kid Pickers Flea Market. Once you’re done soaking in the view, you’re just a quick stroll to shops, restaurants, and of course, Antique Archaeology!

Mike Wolfe at the Kid Picker Flea Market and Francie Wolfe with the Twilight Riverboat

Local Pickin

If you’re on the hunt for seasonal accents, art, mirrors, furniture and more, duck into Dwellings Home Decor. We’d describe their inventory as timeless and transitional. We love that it’s located in a beautifully renovated house! If you’re looking for something a bit more historic and rusty, dive into Decades Antiques to discover what is old is new again. 

Interior of Dwellings Home Decor

Look for the large green house on the hill and you’ve found Grasshoppers! There are many levels to this shop (like a wine cellar in the basement) with home decor and jewelry throughout. One of our favorite details is that the house itself is historic! It belonged to Captain John McCaffery, a river pilot in the late 1800s. 

Grasshoppers front porch entrance to the store

Fans of American Pickers travel from every corner of the globe to visit the original Antique Archaeology in LeClaire. This is your chance to get an up-close look at popular picks from the show like Laurel and Hardy, the buried Indian, Phillip Morris, and more! Mike designed the layout so customers are able to experience the shop as equal parts, museum, and retail space. Make sure you take the time to read the tags attached to the antiques to learn more about each item’s history and where it was picked. Find a piece of history to take home or a souvenir to remember your visit. No visit is complete until you’ve taken a photo with the Nash car out front!

The Famous Nash parked outside Antique Archaeology LeClaire, Iowa

Treat Yourself To Something Sweet and Unique

Beat the summer heat with a treat from Here’s The Scoop. Newly opened in LeClaire this family-owned ice cream shop creates small-batch handcrafted gourmet treats just for you! No matter if you enjoy a scoop of Black Forest with Roasted Cherry and Brownie Bites or the White Chocolate Raspberry Wine out of a homemade waffle cone or bowl, your sweet tooth is sure to be satisfied.

All the confections at The Shameless Chocoholic are handmade by Rebecca Burns who has spent the past 20 years perfecting her recipes. Dig into her 120 varieties of delicious homemade bonbons, fudge, truffles, bark, buttercreams, and more. (This chocolate shop is located in the original LeClaire “Green Tree Grocery” dating back to the late 1800s!) Pick up some of your favorite nostalgic candy, gifts, and even ship your favorite treats to your house!

LEFT: Ice cream cone from Here’s The Scoop by @jordzila RIGHT: Exterior shot of Cody Road Coffee

When you’re in need of some caffeine, pop into Cody Road Coffee! Since LeClaire is the birthplace of Buffalo Bill, the owners are paying tribute with Wild West-inspired decor, cutout cookies, portraits of Buffalo Bill, and more. Make sure you try their signature Buffalo Bill Butterscotch Latte or a Giddy Up energy drink. These guys are walking distance from Antique Archaeology, making it a go-to coffee run for the crew!

Don’t forget to “pop” on over to Kernel Cody’s Popcorn Shoppe to sample more than twenty varieties of popcorn. Favorite flavors include Lonestar Steamer Puff, (hulless corn covered in caramel), the LeClaire mix, (cheese and caramel mixed), Tootie Fruity, and Snickers. Fill up a bag or collective tin with your favorite flavor as well as nostalgic candy and gifts.

There’s still SO much to experience. Why not make your visit an overnighter? Let’s show you how to make the best of a weekend in LeClaire in Part II of our travel guide HERE

Images courtesy of LeClaire Tourism


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So, you’ve decided to spend the weekend in LeClaire. Great idea! Let’s help you find a place to hang your hat, where to make a dinner reservation, and connect you to all the best locals shops. First things first — let’s get you something to drink.

Raise A Glass To History 

Enjoy some local beer, wine, and spirits on Libations Lane in LeClaire’s Historic District. If you’re in the mood for stories and a drink, you’ve come to the right part of town.

First stop is Green Tree Brewery. The “Green Tree” was a well-loved meeting spot, located under a giant Elm tree, where river workers found work and townsfolk had picnic lunches. In fact, a piece of this tree is well-preserved in the Buffalo Bill Museum! Ask for a pint of their green brew and grab a seat on their outdoor patio. The owners, Dr. Richard Day & Denise Day don’t think of it as a bar but more of a gathering place, much like their namesake, “Green Tree”. Drop by and stay awhile or order food to go!

Mississippi River Distilling Company

The crew at Mississippi River Distilling Company is an authentic grain-to-glass distillery owned and operated by brothers Ryan and Garrett Burchett. These Iowa natives have mastered gin, vodka, single barrel whiskey, liqueurs, curbside cocktails, and most recently — hand sanitizer! (We use their sanitizer at our shop to keep things clean for our customers and crew) They’re all about the story and detail behind every step of the process – like sharing the origin of their grains, and handwriting batch numbers on the neck of each bottle. Take a free tour and enjoy a drink in the cocktail house.

Wide River Winery courtyard

What all started with Dorothy O’Brien playing with a variety of grapes in her kitchen has grown into a business that sells more than 85,000 bottles a year! Wide River Winery has expanded its family-owned business to three Eastern Iowa locations. (Mike previously owned the building that houses their LeClaire location.) The winery got its name from the widest part of the Mississippi River — almost 11 miles! Grab a bottle and relax with a view of that same river via their courtyard.

Take A Bite Out Of The Midwest

When the original owner’s Steve and Nancy Rosetti first came to town, it was only as a pit stop. They had no idea they’d end up sticking around for more than 30 years and opening the restaurant, Faithful Pilot! At the time, their young dishwasher, Robert Day was an aspiring chef with big dreams to run his own kitchen. He grew up learning all he could from Steve and Nancy about the business, community relations, and cooking which inspired him to earn his culinary degree in Chicago. When Robert had a new vision for the restaurant, the couple gave him the keys to the Pilot making him the new Owner/Executive Chef. 

Street view looking into a private event a Faithful Pilot

Chef Robert freshened up the place with white table cloths, live music, and a fine wine list, but he continued their passion for Midwest hospitality. The Pilot has been a special place for the Wolfe’s — especially for Mike’s daughter, Charlie, who always gets cotton candy from Chef Robert! Locals enjoy dining on his creative spins to some classic dishes like salmon gnocchi, fried ravioli, mushroom bacon burgers, and more. (Plan accordingly dinner service only.) 

Happy Joe’s Pizza has been serving up the best pizza in the Midwest since 1972! Order the sauerkraut & Canadian bacon pizza… trust us. Big Dave and Holly’s is a no-frills burger house that’s open for lunch and dinner. Order your breaded pork tenderloin sandwich to-go, (theirs was voted best in the state!) and head to the river for an impromptu picnic. 

Local Lodging 

You have a range of options when it comes to places to hang your hat in LeClaire within walking distance of Main Street. Check out the Grasshopper Guesthouse. This rental is within walking distance from Antique Archaeology (literally across the street). It’s located in a colorful renovated 1880 Stucco home that is convenient to all the bustle and charm of downtown LeClaire. 

If you want to really treat yourself and your family, book the River View Lodge. Amenities include a whirlpool tub, flat-screen TV, — even access to a walkout balcony looking over the Mississippi River. Also, take a look at The LeClaire River Loft located above Cody Road Coffee with direct access to all the best of LeClaire’s Main Street!

There’s always something happening in LeClaire so be sure you’re following @visitleclaireiowa on Instagram. Another excellent resource for town news and events is the LeClaire Tourism calendar. We’re looking forward to your visit! 

Family walk down LeClaire’s Main Street, Cody Road.

Images courtesy of LeClaire Tourism 


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“Through all these years, The Driskill has served as a pivot around which great men and great events revolved, the rendezvous of those who have written the glorious history of a glorious state.” — Daily Texan

The Driskill Hotel exterior

Walking through the doors of The Driskill hotel in Austin, Texas is like jumping back in time. Once you’re inside, your mind begins seeing things that aren’t there anymore — like the memories of those that lived long before you. That’s the kind of magic that occurs only when you enter a historic building with more than 130 years of American history that has survived the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and other national tragedies. You open your mind and welcome the spirits of the past to lead you across the marble lobby floor giving you a glimpse of what life was like here before Austin was the capital — back when it was a Two Lane town.

Because the hotel is more than a century old, it had become part of many stories for the community, visitors, and even presidents! You can feel the presence of Lyndon B. Johnson in and his wife, Lady Bird laughing on their first date in the hotel restaurant… You can imagine the tenacious and tactical energy brewing in the very ballroom where the Texas rangers plotted their plan to capture Bonnie and Clyde… but more on that a little later.

Let’s start at the beginning. The year is 1886.

LEFT: Downtown Austin at the turn of the century. (That’s the Driskill in the background) RIGHT: Front desk of The Driskill

Colonel Jesse Driskill, a wealthy cattle baron during the Civil War, and established businessman saw a moment to make his mark. Knowing that Austin would soon see a boom in growth after being named the capital of Texas, Driskill decided to move his family to Texas and get to work building a grand hotel.

The Colonel commissioned The Driskill to outshine the other majestic hotels of New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. In fact, when it officially opened its doors in 1886, The Driskill was revered as “One of the Finest Hotels in the Whole Country.” 

Fun Fact: The Driskill is so old that it was built before the state capital! For a brief time state business was done at the hotel until the capital was completed in1888.

After Colonel Driskill passed away in 1890, for the next century the hotel bounced around from owner to owner with each one attempting to build on its grand reputation. Until one day, the well went dry.

The Driskill Was Almost Demolished

The Driskill before and after renovations

In 1969, the hotel was closed for necessary renovations, but the funds weren’t there. Though it was scheduled for demolition, the community wasn’t ready to see it go. So, they got to work and quickly created a plan organizing a “bake and bond” sale selling $10 bonds and treats.

The community’s efforts were matched by The Heritage Society of Austin (now called Preservation Austin) raising more than $700,000 and eventually forming the nonprofit Driskill Hotel Corporation. In 1973, The Driskill reopened with a triumphant celebration with new renovations and a new title: National Historic Landmark.

The Driskill lobby

Fun Fact: Because The Driskill was saved, it has been able to maintain its tradition of hosting every Texas governor’s inauguration party starting with Saul Ross in 1897! 
Ties to President Lyndon B. Johnson 

LEFT: LBJ watching the results of his Senate Campaign. RIGHT: LBJ at Driskill for event

The Driskill Hotel played a big part in the lives of president Lyndon Baines Johnson and Claudia Taylor or “Lady Bird”. Here’s are a few examples:

  • In 1934, the couple shared their first date in the hotel restaurant — Lyndon asked her to marry him that same day!
  • LBJ returned to The Driskill in 1948 to await the results of his Senate Campaign in Jim Hog Parlor Room and again in 1960 for the results of his race for Vice President with John F. Kennedy.
  • The couple even had their own TV station at the hotel called KTBC TV where it was housed from 1954-1958!

LEFT: LBJ suite bathroom RIGHT: Presidental Suite entrance

Fun Fact: The Jim Hog Parlor Room is also the room where the Texas Rangers met during the Great Depression to plot the capture of famous American criminal couple, Bonnie and Clyde.

The Johnson’s visited The Driskill so many times over the course of their marriage, that the hotel finally dedicated a 1,200 square foot presidential status room to them called the “Lyndon B. Johnson Suite” that’s available for guests to book. A special detail we love is how Lady Bird’s favorite flower, bluebonnets, are sprinkled around the room — especially in the bathroom’s stained glass windows!

Speaking of unique decor…

Decorated With History

Driskill hotel restaurant

It’s difficult to miss the western elegance influences of The Driskill. (Welcome to Texas, y’all!) Stroll through the opulent lobby with its marble floors and stained-glass dome, corridors filled with museum-quality artwork, and grand mezzanine for a glimpse into the hotel’s storied past. The hotel has time-honored decor of horns, chandeliers, tufted leather, cowhides, and cattle taxidermy as a nod to the Driskill family business. When you first walk inside you’ll be greeted by a large portrait of Colonel Jesse Driskill that has hung in the lobby since 1890!

Driskill room with a view

Of course, this place has stunning architecture both inside and out, but follow us into the room of gold known as The Maximilian Room.

Maximillion room

This room was given its name from the eight famous Austrian gold leaf framed mirrors that hang on the walls. These once belonged to Emperor Maximilian of Mexico and his wife, Carlotta, a Belgian princess widely praised as the most beautiful woman in Europe. He had presented them to her as a wedding gift with her likeness adorned in each frame via a gilt medallion. The mirrors were discovered in a San Antonio antique store in 1930. They were dusted off and now hang at The Driskill in a room where folks today make their own vows of true love at the hotel.

Fun Fact: The Driskill isn’t the only place decorated with history! Check out Mike Wolfe’s vacation loft rental furnished his items found on American Pickers HERE.
Why This Place Matters

The Driskill at night

Even as everything grew up around the hotel, The Driskill has managed to fend off demolition and kept its character. We need to hold on to these places as a living testimony to true craftsmanship and a time we’ll never see again. The Driskill is a solid representation of our past, and how there is room for historic architecture like this in our future.

The best way to make sure places like The Driskill stay alive is by your curiosity. Spend the night surrounded by American history, and we guarantee you’ll have a better story to tell when you check out.

Photos courtesy of The Driskill Hotel
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Previously published by CBS NEWS February 2, 2020, 9:23 AM

Antique stores are generally home for relics of the past, not newly-minted celebrities. But at Antique Archaeology, in Le Claire, Iowa, shop owner Mike Wolfe gives the customer some star power along with the dust. “Every one of these people write my check,” Wolfe said. “Every one of them do. So, I try to spend as much time as I can with them, and if we don’t rise to the occasion all the time, then I feel like I failed.”

If you recognize him, it’s probably because you’re not only into rusty bits of Americana, but you’re also a viewer of the History Channel series, “American Pickers.” It’s like “Antiques Roadshow” mixed with an episode of “Hoarders.”

Wolfe tried to sell the show for five years. But nobody really knew what a “picker” was, including the History Channel. “I said, ‘Here’s the deal, man: You’re the History Channel, let’s educate them. Let’s tell them what a picker is!'” said Wolfe.

In short, it’s someone who picks over other collectors’ collections, hoping to buy a piece or two to give it a new life somewhere else.

With his longtime buddy Frank Fritz riding shotgun, they drive some 70,000 miles a year, hunting for pieces of history that capture their attention. “When you walk into an antique shop, chances are 95% of the time, that dealer is not buying all of that stuff,” said Wolfe.

“It comes from folks like you?” asked correspondent Lee Cowan.

“Yeah, exactly. We’re in the trenches, we’re on the front lines looking for these things for them.”


But for Wolfe, the show, and his career, aren’t really about the hunt – or surprisingly, even peddling what they find. It’s about the people in small town America who collect all this stuff to begin with.

“That’s the passion of it for you?” asked Cowan.

“Yes! And it’s fascinating to me, and people constantly ask me to try to get into the mind of a collector. And I’m a collector myself – and I don’t even understand my mind as much, trying to explain it half the time, so I’m trying to explain everybody else’s mindset.”

“Do you think you’re a little bit eccentric?”

“I don’t think I’m smart enough to be eccentric,” said Wolfe. “Don’t you have to be smart, like super-genius like, to be ‘eccentric’?”

Wolfe is the product of rural America he finds to fascinating. He grew up the oldest of three kids in Bettendorf, Iowa, raised by a single mom. “My father left when I was two,” he said. “My mom told me a story once that he was supposed to come for Christmas, and I stood there at the window all day looking for him and he never came.”

His family couldn’t afford luxuries like a bicycle. But one day, on his way to school, Wolfe spotted one in the trash. “It was one of those big garbage days. I was cutting through this yard, and I remember seeing it; it was a girl’s bike. And I picked that up, and I was amazed that someone would throw out a bike! And so, I thought to myself, if someone would throw out a bike, what else would they throw out? So, that’s why I started digging in the garbage, constantly, even if it wasn’t a big garbage day I was always in the trash cans and stuff!”

He still spends his days that way. He relishes rust in the way the rest of us savor a glass of wine. He especially digs motorcycles – old Harleys and Indians have a habit of making their way into his own collection. “All of these things in here were someone else’s dreams,” Wolfe said. “They were someone else’s world. There’s a magic to it; it’s magical.”

And that magic doesn’t just stop with rescuing old relics in those small towns. Sometimes it’s trying to save the towns themselves. Wolfe has become a one-man preservation army. He’s spent millions buying and restoring old Main Street buildings. He started in his native Iowa – Le Claire, specifically – and then expanded his restoration efforts to the charming little town of Columbia, Tenn., outside Nashville.

“I love old buildings; they speak to me,” he said. “They really have personalities. When I walk into a building that has such historic presence, it gives me the chills.”

Restored buildings in Le Claire, Iowa.  CBS NEWS

One of his projects includes an old Chevy dealership, built in 1947. He’s turning what used to be the showroom, into brand-new retail space.  “This was, like, a huge asset, like a flagship for the community, and that’s kind of, to be honest with you, what I want it to be again,” he said.

The oldest building he’s rescued is one built in 1857, which he bought three-and-a-half years ago. Now, it’s a bustling bicycle shop. Above the showroom are two AirBnB apartments for those who want to experience small town Main Street for the night.

“These aren’t just buildings, and these aren’t just small town corridors,” Wolfe said. “All of these places matter for one reason or another, and some can survive, some can’t. But if we don’t try as individuals, then who are we as a society?”

It’s such a passion of his that when he was younger it led him, in Le Claire, Iowa, to run for city council for no other reason than to help restore Main Street. “I ran for city council, because I used to walk down these streets and night with my dog, and think about what this place could be.”

Mike Wolfe with correspondent Lee Cowan. CBS NEWS

One of the restorations he’s most proud of is one that used to be Le Claire’s grocery store. And he’s not done yet. He wants to buy more, before they crumble away. “I tell people all the time: If you want to see small town America, if you want to see Main Street, get in your car and drive and go take a trip with your family, because it is disappearing rapidly,'” he said. 

To Mike Wolfe, the past isn’t just bits of rusty gold. It’s a reminder of where we came from, a lifestyle we can still touch and learn from, if we give our Main Streets a chance to speak. 

Cowan said, “You almost talk about some of these towns like a first date.” 

Wolfe laughed: “You know what? I do have emotional affairs with a lot of these communities! 

“This is our time to make a difference. If I can do that in any way, I want to be a part of that,” he said. 



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Like the song says, “For the holidays you can’t beat home sweet home.”

We spend all year chasing Two Lane back road sunsets, exploring old towns, and searching for something we’ve never seen before. While on any other adventure, it would be nice to have a map to follow, the road home is one we know by heart. We all have the memory of turning our wheels onto that familiar street, our heart beats in anticipation of the family, food, gifts, and games waiting on the other side of the door. 

The bustle of the year can keep us busy, but the holidays are here to remind us to slow down, put work away, and unplug. Family and friends are gathering across the country to make memories with the ones they love, dust off cherished family heirlooms, and tell stories of the past while catching up on the present. There are many things to appreciate about this season, but here are our favorites. (Curious to know if y’all feel the same way.) 

Unpacking The Past

Keepsakes are capable of capturing decades of memories. It’s always so incredible how we unpack the pieces of our past every holiday, and they still manage to remain whole. Thinking about how we allow our minds to travel back to little happy moments of our lives when it was our job to hang that one special ornament, or thinking about the way your favorite toy felt in your hands. These heirlooms have become the tangible memories of our lives that we get to share with grandchildren, spouses, and friends.

Traditions Both Old and New

Holidays seemed so simple back when the toys we received didn’t require batteries or need to be charged. Sometimes it can feel like the holidays have gone too commercial. We crave that simplicity for playing outside all day until your shoelaces freeze instead of Instagramming our food. This is a great opportunity to show the current generation how to bond with family without cell phones, electronics, or Netflix. Get a game of jacks or pick up sticks going, grease up some sleds, go take a drive to see the lights, or just run outside all day until you can’t feel your toes.

Even more than games think about different decorations were! Real trees, real pine garland, going out and picking pinecones off the ground to paint for centerpieces. Holiday decor was less about LED candy canes and more about cranberry popcorn garland. It was more fun to be resourceful with nature than buying decor at a hardware store. 

No matter how simple or specific a tradition is, the point is that it is shared between the generations because someday it will be their duty to keep those special little moments alive for years to come.


Sensory Memories

It’s not just the smell of cookies that have a way of jogging our memories. Scents of family memories stick with us too! You can never forget those tight squeezes from your uncle that always smelt like pipe tobacco and cold air, or a hug from gramma that smells like old literature books and vanilla that’s spilled on her apron from being in the kitchen making that special dessert she only makes this time of year. 

Just as smells connect us to a memory, so does a song. All those years of gathering around the piano as your Aunt Susan lead the family in a never-ending round of singing “Jingle Bells”. The great thing about music memories is they don’t have to be from family sing-a-longs to be special. Maybe your dad always plays Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas” while rigging up the lights Maybe your mom always played The Carpenter’s Christmas album while you decorated cookies to deliver to the neighbors. Speaking of baking…

Preparing Family Recipes

There are always those special treats and dishes that families whip up for a holiday feast: Gramma’s walnut pie, pumpkin rolls, maybe a secret recipe for the ham. Participating in the kitchen to stir, sift, mix, and measure gave you a behind-the-scenes look into your favorite dishes. Someday they’d be yours to prepare! 

A great lesson we learned in the kitchen was how it didn’t cost money to give gifts. Neighbors often exchanged homemade gifts like fudge, tea, ornaments, — gifts intended to be shared with the family. Maybe your family always made baskets filled with fruits, chocolates, and hard ribbon candy wrapped up in colored cellophane to deliver to those who were snowed in or unable to leave. It’s amazing was some sweets can do!

 If that wasn’t your style, you could always set the table, light the candlesticks, polish the silverware, or go gather pinecones for a centerpiece!


Cross Country Connections With Holiday Cards

We’ve mentioned in the past about the romanticism of writing a letter, and how that art of pen to paper is something that never goes out of style. For those of us that sent and received holiday cards, it was a chance to share with others updates on the kids as they grow, new adventures, and best wishes for the New Year. Gilded cards with delicate cursive salutations are on full display as you walk inside to the sounds of kitchen commotion, crackling fire, and the laughter of children playing. Making memories to write about in next year’s card. 

No matter if your home is large, small, bought, or rented, Traveling the Two Lanes road home means greeting the people and places that shaped our lives. While some people maybe be missing it, you know the season will still be special because traditions remain. Let us know your favorite holiday memory in the comments below.


Photos by Meghan Aileen