6.18.2010

Of Summer and TV: American Pickers

Summer always makes me yearn for Americana. Pies, softly drifting breezes, trees, fairs and festivals, bare feet on grass...Some of my strongest memories and sense of Americana are from the three years I visited and then lived in the Quad City Area (QCA), where the Mississippi splits Illinois and Iowa.

Then there's funny coincidences that can't be readily understood but bring a bittersweet smile on my lips, as they bring up old memories to share with mom.

Back in March or April, during a visit with mom while she was staying at the hospital, she urged me to take a look at a new show she had discovered, American Pickers. A duo of antique hunters (Mike and Frank) who dig and pick through discarded antiques and memorabilia, search for items of value in today's "mantiques" market--or guy interest antiques related to automotive industry, old bicycles, gas lamps, and that sort of thing.

The show stuck in my mind and I labeled a new favorite after only the first episode. They have really great personalities and offer a good price to the owners, while being respectful of who they're with and where they are. When they recap their purchases they point out what the going price is and it's always above what they bought it for. The spice in the show, besides the two guys' incredible and funny personalities, is the receptionist/store chick (Danielle). She keeps the business running when the guys are off chasing after their latest acquisitions. This is a rocker chick well-prepared to match the two guys' energy and activity level. She actually reminds me of a bodacious, older version of NCIS' Abby.
 
Well, little did we know, my mom and I, that the guys and their show are actually based out of one of our favorite haunts in the old Quad Cities area,  Le Claire, IA (Antique Archaeology is the store name). This I found out while casually reading updates on the QCA area newspapers on Facebook this past month. What a surprise this was. I immediately forwarded the info to my mom and we began reminiscing.

Le Claire is a typical, sleepy little Mississippi river town. I think there's but a street's worth of business district  and that's pretty much it. There was a restaurant, the Faithful Pilot, which we've never been able to find no matter how hard we tried. We began thinking it was a joket the area was pulling on us "city folk."

My mom and I became acquainted with Le Claire the summer of '96-'97. We were staying in nearby more "urbanite-friendly" Bettendorf, and on Fridays, when the cleaning lady came to my dad's company-leased apartment, we took our dogs or just ourselves to the Mississippi Valley Welcome Center and spent hours in its gorgeous gazebo enjoying a book, our company, and view of the river and I-80 bridge. Of course, another place we used to chill in was nearby, at Lock and Dam 14. That was the era when we were moving away from the Chicagoland area into the Quad Cities.

Besides the lovely gazebo at the visitor center, there are nomadic bbq trucks that can set up at a spur of the moment in a little nearby park that also doubles as an on-off platform for fishermen and leisure pontoons in the Mississippi. There's a fascinating Buffalo Bill Cody museum which may potentially have been developed by the Antique Archaeology guys, and when we went in '97, we got to visit the Lone Star paddlewheel/steamer dry docked there. The two main attractions in Le Claire, however, are a deliciously luxe restaurant called Steventons and the famed, yearly Quad City Tug Fest.

Today, I spent some time catching up on episodes of the show, and reading up on Danielle, the tattoed beauty on American Pickers. She apparently has a great presence in the QCA in the burlesque and roller derby areas. She's an amazing woman and I like her go-getter attitude.

It's fun reminiscing, but I'm looking forward to new Americana experiences I create today and tomorrow. Here's to a great start making new memories!