I’m biking east along Interstate highway 80 and today I’m visiting the “world’s largest wooden nickel”. It’s 16 feet / 5m across.
First, when the Americans say “world’s largest” they really mean “America’s largest”. I find it cute in the same way teenagers can be cute. I genuinely love the unabashing exceptionalism and the moral high bar that results from it. It’s unfortunate that this sense appears to be on the decline lately.
Anyway, I looked into why America’s largest wooden nickel is here and what that means. First I learned that “wooden nickel” symbolizes IOU / local currency substitute / coupons in a crunch time, and this wooden nickel was built by a local real estate developer / activist as a protest against the city’s plan to widen and repave a nearby road years ago (below), which they subsequently won.
Supposedly the message “don’t tread on me” is a reference to the people’s power, and the wooden nickel symbolizes that the city’s plan is not worth a wooden nickel, and it does reference voting. I find it a little ironic that the road expansion must have been in part a reaction to growing traffic, and here they created another landmark that helped grow the traffic. When a real estate developer is protesting against a local development, it’s easy to imagine more nefarious reasons, but if there might be more stories behind it, I couldn’t find it.
In terms of the overall trip, I’m a little past Iowa City. The land is vast and it’s hard to feel the progress, but according to the map I’m mere 100km away to Davenport where I cross the Mississippi river to leave Iowa and enter Illinois. Go go go!