A Trusting Baker + A Mysterious Man in a Red Truck + Mark’s Biking Update

Mark and Melody’s update from Illinois


DAY 48: Today was one of those grinding days. But even on a rough day that ended after 75 miles in temps that hit triple digits, according to one local thermometer, there were some lovely moments.

The day broke foggy and warm. It threw a soft, fuzzy blanket over the corn and soybean fields I was riding past. The early-morning sun looked like it would burn that haze off soon enough, but I enjoyed the gauzy view while I had it.  (Read the rest of this story about reconnection and reflection here on his blog.)

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Mark surrounded by a sea of fog.

MELODY: Since Ragbrai ended, we took a few days off from camping and landed in a motel in the small town of Galva, Illinois.  It was here where my faith in humanity was restored.

Let’s all agree that it’s been a rough summer (violence, ugly political rhetoric and general unpleasantness in the world news) so it was a lovely surprise to feel that humans are, well, nice. It happened in a small bakery.

Empty windows and long-shuttered family-owned shops (perhaps due to the WalMart about 12 miles away) fill the old town square in Galva.  It was once a thriving Midwestern town and a popular landing spot for Swedish immigrants in the early 1900’s.  Once the trains came, the town grew exponentially. But, like many small towns in America’s heartland, this charming town fell on hard times.  The main employer today is a factory that makes casket parts.

But look hard enough and you will find one shop that looks like it’s not open but everyone in town knows that it is.  Crack open the door and most of the time no one is there. Just delicious smells and beautiful bakery treats and a handwritten sign that says:

To Our Customers

Please put money in slot in metal box behind the glass case. If you don’t have the correct change (no problem) just put it in the next time you visit our bakery.

Thanks, Dwain


Dwain Jacobson is a fifth-generation baker who believes in the honor system. He said that sometimes, very rarely, there are people who take advantage of it.  But it has never occurred to him to change the way it’s always been done.  “It’s a small town and everyone here knows that’s how we do things here,” he said. He wouldn’t have it any other way.


Most of the time, there isn’t anyone here during the day.  But 87-year-old Dwain happened to stop by for a few hours to mix some dough for the lady who makes the Rusks in the evening. So we asked him what happened to his arm. When he was a boy, he fell off a tractor. His arm got caught and life as he knew it ended.  But that never stopped him from doing the work he loves and finding people to love.

We stocked up on Swedish rye bread, cinnamon rolls, rusks and fruit danish and said goodbye. Grateful for the opportunity to meet such a sweet and kind soul.

Later that night, I was getting a few things out of my car in front of our motel and a man in a red pickup truck pulled up right next to me.  “Are you Wollemann?” he asked. That was a strange feeling, some man in a pickup truck in the middle of nowhere using my husband’s last name.  I’m a city girl, so I hesitated for a second. What could this man want and how did he know our name?  But I said, “Yes, that’s me.” He reached to the passenger side of the car, grabbed something and then leaned toward me and said “here.”  He handed me the credit card we had left in a another store earlier that day.  “They told me that you guys were staying at the Super 8 so I was bringing the card to you,” he said. “Welcome to Galva.”

I thanked him.  It was the second time in one day that I started to feel that there is hope for the future.  At least in some small towns in America, honesty and kindness still exists.

Oh, and in case you get to Galva, the Jacobson’s Bakery door is always open.  Even if it looks like it’s closed and the lights are off, the doors are never locked.  Go get yourself some bakery and restore your belief in the goodness of humans.  If you can find it.






6 Responses to “A Trusting Baker + A Mysterious Man in a Red Truck + Mark’s Biking Update

  • Oh Mel, I read this with a tear in my eye. I’m so glad that you, our Big City gal, found this humanity in a small town in the middle of the country.

  • Kyle Renell
    8 years ago

    Welcome to small town America, Tune!

  • I am the wife of the guy in the red truck……..Yes, Galva is one of those unique little towns in the middle of no where. It is interesting to know how WE chose to live here. My husband, Frank, was a NCOIC over Army recruiters and his territory covered this area. He had already been transferred here and myself and two teenage children were still at the Military base in Rantoul, IL. It was 1992 and the Air Force Base that we called home was closing due to budget cuts. We had to find a place to live so we could all be together again. Each week Frank would come home to get me and we would scope out where we wanted to live. We narrowed it down one day while having coffee by taking out a map of Illinois and Frank saying this is my recruiting area, ” where do you want to live at”? So we took a cup and drew a circle around it and started checking out every town inside the circle……even the towns with 200 people. After several weeks of doing this we had it narrowed down to two towns. We went to the first one and walked down the street for two blocks, we said good morning to everyone we passed, but no responses. We then came to Galva, sat down in a little cafe and found ourselves listening to all the farmers that had come in for their coffee breaks. It was amazing!!! We found out all the local gossip in town in less than ten minutes and found ourselves smiling. We then walked a couple blocks down the main street and once again spoke to everyone we passed and everyone was so friendly and helpful. I was beginning to feel like I was meant to be here, this would work as it had friendly people, good schools, and only 45 miles away from my parents. So in July 1992 we were all reunited together and setting up life in Galva. Sure it has some draw backs, but where can you leave your house unlocked and go on vacation for two weeks and everything still be there just like you left it. Where can you go and just ask anybody and they can give you directions to your house. But most of all the community spirit is alive and well here. If someone is ill there are coffee cans in all the stores so that you can drop a dollar or two to help out the family, have a big benefit and the whole town turns out to help, or like us in 1996 get hit by a tornado and have 85 people in your yard clearing away 13 downed trees and you only personally know 15 of these people. Humbling indeed. The fact is we could have chosen anywhere within the circle on that map, but we chose Galva because of the people and the spirit in this small town of 2600 people. We are a tight knit group here. Everybody knows everybody and cares about each other and helps with whatever the cause. We hope that you enjoyed your stay in our little town and it has regained your faith in people. There are still good people in this world today and you were shown just two of those in Galva, IL.

    • Melody Gilbert
      8 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your story, Linda! Our stop in Galva was definitely a highlight for us 🙂

  • Gary Wollemann
    8 years ago

    Sounds like a very special place… Glad you and your family chose wisely… ?

  • I loved this post!!!