Why is it that we often take for granted the great things in our own backyards? I live within an hour’s train ride of some of the most visited attractions in the world—The Art Institute of Chicago, Navy Pier, the Magnificent Mile—yet I rarely visit them, unless an out-of-town guest prompts me to show them the sights. My friends in Florida tell me they seldom go to the beach, even though most Midwestern folks can only dream of being able to see the ocean every day. This unfortunate rule even applies to people. My best friend and former college roommate lives less than five miles from me, but we don’t see each other as often as either of us would like. So, even though I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, it’s not all that surprising that I had never been to Dubuque, Iowa, just a three-hour drive from Chicago.
I hopped in the car and headed west but, before I hit the highway to Iowa, I stopped at an even nearer neighbor, Coffman NationaLease in Aurora. Scott Marzec, Member Program Manager for NationaLease, accompanied me on this first leg of my journey, as we sat down with Mark Coffman to talk about their business. Coffman sells light, medium, and heavy trucks out of their dealership, in addition to providing lease and rental options. They offer towing services for Class 1-8 vehicles, and run a top-notch parts and service business as well. It was great to catch-up with Mark, as we discussed purchasing trends and challenges that small businesses face in today’s economy and regulatory environment. As we left Aurora, Scott headed back home, and I continued west toward Dubuque.
Historic US Highway 20 has been called one of the most scenic drives in the Midwest. February in Illinois was unseasonably warm and sunny, so I was able to enjoy the sights as I traveled through wide open countryside and small towns along the way. As I approached the Mississippi River, the wide prairies became rolling hills and winding curves. It was already dark by the time I got to Galena, Illinois, a town loaded with historic buildings, artisan and craft shops, interesting restaurants, and other attractions, including the former home of President Ulysses S. Grant. I couldn’t see much of the town in the darkness, but the twinkling lights were still a welcome sight. I continued on Highway 20 through Galena and East Dubuque, Illinois, and across the bridge into Dubuque, another historic Mississippi River port town rich in history. By this time it was late, and I was tired, so I found my hotel and turned in for the night.
The next morning, I went over to the headquarters of McCoy NationaLease. They have a beautiful facility that houses the headquarters of all the McCoy Group companies, including their Freightliner dealerships, Foodliner, Questliner, Quest Logistics, and McCoy NationaLease. Jeff Herkert, Jim Kane, Craig Porter, and Kyle Neumann met with me to do an in-depth review of our Supply Management programs, and to take a look at other tools and resources available to all NationaLease members. After the meeting, Jeff and Craig gave me a tour of the facility, then a bit of a history lesson, as we went into town to the Barrel House in the historic Old Main neighborhood for lunch. This district was Dubuque’s earliest commercial downtown. It is filled with 19th-century commercial buildings, many of which have been converted to entertainment and retail venues. One of the notable spots in the neighborhood is The Hotel Julien Dubuque, just across the street from the Barrel House, which became famous during Prohibition as a respite for Al Capone. After a lunch filled with good food and great conversation, I got back in the car to take the trip back east, and found the drive just as scenic and enjoyable as it was the day before.
I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone, but I think I know why I sometimes take the nearest and dearest things for granted. It’s because I am certain they’ll still be there tomorrow. When I’m on vacation someplace I’ve never been, I feel like I need to see and do it all right now, because I don’t know when, if ever, I’ll come back. But if I don’t go to my favorite neighborhood restaurant, or stop by to see my friend today, I can always do it tomorrow. The problem is, tomorrow becomes next week, which quickly turns into next month, and maybe even next year. And in the case of our NationaLease members, they truly are always there. We have one member who’s been in the association since its beginning in 1944, and several that were in business even before NationaLease was born. Nonetheless, I never want to take any of them for granted. Each one of our members occupies an important place in our network, and every single one makes our association stronger. So I’ll continue to do my best to visit them all as often as I can. And I am definitely going to stop by my friend’s house on my way home today.