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Find Unexpected Hidden Gems In Everyday Places

By: Christopher Popp
Director of Sales and Marketing
DieQua Corporation

Almost all of us have a tendency to race around from here to there and not pay attention to what is sometimes right in front of us. Hidden gems, like the one I ran across last week, are everywhere. We just have to open our eyes and ears (or our noses) to gain experiences too many others miss.

“Stop and smell the roses” is the popular (or maybe antiquated) term for slowing down to notice what is going on around you. With just about everyone having their eyes glued to, or ears plugged into, their smart phones, it’s even more difficult to recognize random experiences of interest or enlightenment.

Such was almost the case last week as I, along with Tom Kahn, our Motion Products Manager, and Roberto Vasquez, a DieQua Application Engineer, made our way by car from Chicago to Ohio to do some training and make joint calls with one of our distributors, Triad Technologies. Having started out much later than planned, we were hitting Indianapolis about 8:30 in the evening.

While it was true we were behind schedule, stopping for fast food wasn’t a preferred option for either of us. Roberto, the app man, pulled out his phone and started searching sit down places along the highway. After a few establishments were rejected based on curb appeal (or lack thereof), we settled on trying Bearcats Restaurant, which was just off the exit.

Considered to be on the north side of downtown, we were a bit taken back by the lack of car traffic and the industrial setting, but we were hungry. It was late on a Tuesday night with limited other obvious entertainment establishments nearby. Maybe it just wasn’t a weekday night spot. That was pretty much assured as only one other table was occupied.

While they held the kitchen open for us and the sandwiches were especially tasty, that isn’t really the hidden gem I’m writing about.  As I shuffled past the bar on my way to inspecting the plumbing prior to getting back on the road, a gentleman keeping the mixologist company asked me if I liked old cars. I said yes but motioned for Tom to join us as he is more keen on that topic. He asked us if we wanted to see some. A little confused, we said sure. It turned out he was the owner of the restaurant.

Passing through a short hallway led us to a real surprise. An additional seating area for the lunchtime crowd was decorated with old auto memorabilia. And beyond that was a museum of period cars dating back to the original Stutz Bearcat of the teens and twenties. We had stumbled on the Stutz factory where the famed Bearcat phenomena had risen to prominence! It was now transformed into the Stutz Business Center.

As we toured through all the nooks and crannies, it felt like we owned the place. A Formula 1 race car, an old Mercedes convertible and a variety of 20s and 30s vintage autos were everywhere. Down in the garage we saw an old Rolls Royce, a Lincoln and a Cadillac. We were told that a collection of Ferrari’s and other high end vehicles were on display up stairs. And several of the cars had “for sale” signs on them. Unfortunately we didn’t have the cash or the time to linger any longer.

Ok, there isn’t anything that special about a car museum. There are tons around. What is special is the complete surprise of leaving the small restaurant and emerging out of that hallway to see the place open up to a completely different world.  To history and the origins of an icon. What had started as a quick stop for a sandwich turned into a cultural event. And it all started with some guy asking me if I liked old cars.

I can’t say I noticed the Stutz reference on the restaurant marquee. I can’t say I even knew that Indianapolis was a hot bed of car production before Detroit took over that reputation. And I certainly can’t say I was expecting something special to happen during a relatively routine break in the journey.

What I can say is that by engaging people, especially locals as you travel, you have an opportunity to learn an amazing number of new things about the place you are presently in. And if you are the local and hear a strange accent, you are likely crossing paths with a traveler from another place. Someone who probably has an experience to share that can enlighten you about something you didn’t know about.

The other key here was to get a little off the beaten path. It would have been easy to hit the first fast food outlet off the highway. Venturing inland a bit allowed us to experience what most miss as they hurriedly go about their merry way.

Taking a moment to check out your surroundings, or listening to the sounds of the environment you are in, can provide you with some amazing unexpected experiences. Not every time, of course, but definitely often enough to make it worthwhile to remember doing.

Happy and safe journeys!



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