Life’s what you make it, not where you make it. I live in a small town where I grew up and I love living here. More than anything I want my kids to raise their grand-kids here. The challenge with rural community is that everyone thinks you gotta move away to enjoy life. I’ve never believed that, I can go anywhere from here.
John Dockey is the owner and founder of What’s Up 24/7. He has big dreams for small town America, and restoring this old milk truck is going to help them become a reality. John has served as a City Counselman, Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, and Economic Development Director. As he puts it, "He gets rural, and he bleeds ideas." October will mark 35 years of marriage for him and his wife Lisa. He has 6 children, 9 grandchildren, and multiple businesses. I drove out to his house to meet him for an interview about the truck and see the progress he had made so far.
John lives in the quaint town of Alexandria Indiana, population 5,128. I was glad he told me more details about where to turn into his driveway. If I didn’t know better I would've assumed it was a little trail into the forest, not a driveway to a house. John and his family were enjoying some morning coffee around the fire when I got there. His backyard resembled a peaceful campground.
We then drove a few miles up the road to Landon's shop where him and John have been working on the Divco truck. Landon studied industrial science at Ivy Tech and he is the son of John's best friend from high school. John was relieved and ecstatic when Landon offered to help with this project. He's an amazing welder and fabricator, and knows cars in and out. When we met back in May, they had already put about 40 hours of labor into the truck and estimated another 200 to go.
So what is What's Up 24/7, and what does an old milk truck have to do with it?
It's an dynamic new platform that promotes awareness of all the happenings, attractions and businesses all around us. We aren’t lacking people, or even things to do or places to go! What we are lacking is clear communication and cross-community awareness. What's Up 24/7 makes up where our communities are falling short.
I built What's Up 24/7 because our rural communities individually struggle. Collectively, we work together and are as strong as any major city. What if I lived in a 360 deg world? What if I knew everything that was available to me within 30 or 40 minutes of where I live?
John plans to travel across the country in this truck. Not only will it help him share his product with towns that could benefit from What's Up, it will also catch the attention of every single person they drive by. It promises to be an amazing investment for advertising his company. The delivery person who transported this from Georgia said people were taking pictures constantly and stopping him at every gas station to talk about it. This truck was originally built in 1965 from as close as John could tell. There are no titles to help identify exactly which truck this is, but everyone believes based on the details that it is a Divco E300 from 1965.
John had been searching for several weeks before this truck popped up for sale in Georgia. He talked to the seller every night for two weeks and decided to buy it. It took me awhile to realize that the cut up white Chevy in the shop was also a part of this project. John and Landon are taking apart two completely different trucks, and learning how to piece them together into one. The diesel engine should allow John to get up to 500,000 miles out of the Divco truck once it's completed.
Originally I was going to get a brand new jeep, but I realized that everyone has a jeep. Then I saw a TV show where they work on homes and someone was driving an old 65' work truck. I searched ‘antique work truck’, and this was the first thing that popped up. When I saw it, I knew it was what I wanted. I want to eventually buy a whole fleet of these as we grow. I’ve always wanted to rebuild a vehicle. I chose a crazy project for my first rebuild.
He wants to install cameras in the front of the truck so he van vlog his cross country journeys. The back will become a camper so one person can be sleeping while another is driving and they can cover more miles efficiently. John is passionate about small towns and travel. He hopes to not take a single major interstate during his adventures in this truck. He wants to see every town, and be seen by everyone. He will be traveling with his friend and business partner Phil Anderson. Phil also has a heart for all things travel. He teaches Cultural Heritage Tourism at IUPUI, and he runs a travel website that will plan your next excursion called "Life off the Highway."
As I took pictures of the truck and learned more about what John planned to do with it, he shared a story with me that demonstrates perfectly why there is a market for What's Up 24/7; Not only for community leaders wanting to put their town on the map, but for residents in search of something to do.
If I can go see live music in Indianapolis, but I have to drive an hour into traffic that I hate, why would I do that? I can see the same quality of show closer to home, just in a different direction. I saw the same artist 7 miles from my house that was playing in Indianapolis the weekend before. But when I saw him in Elwood I saved time, gas, didn’t have to pay for parking, didn't have to pay a cover charge, and my meal was 30 percent cheaper than what I would've paid in a bigger city. Whats Up is a solution that allows small communities and businesses that don't have major marketing budgets to cross promote, market, and make information more available to their users. We would all have a better quality of life if we knew more about what was happening around us.
I asked John how he thinks the current pandemic fits in with the future of What's Up 24/7.
Due to COVID-19, people in bigger cities have been completely stuck in their apartments. They don’t have a large house, or any land--most don't even have a yard. This is pushing people to look at their priorities. A lot of people are wanting to come back to their roots, they are rethinking getting back home.
Some people are even considering planting roots for the first time. We have all been affected by this chaos in some way, and it's pushing most people to crave simplicity and authentic connections. No matter what your opinion is on the current state of the world, I think we can all agree that it has brought us some perspective on what is important in our lives. My husband and I just moved to Missouri in the beginning of July to be closer to friends and family. We left a bigger city and higher paying jobs hoping to have a stronger community in our future. At this point, you can't escape the effects of the pandemic anywhere you go, but you can be with loved ones while you go through it.
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