Mystery coupon inspires senior odyssey

(Above) Four boys from Zelienople, Penn., traveled many miles to cash in a coupon at the Clear Lake McDonalds.  Pictured (L-R) is Colton Marley, Trey Hixon, Jonah Smeltzer and Eli Peel.  -Reporter photo by Chris Barragy

by Lisa Riggin

Who would have thought that finding a random coupon in your wallet could lead to an 827-mile odyssey to cash it? For four young men from Zelienople, Penn., a town near Pittsburgh, that’s where this story begins. 

Colton Marley unexpectedly found a coupon for a McDonald’s McCafe drink in his wallet that could only be redeemed in a few random places far from home, Clear Lake being the closest.

Colton’s friend, Trey Hixon, joked that they could cash it in by taking a road trip to celebrate his, Jonah Smeltzer’s and Eli Peel’s graduation. Of course, Colton would have to go along even though he was still a Junior- it was his coupon, after all- and the story began.

The travelers arrived in Clear Lake on Sunday, June 26 and explored the area until Tuesday, June 28.

“It was a random pick, really,” explained Colton. “And it turned out to be a good one. Clear Lake is an amazing place.”

“I think this place is gorgeous,” added Eli. 

The four of them shared those sentiments, commenting on the brilliant sunset they saw from the city beach and mentioning the cute houses and diverse shops. While here, they also visited the Surf Ballroom and saw a big band.

“We’re actually a barbershop quartet so the music and history at the Surf was great to experience,” explained Eli. “We saw the plaque for the Music Man over in Mason City. We actually all met for the first time in eighth grade when we were in that musical, so seeing that was another highlight.”

And that all important coupon? They were able to redeem it at the Clear Lake McDonald’s. The restaurant graciously fed the foursome in recognition of their journey, with both local and corporate employees in attendance.

When asked how Iowa compared to Pennsylvania, the four of them commented on how far you can see. Where they live it is hilly and tree covered and they admitted, “We were not expecting how beautiful it is, especially here.”

Trey particularly thought Clear Lake would be an awesome vacation spot—minus the 12-hour drive.

“Next time we’ll have to fly,” they all agreed.

To that we say, the sooner the better, guys.

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