This is my first go at the 2008 election -- and it starts in Bettendorf, Iowa at a hotel reminiscent of some 17th century Bavarian castle. I've been covering presidential elections since 1972, but have never run across this particular establishment, where one of the specialties is the Jagerschnitzel, perhaps a throwback to Bettendorf's German roots.
Up at 4 am -- for reasons I can't explain, since the candidate's speech begins at 9:30. It's the start of a bus tour through Iowa by Barack Obama. Actually, that's only half right. Yes, there is a bus, but it's full of reporters. "The senator will have alternate transportation," we are told.
It's a packed hall for the first event, despite the "No Obama Parking" signs that greet us outside the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency.
Obama is fired up, but resists taking shots at Hillary. A midday speech in Muscatine is jammed with well-wishers and those who tell us they like the tougher talk.
Evidently it's getting to Obama's throat. He makes an unscheduled stop at the "Dairy Bar" in the town of Wapello between speeches, surprises two customers, drags dozens of national reporters inside and then the man who would be president orders onion rings and a soft drink.
Let history record the moment.