Iowa – Fall 2014

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So Iowa won out!  I have a wonderful husband who always gives in to my wants.  I had my heart set on visiting the Amana Colonies in Iowa but with the delay because of the truck we didn’t think we would head in that direction.  But Joe said it didn’t make any difference in distance going to Zach’s in Ohio so off we went to see the Amana Colonies.

Prairie Flower (COE) IAOur first stop on our way to Amana was a beautiful Corp of Engineer Park in Johnston, Iowa, on Sayerville Lake.  So many of the COE campgrounds we have stayed at as we travel are treasured fines.  Of course, the people who live close to them already know that and book them for the weekends.  For that reason they are hard to get into on weekends.   That was the case with Prairie Flower South.  Fortunately we have learned to arrive during the week so at least we can spend a few days there and hope they have walk-in sites (sites that are not reservable).  This park did not have any of those sites but we were able to stay three nights and enjoy the fall colors in the area.   All the sites were on cemented slab with a nice fire pit and surrounded by grass and trees which both Lily and we like.  Even though there were other people in the park we felt like we had it to ourselves and enjoyed fires in the evening and watching sailboats on the lake during the day.   We would love to go back and spend a little more time in this park.

View from inside camper Beach Hiking Trails Marina Toro Mowers Sunset

West Overlook (COE) IAWe found another COE campground about 20 miles from the Amana Colonies with walk-in sites so that is where we set our next stop.  What a difference from Prairie Flower COE to this campground.   All COE campgrounds sit on a lake, river or reservoir as did West Overlook COE on Coralville Lake in Coralville, Iowa.  Sites were cramped together and because we came in on a Thursday with staying over the weekend we discovered just how close the sites were.  We learned a lesson – never camp close to a college town in the fall when there is a football game.  We were just miles from the University of Iowa, home to the Hawkeye football team.   Friday night was peaceful but cannot say that for Saturday.  Starting mid-afternoon when the game was over we had party city and it went on until late night or early Sunday morning.   I guess the 10:00 pm quiet rule doesn’t apply on football days.

Campsite Dam Complex House Boats Eight boats tied together P1030211 Sunrise

We had a couple of first in this park. Sometimes it is nice to say we had a first but this was not one of them.   About 5:00 pm Saturday a Class C motorhome pulled in a couple of sites away from us and several college age guys piled out with their large German Sheppard dog who they decided didn’t need to be tied up.  Of course our first time outside with Lily the German Sheppard decided it wanted to come greet Lily but running at her scared both Lily and myself.  Not a fan of large dogs running free.  We got off easy compared to our neighbor.  The dog decided to pick up her shoe and carry it off.  They were not happy and moved sites.  But here was one of our firsts – those guys, for some reason such as to much to drink, decided to all climb on top of their motorhome and party up there.  We counted seven guys and one young woman.  We can’t figure out why the roof didn’t collapse or one of them didn’t fall off.  Drinking sure can make you make some poor decisions.  Eventually the park ranger came and talked to them and things settled down.

Our second first in this park happened on Sunday morning.  We were out for our morning walk about 10:00 just walking around the park.  We watched this woman come out of her camper, look around (but evidently didn’t see us) pulled up her skirt, squatted, and peed on the ground.  Maybe to much drinking didn’t wear off by Sunday morning.  The sad thing was that the restrooms weren’t even that far from where they were parked.  Needless to say we don’t intend to return to this COE Park.

Visitor CenterWe did get to visit the Amana Colonies one day while we stayed at West Overlook.  I was under a misconception of what the Amana Colonies were as are most people who don’t do their research before they visit.  I thought the Colonies were Amish but they are not.  A religious group called the Community of True Inspiration, the Inspirationists, came from Germany in 1855 to find land that they could farm and pursue their religious beliefs.   They established seven villages a mile or two apart across a river valley that covered 26,000 acres.  The colonies consisted of Amana, High Amana, South Amana, East Amana, West Amana, Middle Amana and Homestead.  They lived a communal lifestyle providing everything the community needed from food to doctors.   50 communal kitchens provided three daily meals.  These kitchens were operated by the women of the Colony.  They were supplied by the village smokehouse, bakery, ice house and dairy, by huge gardens, orchards and vineyards all maintained by the villagers.  Children attended school six days a week year-round until the age of 14.  At that age the boys worked on the farms or craft shops and girls worked in the kitchens or gardens.   A few of the boys were sent to college to be trained as teachers, doctors or dentist to work in the Colony.  The seven colonies lived a communal lifestyle until 1932.  At that time the communal way of life was seen as a barrier to achieving individual goals, so rather than leave or watch their children leave they changed.  They established the Amana Society, Inc a profit-sharing corporation to manage the farmland, the mills and larger enterprises.  They still make furniture, have a woolen mill, a smokehouse and other enterprises within that society.   They were declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965.

Joe and I did the 17 mile drive to see all seven colonies and except for Amana, there wasn’t a lot to see.  I think that is what was disappointing for me.  I expected to see – really not sure what I was expecting but it wasn’t what we saw.  We did enjoy Amana, the largest of the colonies.  In Amana we checked out the Woolen Mill which was interesting, bought meat at the Smokehouse, which was excellent, tried several wineries and bought several yummy fruit wines and had lunch at the Ronneburg Restaurant for a very good German meal.   Some of the buildings were interesting such as the corn crib visitor’s center but with seeing so much of this country and visiting some pretty interesting towns this was low on my “you have to go visit” list.  Glad we went but don’t have to go back.

Amana fall colors Ackerman Winery Woolen Mill Amana Minneapolis Moline Museum Largest rocking Chair

We are now off to see Zach and Lauren in Ohio at the end of October with a few stops on our way.   Always look forward to seeing our kids but this time it is even more exciting since they bought a new (old) house and are already tearing down walls.  Can’t wait to help out where we can and of course to just see them.

Stay safe!  Hugs and kisses to Cate and Alex and of course our kids!