Homer's Travels: East Iowa Roadtrip - Day One: Amana, Riverside, and Kolona

Thursday, March 17, 2011

East Iowa Roadtrip - Day One: Amana, Riverside, and Kolona

Last year we started a new tradition.  During the Wife's spring break we pick a state and do a roadtrip visiting all sorts or weird stuff.  Our first state was Kansas where we visited balls of twine, hairballs, folk art, and the gates of Hell.  This year we continued the tradition and headed for eastern Iowa.  Since we've lived a good chunk of years in central and western Iowa, we limited our roadtrip to Eastern Iowa.

Our first stop were the Amana Colonies.  Both the Wife and I had this impression that the Amana Colonies were Amish.  No.  They may have been amish at one time but now they are just tourist-ish.  The Colonies, consisting is the small towns of Amana, East Amana, High Amana, West Amana, South Amana, and Homestead, are quaint little towns with a German flair.  We stopped at the visitor's center, picked up a map, and went walking down the main street of Amana.  After having a good German lunch of a Reuben for the Wife and Chicken Schnitzel sandwich for me, we started looking in the stores along the main drag.   We were a little disappointed.  Most of the things for sale would be what I call 'antiques made yesterday' and after a couple places we grew tired of it all.  We walked through the wool mill making the Wife itch, got back in our car, drove through the other five towns (without stopping) and headed to our next destination.  Except for the good food and some old wooden bobbins the Wife found in one antique store, the Amana colonies were a let down.

The second stop of the day was Riverside Iowa.  That name should be familiar for the geeks out there and the picture above is a big clue.  Riverside is the future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk.  We stopped at the museum/gift shop that was closed but, after seeing activity and talking with the owner, we were able to go in.  The museum was in the process of moving to a larger space and things were a mess but we walked around looking at the Star Trek memorabilia while the owner tried his best to talk our ear off.  He was a very nice and enthusiastic Star Trek promoter.  I decided to buy a cool t-shirt while there and I asked the Wife which color I should buy.  She said red.  As I was paying for the shirt the owner questioned the Wife's choice of color.  For those who don't know the significance of red shirts in Star Trek you should read this.

We continued on to see the marker where Capt. Kirk will be born.  It's located behind a yellow hair salon.  You have to walk down a short alleyway to get to it.  I'll post a picture of the marker next week for reasons that will be obvious ... next week.

Our last stop of the day was the town of Kalona.  Kalona is a proper Amish community.  Our friend HE had told us to visit a store called Stringtown Grocery when we went there.  It took us a while to find the place as it was outside of the town proper.  We headed out on dirt roads where we passed horses and buggies, houses with laundry drying on the line - houses of large families - and boys and girls, mysteriously all the same ages, walking home from school (They reminded me of the strange little boy we talked to in Willow Creek).  It felt like we'd traveled back in time.  I didn't take any pictures as I felt like I would be turning these people into caricatures.  I still have issues with taking pictures of people.  I feel like I'm intruding.

Stringtown Grocery is just that, a grocery store.  All items are in plastic bags with hand written or stamped labels.  The Wife drooled over the bulk spices.  I listened to two elderly Amish women talking German I suppose - didn't quite sound German to me.  The place felt like something from the last century ... which it probably is.  Definitely not Wal-Mart.

We ended the day in a hotel in Coralville outside of Iowa City.  The highlight of the day, which we thought would be Amana, turned out to be Riverside.  Leave it to us to have our spirits lifted by a trekker holy site.   We are such fans of the quirky.


  1. So awesome! I love the Red shirt. We can just say that you are TNG captain and not TOS victim.

    Right? Right? and good for you not taking pictures of people. :-)

  2. Did you happen to visit the furniture store/factory or the basket makers store? I love the furniture and the basket making was interesting.

  3. I should have said...in Amana.

  4. Whatever you do, don't wear that shirt on your big hike! No good will come from that...

  5. MMC: Then I would have to perfect the Picard maneuver.

    Mom: We did make it to the furniture store. A bit pricey. We didn't see the basket place.

    GH: Roger that!!!