Several years ago, we visited the Amana Colonies in Central Iowa, where a local business builds beautiful, hand-made solid wood furniture. A fine looking walnut rocking chair caught our eye. It was rather pricey and we passed. However, Dan felt I needed the chair and consequently, I began to think I needed the chair too. Despite the price tag, we headed north on I 35 for the Amana furniture store.
But first, south of Amana is Kalona. The Amish arrived in the Kalona area in 1846. It now is home to the largest Amish-Mennonite settlement west of the Mississippi River. Their quiet unpretentious lifestyle is “expected and accepted” within the community. The Old Order Amish live and dress simply, shunning modern convenience and living “close to the soil.” The Beachy Amish, New Order Amish and Mennonites also reside in the Kalona area. All are friendly and willing to help anyone of any religion in time of need.
I sighted the Kalona Bakery first. A young, plainly dressed friendly girl served up our huge fresh rolls. On our way out, a black high-topped Amish carriage drawn by two matching black horses rounded the corner at a swift trot. It struck me this is not a tourist trap, but a community with business to be done.
We finished our breakfast and drove about thinking we might see why the gentleman was in such a hurry. Not finding his horses tied to any of the hitching rails throughout the town, we decided to drive out in the country to look at the neat, well-kept farms and perhaps see harvest underway. .
Several miles from town, we happened upon JK Creative Wood & Gifts, a store with locally hand crafted wood products. The owner’s family lived in the area many years. We enjoyed her wry sense of humor as she willingly shared their history. We purchased a couple Christmas gifts. As we left, she encouraged us to visit a neighboring business.
The Community Country Store is a step back in time. Outside we chose a large butternut squash. There were also fresh country eggs available. Inside we shopped with German speaking Amish women. I purchased a sack of freshly ground whole-wheat flour taken from a shelf along side bulk oatmeal, sugar, brown sugar and other necessities. One young Amish girl caught my eye. I wondered if the two-wheeled cart with the beautiful black horse might belong to her. Sure enough, we left the same time and the cart was hers. The spirited horse shook its head and took off. She smiled and shyly waved. I thought even in the simplicity of the transportation, she chose a combination of speed and perhaps a little daring not unlike any young person.
We visited one more furniture store and stopped by the Kalona Cheese Factory on our way out of town. We picked out several varieties of cheese as well as fresh cheese curds for our lunch at a local park. Then it was on to look at the rocking chair at the Amana Colonies.
It was only a short drive from Kalona to the Amana Colonies. I wrote about a previous visit to the Colonies
several years ago. It is a nice place to visit with lots of shopping good food. We especially enjoy their hand crafted furniture completed in their shop on the premises.
We quickly found the rocking chairs. Unfortunately, there were no solid walnut rocking chairs, only oak and cherry rockers. Since furniture for the showroom is completed only as the shop has time between custom orders, they don't always have all items available. I'm sure we'll be back.
By this time, it was getting late. My plan was to camp right by the Mississippi River and build a camp fire to roast our hot dogs sort of Huck Finn style. We took the fastest route to the river via I 80. At Davenport we followed the Great River Road to Muscatine, crossed on the Norbert F. Beckey bridge
and south. We passed New Boston, a lazy riverside town in Illinois. It was getting dark and we still hadn’t found our campground.
The Big River State Forest sign said, “Camping Available.” Dan spotted a sign pointing toward a boat dock. Ahh, the river. We drove down the road, turned the corner. There was the Mighty Mississippi stretched out ahead with campsites right along side. We shortly had a big roaring fire. The hot dogs were delicious.
The next morning we drank our coffee and watched the sun slowly highlight the still colorful trees across the river. We spotted an Eagle soaring high overhead. We continued down the Illinois side, crossed the Great River Bridge
at Burlington, then continued down to Ft. Madison. Once again we crossed at the Keokuk-Hamilton bridge
, a rather plain bridge with an expansive river view.
Continuing south along the Missouri side to Quincy, we crossed the Quincy Bayview Bridge
, ate a catfish lunch and returned. Continuing south, we drove around the historic Hannibal and found the Mark Twain Memorial Bridge
but didn’t cross.
If there is any one part of the Mississippi River Trail anyone should see it would be the Louisiana to Clarkston Missouri road. It has been designated as a National Scenic Byway and rightfully so. The trees we only slightly past prime and the views magnificent.
Finally, we bypassed St. Louis, crossed the Missouri River at Washington and followed our usual way home through wine country.
Six bridges over the Mississippi River, colorful fall trees and good food completed a short but fun roadtrip even though we did not bring home the rocker.