Friday, April 28, 2006

Amana Colonies

This eastern Iowa community has been on a list of places we wanted to visit. Our trip to Minneapolis was a good time to drive the short distance east on I 80. We were glad we did.

The following is a quote from their web site. It best describes the people and area:

Seeking religious freedom, the early settlers of the Amanas left Germany in 1842, settling near Buffalo, New York. In 1855, the "Community of True Inspiration" moved west, forming their first village along the Iowa River. Eventually, 26,000 acres were purchased and six more villages settled. Their communal system was essentially unchanged for 89 years, one of the longest-lasting communal societies in the world. All land and buildings were owned by the community; families were assigned living quarters, and each person over school age worked at assigned tasks in the kitchens, fields, factories or shops. In 1932, the people voted to end the communal way of life. They created the Amana Church Society to direct matters of their faith, and the Amana Society, Inc. to oversee their businesses and farming operations. Today, many of the businesses in the Amana Colonies are independently owned and operated.

We arrived Monday afternoon at 4:30 pm and quickly discovered most of the shops close at 5:00 so we decided to use our 30 minutes to visit a winery. Thus, a bottle of locally grown Catawba grape wine for the evening. We then headed to the campground within the Colony to reserve a spot. It was an excellent, clean facility and, as it turned out, quiet.

The Colony Restaurant was our next stop. The delicious food was served family style and came with homemade pie for dessert. The Millrace, a channel dug in the 1860s to provide power for mills ran through the village. The walking trail along the dike provided a way to work off our dinner and a chance to visit with a friendly local resident about the area. She clarified the difference between the Amana and the Amish communities--information for another post.

After a sample of wine we slept well. The next morning we were anxious to arrive early at the bakery for fresh rolls but quickly discovered after enjoying the hot sticky buns we needed a detour to the Cedar Rapid’s Walmart for a new battery. We were soon back in the city of Amana and found the furniture shop where there were very beautiful examples of craftsmanship available for purchase. From a catwalk, we could see the shop and artisans at work. We left with only a small purchase and headed to the woolen mill. There we saw large looms weaving material for blankets and scarves.

We were told their award-winning museum was closed. It was noon by then and I had Reuben Sandwich on my mind so we headed for the sandwich shop after which it had to be down the road on what turned out to be only a five-hour drive home. (We made it to the Iowa visitor’s center before it closed to purchase another bag of Mrs.Yoder’s cashew brittle.)

A very interesting, historical area and a return visit is in our future. It would be a fun to go with friends. Meanwhile, Gem├╝tlichkeit.

Inspirationalists vs Old Order

Our walk after the too late and too good meal at the Colony Restaurant took us through a residential area. We had an opportunity to visit with a friendly local resident. What a joy as she had the identical accent as my Dad. As it turns out, her family migrated from Switzerland as had my Dad’s and they both spoke Swiss or Low German in their homes as children.

As we visited, we soon found out that she had lived in Amana for many years, but was not native to the Colonies. She and her husband moved to Amana to be closer to their jobs in the refrigeration plant. Most of the people around her who were native Amana residents migrated from Germany and spoke High German. This conversation led us to talk about the difference between the Amana Colonists and Amish.

The Amana website has an excellent article and I will list a few of their interesting facts:

Although the two sects settled within 60 miles of each other, there is no relation in any historical or contemporary sense.

The Inspirationalist emerged in the early 1700's as part of the Pietist and Spiritualist movement within the Lutheran Church in Germany; whereas, the Old Order Amish of Kalona represent a very different cultural-religious community with roots in the Anabaptist movement of the early 16th century and were of Swiss ethnic stock.

Finally, to quote:
But most importantly, the Old Order Amish maintain their theology and lifestyle intact, almost the way it was believed and put into practice 300 years ago. The Amish have experienced no "Great Change" in the 20th century. The Inspirationists in the Amana Colonies also continue to worship God in the same manner that they did 100 years ago. Theological changes are minimal. But whereas residents of the Amana Colonies dress in the latest fashions, outside of the Sunday morning services, the Old Order Amish maintain strict dress requirements and insist that no member use electricity or automobiles. There are no telephones in their homes.

We never asked the question as to why two entirely different groups of people settled so close together in Iowa. I believe that possibly both sects were very good farmers, hard workers, and saw the potential in the rich black soil of the region.

Check here for more information.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Thursday Tea

Dan and I made a rush trip to Chapman for a Mother Daughter Tea at the Manor. It was short, but glad I could be there for Mom.

I planned on writing about the Amana Colonies, but I am too tired tonight. I have loved the comments about the new RV—especially from our kids.

Ontario Wanderer, you asked about gas prices. We paid anywhere from $2.75 to $2.80 for gas on the trip north. I am confused about Canadian prices. Are you really paying $1.50 a gallon or is it a liter.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The deal was done

The KSU Spring game was this past Saturday, otherwise we would have left for Minnesota a day earlier. We were glad we stayed as the university and the football team went all out for the day. We had a good time with our grandboys and their parents as well as close friends in Manhattan.

Sunday morning found us up and on the road by 8:00 am. For some reason we didn’t eat breakfast so it was a quick stop by McDonalds on the turnpike and then no stop until we reached the Iowa welcome center to purchase some of Mrs. Yoder’s cashew brittle (her name and telephone number is handwritten on the sack). It’s only $2 and just right for an on-the-road snack.

I had brought food with us so it was a quick stop for a sandwich in a northern Iowa rest stop and then back on the road. Our destination was Fridley, a northern suburb of Minneapolis. The freeway was fairly quiet for a large town so we admired the familiar skyline (Mary Tyle Moore show, can’t think of the name) and flew right through. We knew we had found the correct house because there was our little camper sitting in the driveway. Again, the owners were very accommodating. They answered questions, demonstrated features and then we all went for a ride around town. The deal was done!

We decided to stay the night in order to make sure all was right with the title transfer. Dan and I loaded our stuff and set off for a place to camp for the night in our new mobile backpacking vehicle. Trouble is, we were still in a strange city and our information didn’t mention any camp sites too close. So, we headed for Camp Wal-Mart! Yes, our first night in my dream machine was in a Wal-Mart parking lot. We were completely self-contained, so we just closed all the curtains, opened the windows and turned on the television. It was quiet and we slept great.

The next morning we took care of the title, bid our new friends good-bye and with Dan in the Roadtrek and me in the Venture, it was on to a Des Moines truck stop where we left the Venture and took off for the Amana Colonies. Why not, we were only 1 ½ hours away. We were so glad we did. More about that tomorrow. I have to pick asparagus before dark.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Where oh where have we been??

Guess what—I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth!

I will finally admit here, publicly, that I have been totally obsessed. Dan, our kids, and a few friends are all that were aware and some of these special people would say I was crazy. This obsession was over a Model 170 Roadtrek Class B motor home.

Dan and I have traveled the past three years in our Venture van (adVentures, I called them) and mobile backpacked. That is we slept in the van and either cooked outside or ate out. It worked very well and we have had some great times. However, on our recent trip to Phoenix it dawned on us that we were having a hard time crawling in and out of the van. Dan’s brother mentioned he thought the Roadtrek conversion vans were slick. We checked them out at a local dealer and fell in love with the concept, but not the price.

It then became my mission to find a used one within our set limit. After lots of research and reading the many RV forums, I decided the 170 was the size I wanted. I identified at least ten sites that listed used Roadtrek motor homes and began watching. I missed three, probably thankfully because they were two days drive away. Then one came up in a suburb of Minneapolis, MN. We talked on the phone many times and the owners were extremely kind in that they promised to hold it until we could drive up this past Sunday.

We have just recently returned. I am looking forward to writing about the trip but it’s too late tonight. So, those who want to read about two old hippies taking off on a on a wild eight hour drive north with the thought of buying something we had not seen, check in tomorrow night.