Seemingly on cue, we arrived at the same time at the same intersection in the town of Anamosa, Iowa, but we came from different directions and places a thousand miles away. My riding buddy Jeff rode his BMW R1150GS from his home in Virginia Beach. As I did, he made several stops visiting family and friends with a plan to meet me at Wapsipinicon State Park Campground adjacent to the village of Anamosa. Our timing couldn’t have been better, so we rode into the campground together.
Several hours before, I departed my previous campsite on the Mississippi River near East Moline, IL. It was there in East Moline where I took a factory tour of John Deere’s harvester plant. I love machines, large and small; these John Deere machines fell into the “large” category. Until you stand next to one or crawl into its ultra-modern cab and peer out of the air-conditioned space, you can’t appreciate their size, complexity and beauty.
The tour began at 8 am. It was early. No one was around, so as I rode past the display machine at the front of the factory I jumped the curb with Boxxer, rode across the grass onto the concrete platform on which the machine was parked and took a photo of Boxxer standing in the “jaws” of the green giant (photo).
The big S Model harvesters have up to 40-foot grain heads and are powered by 625 HP diesel engines. The tour took us from stacks of uncut sheet metal to finished machines. Every machine being built was already bought. At the end of the line were proud owners who mounted, cranked the engine with their “golden key” and drove their machine off the line. The John Deere Pavilion 5 miles down the road in Moline was another nice attraction that housed a museum, showroom and store. It was quite the tourist destination, at least for a certain kind of tourist (that would include me).
After a catfish lunch at the Captain’s Table on the banks of the Mississippi, I enjoyed the sights and smells of the rural Iowa countryside on the way to Anamosa and my meeting with Jeff (mostly an interesting juxtaposition of sweet odor of corn pollen mixed with confined animal feed lots).
“I think camp site 22 will be our best bet”, I said to Jeff as we evaluated our options. “The site appears to be partially shaded and should catch enough breeze to keep the mosquitoes at bay.”
I was right about the shade, but not the mosquitoes; they were voracious.
So what was the attraction of Anamosa, IA, a small rural village in the middle of farm country? Well, it happens to be the home of a fascinating place called the National Motorcycle Museum, housing machines of a smaller version than the jolly green giants down in Moline! Over 500 hundred motorcycles of all makes and vintage. And not just the machines but the culture that evolved with them. Steve McQueen was a “real deal” motorcyclist; the museum has a display of his exploits and his favorite motor, a beat up, pre-WW II Indian Scout (photo). Evel Knievel and Easy Riders’ motorcycles (Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper) along with their video were also featured as were many other motorcycling “heroes” and their machines, real and fantasized. The hardware, history, culture, and memorabilia are all on display in almost never-ending spaces, creating a “must visit” destination for any lover of the art and science of motorcycling.
Jeff and I fought a losing battle with the mosquitoes for two evenings at our campsite, but were reprieved by short visits to Tyler & Downings Restaurant and Lounge on Main Street Anamosa; great food and spirits were found there (photo). Then it was time for a day’s ride to St. Paul, MN, via Guttenberg, IA, on the Mississippi River. Jeff and I rode together before and after the BMW Rally in Oregon last year. We both like to start early, roll for a hundred miles or so, then find a nice coffee and bagel.The place today was the Riverside Grind on South River Park Drive in Guttenberg (photo).
We had a fabulous view of the Mississippi from a pretty street with a great coffee shop. With a well brewed latte in hand, on a lovely day in God’s country (or was that in Indiana), we looked forward to the road to St Paul and the company of 5000 like-minded BMW riders.