The history of the Amana Colonies is a great read, I highly recommend. In short, this community, which started their movement in Germany in 1714, landed in Iowa around 1855. Amana means to “remain true”, and there are six villages in Iowa (Amana, East Amana, West Amana, South Amana, High Amana and Middle Amana). They extended by adding another village, Homestead, in 1861 which granted them access to the railroad.
This is a destination I experienced many times from childhood to my last visit when I was pregnant with Charly, who is 14. There were girls’ trips with Mom, Aunt Missy, Grandma Sabra, and Great-Grandma Arlene. These days were spent strolling around the villages to look in all the shops, buying sugar-packed souvenirs, and a memorable lunch at Ox Yoke Inn. The fond memories left me wanting to return on my bike.
Mom and I decided kick-stands would be up at 9:30a on Sunday. We both checked the weather and realized it would be a windy trip with forecasted winds from 16 – 20 miles per hour. But, we headed out anyway.
We wanted to take Highway 6, but had to prepare a detour due to a stretch of the highway being closed for construction. So, we went through Reasnor, Sully, and Lynnville. After Lynnville, we cut over to Grinnell. Now, this highway was only a 12-mile stretch to our first break in Grinnell – but it felt much longer than that due to the unbelievable winds coming from the West. As we rode by the open-fields, we felt like two bobble-heads trying to steady our helmeted heads against the shifting winds. Then, I realized my bullet-hole rims were not helping me at all. They were resisting the wind with all their might and I was quickly tired from fighting the wind while cruising at 55 miles per hour.
We took a break in Grinnell and got to Highway 6. We stopped in Ladora and reminded ourselves that the wind would be more tolerable on our return. We also found a rare sight – a phone booth! We rolled into Amana, with only food on our minds! So, Ox Yoke Inn was our choice, without any doubt. An establishment since 1940, I remember passing around bowls of family style sides. As a chubby kid who loved food more than most anything else – bottomless bowls are permanently engraved in my memory banks.
With a 30-minute wait, we wandered downstairs for a make-your-own Bloody Mary with a “bier” back. You can pack it full of jalapeño olives, cocktail onions, pickles, and many other choices which all come from across the road at the General Store. Then, it was time for lunch! Endless mashed potatoes, sauerkraut, coleslaw, cottage cheese with chives, steamed green beans with red onions, and bread!
Satisfied and stuffed – we stopped at the Chocolate Haus. I got fudge and soft caramels for Chad and my girls. My souvenir? Well, we went to the winery and I brought home a bottle of the dry cranberry. Knowing we had a long ride home, we made our way back to our bikes, hopeful for less of a workout on our way home.
Little did we know, the wind was coming from all directions, at speeds up to 30 miles an hour. Less than 10 miles into our return, we pulled off to stretch and complain at how difficult it is to maneuver in a straight line without exerting all we had. We had to have more stops now – in Ladora, Grinnell (twice), and Sully. It was brutal, folks. You’d be leaning left to counter the wind as it tried pushing your bike to the ditch, to hit the crest of a hill and quickly shift for the wind to all of sudden be slamming you from the other side. Our hands were glued to our handles, our necks flexed to try to stay steady, and shoulders hulked-out to fight the wind.
Needless to say, we were so grateful to pull into my driveway and put the bikes away for the evening. Wind-whipped would be an understatement. Wind-stomped is more fitting. We’ll be passing up on long trips with similar winds…until our “mom brains” forget how brutal it was!
Nothing beats riding with my mama. Two beginners there to encourage each other, ride without seasoned expectations, and extra caution. Plus, we are guaranteed laughs with (and at) each other!
May your ride be smooth, and your drinks stiff! Cheers!