The flat, windy highways of Nebraska gave way to the softer, greener rolling farmland of Iowa, and rain.
We learned that our Idaho sister-in-law, Kristin, is in Iowa caring for her mother who is quite ill and with only some minor adjustments to our plans we could arrange to see her and meet her mother. We wound our way through the lush farmland to the lovely little town of Independence and had a good visit with Kristin and her frail, sweet Mom, then headed to Cedar Rapids for the night. This morning we went out to see the Amana colonies, which were founded by a religious group in the mid 1800s as a communal society, providing everything the members needed within their group. They are known for their fine craftsmanship. (Read more here)
The setting and old, but scrupulously maintained buildings and homes are beautiful.
Here is Ray, headed for the well-stocked quilt shop. (You know how he loves a quilt shop!) Nice shop
We wandered down the Main Street and saw a few beautifully crafted items in the shops, but I was truly dismayed by all the kitschy, tacky stuff crammed inside those beautiful old buildings. Very little was locally made and much of what was locally made was church bazaar stuff—hotpads and knitted mop covers (really!) and the like. We tired quickly of the hoards of people and unappealing goods. I think they are cheapening their brand and turning this national treasure into just another tourist trap, but who am I to argue with what appears to be "success"?
One thing I did especially enjoy was the Woolen Mill, where they weave beautiful wool and cotton blankets.
We left Amana and drove to Iowa City to check out the highly recommended Prairie Lights Bookstore and found ourselves in a town crowded with University of Iowa graduation celebrants and festivities.
Soon we were back on the road, crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois. A long driving day involving traffic, lots of road construction and paying for all this fun by repeatedly stopping, in sometimes long, slow lines to pay tolls. But we are ready for a few non-driving days in Chicago—a great town— indeed a "toddlin town". I'll let you know if we find out what that means.