If you’ve already marked your calendar and are making plans to attend J&P Cycles’ Open House in Anamosa, Iowa, June 26-27, you’re already guaranteed two days of motorcycle madness. This event draws 22,000 visitors and doubles the population of Jones County. That’s a given. What you might want to consider now is taking some extra time — before or after the Open House — to explore this gorgeous county, situated in the rolling hills and cornfields of eastern Iowa.
Jones County is just plain gorgeous. In fact, its pristine, country setting has been the subject of a number of famous artists’ paintbrushes, including Grant Wood, whose painting, “American Gothic,” was an iconic image of the 20th century. Wood was born just outside of Anamosa, moving to nearby Cedar Rapids. But he used Jones County as a backdrop for many of his most famous works of art, including the above-mentioned masterpiece.
Anamosa is the home of the Grant Wood Art Gallery, which is open to anyone who wants to explore Wood’s life and paintings. A few miles down the road is Stone City, where Wood created the Stone City Colony and Art School back in the early 1930s. Stone City is also known for its Anamosa limestone, and you’ll note plenty of buildings made of this stone throughout your tour. In fact, the Iowa State Penitentiary is located in Jones County and it, too, is constructed of “Stone City stone.”
Once you’ve toured the National Motorcycle Museum and the Grant Wood Art Gallery, you might as well mosey around the Anamosa Penitentiary Museum, located on the prison grounds. There you’ll find a replica prison cell, historic photographs and a prison history film.
In nearby Monticello, the Monticello Heritage and Cultural Center hosts a number of events celebrating the history of that city and Jones County. And while you’re still in a touring mood, there’s Calkin Square in Wyoming, Iowa, that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and features the Calkin home, owned by a country doctor and the first mayor of Wyoming, Iowa. Other nearby sites open to visitors include the Hotel Williams and Wyoming Historical Museum, Oxford Junction Museum, Olin Heritage Center and Edinburgh Historic Village.
Jones County is also home to the Great Jones County Fair, third largest in the state and scheduled this summer from July 21 to 25. Called the “Five Best Days of Summer,” the fair brings some of the most popular musical artists to the area.
If you want to get away from the crowds, grab a canoe, kayak or tube and float the scenic Maquoketa River starting near the dam in Monticello and ending at the Pictured Rocks Park. Spectacular bluffs highlight this eight-mile float.
Of course, if the main destination for your visit is the J&P open house, this year’s highlights include world-renowned motorcycle celebrities, motorcycles on a high wire, a 25-foot-long stretch motorcycle with seven motors, a stunt show and a couple of ride-in bike shows. More than 75 vendors and manufacturers will be on hand, displaying the latest motorcycles and equipment. Plus there will be plenty of food and entertainment.
While you are there, you can also sign up to win more than $5,000 in door prizes and a chance to ride away on the 2010 J&P Cycles’ Easyriders Build-A-Bike Sweepstakes Bike. A silent auction benefiting the National Motorcycle Museum will also be held.