Preparations for the 2013 Open House Rally are hitting serious “ramp-up” mode around here. We’re not quite at “fever pitch” yet, but that’s just around the corner. It’s a lot of work, but well worth it. I’m looking forward to being able to interact face-to-face with our customers as are our vendors. It’s a great time – I hope to see a bunch of you there. I’ll be primarily in the Showroom and Extended Showroom areas. Stop by and say “hey.”
One of the great things about the continued expansion of the Open House Rally in Anamosa is our location. Just the riding alone makes Anamosa, Jones County and the Greater Eastern Iowa region a great place to visit, especially on a motorcycle. I’ve encountered many people who picture Iowa as a flat wasteland, complete with tumbleweeds. Not so, the term “Rolling Hills of Anamosa” isn’t just a tourism board slogan. Look up the painting, Stone City or Young Corn by painter and Anamosa native, Grant Wood, and you’ll get an idea of the natural beauty of our region. Once you’re here, it’s a 10 minute ride from Anamosa to the actual Stone City, still looking very much as it did when the little berg inspired Wood in the first place. While you’re there, stop by the General Store Pub. Enjoy a cold beverage and have some great food while taking in the atmosphere of the historic eatery, built in 1897 and nestled on the banks of the Wapsipinicon River.
If you’re up for a longer ride, head northeast up US 151 towards Dubuque; if you’re feeling lucky you can roll in to Mystique Casino (formerly Dubuque Greyhound Park and Casino) to hit the tables, slots or even try your hand at the dog track. When I’m riding through that area, I make it a point to head on up to a regional gem set in some of the most spectacular scenic regions in Iowa. That gem is Breitbach’s Country Dining in Balltown (technically Sherrill, Iowa, but Balltown is the common usage around here and it makes the less mature amongst us snicker when we say it). Breitbach’s is the oldest continuously operating restaurant and bar in the state of Iowa. It opened in 1852. The Breitbach family has been in continuous ownership since 1862. To add to its legend, Breitbach’s burned to the ground twice in 18 months. Today it stands as a living monument to the grit and determination you find all over the Midwest. Get the fried chicken, you won’t regret it. As you pull out of town, stop at the overlook for pictures. The views are amazing. My profile picture for the blog was taken there in Balltown (heh-heh).
Stay on the Great River Road for a great ride full of nice twists and turns. Be ready to wave as this road attracts motorcyclists from all over. You can then roll through Guttenberg, another historic Mississippi river town and host to Lock & Dam #10. If the timing works out, watching them negotiate a barge through the Lock & Dam is impressive to say the least. If you’re ready to call it a day, there are a number of riverfront inns. My recommendation is The Landing. It’s situated a few hundred feet downstream from the lock and dam. The building was originally a button factory dating back to the 1850’s. The owners took great pains to preserve the character the building by leaving a good portion of the limestone walls and rough-sawn timbers visible.
From there you can continue to tool on up the Great River Road, a.k.a. Clayton County X56, and stop in for a spin through Pike’s Peak State Park. The views from high atop the bluffs overlooking the “Big Muddy” are spectacular. Continue on from there and hit one of the watering holes, restaurants or handmade ice cream parlors in McGregor, Iowa. Take a stroll through their historical downtown district that harkens you back to the days when McGregor was one of the booming river towns in the rapidly expanding Wild West. Fire up the ride and continue north a couple more miles and you’ll roll into Marquette, home of the Lady Luck Casino. If you’d rather not push your luck, head across the bridge into Prairie Du Chien, Wis.
If you haven’t picked up on a pattern yet there are three elements I strive to incorporate into my rides: great food, anything having to do with 19th Century American history, and great food. I’m not a drinker so I don’t have a lot of scoop on bars and taverns per se, unless they have the grill going, which happily, most do in these parts.
And guess what, Prairie Du Chien fits my two “must-haves” nicely. While there you can explore Fort Crawford which was in service from 1816 to 1856. It was a military hospital for a good portion of that time so the medical museum is sure to pique some interest if not a shudder or two. From there you can head over to Villa Louis, a sprawling 19th Century estate you have to see to believe. If you’re ready for a bite to eat and you’re there on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday you must stop by Pete’s Hamburgers on W. Blackhawk Avenue. They have been in business for over 100 years. This is not a sit-down joint. It’s a walk-up take-out stand that specializes in steamers – hamburgers that are grilled then steamed alongside a big ol’ pile of onions. You can get yourself a steamer and can of soda for around $5. Allow some time, there’s usually a line. Be patient, it’s worth it.
If you’re more in the mood for a sit-down dinner you can head over to Jones’ Black Angus Supper Club. This place is a classic supper club in the 50’s-70’s tradition. Generous portions, perfectly fire-grilled steaks, prime rib, fresh seafood, a huge salad bar, fresh-baked bread at the table – all set in a retro décor that is honoring a bygone era, not being cute or ironic. Bikers are absolutely most welcome there. They even go out of their way to post a reminder to bikers saying they will want to be sure to use a kickstand pad as they have an asphalt parking lot. It’s that kind of attention to detail in their service that makes it worth a stop even before your dinner arrives.
Well, this travelogue is just one route I love running in our beautiful region. There are many others, obviously. I really encourage you to stop out to the event and then take in some of our countryside. Hope to see you here or on the road soon!