Thursday, June 9, 2011

Grinnell, IA to Urbandale, IA on US Route 6


Grinnell, IA to Urbandale, IA



It was another hot one today; sunny and very windy. 

My notes from the first 10 miles read:  farm, farm, farm, prairie….. and it’s basically just that until I hit Newton – hometown of the Maytag family.  In fact, Newton was known as “The Washing Machine Capital of the World.”  Every Maytag washing machine was once made in this small prairie town, until Whirlpool bought the company. Newton may be small, but there are two attractions here I recommend you see. 

First Maytag Washing Machine
Jasper County Museum
Newton, IA

General Store, Jasper County Museum
Newton, IA


Lonely Maytag Repairman
Jasper County Museum
Newton, IA
Last Maytag Off the Line
Jasper County Museum
Newton, IA
One is the Jasper County Museum, which is a cleverly laid-out “historical” museum, more like a “wax” museum than some of these “Grandma’s Attic” type places.  Audrey Rex, Director, toured me around the 2 floors of exhibits; she’s a young woman with lots of enthusiasm and finds “something new every day.”  There’s a “musical note” typewriter, a Maytag mask designed for early climbers of Mt. Everest, a “main street” recreation, complete with barber shop, general store, millinery, used furniture store – all stocked as they would have been last century.  And of course, there are the Maytag machines through the decades.  Fred Maytag was an inventor who had his hands in everything.  He began by developing the Hawkeye Grain Grader, then moved on to cars and tractors. During WWII Maytag was retooled to make engine parts.  The museum displays the very first wooden washing machine and all since; the 1911 first electric model (but still made from wood), aluminum models, and up to present day and the very last Maytag that ran off the line.  There’s a photo of Fred with his friends Thomas Edison and Harry Firestone (of tire fame) – they apparently vacationed together.  This museum is very worthwhile – and the only downside is that it opens at 1pm. 
Jasper County Museum
Newton, IA

As I was leaving the Jasper Museum, a local visitor, Grace Reinier, said to me, “too bad you weren’t here yesterday when I hitched up my draft mules to take them for their oats.” Apparently, this Iowa woman who “loves the land” entertains her neighbors by hitching her animals to an old plow then drives them to the town’s grain elevator for their feed (down the street?  I didn’t think to ask!). I love meeting people who have such a particular, sometimes quirky, connection to their communities. Plow on Grace!

Maytag Dairy Farm - Maytag Blue Cheese
Newton, IA

Maytag Dairy Farm
Newton, IA
The Maytags have another business in Newton – this one still in operation (though it has always been separate from the appliance side of the family).  The Maytag Dairy Farm is a must see for blue-cheese lovers of all ages; it offers free tours and tastings weekdays 8am-5pm and Sat. 9am-1pm.  Maytag Blue Cheese is beloved of Emeril Lagasse and Martha Stewart and ships a million pounds a year around the world. Restaurants identify their Maytag Blue in menu items, and no, it is not made in washing machines!  The dairy began making its prize winning Blue Cheese in 1941, and it’s still made the same way – each 4 lb round is dipped in wax and wrapped by hand. The price here is much lower than retail, so it’s not unusual to see someone come in with orders from friends and family.   After the short tour, a taste; a perfectly creamy, up the nostrils tang.  Excellent.

Soda Fountain at Weirick Pharmacy
Colfax, IA
Route 6 joins I80 in Newton and I had to succumb (sorry, Dave).  It was a fast, windy ten miles to the Colfax Exit 155 (70 MPH speed limit here), and first I drove a mile to downtown for yet another phosphate soda; this time in the old Weirick Pharmacy.  There’s been a Weirick family pharmacist ever since it opened, and in this generation there's a daughter concocting the drugs (it was her day off unfortunately).  The Woolworth’s-like soda fountain sells small multi-flavored phosphates for 75 cents, and Karen Kollash served me mine (with a smile).  She still calls what’s now F48, “highway 6,” even though Interstate 80 has swallowed 6 up here. 

Trainland USA
Colfax, IA
Head a few miles north of I80 to a surprisingly fun Trainland USA.  Run by Red and Judy Atwood and opened in 1981 in their basement, it took 32 people 4 ½ years to complete.  Set up in geographical sections, with lots of buttons to push, it’s a kids dream museum.  I was so excited about it, I shot this video;  


Route 6 continues on 80 about 20 more miles to Exit 144 – Altoona. Route 6 W isn’t indicated off the ramp, but you turn left onto Hubble Ave.  From there, it travels past Adventureland – another theme park and for six miles has sporadic signage.  Hubbble turns into Douglas, then there’s a sign to take a left onto 28/6.  It sidles past Buccaneer Stadium, industrial parks and by-passes downtown Des Moines completely.

Comfort Inn Suites @ Living History Farms
Urbandale, IA
Lobby of Comfort Inn @ Living History Farms
Urbandale, IA
I managed to find the homestead-designed Comfort Inn @ Living History Farms (this is the only night I didn’t book a room, I figured it would be easy here), but the Hog Association Convention was in town, as well as the NCAA Track Conference; the place was crawling with pig growers and sprinters.  I managed to snag a last minute cancelation, but it cost me more to stay in Urbandale, IA than it will in Los Angeles, CA.  Supply and Demand, baby. The lobby is a contemporary, upscale, cute, farmer John motif.  The rooms are typical rectangular Comfort Inn.  But it’s next door to the Iowa Living History Museum, which I plan to visit tomorrow morning (and is right on 6 along with this hotel, lucky me).

 
Eat: next door at the always crowded Machine Shed Restaurant.  It’s a Midwest chain of Farm restaurants, with good fresh meat and lots of it, though d├ęcor is cutesy down-on-the-farm styled to the max.  All the hog men were chowing down, which was a good sign.








1 comment:

  1. In Des Moines right at the southeast corner of where Merle Hay Road meets Hickman Road, is George's Chili King. In operation since 1951, The Chili King is an authentic drive-in restaurant, complete with the old time neon/chaser lights. At the Chili King, they assemble your meal on the counter right in front of you, on a piece of waxed paper. Best chili dog I've ever had. If you want to relive the bygone days of Route 6, this is the way to go! Locally owned to boot!

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