Friday Serendipity and Apfel Fest on Saturday

This is the home of the Anamosa Homecoming Queen. The kids have been having their fun! We used to T.P. houses in the 70s!

Hello and welcome to the blog this enjoyable weekend!  I guess the title should have used “spontaneity” but “serendipity” probably works too.

It’s homecoming weekend in Anamosa and the kids have been wild, throwing toilet paper in the trees of the other school kid’s homes.  Oh, how I’d love to snag a few rolls for the Trekker Van!  I think everyone is enjoying this late season summer warmth.  It’s been a crazy fun, spontaneous weekend thus far.

After work on Friday I decided to camp overnight in a safe place and go to the Apfel (Apple in German) fest in the Amana Colonies (a group of seven German villages to the southwest of Cedar Rapids).  The settlers started the colonies of communal living in 1856, fleeing the persecution of the German state and for their differences with the Lutheran church.  Many of the buildings are historic and offer fantastic food, great shopping, and a glimpse into the past.  More about that visit in just a bit…



After work I was excited to visit a new landmark in Cedar Rapids.  It’s an overlook high atop Mount Trashmore – the retired Cedar Rapids landfill.  The new trails lead to a beautiful view of the downtown.  Unfortunately the overlook was closed when I visited on Friday night.  The  plan is to return again soon.

20 cents Fuel Saver means $4 off of a 20 gallon fill-up!

The next stop was at Hy-Vee grocery store.  I needed a flu shot anyway and with insurance it’s free.  While there I bought a half pound of raw shrimp for supper.  I also appropriated a couple packets of Parmesan cheese to use on dinner.


Camping was at a rest area on the Interstate – a safe place to rest for the night.  I grilled up the shrimp with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  The bread was a brat bun grilled and made into makeshift garlic bread.  The result was a tasty open-faced shrimp and mayonnaise sandwich that really hit the spot.  In 1994 Mom and I had “prawn and mayonnaise” cold sandwiches while visiting Windsor Castle in the U.K.

In the morning I spent a couple hours fishing a pond at Freedom Park in North Liberty, about 20 minutes south of Cedar Rapids.  I caught 5 bluegills and a large mouth bass but decided to toss them back.  When I lived in North Liberty (during the van conversion process), I would visit this pond for a fix of bluegill and bass fillets.

From there it was on to Apfel Fest in the Amana Colonies.  Each customer was given a brochure with information about sampling foods and beverages at 10 or so different locations.  If a person visited 7 of them, he or she would be entered into a drawing for $100 gift certificate for any of the shops.

The sign says it all. I had a wonderful glass of Pilsner and staggered a little afterwards. It hit the spot on a hot day!

The bakery with its selection of amazing streudels and other tasty goodies!

The chocolate haus with its decadent assortment of items. I sampled a small piece of caramel apple fudge.

Ackerman Winery. OMG, they have THE best cranberry wine!

In addition, I visited the General Store, an antique shop, and the woolen mill.  There are so many unique shops and fun things to do!  (Seriously, I had beer, a variety of wine samples, fudge, strong mustard, apple strudel, sausage samples… WTH???)  Thankfully the blood sugar was in pretty good shape though in retrospect I spent too much time at the food places!   One of the best finds was some bratwursts with apple and smoked Gouda cheese inside.

The Amana Colonies are known for their delicious German restaurants.  Most serve their meals “family style” with unlimited bowls of corn, potatoes, and cole slaw, perhaps a throwback to the communal traditions.  The German favorite food for our family was and is Weiner Schnitzel.  (breaded veal).  Just a sidenote – Grandma’s side of the family (the Bathkes) were German, influencing her cooking. Though tempting, I avoided a full meal this time…  The samples (and delicious beer) were filling enough.  It was a fun walking tour but worn out, it was time to head for home.


For now it’s back to a healthier intake of food and some chores around the home base on Sunday.  It was fun to get the van out and roam around a bit seeing and enjoying the warm weather.  Coming up in a week is a trip up north with Steve to do some trout fishing and nut gathering…   Soon I will also be attending a free seminar sponsored by work featuring a unique guest speaker.  It sure is nice having weekends off!

Take care and thanks for riding along!  Safe and happy camping.

Brad and Jenny
Jones County, Iowa

About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"
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2 Responses to Friday Serendipity and Apfel Fest on Saturday

  1. Jo Harmon says:

    WOW what a great event I would have made a pig out of myself at the baker my aunt being German made the best strudels and other German pastries and maybe the candy shot too. Although the sausage sounded pretty good. Haven’t had any German food in probably 50 yrs.

    Your shrimp open sandwich looked good but I don’t get into mayo much at all.

    Have a great weekend and an even greater week

    • VanTrekker says:

      German good is tasty, for sure! I like to make strudels at home using fresh apples… and they definitely have more filling! I’ve got some other events lined up in the coming days. Cedar Rapids has a large Czech population and they have a fantastic museum which I can tour for free just because my employer donates lots of money. I hope to do that one of these days pretty soon.

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