Iowa

We are working our way south to Missouri to spend some time with family. After leaving Owatonna, Minnesota, we headed south on I 35 towards Des Moines, Iowa. We have been in Iowa for about a week and a half at a KOA Campground at Newton (about 35 miles east of Des Moines on I 80).

Newton, Iowa, is a town in central Iowa with a population of about 15,000 people. Newton’s growth was first fueled by the development of coal mines in the area in the late 1800s. In the 1900s Newton became a manufacturing community, and much of its growth was attributed to the Maytag Washing Machine Company. Newton is the county seat for Jasper County. It has an impressive courthouse in the town square and a lovely downtown area. It is a clean town with numerous turn of the century homes lining the Main Street and a very friendly place.

I’m not sure if the date on this building is 1885 or 1895. See next photo.

If you zoom in and look carefully, you will see most of the “scenes” on this building are painted. There are some “real” windows in there if you look closely.

About 25 miles west of Newton is Prairie Meadows Casino and Racetrack. In 1984, Prairie Meadows received its license to operate a horse racing facility. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held in 1987, and Prairie Meadows conducted its first day of racing on March 1, 1989. Prairie Meadows is a Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racetrack located in Altoona, Iowa, just east of Des Moines. After the racetrack experienced some financial difficulties, voters approved a referendum in 1994 to allow slot machines to be installed.

The slot machine casino opened in 1995, and by 1996 all bonds were paid off. In 2004 casino game tables were added and by 2005 a plan to expand was approved by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission. In 2006 the addition opened which included two new restaurants, and a 1,200 seat concert hall opened in 2007. AND, get a load of this: Prairie Meadows is owned by Polk County and operated by a local, non-profit, 13-member board of directors. Revenues from the casino and race track are given to various community projects in the Des Moines area!

I have never been to any kind of horse races even though Jack has gone several times with his brother and occasionally with friends. Prairie Meadows was having Quarter Horse racing one evening so we decided to go. It wasn’t very crowded, so it was just right for me to “learn the ropes” about horse racing. I don’t care much for any kind of gambling (I almost ALWAYS lose, so it’s not fun for me 😂), but I did enjoy watching all the preparations before the races and, of course, the actual races.

This is the area where they first brought the horses out and walked them around some to warm up.
It was a chilly night, so we sat inside. We still had a great view.
These are the photos of the first race…the ONLY race we won anything. 😂

I had the “photo” finish before the track posted it! And I was correct!!

One day we drove to Pella, Iowa, which is 30 miles south of Newton. It has a population of about 10,000. Pella was founded in 1840 by immigrants from the Netherlands, and to this day, it still has a strong Dutch influence. Pella is home to several manufacturing companies including the Pella Corporation (think windows and doors) and Vermeer Manufacturing Company. Also, is was the childhood home of Wyatt Earp, and his brothers, Warner and Morgan, were born in Pella. There are two Dutch bakeries on the lush town square filled flowers, and their strudel pastries and melt-aways are to die for!

This is Pella’s famous Klokkenspel. It was interesting to watch.

Pella has a strong Dutch heritage, and they are very proud of their windmill. It is the tallest working windmill in North America. It was designed and built in Hoogmade, Netherlands, then de-assembled, shipped to Iowa, and re-assembled in Pella in 2002. It is an 1850s style “koren mill” or grain mill.

Wyatt Earp’s childhood home.

The Iowa Speedway is located across the interstate, just a few miles from our campground. It is a state-of-the-art 7/8 mile paved D-shaped oval track and motto sports facility. The track was designed for year-round use by NASCAR Champion Rusty Wallace. It includes 25,000 grandstand seats, and was the first track in the world to protect fans and drivers through the use of the SAFER barrier technology that surrounds the entire track.

The official pace car.

There were no big races scheduled during the time we were in Newton, but the track is quite impressive. The weekend we were scheduled to leave the area the track was hosting the Rusty Wallace Racing Experience. One can schedule either a driving experience (at only the small cost of $399 for 4 laps and up) or a ride along experience starting at $149 (3 laps) and up. Thank goodness driving a race care isn’t on my bucket list because that is a little “steep” for our retirement budget.

We couldn’t get very close, so my photos aren’t very good. If you zoom in, you might see how steep the bank on the track is or a few more details. The Newton Airport landing strip runs right along one of the main parking areas.

We have enjoyed our short time in central Iowa, and we will be moving on soon. Where? Well, stay tuned…

So, for now ….. “On the Road Again!”

Betty

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