An udderly charming bovine family welcomes travelers to the rest stop at Lamoni, Iowa. The parents' heads are made from recycled milk cans. The whole bodies are painted with the typical black splotches on a white background of the Holstein breed of cow. Papa has longhorn-style horns, so we wonder if he is some kind of new hybrid or perhaps the product of genetic engineering.
The shot was taken at night. I had first seen these cows a few days earlier. That was in the early morning, with plenty of light to shoot a photo with. But a storm was threatening to blow from Minnesota down to Iowa, and in the freezing wind my fingers were reluctant to fuss with a balky camera. The camera batteries had died and needed a fresh pair. I just did not want to fumble around looking for another pair at that time, since I was more concerned with getting away from the big storm. I'll catch these cows on my way back north, I said to myself. They won't be going anywhere.
Sure enough, days later I made a point of wandering by again to check out the stop once more. Got my picture of the cows, even though I could not get them to say 'cheese' for the camera. They were parked to the side of the Lamoni welcome center, which is more of a promotional showcase for Iowan and Amish products than a rest stop. The rest stop is flanked by a century-old schoolhouse, refurbished and re-purposed.
The left side of the spacious building featured numerous Amish-made or designed crafts and other goods. The right side is a diner-type restaurant with Amish-style bench seats in the booths (you can also sit at the counter) and Maid-Rite offerings on the menu. Maid-Rite is a brand of fast-food restaurants started in 1926, famous for burgers and pies. Shoehorned in-between is the travelers' services booth; they have a full slate of maps and brochures, and a shelf carries books by Iowan writers. All the modern Iowa rest stops have wifi and DOT weather info available except this stop, but it does have a computer installed and one may consult it for the latest advisories, etc.
Christmas discounts of 10 percent off everything in the store (except consignments), and 25 percent off all toys, will be in effect thru Christmas. The shop carries everything from snacks, jams, bakery, baskets, ornaments, chairs, and much more. The Iowa Welcome Center at Lamoni's new winter hours are 9 am to 7 pm; the Maid-Rite hours are 11 am to 7 pm, seven days a week, and offers dine-in, carry-out or drive thru. They are off of exit 4 from I-35.
It is yards away from a Diamond Jo's Casino and Country Inn hotel. A Holiday Inn Express is under construction across the street. A Super 8 is minutes away.
I may as well mention, too, the modern travelers rest stop at the north end of Iowa, at Northwood. (see link below) It is housed in a bright red barn with facilities on the lower level and a coffee shop on the upper level. Coffee shop hours are 9 to 5; the lower level is open 24 hours. The travelers' center has a kiosk hooked up to the Iowa DOT website, so travelers can check road conditions and weather forecasts for the state. This center as well as most of the Iowa rest stops are hooked up to wifi, so travelers can plug in their own laptops. When I traveled south all were operating in good order, but traveling north again I discovered that the ones in northern Iowa had been knocked out temporarily by the big snowstorm of Dec. 11-12. Let's hope they are up and running again soon, because I think this is a great service they offer to travelers.
Century-old schoolhouse at Lamoni welcome center: http://www.graceland.edu/GracelandNews-and-Events/news/32513/
Diamond Jo's Casino, also in Northwood as well as other locations: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diamond_Jo_Casino
Lamoni welcome center info: http://www.traveliowa.com/attractiondetails.aspx?destid=11
Northwood, Iowa travel center: http://www.topofiowa.com/
Review of Lamoni rest stop and Maid-Rite: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g38065-d1500861-r47162676-Maid_Rite-Lamoni_Iowa.html