John Deere Factory Tours, Amana Colonies and American Gothic Barn

April 22-30, 2019 — Exploring and discovering have always been an integral part of our lives, long before taking the plunge into full-time RV traveling. Whenever we would find an interesting item or activity to see or do we would document it with the hopes of someday being able to visit it in person. 

The John Deere museum and factory tours in Iowa have been on our list for many years. Being located only a few hours from our home in Wisconsin we had hoped to check these off long ago but sadly with work and family commitments that just never happened. While planning our trek north to Minnesota from Arizona this spring we decided that we needed to make Iowa and John Deere a priority. What a great decision!

Planning out five factory tours and a museum visit in one week was a daunting task considering that the plants are located in multiple cities and the tours are held only on selected dates and times. A phone call to factory tour line (800-765-9588) at the Deere & Company World Headquarters was all it took. Faith, Coordinator of Group Tours and Customer Visits, was amazing to work with. She contacted each individual plant and made the necessary arrangements for all the tours we requested. She then provided email confirmation of the tours along with instructions (where to park, media policy, clothing and shoe requirements, etc) and directions to the facilities. She followed up the emails with a phone call to be sure we had everything we needed and that the dates/times we good. How nice is that! 

We visited three factories in Waterloo and one each in Ankeny (Des Moines) and Ottumwa. Each one was very unique as they manufactured different products but all were equally interesting. Touring visitors are provided with safety glasses and ride throughout the factories on trams. Headphones are issued to serve as both ear protection and to allow guests to hear the tour guide narration. Tours are free and open to anyone over the age of 13. John Deere offers tours at three other locations – Horicon, WI, East Moline, IL and Moline, IL – which we hope to complete in the near future. 

While in Iowa we also managed to fit in a few points of interest as highlighted in the photos below. Once we finished with the John Deere tours we completed our route to Minnesota where we plan to stay for the next few weeks while visiting with family and helping with a house move. 

All nights during the last week of April were free stays with three nights at two Boondockers Welcome host sites, one night at a golf course site and five nights at the home of a family member. 

 

Mile Driven - RV
Miles Driven - Car

Do you see a fish in the clouds? If so, you have pareidolia – the human ability to see shapes or make pictures out of randomness. The things we learn on rainy days……

The first John Deere Factory tour we took was at Des Moines Works in Ankeny, Iowa where they make cotton pickers and other harvesting equipment. The cotton pickers retail at $960,000 each. Wow!

While in Des Moines we visited the Iowa State Capitol. It’s the only five-domed capitol building in the United States. 

The city of Des Moines has many artistic murals throughout the city including this one by Jenna Brownlee, an artist native to the area. 

It’s Tulip Time in Pella, Iowa. This charming Dutch community is brimming with colorful tulips everywhere you look. In addition to the beautiful spring flowers, it features architecture reminiscent of historic Netherlands and served as home for Wyatt Earp during his childhood. Pella is a quaint little town very worthy of a stop when in the area. 

John Deere Ottumwa Works in Ottumwa, Iowa manufactures round balers (pictured below), large square balers, small square balers, mower-conditioners, self-propelled windrowers, and pull-type forage harvesters. 

An Iowa corn and hog farm was our home for a few nights while in the Des Moines area. Don’t think there is a better way to immerse ourselves into the local culture than this. Thanks to the Boondockers Welcome program and hosts for another great stay. 

The original American Gothic painting by artist Grant Wood is at the Art Institute of Chicago. A well-executed tribute to the painting is on a barn along the LIncoln Highway (US 30) near Mount Vernon, Iowa. The barn is on private property so a quick stop on the shoulder of the road for a photo was as close as we cared to get out of respect for the owner. 

The Herbert Hoover National Historic Site and Presidential Library-Museum is located in West Branch, Iowa near Iowa City. The site is where Hoover, the 31st President of the United States, spent the first eleven years of his life before being orphaned and moving to live with relatives to Oregon. 

The countryside of Iowa is filled with rolling hills and grazing cattle. So pretty!

The Iowa Valley Scenic Byway in southeast Iowa covers 77 miles and takes travelers through the historic communal society of the Amana Colonies that was formed in 1855 by Germans fleeing religious persecution. The Colonies are designated as a National Historic Landmark and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The area is a popular heritage tourism destination and features breweries, wineries, local artists and craftsman, antique shops and restaurants serving family-style meals. It’s definitely a very interesting stop when in the area. 

Three of the John Deere manufacturing facilities are in Waterloo, Iowa – John Deere Engine Works, John Deere Drivetrain Operations and John Deere Tractor Cab Assembly Operations. The tractor cab facility is the most popular tour in the area but the engine and drivetrain tours are equally, if not even more interesting, than the tractor plant. The technology, engineering and precision in the formation of the equipment parts and motors is incredible. The huge tractors do win the cool factor, though. 

Another great stop in Iowa! The John Deere Tractor and Engine Museum in Waterloo is a fun hands-on museum full of history, educational activities and even a huge tractor to climb on. The museum and parking are FREE. This is a definite must-do when in the area. 

Wow what a fun week! We loved the John Deere tours and are looking forward to visiting the three remaining plants in Illinois and Wisconsin soon. Stay tuned for next week to see what we discover in Minnesota. See you then!

Thank you for hanging out at Off Our Rocker RV.

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2 thoughts on “John Deere Factory Tours, Amana Colonies and American Gothic Barn”

  1. Enjoy your blog and am so impressed with your ability to camp for free in so many places. Your choice of sights to see and all the state capitals are so refreshing and interesting. Enjoy your summer with family.

    1. Thank you for the kind words and glad you enjoy the blog. We enjoy a wide variety of sights and are always on the look out for unique and quirky stops. Happy travels to you as well.

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