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  • Writer's pictureRuby's Winding Road

Winnie Recall Leads Us To Big Pella Shoes

Anyone who has owned a vehicle for any length of time has opened their mailbox to find a recall notice inside. Blah. Recall.

Winnebago Factory Service Center in Forest City, Iowa
Winnebago Factory Service in Forest City, Iowa

We love our RV, but not necessarily recall notices. Unfortunately, we've been on the receiving end of three different recall notices in recent months. For the latest recall, we decided to schedule the work at the Winnebago Factory Service Center in Forest City, Iowa.

We had never had work done at the Factory Service Center and decided to give it try. This particular recall was to correct a potential issue with the stove, so a short road trip wasn't too worrisome. We easily made an appointment, loaded ourselves into the RV and headed to Iowa from our base here in Missouri.

Heading to Forest City meant an opportunity to explore Iowa a bit. Studying the Atlas, we decided to add the town of Pella to our route. Pella is located southeast of Des Moines. It was settled by Dutch immigrants in 1847 and currently has a population of a bit more than 10,000 people.

Pella is a pretty little place with windmills, flower-lined streets and giant pairs of wooden shoes strategically placed near the town square. Do you know what else is in Pella? Dutch pastries! And, lots of them. Okay, for those of you who guessed a window company... that is also a correct answer. Pella is home to the Pella Corporation known for manufacturing windows and doors. Pella is also home to Vermeer Manufacturing. But, Pella had us at pastries! So, let's get back to that topic.

Pella's flower-lined streets on a rainy day.
Pella's flower-lined streets add rainy day sunshine.

We knew our initial stop in Pella would be a quick one because of our plan to be in Forest City the next day to "check in" for our service appointment. There is, however, always time for pastries. And, if we liked what we saw and tasted during our initial visit, we'd stop back on our way home.

It was a rainy first day on our journey. Did we mention it seems to rain on the first day of any trip we take? Yeah, it pretty much does. The gloomy day, however, was brightened by the yellow flowers lining the roadways as we entered the town of Pella. Flowers are everywhere you look in Pella. In fact, Pella holds an annual spring festival called Tulip Time to celebrate the town's Dutch history. We're told it's an amazing event with lots of flowers and that it's been taking place since 1935. But, back to the pastries.

Jaarsma Bakery is currently run by the great-great-granddaugher of founder Herman Jaarsma. This is a photo of the outside of the brick building.
Jaarsma is currently run by the great-great-grandaughter of founder Herman Jaarsma

We drove downtown looking for the Jaarsma Bakery. It's a family-owned and operated bakery that's been making fresh-baked goods since 1898. The bakery claims to be "A Taste of Holland." The steady stream of people making their way into and out of the bakery helped us easily locate the business.

Hoping to fill our RV with the aroma of fresh pastries rather than that of wet dog, we decided one of us would stay in the RV with the pup to keep her dry while the other dashed to the bakery in the rain. Me, Kristin, grabbed my raincoat and headed around the block to the bakery.

It was going on 2 p.m. and I wondered if the bakery might be sold out of most of the fresh-baked goods for the day. Instead of a bust, it was a boom!

I took one step inside the door and found myself at the end of a very long line. To my surprise the line moved quickly! Too quickly to figure out what to pick from the super long case of goods before making it to the front. "I'll take whoever is next!" yelled a voice up front. She meant me.

Having heard about the bakery's Dutch letters, I asked for some of those. Dutch letters are "S" shaped puff pastries filled with almond paste and sprinkled with sugar. Don't let the word "paste" scare you. It turned out to be a delicious sweet paste with a deep almond flavor. While Dutch letters are traditionally baked around the Christmas holiday, you can find them all year long in Pella. The "S" stands for Sinterklaas in celebration of Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) Day in the Netherlands on December 6.

Next, I needed to decide upon the other selections. With literally hundreds of choices, what's a girl to do? There were bars, breads, cakes, candy, cookies, more pastries and rolls. Worse yet, I was hungry. Never go into a bakery hungry. Sigh.

The young lady helping me was dressed in old fashioned Dutch apparel to make my experience at the bakery feel more authentic. She was very patient and offered a few great suggestions about what to choose. It was apparent she was used to working with hungry tourists overwhelmed with bakery choices. After I picked out way more goodies than we could reasonably eat, I hesitantly let the young lady know I was finished. Strangely, she just stood looking at me. "Is there anything else I can get for you?" she asked politely.

I told her that I was done. I know I didn't appear confident in my decision because my eyes were still scanning the display case. I looked up to find the young lady not moving toward the register. "Are you suuurrre?" she asked with her hands on her hips and head tilted sideways.

I told her I was sure. However, I couldn't stop looking at the dang case of sweets! Then she said something that just made me laugh out loud. "I ask this question because everyone always tells me they're finished," she said. "Then I ring up the total only to have them ask me to add more items. So.... are you suurrree?"

I wasn't sure. Dang it!

Raspberry brownie, Dutch letter, apple cake and other Jaarsma Bakery items.
Raspberry brownie, Dutch letter, apple cake and other Jaarsma Bakery items

A few minutes later I exited the store with many bags of Pella-baked goodness for a grand total of less than $15 (plus a tip that was not requested) and hustled back to the RV. I noticed John's eyes pop as I opened the RV door with my bags of sweet-smelling bakery items. Yeah, I had a lot of stuff! Dang it! We acted like kids and skipped dinner that night.... er, rather we ate sweets for dinner. Yum!

After staying the night in Robert's Creek West Park Campground just west of town, and still on our sugar high from pastries, we hit the road with our RV still full of Dutch letters, apple cake, a fritter and a plan to revisit Pella on the way home. More about that later. Onward to Forest City!

We arrived at the Winnebago Factory Service Center in Forest City and "check in" went smoothly. They provided us with a place to camp the evening before our appointment. That spot was next to the service center and included an electric hookup for our RV. Our instructions by staff were to have our RV back at the service center at 7 a.m. We did. They collected our RV from us on time and started work on the recall while we waited. The drill seemed to be similar for everyone there no matter what type of work was being done.

The Factory Service Center waiting area filled quickly, but there was plenty of room to spread out with a large array of tables, chairs and couches. Free coffee was available at the "coffee bar" and large vending machines were full with snacks/sandwiches/drinks to purchase. Everyone's doggies were welcome on leash. While we waited we chatted with a couple who used to live in the town we currently do. Small world.

Winnebago Factory Service was well organized and efficient. Our RV was finished in just a couple of hours. We headed back to our campsite as Winnebago had given us a pass to stay one more night. We tried our stove, organized a bit and had lunch. We decided to head on after checking out the Winnebago Visitors Center located across the street. It's there you'll find a small museum, as well as shirts and hats for sale. It's a fun place to browse.

With our recall service work completed, we traveled east a bit to see more of Iowa before heading home. There is a lot to see in Iowa and we'll share those experiences in a future blog post. For now, let's get back to Pella. We stopped there once more to take a longer look around before leaving Iowa. After all, there's more to Pella than just yummy pastries and now we had more time to explore.

With informational signs strategically placed to help visitors map out the town, as well as windmills masquerading as little information booths, folks should have no trouble finding fun things to do in Pella. We strolled through Molengracht Plaza past a long blue pool of water located in the central business district. The water feature is actually designed to replicate a Dutch canal. Downtown on the square is Pella's Klokkenspel. It features mechanical figures that perform to music. During our visit, the Klokkenspel was being repaired so we couldn't watch the figures, but could still enjoy the music.

Did you know that Pella is home to the tallest working windmill in the country? We did not know this until we visited. The Vermeer Windmill is located downtown and stands 124 feet tall. It was designed and built in the Netherlands, disassembled, shipped to Pella and reassembled in 2002. Windmill tours are available for a small fee. Trying on the really big wooden shoes out front is free.

In addition to the Vermeer Windmill, Pella has a number historical museums to visit. We walked through the Historical Village and Wyatt Earp Experience. For $8 (at the time of this writing) they allow you to wander through a multiple-building village organized to provide a glimpse into early immigrant life in Pella. Among others, you'll find a general store and sod house exhibit.

The boyhood home of American West lawman, Wyatt Earp, is located in the Historical Village. Earp and his family lived in an apartment in the Van Spanckeren Row House for a few years when he was a boy. Not much is known about Earp's time in Pella, but census data recorded the family's stay. The row house has served many purposes through the years and is on the National Register of Historic Places. While the house holds a good amount of Pella history, there's not much else in it other than a few museum informational pieces. The architectural Dutch design of the building, however, is noteworthy.

If you travel with your pet, be aware pets are not allowed in the museums or outside in the Historical Village. We handle this by taking turns staying with our pet, while the other person explores. No biggie.

Pella is a great stop to make if you're in Iowa. Grab some pastries from one of the bakeries (there are several bakeries from which to choose). Stroll around in the town square to visit one of the many local shops or coffee cafes. Putter in Central Park to view the colorful flowers.

Check out the massive sundial in the middle of downtown if you lose track of time during your stay. Pella's sundial is actually pretty interesting and comes with written instructions. We watched as one couple circled and circled the sundial trying to figure the time. This sundial is really large and has a lot of markings on it. It's pretty neat.

While John was inside a store, pup and I took a few spins around a 155 MM Howitzer displayed in the park. It's old, interesting and has a partial history written on front. Pup and I watched people playing with their dogs in the park, we observed groups of people zooming around on their bikes and we tried to walk off a few calories. There are a number of activities to keep folks busy in Pella, including museums, shopping, golf, or maybe a visit at the opera house. There's plenty to do.

Don't forget to grab some Pella Bologna before you go. We stopped in one of the meat shops (there are several) to find the butcher lying on the floor in front of the large refrigerated cases. We're not sure what he was doing down there, but he greeted us by saying he doesn't normally lie on the floor in front of the door. Hmmm. Okie dokie. We got some Pella Bologna for our trip home. We also, dare we say it, purchased some more pastries. This time it was John's pick of goodies. Chocolate! And, a loaf of wheat bread for the thick sliced bologna. He also surprised me with a pair of rubber souvenir Dutch garden clogs. Excellent choice of apparel for planting tulips in the garden back home! From there we happily headed back to Missouri with our box of sugar buzz goodies. It was fun!

Thanks for taking the time to check out our blog. Tap the heart icon at the bottom of the page if you like this post and share it with a friend. You can read our past blog posts at Stay tuned. We'll share a few more of our stops in Iowa in a future blog post.


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