Thursday, July 28, 2011

Winnebago - Buddy

(Ellendale, MN) Hi 82 Lo 64 - AM Rain and fog, afternoon heat and sun. We're pretty set in our lifestyle of spending part of the morning with our coffee while I read blogs and emails and Jim catches up on the news of the day. He used to be a newspaper junkie, but he now gets his news online. Then by late morning we head off to do whatever we've planned for that day. Today we took off for Forest City, Iowa, about an hour south of us, for a 1:00 tour of the Winnebago factory.
Forest City has a population of around 4,000. The Winnebago factory has been a dominant part of their economy since the 1950's. Winnebago Industries is the largest RV factory in the world and occupies over 500 acres, with 80 acres under roof. They employ about 2,000 workers, and they're currently turning out about 20 RV's a day across all their Winnebago and Itasca model lines. It's a very sprawling complex. They even have a 1,500-site rally park where they have their annual WIT (Winnebago Itasca Travel) Club Rally. We arrived at the visitors center about a half hour before the tour was to start, so we had time to look around.
There are some historical artifacts on display, along with a couple of vintage 60's RV's.
Unfortunately we weren't allowed to bring our cameras once we boarded the bus for the tour, so we don't have any photos of the actual tour. The tour was about two hours and it was very interesting and informative. We haven't taken any other motorhome factory tours, so we can't compare what we saw to other brands, but it sure was a very organized and efficient operation. We've always liked the Winnebago brand because they always seem to have happy owners. If we were in the market for a Class A motorhome we'd sure consider a Winnebago or Itasca.

After the tour was over we headed home, but not before a little side trip a few miles farther south. Back in 1959 rock and roll suffered a huge loss when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, along with pilot Roger Peterson, died in a small plane crash just north of Clear Lake, Iowa. It's depicted as "the day the music died" in Don McLean's classic song "American Pie." Jim did a search online and found out there's a memorial at the crash site, so with detailed directions in hand we set out to find it. After driving a few miles out in the country and down a gravel road, we came to this post-sign that marks the access point to the crash site, which is about a quarter mile down the path in the background.
It was warm and muggy, but it was a nice walk.
We finally got to the actual crash site...
... where a small, stainless steel monument was erected in 1988 by Ken Paquette, a Wisconsin fan of Holly's. The monument is surrounded by personal trinkets left by previous visitors. (Click on photos to enlarge.)
The three records have the titles of the most famous hits of each singer: Peggy Sue (Buddy Holly), Chantilly Lace (Big Bopper) and Donna (Ritchie Valens. Hmm, I wonder why not the bigger hit La Bamba?).

The smaller monument to the right in the photo below, shaped like wings, is for the pilot, Roger Peterson. It was added in 2009 by Paquette.
It was quite thrilling to see this and we're glad we took the time to search it out. 

After stopping for pizza in downtown Ellendale (population 400) we got back home and settled in for the evening. Tomorrow should bring more fun... stay tuned.


squawmama said...

Funny I've been there twice and never saw the glasses... Very cool. Did you make it to the Surf Ballroom where they played last? Iwas was something itself and still has people play there today. You can go i and tour it during the day it is in Clearlake. And by the way... Donna was a big hit!!! LOL LOL
Have fun & Travel safe

Pat said...

very nice find there. Some of the best things to see in the USA aren't the ones that are heavily advertised and cost a boat load for admittance.