Despite a late night of talking, we all got up and moving the next morning because we wanted to make the most of the day. Steve volunteered to cook us breakfast, and it was really good. Iowa is known for pork, and Steve had bought some bacon from a local butcher. It was really good, but I actually liked the scrambled eggs more because he cooked them in a little bacon grease. I hadn’t had that in a while and the flavor always reminds me of my childhood.
After breakfast we said goodbye to Hurley and headed to see John Wayne’s birthplace and museum. Steve had picked this area for the museum and he remembered that Lee is a huge John Wayne fan, which I thought was really sweet. Lee grew up watching the Duke and has seen almost all of his movies. I’ve even seen a few myself (big fan of Rooster Cogburn) and I had no idea he was born in Winterset, Iowa.
We arrived at the location and right away I was impressed. There is a great memorial rock with hand painted pictures on it and one of the locals came up to us and explained what the different sides of the rock meant. The main character from Monuments Men, George Stout (George Clooney played him) was from Winterset.
After admiring the memorial area we walked over to the front of the museum and admired the John Wayne statue and the marble tiles surrounding the grounds. Each tile was donated by a family and many of them had quotes from the movie. Very cool. The statue had amazing detail and we took several pictures.
After being outside we walked in and paid $15 which included an 11 minute movie (which was pretty good), a small museum, and touring the inside of his house. I will say we all thought it was a bit overpriced. The museum was pretty small and since you can see the outside and visit the huge gift shop for free, you might want to go that route if you are on a budget. As a general rule, any time the gift shop is almost bigger than the museum part that tends to be the case, but if the cost is $6 or less why not. When you start to get in double digits, we expect a bit more.
After the museum we walked outside and down to his childhood home. It was very small, with no running water and was not originally furnished although the pieces were accurate with the time period. Walking through was very interesting and when I found out he was a 13 pound baby that was cool. Yikes!! That was huge for that time period. So again, I think if you are a huge John Wayne fan go ahead and spring for the ticket, but if not you might want to just check out the outside.
After we left the museum we explored the town of Winterset a little bit. It was a nice small town with a thriving downtown, which we always love to see, and I especially loved the courthouse. Then we went looking for a place to eat but it was slim pickings. We finally went to a place called the Pizza Ranch that had a pizza buffet. The food was ok and they were short-staffed, but it was priced right at $9.99 per meal. Originally we wanted to eat at a local place where all the food is made from scratch, but we were told that the owner only opened up when she “felt like it.” Obviously she didn’t feel like it that day because it was closed, but we did see the home of the original Red Delicious apple tree and did some more geocaching.
After lunch we set out to see a few more bridges and I particularly wanted to see the one in the movie the Bridges of Madison County. It took us awhile to get there though because we kept stopping for geocaches. Deb and Steve are avid geocachers with over 500 consecutive days of finding at least one cache and over 3,000 total found. Lee runs hot and cold on it..he’ll be into it for a while and then not do it again for a month. Obviously we were in a “hot” phase, which was OK with me because they do lead to some cool places, like an old cemetery that had a tree that looked like the tree of life which was neat.
The main problem with geocaching though as I see it is they are often too difficult to find. Or worse someone has removed it and then you spend 20-30 minutes wandering around not finding what you are looking for. That’s what happened to us at the cemetery and I finally called it quits. I think there should be a 10 minute rule and if you can’t find them you have to move on, but I get that its tough for people to give up when looking for “hidden treasure.” It was hot though and moving towards cranky so we headed out and finally saw a couple of bridges including the one in the movie.
My one disappointment with the bridges was that they all looked exactly the same. In New England the bridges are all very different, but since these were done at roughly the same time, they were very similar. It started to feel like “you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all” until we reached the Roseman bridge from the movie and stumbled across a really cool gift shop. That experience was much better and if you can only see one, I absolutely recommend this one and the very nice gift shop.
After the bridge it was getting late so we stopped at the store and then went back to the rigs and everyone chilled a bit. I should mention that the local grocery store was very interesting. All the employees wore white dress shirts and ties and the butchers even had the little paper white hats. It felt like we were in the 50’s to be honest and for me at least was a little weird. Steve loved the butcher shop though and bought some more pork and bacon, but I stuck with a head of lettuce and some rolls for dinner. I ended up making some chicken and noodles, salad, and rolls for the group and then we stayed up late talking and enjoying a campfire.
The next day we all got up early because Lee and I had a 470 mile travel day. We never want a day like that, but it was the only way to eke out an extra day with Steve and Deb so it was worth it to us. We dumped and then took on fresh water for Mor-Ryde, kissed and hugged, made plans for hopefully seeing them at the reunion rally, and off we went.
The ride wasn’t too bad through Des Moines and Iowa and even western Illinois was OK, but once we got near Chicago on I-80 the traffic started picking up, the road went to shit, and it was bad. I was getting pretty beat up from the bouncing on the passenger side and Lee was getting stressed. At one point he turned to me and said, “We just don’t belong in places like this any more,” and I couldn’t have agreed more. Indiana wasn’t much better and we were both really tired and then close to Mor-Ryde we hit another time change. That was the third one in a relatively few days and that does take a toll.
Ultimately we made it to Mor-Ryde 6:15pm eastern time and after following signs, figured out where to park. We were both exhausted and after talking briefly to our “neighbors” to make sure we were in the right place, went inside, ate a sandwich and went to bed. I’m going to talk more about Mor-Ryde in one comprehensive post so I will end it here, but we loved seeing Deb and Steve and are so happy about our small town Iowa experience. Seriously, don’t forget about the small towns in your travels, they can be pretty special.
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