The Bridges of Madison County (Pt. 2)

I’d scheduled my Saturday appointment in Des Moines early enough to spend the afternoon visiting the three covered bridges I’d missed a couple of weeks ago.  However, when I had finished the appointment, I stepped outside and discovered that it had just rained.  I learned the day’s weather forecast indicated heavy storms were likely to occur occasionally throughout the day.  But the weather map showed that the storm patterns were mostly already east of the area, so I took the chance and headed southwest.

By the time I reached Winterset, it was approaching 3:30 and, realizing that museums tend to close at 5 p.m., I headed to the John Wayne Birthplace Museum, which included the house where the famous actor was born in 1907.  I didn’t tour the house since one of my nieces and I had visited it in 2008 nor the museum since my main intent was to visit the bridges.  I did get several pictures outside the building and inside the museum shop:

The museum was only a few blocks away from City Park.  The Cutler-Donahoe Bridge is just inside the park gate.  The park was pretty crowded, no surprise for a Saturday afternoon of a holiday weekend.  I got a few pictures from RB and moved on.

WintersetCityParkThere was also a drive inside the park that went up to Clark Tower.  I decided there was enough time to venture there.  It had rained, so the route was a muddy, single-lane road filled with sudden twists and turns.  The speed limit was 10 miles an hour, but I kept RB below even that most of the way.  After driving a short way over potholes  and past ditches too close for my comfort, I felt I owed my car an apology for taking her onto a roadway better suited for a four-wheel drive vehicle.  Still, she marshaled through it all like the champ she has always been through the myriad of driving environments I have taken her on over the years.

The scenery was beautiful, fresh and green from the rain.  I passed a trio of women who were hiking the trail, but other than a four-wheel drive vehicle that briefly blocked the road, I had a quiet ride up.

The tower sat alone amongst the trees, reminding me so much of the many stories I’ve read and movies I’ve seen set in medieval Europe.

I got out to look around inside the tower since there was only a single couple there.  But a caravan of trucks filled with kids pulled up as I got out of RB, so I went inside the lower level while they ran around the upper one.  Some of the pictures are below:

Eventually, RB and I wound our way off the trail and out of the park.  I had originally had the notion to have dinner at a BBQ restaurant in Winterset, but I still had two bridges to visit, and the weather looked like it could cloud up and rain at a moment’s notice.  So, I followed the directions that led me away from town and to Holliwell Bridge

I don’t know if someone had made the decision not to pave the roads leading to most of these bridges and other sites around the county to lend to the area’s rustic charm, but I can only hope that they change their minds someday soon.  One should not require four-wheel drive, a bike, or a horse and buggy to get around.

Still, I’d never seen bridges like these before and didn’t want to miss this opportunity to see them now.  The road was quiet despite being the holiday weekend, but there were already a pair of couples walking around when I arrived and another couple arrived immediately after I did.  So, we had to work around each other to get pictures.  I can only imagine the madness of the all of the inquisitive visitors drawn to it and the other bridges by their prominence in the novel, The Bridges of Madison County, and 1995 movie it inspired.

I got some great pictures, including some from the  bypass that allowed the closing of the covered bridge to vehicle traffic.  And I felt that RB’s efforts to get me through this excursion should at least be acknowledged in a picture.

Driving to the last covered bridge, the Imes Bridge, took me through the town of St. Charles.  The bridge was located in a park with a small picnic area on the edge of St. Charles.  It seemed the smallest of the bridges and the least well kept.  In fact, I wasn’t sure it was one of the six surviving covered bridges until I got out of RB and walked up to within reading distance of the sign posted on it.   Below are some of the pictures I took along the way and as I walked through the bridge to the other side.

This is a map of all six covered bridges with each spot highlighted:


While it took me two trips to visit all six, one could see all of them in a day with an early enough start.

Heading back through Des Moines, I got dinner and decided I wasn’t ready to head back to Grinnell.  There was a new movie theater that had opened a couple of months ago.  Its location off I-80 in Altoona is the furthest east of the city and, thus, the easiest one for me to reach in Des Moines.  It’s a very nice facility with individual reclining chair seating.  The movie didn’t start until after 10 p.m., letting out at 1 a.m.  I was hungry, so I had a light breakfast at Perkins, the only area facility open at that hour–besides the casino, of course.   I briefly thought about going inside the casino, but I don’t tolerate smoking at all anymore.

It worked out to be a very long day, but well worth it.



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