Last week I hosted guests from Florida. In addition to Michael's opportunity to experience his very first plane ride, it was both he and Charlie's first visit to the Midwest!! Clean slates, they were! Minds for the molding, mine mine mine...allllll mine for two days. As their Iowa Ambassador I took my responsibility to indelibly etch this place into their hearts very seriously! It wasn't from inside a grand old tour bus like I drove one summer in Montana, but I popped open the sun roof on my little car and headed down the road to the place they wanted to visit most --- Madison County, home of the famous covered bridges and the pastoral setting for Robert Wallers romantic best-seller, The Bridges of Madison County.
"It's very GREEN here...." they kept saying.
I hear that alot when I am hosting out-of-town guests. The leaves and grasses are gorgeous right now, hard to convince my visitors that we have been in desperate need of rain.
In the town of Winterset, fans of "The Bridges.." film will recognize plenty of scenes from the story of Clint Eastwoods' Robert Kincaid and how he fell in love with Francesca, the beautiful farm wife played by Meryl Streep. Michael, Charlie and I ate lunch at the counter in the North Side Cafe.
Winterset is your typical county seat in Iowa, with the town square and grand old courthouse surrounded by old business buildings with lots of character, most of which are in noticeably great repair. My guess is that this is thanks to the influx of tourist dollars provided by interest in the movie and the fact that the town can also brag on itself as the birthplace of John Wayne.
Five minutes in any direction, it's wide open space and that beautiful green, green, green. Even roadside ditches can be fun if you know what to look for. I showed the guys how all Iowa kids know how to pull the little tops off clover and suck the nectar out of the flower for a sweet little burst on their tongue.
The stars of the show of course, are the bridges.
Tour guides pray for moments like the one we experienced when driving down a tree-shaded side road just outside of town.
This gorgeous little doe, in all her nonchalant glory, looked up from munching weeds, completely disinterested and for-darn-sure not going to interrupt her lunch as we stopped the car and snapped pictures. All the while a couple of guys from Florida are snapping their shutters and yelling, "No WAY this is a real deer. She's five feet from us. She's mechanical, right? You PLANT these deer in the ditches along the side of the road and when you pass a certain spot, she looks up?? Right on queue??"
Indeed, as if on queue, she looked up, twitched her ear, and went back to munching grass.
Despite Bambi and I's efforts to amaze my visitors, nothing we saw or experienced could eclipse Michael's favorite moment of the day - experiencing his first drive down a gravel road. At this point I might add that I delivered mail on gravel roads for 12 years and have great respect for them. But I also know how to drive them and I told Michael he didn't have to worry.
At 50 miles per hour, he just wasn't so sure.
With deepest apologies to Robert Waller and all due respect to Winterset and the bridges in all of their Midwestern splendor, it seems the gravel dust cloud was the favorite moment of the day.