One full day in Iowa

I caught the sunrise this morning, streaks of gold and dusty blues and grays heralding Saturday’s dawn. It was a magnificent surprise, and it had me reconsidering something I’d said the night before we left Glacier Park.

Of the upcoming slog back to Arkansas, I predicted that it’d be “utility travel, the sort of mileage that doesn’t pack much (if any) enjoyment.” For all but 500 miles we’d be retracing our steps anyway, driving the opposite direction through territory we saw on our run north and west. We’d be on a mission that wouldn’t be accomplished ’til the driving was done.

The way I saw it, we were no longer wandering, no longer exploring.

Maybe it says something about our mindset, however, that we’re still having ourselves a grand time. Like that scenic Sunday drive on two-lane roads out of Great Falls. Walking the banks of the Yellowstone River in Billings. Six nights on the South Dakota prairie with its brilliant sunsets and billions of stars. Passing through America’s Breadbasket during the harvest. Great food and intriguing culture. Meeting dozens of true Americans along the way.

An Iowa sunrise.

How ’bout that? There’s an ample supply of joy in these weeks of “utility travel” after all.

Even after the sun cleared the trees this morning it was cool enough to have me wearing a hat and an insulated vest. Hot coffee tasted good and felt even better. If I’d had more motivation I would’ve built a fire.

We’re planted, by the way, on a so-called “premium site.” Ordinarily we wouldn’t spring for such a luxury, especially since we’re staying only a couple of nights, but it was the only space available when we booked.

We have a huge concrete patio with a table and four chairs, two additional Adirondack-style chairs, a gas grill and a fire pit. The pad is level and unusually long (a good thing for hitching and unhitching our toad), and the utilities are first-rate.

It’s as posh a site as we’ve had, rivaled only by our first spot at Flathead Lake.

I know I’ve teased once or twice about what Deb and I had planned for our one full day in Iowa. We’re right up the road from Winterset, the seat of Madison County — as in The Bridges of Madison County — but we didn’t come here for the bridges.

When we arrived in the small Heartland town late this morning we found it packed. This weekend is the annual Madison County Covered Bridge Festival, which occupies its Courthouse Square on all four sides with food, drink, crafts and live music. We parked Mercy and walked through the crowd to the opposite corner of the square, where we found the original reason we’d come to Winterset.

On May 26, 1907, Marion Robert Morrison was born in a rented house on South Second Street. The tiny structure has been restored and preserved, and there’s an attached museum displaying ephemera from his life.

Marion Robert Morrison, of course, became the actor and American icon we now know as John Wayne.

I can’t say anything about the man that hasn’t been said. Through the roles he played and the life he lived off-screen, he’s been an inspiration to me from my childhood through today. There aren’t many public figures I admire as much as I do John Wayne.

I’ll admit to having goosebumps the whole time we were there at the house and museum. The experience of standing in the place where Duke was born ranks as one of the highlights of our journey so far — and that’s really saying something.

We meandered through the festival again, browsing the hundreds of vendors. We picked up a late lunch of BBQ and traditional sides before heading back to the campground to rest up for our next leg.

It was another good day, the result of being open to opportunities for joy and inspiration.

Tomorrow: Missouri.

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath

Our traveling companions, by the way, are fine. Dipstick is making a marvelous recovery from surgery.

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