Iowa summer sights “John Wayne birthplace museum”

Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway -John Wayne

Statue of John Wayne at the entrance of the newly built museum in Winterset, Iowa

The only area of the museum where pictures are allowed, along with props for kids to try on and take a picture in. Nice job Addie!

I am finally getting to my last blog post ( I believe) of our summer travels around our beautiful state. I had a MISSION this summer to show my children some of the great places our state has to offer and we saw several. One of my favorite though was the John Wayne birthplace and museum. The home is located in Winterset Iowa and very recently they built a new museum next door which was still not completely finished. When we were there they had tile in the entryway that had not yet been laid etc. Overall though the place was ready for visitors.
The visitor center and museum tour starts with a video about the life of John Wayne and some clips about his famous films and television shows he has starred in. plays on a continuous rotation and if I recall correctly lasts about 10 minutes.

From there you move into a large room that has memorabilia from John Wayne’s life on display. There are pieces of hollywood props and sets he used, old letters and scripts etc. There are no videos or pictures allowed in the room, which really was the biggest downer as I would have liked to have taken some to show my husband. Oh well.

From this room you exit the building and if you paid to also tour his birthplace you walk next door and take a tour of the very small home that is right beside the museum. The picture of the decorated conversion van was taken between the two. From the looks of it, this van was custom-made by a super fan and they allow the museum to park it there for display at various times throughout the year. It was kind of parked off the sidewalk under a carport between the 2 buildings.

 The house was neat. Very small, and was crowded the day we were there. It was a weekday in August, but that is also prime tourism season so I am sure that contributed to the congestion. Everything in the house is on 1 level and it takes only about 10 minutes to see it all. It is very small and is decorated to look like period for his life but does not contain a lot of actual John Wayne items. Interesting, but the whole tour of both buildings did not take as long as I would have thought.

My kids were (eh..) on the whole thing… they really do not know much about John Wayne so that is understandable. I enjoyed seeing it because I am a person who likes to see and experience as much as I can. I have no plans to return though. I appreciate any opportunity to support small town Iowa attractions though and would recommend this as a stop if ever in the area.

We were able to experience this museum and also the covered bridges in Madison County – read more here Iowa Summer sights, Bridges of Madison County in an afternoon along with an ice cream stop.

I think this is my last post about Iowa summer sights…. that is until I find more pictures in my camera and I remember another stop we made…

Thanks for reading!


Iowa summer sights 2015 “Clark Tower”

Tyler sitting under the ladder you have to climb to get to the observation deck, note how steep the steps are

Madison County part II. The Clark tower in Winterset City Park.  This was an interesting quick stop. We were already here for the covered Bridges of Madison County anyway. It was a quick stop, it did not take long.   The best way to find the tower is to enter the city park in the main entrance and then follow the road straight up into the hilly dense tree area ahead of you. (Past the covered bridge). It is a long drive in the dense trees and is tight. The road curves and has tight turns, and side note… is one lane in width. Not an easy drive if you have a big vehicle… and I don’t believe motorhomes are allowed in that area of the park. Once at the top of the bluff the road enters a clearing and the tower is up in a gravel lot.

 The tower is old. Its best attribute is the view which looks over all the bluffs below. To get to the top you have to climb a rickety old ladder that appears to have been there since the 40’s. If you cannot easily manipulate steep ladder stairs and narrow openings then this stop isn’t for you. The pay off is definitely the view which was spectacular.

I had to help my youngest to the top. She does not handle heights well. But she enjoyed it when she got to lookout area and she was able to see over the trees. For me it was worth the stop… I enjoy seeing off the road places.

Another side note, it is very deserted up there. You have to drive off in a wooden area alone and there is NO ONE around when you get to the top. I felt a little disconnected from society, not sure I would walk all the way up there alone.

All in all- good stop, but quick. Won’t take up too much time. 🙂

Iowa summer sights “Bridges of Madison County”

Bridges of Madison County What a beautiful sight! If you live in Iowa… as I have my whole life.. Then the covered bridges in Madison County are a must see. There is nothing quite like walking through the old wooden structures knowing that once upon a time they held horse-drawn buggies and wagons. They are beautiful. 
Popularity rose for the bridges in 1995 when award-winning actor Clint Eastwood released a movie starring Meryl Streep that’s title was “The Bridges of Madison County” . People flocked to Iowa to see one of the 6 remaining covered bridges. Originally Madison County housed 19, and today 5 are on the National Registry of Historic Places.

You can read more about their history, the novel, the movie, and their tours here:

Bridges of Madison County

I decided this was another stop in Iowa that my kids should take the time to visit. I remember my Grandparents going once upon a time.. and since we only live an hour away, this was another stop we should take the time to make.

We visited 2 of the bridges. The first one was Roseman Bridge (the one in the picture of the backside of 2 of my kids) and it is known as the “haunted bridge”. Legend has it that this bridge is haunted because in 1892 two sheriff’s posses trapped a county jail escapee in the bridge. Legend says that the man cried out and jumped up straight through the roof of the bridge and disappeared. As the story goes he was not found again. The bridge was very quiet, covered with signatures of those who had been there before (marked in marker on the inside of one of the walls) and had a nice area for a picnic just outside the front entrance. The bad part of this one? It is literally in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, you can pick up a map at the Madison County Visitors Center that has the names and locations of all the bridges, so I was able to navigate my way there off that map.

The second one we visited was in Winterset City Park and is named the Cutler-Donahoe covered bridge which was built in 1870. It was smaller than the first and had less graffiti and signatures in it. The park itself also houses the Clark tower which I will write about on a another day.

If you are wanting more information on the bridges as well as directions you can click here:

Madison County Covered Bridges Map

All in all the Bridges made a great day trip for my kids and I. Top the day off with ice cream from the local ice cream shop and it is a perfect summer day trip. One more thing off my bucket list of things to see in this beautiful state.



Iowa summer sights 2015, Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge Council Bluffs Iowa

What a weekend! We were in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area for a weekend long basketball tournament and had plenty of time to check out some sites in between games.

The Bob Kerrey pedestrian bridge is a unique walking bridge that is suspended over the Missouri River. You start one side in Iowa and cross over into Nebraska. An interesting and fun way to stand in 2 states at once! Its unique “S” shaped curvature makes it even more fun to cross and the suspension concept allows for movement you can feel as you go across. Scary? Yes. But makes for some great views.

We stopped halfway across and watched the boats speed under us and also spent some time sitting on the bench at the midway point. The sights were awesome. There was a small carnival/ food show going on just below the bridge which made it interesting watching the rides. They also had a helicopter that was going up and down giving rides. It would fly low past the bridge and wave at the people walking.
The plaques at the end of the bridge say that the bridge was awarded the honor of being the world’s most spectacular pedestrian bridge by Travel+Leisure. It also states the bridge is built of twin 203 foot pylons and that 80 steel cables support its deck. The placard also states the bridge itself is 2300 feet in length making it the nations longest pedestrian bridge.

My kids loved the opportunity to stand in 2 states at once!

If you are looking for a neat adventure in this area that is free of charge and offers spectacular views, check this out! It was a find we tripped on when we left the basketball tournament at the CenturyLink Center, and is easily accessed from the downtown area. It would cover a travel spot in both Iowa and Nebraska and one I would recommend seeing.

Until the next stop!


Iowa summer sights 2015, tree in the middle of the road

I forgot to post this one! I have so many pictures I have to get to from this summer and the “Iowa sights” my kids and I experienced that I have not had time to write about. This is a “tree in the middle of the road” that is well-known in Iowa as a tourist stop. Not much to look at except that it is huge way bigger than I had planned or envisioned.

My daughter and I decided on a June afternoon to head out and find it. We drove the back gravel roads until I finally had to call my husband to come and show me where to go. Rumor has it several cars have run into it. Old wives tales say to avoid running around it 3 times (bad luck I guess?) but all the same… it is one of those bucket list things I want to say I have seen and now I can say it.

If ever in Iowa… look for the tree in the middle of the road! Directions can be found here:

Tree in the middle of the road, Iowa

Interesting little cemetary along the route, the church is gone.. but the steps remain. Records show a Methodist church was once there


Iowa summer sights 2015, Willow township

Iowa brings a lot of beautiful things in the summer. Beautiful sunsets, the sound of the grasshoppers in the fields, the smell and sound (yea sound) of corn growing. For me summer in Iowa also means a break from routine and a chance to get out and explore. Like I had said in my previous post, my goal is to get my children out this summer and give them an opportunity to see some Iowa sights. The second stop we made was to the Willow township cemetery where many generations of my family are buried and where my Great Grandfather Edwin Adamson’s one room school-house still stands. I love history especially family history so what a great opportunity to show my children their roots.

The day was beautiful. Sun shining, no humidity and no rain, a first for us in a long time. We went to the cemetery on the Wednesday just after Memorial Day. I was able to easily find my Grandparents graves and right next to them my great aunt and uncle. I do know that there are many generations across the road in the “old cemetery” part as well, but I could not identify them or begin to know where to look. But I know they are there, and it is fun to walk among the headstones and try to identify family names I have heard growing up. My second cousin also has two children buried here. I always make a stop to see several other family friend graves as well. Walking through and seeing names so easily recognized as part of my past. Sheer, Burkhart, Smith, Shirbroun, Huffaker, all names I have stories and history with. What a great thing to show my kids. The school house shown above is the one my great grandfather attended. As the story goes it was used as a voting place for a period of time and it was then they added the handicapped accessible ramp. It is now not being used at all. Locked up we were unable to go inside but I have been told the original chalkboard is still hanging, the old voting machine is still in there and walking in is like going back in time. I wish we would have gone in.

The first two stops of summer have brought back good memories for me. I can only hope my kids (2 of the 3 were able to go) can look back and have happy memories as well.

Until the next adventure happy summer!

Iowa sights summer 2015, Mahanay Bell Tower 

I am here! I have been gone for a while I know, but spring sprung up on me with a rush of kids activities, wrapping up the year at school and getting our summer started. Despite all my best efforts, I did not get any blogging done.

My goal this summer is to spend some time working on taking pictures, and taking my kids to visit some IOWA sights before they fly the nest and I never showed them how to appreciate their home state. We travel yearly and we have seen much of the United States and we are very blessed to have those opportunities, but…. I still think my children should spend some time visiting the sights Iowa has to offer.

(Photo credit to greenecountynewsonline)

The first stop for me was to take the kids to a sight I visited when I was a child. I can remember my grandpa and my dad on separate occasions taking me up to the top of the Mahanay Bell Tower in Jefferson, Iowa. The bell tower was a sight that was known to everyone who lived in SW Iowa and you didn’t live in Greene County unless you went up to the top.

According to Wikipedia and the tour guide who took us to the top, the bell tower will be celebrating its 50th year this year. It was built in 1966 by the Mr. and Mrs. Floyd Mahanay estate. It has 14 bells in the top that play on the quarter and full hour and has a whole listing of songs it will feature seasonally. It is located on the city square right next to the courthouse. The views of the sprawling Iowa countryside are spectacular and the price is unbeatable. $3 for adults and all children are free. How can you beat that?

The bell tower is on the city square and right across the street was a Ben Franklin… anyone remember what Ben Franklin is? The old five and dime type store was a fun stop that reminds me of summers growing up when making a trip to Ben Franklin was a huge deal. We would go by various colors of floss to make friendship bracelets, hook pictures and yarn. It was so much fun going up and down the aisles, and although my memories are alive and intact, I think I found our stop there more fun than my children did.

After a stop to the Ben Franklin store we crossed the street and boarded the glass elevator for our ride to the top of the tower, timing it just right so we would hear and see the bells toll.

This is a picture I took of downtown and the streets that lead out of town to the country. You can see multiple towns from the top after riding up the 120 feet by glass elevator. The great part is that once at the top they offer the popular game “I spy” for the kids. They have to find all kinds of things such as a tractor, something yellow, a bicycle, etc.

   So if you are looking for something to do with the kids that is cheap and offers a glimpse at Iowa history, check out the Mahanay Bell Tower in Jefferson Iowa! It is worth the trip… and bonus- there is a Twin Shoppe Ice Cream shop right across the street which makes a great place to stop after 🙂