DOWNSHIFTERS' DIARY: No so much downshifting

More time behind the wheel today than seeing sights, but many delightful sights seen nonetheless.

Another leisurely morning, followed by a short trip from West Des Moines to the town of Winterset, which is the county seat of Madison County, Iowa. Yes, the same Madison County as "The Bridges of Madison County," but also the home of actor John Wayne, who was born Marion Robert Morrison.

John Wayne's boyhood home
Our first stop was the town square, where we found the Convention and Visitors' Bureau closed for Good Friday. The local drug store -- replete with soda fountain -- was open, and the clerk touched base on our behalf with the docent at The Duke's birthplace. The site was open, and we went!

The gift shop alone was fun, but $6 per person got us a 10-minute tour of the home Wayne was born in. The home contains many memorabilia, including the eye patch Wayne wore in True Grit, several firearms made for him by the Colt company, and letters of commendation from other Hollywood luminaries, including Ronald Reagan.

A Bridge of Madison County
Wayne was born just seven blocks from the Cutler-Donahoe Bridge, so it was an easy side trip to see the one of the bridges of Madison County.

If this bridge looks familiar, it's because it was the bridge used in the movie of the same name for the picnic scene. We saw the bridge in the midst of a Midwest spring thunderstorm, so we didn't take the time to walk the grounds as we otherwise might have.

The town of Winterset is a quintessential Midwest town with friendly people, a charming town square, and real estate prices to die for. One building on the square was for sale, including the existing embroidery shop, for less than $200,000. Small-town America looks pretty appealing!

Back on to westbound I-80 toward Nebraska.

Viking House
Shortly before reaching Nebraska, we pulled off at Elk Horn, Iowa, the home of an authentic Danish windmill, a viking house (pictured at left) and a local cafe that specializes in Danish fare. Delightful on all counts!

Back on the highway passing through Omaha, we resisted the urge to try to find Warren Buffet's house. Farther down the road, we decided to pass up President Gerald Ford's birthplace, as we'd done two presidential sites the day before.

On, then, to Kearney, Nebraska where we'll be spending the night. Tomorrow morning, we'll be up before the sun to see the migration of the sand hill cranes on the nearby Platte River. More pictures to follow.

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Photos by Carl Dombek
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