We hit the trifecta by coming to Des Moines, IA. We had one full day to tour the Greater Des Moines area and we took full advantage of it.
Our first stop was in the town of Indianola to visit the National Balloon Museum. When I told Monte that we were going to a balloon museum he had visions of clowns and balloon animals. He did not hide his disappointment well when I informed him that it was about the history of man riding in big balloons. The museum chronicles more than 200 years of ballooning history from the first flight in 1783 to the present. The museum contains balloon envelopes, gondolas, inflator fans, ballooning instruments, trophies, and other memorabilia. We were met by a 80+ year old docent who I immediately wanted to tell to “straighten up and fly right” since her name tag was upside down – but I refrained. She had a power point presentation on the history of ballooning and would we like to see it? Sure! 15 minutes later when she and another octogenarian figured out how to start the program we did watch it – however the sound was about 3 slides behind where it should have been. The highlight of the museum was meeting the only other tourist there. She was in town for a wedding and it turned out that she is from Exton, PA about 10 miles from where Monte's family lives. We had a nice chat with her and by the time we finished talking she was ready to go with us rather than the wedding – but she did not get an invite from us.
On west a few miles – to Winterset, Iowa. The birthplace of none other than the Marion Robert Morrison, whose name was changed to Marion Mitchell Morrison and who you know as “The Duke” John Wayne. We got there but skipped going in when we found out that it was $6 each for a 20 minute guided tour of a one room house. Heck – the Balloon Museum was on $3, had multiple rooms and had a power point presentation. So, we drove by, took some pictures and found the North Side Cafe where we had a great lunch.
On the way to Winterset and on the way out of town, the real tourist attractions exist. Winterset is in Madison County, Iowa. Ring a bell? It should. This is where Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood had their 4 day love affair in the movie “The Bridges of Madison County”. I don't watch too many movies but this was a very good one. Several of the bridges still exist and we visited 4 of them. All of the bridges are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Back in the day bridges were covered by order of the County Board of Supervisors to help preserve the large flooring timbers which were more expensive to replace than the lumber covering the sides and roof. Most of the construction was done by farmers to pay their poll taxes.
To finish off the day we attended the thoroughbred races at Prairie Meadows Race Track and Casino. We did not win but neither did we lose.
One final note on Iowa – we have seen more windmills than in any other state. We have seen lots of wind farms in many states but just about the entire state of Iowa seems to be covered with windmills. Clean and Green!
End of Iowa – on to Nebraska.