Quick Update as a follow up to Part One (posted earlier):  Finally, the flood from the underbelly ceased. We decided to ‘rough it’ without water. We showered at the bathhouse and used water from a bucket to flush the toilet. And we survived! Later – back home – we discovered the problem. Previous owners failed to winterize it. The dealership failed to pressure up the hot water tank to test it. It was split wide open. No wonder we had a waterfall. Kudos to our small-town dealer who took care of everything at no cost!

But…let’s go back to Iowa…!

The grandparenting conference was awesome. The speakers and entertainers were amazing, the technology was flawless, and the fellowship with others was refreshing – others equally intent on impacting the lives of grandchildren. I was thankful for two full days of inspiration and encouragement!

It was both humbling and thrilling to see my first book, Celebrate Grandparenting: 101 Ideas to Intentionally Connect with your Grands, at the conference bookstore. Wow! Conferees at five-hundred simulcast sites across North America had access to it. What a blessing to partner with the Legacy Coalition!

Our free time was filled with fun, friends, food, and family. We visited my Aunt Sharon and Uncle John in Des Moines and caught up on news about their family. We drove to Earlham and enjoyed a visit with my Aunt Carolyn and my cousin, Susan. Kathy (my BFF from high school) and Steve (her husband) joined us for dinner one evening and our conversation was as if we get together once a week rather than once every five years or so. That’s the sign of a good friend!

Jim and I visited the gravesites of my grandparents and generations before at Penn Center cemetery. We passed by the nearly non-existent community of Pitzer where we celebrated more than one 4th of July when I was a kid. I’m sure there was always a picnic on the church grounds before, but I remember sitting outside the church watching fireworks. Memories from six decades ago.

Next stop – Winterset, Iowa – county seat of Madison County. Famous for the Bridges of Madison County and John Wayne. We’d seen his birthplace decades earlier and didn’t explore his museum this trip, but wandered around “the square” instead – visiting nearly every store. The ‘dime store’ has been there since I lived there! OMGoodness. Some things never change – not much, at least. The drug store, too. I hoped to eat at the North Side Café, but it was closed. Disappointment! We walked to Frostee’s, nearby, for an Iowa pork tenderloin (take a look at the size of that thing) and a chocolate ice cream cone. I simply cannot visit Winterset without an ice cream cone from this place. No disappointment there except the long commute to get my next one!

Oh, the memories Winterset holds for me. I was a freshman when we lived there. Our class song was one that was famous at the time, but we changed the words: “Hey, Hey, We’re the Freshmen!” Now you’ve got that tune in your head. Right? Sorry!

My grandparents lived in Winterset for decades. My maternal grandpa at 922 East Washington. My paternal grandparents at 922 West Court. One block apart, on opposite ends of town. The town has since expanded well beyond their homes.

The heart within me beat a little stronger just being in Winterset.

We drove to the city park and saw the 1870 Cutler-Donahoe Covered Bridge, relocated to the park in 1979. At the park entrance, the street becomes a narrow, one-way, concrete street with high curbs. It was surely even more narrow when I learned to drive. LOL! My car may have resembled a ball in a pinball machine – bouncing off one side, then the other – as I navigated those boundaries. It required precision! And practice! It still does!

An arrow points off-road. Another narrow and one-way gravel roadway leads to Clark Tower, a 25’ limestone tower built in 1926. More memories emerge as we drive that winding road – the one I walked many times with aunts, uncles, and cousins. Generations of the Camp family met at the park’s shelter house every year. When lunch was over, the younger ones headed for the tower leaving the adults to visit…and visit…and visit some more! Oh, how I miss those days – seriously!

On this day, the Tower was the busiest I’d ever seen it. More cars. More people. More than ever! We had to wait our turn while others enjoyed the 360* view from the real vantage point, atop the tower. To get there, one had to first traverse the stone steps wrapped around the outside of the tower to the second story. The views, even from there, were terrific. Grated-steel steps went nearly straight up from there to the top – more like a nearly-vertical ladder.

I watched as others came down; some of them white as a sheet and clinging on for dear life. Another family group went up those challenging steps. As we waited, I wondered if I should even try it. My balance isn’t what it once was and I’m sure the rusty, well-worn steps are significantly steeper than when I’d last made the ascent. LOL! If I went up would I ever be able to get down? Concrete, stone, and steel are not forgiving of any missteps! But…I did it, and the view was better than I remembered!

It was a great day in Madison County! We drove back to our trailer and relaxed a bit before grabbing a bite to eat. I was reminded of the multi-cultural city Des Moines has become as we drove past specialty restaurants of all kinds. Guatemalan. Indian. Greek. Thai cuisine. Puerto Rican. Mexican. Chinese. Japanese. Mediterranean. Wow! So many choices. We chose a ‘hole-in-the-wall’ pizza place and enjoyed every bite!

Jim and I planned to leave the next morning, but a 3 a.m. thunderstorm convinced us to extend our stay. It lasted all day! No need to get soaked and drive in the rain all the way home – right? Oh, the benefits of being retired! We gained another free day and enjoyed wandering through antique stores while the rain continued. 

Monday morning we headed south, still enjoying the view through the windshield. It’d been a great trip. It was memorable. Being in Iowa did my heart good. Seeing friends and family again was delightful.

Regardless of low mpg and the high fuel prices, I’m certain more adventures await. Just Jim and I. With Shotgun riding shotgun! But, next time, I hope we have running water rather than a waterfall!

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