Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Where am I?

On Thursday, Oct. 8, I got up and got on the road.  I could not find the highway I was looking for, so rather than head west into what appeared to be some crappy weather, I took a road south that ended up somehow taking me to the road I had originally wanted.  Then I saw that the previous night I should have crossed the river.  There were all kinds of places to stay in McGregor … great-looking ones.  I’ll keep that in mind for next time.

I don’t know why I’m having trouble navigating.  It isn’t the usual, except for exiting parking lots, and while I’m irritated by it, I’m not troubled.  I guess I’m just not ready to go home yet.

These last several days are all about riding … so I’m not stopping a lot, but once in a while you come across something that you have to make an exception for.  I rode by this field that had all of these flags flying, so I turned into a gravel lot and parked.  There was a sidewalk, the flags, and some crosses.  I walked over to see what it was all about.

The site is called the "Welcome Home Soldier Monument."  Located in the Heartland on Highway 34 (which, by-the-way, was named after the 34th Infantry), near Albia, Iowa, it honors all veterans, living or deceased, in all wars.  The idea is that no veteran should be forgotten or abandoned.  Built by veterans, it has a wall of honor that reminded me of the Vietnam Veteran’s Wall in Washington, D.C., and paths leading to areas that are being developed.  The flags are paid for by donations to honor your veteran and the location of the flags is called Humble Hero Hill.  You can also donate and have your veteran’s name put on the wall.

Humble Hero Hill, with all of the flags proudly flying in the breeze that day.  It was a beautiful sight in my eyes. The  Welcome Home Soldier was organized by veterans and is a wonderful tribute to many who might have been forgotten. 
There are 21 crosses called the 21-cross salute.  It was a moving display and I was glad I’d stopped to see it.  Sometimes you just come across these things as you go along and it’s always worth the time to see.

This display captured my heart as it was just so incredibly touching.

But it was time to move on.  While I’m trying to keep to an informal schedule of crossing a state a day, once again I got sidetracked.  This time it was due to a sign that said “covered bridge.”  Located near Winterset, Iowa, there was also a sign on the other side of the road that said “John Wayne’s birthplace.”  Which way, which way?  I figured I’d been to the Duke’s birthplace, so a covered bridge was calling me.  It was only eight miles out of my way, and that’s not a really big deal.  Down the road I went, on my way to see the Roseman Covered Bridge.

The first four miles were great.  Then I followed the sign and turned down the next road.  Uh oh.  Gravel.  A narrow gravel road, and this gravel was not bike-friendly.  But now I was in … it was a narrow road with nowhere to turn around, so on I went.  It became worse with more pea gravel and I was thinking I sure hope there’s a turnaround spot, if I make it without going down.  I only passed one other vehicle, so I probably couldn’t count on much help coming by if I needed it.  There weren’t even many houses as this appeared to be all farmland.

Finally, the last four miles was done and there was a turnaround with no other cars in it.  I had clear sailing to get turned around and parked heading out of the parking lot.

I saw a sign that said gift shop, but it was closed.  I was there by myself.  I got off the bike and grabbed my camera and walked over to the bridge to read about it.  Off to my right I then spied a lady coming down the path toward me.  She said hello and turned the closed sign around to open.  She asked if I'd come in on the road with all the turns?  Yep.  She said to come into the shop and I'll show you an easier way out.  I was all for that, after I checked out the bridge.

The Roseman Bridge was built by Benton Jones and B.K. Foster.  It's 106 feet in length, not counting the approaches on either side.  It uses a covered lattice Town truss, named for its designer, but is overlaid with a Queenpost frame .  They were built of northern white pine, and construction costs for the bridges usually ranged from $900 to $1,900.  This particular bridge cost $2,930, perhaps due to the additional Queenpost frame?  It carried traffic for nearly a hundred years before being bypassed due to a bridge to the east that was built in 1981.
The Roseman Covered Bridge, constructed in 1883, is one of the last two built in Madison County (yes, the Bridges of Madison County movie area) and goes over the Middle River.  Madison County is named for the fourth president, James Madison, and the county is called the Covered Bridge County of Iowa.  Originally claiming 19 bridges, by 1983 there were only seven left,  one of which is this one.  The likely reason is that Jones, who was probably responsible for the design, strengthened the truss when he added the Queenpost frame, thereby creating a redundancy.  This bridge has stood in place while nearly all of the other timber trusses in Iowa have since been demolished.  What a tribute to workmanship that is, and I was excited to have seen it even if the weather did not lend itself to a great photo.

The Roseman Bridge was brought into prominence by the movie starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep.  In 1992 it was renovated at a cost of $152,515.

After I’d finished taking pictures, I wandered down a quaint little wood and stone path to the gift shop and spoke with the lady about getting out of there and back to the main road.  As it turned out the road was still gravel going out, but it didn’t have the hairpin turns and actually was nearly a mile shorter.  I could have hugged her.  I hate gravel.
From there I had one more stop to make for the day … the Freedom Rock.  I followed the road I was on, and got to the main road.  Yahoo.  No mistakes, no problems, no drops. 

I got to the little town of Greenfield and had to ask directions, twice.  The first was a lady walking her dog and didn’t know where it was.  But she steered me in the right direction, quite by accident, I suppose.  Luckily, the second person was a guy with a Harley shirt (I’m sure that’s why he was so helpful.) and he knew exactly where I wanted to be.  Just go north on this road, Highway 25, about 10 miles, and you’ll find it about one mile south of I-80.  You can’t miss it.  Yeah, I’ve heard that before. 

The road stretched out before me, and it was getting on to late afternoon.  I’d seen quite a bit, and wanted to get to the rock and then a place to stay before it got dark.  Finally, I came to the Freedom Rock.  The guy was right.  I couldn’t have missed it.

But in my defense, the Freedom Rock is shown as located near Menlo, Iowa.  That didn’t show up on my map, and the rock is probably closer to a little town named Stuart that is on I-80.  It’s actually kind of out in the middle of nowhere.   However, it was worth the search and the stop, and is a thing of awe, that will provoke thought and emotion for those who see it.
Previous scenes on the rock have included Washington crossing the Delaware, the MIA logo, a plane launching from an aircraft carrier and the rubble from 9-11.
The Freedom Rock is a 12-foot high rock painted yearly by Ray “Bubba” Sorenson II, to support veterans.  Sorenson began painting the huge, granite boulder in 1999, and creates a new patriotic scene on it each year, by Memorial Day, using paint that has the ashes of vets mixed into it. 
Each side of the rock depicts a different scene, and all are well-done, blending in with the rock's contours.

This is an amazing piece of art, appearing to be three-dimensional.
While the rock had been used for graffiti in the past, Sorenson’s scenes have mainly remained untouched, with the exception of 2001.  There’s a rumor that the vandal then repeatedly beat a Vietnam vet’s fist with his nose, so you can only imagine who got the worst end of that deal.  Supposedly, that also discouraged any further incidents. 
Many who have come have left mementos.  I chose to put a little Alaska state flag pin on the post to show my respect.

Vietnam ... remembered ... and posted at the Freedom Rock.

There are numerous mementos.   I couldn't begin to show them in the light I wish I could have, with the respect I wish I could, with the honor I wish I could have ...  It was a moving display from those who have passed through here.
I posted a photo on Facebook and Biker Bill told me to contact a friend of his, who is also a Vietnam veteran.  When I did, the gentleman sent me a poem he had written and is allowing me to use it on this blog.  What a wonderful tribute to the veterans, to the rock that is painted with memories and the artist who uses his skills to create something for others to enjoy.


(Written by Randy E. Richmond)
In the heartland stands a huge old boulder
Just off a prairie pavement’s shoulder
Nothing special its first billion years
To be cause these days of proud shed tears
Dressed now in colors so bright and grand
Created by an artist’s hand
Remembrances of freedom and liberty
In red white and blue… a history
Stories on stone of sacrifice
Pictures in paint that describe a price
There are words included of those who have died
Of the strengths of a nation tested and tried
His palette sends thanks to all vets, the old and the new
Recognizing them and what they’ve done and do
This year marks a decade that he’s honored us all
With lumps in our chests but still standing tall
I’d like to offer this young man my sharpest hand salute
His heart is here for all to see, a patriot beyond dispute
So for what you give to us on each Memorial Day
America would like to just say thank you, and also…
you rock Ray!

Randy and Jan Richmond at the Freedom Rock, Rural Iowa August 30, 2008
Author’s Note: For Ray (Bubba) Sorensen II