We had two goals for this trip. 1. Research for Marietta 2. Visiting our children.
Marietta is a writer of mystery stories that take place in small towns with interesting names. She has been talking about taking a trip to What Cheer, Iowa for about two years.
I volunteered to take the trip with her.
We determined that this would be an unstructured trip. If we saw something we wanted to stop and see—we would. Our time in Illinois was spent visiting family. My mother, sister and brother and their families live there and I spent a day with them. We also visited my husband’s family.
On Tuesday we headed the car to Iowa and our ultimate goal, What Cheer.
What Cheer was a prosperous town of 3,000 through the 60’s and because of the coal industry shutting down and a clay pipe company closing, the population has dwindled down to six hundred. We took some pictures of the Opera House and then went to the library/town hall to do research. We met some great people there. One of the women was an 80 year old American Indian who had some great stories about herself and her town. This woman was full of energy and laughter and did not look her age at all. She has been through some pretty rough times, she was a mother and a widow at the age of 13, her husband was killed in WWII. She has eleven children and has been through six husbands. I forget how many grands and great-grands she said she has. She spends her time and resources helping those who are in need. This lady knows no such thing as retirement.
We took lots of pictures of the town and ate lunch at the lone restaurant; it was a double wide across from the park, good hamburgers.
We took side trips to the Amana colonies and the bridges at Madison County. We arrived at the Amana colonies just after 5pm and all but two stores were closed but it was a peaceful walk we took around the town. One of the stores had an Open sign and we could see that lights were on inside so we tried the door and it was locked. As we walked away the woman inside opened the door and asked us if we would like to come in, even though she was closed, she had forgotten to take down the sign. We accepted; it was a delightful shop with a variety of items. Marietta made a purchase and we continued our walk on the deserted sidewalks.
The same day that we visited What Cheer we went to see the bridges of Madison County. There are five covered bridges, we decided to see three of the five since they were scattered about. After finding two, they were identical except for the length, we headed to the third, hoping it might have a different look. I was the navigator. The map we had been given was not the best, it didn’t have many streets marked on it and I sent us the wrong direction. Since it was getting later in the day we gave up on the bridges. We were heading to Kansas and didn’t want to arrive too late. Marietta forgave me because on the wrong road we keep sighting flocks of Turkey Vultures. Marietta is a bird watcher and photographer of birds. We made several sudden stops along the road so that she could jump out and photograph those birds in flight. We also found a pond with a flock of pelicans. Getting lost may have kept us from a bridge but the bonus we got with the bird sightings was worth it.
I found the people of Iowa to be some of the most friendly I have come across in my many travels. They have a love of life. The scenery in Iowa is beautiful too. If you haven’t been there I will recommend it.