Aug. 28th, 2011

candyland: (reality)
A few weeks ago, my little sister (known as Bug on this LJ, primarily because she hates that nickname and I am nothing if not an old sister :D) moved to another city after college graduation. She's got a job and everything, but after talking with Mom, it seemed that she was a little bit down in the dumps. So I get a text message on Friday while I'm at work asking how I feel about a day trip.

So a little before seven AM on Saturday morning, we piled into the Santa Fe and headed for Winterset, IA. Why there, you might ask? For starters, Mom and I had been looking for an excuse to make our pilgrimage to the Mecca of Quilting: Fons and Porter's Loving of Quilting shop. (For those not in the know, Marianne Fons and Liz Porter are internationally respected quilting experts...who live here in freakin' Iowa. Go figure on that one.) So we spent some time in there. Bug lacks the patience for quilting, but she got sort of into the whole picking fabric thing when Mom said she'd make her a table runner.

Winterset is actually a very beautiful town - Dad used the word "picturesque." It's really rocking that old-timey small town vibe. There are shops lining the streets, and most of them appear to be locally owned. After we finished at the quilt shop, we walked around the town for a while, just enjoying the sights, wandering in and out of stores, and having a good time hanging out and giving each other crap. It helped that it was a really great day out - it got a little warm later in the day, but still pretty good weather for late August in Iowa.

After a while, the four of us piled back into the car and drove to Des Moines for lunch at Felix and Oscar's. I had a really cheesey bacon, chicken, and ranch pizza. I could only eat half of it, which may shock a couple of you who know my appetite *laugh* Good stuff, though.

After lunch, we headed to another of Winterset's little landmarks: the birthplace of John Wayne. Yup, little tiny white-painted house on the corner is where the Duke himself was born in 1907. There's a gift-shop, and a van that someone painted with all sorts of John Wayne murals. On one side was a painting of him from the original True Grit movie, which actually made my dad fanboy just a little bit (he loves that movie, hasn't seen the remake yet, though).

My sister picked up a bookmark with a bunch of Iowa trivia on it and quizzed us all in the car. She asked what year Iowa became a state. I said 1847 - it's actually 1846, but considering that the last time I heard that was probably fourth grade, I'm pretty damn proud of myself.

Then we headed off to yet another of Winterset's sights, possibly the most famous. Have you ever heard of The Bridges of Madison County? Because they exist. In Iowa. Three hours away from my house. We drove around and saw three of the six bridges. There used to be seven bridges, I think, but one of them burned down in 2002 due to arson (how sad!). Most of them have been moved from their original places, I learned.

I wasn't really expecting to be impressed by the bridges, but they are actually quite lovely. They've been restored, obviously (the three we visited were either built in 1870 or 1880 - ya know, back when my dad was in elementary school), but they still look...old, if that makes sense.

And inside all three of them, there are signatures on the walls and beams where signatures and families have sort of...made it official. A lot of hearts with initials and dates in them, traces of handprints labeled with names of family members, little notes...all over the place. At first I was a little put-off by it, but...well, if you think that the book (which my mom said was fantastic) is a love story, it sort of makes sense.

Next to one of the bridges was a little trail that led down to the creek it passed over. Mom doesn't like steep inclines or water in general, so she stayed up by the bridge while Dad and Bug and I headed down to check it out. It was sort of like a sandbar down there, so Bug and I took our sandals off and went walking. We saw tadpoles and watched a frog jump into the water and Dad saw a water-snake on the other bank. We walked as far down as we could. Bug took some pictures, and then we headed back to where Mom was waiting for us.

The last bridge we went to was in a park, and there was a sign there about a tower. We figured eh, we're here, let's go! We wound up driving up a very narrow, steep gravel road through a forest with no shoulder and a very steep drop-off. So naturally, Bug and I rolled down the windows and watched it all go by. I think even Dad was having fun with it - it was like something out of a car commercial, except with less mud splatter. That area would be GORGEOUS in the autumn, when all the leaves change.

The tower itself was almost disappointing - only three stories (ground, first floor, and the top). Put it this way: Rapunzel would have needed a haircut for this tower. And yes, I may or may not have started humming "I See the Light" from Tangled.

Mom hates heights, so once again Dad and Bug and I headed in. The windows on the ground floor were tall enough that Bug could actually hop up and walk through them without bending over. Then we headed up to the top, which involved climbing a slightly rickety metal ladder-staircase hybrid. Once up at the top, Dad turned to me and asked if I remembered any Monty Python taunts. So he wound up yelling down to Mom, "I fart in your general direction!" I told her, "Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries!"

Both Bug and I had a little trouble going back down the ladder. Turning around for that first step was a little disorienting. Dad said it was like being back on ship from when he was in the Marines, so he went down first and played safety net. Then we hopped back in the car for the drive down. Truth be told, the drive up and down from the tower was more fun than the tower itself. Again, we rolled down the windows and watched it all go by. So cool!

We dropped Bug back at her car after that, gassed up, and headed back. Mom and I dozed for a good chunk of the three-hour drive. I crashed very early last night, and almost took a nap this afternoon.

But yeah, it was a really fun little family outing, we all had a good time, and the only mishap was when Bug dropped her slice of pizza at lunch and burned her hand a little. Good day, family! \o/

March 2012


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