The rains fell in the right places, away from the ride.
Thirty seven years after the Marguerittaville summer, I returned to Ottumwa, Iowa. I didn’t recognize the place!
Mike gave me a tour of the countryside and his old hometown called Eldon, site of the American Gothic House. For those of you unfamiliar with the artistic significance of Eldon, as Mike was too; it’s home to the second most recognized painting next to the Mona Lisa – see attached photo.
After Mike loaded his toys on the trailer, we dropped off his rig at a friends farm, unloaded the bike, and then headed out to meet up with the NVAR (National Veteran’s Awareness Ride) riders. Along the way, we stopped in Winterset, Iowa. In case that name doesn’t ring a bell, it’s the birthplace of John Wayne. How cool was that.
At the Freedom Rock, west of Des Moines, we met up with the group riders coming from California, about 50 bikes, some doing this ride since 2005. At this meeting point, among the beautiful countryside of Iowa, a local artist has turned a rock, the size of a Ford Econoline van, into memorial. Murals are painted on its multiple sides, reminding us of the cost of war. There’s plans for these four wheel drive size stones to be set in each Iowan county. These folk’s patriotism runs as deep as their hospitality. After another memorial service we were escorted into Des Moines for a great feed at a VFW.
Some great surprises to start off a ride across America in the Spirit of Freedom; the Gothic House, the home of John Wayne, and a visit to the Freedom Rock. Meeting a Pearl Harbor survivor was an added honor.
Looking forward to the ride.