Day 262 of the Nowhere To Be Project brought us two-thirds of the way through our first year of retirement. It also marked our very first visit to the Bridges of Madison County. Madison County, Iowa was not really “on the way” to anywhere in terms of our travel path, but we decided to veer off course for a few hours to check it out. Thankfully, we were not disappointed!
Madison County, Iowa is a picturesque rural area. Idyllic sprawling farms dot the dusty landscape and people seem to be a rarity (except for the tourists who flock to the famed bridges). The nineteen colorful covered bridges of Madison County were constructed in the late 1800s as a means of extending the life of the bridges. It wasn’t until a century later when the 1992 Robert James Waller novella, followed in short order by the 1995 film interpretation, brought legendary status to the Bridges of Madison County. The love story of Francesca and Robert branded the bridges as unmatched symbols of love and romance. Needless to say, the bridges have been a boon to the economy by creating tourism where there once was none.
To see the hallowed bridges, make your way to the Covered Bridges Scenic Byway and follow the signs to each of the historic bridges. Several of the bridges have been destroyed, so be sure to check the chamber of county website at www.madisoncounty.com/the-covered-bridges/ prior to your visit. We had limited time, so kept it simple with visits to the Roseman (1883) and Holliwell (1880) bridges. We rounded the visit out with lunch at the Northside Cafe (est. 1876) in Winterset. Supposedly, Robert James Waller conjured his love story in a booth at this diner. Maybe this led to Northside being featured in the film version? Regardless, it was charming and filled with locals and bridge-seekers alike! The best thing about our visit to Madison County was the realization that the best love stories never have to end.