One afternoon, we pulled off Interstate 80 in search of a cheap motel. As
we pulled into the hotel parking lot, we saw a sign that says "John Wayne's
Birthplace." Not being on a tight schedule, we decide to check it out the
next morning. The sun rises and we head out. On the way, we see a sign
that says "Welcome to
and shortly after that, a sign that says "Hogback Bridge" and had
an arrow. Now I find it unusual that a
county would put up signs to its bridges, after all, traditionally you
cross a bridge while going somewhere, they are not, as a rule, the
destination. Jane, my traveling companion, shed some light on the
Jane: I bet this is where the Bridges of Madison County was set.
Me: What's that?
Jane: It's this book about ... affairs ... traveling salesman ... also a movie. There are lots of covered bridges in it.
Me: Covered Bridges? This could be good.
After visiting the place where John Wayne was born (which is just a little larger than where Elvis was born) we set off to find us a bridge.
I've always been a suburban kid, and when I do get out the the country it is usually Virginia or West Virginia. One thing I had never really noticed until driving to Hogback Bridge, is most of the roads I use are paved. Sure there are gravel roads, but usually only on the last mile or two of a trip. Madison County, and probably most of Iowa, is different. The main roads are paved, but every other road is just a ribbon of gravel. I suppose it keeps the speed down.
Hogback Bridge is no longer in use. About 50 yards away is a nice, new, ugly, concrete bridge. Hogback has been restored to its previous beauty. When we were there, a teenage girl was busy trying to unrestore it by drawing a large picture of a horse head on the inside of the bridge. Her family seemed to approve, so I guess where they were from it is accepted practice to go places and cover them with black magic marker. I have to wonder what they do to library books.
There are seven of these covered bridges in Madison County. We only saw two of them, Hogback Bridge and Cedar Bridge.
Cedar Bridge was also down several miles of gravel. You can drive through it, and like good tourists we did, twice. This one is more rustic and looks more authentic. There is a nice little picnic area next to it that we did not eat in. I have been told that this is the only one of the bridges that you can drive through.
I still haven't read the book, or seen the movie. I don't know if I ever will, but, when I hear people talking about it, I can (and do) always say "I've been there."
Update: In 1998, Cedar Bridge was renovated, and on September 3, 2002, it was destroyed by fire set by an arsonist. See here. A replacement bridge was built and opened in 2004. On April 15, 2017, this replacement bridge was also burned by arsonists and was again rebuilt in 2019.
Copyright 2020, G. Edward Johnson.