Discovering the Unexpected in Madison County
I never would have imagined that one day, as a married adult with two children, we would pack up all of our belongings and move across the country to Iowa, leaving behind the lush forests, vibrant cities and ocean access of the Pacific Northwest. To be honest, there is a lot that I miss. However, I have found that day-to-day living is easier here, and the things that make for a good quality of life are often the same things that visitors are looking for.
As a new resident, finding myself in the position of promoting quaint, small, rural Madison County to visitors for a living was unexpected, but at the same time made sense. Who better to market those things that make Madison County special to outsiders than an outsider in the process of discovering them?
While Iowa may not be first of mind to a lot of tourists, I have yet to meet anyone who didn’t thoroughly enjoy themselves while they were here. There’s a lot of confidence that comes from being able to exceed people’s expectations on a regular basis, something I see often with visitors to Madison County. It makes me wonder if Iowans recognize what their communities have to offer travelers?
For example, one of the things that drew us away from the densely populated state we were living in was the wide-open space of the Midwest. There’s room to breathe here, to take in vast expanses of land and the most incredible skies (which I swear, appear to be larger here somehow). Iowa may be far from any ocean, but standing in the middle of a field on a windy day and watching the sun rise or set feels very much like standing on a beach. I think many Iowans would be surprised by how appealing our wide-open spaces and vistas are to visitors, both domestic and international.
A Slower Pace
Things move slower here, and that’s a welcome respite as well. Some days there is nothing better than a leisurely drive along a country road, passing century farms on rolling hills and meandering streams that cut through groves of timber. There’s no need to hurry — on a visit to Madison County, you’re meant to take the scenic road and notice your surroundings.
Iowans shouldn’t underestimate the power of a friendly smile or greeting. I was warned before moving to the Midwest that drivers wave to each other for no apparent reason. Now that I live here, I’m happy to report that I wave at other drivers often, and there is a reason — it’s a recognition that we see each other, that we’re sharing the same road and are part of a community. Most of the visitors I encounter remark on how welcome they were made to feel by our locals, whether they are looking for a historic landmark or walking around our courthouse square. That’s a pretty special thing, especially these days.
It may be easy to overlook that many visitors have never seen a white-tailed deer, a wild turkey or bald eagle in person. I still get excited by the abundant wildlife I encounter here, whether at home or at one of our beautiful city and county parks or natural areas.
Lastly, there are few places in the Midwest with such well-preserved historic buildings and structures. Living on the West Coast, I can’t think of many examples of 19th century architecture that hasn’t been replaced. Here, those buildings have been preserved, restored or renovated. They are celebrated and their usefulness extended for the next generation of small businesses. Our main attractions in Madison County are still our 150-year-old covered bridges, which reflect our history, industry and culture and inspire artists, writers, photographers and visitors alike.
So, I would like to invite you to look for all that Iowa has to offer with a new perspective, that of an outsider, and appreciate those unique aspects of this place you call home. I urge you to never lose sight of those qualities that make it appealing to visitors — the wide-open spaces, the slower pace, the friendliness offered to strangers and friendship shared among community members, the natural spaces and wildlife and the appreciation and preservation of your history. You never know when one of those visitors just might turn into a new resident.
Covered Bridges Scenic Byway
We invite you to experience all that Madison County has to offer by traveling the newly designated Covered Bridges Scenic Byway. This 82-mile route takes you into the heart of Madison County, unfolding the stories of authentic American heroes and cultural icons. Dotting the classic Iowa landscape are the famed covered bridges. At the center is an authentic and thriving courthouse square and retail district. The John Wayne Birthplace & Museum, Iowa Quilt Museum and Madison County Historical Complex offer glimpses into our county’s history, arts and culture. Plan your trip at madisoncounty.com, and “Discover Iconic America!”
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