Last year, when I was planning out my Small Town Bowling Tour, I picked out a lot of bowling alleys in places I remember from my childhood. Madrid (and Tiger Lanes) was at the top of the list, but Iowa Falls (pop. 5238) wasn’t too far behind. I had visited the city a few times before, mostly because my cousin’s other grandparents lived there, but like most places I visited in my youth, I really didn’t remember that much about it. Sure, I could recall the really big stuff, like the bluffs and the swinging bridge, but other than that the town was a total mystery to me, which made it worth a visit on my rare Monday off.
I made my way up to Iowa Falls using the easiest, and shortest, route: Highway 65. However, I did plan one minor detour to the town of Radcliffe (pop. 545). Anyone who knows anything about high school basketball in the state of Iowa knows about Hubbard-Radcliffe, and their gymnasium is a legend in itself. The H-R school district merged with former rivals Eldora-New Providence to form South Hardin a few years ago, but the old gym still stands proud just off of Isabella Street. I tried to take a look at the inside, but the Principal wouldn’t let me, but his reason was very sincere and understandable, so I thanked him for his time and made my way up to Iowa Falls.
My navigation of the Iowa Falls area was complicated a bit by the fact that the Highway 65 bridge of the Iowa River was closed, but I still kept it pretty simple by following the signs to Downtown, which was where I wanted to start out anyway. It was right around lunch time, so my first mission was to find some food. I settled on a place called Camp David, which was literally at the end of Main Street, right on the river. The food was excellent, though next time I’ll step up to the regular cheeseburger instead of the $3 special.
It seems like every town has something that surprises me, and in the case of Iowa Falls that surprise was my next stop: The Carnegie Ellsworth Building. It was one of the over 3,500 libraries funded by Mr. Andrew Carnegie, and one of around 100 that were built in the Hawkeye State. It was renovated in 2000 and currently serves as a cultural center for the community.
After taking in an art show at the Carnegie building, I took a walk along the main Downtown street. I bought a cup of hot chocolate and a used copy of Ronnie Spector’s autobiography (sing along with me, “Be my be my baby…”), both in the same place, and then wandered over to Estes Park. It was here that I once again found a pleasant surprise, the Bill Riley Bandstand, complete with a statue of Mr State Fair.
After polishing off my hot cocoa, I got back on the road. This time I negotiated the “official” detour over the river and made my way to my featured destination: Pla-Mor Bowl. The place was pretty busy for a Monday afternoon, but thankfully there was a lane available for me. I bowled a couple of quick games (a 104 and a 96), but cut the session short so that I could go on the hunt for one of the places from my childhood memories: the Swinging Bridge.
The Swinging Bridge is one of those structures that gets most of its appeal from the fact that it can scare the living daylights out of you if you let it. It is a suspension pedestrian bridge, and as the name implies, it does swing. It also dips and drops with every step, which is very unsettling when you’re afraid of high scary places. I got about halfway up the bridge before my fight or flight kicked in and told me to turn around and go back to the car for the trip home.