In honor of Veterans Day, consider planning a mid-week road trip to one of Iowa’s most patriotic attractions: The Freedom Rock. Just off I-80 in central Iowa sits the nearly 60-ton boulder that Iowa artist Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II has transformed into a work of art.
Inspired by the movie "Saving Private Ryan,” Sorensen decided to paint the boulder to serve as a memorial to thank veterans for their years of service. Every year in early May, Sorensen paints a new patriotic tribute on the boulder to honor troops just in time for Memorial Day. Though the process is weather dependent, it takes Sorensen about three weeks to paint the new scene on the boulder each year.
While the 2014 design was unveiled almost six months ago, a visit to the Freedom Rock is the perfect way to pay tribute on Veterans Day, or any other day. Especially since it won’t be long before snow covers up the base of the mural and some of its details.
Since he first began painting the original Freedom Rock near Menlo in 1999, Sorensen has expanded his patriotic mission around the state. Eventually he hopes to complete a Freedom Rock Tour that will include painted boulders in all 99 of Iowa’s counties.
So far he’s finished more than 25 Freedom Rocks for various counties with twice as many booked for future completion. Unlike the original Freedom Rock, these individual county boulders are covered in with ultra-durable paint and will not be redone each year. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can plan a road trip to visit all of the Freedom Rocks using Sorensen’s handy map and directory.
Directions to the original Freedom Rock: Take exit 86 toward Menlo off I-80 and head about a mile south on Highway 25. You’ll easily spot the Freedom Rock on the lefthand side of the road.