A giant granite boulder sitting just off Interstate-80 is the canvas for local artist Ray "Bubba" Sorensen II. Each May, he paints a new, unique mural on each side of the rock for a bright, multifaceted art display focused on honoring U.S. military members.
Roadsigns along I-80 promote the rock, and it's easy to find just off Exit 86. It sits at the intersection of a gravel and a paved road. The rock itself is tall—maybe 7 feet. Each side of the boulder features a different mini mural. In 2012, one side shows the faces of the Sullivan brothers, five Iowan brothers killed while serving together on the U.S.S. Juneau during World War II. Their faces stand over the Juneau, and above them are the words "The Fighting Sullivans." Another side of the rock depicts the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier against a sunset, with the spirits of military members nearby. A third mural has a green helicopter, the enduring image that survives from year to year because the paint includes the ashes of Vietnam veterans. The colors are vivid, the murals detailed and finely done, the theme intensely patriotic. Bubba is obviously a talented painter.
Behind Freedom Rock, a picnic table overlooks a small pond and a sheltered kiosk has a donation box, photos of previous years' murals and a tattered notebook that serves as a guest book. Judging by the notebook, this is a popular attraction, with visitors stopping by on a daily basis. This isn't really where we'd stop to eat a meal, but at just 5 minutes off the interstate, it's a stirring detour.