Travel Thoughts By Kim
Let’s go on an adventure together….to Iowa!
I love to travel – every trip near or far is an adventure! I also love to remember and tell others about my adventures. So, when I was asked if I wanted to give writing a monthly travel article a try, I jumped at the opportunity. Having been to all 50 states, I am often asked which state is my favorite. My response is that I honestly can’t pick a true favorite. This is an amazing country and every state has something wonderful and unique to offer visitors. But, I can say the one that surprised me the most was IOWA. So, that’s where I have decided to start – let’s go on an adventure to Iowa, together.
When I started coloring the states I have visited, it really bothered me that the entire center of the country was colored in with the exception of Iowa. Every time I looked at my tracking map, Iowa stuck out like a sore thumb taunting me. So, when another planned short trip was canceled in October 2017, I thought: the time is already blocked out on the calendar, the money is already set aside for travel…..I think I’ll go to Iowa!!! So, I started researching where and what in Iowa would make it on my itinerary. I decided that Dubuque would be my base point and I made a list of cool things I found to visit within a reasonable distance from my base point. It was a short trip, so I had to make the best of it – I flew in to Dubuque, picked up a rental car, and got settled in on day one, then had two full days and a half day to explore. In that short time, I put over 700 miles on the rental car and made some fantastic memories.
Dubuque has a beautiful River Walk that I visited for a lovely stroll along the Mississippi River viewing local art sculptures after dinner on my first night there. During the time I was in the area, I spent some time wandering around Downtown Dubuque, which is a wonderful city full of local art and beautiful architecture. I also visited the Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. When in a new place, I like to search the Roadside America web site for unique and quirky local attractions – for the Dubuque area, I found “Gas Station Jesus”, a statue of Jesus behind a gas station on a hill overlooking the highway. I also stumbled upon a little brown church with a sign that read “Little Brown Church in the Dale. Built 1860-1864”, a LOT of dirt roads, corn fields, and farms. I imagined Iowa would be a very flat state, like Kansas. But I was pleasantly surprised to find it actually has a lot of beautiful rolling hills.
On my first full day, I drove to where The Music Died. It happened just north of Clear Lake, IA in a corn field just after midnight on February 3, 1959. It was the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens, as well as the young pilot of the private plane carrying the music legends. I toured the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake – the location of their final concert the night of the crash. Then, I drove out to the corn field to view the crash site. The spot where the plane went down is about a ¼ mile or so down a path through a corn field in the middle of nowhere! It was rainy that day and the path was muddy, but I decided to walk to the crash site, anyway. Realizing that I was all alone in a corn field in the middle of nowhere, I came up with the idea to do a Live Video on Facebook to take all my friends with me…..and so someone would know where I was if something should happen to me! It was an emotional experience and I’m really glad I did it.
Day two took me to Dyersville in the morning. I found a stunning Basilica in downtown Dyersville that I toured before heading to the main attraction in that area: The Field of Dreams House. This is the house that the movie Field of Dreams, staring Kevin Costner was filmed. The house is maintained just as it was in the movie – including the baseball field in the corn. They host tours of the house and you can go out and “have a catch” on the ball field and walk into the corn. There are “Ghost Players” games throughout the summer that the public can watch and once a year they host a game with various famous baseball players that draws a huge crowd. It is quite an amazing place and it was a real thrill to be there.
Later that afternoon, I made my way to LeClair and found a sweet little railroad town that looked like it was in a time warp from the 1800s. I discovered the Buffalo Bill Museum and the Antique Archeology Shop from the cable TV show, American Pickers. A great way to spend the afternoon.
I was sure Iowa was going to be a “check the box” state, but it was one of my more memorable trips and I wish I had allowed more time there. I wasn’t able to get to the World’s Largest Truck Stop or the area where the movie Bridges of Madison County was filmed. Guess I’ll need to plan to return, someday.
Moral to this story: Don’t be afraid to just pick a place, use sites like Google and TripAdvisor to find cool things to see while you’re there, try a visit to the Roadside America web site to find fun, quirky attractions (I found “Gas Station Jesus” in Dubuque on that site), and just go! You never know what awesome memories you can make by just taking the time to explore places you never thought you wanted to go to!
If you want to read more about this adventure, visit my Blog at www.thoughtsbykim.com and type “Iowa” in the search box – it will bring up five posts I wrote about Iowa with tons more photos and stories.