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Part One: Dating and Vacation Ideas in Summer: Road Trip In Iowa: Planning vs Spontaneous

Now that the weather has warmed up it’s time to get out and about and experience your area, wherever you live.  For generations now couples and families have taken weekend road trips in their car or motorcycle as a way to relax and spend time together.  I remember as a child riding in the backseat with Grandpa and Grandma Wall as they traveled down the county gravel roads by their farm on Sunday afternoons after church at 20 miles an hour looking at their neighbors crops as they would gab back and forth.  With my mom and dad when we’d travel to destinations my mom insisted on stopping at this and that site as we spontaneously discovered new sites previously unknown to us.  In modern America we’ve gotten away from the weekend road trip because we’re so busy, which is pretty sad.  It’s a good way to relax and connect via chatting along the way as you see new sites and stop to check out curiosities and unexpected delights along the way.

As a marriage therapist I can tell you a sad and repeated refrain is too many couples don’t spend casual time together bonding and relaxing and regrouping around spontaneous moments.  Everything is planned and in the process life passes them by and they end up living as roommates.  Unique experiences create fun and friendship and (duh!) memories!  “Oh, that was the year we did such and such!”  If you don’t do anything different, everything blends together.  Friendship wanes, resentments grows and eventually turns into indifference.  When you don’t even care anymore that’s a really bad sign.

Stop it already!  Fill up your tank and head out on the road.  In the next blog I’m going to tell you about a recent one my wife and I did.  If you are in Central Iowa you can do the same trip we took (It was awesome!).  If you are in a different part of the world you can discover your area because there are interesting things to see in your backyard wherever you live.  You can use our trip as a good example.  In the process you can keep in mind that there’s a tension between the planning spouse and the one who likes to be spontaneous.  We need both of these.  A road trip provides many spontaneous moments as you see new things to explore, new restaurants to hit.  But you can’t go on a spontaneous road trip if you don’t plan the time!  Well, at least most of the time.  In a future blog I’ll post about a road trip we didn’t plan for at all that turned out to be wonderful.  In this blog, let me introduce you to Scenic Byways in general.

Iowa’s Byways:

A lot of states highway or travel departments publish brochures and maps of scenic roads through their prettiest or historic areas.  You can go to Google, type in your state followed by “Scenic Byways” and end up with your state’s website with maps and PDF’s that can be downloaded for your use on your little get-a-way.  For example, here’s the websites for Iowa and Minnesota:



The PDF for the Scenic Byway I’ll be discussing in the next blog is here:

You can also pick up these travel brochures at the travel centers in your particular state.  Here’s a list of most of them in Iowa:

I say “most of them” because the one we stopped at to pick up our travel map for the River Bluff’s Scenic Byway was in Osborne, Iowa, and that one’s not included on the list.

There are two National Byways in Iowa (Loess Hills along the Missouri River and Great River Road along the Mississippi River.  Over the years my wife and I have traveled on parts of both of these by motorcycle and both are quite beautiful.) and 9 State Byways.  All of these are highlighted for their scenery except the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway, which was the first highway across America after the introduction of the Automobile (completed in 1913).  Many parts along the Lincoln Highway are beautiful, but it’s claim to fame is not the scenery but it’s historic appeal.  You might be interested to know our office in Ames is on the original Lincoln Highway.  My wife and I have had thoughts of traveling the entire length (New York to San Francisco, 3389 miles, 14  states and 700 towns!) and hope to do it someday at a leisurely pace, taking in the local sites along the way.

In addition to these scenic highways in Iowa, there’s others worth noting.  One is particular is the Dragoon Trail, which is listed as one of the “Historic Auto Trails” in Iowa.  My wife and I have traveled the Dragoon Trail on motorcycle from Boone to Fort Dodge one sunny fall Saturday after the leaves changed.  It was absolutely beautiful, following the Des Moines River the entire way.  Many of the roads were gravel, but we putzed along and enjoyed the sites.  Of course, when we were in Fort Dodge we had to get apple dumplings at the Community Orchard and onion rings and broasted chicken at Ja-Mar’s Drive-In.

In upcoming blogs I’ll highlight some of our experiences over Memorial Weekend this year and in particular, the River Bluffs Scenic Byway.  Stay tuned.

To see the next blog in this series click here.

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