I have always been envious of people who make a career out of traveling from one exotic place to the next and writing about their experiences. The journeys to far-off lands described in Lonely Planet spark endless fascination — heck, I’ll even read a newspaper article about any visit to just about any given city, regardless of its size or glamour factor.
It should be no surprise, then, that I was eager to welcome a pair of Iowa Tourism Office employees to my office Tuesday morning. Surely these two would inform me of potentially fascinating Iowa destinations I knew nothing about, right? And while I know Iowa doesn’t bring to mind visions of Lonely Planet-style adventures in distant places, there was the hope that I’d be clued into nearby locales of interest — to be potentially completed as day trips or overnights — that would be fun for my family to visit.
Well, I wasn’t disappointed. I was quickly armed with a media kit that included transportation maps for cars and bicyclists, respectively, as well as a 172-page Iowa Travel Guide packed with all kinds of intriguing ideas for relatively easy getaways.
I didn’t even have to do much searching through the guide for ideas, as I was given plenty simply through casual conversation with my tourism guests. Upon mentioning my 5-year-old son’s interest in trains, for example, I was told of the community of Boone (located near Ames) and the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad & Museum. The travel guide’s entry for it certainly sounds tailor-made for Zachary (and not bad for Dad, either): “Hop aboard the tourist line railroad, which travels 15 miles throughout the Des Moines River Valley over two great bridges. See displays of historic railroad items and equipment.”
There’s plenty more, though, in Boone, a community I hadn’t even heard of prior to Tuesday morning. If we were to visit the railroad, we’d certainly have to check out the Mamie Doud Eisenhower birthplace, right? (Well, maybe not, but it would be worth a quick look, I suppose, if we happened to be in town.) After that, Mom and Dad could enjoy the offerings of the Boone Valley Brewing Co., which “produces five to six flagship beers and three to four specialty beers,” according to the travel guide. We could top this little sojourn off with a stop at Seven Oaks Recreation, which has “full-service canoe, kayak and river tube floats, paintball, tent camping, hiking and mountain bike trails.”
All that, of course, is just in one Iowa city. There are many more possibilities included in the guide book, as well nearly a dozen “2013 Escapes” suggested on a separate promotional sheet I was given. The community of Corning, it should be noted, is home to Johnny Carson’s birthplace. The Lincoln Highway, America’s first transcontinental improved highway (with 472 miles going across Iowa from Clinton to Council Bluffs), is marking its 100th anniversary this year, with a celebration in the Iowa town of Colo set for June 29. And not too far from Worthington, the Wells Dairy will mark 100 years during Ice Cream Days in LeMars on June 12-15.
I’m not sure if or when I’ll get to any of these places, but it sure was fun to hear and learn about them. It was the first time anyone from a state travel group had contacted me about presenting information to me — hear that, Minnesota folks? — and it was definitely eye-opening and educational.