Thunder Roads Magazine MO/So. IL 2018-June - Page 14

THE ROAD Less Traveled Our ride this month takes us north to explore the scenic roads of our neighboring state of Iowa. With only 200 miles to travel from St. Louis, the Iowa border can be reached in just over three hours. This close proximity allows for a quick weekend excursion or can be extended to a full week long vacation. Here we can bypass traffic and experience a change of pace by traveling along Iowa’s scenic byways. Iowa maintains eight state designated and two nationally designated scenic byways and is a great way to experience Iowa’s natural beauty, history and culture. Stop and smell the wildflowers or listen to the song birds, or follow an impulse to take a side trip to one of the many attractions and countryside hamlets. A camera is a must for all the postcard perfect vistas. You never know when you will encounter a bald eagle along the Mississippi River, rare plants and animals in the Loess Hills, or the exceptional architecture of unique barns, churches and other buildings along the routes. Here we are going to explore a few of these byways found only in the Hawkeye State. These routes are offered for those of you who want to relax and stop often to enjoy the sights that the state of Iowa has to offer. In June 2000, two Iowa roadways were designated as National Scenic Byways by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Loess Hills Scenic Byway and the Iowa Great River Road received the national designation because of their scenic, natural, historic, cultural, archeological and recreational qualities. These routes are the first two routes in Iowa to receive national designation, and were previously designated as scenic byways in Iowa’s Scenic Byway Program. The Loess Hills Scenic Byway is a 220 mile route in western Iowa found in Plymouth, Woodbury, Monona, Harrison, Pottawattamie, Mills and Fremont counties. While traveling this byway, riders have the option of selecting 13 excursion routes for additional experiences. The byway runs from the Missouri state-line border south of Hamburg, Iowa, north to Akron, north of Sioux City. The route weaves through the heart of a landform of windblown glacial silt deposits known as the Loess (pronounced “luss”) Hills. This natural geological wonder is found in only two places in the world, Iowa and China. The rugged landscape and strong contrasts in weather and soil conditions provide refuge for a number of rare plants and animals, many of which are found only in the Loess Hills. Not only does the Loess Hills region offer a unique natural heritage, it supports many culturally and historically important sites, public parks and recreation areas. You will find blue and white “Loess Hills Scenic Byway” highway signs marking this route. Next, the Iowa Great River Road parallels the Mississippi River on the state’s eastern border from Missouri to Minnesota and is part of a 10-state route stretching from Louisiana to Minnesota. This 326-mile corridor crosses 10 Iowa counties from Keokuk at the southeastern tip of Iowa to New Albin in the far northeast corner. Green and white pilot wheel highway markers as well as red, white and blue America’s Byways markers show you the way along the Great River Road National Scenic Byway. Visitors from around the world travel to Iowa to view the dramatic landscape of the Mississippi River limestone bluffs cut by glacial melt water in the north and the broad sandy flood plains in the south. Here you can watch the soaring eagles and thousands of migrating geese and ducks or seek out the sacred sites and mounds of early Native Americans at Effigy Mounds National Monument or just watch commercial barges and recreational watercraft navigate the locks and dams on the river. Visit the towns and cities along the route and discover a rich and vibrant history of this famous waterway. Here you will learn how the Mississippi River’s very existence greatly influenced the westward expansion of this country. Located in eastern Iowa, the Grant Wood Scenic Byway begins south of Bellevue on Jackson County Road Z-15 at the Mississippi River. It continues through the city of Springbrook to Andrew where the road splits and goes either in a northerly or southerly direction. The route rejoins at the city of Maquoketa. From here, the route continues westerly on Iowa 64 passing through Baldwin, Monmouth, and Wyoming to end in Anamosa in Jones County. This 68-mile route, its rolling landscape and locally- quarried limestone structures was the inspiration for Iowa’s artist Grant Wood. In the 1930’s, Wood portrayed the community of Stone City (a few miles west of Anamosa) and surrounding countryside in the celebrated works such as “Stone City”, “Fall Plowing” and “American Gothic”. While in Anamosa, be sure to stop at the National Motorcycle Museum and explore the more than 500 motorcycles on display there. The museum is located at 102 Chamber Drive on the east-side of Anamosa off of Route 151. The River Bluffs Scenic Byway is found in northeast Iowa in Fayet