My favorite Iowa Road Trips from 2022

Every year, I get asked, “How many miles do you put on your car?” I usually answer with “a lot”. Yes, I have a zillion photos of every corner of the state of Iowa, so I do put quite a few miles on. But many people make the mistake of thinking that I’m constantly on the road traveling and that isn’t the case. Over time, I’ve actually become more selective of where and when I travel, as I’m trying to get to as many locations as possible in the least distance. But the miles still add up and every December, I sit down to calculate my mileage for the year – and the total for 2022 is 6,375 miles.

The trips fall into three basic categories:

Personal trips, where the destinations are my choice. Sometimes I bring family, sometimes I travel alone. Just depends on what the destination is and the timing. If it’s early morning or late at night, I’m probably on my own. In fact, I should probably write a post about some of the craziest Iowa places that I’ve been in the middle of the night by myself, but I’ll save that for another day.

FAM trips are when a community reaches out to Iowa Road Trip seeking help to promote their community. FAM actually stands for familiarization, not family. But sometimes I do get to bring the family on FAM trips, just depends on the location and what the goals are for the journey. My wife loves to come along for FAM trips that involve shopping and dining. If your community is interested in more exposure on Iowa Road Trip, reach out to us and we can talk through some ideas. Iowa Road Trip will also be exploring some advertising options in the coming year to help communities get their events and programs out to a new audience of road trippers.

The last category is an assignment trip, where someone has me traveling to capture a specific subject or location. These are mostly solo trips, but my kids have been invited along as photo assistants for a few of the assignments. As my kids get older, I’m just starting to say yes to more assignments and it’s led to some great adventures!

Snow cover in Des Moines

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Every year, I continue to spend more time with a drone in the air to capture unique scenes across Iowa. To my surprise, I spent the majority of my time flying to capture winter scenes in 2022. I think our travel and tourism partners downplay winter too much. We need to celebrate all four seasons.

This was a quick local trip to downtown Des Moines after a heavy snow, which covered everything. The clouds also cleared out to provide bright, vibrant blue skies. A fresh blanket of snow turns the Pappajohn Sculpture Park into pure eye candy. What I love about photography after a recent snowfall is simple, yet bold the photos are. The key is to find the right colors to pop against the winter snow.

The world’s largest truckstop is on I-80 in Iowa

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I’ve stopped at the Truckstop many times – but this year was the first time I really stopped and tried to take it all in. It’s crazy how many things are in this one truckstop (dentist, chiropractor, the list goes on). But our favorite surprise was the spinning semi! A full-size rig that slowly spins around on the showroom floor.

YouTube video

Touring Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Gilbertville

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I received a message from Father Huber, he was being reassigned to another parish and he reminded me that I hadn’t taken him up yet on his offer to visit Immaculate Conception Church in Gilbertville. So my wife and her friend made a quick day trip to Gilbertville and Father Huber provided us with a tour.

You must see Matchstick Marvels in Gladbrook

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Patrick Acton was a career counselor until his “addiction” to match sticks caused a change in his own career. He was hired by Ripley’s Believe It or Not to build massive replicas out of simple matchsticks! His hometown of Gladbrook has a museum dedicated to Patrick’s work.

It’s Danish, damn it: Danish Windmill in Elk Horn, Iowa

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I made my first visit to the annual Tivoli Fest in Elk Horn and also made my first trip inside the only working Danish windmill in the United States. Also check out: What to expect a Tivoli Fest in Elk Horn

Pella’s fantastic evening lighted parade

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I’ve been to Pella’s Tulip Festival before, but this year was the first time I visited the evening version of the parade.

Things to do in Storm Lake

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We got an invitation to check out Storm Lake, including Kings Pointe Resort and its lakefront water park. We also enjoyed their bike path around the lake, which has numerous chainsaw sculptures scattered on the trail and throughout town.

Mt Dew Skateboarding

My son and I were invited to photograph the Des Moines Dew Tour Skateboarding competition back in May. It featured the best skateboarders in the world – and we had press passes that gave us front-row seats to the action. We also got to sit in on several interviews with Olympic skateboarder Sky Brown. The event took place at the Lauridsen Skate Park in downtown Des Moines, which happens to be the largest skateboard park in North America!

KOA and the National Balloon Classic

KOA (Campgrounds of America) asked us to follow their hot air balloon during the National Balloon Classic in Indianola, Iowa. Almost every morning and evening, I chased the balloon across the countryside. They also gave a ride one morning during the competition – and the views were surreal. I also brought my daughter along to help photograph one morning and I was so busy firing away on the camera, that when I looked up, she was in the basket waving goodbye to me, as they were gracious enough to let her experience and photograph a flight as well.

Vinton, Iowa

I haven’t written a post about this journey yet – but it will include seeking out their collection of chainsaw carvings and sweet corn sculptures. I also made a stop at the glow-in-the-dark sidewalk in Vinton.

Field of Dreams

After I pointed out to the editor at The Iowan Magazine, that their magazine was sitting on the dashboard of Ray Consella’s VW bus in the movie Field of Dreams – I asked for the opportunity for a press pass to cover the game for them. The photos were just featured in the Nov/Dec issue of The Iowan Magazine.

American Dream Machine

If you’ve driven by the Pappajohn Sculpture Park at night, you’ve probably noticed the muscle car shop “American Dream Machine”. It’s pure eye candy for all classic car lovers. I was asked to photograph the car show and the American Dream Machine shop. Thanks to Doug and Julie Klein for being such great hosts – the photos were featured in the Nov/Dec issue of The Iowan Magazine.

Things to do in Fort Dodge, Iowa

I attended a blogging workshop by Midwest Travel Network which was hosted by Fort Dodge. During our three days, we visited the tallest mural in the state (grain silo), the state’s first permanent art museum (Blanden), and visited some great restaurants. I am looking forward to going back next summer to check out their outdoor adventure options including off-road vehicles, kayaking, and mountain biking!

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Jefferson, Iowa

This was another great trip that hasn’t turned into a post yet – we did a quick day trip to Jefferson, Iowa. Our original target was to just visit Deal’s Orchard, which we did. But we made a last-minute decision to visit RVP 1875 furniture shop, which we did not regret, and neither will you!

Things to do in Ames, Iowa

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Discover Ames invited us to Ames, to help showcase their community. We took in a Cyclone football game and tailgating, followed by shopping along Main Street and Reimen Gardens. We were pleasantly surprised by the variety of shopping and dining experiences available in Ames.

Goats on the Go

I spent an afternoon on a hillside in Hardin County, hanging out with Aaron Steele and 160 of his goats. Steele owns Goats on the Go which rents out hundreds of goats to communities, farmers, and landowners to help clear their property of unwanted vegetation. The article will be featured in a future edition of The Iowan Magazine.

Pella’s Dutch Christmas Market

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Kertsmrkt is Pella’s Dutch Christmas market which was hosting its 2nd market. Central Park in Pella is also all decked out in holiday lights, thanks to Spirit of Pella. The new light tunnel is a show-stopper!

Christmas Acres in LeMars

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Iowa’s largest rural Christmas lights display is run by the Scheiltler family of Le Mars, Iowa. Every year they decorate their property and collect donations that fund the Christian Needs Center of Le Mars, Iowa.

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