Heading west from Des Moines? Here’s a lovely scenic drive that gives you an excuse to discover the dustiest of Iowa’s dusty back roads. In little more than 100 miles you’ll visit the birthplace of The Duke, pass by some of America’s most iconic bridges, visit a fascinating collection of vintage aircraft and, finally, take in the site of the West’s first train robbery.
This route was first published in 2010 on RoadTrip America. To see this piece in its original form (together with interactive map) and hundreds of other route suggestions covering North America, visit www.RoadtripAmerica.com.
Here are a few highlights to look out for along the way:
Des Moines (starting point)
It may have lost some of the 50s charm so vividly described in Bill Bryson’s childhood memoirs, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, but there’s still plenty to entertain the passing visitor. Top of the list has got to be the beautiful Capitol Building ; other attractions worth investigating include Fort Des Moines and the annual Iowa State fair.
John Wayne’s birthplace, Winterset (mile 42)
Pay a visit to John Wayne’s birthplace. As well as the restored house itself, there’s also a museum, gift shop and enough memorabilia to satisfy the most avid of The Duke’s fans.
Bridges of Madison County (mile 42-62)
There are 6 remaining Bridges of Madison County. The suggested route takes in 4 of them – including my personal favurites, Roseman and Hogback – but you can of course tailor your drive according to the time available.
Iowa Aviation Museum (mile 83)
Iowa Aviation Museum is one of those charming local museums, home to a small but impressive collection of early aircraft and various exhibits exploring the state’s aviation history.
Jesse James Memorial Park, Adair (mile 106)
It’s hard to imagine a more historic location in terms of the history of the West – this is where the James Gang masterminded the West’s first train robbery, derailing the train (which killed the engineer) but only finding a disappointing $2000 in the safe and a further $1000 in the pockets of the terrified passengers.