AMES, Iowa — The rich culture and interesting lifestyles of Iowa’s most unique communities await participants in the Road Scholar program. The travel courses are created and taught by Diane Van Wyngarden, a community and economic development specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
“I provide history and insights about each community you’ll visit and take you into private homes and places you could never otherwise experience,” Van Wyngarden said.
The 2012 travel schedule includes tours of Iowa’s uncommon utopian communities, historic towns along the Upper Mississippi River and a four-state tour along the Missouri River.
The travel adventures are geared for lifelong learners and are part of the national Road Scholar nonprofit organization, Van Wyngarden explained. The courses require no prior study, no homework and no tests — simply a desire to learn. The programs are open to all adults, but most participants are age 45 and above.
“The programs attract couples, friends traveling together, persons sharing an adventure with one of their parents, and many solo travelers,” Van Wyngarden said.
Each course has a theme of study and includes travel by boat or motorcoach to a different community each day, covering 500-900 miles in six or seven days, Van Wyngarden said. “The courses are very economical, since course fees include virtually all costs, including all hotels, motorcoach, boats, instructors, entry fees, your personal host and study leaders, almost all meals and even all gratuities.”
The all-inclusive courses cost less than $200 per day, double occupancy. Every detail is already planned and paid, so participants can simply relax and enjoy the experiences, Van Wyngarden said.
Registration is now open and the courses are filling quickly. To register for a program, call National Road Scholar in Boston (toll free) at 1-877-426-8056 and state the program number of the appropriate course, or register online from the links on the ISU Extension and Outreach Road Scholar website.
1. Exploring Uncommon Communities: A Touch of History, A Taste of Utopia
Enjoy a personal visit with Old Order Amish inside their homes; hear them speak about their lifestyle and beliefs; see how they operate their kitchens and woodworking shops without electricity. Then cross the Mississippi River into Illinois to explore beautiful Nauvoo, home of the Mormons and lesser known Icarians. Back in Iowa, we are treated to a private peek inside the homes and domes of the Maharishi in Vedic City and an organic lunch at the Raj Resort, referred to as the "Mayo Clinic of natural healing." Discover the delightful history and humor of the Amana Colonies from a noted colony historian and unveil the wonderfully rich, true story that lies behind the restaurants and fudge shops that many people think of as the Amanas. We finally enjoy a day of ethnic foods, costumed Dutch dancing and parades at Pella's famous Tulip Festival. Savor themed dining, which encapsulates the study of the societies we learn about each day. This program begins and ends in Des Moines.
2. Upper Mississippi River Reflections: Historic Towns, Trails and Tales
Learn about the Mighty Mississippi from regional experts as we travel the river and the Great River Road, exploring historic towns, seasonal foliage, migratory birds and local stories. Enjoy three river excursions on three uniquely different boats, including a half-day chartered eco tour narrated by a towboat captain through locks and National Wildlife Refuge; the personal stories by a commercial clammer on his pontoon boat into backwaters, and a seven-hour cruise on a Victorian riverboat. Come nose to beak with bald eagles at the National Eagle Center and go behind the scenes at the Mississippi Environmental lab to view cutting edge research. Other stops include the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque; guided historical tour of Galena, Ill.; learn about the effigy mound builders at Pike's Peak bluff and enjoy spectacular views along the route. Overnight lodging in 3-star hotels include Bloomington, Minn., Onalaska, Wis., and Dubuque, Iowa. This program begins and ends in Minnesota’s Twin Cities.
3. Missouri River Reflections: A Ribbon of Legends Through Four States
The Missouri has a history like no other river. Explore this great waterway's legends as you travel the Loess Hills Scenic Byway into Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. Meet a modern-day treasure hunter and his steamboat discovery in Kansas City; walk the brick streets of Omaha's Old Market; fly through Amelia Earhart's home in Atchison, Kan.; and trot into Saint Joseph, Mo., to see where the Pony Express began and Jesse James ended. Study Harry Truman's life in Independence, and follow Lewis and Clark's footsteps to Council Bluffs, Iowa. Learn how significant events affected the river valley, and gain an understanding of the Loess Hills, the only loess formations of this depth in the Western Hemisphere. Laugh with storytellers and relax with the currents as you wind around the Missouri River's many bends aboard two riverboat excursions. This program begins and ends in Omaha.