The Tallest Mural in Iowa

Nestled between the Des Moines River and a little park (Loomis Park) sits an old abandoned concrete silo – turned into a rural masterpiece on the outer edges of Fort Dodge, Iowa.

Guido van Helten (Australian Artist)

The Australian artist, Guido van Helten, was commissioned through various donations and grants to transform an old abandoned silo (within the Fort Dodge, Iowa city limits) into a masterpiece.

Guido van Helten was able to take some of the local stories of cultural pride and individual character and display them on a 360 degree concrete canvas on the silo.

Iowa’s Tallest Mural

The 110 foot tall mural boasts the state of Iowa’s tallest mural – and upon finding the mural, it’s breath taking. Who would have thought that something that once was seen as an ugly back drop could possess beauty and character? That’s exactly what van Helten accomplished!

How to find the mural

I am usually one for adventure and my Youtube video below shows the adventure of setting out and trying to find the mural WITHOUT directions. I figured – “Hey – it’s a 110 foot silo on the edge of Fort Dodge – How hard can it be to find?”

Well – I found it! But let me save you the trouble of wandering around the back roads of Fort Dodge!

The Silo Mural can be found at:

727 Hawkeye Avenue, Fort Dodge, Iowa

My “Silo Mural Adventure” Video

The mural is breathtaking and it takes you off guard! When you head down Hawkeye avenue and come up on the silo, it overlooks the Des Moines River and calls out to the art admirers, rural wanderers, and tourist alike “I have a story to tell”.

I encourage you to find this mural in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Do yourself a favor and add items like this to your bucket-list. These rural spots in Iowa and the Mid-West are perfect destinations to explore! Often times the Mid-West (especially rural Mid-west) is seen as unimportant “fly-over” spots between destinations. However, scattered along the country side, there are pockets of interests and things to be discovered and explored!

Go out and visit these places! Follow along on either my vlog or blog here at and see what places exist in rural America! Come along as I vlog and blog real life in America’s Heartland!

Iowa’s tallest mural is worth a short visit – whether exploring the community of Fort Dodge, or passing through on Highway 20 to the south. Mark it down as a destination of interest – it’s worth the trip!

Pumpkin Patch Fever

Solsma “Punkin” Patch

Fall in Northwest Iowa brings in harvest, with the crops in the field, apples in the orchards, and most especially pumpkins! Should I even start to get into the different varieties? Different colors with oranges, yellow’s, whites, and the different range of our seeded friends from miniature to huge!

Don’t forget the squash! Whether it’s from acorn, butternut, or spaghetti squash. The list goes on and on from gourds, and other fun treats found in the local rural pumpkin patch!

This specific patch Solsma Punkin Patch has been around and in business for over 21 years outside Sanborn and Hartley, Iowa.

If you are curious about the mis-spelling of “pumpkin patch” – well, there is a story behind that too! You can check out the Solsma video below – but the story behind it is how the owner’s grandpa used to call her “Punkin” so the name stuck!

The Pumpkin Patch – A rural delight

I love pumpkin patches and everything they have to offer. If you are looking to escape into a rural setting, and want to have a fun time exploring, playing, picking out pumpkins and other items, getting into Fall decorating and festive moods – there is no better place then the pumpkin patch. It shouts “Rural-America” and why is that such a big deal? Because it helps you escape the hustle and bustle of urban life – even if you’re simply in a small town. Get out in the country and take a stress-free stroll through a pumpkin patch!

Corn Maze Adventure

Another thing I would check on is if the pumpkin patch has a corn maze? I found myself reliving my childhood and finding delight in walking through and exploring the Corn Maze at Solsma Punkin Patch. There were twists and turns, different paths, cross-roads where decisions needed to be made – some that led you down the right path towards exiting the corn maze and some that led you further down the wrong path to a dead-end. Insider Tip – It’s easy to get lost in a corn maze – ask for a map! If you have children – sometimes its wise to ask for a “marking device like a flag”. I was thankful that the owner talked me into a map they made! I took a few wrong turns!

It’s Fun!

Seriously, the entire trip to a pumpkin patch is not only adventurous, but it’s fun! Many different activities can present themselves at the local patch – including a corn maze (shown above) and below there can be other activities from games, bouncy houses, food and beverage vendors, and even a little basketball shootout (pictured below) in rural fashion!

There are many great pumpkin patches to visit! Solsma Punkin Patch is found in O’Brien County in Northwest Iowa. The map and directions are listed below. If you are nearby or passing through stop and give them a howdy from the Country Pilgrim! (If you miss pumpkin patch season – never fear! – They have fireworks and other things for sale in their shop! Check out their website and plan a visit! It’s worth the trip!

All credit and rights for the video is by captain claire on youtube. Also found on the Solsma website.

You can find the Solsma Punkin Patch at 6190 320th – Sanborn, IA 51218 –

or click here for Solsma Punkin Patch Facebook Page.

Zip Lining in the Smoky’s

One thing we always love doing on any vacation is turning up the dial (in terms of adding adventure to our travel) whether it’s white water rafting, exploring trails and caves, rock-climbing, horseback riding, and this trip we tried our hand at zip-lining!


If you never tried zip-lining – I highly suggest it! It’s a great time and gives you an opportunity to see a different view of the area you are traveling!

This time – because we were short of time and didn’t have long to do more zip-lining we chose Adventure Park at Five Oaks. It was pretty close to everything around Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg and had 7 different lines to explore the treetops and getting up to 50 mph – including a race zip line at the end, which was perfect for the competitiveness in our family to see who was top dog in zip-lining (note: it wasn’t me).

There are a ton of options in the smoky’s for good zip lining – just google “Zip-lining in the Smoky’s” and you’ll have plenty to choose from! I will admit that we had a super positive experience with Adventure Park at Five Oaks – and though they don’t allow you to video or take pics while on the ride (due to liability) there are plenty of pics they take for you at the end of the zip-line tour.



Check them out at 

Dan – The Country Pilgrim giving thumbs up!

Tami – Holding on for the ride

Kadyn – First Zippin down the line!

Kaleb – Giving the peace sign and zipping down the line!


All in all – it was a fun experience and would likely do it again! Make sure to listen to the guides as they take you along, and zip with enthusiasm! =)



Traveling through the Smoky’s


The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the busiest and most visited National Park in the country, averaging around 13 million visitors annually! In fact, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park receives more annual visitors than Glacier, Yellowstone, and Rocky Mountain National Parks COMBINED! That puts things in perspective to how popular the park is! So, because of crowds it’s important to have a plan before you go!

For this trip 2020 we avoided most of the large crowds due to COVID-19 (which basically meant avoiding Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg)- though the towns looked like a lot of fun – minus eating at one restaurant upon arrival we stayed to hiking and scenic byways! We plan on making a return visit sometime in the future to explore those towns!

My suggestion would be to hit the Newfound Gap Road Scenic Byway (Route US 441). The 31 mile route is the most traveled road in the park and for good reason. Some of the biggest things to see are along its route –


If you are a hiker – you could park along the route and hike Chimney Tops – pictured above.

Further down the road as you climb over the mountain top there is a great scenic outlook directly on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina – pictured below


It’s at this same outlook that you can encounter the Appalachian Trail as it intersects the Scenic Byway on its 2,190 journey from Georgia to Maine.


About 9 miles further down the road sits Clingmans Dome which at 6,643 feet, is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is the highest point in Tennessee, and the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi.

Here’s a short video I put together in celebration of Newfound Gap Road.



Take in Clingmans Dome and make sure you have water and are ready for the half-mile hike (which sounds short – until you are hiking nearly STRAIGHT UP) so make sure you are in shape. It’s a paved trail and there are benches along the way and a few places to stop and gather your strength and breath!

However, once you get to the top, there is an observation tower that gives you quite the view! In fact, it was rumored that before much of the air pollution in the area that you could see up to 100 miles on a clear day! We weren’t that fortunate as the clouds made it a bit hazy – but the view was still worth it!


A short video of hiking Clingmans Dome!


There are plenty of options to do along this route – including crossing over the mountain into North Carolina, or turning back a few miles back and taking the Laurel Trail-head for a hike and exploration of Laurel Falls (which I will include in another blog post!). Most importantly its the scenery of the Smoky Mountains that is so alluring and breath taking. While they are not as rugged and wild as the Rockies or some other mountains in the world, they are still mountains and offer plenty of lush green views with their tree covered appearance and their fresh moving, gentle and vibrant rivers and waterfalls.

If you have time – don’t forget Cades Cove Loop – another highlight of the National Park! We didn’t have time as we were traveling through this day – but would advise it – just be prepared for large crowds and slow moving traffic. What might take an hour normal time could easily take 3 hours – half a day, especially if you are taking the full loop and taking time to stop and explore.

I love having you network with me and coming along with either my vlog or blog journey’s! Feel free to comment or reach out if you have any questions or thoughts – and don’t forget to hit the follow or subscribe buttons on either channels. I’m thankful for you taking the time to read or just browsing through our pics and videos.

Be safe and Happy Travels or Dreams of Travel!

Dan – The Country Pilgrim

Traveling through Tennessee

Our road trip to the east coast went right through the heart of Tennessee and though it’s a long state (it’s worth the trip across the state) whether it’s making stops near the music scene in Memphis or the music scene in Nashville, the state has a lot to offer! Especially in the rural areas! 


We made our way down the National Scenic Byway “Woodlands Trace” or better known as “The Trace” which also is known as “The Land Between The Lakes” in Kentucky – but it takes you across the Tennessee border right in the thick of whiskey country! You’ll hear stories about the whiskey trail, and the closer you get to Nashville and further south to Lynchburg, Tennessee – stories of Jack Daniels and scenic byways that criss-cross the state headed through the Cumberland Plateau region and further into the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains and over along the Newfound Gap Road!

But on this journey, we made a stop in Cookeville, Tennessee to meet a fellow blogger Tom and Kristi,  owners and bloggers of


Tom and Dan social distancing on our first meet and greet! Outside the train depot in downtown Monterey, Tennessee.

Tom is a great guy and I enjoyed his blog post so much about Monterey that I wanted to see it for myself! These are the type of adventures I love the most – and rural towns have a lot to offer! Don’t overlook these areas when you travel – the hospitality is typically unmatched and it was unfortunate that it was during COVID-19 otherwise I would have more pics and videos to show around the depot.


We had a personalized tour of the downtown area and historic Imperial Hotel – with its rich history in Tennessee. We didn’t have a lot of time since we were just passing through on our way to the Big Smoky Mountains, but it was worth the connection! If you get a chance to visit Tom’s blog too so! He has some great information and knows quite a bit about the great outdoors from North Carolina, Tennessee, and out beyond Wyoming and Montana! If you want to dig in and really understand an area bloggers are the way to go!

Rural towns! Rural living! Rural adventure! It’s the rich fabric that makes us who we are!


We have the Great Smoky Mountain region coming up next! But…it’s the relationships and memory-making that makes travel and tourism so rich! Not to mention the economic importance and educational value in it.

Travel safe my friends!

Dan – The Country Pilgrim