The book “Detour Iowa: Historic Destinations” was released in February as a guide to Iowa’s curious, quaint and occasionally bizarre roadside attractions; places like Burlington’s Snake Alley, a dizzily winding street that falls 60 feet in a single city block.

Unfortunately, by the time the book arrived in stores the entire country was under lockdown. Since then, much of Iowa has reopened, although the wisdom of doing that is yet to be determined. 

In any case, “Detour Iowa,” which is available online and at Beaverdale Books for $22, is a safe way to ease back into a travel mindset with virtual visits.

Council Bluffs-based travel writer Mike Whye compiled this unique list of historic distractions in chapters that are organized geographically from northwest to southeast. I’ll list a few today. If there is interest, I’ll return with more in the coming weeks.

Whye’s tour begins in Gitchie Manitou State Preserve in the farthest northwest corner of Iowa in Lyon County, where visitors can see what are believed to be the oldest rocks in Iowa – red and purple Sioux quartzite, estimated to be 1.6 billion years old.

Not far south is the Blood Run National Historic Landmark, a gated site – gated as in no cars, footpaths only – where Blood Run Creek meets the Big Sioux River. The area was home to some of Iowa’s earliest humans 6,500 years ago. Among their artifacts is a boulder “about the size of a stuffed chair, … covered with small pits – about the width of golf balls” created long ago by human hands. For what purpose, no one knows.

Farther south in Council Bluffs are three oddly related attractions.

One is a granite spire that commemorates Abraham Lincoln’s August 1859 visit to a bluff overlooking the Missouri River where he met Grenville Dodge – then a 28-year-old surveyor – and they talked about creating a transcontinental railroad. Three years later, President Lincoln signed the Transcontinental Railroad Act and designated Council Bluffs as its eastern terminus.

Dodge, a pioneer of military intelligence during the Civil War, was tapped after the war to lead the Union Pacific Railroad out of Council Bluffs. His mansion, which contains Council Bluffs’ first flush toilet, is the second attraction.

The third is a bronze statue of an angel by Daniel Chester French, designer of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. At the same time French was sculpting Lincoln, Dodge commissioned a tribute to his wife. French’s “Black Angel” marks the grave of Ruth Anne Dodge, “who spoke of dreaming of an angel shortly before she died.”

Really old architecture is our next focus. In Elk Horn, on a wide spot in the road between Atlantic and Harlan, is an authentic Danish windmill that was built in Denmark in 1846 and is near the Museum of Danish America.

Twenty-three miles farther north is an even older structure, a two-story hausbarn that originally sheltered a German family and their livestock during the 17th century. More than 300 years later, the farm building was taken apart and shipped to Manning, a German community in western Carroll County, where it was reassembled in 1996 as the centerpiece of the Manning Hausbarn Heritage Park.  

Moving on to something a bit more modern, we find two Iowa banks that were designed by  Louis Sullivan, the early 20th-century architect known as the “father of skyscrapers.” His Iowa banks were the opposite and were often called “jewel-box banks” because of their size and intricate design.

Iowa’s first jewel-box bank was rectangular in shape and opened in Algona in 1913. Two years later a square version opened in Grinnell. Both are brick and are trimmed with colorful ceramic tile, terra cotta and stained glass windows.

Neither building houses a bank today, but both are open as local Chamber of Commerce offices.