We had the good fortune of connecting with JayJay Goodvin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi JayJay, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
We always say, “you can’t spell routine without rut”, on The Iowa Gallivant. Stick to your specialties, but always encourage yourself, and your fan base, to never stop trying to mix it up a little during your travels. That’s what has driven myself and our entertaining brand since 2014. And remember our slogan…..Our favorite destination is the next one!
Like many travel writers and bloggers, we seek out amazing and memorable events to cover. However, your brand and talents can be THEE event. We’ve created several interesting and fun ways to promote communities and businesses by coming up with great topics and featuring some hardworking people. The Best Between Bread, Best Hometown Tacos, Iowa’s Wurst Road Trip: Casing the State for the Best Sausage, are just a few of the topics we’ve started that’s helped us gather a large and growing fan base.
One thing we specialize in is small towns and the splendor that can exude from them. I like to say, “smaller the town-the bigger the market.” Thousands of our followers are eager to see where our next off the beaten path adventures will be. Especially with locales in the Midwest. The folks that live in these communities obviously love the positive publicity they’re receiving and naturally share our gallivants when they see them. Then there’s the people who may have moved away and can’t wait to hoist up a story about their old hometowns. Next are the intrigued persons who’ve never heard of some the places we promote and find it irresistible to click on the headline or featured image.
Staying genuine is above all else the most important. We don’t script our interviews and videos, and I never try to be someone I’m not. Locals will always be my favorite reason to venture out. We always focus on the splendor wherever we go. The characters we meet are truly the ones that make our gallivants possible and everyone else’s. It’s why we’ve been invited to areas all over the country with the Gallivant nation expanding with every opportunity that comes our way..
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
In the late 90s I set out to be a standup comidieran and made it happen. Then I said I wanted to be a chef so I worked all over the county and earned that position. Next I was tasked to create a grassroots marketing concept for a national restaurant chain and succeeded in that. Then I wanted to be a professional writer and traveler and its all led to where we are now!
My career and life has mad a full circle since I left Iowa for Arizona and the Sonoran Desert. I went on to the mountains of Montana, Cape Cod, the Florida Keys, the Black Hills of South Dakota, Austin, Central Illinois, and then back to my hometown of Iowa City. Every community, sweaty kitchen, regular customers, fellow co-worker,s, late night, endless restaurant rushes, and more mentors I can count have shaped my life and it makes me emotional just thinking of it all.
Endless blacktops, beachfronts, back roads, and boundless opportunities that came with every single turn was a lifelong blessing.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Let’s do this! You’re flying into Sioux Falls, SD which is just minutes from the NW tip of Iowa and JayJay is going to take you on one of the most memorable and rewarding gallivants of your life and it’s all through Iowa! Let’s drive an RV…
We start at Blood Run near Larchwood and you’ll be on the grounds of an ancient Native American community. The rolling prairie will give you a glimpse into how the state looked before pioneers and settlers showed up with all its unique natural beauty. After the hike you’ll need a cold one at Rock River Brewing in nearby Rock Rapids!
East onto the blacktop of HWY 9 where we’ll stop at Hawkeye Point. Get ready to mark another highest point off your bucket list because we’ll be climbing a whole 1670 ft to Iowa’s most elevated point! Hey, it’s not Denali but it’s a delicious roadside attraction. And how about we get you an eye opener at Drink Me Brewing in Sibley while we’re there.
The rest of the afternoon will be spent in one of the most iconic and entertaining group of lake communities in America. Welcome to Okoboji! Endless restaurants, unforgettable skies, beautiful state parks, and all the lakefronts you could possibly ask for.
We’ll spend the night at a place near the town of Superior. Little Swan Lake Winery-B&B. A very old barn converted into a rural winery with award winning varietales and your room with a wooden bathtub awaits. At the top of the barn will be the amazing deck that overlooks the entire property. At night we’ll drink local wine, watch the sunset over the rolling pastures while fireflies swarm the bison heard below us in full view with billions of stars in a clear sky.
After a gourmet egg bake we get back on HWY 9 and continue east. Iowa’s geography will change as the pastures begin to turn into vast landscapes of crops where you’ll see how this state feeds the world. Lunch in Forest City. And yes, Winnebago County is where Winnebagos are made….We’ll smash some gourmet pizza and huge burritos while playing vintage arcade games and all at one place. Borderline Pizza & Taco Jerry’s!
Your swimwear may not have even gotten a chance to dry yet because we’re dipping into Clear Lake! Another amazing lake town that was named one of America’s top beach communities by the USA Today! Before we leave town we’ll visit the historic Surf Ballroom where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper played their last show. It was called, the day the music died, and it changed the path of rock and roll. The nearby crash site of their plane is a must see. Clear Lake, Iowa is one of the most important landmarks in American music history.
Let’s spend the night in Rudd and get to know small-town Iowa! Population 400 and home to Tank’s Bar & Grill that’s walking distance to our campground where we left the RV. Did you leave the keys in the ignition? Don’t even worry about it. Tank’s has legendary ribs and plenty of beers and cocktails to go with them. The locals won’t be shy when it comes to how much they love Tank’s and we won’t be the only out-of-towners knockin’em back. This place is legendary.
Let’s set out for New Hampton and Klunder’s where you’ll have one of the best breakfasts in the state! Everything is homemade right down to the pancake batter. I’m getting biscuits and gravy and we’re not leaving without pie.
As we continue east you’ll notice the scenery changing again. We’re in the Driftless Area and beauty it portrays. The hills are now steeper, the roads winding even more, the woodlands are thicker and bluffs are appearing before your eyes. Lunch in Decorah where we’ll enjoy Norwegian heritage food and the Driftless Area Scenic Byway.
We have now made it to the northeastern border of New Albin on the Upper Mississippi. Minnesota and Wisconsin are in view from here. We’ll stop for a snack at City Meat’s which is Iowa’s oldest meat market. Get the jerky and plenty of meat sticks!
We stay the night in Lansing, Iowa on a houseboat on the Mississippi River. A quick drive up to the summit of Mount Hosmer which I believe is the most unforgettable overlook anywhere on the Mississippi River. We’ll eat dinner at the Safe House Saloon (they have an old bank vault as their front door) where we’ll have more gourmet pizza and choose drinks from the list of Iowa beers on tap. Sunset over the historic Black Hawk Bridge as we gently bob up and down from our houseboat’s top deck on the Mississippi.
Breakfast at Coffee on the River. It’s a repurposed flour mill and one of the most beautiful of its kind in the country. You won’t believe you’re still in Iowa as we head south on the Great River Road. Unbelievable Driftless beauty will be surrounding us.
We’ll eat lunch at one of Iowa’s most legendary food trucks. Inside the little town of Elkader is 2 MIT Burger! Local beef searing on the grill and smothered in delicious grilled onions. They make their own mustard and the buns are baked fresh everyday just across the street at the local bakery. Want something to go with your burger experience? Let’s make room for Schera’s! Authentic Algerian cooking in small-town Iowa on the banks of the Turkey River!
We’ll spend the night in my hometown of Iowa City! A university town with all the culture, restaurants, nightlife, and shopping that comes with it. My friends and family won’t let you down because we’re going to tackle this town like a linebacker during a Hawkeye game. We’ll start in my childhood neighborhood called Goosetown. Iowa City’s oldest district and some of the street signs still have Czech phrases. You must see the mysterious Black Angel, brought here from Bohemia, at Oakland Cemetery. She’s filled with many stories of urban legends. To this day the reason why this towering monument turned black has gone unexplained. The Hilltop is IC’s oldest bar and we’ll start there. Breweries, clubs, and rooftops are awaiting, so keep up! We’ll crash in Downtown-IC at the Graduate and call it a night after several laps around one of the best college atmospheres in the Midwest. Let’s sleep-in…..
Wake up and destroy an omelet at the iconic Hamburg Inn. This diner brings in presidential candidates from both sides every few years because you can’t campaign in Iowa and not vote for yourself during the annual coffee bean caucuses. Let’s head south again…
Our afternoon will be spent in Fairfield where we’ll experience one of the most eclectic and diverse populations in the state. The population is around 9,000 and at one time only San Francisco had more restaurants per capita. Start naming international culinary delights and Fairfield most likely has a place for it. Two of Iowa’s most well known cideries are here and plenty of shops with an incredible range of choices.
Roadside attraction alert! We just started heading west and the town of Eldon is on the horizon. This place is home to one of the most significant landmarks in the history of art worldwide. The location of Grant Wood’s American Gothic House. One of history’s most recognizable paintings and you can stand in the exact spot where Grant Wood created it. The energy of this landmark can be very impactful and the visitors center will give you clothes and a pitchfork so you can recreate the subjects in Wood’s painting!
We’ll have dinner at the Sunrise Bakery near the Village of Bonaparte. A 100% home cooked Amish supper that you’ll never forget! Don’t bother making reservations. They don’t have a phone! Just show up hungry. The night will be spent in the Village of Bentonsport. That is if you don’t get too scared! Near the banks of the Des Moines River is the Mason House Inn. One of the most haunted hotels in America. Some have even called the Mason a portal for spirits. Can you handle this?
Get any sleep? Let’s get breakfast in Centerville on the Largest Town Square in America! Btw….We haven’t been boating in a couple days. Lake Rathburn is nearby and I feel like soaking in the Iowa sun for one more day on this epic road trip. Before we leave Appanoose County we’ll go through Cincinnati and Brazil and never leave Iowa!
After that BBQ by the lake, we’ll continue west on the Historic Hills Scenic Byway. and into SW-Iowa. Creston is where we’ll enjoy another wonderful brewery and observe one of the most impressive collections of public art anywhere. World famous muralists, local legends. and youngsters have turned Uptown Creston into an inspiring hotbed for art lovers and artists of all kinds and skill levels. You WILL lose count of all the works!
We’ll stay at Lake Icaria for the night in Adams County. In nearby Corning (Birthplace of Johnny Carson) is the Primrose and it just might be home to one of the Midwest’s most talented chefs. He could have opened his farm to table concept anywhere in the country but he chose Corning which is in the least populated county of Iowa. The menu, service, cocktails, and flavors are unmatched at the Primrose!
Your last day of your Gallivant…..Let’s get a giant breakfast at the Rainbow in Red Oak and head to the Loess Hills! We’ve made it to the Missouri River and back to Iowa’s western border. The Loess Hills National Scenic Byway stretches though hundreds of miles of Western Iowa and through 7 counties. Breathtaking overlooks, endless hiking trails, scenery you can’t see anywhere else and little towns popping up throughout our adventure. It’s the path Lewis & Clark used and we will too!
Our last night will be in Malvern. A tiny town with a lot of good vibes. We’ll stay at a stunning AirBnB called the Art Church. A converted Presbyterian church with and art studio up top and beautiful place to stay in what would have been the old church hall below. From the front door is the Classic Cafe in full view. A little walk down the brick road and you can dive into the greatest smoked prime rib I’ve ever had in my life!
Well, the next morning will arrive and you’ll need to catch your flight back home. Good thing Omaha International is only 40 minutes north of Malvern. Cripes am I glad you gallivanted my home state. And you’ve only scratched the surface. After this trip you’ll argue with anyone that calls Iowa flat, not very scenic, a flyover state or ordinary. I’ll see you in the fall, my friend!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The Iowa Gallivant would’ve never happened if it wasn’t for my family. A summer scrapbooking project turned into 8 years of constant travels and memorable moments for all of us.
Thank you to the lifers in the kitchens, the storytellers at every bar, wise cracking servers, local historians, fellow travel bloggers and writers, random helpers, and the great people who have assisted with organizing our trips everywhere. Keep gallivanting. Never stop gallivanting!
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