At the crossroads of Central Texas, West Texas, and South Texas, the Texas Hill Country has something for everyone. Find swimming holes fed by rivers winding beneath limestone bluffs, woodlands filled with wildlife, and a pink granite mountain located near one of Texas’s favorite shopping town. Step back in time by exploring the Alamo or one of the German settlements from the mid-1800s.

Springfield, Illinois, is the state capital of Illinois with lots of historic sites, gorgeous architecture, many memorials, and more. Springfield is often called the Land of Lincoln, with good reason. You can step back in time to see historical sites where Abraham Lincoln lived and worked, raised his children, and was laid to rest. Looking at some of the classical architecture that frames the buildings and memorials, Springfield could also easily be called “little DC” (without the harrowing traffic).

As you begin heading East on I-70 out of Manhattan, you might notice some road signs that say “Native Stone” byway. I was not in a hurry to head back to Kansas City. I turned off the road and began following the signs to a small town called Alma. Alma, Kansas, located in the Flint Hills, was first settled in 1858 by Swedish, English, Irish, and Germany settlers. Most of the buildings in the small city are also made of the native limestone from the nearby hills. It is, as the road signs said, a city made of native stone.

Native Stone Scenic Drive

Alma is part of both the Scenic Mill Creek Drive and the Native Stone Scenic Drive. You can see remnants of the old stone fences that the government paid farmers to build back in 1867. Downtown, the main buildings still retain their historical look. The limestone blocks were often hauled to the site by heavy wagons and horses and were put in place by hand with heavy ropes.

Where to find it? (Map)

Note. The photos were taken with an old iPhone. The pixelation in a lot of these pictures is a good example of a digital zoom vs optical zoom. So, this trip is what made me reconsider purchasing a new point and shoot so that I didn’t have to carry around my large DSLR on short trips, but one that still took higher quality photos.

For more information about the historic places (and more stone buildings) in the city, visit the City of Alma, Kansas website.

Often called the Gateway to the Prairie, Manhattan, Kansas is a scenic city that offers a little bit of everything from a clear, beautiful state lake to the sprawling Kansas State University campus. Manhattan is located just 90 miles from Kansas City. Be greeted by the Flint Hills as you drive in from Interstate 70 and turn on one of the roads that take you through Pillsbury Crossing, originally a crossing for pioneers. Want to experience the city’s multiple restaurants, shops, and bars? Visit the Aggieville District, the oldest shopping district in Kansas. Many of the buildings in the town are also created from the same native stone that lines the bluffs.

Iowa, nicknamed the Hawkeye State, is a state bordered by rivers; Missouri and Big Sioux in the west and the Mississippi in the east. At 200 miles from top to bottom and 310 miles from side to side, Iowa is a state that can be easily explored in segments. While there are plenty of cornfields and pastures throughout the state, a variety of natural landmarks expose the vibrant wildlife within the state. Explore the lakes, historic landmarks, dramatic bluffs along the Mississippi River, and other natural wonders available in the Iowa parks system.

Missouri is known as the “show-me” state and with good cause. Parks in Missouri consists of award-winning trails that take you through wooded forests, grasslands, and deep underground through deep underground caves. The list of Missouri attractions, such as historic national sites, also makes for a great weekend getaway. Take a tour through the Ozarks and or follow the Missouri River Water Trail. What’s on your bucket list?

Planning for a road trip? Mapping out your route is one of the most important steps, especially for those who seem to have no internal compass whatsoever. Sometimes it’s great to go off the beaten path, but only if you know how to get back on at some point. Here are some tips for determining directions, figuring out maps, mile markers, and how to get where you are going without going too crazy.