My son, William, and I took a head start on summer road tripping by taking a spring road trip. Some of you may not know this, but William suffered from a duplicating cyst on his esophagus which required a very complex form of thoracic surgery this winter. After three weeks in the hospital (UCHSC) and another 5 weeks recovering at home, we were ready to hit the road!
Three thousand miles of Land Cruiser fun couldn’t have been more apropos. If you haven’t done any serious road tripping recently, there are some things you should not leave home without.
iPhone (The GPS, Internet & Travel Features are quite simply awesome – forget all the dashboard razzle dazzle, the iPhone does it all.)
Books on Tape or their equivalent (A good reader can really make the miles blow by.)
Back to the trip; there really is no comparison to a two man trip. The back seat can then become almost everything; bed, cooler storage, closet, etc.
Here’s what we did. We left Denver and headed north. First major destination, Devil’s Tower, WY; I must have been very impressionable when the movie Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind was a box office hit, but I had always wondered about it. Getting there is amazing; every eco-zone is explored. Wyoming is very diverse in terrain and industry. Take your pick. DT makes no sense, and after reading about it, talking to the local Rangers, and physically driving and walking around and near it still leaves many unanswered questions. It is an enigma wrapped in a conundrum surrounded by a riddle. It really can’t be explained, but must be experienced. It’s like one of those after midnight stories, “you have to have been there”.
With Wyoming in our rear view mirror, our next stops were a clear view ahead through our newly installed windshield with a brand new pock mark from a passing truck; the Black Hills, Deadwood, and Mt. Rushmore.
First, the Black Hills are just that. So thick with dark, old growth pines they look black from a distance. Spectacular scenery, but we both agreed, the summer tourist season might be too much for our patience. Billboards ruin many stretches of highway. It makes you love Colorado’s moratorium on new billboard construction and replacement.
As we pulled into Deadwood, SD, I couldn’t help but wonder what it was like 150+ years ago. It instantly reminded me of Lee Marvin in Paint Your Wagon singing, I Was Born Under a Wondering Star. I can’t help it, I had an unusual childhood. Anyway, once again, the old mining town, now gambling town (Tourist Trap), clearly draws on one’s imagination. But, beckoning right around the corner, the main course is waiting for us.
Mt. Rushmore, is truly majestic. You really don’t get the scale, ambiance or mass of the monument from pictures or movies (OK, Maybe a little from Richie Rich). Once again, “you gotta be there”! The formality of the monument really took me by surprise.
Next stop, Rapid City, SD; we stopped at The Firehouse Brewing Co. Some good food, lots of people (Locals and travelers like us) and of course the home brews were pretty darn good!
Then it was off to Chamberlain, SD and our crossing of the Missouri River. Remember, it’s spring time and the rivers are full to their banks. It is really quite a sight coming from the high arid plains of eastern Colorado. Far and away, both William and I were struck with the quality of Interstate 90 all the way across South Dakota. It’s 412 Miles of smooth as a baby’s behind concrete. This is clearly one state that uses its gas tax as it should be used!
We followed I-90 right into Minnesota, then Wisconsin and on to Illinois. I can assure you the closer you get to Chicago the quality of the road gets worse. But first, let me tell you about the Wind Farms in Minnesota. We were so impressed by their size and scale that we exited and drove into one of the wind farms. Soon after walking around and taking a few pictures, an older gentleman pulled up, and gave us the low down. Xcel Energy is big-time into wind farming!
And, of course you can’t forget, Wall Drug! We started seeing signs in Wyoming for Wall Drug, “America’s Favorite Roadside Attraction”. I’m told they have signs on the South Pole. Who knows? I would reiterate, there are way too many bill boards in South Dakota.
As we continued east on I-90, Minnesota was dotted with farms. What appeared to be all sizes and shapes, farms everywhere! As we approached Wisconsin, we dropped down into La Crosse and crossed the banks of the Mighty Mississippi River. You know it’s going to be big, you know its spring time and sure enough, it’s everywhere! Right up to the edge and over in places; The Mississippi lives up to its name, Mighty.
From La Crosse, it’s just a couple of hours before we turn south on I-94 and begin our dissent into Chicago. We pass Madison, WI, home of the University of Wisconsin and the dreaded “Badgers”. Traffic becomes more intense, no more setting the cruise control and hanging on, trucks, trucks and more trucks, and now it’s raining.
As we pull into the northern suburbs of Chicago, our destination for the night, Evanston, IL home of the Northwestern Wildcats. Every year, the Duke Women’s Lacrosse Team plays these Wildcats, and in my five year tenure as a Duke Lax Dad, we have lost 4 of these meetings, but it was a home game in Durham, never did we win against the edge of Lake Michigan. It was a nice enough night. Not too cold, not too windy, for spring weather, it would be considered a nice evening by the locals. None the less we went to the after party once again frustrated by the loss.
We were up really, really early to drop some family at Midway, but then it was off to our final destination, further east to Indiana and the University of Notre Dame where I dropped William off to clean up his affairs prior to returning home for the summer.
I learned a great deal from this trip. First and foremost, this is a big country, and every time I crisscross it, I remember what a great country it is. Second, if you find yourself to often in a flying tubular petree dish, take some time. Get a map. Head out on the open road and be born again. And, last but not least, if you want to get closer to someone, put them in the car and put a few thousand miles behind you. Isn’t that really what it is all about?

About Tom & Dee Cryer

Your Trusted Advisors in the Homeownership Business!
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