May 25-30, 2015
I’ve been delayed on my posting – but I haven’t forgotten. I’m writing this now that we are home.
After spending a couple more days with the kids it was time to turn our heads west and start on the long trek home. We had a journey of 1,426 miles and four nights to get to Cody, Wyoming – eastern gateway of Yellowstone National Park. Our drive would take us through Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. With this long drive ahead of us we didn’t stop for much other than food and gas; but we saw some of the beautiful northern plains.
Clouds were threatening as we pulled out of the Chicago metro area but we didn’t have much rain…. until Carla took the wheel after a couple of hours. I haven’t seen rain that hard many times. It came down so hard that we couldn’t see a semi that was less than 100 yards in front of us. Scary. We were pretty tired when we got to Eau Claire, Wisconsin where we stayed for the night. We checked into the hotel and didn’t venture very far for dinner – another of the medium sized diners we’ve see so much of. We shared some fish and chips and had some mediocre coconut cream pie for desert. We’ve been spoiled by the Dessert Tray in Beaverton I guess.
The next morning we crossed the Mississippi River into Minnesota as we skirted north of the Minneapolis, St. Paul metropolitan area. As we passed through some of the towns we saw historical markers for the Lake Wobegon Trail, so we stopped in Freeport to see what was up.
It looks like the trail crosses a wide chunk of Minnesota. The road signs say no motor vehicles are allowed except snow mobiles. I bet that would be a fun way to go from town to town in the winter (I’m not being sarcastic).
While parked in Freeport, I saw a sign for a “hanging beef” buffet.
I’ve certainly never heard of that before; I wonder what it is. It’s happening as I write this post a couple of weeks later!
An hour or two later we crossed into North Dakota; our first time in this state by car – we passed through it on our train trip on the Empire Builder in 2013. We kept an eye out for wood chippers but saw nary a one. Fargo is the home to North Dakota State University – it is a nice little college town and we hit it on a lovely spring day. I spent a bit of time track side but nothing was moving so we walked through town.
Fargo is benefitting from the huge oil boom in the upper plains. We stayed in West Fargo and every building in a two mile radius was brand new; likely built in the last two years. After walk and dinner we contemplated how to entertain ourselves for the evening. A little research revealed that Fargo hosts an unaffiliated minor league baseball team – the Fargo-Moorehead Redhawks. Unaffiliated means they are not attached to any MLB team. We weren’t sure what to expect as we watched them take on the team from Joplin, Missouri. The stadium is part of the university and was very nice and cozy.
They had the entertainment part of the game down pat. A farmer in overalls sat in a rocking chair on the sidelines and collected foul balls for the umpire. There was also a Redhawk mascot who pranced through the stands. Similar to what we saw in Cleveland there was a race between an onion, a jar of mustard, and a bottle of ketchup. But the best attraction was Super Fan – a man dressed in old softball league shorts, long white socks, a head band, and “Super Fan” T-shirt. He was constantly on the move leading cheers and getting his picture taken with folks.
The catcher for the Redhawks looked to be pretty good, throwing out a couple of runners by a wide margin; he might get picked up by an affiliated minor league team some day. These kids could field pretty well but there weren’t any hitters in the group. Nevertheless, it was a fun evening.
Traveling in Spring may bring plenty of rain but it also reveals lovely green plains and fields everywhere we look. Normally we travel in late summer when everything has turned brown.
After his wife died Theodore Roosevelt went out to North Dakota to ranch and hunt; it restored him. North Dakota hasn’t forgotten and the National Forest Service created the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Not far from the freeway is an entrance with a visitor center. Bison (aka buffalo) roam the parking lot and the Badlands are just north of the road.
[Photography note: I created the above image using the new panorama creation feature in Lightroom CC. I pulled together four overlapping photos for the shot]
This area is nothing short of amazing with the colorful rock formations. The red rocks are created when lightening strikes the coal-rich veins and lights it on fire. If I remember correctly, the ground catching fire is why the Native Americans called the area the Badlands.
Eventually we entered Montana where we would spend the night.
Have I mentioned how hard it is to capture these Welcome signs? Inevitably we are blocked by semis in the slow lane or we just aren’t fast enough.
We spent the night in Miles City, Montana, looking forward to getting to Cody, Wyoming early the next day. As we pulled out of town we glimpsed a Giant Brother – like the ones we saw on the Route 66 portion of our trip! Notice the placement of the arms – same as the others. I wonder if he misses his brothers farther south.
We took a small two lane highway into Cody, Wyoming.
We had some low clouds as we rose in elevation over 6,000 feet. It’s funny how we were feeling more comfortable with the landscape here in the west.
Having reached Cody in early afternoon we did some touristy things. We took a trolley ride which promised to share lots of information on historic Cody. It was mostly a few jokes and a civic pride love-in on how great Cody is. The highlight of the day was a visit to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
There are almost seven acres of museum under the roofs. One section is all about the founder of the town Buffalo Bill Cody. There is also natural history museum and a wonderful display of the Native Americans who lived in the area. They travelled out of the plains and into Yellowstone in the winter to escape the most brutal parts of winter in this area. I recommend a visit to the museum – but you can skip the trolley ride.
We went to bed with thoughts of Yellowstone National Park in our heads.