Archive for August, 2008

August 17th-23rd: The final stretch (sort of)

August 25, 2008

Salt Lake City isn’t strictly between Mount Rushmore and Medford, OR, but Becky has a good friend there, so we drove through Wyoming on the evening of the 17th on our way to Utah. Wyoming is mostly boring, but it does have the occasional spot of beauty, especially around sunset:

Stunning clouds and rock formations in rural Wyoming

Stunning clouds and rock formations in rural Wyoming

We also saw Independence Rock, which many of you may remember from the Oregon Trail computer game. (The trading post was closed, but we didn’t need any new wagon wheels anyway.) The real Independence Rock apparently had thousands of travelers’ names carved into it, but unfortunately those have mostly eroded with time. More unfortunate, though, is the fact that the viewing area is immediately adjacent to an RV waste disposal site, so we didn’t stay long.

Sort of looks like how the air around it smelled...

Sort of looks like how the air around it smelled...

We made it to Salt Lake City on the 18th, and had a great time visiting with Michelle. Serendipitously, there was a special exhibition running at the Utah Museum of Fine Art, featuring highlights from the modern collection at the Cleveland Museum of Art — the very same collection we had earlier missed due to the remodelling in Cleveland.

Becky and Michelle reunited!

Becky and Michelle reunited!

From Salt Lake we drove all the way to Medford in a single shot — about 12 hours’ driving, which we did in shifts so each of us could get some of a night’s sleep. It was a bit hairy at times (especially when we were driving through the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in northern Nevada at 3 am, with hares running across the road and elk grazing just off it), but we made it okay and gave the Klabundes a fun surprise at 7 am. We spent a great four days in the Rogue Valley, seeing several plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, showing Jonathan around town, and hanging out with Becky’s family.

We made it to Oregon! (And no one died of dysentery!)

We made it to Oregon! (And no one died of dysentery!)

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August 16th and 17th: Covered wagons at last!

August 18, 2008

First thing on Saturday was the Little Town on the Prairie: De Smet, SD, home of Laura Ingalls Wilder during most of her Little House books. We’d both read them in our childhood, so it was quite a thrill to see the actual Ingalls homestead and reproductions of the pioneer life she wrote about.

Becky singlehandedly brings bonnets back into fashion.

Becky singlehandedly brings bonnets back into fashion.

We found another, less famous attraction in South Dakota too: the world’s largest pheasant. (Makes up for the one that later found itself getting close and personal with our Michelins. Oops!)

Now why isn't *this* bringing the crowds into West-of-Nowhere, SD?

Now why isn't *this* bringing the crowds into West-of-Nowhere, SD?

We made it into Badlands National Park before nightfall and took advantage of their backcountry camping policy to set up our tent in the middle of one of the most spectacular views we’d ever seen. It was a full moon that night, and its glare, combined with the absolute silence, made the rock formations feel positively otherworldly. We wish we’d been able to get pictures, but we doubt we’ll ever forget it.

Us and our little campsite in the middle of the Badlands

Us and our little campsite in the middle of the Badlands

This is the phenomenal view we woke up to.

This is the phenomenal view we woke up to.

Next up: Mount Rushmore and its hordes of tourists! We refused to be taken in by their fee-parking scam and caught the view from the road, then went around the bend for the profile view.

Georgie had a boogie.

Georgie had a boogie.

August 14th and 15th: Windy City to Minnesota

August 18, 2008

We spent Thursday in Chicago, first hitting up the Art Institute of Chicago, of which the modern wings were closed for renovations (foiled again!). Nevertheless, Becky managed to drag it out into an hours-long affair and Jonathan was a good sport. We did get to see Millennium Park before we left, though, and had a delicious lunch of sandwiches and sangria at an outdoor restaurant in Grant Park.

Becky and Jonathan enjoy the Chicago skyline and a giant metallic bean!

Becky and Jonathan enjoy the Chicago skyline and a giant metallic bean!

After Chicago, we had a lot of ground to cover before our next planned stop in South Dakota. Wisconsin was intensely disappointing: not only did we not see a single cow in America’s Dairyland despite driving 200 miles on rural highways, we didn’t get to enjoy the coolest thing we did see. Driving down the highway, we spotted this:

Giant swirly slides from the top floors of a hotel?!

Giant swirly slides from the top floors of a hotel?!

Turns out it was an indoor/outdoor water park — not something either of us had ever seen before. We tried to go in and race each other down the waterslides, but the trolls at the gate wanted an arm and a leg for entrance (no kidding, they had chainsaws!) so we left.

Anyone would pout if they had to skip a water park like this.

Anyone would pout if they had to skip a water park like this.

We did have a lovely picnic dinner on a small island park in the Mississippi River, which forms the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota (we dubbed the park Wiscesota, pronounced “whisky-soda”). Minnesota certainly did not disappoint. We’re convinced it has the cutest farms in the nation.

Minnesota was full of little farms nestled in beautiful rolling hills.

Minnesota was full of little farms nestled in beautiful rolling hills.

August 13th: From covered bridges to horse-drawn buggies

August 14, 2008

We started today off in Ashtabula County, OH, where they have an unhealthy obsession with covered bridges (which Becky can’t stop inadvertently calling “covered wagons” — too much time playing Oregon Trail?).

Becky is *really* excited about covered bridges.

Becky is *really* excited about covered bridges.

From Ashtabula, we made our way west to Cleveland, and stopped by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Cleveland Museum of Art (many galleries of which were closed for renovation), and wandered the parks outside the museum.

We were delayed when Jonathan was attacked by a Chinese dragon.

We were delayed when Jonathan was attacked by a Chinese dragon.

On our way west toward Chicago, we once again abandoned the interstate for some more rural highways. They got primitive real quick as we approached the Ohio-Indiana border, turning into a dirt road which we discovered ran right along the state line. More interesting was the horse-drawn buggy that happened to be driving down the road at the same time as us. Apparently we had wandered into Amish country, and there were many more buggy sightings over the next couple hours.

Jonathan straddles the state line like a champ.

Jonathan straddles the state line like a champ.

August 12th: Out into the unknown!

August 14, 2008

On Tuesday we began our journey westward!

Clearly Becky feels safe with this behind the wheel.

Clearly Becky feels safe with this behind the wheel.

Heading from Rochester, we first stopped in Buffalo to get some hot wings in their birthplace, a dive called Anchor Bar. The wings were not that amazing so we’re happy to stick with those from our own favorite dives, but we can check that off our list.

We stopped to get a drink on a pier in Dunkirk, NY before heading on to Erie, PA. We were headed toward Presque Isle State Park, but we were distracted by a little amusement park on the way and stopped to do a few rollercoasters. They were surprisingly good — Jonathan nearly peed his pants on one of them.

These are obviously the faces of hardened criminals.

These are obviously the faces of hardened criminals.

We finally made it to Presque Isle in time for a phenomenal sunset over the water. We couldn’t have had a better start to the trip.

sunset over Lake Erie

sunset over Lake Erie

cheesing it up on the beach

cheesing it up on the beach

August 11th: Strong Museum of Play, Rochester, NY

August 13, 2008

We embarked on our road trip across the country on Sunday, after the apartment was clean enough for a subletter and the last bags were shoved in the car. We stopped for a delicious dinner with Jonathan’s sister Donna and her boyfriend Erik in Binghamton, NY, then headed on to stay with Jonathan’s mom for a couple nights in Rochester. We’re glad we both get a chance to see our families before we leave the country.

On Monday we visited Rochester’s toy museum, the Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum of Play. We were the oldest people there who weren’t accompanied by kids, we have no doubt — but who needs to be 3 feet tall to love a full-on interactive reproduction of the Sesame Street set?

Big Bird looks on in horror as Cookie Monster mistakes Jonathan's brains for a Snickerdoodle. (Zombie?!)

Big Bird looks on in horror as Cookie Monster mistakes Jonathan's brains for a Snickerdoodle. (Zombie?!)

We got to play with all sorts of toys from our childhoods, and we even managed to discover Becky’s true calling: she was born to be a construction engineer.

Becky hogged the Lego table for more than an hour.

Becky hogged the Lego table for more than an hour.

More on the meandering path of the roadtrip later!