Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Great American Road Trip: Part 10

It is so good to visit with family that you haven't seen in quite some time, isn't it? My Aunt Bettie is a saint for allowing us to come in and completely turn her quiet little home upside down for 12 hours or so. Her house, deep into the county roads of Wisconsin, (and a wee bit difficult to find, I might add), is on two acres and is surrounded by mostly corn farms. I wish we could have stayed longer so that we could explore her property which includes mulberry trees, apple trees and wild raspberries, among all sorts of other beautiful prairie wildflowers. She has bird feeders hanging outside her kitchen window that provided much entertainment us as we ate our delicious buckwheat waffles and drank our coffee.

Our visit ended too soon, but we all needed to hit the road. During our brief visit, she not only allowed the kids to use her beautiful spinning wheel, she sent Owen and Willa home with their own, hand held versions. And to Ben, she gave a pair of real binoculars, because one of his favorite things to do is watch birds. The children were thrilled with their gifts and can't wait to visit her again. Thanks, Aunt Bettie, for your wonderful hospitality and endless patience with my curious kids!

9:50 a.m. 73 Degrees, Sunny

As we depart Darlington we are passing through more corn and soy farms. There are also many Amish families who have settled in the area, and it's fun to see their buggies parked in the garage, and the ladies in traditional dress working in the gardens.

10:00 a.m.

We almost ran over a cat...I'm shaking.

10:05 a.m.

We spot a buck running along the corn. Very handsome animal...

10:17 a.m.

Stopping at Belmont Quick Stop to ask for directions to US-151. The lettered county roads have confused even our AAA TripTik (not to mention us).

10:23 a.m.

Luckily we were close! We're on the highway and cruising to civilization, I think. We have passed miles of ruined crops due to a massive hail storm that passed through the area a couple of weeks ago. It has devastated many families' entire crops. Very sad.

10:45 a.m.

We pass briefly back into IL.


Crossing the Mississippi!

10:51 a.m.

Iowa welcomes us!

Iowa smells amazing--like freshly cut grass and wildflowers...like salad and summer. Ahhhhh...

Owen is keeping himself entertained by spinning wool....Cool, huh?

1:50 p.m.

We stop for lunch at the Little Brown Church in Nashua, IA, which is apparently famous for something...it has a nice picnic area with grass and shade and space to run around. We connect the Wii to our car entertainment system (1st time the whole trip). We have to quickly shut it down due to too much arguing. It's going to be a long day......Unfortunately there's not much else to see. It's a driving day. Ugh.

3:09 p.m.

Minnesota welcomes us!

4:06 p.m.

We're somewhere in MN--the landscape is still quite corny. We just passed a motorcycle that had a dog riding in the back with a spiked collar, sunglasses, and a helmet. Awesome. Conversely, 5 minutes later, we pass a huge group of Harley riders with no helmets. Looks cool...and dangerous.

I have just read in one of our guidebooks that travelers who are not Harley-ridin' cruisers had best stay out of the Black Hills during the first two weeks of August due to Sturgis, which is evidently some sort of Harley thing that attracts 500 THOUSAND people who have the need to gather on their hogs. Fabulous! I hope they don't feel the need to go see other nearby attractions (like Mount Rushmore!).

5:55 p.m. 74 Degrees, Sunny

Welcome to South Dakota...our 5th state today.

7:31 p.m.

Return to the car after dinner at Cracker Barrel and an emergency stop into Target in Sioux Falls to buy Willa her own PINK Nintendo DS. She has been using mostly broken hand-me-down DSs and is frustrated, angry and crying every afternoon now, because she has NOTHING TO DO. Okay. Okay. Merry Christmas. Whatever!! Desperate times, you know?

9:00 p.m.

Our second and final "sight seeing" stop on this drive. It is a classic and hilarious road-tripper's stop in Mitchel, South Dakota. Local artists re-do the murals, made of corn, each year paying homage to the area's top crop (and local attractions). The first Corn Palace was created in 1891 and the tradition has been going strong since. Inside they have a movie about the Palace, and lots of kitchy shopping opportunities (of course). It was fun to see, but it's time to move on...Below, the famous faces in corn cobs.

10:00 p.m.

We've arrived at the AmericInn in Chamberlain, SD. It is quite nice and done up in a fun lodge theme. If we'd arrived earlier the kids could have taken advantage of the pool, which has a huge raccoon basketball hoop that shoots water. It opens at 7 a.m. Maybe tomorrow after a breakfast of hot Belgian waffles. Owen's favorite!

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