There really wasn't much excitement on Day 1, just a lot of construction in Pennsylvania that prevented us from visiting the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH. Maybe next time I'll get there, but given this was the first time it might be a while.
Cleveland to Chicago
Before heading to Chicago we walked to the 50,000 square foot Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the blustery, freezing cold. OMG, it was SO cold! What happened to my year of summer?
The Hall of Fame was pretty cool, especially Wacko Jacko's "Thriller" jacket and Beatles stuff. There were lots of guitars and memorabilia which is probably awesome if you are a big music fan, but I still enjoyed it.
Unfortunately I got off the highway a bit early in Chicago and was frustrated, but proud to report that I found a fairly direct route to the Hotel Indigo (thanks Chicago skyline, even if that John Hancock building looks a lot like the Sears Tower from afar).
Liz and Leroy treated us to lost of laughs and super scrumptious, authentic Mexican at The Donkey. Always love seeing those guys since good times are guaranteed!
Chicago to Minneapolis
Battling traffic leaving Chicago, we finally made it to Madison, Wisconsin for an abridged Farmer's Market (nothing like the real one around the State House) and some true Wisconsin grub at State Street Brats and The Chocolate Shoppe. Plus, we said hi for Greg!
Meandering out of Madison, it was off to Apple Valley, Minnesota to visit the lovely Linda who I met while trekking to Everest Base Camp. No surprise, Linda is the most fantastic, generous hostess, totally spoiling us with home cooked meals and delightful company. I'm so grateful to have made such great new friends.
Minneapolis to Rapid City, South Dakota
The killer day of driving-- not only was it long, it was boring, flat farmlands. I believe this was the day of my laughing fit while driving (not so safe!) over the comment "every one's an asshole now that you're driving!" ;-)
This also marked the day we officially crossed into the western half of the country, over the mighty Missouri River which was not flooding at the time.
We needed something redeeming, so drove the north loop of the Badlands in the rain. Perhaps the strange rock formations looked more mysterious in the rain and fog, after all they have been described as "Hell with the fires burned out".
The landscape is quite unusual, almost creepy, carved from water and wind over the last half million years. Dinosaurs once roamed this land as evidenced by the fossils found by the hundreds.
In addition to the pinnacles, turrets, ridges and other strange rock formations, we caught our first glimpse of buffalo (Harry was right- awesome the first time, less so a few days later.)
Of course, in addition to other odd roadside oddities like the skeleton man walking the skeleton dinosaur, we saw the 62 Wall Drug billboards along I-90. Seems wrong not to stop at the 1931 shop. Yay Swimming!
Chilled and damp all day, it was nice to get a tasty, hearty Italian meal at Botticelli Ristorante on Rapid City's Main Street. I am not saying I would want to live in Rapid City, but it was kinda cute for a quick pit stop.
Rapid City to Hulett, Wyoming
Delighted by the make-your-own waffles at the Rapid City Ho Jo's, this day was off to a great start with maybe some decent weather for The Black Hills.
Despite the 1868 treaty between the Sioux and U.S. government granting the Sioux eternal rights to this sacred land, gold was confirmed in The Black Hills in 1874 by an expedition led by General Custer. As you know, this led to an appalling period in our nation's history.
It is beautiful country!
We did support the Crazy Horse Memorial, a work in progress started by Korczak Ziolkowski. His family is still working to complete this project, which is MUCH more ambitious than Mt. Rushmore (10 times the size), based solely on donations. This is the progress that has been made since 1949-- obviously there is a ways to go and won't be finished for decades.
We drove through the Wild West (touristy/gambling) town of Deadwood on our way to Sturgis, host of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally which draws 500,000 Harley-Davidson enthusiasts in August. THANK GOD we missed that fiasco and got to experience the tranquility of Bear Butte State Park.
We literally had the place to ourselves (minus the super cute marmots) and the park rangers could not have been nicer giving us advice about where to go next on our route west.
It was still early, so we drove into Wyoming for the night. It is amazing how you cross state lines and can see a difference- Wyoming is really, really pretty!
Passing a town with a population of 50, we settled in the slightly larger town of Hulett, pop. 419 (yes, these people also have 2 Senators--- how is that equal representation?). It was actually pretty quaint, in a generic old west way- no Chase or Citibank, just "Bank".
Hulett to Cody, Wyoming
Hulett's selling point was it's proximity to Devils Tower National Park (from Close Encounters of the Third Kind fame), a stop added after talking to a Park Ranger at the Badlands.
It is really odd and cool--- this rock formation, the tallest of its kind in the U.S., juts up in the middle of the plains, visible from 100 miles away.
The plan was to hike around the base, but the rain was unfortunately back :-(
Thankfully we didn't spend our time hiking since we had a 91 mile diversion through Montana ahead of us.
We stopped for a break in the authentic cowboy town of Sheridan, Wyoming, passing one of the best preserved Main Streets and the Inn from 1893, formerly owned by Wild West showman Buffalo Bill Cody and once considered the finest hotel between Chicago and San Francisco.
Good so far and the really cool stuff is still to come!