Day Three

 

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So the highlight of today was our visit to the Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota. What else is there to say, after you’ve seen the Spam Museum?? So, see you tomorrow!

Oh, you want more? Ok, if you insist!

We stayed last night at a great Comfort Inn in De Forest, Wisconsin. Great room, wonderful lobby, incredible free breakfast this morning, what could be better? A wifi system that worked! Strange but true in the year 2016, but the average time you could stay on the internet with any device was about 45 seconds! Just as you got to where you wanted to be, you got a NOT CONNECTED message! Can you say frustrating????

We left De Forest and headed onto the interstate about 9 AM. We knew that today would not be as mileage intensive a day as the past two were, and of course we were rewarded with near perfect highway conditions. In other words, NO CONSTRUCTION!!! So much nicer to drive at the speed limit (or slightly above) and not have to spend miles in single file traffic!! We started this morning in Wisconsin, and are ending our day in Minnesota, so only 2 states today! Right now we are in a very nice Super 8 motel in Jackson. We might have pushed our travels a little further but for two factors. #1 is that we have reservations tomorrow night in Murdo, South Dakota (the first of our pre-planned reservations) and didn’t want to get too far ahead of the plan we made before leaving home. #2 is that the longer we drove this afternoon, the darker it got and the closer we got to rain. Susie looked at the radar on her iPhone and it didn’t look friendly, so we figured what better place to wait out the storm, but a nice dry motel with a Sailor Jerry Rum and Diet Coke in our hand. There’s a Burger King right down the road and in a couple of hours we’ll decide what’s for dinner, but for now, we are happy to be out of the storm. This is Tornado country, isn’t it? Total mileage today, 324 miles and we pulled in at about 4 PM Central time.

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imageSo, lets get back to today’s highlight, the Spam Museum! Austin, Minnesota is the headquarters of the Hormel Company, the makers of Spam. The lady we signed in with told us that this was a brand new Spam Museum that just opened in April of this year, and we enjoyed spending about an hour wandering around the various exhibits. There was Spam in the World, Spam and the Military, a look at the history of the Hormel Company, and lots and lots of Spam memorabilia! In addition there were hundreds of Spam cans, including several imagewalls made of cans, showing the various flavors of Spam…even more than we saw a couple of years ago in Hawaii! They even have a Spam Gift Shop! There you could buy everything from Spam Clothes (no thanks Susie, I really don’t need a Spam Hoodie) to Spam Mouse Pads, to Spam Key Chains, to a case of Mixed Spam! We left with only a post card (to send to a restauranteur friend at home), a couple of presents for the Grandkids, and a can of Spam Spread we wanted to try! It was a cool place, and downtown Austin looked like a very typical Midwest small town! What can I tell you. It was our first “tourist” thing we did on the trip, and we enjoyed it…just like we enjoy Spam!!

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imageAfter Austin, our next stop on today’s tour was in Blue Earth, Minnesota. Blue Earth has a couple of memorable things it hangs it’s hat on. First, the east and west crews working on Interstate 90 in the 70s met up near Blue Earth. There is a Golden Stripe on the highway there, kind of like the Golden Spike on the Trans-Continental Railway. Second, it is the home of the Jolly Green Giant. No, not the frozen vegetable company, they used to have a canning plant there, but it now has new owners. No, I’m talking about the 55 foot tall Green Giant Statue that has stood in Blue Earth since 1979! Turns out it was the idea of the guy that owned the local radio station (of course it was), and the statue has spawned a Giant Museum and a Giant Days Festival. All I can say, is that winters are long and hard in this section of the country, and they have lots of time to plan!

Susie said that between our visit to the Spam Museum and the Jolly Green Giant, we’d had our protein and vegetables for the day! I guess we would have had to venture south into Iowa to get our carbs, but who knows what form their potato worship might take???

imageThere you have the highlights of day three of our Big Adventure. We are still having fun and seeing interesting parts of the country. Like acres and acres for miles and miles of fields of corn on the sides of Interstate 90 today! We also ran into a couple of wind farms, with windmills on both sides of the highway, as far as you could see. Very interesting and much more like the wind farms we saw around Palm Springs, California a couple of years ago, rather than the 5 windmills we see in Atlantic City back home.

Our plan for tomorrow is to head out of Minnesota, and enter South Dakota. Either tomorrow or the next day, we will enter the first of many National Parks we will be visiting (Black Hills National Park) and then we will see one of my Bucket List attractions…Mount Rushmore! Our days ahead will be filled with visits to Rushmore, Devils Tower (remember Close Encounters?), Little Big Horn Battle Site, Yellowstone Park, and the Grand Tetons. Much more sightseeing, and less mileage. We will end week one of the trip in Yellowstone!

Oh and before we leave you for today, guess who we ran into again today! The house we passed yesterday in Illinois, we passed again today in Wisconsin! We are not sure if we’re following it, or it’s following us!!

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See you tomorrow!

 

Day Two

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Good evening and welcome to the Comfort Inn and Suites in DeForest, Wisconsin. We left our hotel in Streetsboro, Ohio this morning a little after 8:30. During the course of the day we traveled from Ohio, to Indiana, to Illinois, to Wisconsin…another 4 state day for us. We pulled into the hotel tonight right around 4:45 PM. Not bad for a 503 mile day! Oh, if you’re trying to do the math on that, and came up with an average speed for us of like 98 MPH, you need one more piece of information. As we crossed from Indiana into Illinois, we also crossed from the Eastern time zone to the Central time zone. Our 4:45 arrival was really 5:45 in our former time zone!

Today we also left our old friend Route 80 and transitioned to Interstate 90, which will be our home for the next several days. We left the hotel without partaking in their free “Continental Breakfast” this morning, and during one of our driver switches/bathroom breaks, Susie dug out our usual beach snack, cheese crackers. It was only then that she discovered that she bought the wrong ones for herself. Rather than peanut butter on cheese crackers, we had cheese on cheese crackers. Oh well, next purchase we’ll get it right! Lunch was at a rest area and was one of our staples on any road trip…ham and cheese rollups and Ritz crackers. Snacks were very nice Strawberry Twizzlers..one of our favorite car snacks!

A couple of words on the roads we traveled today. The first is that obviously the word for today is CONSTRUCTION. Well, really it’s two words, Road Construction! It appears that most of the roads in the Midwest are getting repaired or totally rebuilt! From the Ohio Turnpike, to the Indiana Toll Road, right through Illinois and Wisconsin. Mile after mile of “Road Work Ahead” signs. Even some that were just feet after an “End Roadwork” sign! Oh my God!!!

The second thing we must say about our travels today is that the state of Indiana should be ashamed for what they laughingly call the Indiana Toll Road! What a horrible mess!! Mile after mile under construction with only one lane open and with a 45 MPH speed limit. (Which ultimately became 35-40 MPH due to trucks driving uphill!). Then the rest areas…two out of the four don’t exist! Signs that say “Rest Area Closed” as you come to the exit for the alleged rest area. Roads going off and coming back on, but then nothing. They apparently just obliterated any trace of the rest area…buildings, gas stations, parking places. Don’t know if this is the way Indiana “re-builds”, but it really puts a crimp in your plans if you want to switch drivers or God forbid, need to go to the bathroom!!!! The real stick in the eye is that even though this is Interstate 80, YOU PAY TO DRIVE ON THIS ROAD!!! We ended up adding close to an hour to our travels today thanks to the condition of this road! We really should have known what was ahead when the “Welcome to Indiana” sign was missing, and we were greeted by two naked poles as we entered the state!

imageSo today Susie ended up driving through Chicago, thanks to the fact that the last rest area on the Indiana Toll Road was CLOSED!! The last time we were in Chicago was a couple of years ago when youngest son Kenny was working at the Wagon Wheel Theater in Warsaw, Indiana doing the Jean Shepard show, Christmas Story, the Musical. That was the time we stupidly attempted to see the house my Grandparents lived in on the South Side of Chicago, and thought we were going to die for our efforts. Today we just went through the city on the Interstate and kept on going…as well as we could with the road construction!!!

imageToday was real Kenny day, because just before our day ended we drove by another one of Kenny’s stops, Janesville, Wisconsin. A couple of years ago, Kenny did two shows at the Armory Theater in Janesville, Wedding Singer and Miracle on 34th Street. That year. the whole family (Krissi, Billy and Lori…there were no little D’Elias yet) traveled to see him in Wedding Singer in October, and then just Susie and I came back in December to see him in Miracle on 34th Street. So between those trips, and a trip Susie and I made before we even had kids, to the Midwest and the Wisconsin Dells, we’ve been here before!

As we left the state of Illinois and entered Wisconsin, we also left EzPass territory. As of tomorrow, any tolls we come across until we are back on the East Coast will be paid in hard cash! Tomorrow we enter new territory, and if plans go right, tomorrow night you can read about our visit to the Spam Museum!!!

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imageDinner tonight was at a place called Norske Nook Restaurant imageand Bakery. Since we are in Wisconsin, we had to start with Fried Cheese Curds! We both had great looking sandwiches on bread that they make right on the premises. The list of pies (as you can see above) is extensive. A couple of to-go pieces somehow ended up in the car. We will report tomorrow!

Two pictures before we leave you tonight. It was Boat Day on Interstate 80 today. Here are both ends of the spectrum!

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Oh, and we came across a house on the road, when Susie was driving today!!!

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See you tomorrow!!