5 July Tues
After having a cookout with Sherry and her family yesterday we left for the road trip this morning and made it as far as Hudson, MI to the Sunset Acres Motel. A gem. Probably built in the fifties or early sixties but with micro, fridge, and wifi. Everything we need without all the stuff we don’t use. All for $50. Ate dinner at Rumors where we had a salad and shared a Reuben ($30) then walked around town for a bit.
The ride was long (9hrs) but no stress because we opted for the non-interstate roads where we saw a lot of farms and small town. Wheat is being harvested and the corn is about as tall as me but I didn’t see any tassels yet. There was also a lot of soy. I am curious how the grain silos work. Maybe one of our farmer friends will be able to explain it to me when we get to them. We had a bit of rain for the first four or so hours but the afternoon was quite pleasant. Later heard that there was a tornado between Jane Lew and Clarksburg. Glad we made it through before the weather got really bad.
It is so good to be back to flat land. Looking forward to a good night’s sleep. We have separate beds. Passed a big lake and realized how much we miss large bodies of water instead of just the Buckhannon River.
6 Jully Wed -
Drove straight up US 127 until it joined I75. The transition was smooth and the traffic light. Landscape transitioned from farms to woodlands for a while then back to farms. Second day we have seen huge wind farms.
Checked into the Sunrise Beach Motel about 1400 then went into Mackinaw City and had a late lunch at Nonna’s Cafe ($40) including a local Wild Beaver Tamer Ale. Afterward we got a good walk in looking for the right ferry terminal to get tickets for tomorrow and then looking for a grocery store. It has been a while since I did much walking and my feet are sore but I am glad we did it. While driving around town we found the Mackinac Lighthouse and walked some more.
It is lovely sitting here on the balcony watching the ferries go to Mackinac Island. A large flock of Canada goose just went by and there are ringed-billed gulls and Forsters terns. We saw a little blue heron and a great blue on the way today.
7 July Thurs -
Woke to a very foggy Lake Huron. Could barely see the water outside the room. I did capture a heron flying by but couldn’t see the bridge. We planned on taking the 0900 ferry to get the might Mac tour but got there early and ended up on the 830. I don’t think we would have been able to see the bridge anyway. It was still foggy when we arrived at Mackinac Island but things worked out well. We got on an early carriage and were able to get through with the tours and lunch (Tea Room in State Park $25 for soup and sandwich that we shared) by 1300 so we found Mary’s Bistro and had a couple of drinks ($20). On the ride back we were able to sit outside.
Mackinaw Island is very unique. They have opted to keep most motor vehicles off the island so transportation is walking, biking, horse riding, or carriage rides. This leads to a very smelly place. Horse drawn carts are used to move cargo from the ferries and around town.
When we left the ferry I drove out to McGulpen Point Light. Roger climbed to the top. That was the fourth lighthouse in two days.
This was a good recommendation from Nita and Mac. I have really enjoyed being on the water. It has revived me.
8 Jul Fri -
Wet and dreary most of the day but that didn’t stop us from going through the Soo Locks, both American and Canadian. We did manage to get a good walk in after dinner before the rain came again. Happy that I didn’t have to be driving in that soup all day.
9 Jul Sat
The weather was much improved but we still bundled for the train and boat ride to Tahquamenon Falls. It is a pretty tannin river but really can’t compete with our FL rivers for beauty and wildlife.
Why can’t parents control children? When did it become acceptable to let the kids control the adults? Does a license to be to be rude and annoying to others come with big fancy cameras? Some folks I have encountered the last couple of days seem to feel carrying the big SLR means they can get in front of everyone and monopolize the views.
I saw ten bird species, 4 black bears, one turtle, a deer, squirrel, and a chipmunk swimming across the river.
Ravens on tree tops
Gulls and eagles follow train
Feeding stop ahead
I’m walking in woods
Mindful of my surroundings
Talking to myself
10 July Sun -
What we thought would be a leisurely day turned out to be quite the opposite. We had breakfast, went to visitor center and learned that a light station was open today. After making a stop at Sand Point we decided to drive straight there and check out the other places on the way back. Once you get to Au Sable Trailhead which is a portion of the North Country Trail, you have to walk 1.6 miles to the station. We took the tour and Roger climbed to the top. I chatted with the guide, a woman about my age. Then it was another 1.6 miles back. The trail is actually a road so it is nicely graded and except for it being so long was a pleasant walk. I am just not used the exertion and this is the longest walk I have done since the surgery. I am tired but grateful that I am able to accomplish. Driving back to Munising we stopped at the Bear Trap for lunch which turned into dinner since it was five when we left.
We had scheduled ourselves for the Pictured Rocks Sunset Cruise and had enough time to take a quick nap before. The lake was calm and although the sun was hidden we still got some great photos. The return trip got a bit cold but it was all good. Afterward we walked up the hill for an ice cream before going back to the motel. It was after ten when we pulled into the parking lot.
It was a long day and I am tired in a good way.
11 July Mon -
This was the leisurely day we expected yesterday. At the Falling Rock Cafe we had breakfast and purchased a boxed lunch for a trip to Seney NWR. There is a 1.5 mile nature walk from the visitor center that is well maintained, has some boardwalks, benches, and overlooks. Trumpeter swans were nesting on the small islands in the pools and we saw loons, mallards, geese, and other duck type birds with babies. Song birds were in abundance but weren’t making themselves visible. We saw kingfishers, a cormorant, ospreys, a great blue heron, and an American bittern. There was a snake along the nature drive. The only mammal I saw was a chipmunk. Mosquitos and flies were in abundance.
Our picnic lunch at the Wigwam worked out well. A ring-billed gull stared at us hoping we would leave scraps but we didn’t so it moseyed over to the other occupied table.
On the way back we stopped in the Hiawatha National Forest to see the Bay Furnace. An old structure that was used for making steel. The rest of the day we relaxed in our room and ate up the left overs from several meals. It was relatively cheap day since there were no entrance fees or tour tickets.
12 July Tues -
Instead of going to Grand Isle, we drove to Marquette which was probably a good choice since the wind picked up and it was probably very rough on the water. Our hike in Presque Isle park started well but about 2/3 of the way through, a swarm of flies attached themselves to me and wouldn’t leave me alone. I spent probably a half mile swatting myself with my visor. Not sure if I am just especially sweet or they liked the DEET I had sprayed on, but they sure liked me. Afterward we went to the maritime museum and light house. As we were leaving, Gordon Lightfoot came on with “Edmund Fitzgerald”. Timely. After seeing and hearing about all these wrecks it makes me wonder how much money these shippers were making that they could afford to lose so many ships.
We had breakfast and Donckers, lunch at Portside, and a late dinner at Foggys.
Again a good day.
13 July Wed -
Our last day in MI was hot, 90, sunny, windy. Drove down to Escanaba first to the Sand Point Light Station. Their historical museum is the best we have seen on this trip. It was funded primarily by a retired doctor who grew up in the area before moving around to practice medicine. The most interesting thing that I don’t recall ever having seen before is how there was a candelabra type fixture over the dining table for a lantern. We turned west from there to Norway but the place I thought we would visit, isn’t open yet so we stopped at a few other interesting points before checking into the Viking Hotel where we were glad to get wifi at last. However, it works about like the one in Selbyville.
After a nap and cool down we went in search of a place to eat. Had to wait for the Talon Supper club to open. I had a salad with chicken and Roger a half rack of ribs, add a couple of beers apiece and you have $50.
16 July Sat -
Catching up for a couple of days spent with Ed and Joyce DeHaan in the Twin Cities. We arrived mid-afternoon on Thursday and they kept us busy. After dinner at their house we went for a walk around a lake and saw a green heron and an otter. It was the first time they had seen the otter. Friday Ed drove us to Lake Harriet where we had a nice stroll then walked around the rose and perennial garden. Some milkweed that grows in Fl was there with a monarch flying around it. There was also a northern leopard frog in that particular bed.
For lunch they took us to the Malt Shop which is one of their old favorites. I think that is the first malt I have ever had. Not sure the difference with a milk shake but it was good. We drove around until we found another walking trail then some resale shops before it was time for the dinner cruise on Lake Minnetonka. The evening was perfect for a boat ride and the sunset was one of the best we have had on this trip. A group celebrating a cousin’s anniversary sort of monopolized the boat and got louder as the consumption of alcohol increased. It was still a great couple of days and Ed driving gave me a day off.
Today we are in Fergus Falls, MN staying at the Jewell Motel. Another funky place for $58. Lunch was at Don Pablos and then we drove around town for a while but didn’t see as much nature as the brochures seemed to indicate. Maybe we just didn’t have enough info. The welcome center was closed. There was a rookery in Grotto Lake with egrets and cormorants. There was quite a racket and we had to be careful of the goose poop. Egrets are shedding and we picked up a few of the delicate tail feathers.
17 July Sun -
Crossed the border into ND from MN before 0900 heading for Tewaukon NWR. White pelicans are in abundance as are cormorants and Canada goose. In all I identified 18 species of birds and there were plenty I didn’t see well enough to peg. A thirteen lined ground squirrel surprised me by posing for a photo. We scared a raccoon and it scuttled up the road. As it turned around to see what we were doing, I got a good photo.
I used the walks in the woods for time to meditate and just think how grateful I am to be able to do all we are doing, both financially and physically. Silver Lake SP is in the Refuge. We took advantage of the quiet there to eat our Subway sandwiches that we bought in Fergus Falls. Our visit to North Dakota was only about 5 hours but it counts as having been there. We rode past miles of corn, wheat, soy, and even a few sunflower fields.
After lunch we drove to Waubay NWR, SD. It was unfortunate that we couldn’t pick up a map but the visitor center was closed and everything was locked up. What we thought was a half mile loop turned into three times that. It was all wonderful but I was tired from driving all day and my feet hurt. The GPS located a couple of motels in Webster which was only 20 minutes away. The Galley Motel isn’t very attractive outside but has everything we need. I even got a load of laundry done. The wifi is the best we have had. Boomer’s Cafe was in walking distance.
Once we crossed into SD, we noticed more cattle ranches than planted crops. White pelicans and egrets are in abundance in the many lakes.
18 July Mon -
A rather good rest considering we were sharing a very bouncy bed. Checked out, stopped for a Subway sandwich for lunch then drove to Lake Andes NWR. There were several places that the traffic was stopped for construction but nothing bad. A lot of repaving is going on. We saw three different methods, 6 inch concrete, asphalt, and bituminous with a layer of crushed rock.
It was an interesting ride through the miles of corn, wheat, and soy. Haying is happening as is baling of wheat straw. Farmers use the grass on the road side for hay. We guess that is cost saving because the roads don’t need to be mowed and the resource is used. Mama and calves are wandering the pastures. It was hot today and many times we saw herds of cattle in ponds cooling off. We had our first siting of prairie dogs and ring-necked pheasants along the route.
Our plan was to have our picnic then walk the trail in the Refuge. I needed to use the toilet and left the key in the ACC setting on the ignition. When we came out from the Visitor’s Center, the car wouldn’t start. After spending several minutes trying to figure out the codes on the dash we decided the battery was dead. We ate our sandwiches, and tried the car again. Still no luck. Roger went back inside and asked for help. One of the refuge employees showed up with jumper cables and got us going again. We took a short loop trail while the battery charged. On the way out of the park we stopped by a dam that had quite a few birds including the western and eared grebes.
We got to the EconoLodge in Yankton before 1700. Trying to check in was a hassle. I must have clicked on the wrong thing when I made the first reservation and there didn’t seem to be a way to combine the two nights. Now I have to check out to check back in tomorrow. Maybe I will have the same room and maybe not. Another reason to stick with the mom and pop motels. They don’t have the bureaucracy as the chains. We had dinner at Yesterday Cafe, a fifties style diner. It was okay and the price was good. On the way to the grocery store we stopped at KMart which is closing to see what bargains we could get, then a car wash, and scouting for a sandwich at the grocery. Also stocked up on alcoholic beverages for here and to take to Fort Dodge.
19 July Tues -
The countdown is now three. Nebraska is checked off the list. We spent the day on both sides of the Missouri River out to Niobrara State Park, stopping at the Gavin Dam on Lewis and Clark Lake on the way back to Yankton. Sat above the confluence of the MIssouri and Niobrara rivers for our picnic lunch. The caving cliffs along the bank were the high light of the day. We didn’t see much wildlife but an RV pulled out in front of us with the back covered in may flies some of which flew off with the movement of the vehicle. Just as we got to the dam an alarm went off warning boats of a coming change in the water. Then one of the gates open and water flowed through. We had dinner at the Fryin’ Pan after walking through the mall right in front of the hotel. It reminded us of the Crystal River Mall, almost deserted.
20 July Wed -
Today we came into Iowa at 1010 and arrived at the Thalacker’s in Ft Dodge at 1330. It was hot but we managed to get a short walk in. Spent the rest of the day and evening chatting, drinking wine, and watching the river flow by. There is a lovely view of the river and lots of birds at the feeders.
A storm a few days ago made a mess of some of their trees and there is a lot of debris to clean up. Once we got to Iowa the wheat fields vanished and we were left with corn and soy interspersed with wind farms. Several roads were closed as a result of the storms.
For dinner we had some good Iowa corn and steak.
21 July Thurs-
Hot. Walked the JFK park through the prairie then went to Clarion and the Heartland Museum to see Big Bud, the biggest tractor ever. Roger and I shared a macho nacho at Fuel and had ice cream at an old style drive-in diner. Did a load of laundry after a nap when we got back.
22 July Fri -
Up and out by 0800 for another hot day. Saw a sign for a NWR near McGregor, IA but couldn’t find it. Had lunch at Beer and Brats Garden on the Mississippi first. It worked out best to not find the refuge but it was annoying at the time. The NWR signage needs improvements. We stopped in Spring Green, WI to tour Taliesen, Frank Lloyd Wight’s house just in time for the last tour and there were only two slots left. It was hot as we walked around and through.
I checked into Thunder Valley Inn a little past 1800. It is spacious and has everything we need but it is as Jean warned, a little tacky. As we got to Wisconsin Dells, the traffic picked up. It reminds me of Branson, built for tourists. Shelley emailed to say that she is too busy for us to visit so now we have to find something interesting in IL or IN. The internet here is not being cooperative in that regard.
We had dinner at Riverwalk Pub. The chicken and bread were good but the so called Greek salad was disgusting and the green beans needed the chicken skin for flavor.
23 Jully Sat -
The day started with a filling and tasty breakfast at Thunder Valley Inn with Jean Skaife. From there we hooked up with Marian Van Dam a young lady from Holland and Jean drove us to Witches Gulch where we had a very pleasant stroll. This is a place that is usually accessed from a tour boat. Jean has special permission to enter from the street. We went back to the Inn and changed cars for me to drive to the International Crane Foundation. Jean had arranged a golf cart which worked well since it started raining shortly after we started. I got a few good photos. She recommended Culver’s for lunch. It is a regional fast food place and was quite good. Much better that any thing we have. After retrieving her vehicle at the Inn I drove to her cottage. It is a bit remote which makes it quite lovely. The view out the back is to a pond and she has several feeders for birds. I recorded 11 birds in the hour or so we were there.
The rain continued throughout the day and finally subsided while we were at dinner at Ravina Bay. It wasn’t our first choice but the first one that didn’t have a waiting line. I had a salad because I really wasn’t hungry. The server was Ikatrina from Russia.
Tomorrow we leave this metro area and move east. I’ll be glad to be out of the traffic.
24 July Sun -
We had a leisurely breakfast before checking out of Thunder Valley. Sorry to miss Jean. Our first stop was at the Horicon NWR and the Horicon Marsh State area where we had a picnic lunch. We did a couple of short walks in the heat and that was enough. Crossed the Illinois line at 1520 then kept driving until 1700. That got us to Oglesby, OH and a Best Western. The car thermometer showed 94 for quite a while. Had dinner at Delaney’s then spent time looking for something to do inside on our way east tomorrow. Choices are slim.
26 July Tues -
Yesterday we drove across Indiana which got us to our goal of all the 49 continental states. The only thing we did in IN was stop at the Grissom Air Museum in Peru. It reminded me of my days on Patrick. Indiana was just like the other states we have visited on this trip. Miles and miles of corn and soy with a scattering of wind farms. It was great to be on straight level roads but I did get bored with the landscape. It is also a shame that most of the natural areas of the region have been turned into big corporate farms. It would have been nice to see some family farms but all we saw were mega farms. What will they do with all the corn and soy? Where are the tomatoes, green beans, squash, potatoes, etc.
As we pulled into Celina we noticed the Celina Motel and I made a loop back and checked in. A quick rest and then we set out in search of a restaurant. Found one on the Grand Lake St Marys but it was closed. Reversed our course and came across Pullman Bay Family Restaurant. The food was good and inexpensive so we went back this morning for breakfast.
Today we drove east and south working our way to Cambridge, OH after a stop in Newark for the earthworks. As we approached the Guernsey County Museum we noticed it had closed a few minutes before. The docent invited us in and gave us a tour. She was happy to stay late because it was hot and she doesn’t have AC at home. So, we lucked out again. She recommended Theos for dinner. It was good and the peach pie was the best I have ever had.
30 July Sat -
Wednesday was the last day on the road. The Salt Fork SP in Cambridge, Oh was a disappointment. By the time we figured out what there was to do, we had to head east because Roger had told Eddie II that we would be there for lunch. It was too hot to do much hiking any way. Eddie greeted us at the Hillbilly Snack Shack and bought us lunch. My Special Steak Sandwich was excellent but too big and I brought half home. Triadelphia is only supposed to be about three hours from Selbyville but between Morgantown and Fairmont traffic stopped. The first car coming up behind me almost crashed into me. His tires smoked as he stopped just a foot or two from my bumper. It took us fifty minutes to drive five miles. This is a good example of why I don’t like Interstate road driving. A stop in Buckhannon for gas and groceries got us home about 1700 just in time for dinner.
Thoughts for this trip:
Now, I have seen bits of all the states except Hawaii. This midwest road trip encompassed a lot starting with the time in the UP and ending back in WV. The weather has shifted from the 50s and raining to 90s and humid. We visited with friends from Cedar Key in three states and they gave us looks into their home towns that we would not have gotten on our own.
Our lodging for all except two places was with friends or in mom & pop motels. Some of which were rather tacky but all had what we needed, clean beds, showers, and safety. Wifi was available in all but one. Refrigerators were in all of them and microwaves were either in the rooms or accessible. It felt good to help out the local small business. Having the car right outside the room door is a real treat and so much easier to load and unload our stuff.
I did all the driving with Roger navigating. Sometimes that got stressful, especially since the GPS has difficulty staying off the interstates which we were trying to avoid. Detours were not uncommon and signage is often confusing. We went through hundreds of small towns, stopping at interesting places when we found them and helping out the local restaurants when we could.
I drove 4200 miles in 22 days through 12 states, slept in 14 beds, went to 20 or so parks and refuges, visited with 5 friends from Cedar Key, and one of Roger’s cousins.