Colorado, South Dakota, Minneapolis July 2018
Dates: June 8-21, 2018
People: Mark, Sarah, Luke, Jonah, Seth, David
- 7-8 (Travel Day)
- 7-9 (Minneapolis)
- 7-10 (Minneapolis)
- 7-11 (Travel Day)
- 7-12 (Badlands NP, Wind Cave NP)
- 7-13 (Travel Day)
- 7-14 (Quandary West Ridge)
- 7-15 (Family Day)
- 7-16 (Mt. Elbert)
- 7-17 (Tenmile Traverse)
- 7-18 (BP Anglemeyer)
- 7-19 (BP Anglemeyer)
- 7-20 (Travel Day)
- 7-21 (Travel Day)
SUNDAY JULY 8
Today began our biggest family road trip ever. We've done some great travelling together over the years but we've never taken a trip this far or this long all together. We were hoping for great fun. We went to church and then a quick lunch at home before hitting the road at 1:22pm. We had a full day's drive up to Minneapolis today so that Sarah could begin attending the LCMS National Youth Worker's Conference tomorrow morning.
Our first stop was for gas in Elkhart, IN. We were taking the toll road as our quick route to Chicago and then onward. We grabbed some drinks and icees for the boys and spent about 10 minutes there. We drove on again until the Hinsadale Oasis along I294 where we hit the food court for supper. We had a mix of Taco Bell and Panera. Sarah started driving after we left the Oasis.
We made it another two hours until the Belvedere Oasis where we stopped for a quick bathroom break. Sarah contniued driving until our next stop at 9:34p central where we hit a Walmart in Tomah, WI. We did bathrooms and Mark also looked for a pack of Leinie's Wisconsin Red, but didn't find any. He also checked a gas station there with no luck. We filled up with gas while there in Tomah. Mark drove the remaining 3 hours up to Minnesota and Minneapolis. Overall the day's drive went fairly well, just long. We were staying in the Comfort Inn Airport in what was technically Bloomington, MN. We had a decent rate of $88 a night before taxes and fees which knocked it up to $103/night.
MONDAY JULY 9
Sarah and I were the first up today so we could get her to her conference. We left the hotel at 7:35am to drive up to the Convention Center. The interstate was clogged with traffic so we took surface streets. They too were fairly clogged so it took us about 35 minutes to make the otherwise 10 minute drive. What would hurt us all week in Minneapolis is the interstate (35) downtown was under major construction and off-ramps and on-ramps were mostly inaccessible. This made traffic everywhere a pain. I dropped Sarah off and then headed back to the hotel. I stopped at a Walmart just down the road from our hotel along the way to grab a few essentials.
I woke the boys up and we got breakfast just before 9am. They had typical hotel breakfast fare. They had a nice courtyard in the midst of the hotel, outside, that we sat in to eat. We hung out in the room for awhile after breakfast playing a group game called "Bomb Squad". I then took the boys swimming for a good hour til lunch time. Around 12:30p we hit a Subway near the hotel for lunch.
We spent the afternoon over at Mall of America which was just a short drive from the hotel. We had a Yakima Skybox on our van and so we couldn't park in their garages. We parked in the surface lots north of MOA which are also by the Ikea. This was easy access from our hotel on the north end of it all. Parking was all free.
In Mall of America walked through the inner theme park first which was now all Nickelodeon themed from all of their cartoons. We went to the LEGO Store. It was a typical LEGO Store but with many of the large LEGO creations that I remembered from previous visits to MOA. We grabbed a couple of Avengers Infinity War sets there. We then began walking laps around the mall looking for anything fun to do. We briefly checked out the Sea Life Aquarium and resolved to likely head back there the next day. The LEGO store had been missing a particular Infinity War LEGO set we wanted and we checked out a Barnes and Noble which happened to have it in their small toy section so we grabbed it. The sets were all a few dollars higher here than on Amazon but I wanted to get them for the boys as part of our trip.
We walked most all of the first three floors and by 4:30p or so decided we'd had enough. We had been contemplating supper at the mall but didn't want to try and kill another hour or two before eating so we headed back to the hotel. Sarah had a full day at the conference including an evening at Concordia St. Paul so she wouldn't be joining us for any of it today. Back at the hotel the boys didn't want to go out again so we ended up ordering pizza from Domino's who had a 50% off deal going. We just relaxed the evening away until around 9pm when I headed back up to the convention center to grab Sarah. That time I took interstate but with a brief detour because of the downtown closures.
TUESDAY JULY 10
I began today with a 3-mile run which took me from the hotel over to the parking on the north end of Mall of America and then back. Yesterday I had run on the treadmill in the hotel but it was humid in there and treadmills are just awful. I finished my run in time to get Sarah up to the convention center as was our morning routine. And as it went yesterday, I got back just before 9a to wake up the boys and get them to breakfast.
We had planned on a hike in the morning after breakfast but there was a strong threat of rain. We opted instead for Mall of America and headed back over there. We tried out the Sea Life Aquarium. I found a ticket deal on the web and we were in for just under $20/person. It was an okay deal, but still a bit pricey. The aquarium starts on the first floor of the mall where you head down an escalator. To your right you can see the stringray tank but the walkway leads you the other direction at the bottom You then move to the next room which has anenomes, sea stars and other such sea life which you can also pet. The water was really cold. After that room they take group photos and then check tickets. It seems one could see those first two parts without paying if they headed back upstairs.
After checking tickets you then go throught he walk around of the stingray tank. They have mini underwater cameras which you can look through to see them with that underwater view. They have a number of good interpretive signs. The next 2-3 rooms had jellyfish and other types of fish and crustaceans with plenty of good reading material. The highlights are the underwater walkways. They had 3 different rooms in which you walk through one of the tunnels with the water tanks above you. One had a variety of sharks, others with varieties of animals from around the world. All in all we spent perhaps an hour and a half walking through it all and taking our time. It was mostly enjoyable and almost worth the high price paid.
After the aquarium we headed up to level 3 for lunch. We were on the south side of the Mall. I wanted Chick-fil-A which was on the north side but I found the boys food at the selections on south. The boys tried A&W, Subway, and Panda Express. We then walked to north after the boys had eaten for me to get Chick-fil-A. To my chagrin, we found that north also had those food selections and we could have all eaten together there. With Chick-fil-A in hand we headed out to the car to head onward to our hiking excursion.
We drove over to Minnehaha Falls Park and found a parking lot that I had scouted out on the map. We paid for two hours parking and began our adventure.
We headed back to the hotel to cool down after our afternoon workout. We hopped in the pool for some more swimming today and had another good hour playing around. Around 5:30p the time had come for me to go and grab Sarah so I dropped the boys off in the room and headed back out on the road. I grabbed her around 6pm and then we headed back to the hotel. It was near 7p when we got back. We had contemplated taking Sarah back to the Aquarium but it closes at 7:30p and time was too short. We did head back to the Mall for supper where we stopped on the north side. We all tried a variety of food options. We then walked around the Mall a bit to give Sarah a tour of a few things. We then headed back to the hotel for the night.
WEDNESDAY JULY 11
We began today with the same routine as yesterday. I got in a 3 mile run to the parking at Mall of America and back and then returned to take Sarah up to the Convention Center. Once again we dealt with the traffic but we got used to just running Portland Ave. north and south. The boys and Ihad breakfast again and then took time packing up the hotel room. In the midst of our packing Sarah let us know she'd be done by 11am instead of our anticipated 12pm. This shortened our morning, but it was for the best as we would have had time to kill. We got finished packing and checked out around 10:30am. We made a quick shopping stop at Walmart to fill out our groceries needs. We picked Sarah up at 11:20a from the convention center and hit the highway. We were fortunate to skip town with no traffic issues. We took I94 to 394 and eventually to US169 which we ran southwest for awhile.
Ahead of time I had tried to find a park to do our picnic lunch at. I looked as far as St. Peter, MN where I found a nice local park right near the highway. It took us til 12:43p to get down there but we pulled in and found a perfect area with a picnic table under a shelter. It was hot out, but we sat there and made sandwiches and had a delightful lunch. We were there for just a half hour. We got gas in town and then headed out.
We stopped again a few miles down the road in Mankato to get $1 drinks at McDonald's. This was Sarah's idea and it was a great deal. I even got a free large of ice water to refill my Yeti cup. We headed down MN60 from there. In Window, MN we pulled over for Sarah to take over driving. This was partly to get me a break, but also so I could watch the ending of the World Cup game between Croatia and England. It was a great game. We continued on MN60 until we eventually made up with I90. We drove on west hitting the South Dakota border at 3:48pm. We were rolling along nicely.
Sarah drove til we hit Chamberlain, SD where we drove down a large hill to see the Missouri River in front of us. We exited and hit Taco John's for supper there. It was 102 degrees outside. They had wonderful street tacos and chips and cheese sides which I loved. We also got gas there in Chamberlain. We left town at 6:40pm.
I picked up driving again and made great time cruising along I90. As we began to near the exit for Badlands we saw a vista exit which we pulled into for pics and it was an enjoyable view. We finally made it to the entrance for Badlands NP at around 8:45p. We headed into the park and stopped at a trailhead parking lot to get and explore for a few minutes.
We hit the campground and they directed us to our site, #43. I had spent time months back reserving it and hopefully picking out a great site with nice views. Indeed that panned out. We were on the northern end of the campground on its edge. It was really windy out there, moreso than I'd ever camped in. It proved a challenge to get both of our tents setup in the grass and it took all five of us. I used every tent stake and all guylines at my disposal to keep the tents in place.
It was a nice little campground with mostly RV's, but we were amongst a handful of tent campers. We had a reasonable walk to the modern bathrooms and to water. It was still windy when it was dark and time for bed and would remain windy through the night. The forecast said no precip for us but about 3:30am I was awoken to lightning to the north. I could see it flash. I checked the radar and there was a storm cell but it wasn't forecasted to hit us. In fact, the radar kept showing it move just north of us. It kept me up awhile and also woke Seth up. I had to walk him to the bathroom just to calm him down. Eventually he and Sarah would end up sleeping in the car because of the wind on the tent.
THURSDAY JULY 12
I was up pretty early today. In fact I was almost up from 4am onward. About 3:30am I was woken up by lightning off to the north and I checked my radar on the phone. Thankfully it was all looking to stay north of us, but not by much. We had kept the rainflys open on the tents to keep the air moving through and the temps down. I decided at this time to close up rainflys on both tents just in case. Sarah and Seth were both up as well and Seth was pretty worried about the wind hitting the tents. Sarah walked to the bathroom and then I walked Seth to the bathroom hoping to calm things down. When we all got back in our tents I had troubling falling asleep due to watching radar and Seth and Sarah never did go back to sleep in the tent. They ended up in the car, with Jonah following them.
When I woke up just after 6a that is where I found them all. So I set about tearing down camp and rolling up everything. Eventually everyone got up and helped with the tents as it was still very windy. We had camp down and packed by 7a. We decided to drive up the road and hike on the Notch Trail grabbing breakfast while there.
We stopped in the Ben Reifel Visitor Center for Passport Stamps, a postcard, and a bathroom break. We then started on the rim drive through the main Badlands park. We stopped at a handful of the different overlooks to grab pictures. At a couple of them we would get out of the car and even walk out onto informal dirt paths to get closer looks. The boys really enjoyed the exploring in here and later found it to be one of their favorite parts of the day. We followed the road to the Pinnacles Entrance on the west side and then headed north out of the park. We drove up to Wall, SD and then regained I-90.
We went west on 90 to near Rapid City. We then took SD79 south to get near Wind Cave. We were following Google Maps directions on all of this looking for the best route. It then took us on a dirt road, CR101 to get over to US385. CR101 was in good enough condition but incredibly dusty and made a mess of the car. Once on 385 it was a scenic drive into Wind Cave NP. We were on the lookout for wildlife in every direction. Wind Cave had no entrance fee. Once at the visitor center area of the park we found some parking and I ran in to get us cave tour tickets. It was about 12:30p when I ran in and we were looking to get into the Natural Entrance tour which they offer frequently throughout the day. They had a 1:40pm available which was perfect for us. It appeared they had added more tours than were publicized on the webiste perhaps due to volume of visitors. We paid $12 per adult and $6 per kids.
With tour tickets in hand I went back out to the car where Sarah and the boys had setup a picnic lunch. We were trying to not eat fast food for every meal and so had picnicked yesterday and today.. We finished up lunch with time to spare and so we went in the visitor center to look around at the exhibits highlighting the various cave features. They wanted us ready to go with about 10 minutes to spare for the tour. For the natural entrance tour we exited the lower level of the building to walk to a holding area on the walkway out to the entrance.
We had a nice tour guide who did a good job of answering questions and trying to keep people organized and engage. He walked us down the paved pathway to the natural entrance which did look familiar from when i was there when much younger. He told the story again of how the entrance was found and the man's hat was blown off the first time from the wind. We then went to a more modern entrance to the cave and he led everyone inside. We waked down about 200 steps to get to the mid-level of the cave where our tour would begin. Wind Cave is higlighted by its plethora of boxwork formations. The guide said Wind Cave has something like 95% of all the world's boxwork. Wind Cave is not known for stalactites and stalagmites. It also is not know for having large rooms. Most of the tour was in somewhat narrow walkways with views of the various formations. There were never any real tight claustrophobic spots on this tour other than a few times where the walkway would narrow to shoulder width, but would still have perhaps a 7 foot ceiling. The guide did a nice job of explaining the cave's history including how the original explorer mapped out several miles of the cave by candlelight and string. We did do one of the typical moments where he turns out all the lights to illustrate darkness. Somewhat comically,, a kid in our tour group had gowing soles to his shoes which made for some humor when he danced around in the p itch black. The tour lasted an hour and a quarter. We ended at the elevators where they led us back up to the surface.
After the tour we went through the visitor center once more and the gift shop and then decided we were good to go. We headed north onto SD87 and we had two goals. We wanted to see more wildlife like prairie dogs and buffalo and I wanted to find a hike. We ended up finding a win-win. We headed towards the Rankin Ridge trail and we spotted our buffalo sitting in the meadows to the west of the trailhead. There were also prairie dogs in the meadow to the east of the lower trailhead. Only Luke and I were interested in the hike while the others went prairie dog watching.
Leaving Wind Cave NP we drove through the west side of Custer State Park never having to pass into the day use fee area. It was beautiful driving on the mountain winding mountain road through the Black Hills. We went north to US16 and then headed west towards the town of Custer. We had a night's reservation at Custer Mountain Campground which was just east of town. I had made this reservation a month or two ago while planning out our trip. They were well reviewed and had good prices for tent campers with access to modern bathrooms. They set us up with one of their tent sites up on a hillside. It took us some time to find two tent pads that had as little slope as possible. It wasn't perfect, but it worked. We got our camp setup and then found ourselves to be hungry and thirsty.
We went to Mt. Rushmore Brewing Co. in Custer for supper. I tried their scottish ale beer and realized that just wasn't my style. For the meal I had their buffalo burger with cheese and onions and it was pretty good. We sat outside on their new deck seating and it was really quite nice. I followed up by first beer with an American pale ale and it was good. After supper we filled up with gas in town and then headed back to camp. We bought two $5 bundles of firewood at the camp office and got a nice fire going. The camp host was great in letting us borrow a lighter and he also had a bucket of kindling which we used. We settled in for the evening. I stayed up til just past 11p trying to use up our firewood and burn it down.
FRIDAY JULY 13
I was up early this morning, around 6:30a, and found everything drenched and covered in dew. The tent rainflies were so wet, even our cooler sitting on a picnic table bench had a wet top. It was otherwise a beautiful morning. This was going to be a real easy morning as we didn't have to depart for almost 3 hours.
We took our time getting the bags and pads rolled up and once that was complete we moved the tents into the sunny areas hoping to get things dried out. We ate up many of our remaining snacks for breakfast while otherwise just taking it easy and waiting for things to dry. After rotating and moving both tents several times by the time 9am rolled around both were almost completely dry. We were packed up and hit the road on schedule at 9:25am.
For our route we headed into Custer and then followed US385/SD89 south. We stayed on SD89 when 385 broke off to the east. US18 joined us and we followed this across the border into Wyoming. It was beautiful driving and when we entered Wyoming we thought we were driving through set pieces for the movie Dances with Wolves.
We took US18 south to Lusk, WY. We briefly went west on US20 to WY270 and followed that south. We were sort of zigzagging on the fastest route to get over to I25. We followed WY270 down to Guernsey. We were getting really hungry here but just couldn't quite find the food we wanted. In Guernsey we took US26 west to finally gain I25. We took that south to Heartland for lunch. We wanted the Arby's there but a bus had just dropped off a boatload of people so we settled for a nearby Subway for sandwiches.
The drive south on I25 in Wyoming was uneventful and quickly passed through Cheyenne without much notice. We were getting word from my brother David that his flight into Denver was late in taking off so we were learning we didn't need to be in much of a rush. That worked out as we crossed the border into Colorado and began to pickup more and more traffic as we passed Fort Collins. We would be in thick traffic, occasionally slowing down for most of the time on I25.
We got off the interstate at CO7, just before E470, not wanting to pay the enormous tolls, and took the side roads to head over to the airport. CO7 took us over to Brighton where we took CO2 south. We stopped for gas in here and then when we made Tower Road hit a Sonic for ice cream. We were using up our extra time waiting for David's flight to make it to Denver. We finally made it to the airport and went to the cellphone lot arrea. It is nice having all those amenities but that parking lot and the entrances/exits were crazy confusing to navigate. When we found David had landed we made our way up to the terminal. We had to loop around twice by the time David made it out.
Once we got David we made our way to I70 where we sat in horrible traffic. With an estimate of 8:10p to make BV we resolved we'd grab food on the way. After passing I25 traffic got better on I70. We followed US285 at this point now out to Conifer where we hit Qdoba for supper. After Qdoba we hit a patch of traffic before Kenosha Pass and then had thick traffic in South Park but it kept moving. After all of these delays it was at least 9pm when we finally made the house in BV.
We got the car unloaded, and even unloaded the rocketbox and then settled in for the evening. David and I checked out the next day's weather again and resolved that La Plata Ellingwood Ridge just wasn't a good idea. We started to gain interest in Torrey's Kelso Ridge but we wouldn't have 4WD so we then settled on Quandary's West Ridge as a fun option. We got our packs all readied up and hoped to be in bed by 11pm.
SATURDAY JULY 14
David and I were up at 4:40am today to head over to Quandary. We were out the door by 5am. We made it to the trailhead at 6:05am and found the lower TH already full of cars, not unexpectedly, being a Saturday. Dad was planning to take the boys kayaking and fishing at Cottonwood Lake today.
As David and I drove south from our Quandary climb we made a stop in Fairplay at the Subway/Gas Station for food. We each grabbed subs and I grabbed a Mountain Dew to drink. As we neared BV we were told everyone was up at Cottonwood Lake. Mom and Sarah were just leaving to head back to the house, Dad was going to wait til 3pm to leave with the boys. If David and I wanted to kayak we would need to be over there so they wouldn't have to pack up the kayaks. We had planned to go back to the house first and switch out some clothing and footwear but we also really wanted to kayak, so we headed straight for the lake.
We did a vehicle swap where Dad and my boys hopped in our van which David and I had been driving, and we took the Explorer with the rack for the kayaks. The others headed out. They had tickets to a rodeo in Gunnison that night and needed to be on their way. David and hopped in the kayaks and set out into the lake. We paddled around for awhile, and we floated for awhile. This was one of David's first real experiences in a kayak and he was loving it. We worked to relax and enjoy the experience. We spent about two hours out there.
After loading the boats up and heading back into town we decided to try Domino's and their 50% off special for supper. While waiting for our pizza we hit a liquor store and grabbed some Denver Pale Ale from Great Divide Brewery and headed back to the house. We had the evening free now to drink beer, eat pizza, and relax. We watched Black Panther and the Cubs game and made a good evening of it.
SUNDAY JULY 15
I was up at 7:30am today for a leisurely morning at the start. I could have slept in longer if desired. Mom made sausage, eggs, and fruit for everyone to eat. From about 8:15a onward we watched pregame for the World Cup Final between France and Croatia. The game started at 9am and we were treated to two fairly early goals, one by each side. About 9:40a we were leaving for church at Faith Lutheran, Buena Vista. We followed the end of the first half of the World Cup Final in the car where France had taken a 2-1 lead.
Services at Faith were very nice and we were out of church and headed back to the house by 11:15am. We found out France had won 4-2 in a very exciting game. For lunch we worked on burgers, brat burgers, and fries. After lunch we relaxed a bit and then went over to the build site for Mom and Dad's new house and checked out the house and the property for an hour. On the return the forecasted storms started to hit and gave a little rain to the BV area. The mountains looked like they were getting far more.
We spent the afternoon relaxing and watching the Cubs v Padres game. We started up supper which was grilled chicken and corn on the cob around 5pm. Because of the weather this really became a mostly do-nothing sort of day which is rare for us in Colorado.
To feel like we at least got something done today, we found time after supper to head back up to Cottonwood Lake. The weather cooperated enough giving us a full cloud cover but only light sprinkles of rain coming down on us. We tried some fishing and kayaking. I was fairly cold with not enough clothing. We stayed up there til dark.
MONDAY JULY 16
We were up at 4:40a to make our way out to the Elbert trailhead. We left the house at 5:10am and after a quick gas stop we hit the road. We got to the trailhead at 6:15am.
When we returned to the house we made the choice to head out for supper right away. We went into town in BV and went to the Eddyline Brewery. Most of us tried their pizza again. Its always pretty tasty. I wanted their Jolly Black Lager but it was out, so I had their Amber. While we ate, storms were in the area and we could hear thunder and see rain, but it didn't find us and rain on us. While we ate we watched the MLB home run derby with Schwarber v Harper.
TUESDAY JULY 17
Today was our earliest, and longest. We had been tempted to camp up at Blue Lakes so that it would be a short drive for us to make this trailhead. We even wanted to have Dad and my boys along so they could fish first thing in the morning. As Monday night when on however it just didn't seem to make enough sense for all of the effort. So instead we opted for the long early drive. David and I were up at 2:35am and out the door by 3am. It was a long drive up to Frisco given the need to slow up a bit in case of midnight animal traffic. We didn't make the parking lot along the bike path in Frisco for Mt. Royal until about 4:30am.
About 3pm we made the Overlook Restaurant where Dad and Luke were waiting with the Explorer to pick us up. They commented on how hard this road up into the ski resort was to find and then drive. We were thankful though they had grabbed us and saved us another 2-3 miles into town. They drove us down and we met up with the rest of the group in a parking lot in Breckenridge to regroup. David and I were given lawn chairs to sit in by the vehicles in the lot and fed food and drink to replenish our bodies. We sat there 20 minutes or so planning our next moves and it was decided to head back to BV.
Back at the house we were worn out and everyone else was ready for a quiet evening as well. We had pork chops on the grill and seasoned potatoes for supper and it was delightful. We enjoyed the evening watching the MLB All-star game which was in Washington.
WEDNESDAY JULY 18
We sorta slept in today which meant a 7:45am wakeup. Mom made breakfast for everyone again which included pancakes and sausage. We intended it to be a relaxing morning and for the most part it was. Around 10am the boys, my father, and I returned to Cottonwood Lake one more time to kayak and fish. Luke and I started in the kayaks and we paddled to the southeast corner of the lake where the others setup fishing. Unfortunately, no success was to be had with the fishing. I enjoyed the nice hour of kayaking and paddling. We were back to the house by noon for lunch. We had meat loaf, baked potatoes and green beans for lunch. After lunch, we set about packing for our backpacking excursion.
THURSDAY JULY 19
We returned from our overnight backpacking adventure around noon. We made it to the rental house where we carried things inside and sat for just a bit. We decided to hit lunch and get food before everyone showered. We drove down the road to Pa Paw's BBQ where we had eaten in June and I loved it. We had driven by it the other day and you can smell the fresh cooked BBQ on their grills outside.
I tried their BBQ pork plate again with corn on the cob and onion rings. I also drank a pint can of Eddyline Jolly Roger Black Lager which is pretty good. After lunch we went back to the house and finally got that shower. It was probably just shy of 2pm now and I spent the next hour just getting our car packed and all of our camping and backpacking gear sorted out. We had originally thought of starting our drive back right after supper but as the early afternoon played out it became the obvious correct choice to leave when we were ready.
The packing was done around 4pm and we began our good byes. We hit the road at 4:18p and began the very long drive home. We followed US24 all the way out to Colorado Springs. We grabbed supper at a Subway in the Springs. We continued on US24 northeast following it to Limon where we gained I70. We hit up a Sinclair in Limon for gas before heading out.
We watched some beautiful clouds and sunset go by in the beautiful eastern Colorado landscape. We had made reservations initially at a Quality Inn in Colby, KS but they had called earlier and said their hot water was out and they had to cancel all reservations. We rebooked at the much cheaper (in many ways) Rodeway Inn in Oakley, KS. We made it out to Oakley at 11:05pm central time. It was a motel-style place with very simple rooms. You get what you pay for. The beds and the floor were clean and the A/C worked so it had all the basics. The bathroom was obviously old and the door hardly worked. The main room seemed recently renovated though still not overly impressive.
FRIDAY JULY 20
We were up at 7:05am for a fairly quick start to the day from our hotel. We had to pack up Jonah's sleeping bag (who had slept on the floor) but otherwise were poised to make a quick start. After checking out of the hotel we made a stop at Sonic for breakfast. That was the one downside of our cheap stay at Rodeway Inn. We were out of town at 8:10am, not too far behind schedule.
I did the early driving and got us to a gas stop in Salina, KS at 10:38am. I had Sarah take over driving at this point, partly for a rest, partly to play some games with the boys. I also planned to be driving all afternoon during the Cubs game.
We stopped at a nice service plaza just east of Topeka, KS on the Turnpike for lunch. We had Pizza Hut Express and Taco Bell. We left there at 1:03pm with Sarah still driving. She took us to just west of Columbia, MO where I took over at 3:13pm.
We made another gas stop in Warrenton, MO at 4:35pm which ended up being our last stop. We hit some traffic on I270 on the north side of St. Louis but otherwise were able to make it around town well. We hooked up on the phone with Sarah's parents before hitting the Mississippi and decided on a supper meet-up. We headed to the IHOP in Alton for a meal together. We arrived first with Sarah's folks not too long after.
We had a nice meal there, I tried one of their burgers for the first time with unlimited fries. It was descent. I did try a second order of fries just because I could. After supper we headed out to their house to hang out for the evening. I took the boys outside to get moving around and we played some basketball and soccer. It was still a little warm and humid so we only made it an hour or so.
SATURDAY JULY 21
The final day of our trip was thankfully not going to be a long one. Our hard work at driving the last day and a half left us with just 7 1/2 hours of road time today, plus an hour to the time zone. We decided to leave from Sarah's parent's at 8am. We didn't have much packing to do in the morning, and Sarah's parents put out some nice food for us to have breakfast. We were able to get out of town at 8:15am.
Mark was driving and got us out to I70 and we made great time through Effingham and Terra Haute. We didn't have to make any stops until we made it through Indianapolis and hit the Portillo's at Fishers. It was full! It was 1:10p eastern when we got there and hoped we had missed the lunch crowd, but being a Saturday it was still crazy busy. The line was nearly to the door. Sarah hopped in line for us and ended up doing an online order while in line. The boys and I worked to find a table. It was probably a 20 minute wait for food but not too bad overall. It ended up being about a 55 minute stop but well worth it.
After lunch we had a stop at a rest area and then a gas stop in Marion, IN at 2:55pm. After that we made the shot for home. We took the US23 route into Michigan and then the back roads through Ida and finally made it home at 5:42pm. What a wonderful trip and the driving portions turned out so well for us.