9 days and 3,700 miles...yellowstone or bust 2008: day 1

Saturday May 17th, a great day to start a multi thousand mile road trip. It was Jen and my 11th wedding anniversary, and the start of a trip we have been planning for months. We carefully planned our clothing and electronics (at least for Yellowstone, I neglected to see how hot it would be on the actual trip there), we secured a bunny sitter (Thanks Carl!), and updated the Garmin vehicle icon to the Black Pearl among other important preparations. After a marathon packing session the previous evening and part of Saturday morning, we bid the bunnies goodbye and hit the road around 10:00am.

Our route to the park took us out I-90, through Wisconsin, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Unfortunately this also included Chicago and Rockford Illinois. I have made this junket many times before, and I can never seem to find a good time to drive through Chicago. If it's not the ridiculous amount of traffic, it's Illinois' unrealistic road construction goals exasperating said traffic (really, 25 miles of single lane traffic near Rockford with approximately one mile of actual active road work? I call lazy...move the darn barrels when you need to work on that section). I really do give credit to anyone that has to commute in Chicago on a regular basis, I personally could not do that myself, at least not without eventually serving some mandatory federal prison sentence. After missing one toll gate due to heavy traffic (thanks to the state of Illinois for a convenient website to pay missed tolls...I know I probably could have ignored missing an 80 cent toll, but best to be accountable...and somewhat funny using a credit card on-line to pay 80 cents) we finally greeted Wisconsin and the promise of cheese curds with open arms (queue Journey).


You see, I-90 comes very close to Tomah and the home of Humbird Cheese. While you can obtain cheese curds at almost any exit in Wisconsin (and complimentary with AAA roadside assistance), the squeaky freshest are always at Humbird. While I'm not sure if this is a factual statement, this stop in Tomah is almost mandatory for Jen and I (certainly a tradition, we used to stop here on our trips to Minneapolis/St. Paul, and it's been a while). With snacks and the all important strawberry-rhubarb jam obtained and the car refueled, we made like Lee Nails and pressed on to our destination for the evening: Jackson, MN.

But there is so much more before that, well, not really actually. Southern Minnesota is somewhat dull, at least after the Mississippi river valley which is very stunning this time of year. I was very surprised to see the number of wind turbines both active and under construction though. It makes me smile to see them gracefully spinning in the distance, and nice to see an investment in alternative energy. With the sun setting, we wrapped up our eleven hour and seven hundred mile leg of day one by arriving at the AmericInn in Jackson. The laugh of the evening came from the receptionist. We stated we had reservations for the evening (although given the five other vehicles in the parking lot, reservations where probably not needed) to which she smiled and said "I've been waiting all day to hear you pronounce that last name". Oh, we did have a few more smiles that evening (keep your minds out of the gutter). We found a small Ma/Pa restaurant very close to the hotel and written on the pane glass windows were various specialties. The one that stuck with us and remained our interjection throughout the trip was "Sweet Buttermilk Pancakes" (used in context: Sweet Buttermilk Pancakes, that's a lot of cheese...). The other smile was watching llamas at a farm across the street. Llamas make me smile....

Tomorrow: South Dakota and the Corn Palace...oh and some place called the Badlands and Mt. Rushmore...