Summer Travel Map

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

South Dakota - Wyoming - Montana Travels

August 31, 2010
Little Bighorn National Monument, Montana

Today was an OK day for me and a boring one for Geri. She's been a real sport about this year's cross-country trek, which has been interesting in some ways but, hey, how many corn, soybean and hay fields can you see before you go nuts? I've been breaking it up with Halls of Fame and the odd historical monument. She's still searching for a good mani-pedi.

So, we survived the thunderstorms last night at Rocky Point SRA in South Dakota. The morning started out clear and cool, and we were on the road early, heading northwest. We crossed through the extreme northeast corner of Wyoming and made some good progress through Montana.

We stopped for lunch at the Little Bighorn National Monument (previously known as the Custer Battlefield National Monument, but renamed in 1991), and I spent a couple of hours walking through the National Cemetery and the Memorial, and listened to the Ranger Talk.

Click here for pictures.

Late in the afternoon, we continued our westward travels, stopping for the night just short of Billings on I-90. We did see the largest "Oversize Load" ever, along the way, though...

This thing was two flatbeds wide and had about 15 axles on the trailer.  120 tires on the ground!  No idea how much it weighs or what it was; thought they moved all the nuclear waste by rail.  As you can see, everyone had to pass on the right shoulder (we were next), as it was traveling about 20 MPH down I-90.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Center of the Country

August 30, 2010
Rocky Point SRA, Belle Fourche, SD

Today was the first cloudy/rainy day in a while, but at least the heat has broken. We had a relatively short driving day, heading out just before 10:00 and arriving at our destination, Rocky Point Recreation Area, just east of Belle Fourche, SD, right around noon. This is a nice Park, with about 60 long back-in sites with electric (20-30-50 amp) service. Although the sign at the entrance gate said they were booked for Labor Day Weekend, we counted two other rigs here, and a few more arrived late in the day.

Once we were hooked up, we took a ride into Belle Fourche (geographical center of the 50 States) and over to Orman Dam, which was built between 1905 and 1914, and was one of the first project of the "Reclamation Service" (now the Bureau of Reclamation). At the time, it was the largest compacted earthen dam in the country. It's primary purpose is irrigation, not as a water supply for communities.

Belle Fourche has a monument celebrating the Center of the 50 States...
...complete with a "walk of flags".
"Take that, Kansas"!
Hmmm.  Thanks for worrying about my convenience!
We were surprised to see the low reservoir level, given all the rain the upper plains have gotten this summer.
Many of the German POWs held here during WW-II actually stayed in the area after the war, bring a bit of diversity to the communities.

Late in the day, a front roared through, bring a short burst of strong winds and horizontal rains, but we were rewarded with a nice double rainbow and sunset.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A relaxing few days with more sightseeing mixed in

August 29, 2010
Rapid City/Hermosa, SD

After a couple of nice days of touring, we needed some "down time". And the hot weather returned with a vengeance (102°F at the peak), so it was pretty easy to stay home in the A/C-cooled coach for the most part.

We did get out for a bit, though. On Thursday, we headed into Rapid City for dinner at the "best" place in town, The Corn Exchange". The chef used to work at Henry's End, one of our favorite places in Brooklyn, among other place. We ate there in 2006, and we might have had excessive expectations, as it didn't seem as good this time. Good but not great. Oh, well...

Friday, I did a solo expedition, since Geri wasn't keen to visit the South Dakota Air & Space Museum. She'd been here in the early-1960s, visiting her sister whose husband at the time was stationed here in the Air Force. This facility is located on the edge of Ellsworth Air Force Base, currently home of a B-1B Bomber Squadron. After viewing the large array of planes on display (including a B-29, B-52, and B-1B - talk about a historical sequence) and looking at the inside exhibits, I anted up the $7 to take the bus tour on-base. The primary feature of the tour was the descent into a Minuteman II missile silo. With a pair of B-1B's doing touch-and-gos on the Ellsworth airstrip in the background, it was a nice tour, especially for those of us who remember air raid drills and crawling under the desks in elementary school in the early-1960s.

After a quick stop at the local Cabela's to check out options for personal protection (liking the Taurus "Judge", small 380 Rugers, a 38 Special with laser sighting for Geri and a very interesting Springfield "9") and Wal-Mart for prescriptions (actually two trips since they under-delivered the first time), it was back home for a nice evening with my Honey.

Yesterday, we made out a meal plan and headed back to Rapid City for shopping. On the way, we stopped at Memorial Park, which I recently learned has two actual sections of the Berlin Wall on display. Together with the Cold War-era items on display at Ellsworth, this was another interesting trip back down memory lane. It's a bit of a shock to the system when "historical" things are from when you were growing up. I used to think that "history" meant things up through the Revolution and maybe the Civil Wars. Hmmm.

Anyway, click here for Ellsworth pictures and here for Berlin Wall photos...

Friday, August 27, 2010

How could I forget...

August 27, 2010
Hermosa, SD

...the excitement we had near the RV Park today? Old age, I guess...

Anyway, we had some thunderstorms pass by this afternoon, and ended up with a brush fire on a ridge about a mile away from the Park. We watch a lot of TV from Los Angeles as we travel, so we're probably more sensitized to the impact of fires. The wind shifted a few times during the afternoon, but didn't drive the fire in our direction. They brought in firefighters from as far away as Black Hawk and Wall late in the day, and there was a water-dropping helicopter circling at dusk, so it's probably all right now, but the smell of smoke was disconcerting to say the least...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Another Day Trip - Deadwood/Sturgis

August 25, 2010
Deadwood/Sturgis, South Dakota

Since we had another beautiful day (second day in a row I wore jeans instead of shorts!), we decided to take a ride over to Deadwood, about 45 miles northwest of Rapid City. It was a fine day for a drive. Deadwood was relatively quiet (dare I say "dead"?),and the "main drag" was primarily bars and "casinos" (aka, "places with a few slot machines" here). We walked a bit and window shopped a bit, but when you've been to Vegas this is a little tame. Maybe if we'd stayed for the staged gunfight in the middle of the main street?

We did a "drive by" in Sturgis on the way back, since that's where we needed to get back on I-90 to get to Rapid City. We intentionally timed our stay here in the Black Hills to be after the peak of the biker rally traffic, so it was interesting to see the town in its "natural state". Life is, indeed, good.

Click here for some Deadwood/Sturgis pictures...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sights and Wildlife

August 24, 2010
Custer State Park and Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
Sights and Wildlife

Today was a beautiful, cooler day - a great time for a day trip. We decided to make a return visit to a couple of places we visited when we were here four years ago: Custer State Park and Mount Rushmore.

Custer State Park dates back to 1912, even though Custer's Expedition found gold in the Black Hills as early as 1874. It represents the vision of then-Governor Peter Norbeck, who mapped the whole area out as a park and preserve. In addition to the varied topography, from grasslands to rocky formations, it's home to numerous species of wildlife. We managed to see six different kinds of animals during the day: Pronghorn and whitetail deer, prairie dogs, burros, wild turkeys, and - of course - buffalo.

We made a quick stop at Mount Rushmore, which was somewhat crowded (to be expected in late-August) and a little late in the day for the best photographic exposure. We made a few pictures and hung around a bit watching the other tourists, then headed home after a nice day.

Click here to see a photo album from today's drive.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A slow week - for us...

August 22, 2010
Hermosa (Rapid City), South Dakota

It's been a slow and relaxing week for us here in the Black Hills (compared to my friend, Dave, who completed a 1,600 kilometer (~1,000 miles) bicycle event in Italy in under 120 hours). Whew!

Tuesday, we gathered up all Geri's documents and headed for the DMV Office in Rapid City, about 20 miles away. We've heard all sorts of horror stories about people being refused a driver's license renewal because they don't have the right documents. It seems that since the Patriot Act was implemented, renewals require proof of citizenship, Social Security Number and residence. Fortunately, there's a special rule for us RVers where a RV Park receipt and an affidavit on residence is accepted. The big issue for many people seems to be the other documents. Hospital (not certified) birth certificates, expired passports and especially name mismatches for the ladies have been a real problem. For example, who thinks to get a new Social Security Card after a marriage? Apparently, not everyone. Then it becomes a matter of providing documents to trace name changes (certified marriage certificates, divorce decrees, etc.) that many people might not think to bring to the DMV.

Fortunately for us, we did get Geri a new Social Security Card many years ago, and we had all our paperwork lined up. I even had the RV Park print off a new receipt showing her name just to be safe. We were in and out in about 20 minutes, including the time required to fill out the application and wait for our number to be called.

After a celebratory brunch at the local Perkins, we did a bit of shopping at the local Wally World before heading home. This being the primary reason for our stop here in South Dakota, we knew that we could now relax. And that's essentially what we've done this week. On Wednesday, we did make out a more comprehensive grocery list and made another run into town for shopping (Sam's, Wally, Farmer's Market, Safeway) and to pick up our accumulated mail at the mail service office. I saved a stamp and brought a check for our annual renewal at the same time.

Other than that, it's been very relaxing - and it's turned from warm to hot. After several days in the upper-80s and lower-90s, it was 97°F yesterday and aiming for 101-102°F today. And we thought we'd beat the heat by leaving AZ! On the other hand, it's supposed to break tomorrow and we'll have lower-80s and even 70s mid-week. And, it's been cool enough at night that we've been able to turn the A/C off and open the windows. It's also pretty buggy, mostly locust/grasshoppers (still not sure which, just not crickets) and no-see-ums (vicious little things), but they're not getting in the way as it's been too hot to spend much time outside anyway.

We've eaten pretty well, with Hot Dogs (I know that doesn't sound special, but Geri made her Famous Sauerkraut - woo-hoo!), a Beef Tenderloin Roast, Veal Parm, and Slow-cooked Baby Back Ribs on the menu. Tonight, I'm making some of our version of Philly Cheesesteaks; who knows, it might even be another Margarita Night.

Once the heat breaks, we've got some sightseeing planned. We'll make another stop at Mount Rushmore (probably hasn't changed much since our last visit in 2006) and tour Custer State Park (buffalo and donkey haven). We'll make the trek up to Deadwood for the tourist traps (last time, we had the pups with us so were somewhat constrained from walking around town) and I've got a reservation at our favorite local restaurant, The Corn Exchange, for Thursday night. We've had a few other recommendations on places to go, so we'll look to fit those into the schedule as well.

Life is good...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Back "Home"!

August 16, 2010
Hermosa, SD

Today we had an easy 99 mile drive. The morning started out cloudy and I figured I'd better do the "outside stuff" (tank dump, chair and grill storage, awnings up, Rover cover on) after I walked the pups. It was a good thing, since we soon heard the roll of thunder and raindrops on the roof. We had a couple of strong showers roll through, even a bit of pea-sized hail, but it soon passed and we were ready to hit the road by 10:00.

Staying away from the Interstate, we headed west on SD-44 all the way to Rapid City. After a quick fuel stop, we went about 20 miles south to our "home" for the next two weeks, Heartland RV Park in Hermosa. Of course, our legal domicile is Rapid City, so it'll be good to be "home" for a bit as well. We were soon hooked up and settled in, just in time for more rain showers. This afternoon, I pulled together all the materials Geri needs to get her Driver's License renewed (Patriot Act rules call for much more stringent documentation, especially if there are multiple marriages and name changes involved); we'll keep our fingers crossed.

Geri made pizza for dinner tonight and it was a nice thin-crust version that called for a Chianti clone.

We were treated to a wonderful sunset after dinner.

We'll call it an early night and look forward to more cool overnight temperatures. Tomorrow, it's off to the DMV!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Another day for pictures in the park

August 15, 2010
Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Today dawned on the cloudy side, and we had a leisurely morning. In the afternoon, the skies cleared and the sun emerged, so we decided to make another run through parts of Badlands National Park that we didn't see in detail the other day. We headed back toward I-90, via Cedar Pass, and worked our way back home with numerous stops for walks and photos. We didn't see any wildlife today (other than the tourists), and the biker traffic was declining. All in all, it was a nice afternoon, even if the landscape didn't differ much from what we've already seen.

Click here for pictures from today's excursion...

Once back home, we had a brew (Stella Artois for Geri and one of the Cooperstown specialty ales for me), took a power nap, and tackled dinner. Geri made another of her now-Famous Vegetable Gratins, and I grilled a chicken breast for dinner. It all went well with a nice "value" Cabernet. Good stuff...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

An "off" day

August 14, 2010
Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Today was a little bit of a disappointment, but life's like that sometimes. I was up early (like before dawn) to check out the meteor showers, but bedtime's starry skies had given way to clouds. In the (traditional) morning, we had some spotty showers, and I noticed one of the slide seals was twisted (could cause a rain leak), so that needed to be patched up. I then made the drive back to I-90 to check out the Minuteman Missile Site but there wasn't much there (I missed the Tuesday and Thursday "open house" presentations). Oh, well; can't hit a home run every time.

On the other hand, it was cooler today and we were able to turn the air conditioning off for the first time in who-knows-how-long. With overnight temperatures in the mid-50s for the next couple of days, it should be good sleeping weather.

Geri made her Famous Pork Medallions for dinner, paired with leftover Mushroom Fettuccini (forgot to mention that from earlier in the week) and steamed peas. The mushrooms called for a Pinot Noir, and I was able to find a "value" bottle in the wine storage drawer that went pretty well.

And, tomorrow will be a better day!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Badlands to Wall and back

August 13, 2010
Badlands National Park, South Dakota

We did a nice road trip today, following the "Badlands Scenic Loop" through the northern section of the Park, up to Wall (another "tourist town") and then back via a slightly different route. We brought the pups and our lunch, and saw quite a bit of the rock formations as well as some of the wildlife.

Click here for pictures from today...

We got home late in the afternoon and did a collaboration dinner. I thawed and peeled some shrimp for grilling and Geri pulled together a potato gratin (sans cream) and a baked vegetable medley that was the bomb. Both her dishes had a crust made with panko, and they had a kick since she used the spicy crumbs she got from Stew Leonard's back in Connecticut. Woo-hoo!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Onward to the Badlands

August 12, 2010
Interior, SD

Today was an easy day. Up early to a sunny morning, we headed across the street to Al's Oasis for a quick breakfast and some shopping (what else can you do?). Geri picked up a few postcards and we found a few things (like cinnamon buns) in the grocery that we couldn't do without.

On the road, our drive was short and more or less direct. I-90 West for about 130 miles, then 15 or miles to our park. We're right along the White River, just outside the little town (think "crossroads", population 67 according to the road sign). We had to pass through part of Badlands National Park to get here, and that'll be one of the focal points of our visit.

We had to jockey a little bit once in our spot, as the whole park is heavily treed and we knew we wanted to have the satellite working if possible. Once I tried one spot without success, I was able to get a signal. The park has Wi-Fi and cable TV, so we won't be completely cut off from civilization if we have an outage. Phone service? Well, that's another thing since we're out "in the country". Cell strength isn't bad in the Park and up closer to I-90, so we'll be able to check texts and messages periodically.

Once we were set up and the air conditioning in full effect (it being something like 98°F out there), I put out the outdoor stove/grill and got some pasta water going. Geri whipped up a fabulous no-cook Caprese "sauce" (fresh tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, shallots) that went wonderfully (with a nice Chianti, of course) on a warm evening.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Boondocking again

August 11, 2010
Oacoma, SD

We're headed into buffalo country, with all sorts of indications along the highway...
Yep, it's Al's Oasis all right...
We've stopped for the night at Al's Oasis, a tourist trap in the small town of Oacoma, just on the west side of the Missouri River. They have a store, restaurant, bar, gift shop, motel, RV Park - just about everything. The best thing? They have a big, level paved lot across the street where we can park overnight for free. We'll need to run the air all night, since the temperatures are still in the 80s, but that's no problem. We'll be back on the road in the morning, heading to Badlands National Park...

The buffalo is OK, but Merlin and Maya Lynn really don't care for the fake horse!
We just missed a series of storms that passed to our south, but were treated to a nice rainbow for luck.

A short visit to the Corn Palace

August 11, 2010
Mitchell, SD

There are always things we pass that we "gotta" stop for, and the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD, is one of them. Basically a municipal auditorium (the local high school basketball team plays there), it's become a representation of the community's commitment to farming, specifically to growing corn. For over a hundred years, they develop a new design and decorate the whole building, inside and out, with corn. We saw the 2010 version, which will be replaced this fall. We poked around a bit and did the self-guided "tour" ("follow the markings back to the gift shop and then out the door"), Geri picked up a few trinkets, and we snapped a few pictures. Nice stop. We were soon back on the road, heading west once again on I-90.

This is the 2010 version, we think, even though there are "2011" designations elsewhere in the design.
The corn designs are even on the inside of the building.
"Step right up and buy something in our auditorium, er, gift shop...
They love their corn so much in Mitchell that they put it on their street lamps...

"Hey, you're going the wrong way"!

August 11, 2010
I-29 and I-90, South Dakota

Today, we hit the road just after 9:00 AM, about on plan. We have an easy driving day, aiming to cross into South Dakota, fuel up in Sioux Falls, and head west on I-90. We weren't on the road very long when we found ourselves seeing an almost steady line of motorcycles heading the other way. The vast majority of them are heading home after a visit to the big bike rally in Sturgis, not far from our "home base". I thought the "festivities" lasted until this coming weekend, so was surprised to see what probably amounted to a thousand bikes leaving. Does it really "count" at Sturgis if you can't make it through the week?

In any event, we've never seen so many beer bellies, grey beards and doo-rags in one day...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Forgot Blue Lake

August 10, 2010
Lewis and Clark State Park, Onawa, IA

OK, so I forgot that Geri asked me to take some pictures at Blue Lake...

Feeding the local wildlife

August 10, 2010
Lewis and Clark State Park, Onawa, Iowa

Everywhere we go, we're warned to not feed the wildlife. Believe me, we get it. Unfortunately, the local wildlife here in western Iowa didn't get the memo. So, what have we been feeding? Deer? Maybe the odd raccoon or rabbit? Nay, nay, nay! We've been feeding the mosquitoes, black flies and some of the worst no-see-ums we've ever, well, "encountered". It's been hot, humid, and buggy, but we still enjoyed our stay here. Tomorrow, we move on...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Back in the "soup"

August 9, 2010
Lewis and Clark State Park, Onawa, IA

Not edible, mind you, just heat and humidity. We had some pretty intense thunderstorms last night, and park workers were out this morning picking up downed branches and debris. Today dawned cloudy and the stickiness hit me as soon as I walked out the door with the pups for their morning walk.

I cut up and seasoned a rack of Baby Backs this morning and got them in the crock pot with a good bottle of Cooperstown Beer, so the coach smells pretty nice this afternoon. With the weather outlook (unfortunately) being consistent for the next few days, we'll likely chill out and not try to do too much while we're here.

I did get out for a walk today, exploring the park itself. This park is located on Blue Lake, which is a cut-off oxbow bend from the Missouri River. So named because the Lewis and Clark Expedition spent time here exactly 206 years ago (August 9-10, 1804), they even have a replica keelboat on the grounds. They are also building a new Visitor's Center that should be quite a nice place to showcase all their Lewis and Clark memorabilia; looks like that might be open for next summer's season. They have a big festival here every June.

This 55' keelboat replica will be the centerpiece of the park's collection of Lewis and Clark "stuff".
The Visitor's Center building is under construction, with the exterior almost done and the interior work planned for the winter.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Across Iowa in one day

August 8, 2010
Onawa, Iowa

Yesterday, we stayed true to our plan: finish up laundry and do some travel planning. We did make a quick trip to the local Wally World (always entertaining), but it was hot and humid enough to keep us inside for the most part. There's not a lot to do or see here (the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion isn't until Labor Day and the meat packing plant, Wal-Mart Distribution Center and prison don't offer tours).

Today was a travel day. I'd originally intended to set up a series of boondocking spots between here and the Badlands National Park, just east of Rapid City in South Dakota. Then I did some checking on the weather. With highs forecast for the 90s all along our route, I didn't feel like running the generator 24/7 for 4 days just to keep comfortable. So, a little research led us to Lewis and Clark State Park in Onawa, Iowa, for a couple of days. I was able to reserve Tuesday/Wednesday online, and we decided to take a chance and see if we could get in tonight as well. Low risk: the place is almost empty. 108 sites, most with 20/30/50 amp electric service and a couple of dozen with full hookups. We're in one of the latter, a 90' paved pull-thru with one of the few satellite-friendly locations, all for $19/night. Hard to beat that!

Dinner tonight was a simple sauté of hot dogs and potatoes. One pan, easy cleanup, and a nice match for one of the "value" Shiraz that we picked up back in New Hampshire.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Travel Day: Illinois to Missouri to Iowa

August 6, 2010
Mount Pleasant, Iowa

We finished up our travel preparations last night and were up early on another sunny but hot and humid morning. After a quick stop at the dump station (OK, a little longer than usual but we were here for almost a week), we were on the road again. We followed the route we used the other day in reverse, heading north on IL-100 then IL-96, crossing the Illinois River in Hardin, and soon coming to I-72. We did a little zig-zag, taking I-72 west for a few miles and then I-172 north to Quincy where we crossed the Mississippi. Picking up US-61, we continued north until Wayland, MO, where we switched to MO-27 and had a chance to fuel up. MO-27 joined up with US-218 and we were soon at our destination, Crossroads RV Park in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. I suspect that the name is derived from its location at the junction of US-218 north/south and US-34 east/west.

All along US-61 and US-218 through Missouri and Iowa, we noticed specialized road signs designating the "Avenue of the Saints". Sporting a fleur-de-lis emblem, usually associated with New Orleans, we were curious enough to dig deeper. Turns out a Big Easy link couldn't be further from the truth: it's a designated "high priority corridor" linking St. Paul in Minnesota with St. Louis in Missouri. We never even realized there was such a thing as the "Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991", although we did know that "intermodal" transportation involves routes combining truck and rail methods (those long trains with semi-trailers on them). In any event, it was a nice smooth road with minimal construction.

The Crossroads RV Park is small (34 sites) and new (4 years old) and just what we needed: 50 amps, full hookups, satellite-friendly skies, and a laundry room right in the office building. Geri got the majority of the laundry done this afternoon and we'll have a chance to finish up and do some travel planning tomorrow.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Wrapping up the Illinois stop

August 5, 2010
Pere Marquette State Park, Grafton, IL

Yesterday was a day of chores and reflection. Geri made dog food, and I filled up the fresh water tank, running three hoses across several sites (empty sites during the week, although the reservations are almost full already for next weekend) to get to a water spigot. Before putting everything away, I changed the sediment filter on the water softener.

After all that work, we cleaned up and spent most of the rest of the day relaxing. We did start getting some "tank odor" inside, so I tracked that down to the trap by the washer/dryer and did a little sealing there (we're not using it since we're partially "dry camping", but a dry trap will cause issues). We have concluded that we can survive without water and sewer hookups for a week if we have to, but we really suffer when we don't have an Internet connection. When I booked this park, I did check it out on Google Earth and it looked fairly open. That means that the images were old, or from fall/winter/spring, or both. Since we also have the ability to turn on 'Net access via our phones when needed, I didn't worry too much about access. If I'd known that we'd have no satellite access and no phone service to speak of, I'd have shortened our stay considerably.

We did have a nice surprise in the afternoon, as Michael and Susan drove over after work and brought two humongous NY Strip Steaks for dinner. Geri whipped up Fried Potatoes and Haricots Verts, and we ate well, as usual.

We started getting some clouds late in the evening and I heard some thunder during the night, but today is sunny (so far). The Weather Channel (yes, we have TV from the dome on the front of the coach - thank goodness!) shows strong storms to our east and south, so it looks like we dodged a weather bullet. It seems a little cooler (make that less hot), but I'm not thinking that will last. We'll do some of our departure preparation today and be ready to head out in the morning.

We decided to make a quick trip to Edwardsville to the grocery, so I was able to snag a Wi-Fi connection for posting and email, but unfortunately, I decided not to bring Geri's mouse.  We've now realized that we (I) disabled her trackpad because she doesn't like it, but there's no way to activate it without having her external mouse connected. Arrgh!  At least we should have satellite and/or Park Wi-Fi tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Beating the heat?

August 3, 2010
Missouri/Illinois - Great River Road

It's hot. Darn hot. And, as "they" say, "it's not the heat; it's the humidity". Gotta stay with the air conditioning, but we can still take a ride. A quick check of the maps led us to a loop along the "Great River Road, up via Missouri and back in Illinois.

We headed out mid-morning, bring the pups along since they like to get out, too. A quick stop near Alton to take a picture of the "Piasa" rock carving (originally reported in 1673 by explorers Marquette and Joliet and "lost" for years, it "magically" reappeared in 1836), and over the Brussels and Winfield Ferries, and we were in Missouri. After a quick fuel stop (30 cents per gallon cheaper in Missouri), we were headed north on MO-79. Now, you might expect that the "Great River Road" would actually be near the river, eh? Well, not so much, other than in a couple of small towns. Basically, we were back in the corn and soybeans we'd seen ever since Ohio. We decided to start back once we hit Hannibal; it's a nice little town with lots of Mark Twain-oriented stuff, but at 99°F it was too hot to get out of the car!

Crossing the Illinois River at Brussels Ferry
View south along the Mississippi from just below Hannibal, MO

We crossed the Mississippi on I-72 and were soon heading south on IL-96. I was glad to be able to check out this route, since our plan calls for us to head out this way on Friday. Once again, we didn't see much of the rivers until we joined up with IL-100 and crossed the Illinois River in Hardin. We were soon back at Pere Marquette State Park.

View west of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers from Pere Marquette State Park
Before heading to the coach, we decided to take the "scenic drive" here in the park, which heads up on the bluffs with several overlooks facing west and south. Like a lot of public facilities, the park system is suffering from a lack of funding, which yields a lack of maintenance, so the road and overlooks are a bit run down and over-grown.

I climbed to "Flagpole Lookout" and was confused by the name...
...until I realized that the flagpole had been removed...

Monday, August 2, 2010

In search of dog grooming and free Wi-Fi

August 2, 2010
Edwardsville, IL

Yesterday, we took a ride to Edwardsville, about an hour away from "home". We'd driven through here on the way back from St. Louis on Saturday, and knew that there would be an opportunity to check out a dog groomer and grab some 'net time. We made an appointment for today to have the pups groomed at the local PetsMart (expensive but at least generally consistent around the country) as they haven't had a trim since we were in Alabama. We spied a Starbucks and I was able to download a few days worth of email.

Today, we were up early (well, early for us anyway) and on the road to drop off the pups for 10:00. They'll be at least three hours at the "beauty parlor", so we took the opportunity to have breakfast at Denny's and are now "camped out" at Borders. Geri's shopping and I'm blogging, so we're both happy. At least I'm up to date for now, and won't have to do much online (I can compose blog updates offline and have pictures ready to upload) for the rest of the week.

Plans for the rest of the week aren't locked in yet. I'm thinking I'd like to go back to the Confluence Tower on a sunny day, and we'll probably make a day trip up the Great River Road toward Hannibal, MO. It's supposed to be hot for the next couple of days (92° today, 99° tomorrow, 97° Wednesday, 92° Thursday - ouch!) with typical humidity, so we'll be looking to spend some time indoors no matter what.

Well, that's it for now...