Richard and Suzanne's Big 2000 Road Trip
Stage 1: Up & Over
Phoenix, AZ to Trout Creek, MI
We left Phoenix a bit late - well, about 3 hours late. Turned Truckasaurus north up I-17 from the ol' home up to Flagstaff, where a nice dinner at Denny's awaited us. The huge portions of mashed potatoes reminded us that we were planning to visit Devil's Tower on Monday... then eastward along I-40, where we tucked our warbonnets into teepee number 5 of the Wigwam Village Motel in Holbrook for a good night's rest before our further travels.
After our sleepee in our teepee, we stopped first at the East Holbrook interchange (Exit 289) to see how the new construction detour plans will work out, then a short stop at Allentown Rd. (Exit 351) to check a few freeway signs and check out the souvenir shops. Turning away from our ADOT concerns, we then continued eastward into New Mexico, where we found reasonably priced Fina fuel in Gallup, then onward thru Albuquerque and the I-40/I-25 confoosion, where we turned north toward Santa Fe. In Santa Fe, we enjoyed some historic sightseeing, pizza at the Atomic Grill, and captured some colorful duckies at shop near the plaza, so we can always say "we have our ducks in a row". Then south, er, east, er, north on I-25 into Colorado, as we watched the gas prices rise to about $1.79 near Trinidad. We were getting tired by then, so we did our usual "stop at the motel with the coolest neon sign" routine, which this time was the Hilltop Motel in Walsenburg. A brief trip for dinner at Corine's Mexican Food after this, then back to the room, where a balky air conditioner was mitigated by cool mountain breezes thru the windows as we slept.
The Hilltop beckons
We rolled out of Walsenburg, then proceeded north past Cheyenne Mountain into Colorado Springs, where we filled up on gas and photos of a big green fiberglass dinosaur at the Sinclair station on Business 25 (with Pike's Peak in the background, of course!) Blasting Warren Zevon out the stereo as we entered Denver, we circled the state capitol and the US Mint (for a "change"?), and then headed west on Colfax (US 40) to Casa Bonita, probably the most amusing Mexican restaurant in the Rocky Mountain states. Any place that offers a combination of enchilada specials and cliff diving entertainment (really!) can't be wrong. We also solved the age-old riddle of which came first in the poultry division, as we played "Egg-venture" at the Casa Bonita arcade, then found a great terra-cotta chicken at a pottery store down the street. Then back onto I-76 & I-25 and a few brief stops to photograph how CDOT handles signing for bike access to freeways, then on up to the Fort Collins area, where we found our next amazing stop of the day - the "Swetsville Zoo". This place features literally hundreds of sculptures of thangs ranging from funny aliens to huge dinosaurs to crazy contraptions - all made out of old metal farm implements & other spare parts. After taking in this incredible array of interestingly arranged parts, we jumped back in our own unique combination of interesting old parts (Truckasaurus) and again headed north, killing time as we passed the towers of WWV on our way to Wyoming. Our tour of state capitols adjacent to I-25 continued in Cheyenne, and then onward across the high plains to Douglas, acclaimed throughout the civilized world as the "original home of the jackalope". We dug more in Douglas, dining at the LaBonte Inn restauraunt, fueling at the Broken Wheel truckstop, grabbing some Ben & Jerry's "Bovinity Divinity" at the local Safeway, watching antelope (but not jackalopes) play along the roadside in the light of the setting sun, and finally finding a rustic but comfy lil' room at the Plains Motel.
The interesting metallic denizens of the Swetsville Zoo
We left northward out of Douglas, rolling across the grasslands up to I-90 (hey, Rhode Island and Delaware plates!), then northeast to have a close encounter with that famous igneous intrusion, Devil's Tower. Just south of the tower, many cute prairie dogs popped their photogenic heads up from their burrows to see all the funny tourists with their prairie dog souvenir toys. Seeing no large alien spacecraft (just many RVs from alien states), we headed deep (OK, 1 mile) into Montana to do the obligatory "we were here" postcard thing at Alzada. Then across the tip o' Wyoming and into South Dakota, stopping briefly at Belle Fourche (pronounced "Bell Foosh"), the geographic center of the United States since Alaska & Hawaii tilted the US off of its previous Kansas centroid. After this middling experience, we wound east through the Black Hills to pay homage to the tourist Mecca of mid-America - Wall Drug! We hit the Wall, and did all the touristy things there in spite of the rain (we seem to have snagged some storm clouds on one of the truck's antennas somewhere near Santa Fe, and they've been following us since). After a dinner of buffaloburgers and official Wall Drug ice water, we loaded up our trinkets and continued into the night along US 14, where we found a place to stay at Motel West in Philip.
Fuzzy friends at Devil's Tower
We began the day (late, as usual) by cruising across the cow-studded prairie to Pierre, the second smallest state capital, where we viewed the visually appealing government buildings and grabbed lunch from the Happy Chef. Then north up the Missouri River valley, retracing the route of Lewis & Clark. I don't believe the Prairie Knights casino was there back in 1804, though... Our next relaxing stop was at the high-rise North Dakota state capitol in Bismarck as we continued our quest of visiting convenient capitals and their capitols. Then eastbound on I-94, where we zipped by the giant bird sculpture (apparently a crane, but not the construction kind) off I-94 in Steele. Our dinner stop was at the Dairy Queen in Jamestown, but prior to this we made a stop to say hi to the world's largest concrete bison, lording majestically over the interstate on the south end of town. As dinner by the romantic light of the instrument panel was finished, we were at Casselton, so we stopped for a quick trip just northwest of the interchange to see the world's largest stack of oil cans. After this bit of lubrication-related wonder, we finally wandered into Fargo where we found many flashy neon signs along US 10, but unfortunately very few actual motels under 'em. We ended up a ways into Minnesota before we gave up, turned around, and finally found rest off I-29 at the Motel 75.
A big, big bison beside I-94
We tried for an early start, but left as usual about 9:30 AM or so, heading east into Minnesota. Found a cool collectibles shop in Park Rapids, but unfortunately they'd apparently gone to lunch or something. We then proceeded to Lake Itasca State Park, where we found the top end of the Mississippi River, having visited the bottom end on last years' trip in New Orleans. We got "ankle deep in the Big Muddy" as we stood in the center of the channel, dodging little kids and dogs instead of the barges and tugboats found on most of the rest of the river. Then north and east to Bemidji, where we had lunch at the Maid-Rite, made the obligatory pilgrimage to the Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues on the waterfront, and even better, found a great Tilt-A-Whirl ride at a small amusement park next to Babe's big blue behind. Eastward along US 2 (we're definitely not in Arizona anymore), snapping a quick picture of the Big Fish supper club, and then stopping in Grand Rapids for stuff at the Holiday station and a visit to Judy Garland's birthplace. We were thwarted in our attempts to reach the giant fiberglass fish collection in Hayward, Wisconsin by two things - too many roads completely closed for construction (with 40-50 mile detours), and fast-approaching twilight. We finally made it into Wiscowsin near Grantsburg and headed slowly across the state along route 70, driving slowly with full forward lights to avoid the literally hundreds of deer we saw grazing and having their nightly fun along (and generally in) the roadway. Made it into Minocqua without bagging any deer, and finally made it into Michigan on US 45 about 2 AM (no, make that 3 AM - it's Eastern Time here). Then a final few miles into Trout Creek on M-28, and the outbound leg of the big trip is complete!
Our big Bemidji pals
Next Stage: Yoop, Yoop, Yooperland - Trout Creek, MI
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Latest Historical Revisionism 01 April 2005Scripting: Richard C. Moeur