Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Day 28-30: Stone Creek & HOME!

Destination: Stone Creek ("Crick", that is) OH to Columbia PA

3-day Mileage: 867
3-day Time: 17:18

Total Trip Miles: 7978
(Ellen bested 8K with her Pottstown PA drive)
Total Trip Time:173:20

Bright & early Friday morning we packed up "Kamp" for the last time on this trip. Stellar directions from our KOA host had us avoiding Interstate 90 construction & Chicago congestion despite our GPS' insistance that we suffer rerouting to her favored trajectory.

The Ohio & Indiana equivalent of the PA Turnpike is lined with trees obsuring all views, therefore,  really boring!

We were glad to arrive at our destination earlier than anticipated. Received by Ellen's sister, Rosetta, for a late dinner of fresh sweet corn & cheese tray, we were informed that her neighbor/handyman was planning on our trip "slide show" during our layover.

Most of us just lazed around Saturday ~ David took advantage of the daylight hours (& lack of supervision) to "explore" all the old out-buildings by collecting treasures that included circa 1940's newspaper proof sheets that lined the chicken roost to block drafts. In the evening we headed across the street for a barbeque & first showing of trip photos. We experience a unique eating & viewing experience that WOW-ed us ~ only in Stone Creek OH... actually, there probably are a few others places this would fly!

Sunday afternoon we headed into New Philadelphia OH with an ambitious list of activities: shopping @ Yaggi's Cheesehouse, visiting great Aunt Doris (age 94), touring Warther's Carving & Knife Museum, dropping in @ Tuscora Park for rides & Barbershop concert. We did it all!

Ohio was a nice respite before the short quiet trip our home in Columbia PA. We arrived around 4pm to quickly transfer Ellen's belongings to her vehicle so that she could experience the relief of being in her own home as well.

We don't know how to wrap up the discussion of the trip other than by saying, "It is Surreal ~ we've been to California & back."

Hopefully this blog did a good job of capturing highlights you've enjoyed with us along the way. It will also remind us that it really happened.

If you have the opportunity to view SOME of our many photos, more details blossom in the retelling ~ we'll try not to bore you :)

Stone Creek OH wildlife wandering about 50 yards away in Rosetta's backyard
Just one of David's many treasures that did (& didn't) fit in the van for a trip home
For our viewing pleasure... this tricked-out retired ambulance with accompanying projection screen
Ultimate party vehicle with cast iron grilling drum mounted on the bumper... steaks, pork chops & yes, bacon
Boys viewing master carver/knifemaker "Mooney" Warther's masterpiece ~ every time we go, we learn something new
Ellen, David & Ethan on the Tuscora Park Ferriswheel
Ethan's swing action
All hopped aboard the historic Merry-Go-Round
Excellent Barbershop performance

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Day 27: Boring Blog

Destination: Chicago IL
Departure: 10:00am
Mileage: 185
Time: 03:33
Total Miles: 7107
Total Time: 156:02

Today we expended a lot of energy avoiding the rabid Wisconsin mosquitoes during our morning/packing routine.

Today's short trip was designed to get us across the Illinois state line & close enough to Chicago IL for a brief(er) visit. Little did we know that patching or resurfacing roads is not popular out West like it is in PA.  Interstate 90 from the state line to (practically) Chicago was down to dirt.  Reduced to 4 lanes, needless to say, our progress was somewhat slowed.

When we arrived at our KOA, the host stared at us blankly when we asked for help to get into Chicago.  She was more than willing, but both 90 construction & this week's Taste of Chicago Celebration would make it a trip of nightmarish proportions, whether by auto or train.  Given all our pleasant adventures, we opted to take a day of rest before our marathon drive to our Stone Creek OH respite. We swam, did some laundry & walked next door to a steakhouse for dinner... boring (maybe to some, but to us...nice!).

When we arrive in Ohio we won't have easy wifi access to provide a window into our adventures. We're guessing from past visits that it'll probably involve cheese, possibly sharp knives & maybe some unexpected fun.  Our final post will be a summary of our time in Ohio & wrap up of our trip.  Thanks for following along & look for our final Coast to Coast post next Tuesday morning.

Huddling & covering up was their only defense (notice: photo take from inside camper)
Only 1-2 mosquitoes managed to penetrate our screened sleeping fortress ~ boys enjoying the safety
We liked the George Jetson-esque golf cart that the KOA host used to escort us to our kampsite
Odd large mouse by highway gas station
Cheeseman (w/ psycho eyes) by another highway gas station
Didn't quite meet the level of the Big Texan ~ still pretty good
We enjoyed the fun ranch ambiance
Children's amusement park attached to the restaurant & adjacent to our kampsite thankfully closed @ 6pm ~ sweet sleep :)

Day 26: Sioux Falls & Oakdale WI

Destination: Sioux Falls Park & Oakdale,WI
Departure: 10:00am Central   Mileage: 344   Time: 05:57   Total Miles: 6922     Total Time: 150:29

Headed to Sioux Fall SD namesake, only a 10 minute drive from our Kamp, before hitting the open road this morning.  It was a stunning low falls in the center of an urban park. Most rocks were cubic & polished to a smooth sheen. Every rockEach chose to enjoy it in their own way ~ walking the paths & view points, climbing dry "islands" or sprawling on sun-warmed rock.

The drive was pretty uneventful with 5+ hours of highway. It looked like it was straight from Central Pennsylvania: two-lane divided, grassy center with farms on either side. Boys watched a Little House episode in mourning for our missed stop in DeSmet SD to see the Ingalls' homestead... then, Laura & Ellen watched it as well. Kevin turned up his iPod left earbud to tune out the alternating laughing & sniffling that LHP seems to invoke from viewers.

Crossed through Minnesota, missing also our Minneopolis stop, to Wisconsin. Saw a much cleaner & broader stretch of The Great River ~ Mississip. Snickered at Wisconsin's 1000 mountains before pulling in to Oakdale WI. Stepped out of the van to be greeted by 100,000,000 mosquitos. An evening swim helped us retain some blood. If there's anything left of us by morning we're looking forward to our next to last adventure!

Must be frighteningly amazing during the Spring Thaw
Shaded Wisconsin Welcome
Another connection to Little House on the Prairie we passed today
Familiar PA view ~ except all farms we saw were typically surrounded by a block or thick clump of trees 
The Great River
Swimming makes the trip all worthwhile for several on our tour

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Day 25: Unstuck

Destination: The "Open Road" (then, Sioux Falls, SD)
Departure: 10:30am MT     Mileage: 360     Time: 06:02    Total Miles: 6578    Total Time:145:32

Ever seen the movie "Groundhog Day"? "Historic" Keystone SD was a little like that for us. We were ready to leave; so much so, that we were willing to give back our great loaner :) Even one of the employees at Teddy's Deli (Keystone's best thing goin') shared that she wouldn't want to be in town for more than a day.

Left a message at the dealer around 8:30... then, spoke with our service rep again at 9am ~ no part yet, but would check on delivery & call back... finally at 10:00 the call came: part in & work would be complete by 11:30.  WHOO-HOO!  Packed out the back of the Pathfinder, loaded everybody in & headed for Rapid City SD.

Although, we would have rather been other places, we are grateful that the problem occurred where it did: not on open highway, with convenient lodging & trustworthy dealer availability & service, plus a whole host of other details... thanks for watching over us God! Picked up the van with a clean bill of health to resume our travels. Unfortunately had to go BACK to Keystone to pick up the camper!

Easily decided to three-peat @ Teddy's Deli for the road. Lunch in hand, we left for Sioux City SD. We were supposed to stay in Mitchell SD ~ home of the Corn Palace (Grandpa, remember your attempted visit?), but decided we needed to go a little further to catch up to our itinerary. Arrived 7:30pm Central time for dinner & return to our camper.

Boys posing with the great loaner... joked with the dealer if they were baiting us to trade in the Quest :)
Awaiting it's own tow
Teddy's Deli on our horizon for breakfast, lunch & dinner
 Enjoy a little bit of our trip along I-90 East with just a sampling of Laura's Wall Drug series...

Check out the prairie dogs, including a unique white one, beside a service station we patronized
Heard of 1880's Town? Neither had we
Felt like we were making progress when we crossed the Missouri River
Back at it again!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Day 24: Reunited Again

Destination: Keystone SD & Jewel Cave National Monument & more Keystone SD
2-day Milage: 99 (+20 on a tow truck) & Time: 03:10    Total Miles: 6218   Total Time: 139:30

So... Kevin & van were seen promptly for diagnosis at Rapid City SD Nissan dealership. Cam Sensor likely blown by heat is the culprit. Go figure, if you've been following our progress. Replacement part is on order for a next day fix. Back on the road with a dealer loaner ~ 2013 Nissan Pathfinder... Nice :D

Yesterday's amazing sky... Red sky in morning, Sailor take warning... missed that one!

Day 23 return to Rushmore with boys' hike to base of the mountain
Inspired sketching in handmade journals by Kevin's friend/coworker Sue (thanks!)
Reunited post-breakfast for a hotel room shuffle to stay an additional night in Keystone SD. Decided to make the most of our time & fresh wheels. We headed over to Jewel Cave National Monument hoping for a tour of the cave. No deal, due to lengthy wait for afternoon opening. Enjoyed the very informative Visitors Center though.

Tourist trap Keystone SD has us feeling caged
Stamping National Park Passports
Arranging our vagabond belongings in the back of the Pathfinder loaner
Stopped for lunch at a little place in Custer SD that caught our eye. Enjoyed salads, which has been off the camping menu. Topped it off with excellent Bumbleberry Pie ala mode & ice cream cones. Afternoon swim ~ boys were in 2.5 hrs, worked up enough hunger to repeat excellent meal @ a NY-style deli across the street from our hotel. Concluded the evening with a strategy-session to cross our road trip finish line.

You can see why it caught our eye ~ the Purple Pie Place did not disappoint our stomachs either
Intense rain storm clearing from the sky behind our hotel in Keystone SD
Deli will be our breakfast destination tomorrow as well

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Day 23.5: Rushmore II & Change of Plans... Prayers appreciated!

Destination: Rushmore... then TOW TRUCK

Headed out after a rainy start to our day for a return to Rushmore enroute to Badlands & Mitchell SD in a timely manner around 10:00am. Had a great time (more on that later)

Van acted up with the dash lighting-up downhill near Rushmore, then did the same thing after Rushmore as entered Keystone SD.  Got fuel, conferred & decided not to take our chances getting stranded on the hilly 20 mile trip to nearest auto mechanic in Rapid City SD.

Called AAA for a tow & ladies secured Keystone lodging along with kids. Kevin got a lift & complimentary local history & friendly advice from the tow truck driver. Ethan & David are fine with the delay & indoor pool :)

Kevin is in Rapid City SD at a nearby motel awaiting a 7:30am opening of the local Nissan Dealership.

Thankful for God's traveling mercies thus far & we are trusting all the way. King David could write Psalm 103 in the worst of times; it says, "Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me."

Appreciate any & all thoughts & prayers. We'll keep you posted!

Day 22: Crazy Inspired Sculptors (a.k.a Crazy Horse & Rushmore)

Destination: Crazy Horse & Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Departure: 10:00 am MT
Milage: 300
Time: 05:42
Total Miles: 6119
Total Time: 136:20

Spent a blustery night in Cheyenne without rain :) Packed in the morning sun & headed North East for the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Picture we should have taken: a real cowboy on his horse riding the fences… oh, well. Chalk that one up to our memories! Enjoyed a country highway drive through Cattle Country as we approached our first South Dakota destination.

Enjoyed picturesque views of Cattle Country from the heartland of America
We enjoyed viewing the Crazy Horse Memorial.  The story of the sculptor & his family is a display of perseverance & legacy, as 7 of 10 children continue the work on the mountain edifice. Davy & Ethan provided some add'l private funding to bring home a rock from one of the blasts.

Expressive cloud frames the first 50+ years' work on Crazy Horse
Concept & what has been accomplished
Overnight-ing in the hugest KOA ever!  They have a restaurant, horse stable, hotel, & rental cars. We're near Comfort Station 4 (nice term for bathhouse). After a quick dinner & covering our camper with it's poncho, we drove the 6 miles to Mount Rushmore National Memorial for the lighting ceremony. Davy squeezed in another Junior Ranger commission. We thought we were in the clear, but a mass entrance into the Visitors Center alerted us to rain. We retrieved a damp Ellen & patiently  awaited the Memorial illumination under cover. Missed the program we couldn't see or hear, which we're sure was moving, but enjoyed the lit sculpture. Warmed up on the return trip to our beds.
Mount Rushmore
Davy's Junior Ranger oath
Illuminated view
"Popup Poncho" shedding Day 23 morning shower