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Days 73-75: South Dakota, North Dakota & Minnesota

Day 73 (8/12/14): Spearfish, SD | Jamestown, ND

IMG_7373From South Dakota, we headed up to North Dakota. The landscape of North Dakota is mostly flat with some occasional hills. However, we saw countless fields of sunflowers and straw-looking crops. As the breeze blew the ocean of wheat, we finally understood the meaning of “waves of grain” and were mesmerized by the swaying stems.

While traveling, we eventually saw a sign for the World’s Largest Metal Sculptures on the Enchanted Highway. We were towing the trailer but were still tempted to take the 32-mile, 2-lane highway to see the multiple metal sculptures at different points along the road. We have a strange fascination with World’s Largest items, which you might remember from the post about Missouri and Illinois.

"Geese in Flight" - one of the World's Largest Metal Sculptures
“Geese in Flight” – one of the World’s Largest Metal Sculptures

However, we remembered our ordeal on the 2-lane road next to Lake Michigan with nowhere to turn around and didn’t want to run into a similar situation. So unfortunately, we couldn’t take the Enchanted Highway. We did at least get to see one of the sculptures though off of the main freeway. As we continued driving, we passed the Missouri River on our way into Bismarck and kept heading east to our campground in Jamestown, ND.

 

Day 74 (8/13/14): Jamestown, ND | Prior Lake, MN

World's Largest Buffalo
World’s Largest Buffalo

We only spent one night in North Dakota and began making our way to Minnesota. As we were leaving Jamestown, ND, we saw another World’s Largest from the road: the World’s Largest Buffalo (statue). When we reached Minnesota, we realized why it’s called the Land of 10,000 Lakes as we passed lakes left and right.

IMG_7425Another fun fact worth mentioning about Minnesota is that they’ve had the cheapest gas we’ve come across so far at just $3.29/gallon! That was nice considering how much gas we’ve been going through on this cross-country journey, especially when we’re towing the trailer. However, we hit some traffic through Minneapolis on our way to our campground. It seems like any place worth living is going to have some traffic, so Minneapolis might be promising.

After getting set up at camp, I was craving a real meal. We’ve been on the go so much lately, that our meals have primarily consisted of fried, greasy foods and snacks. I needed some yummy food with substance, so we explored the area surrounding our campground in Prior Lake. We found ourselves in the nice Minneapolis suburb of Burnsville at the Chianti Grill restaurant.

Lobster Ravioli
Lobster Ravioli

It ended up being a great choice! I loved the huge chunks of lobster in my Lobster Ravioli, and Justin enjoyed the Chicken Saltimboca with a side of delicious mashed potatoes.  It had been so long since we’d had a nice dinner. We couldn’t find any decent food in the areas of South Dakota we visited, and we realized they were all small towns. While we’ve enjoyed seeing small town America, we’ve decided we’re too much of foodies to live in a small town. Haha!

Chicken Saltimboca
Chicken Saltimboca

On our way back to our trailer, we took a closer look at Burnsville and really liked what we saw. It seemed like a nice area and was really green with newer housing spaced apart. There was also a decent balance of chain and unique, individual restaurants. Plus the suburb has the convenience of big box stores, such as Target. It’s nice to be back in civilization! 😉 We’re really looking forward to seeing downtown Minneapolis!

 

Day 75 (8/14/14): Minneapolis, MN | St. Paul, MN

IMG_7336IMG_7306After being on the road for 74 days and putting over 15,000 miles on the truck, it was time for another oil change. We took the truck to the GMC dealership first thing in the morning to get it taken care of. From there, we found a barbershop for Justin to have some grooming done. He’s letting his beard grow, but he couldn’t take his hair curling around his ears and desperately needed a trim. It was the first time he’s had his hair cut during our trip and the first time anyone other than me has cut his hair since we’ve been together (nearly 8 years!). The trailer isn’t ideal for cutting hair. Plus, it was nice to sit back and let someone else do the work for once.

With Justin’s spiffy new hair do, we ventured over to Minneapolis’ downtown area and were pleasantly surprised! Downtown Minneapolis is lively, diverse and colorful. There are rooftop restaurants, flower arrangements along the sidewalks and numerous old churches adding to the character. We headed over the Mississippi River to the revitalized northeast area and ended up on the quaint brick Main Street where we had lunch at one of the sidewalk cafes. It was a beautiful day with perfect weather. Everyone seemed to be out and about.

Several people said that Minneapolis is the most bike-friendly place in the nation. However, they also mentioned that the winters are brutal. If every day in Minneapolis had weather similar to today’s, I could live there. We loved the downtown area, and the suburbs seemed really nice as well. Being born and raised in Las Vegas though, I’m not sure if I could handle the winters there.

Downtown St. Paul
Downtown St. Paul

Since Minneapolis is one of the Twin Cities, we had to also see it’s twin while we were there. After lunch, we took the short drive over to St. Paul, MN. It may be Minneapolis’ twin in proximity, but it doesn’t match Minneapolis’ vibrancy and liveliness. If I had to choose between the two, I’d definitely pick Minneapolis over St. Paul.

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Days 11-12: Indiana, Illinois, Iowa & Nebraska

We drove through 4 states in one day! That’s our record so far for most states in a single day.  On day 11, we started off in Indiana then drove through Illinois and Iowa and ended up in Nebraska.  It was a productive day! Then day 12 was spent in Omaha, NE taking in the sites of the downtown area.

 

Day 11 (6/11/14): Michigan City, IN | Illinois | Des Moines, IA | Omaha, NE

We had stayed a couple of nights in Michigan City, IN while we visited Chicago.  We left Indiana this morning and headed back through Illinois en route to Iowa.  As we passed the state line between Illinois and Iowa, we drove over a much prettier area of the Mississippi River than the part of the Mississippi River we passed from St. Louis, MO to Illinois.

Once we were in Iowa, we were taken aback at how green and pretty it was with its rolling hills and never-ending crop fields.  I have to say, I’ve been impressed with the scenery in most of the Midwest states we’ve seen so far, especially Iowa.  For some reason, I always pictured the Midwest as consisting of flat, dry, blah grasslands, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how inaccurate my assumption was.  Iowa was a vibrant green with endless rows of crops covering the hillsides.

When I mentioned that there weren’t many trees though, Justin saw it differently.  He said, “If there were a lot of trees, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the landscape of the hills.” Hmmm…good point! Justin’s statement allowed me to truly recognize the hillsides and their enthralling waves of green.  Plus, we haven’t seen mountains since Albuquerque, NM, which helped us enjoy the hilly countryside even more.

We had originally planned on staying the night in Des Moines, Iowa, but when we drove through the downtown area, it was much smaller than we expected.  Actually, to be honest, it was too small for us, and we knew it wasn’t going to be the right place for us.  This was the basis of our decision to continue driving the additional 2 hours to Omaha, Nebraska where we ended up setting up camp for the night.

That night was scary though! There was an intense windstorm, and we literally thought a tornado was on its way if it wasn’t already there.  The entire trailer was shaking back and forth and felt like it would fall apart at any moment.  We kept waiting to hear sirens warning us that a tornado was coming.  I couldn’t sleep for fear that we would be sucked up by the storm like a modern-day Dorothy in our mobile home.

Apparently, I have a new-found phobia of tornadoes ever since we saw the tornado warning in Oklahoma. It was like a light-switch suddenly flipped on, and I realized “Oh yeah…there are tornadoes!” I guess since I had always lived on the west coast and never had to deal with them, I kind of forgot that tornadoes exist. I have since been reminded of them though and don’t want to live anywhere where they’re a possibility.  Luckily, there was no tornado and the wind got better, but overall Nebraska was pretty windy during the time we were there.

*** UPDATE: You may think I was being paranoid about tornadoes, but 3 days after we left Nebraska (on the exact same day I published this post before I even knew about it), there were TWIN TORNADOES barely more than 100 miles from where we had been staying!!! The even crazier part though is that if we had stayed in Iowa for 2 nights and 3 days like we had originally planned, we would have been in Nebraska during the tornadoes!!! We literally got out just in time! You can read about the tornadoes HERE.  ***

 

Day 12: Omaha, NE

Today we decided to explore Omaha, NE.  As we were heading to the downtown area, I have to admit, I was slightly disappointed.  It didn’t seem promising at all.  However, the further east we drove from the I-480, the more appealing it became.  Before I knew it, we were in the Old Market district of downtown with its charming cobblestone streets, historic brick buildings and abundance of eclectic restaurants and shops.

We ate lunch at the Twisted Fork where we had to try the Chicken Fried Bacon with its peppercorn white gravy (good call!).  We drove up to the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, the longest pedestrian bridge to connect two states.  The bridge is suspended over the Missouri river and links Nebraska and Iowa.  We walked across the bridge where we could literally be in two places at once! The state line runs through the middle of the river, so at one point on the bridge, you can stand on both sides of the state line with one foot in Nebraska and the other in Iowa.  How fun is that?! 🙂

From there, we headed over to see the fountain at the nearby Heartland of America Park where we witnessed its towering 300-ft vertical surge of water.  Then on the way back to our campsite, we drove through the Dundee-Happy Hollow Historic District neighborhood to get a peek at Warren Buffett’s home.

Warren Buffett's House
Warren Buffett’s House

We find it fascinating that the billionaire and 3rd richest man in the world still lives in the house he purchased in 1958 for $31,500.  I guess for Mr.Buffett, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  I can see why he’s stayed there though.  It’s a lovely older neighborhood with well-maintained homes ranging from quaint cottages to larger more impressive homes.  If I lived in Omaha, that’s definitely where I’d want to be.