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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 4-5: Kansas, Missouri, Illinois & Indiana

Our days have been a blur lately.  So much farmland with endless barns, fields, and trees along the way.  Living out of hotels and a suitcase got old pretty quick, so we’ve been driving like bandits! Focused on getting to Michigan to pick up our trailer, we’ve been passing through quite a few states on the way.  After seeing Oklahoma, it was at the top of our list.  However, while we were staying there, we saw a tornado warning on the TV.  That was a rude awakening! As much as I liked Oklahoma City, I’m afraid the possibility of a tornado was a deal-breaker.

 

Day 4 (6/4/14): Oklahoma City, OK | Wichita, KS | Joplin, MO | Branson, MO

After Oklahoma, we drove through downtown Wichita, Kansas.  We took the I-35 highway from Oklahoma City to Wichita and decided that the I-35 should be called the Armadillo Murder Highway because we saw 5 dead armadillos on the side of the I-35 on the way to Wichita.  Lots o’ road kill! Aside from the armadillos, the greenery between Oklahoma and Kansas became slightly more scarce, but the churches became larger with the occasional massive cross marker on the side of the highway.  I think it’s safe to say that we were officially driving through the “Bible Belt.”

Our next stop after Kansas was Missouri.  The route required a 2-lane highway with the random creepy dilapidated farmhouse on the side of the road.  We started verbally labeling these farmhouses “TCM” for Texas Chainsaw Massacre as they reminded us of the movie and the site where it took place…haha! A fun little road game.  🙂 We were heading to St. Louis, MO but decided to make a couple of stops along the way.  Our first detour was Joplin, MO.  When we first saw the sign for Joplin, Justin remembered that a catastrophic tornado had taken place there a few years back, and he wanted to see the tornado site along with how well the town had recovered.  It’s looking good with many newer buildings.

After Joplin, we headed to Branson, MO.  With more theatre seats than Broadway, Branson is known as the “Broadway of the Midwest” and has always intrigued Justin.  Branson had a small-town America feel to it with a Main Street for it’s downtown.  We stayed the night there and walked around Branson Landing, a shopping center by Lake Taneycomo where we saw the mesmerizing water and fire show.  The same people who choreographed the fountain show for the Bellagio in Las Vegas also did the $7.5 million fire and water show for Branson Landing.  The lake had an eerie yet enchanting fog hovering over it.  Later that night, there was a crazy storm with crashing thunder and bright flashes of lightning! The torrential downpour of rain formed rivers of water that ran down the hilly topography of the town.

 

Day 5 (6/5/14): Branson, MO | St. Louis, MO | Illinois | Indianapolis, IN

When we headed out the next day, the rain continued.  From Branson to St. Louis, we came across the world’s largest rocking chair standing 42’4″ high! There was also a surprising number of vineyards and wineries that we passed along the way.  I had no idea that Missouri made so much wine! How random, right? Once we got to St. Louis, the first thing we did was look for a good BBQ place.  How could we come to St. Louis and not try St. Louis-style ribs?! We headed to Pappy’s Smokehouse and stopped for lunch.  Thank goodness! It was seriously the best BBQ we had ever had! We could smell the sweet smokiness sauntering through the parking lot as we approached the restaurant, teasing us with the mouth-watering BBQ to come.

From St. Louis, we drove through Illinois (don’t worry…we’ll make our way back to see Chicago) and continued on to Indiana where we stayed the night in Indianapolis.  On the way, we passed the Mississippi River and also happened to see 4 more of the “World’s Largest” items – World’s Largest Wind Chime, World’s Largest Golf Tee, World’s Largest Knitting Needles, and World’s Largest Crochet Hook! Once we got to Indianapolis, I forgot about the time change and didn’t realize how late it was because it was past 9:00pm at night, but it was still light outside.  What a trip! We had White Castle for dinner (my first time!) and then crashed.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see downtown Indianapolis because we had to get up early the next morning to get to Michigan in time to pick up our trailer.  More on our trailer next time! 🙂