Thursday, July 12, 2007

South Dakota – Land of… Nothing but farming

South Dakota ended up winning out over its northern cousin for our drive West from Minnesota. As we traveled across Hwy. 14, we were overwhelmed by the amount of seriously open land. For the majority of the time, we saw no cars, houses, or people in any direction.

Wheat fields abounded, and we were lucky enough to be driving through during harvest time. We saw them cutting the wheat, and rolling the straw/hay (?) part into those big rolls you see sitting in the fields by the side of the road. Literally wheat/straw/hay rolls (we grew up in the city – our crop identification skills are not the best) as far as the eye could see. One thing we have definitely realized over the past few days is that this part of the country is where real work is done – America is still very much a farming culture.

We camped for the night at a small campground at the Lake Louise recreation area about an hour west of Pierre, which turned out to be a great place to stop. The lake was beautiful, and provided some good sunset watching, and morning fishing. I caught three fish (none of which were more than about 2 inches long). Chris caught one. That means I caught two more than he did. Just wanted to point that out.

Check out some of the pictures.

We have managed to avoid interstate driving for the last 700 miles or so…

Goodbye land of 10,000 lakes, hello Dakotas…

We spent two days with Sara’s cousin Alyssa, her husband Dan and three boys – Colin (8) Sean (6) and Owen (2 ½) . It has been said that spending a few days in a house with three boys is the biggest form of birth control; however we were sad to leave and found our two days in the Dwyer household to be the complete opposite. The boys are so much fun and very well behaved despite their endless amount of energy (and volume). The boys called me “Grandpa”, “Dun-Dun” and “Frank” respectively, but I was able to provide ample old-school Transformers toy knowledge and was accepted into the clan during our stay.

Alyssa refreshed our senses with some great home-cooking and showed us around downtown Minneapolis with a picnic along the mighty Mississippi (not so mighty this far North). Apparently it gets quite hot here in the summer, however this week the weather here has been great: cool nights and warm, crystal clear sunny days.

We are off to either North Dakota or South Dakota next… we can’t decide and may make it a game time decision when the road splits. Most of what we want to see is on the west side of both states, but we have to get across them first.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Brief thoughts on Wisconsin…

It was very green and quite bucolic on the west site of the state in the rolling hills but “America’s Dairyland”, yeah right… America’s corn land. Perhaps we were not in the right part of the state… we mostly saw corn and a just few cows (<100 total in three days)… if those few cows produce America’s dairy, they must be raw!

We searched and drove a lot of back roads looking for large dairy farms but never really found them. We stopped in a cheese farm/factory in St.Croix County Wisconsin hoping to find out more about how cheese was made, how the farms work and taste some samples, etc. Apparently they only make cheese on the weekends when the Sunday drivers are out… @#$%? Someone in Wisconsin needs to create a cheese trail like they have in Vermont that let’s people explore the fine art of artesian cheese making and/or the “cheese food product” found in Kraft Mac’n’Cheese.

Mountain Biking and City Living

So we made our way into Wisconsin, and to Kettle Moraine State Forest about 2 hours SE of Madison on Sunday. There were a few different campgrounds at the SF, each of which were pretty empty on Sunday night. We had a relaxing Sunday afternoon, hanging out at the beach at one of the lakes in the forest, and made our first fire Sunday night. After a few small animal scares throughout the night while in our tent, we got up early Monday and went mountain biking.

Apparently Kettle Moraine is home to some of the best mountain biking trails in the country. We spent the morning working our way through the Jon Muir trail system, even heading onto some of the "difficult" trails. It was a great time - check out the pictures. After that, we showered, took down the tent and packed up the car, at which point it started pouring rain. Thankfully it waited until we had everything in the car.

We took the scenic route into Madison, a very hip little college town, had some dinner at a Mexican restaurant (which also happened to have a Monday night half-price margarita special, although that did nothing to figure into our choice of dining location) and spent the night in a hotel! Very exciting.

Today it's on to Wisconsin dairyland (we've been in this state three days and haven't had any cheese yet!!), and then on to Minnesota to visit the Dwyers.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Out of Michigan, into Wisconisn

Hello from the Atlanta Bread Company parking lot in Green Bay; we drove in toward Green Bay to pick up some Verizon Broadband service.

We saw Sault (apparently pronounced "Soo") Ste. Marie yesterday, however as luck would have it there were no large ships passing through the locks, only some tour boats. So we went to the Taquamenon falls a bit north of there, which were cool, but and there wasn’t much water flowing. The entire experience was reminiscent of our trip to Hawaii to see the lava that had been flowing for 20 years straight, however the day we were there none was flowing. Same thing with the ships in Ste Marie… busiest/largest locking system in the world… no ships the day we are there. Oh well, still a fun, pretty drive.

We stayed in Cedar River, Michigan last night… a great little state park called J.W. Wells. The state park systems are the way to go, each one we have stayed in so far has been by far the cleanest facilities, nicest grounds and limited amount of campground hooligans.

This morning it started to rain on the tent, so we packed up early (6:00 AM) and left before the thunderstorms set in…

We are going mountain biking in Kettle Moraine State Park today and will be in Madison Wisconsin tomorrow…