Week 17 – Kieler, WI to Van Riper State Park (MI)

Day 113 – Kieler, WI

On Sunday morning, it was time for another long walk. Our campground was situated about four miles east of the Mississippi River, so we decided to walk down to see how much larger the river had become since we last saw it in Minnesota. We expected a walk though the Wisconsin prairie, but after leaving the campground, the road descended to follow a couple of streams in deep, forested ravines down to the river. It was a nice hike, and it was amazing to see how huge the river was compared to when we walked it on rocks at the headwaters.

After the long hike, we relaxed and enjoyed the afternoon and an amazing sunset at the campground.
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Week 16 – Sioux Falls to Kieler, WI

Day 106 – Sioux Falls to Omaha

On Sunday, we had scheduled one of our longer drives, so we packed up early and headed south into Nebraska. Our destination was Omaha, where Judy (Tracey’s coworker from Mercy Corps) now lives. After checking into the hotel and unwinding a bit from the drive, we met Judy for dinner at the Granite City Brewery and then called it a night.

Day 107 – Omaha

On Monday, Michael stayed at hotel and worked, while Tracey spent afternoon with Judy at her new house, before enjoying some ice cream and window shopping.

Day 108 – Omaha to Kansas City

We had another long drive ahead of us on Tuesday, so Michael got to work early at the hotel. We checked out, grabbed a quick lunch and said an even quicker goodbye to Judy, then continued our journey south to Kansas City. Since we didn’t arrive until later in the evening, we stayed in for a quiet night at the hotel.

Day 109 – Kansas City

Wednesday started with working from the hotel, then driving to Tracey’s childhood home when she was in 1st grade at Mill Creek in Lenexa, Kansas.

On the way to our next hotel in Kansas City, we stopped for lunch and found a spot for Michael to get a haircut while Tracey window-shopped for a bit at Ross. Then we continued to our new hotel in Kansas City, which was directly across from Kauffman Stadium, where the Kansas City Royals play.

Since Michael’s favorite food is barbecue, we had to find a great, local spot to try some KC-style. After some research, we decided on LC’s Barbeque, which definitely looked like the kind of place we were looking for. We bought enough food for three meals each (but we ate most of it in two) and enjoyed every single bite. It was heavenly. Needless to say, we weren’t going to go anywhere after that feast, so we relaxed in the hotel with full bellies.

Day 110 – Kansas City

Thursday was a full work day from the hotel, then we made the short walk across the street to “the K” to watch the Royals take on the Mariners. It was a perfect night for baseball, about 72 degrees when the game started (and much chillier as the night went on). The Royals won and we had a fun night out.

Day 111 – Kansas City to Ottumwa

We had yet another long drive planned for Friday, so after a morning of work, we grabbed a quick lunch and headed back to the north and east for Ottumwa, Iowa, probably most famous as the hometown of Radar O’Reilley in M*A*S*H. We didn’t have much time to explore, but we did do some grocery shopping before settling in to the hotel.

Day 112 – Ottumwa to Kieler

Saturday morning was another crisp, cool morning and we had another fairly long drive ahead, so we decided to do a run through the park at the center of town before hitting the road. Our first stop was at the American Gothic House, famous as the background of Grant Wood’s painting, American Gothic. Next, we continued east to Dyersville and the Field of Dreams Movie Site. It was pretty surreal to see the field and house in real life. We also found an awesome souvenir, a toy VW Bus painted to look like the one in the movie.

After leaving Dyersville, we stopped in Dubuque for groceries and then took a slight detour south so we could drive through a tiny piece of Illinois. After that, we moved on into Wisconsin and to our destination, the Rustic Barn Campground. We got to enjoy an awesome sunset over the Mississippi River valley, and then we headed off to bed.

 

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Week 15 – Voyageurs National Park to Sioux Falls

Day 99

Sunday morning we left the oddness of the Myrtle Lake Resort and headed south to Bemidji, the “first town on the Mississippi River”. Along the way, we stopped at the Lost 40, 144 acres of red and white pines that were spared from loggers due to a surveying error that mapped the land as a lake. The area is one of the few patches of virgin forest left in Minnesota, with some of the trees older than 400 years.
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Week 14 – Bismarck to Voyageurs National Park

Day 92 – Bismarck to Fargo

We made Sunday a travel day since there wasn’t much more for us to do in Bismarck, so we packed up and headed east. The drive across the North Dakota plains wasn’t the most exciting drive we’ve done, but we did get to stop to see the World’s Largest Buffalo before continuing on into Fargo for food and a little shopping before settling in at our hotel.

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Week 13 – Custer to Bismarck

Day 85 – Custer

Sunday was a day for exploring the rest of the Black Hills, so we first headed to Wind Cave National Park. After procuring our tickets for an afternoon tour of the caves, we drove across the park to enjoy the wildlife. The park connects to Custer State Park, a large park with even more wildlife (we saw a lot of buffalo, deer, and prairie dogs) and lots of great scenery. It also contains the Needles highway, a narrow, twisty scenic drive through even narrower tunnels to the Needles, which were tall rock formations at the peaks of the hills.
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Week 12 – Deadwood to Custer

Day 78 – Deadwood

We woke up to a beautiful and warm Sunday morning, and after breakfast, caught the Trolley to take us from the KOA into Deadwood, a famous “Old West” town best known for being the location where Wild Bill Hickok was killed (and buried). After walking down the historic Main Street and seeing the location where it happened, we climbed the hill up to the Mount Moriah cemetery, where Hickok, Calamity Jane and Seth Bullock (the protagonist of HBO’s Deadwood), among many others, are buried.
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Week 11 – Rocky Mountain National Park to Deadwood

Day 71 – Rocky Mountain National Park

We got up bright and early again Sunday morning for another day of hiking. This time, we decided to try our first real mountain climb. There was no technical climbing, of course, but a lot of route finding, scrambling over boulder fields, and of course, a lot of elevation gain. We almost gave up several times after losing the trail in the snow over and over again, but we finally trusted the GPS and our intuition and made our way to the summit of Mt. Ida, 12,865 feet above sea level. Overall, we both felt really great and loved every minute of the hike.

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Week 10 – Black Canyon to Rocky Mountain National Park

Day 64 – Black Canyon of the Gunnison to Canon City

Sunday morning we packed up RC to towards Cañon City, but before we left Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, we wanted to do the scenic drive so we could see parts of the canyon we didn’t see on the hiking trails. There were some amazing overlooks and it was early enough that we didn’t have to fight any crowds.

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Week 9 – Provo to Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Day 57 – West Wendover to Provo

Our week started with a drive back to civilization after our side trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats. We retraced our steps on I-80, then turned south to bypass Salt Lake City. Our route took us right past the Bingham Canyon Mine (which was unfortunately closed to visitors so we couldn’t get a closer look), then into Orem, where we just happened to find an outlet mall with a Columbia store and a place for Michael to get his haircut. That afternoon, we headed to our final destination, Provo. We drove around a bit before checking in to the hotel so we could see the city center, then we grabbed Chick-fil-a for dinner and settled in for the night.

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Week 8 – Capitol Reef to Bonneville Salt Flats

Day 50 – Capitol Reef

Sunday was another day of serious hiking in Capitol Reef National Park, possibly the toughest hike we’ve done together so far. We took on the Navajo Knobs trail, almost 9 miles long and well over 2000 feet of elevation gain. The first part of the trail leads up to an excellent overlook of the Fruita area and the Waterpocket Fold. Then it continues to climb to a 360-degree panorama from the very top of the Navajo Knobs, where the view seemed to go on forever. So did the hike down, unfortunately, since it included a climb back up to the overlook after coming down from the Knobs, but we made it. We headed back to Torrey immediately for a well-deserved pizza lunch, and then checked into the Broken Spur Inn for an evening of rest.

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