Tuesday, July 20, 2010

From Fargo, to Butte, to Tacoma

We left Michigan and prepared for the grueling drive back to Washington state.  We had decided to take the northern route using I-94 instead of I-90, for a change of scenery.

We stopped off for the night outside of Chicago, and had dinner with my Sister and her family, before heading out to try to put some miles under us.  We ended up driving until 2 am, and stopped just outside of Madison, WI for the night.

The next morning we were on the road making our way through Wisconsin, then on to Minneapolis/St Paul, Minnesota, then straight through until we hit Fargo, North Dakota...where we stayed the night in the nicest motel to date.

The sights along I-94 were similar to those we had seen on the way out to Chicago/Detroit, but I tried to take a few photos along the way just the same.  We frequently saw farms near Fargo, ND that had a large pond or lake near the Interstate, that was surrounded by fields of corn or wheat.  Some of these farms were quite pretty.

Left Fargo, ND and soon we were in Montana...16 hours and we ended up making it to Butte, MT.  Geezes that was a long day.  Photos?  Well I was in no mood...but we saw some beautiful fields of wheat that seemed to go on forever, and after dodging the 18 wheelers that often seemed to surround us, we were even treated to a very nice rainbow after driving into/through a small storm.

When we left Butte, MT...I was on a mission to get back into Tacoma with little wasted time...and I drove across the Continental Divide, through the mountains, past Lake Coeur d'Alene and into Spokane, WA.  We had been along this stretch so many times, it just didn't seem inspiring.

A few hours and many, many insect impacts later...we arrived back in Tacoma, safe and sound...but tired of being in the car!  The car, with its bug ridden (looked like it was shot with multicolored paint balls!) front end...seemed tired as well.

It was a weary end to an adventurous, all American "road trip"...that led us through almost 5000 miles of the United States, including 11 different States!  We saw National Monuments, historic locations, small towns and big cities...thundering storms and peaceful plains.  We visited 3 National Parks and 2 National Shorelines including two of the Great Lakes...and we had eaten everything from hot dogs to caviar.

Most importantly, we re-connected with our family and got to look into each others lives and families...getting to know each other a little better.

It was a great trip.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


We arrived safely in Michigan after our short visit in Chicago...2400 miles total!

We stayed with my youngest brother Dennis and his wife Michelle and their daughter Hailey.(And their dog Dakota)  Hailey is literally twice as tall as the last time we saw her!  She went from little girl, to little lady. 

While in town, we were able to visit several times with my Dad and his wife Chris, as well as seeing the rest of my brothers and sisters. (Patrick and his little girl Maya...who has Patrick's curly blonde hair....and my oldest sister Kathy and her husband Gary)  Everyone was healthy and it was great to see and share some time/memories with the family that I so rarely see these days.

Kathy was given the task of resurrecting my old teddy bear, "BB"...who has seen significant and loving wear and tear over the years at the hands of my daughter Veronica.  We hope to see "BB" shipped out in the next month with a facelift of sorts!

We seemed to never stop eating!!  We enjoyed Coney Dogs, pizza from "Holiday Pizza" (A place I used to work), frozen custard from "Erma's Frozen Custard" stand" (on three separate occasions!!), chicken from the Bavarian Inn in Frankenmuth, MI, a sack of burgers from the local "White Castle" burger joint and a lunch buffet at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. 

Our trip to Mackinac was memorable.  We drove up with my brother Dennis and his family.  We ventured across the verrrrry longggg Mackinac Bridge (5 miles long and for many years, the longest suspension bridge in the world!) and took a few photos before going back to Mackinac City and spending the night in a motel that overlooked Lake Huron.  Hailey and Veronica had fun shopping and visiting the Mirror Maze". (A house of mirrors...that you have to find your way through)  We dipped our feet in Lake Huron (and earlier in Lake Michigan) and looked for "Petoskey Stones" and shells on the beach.

The next day we took a ferry to Mackinac Island, where we spent the day riding bicycles around the island (no motors allowed there...its horse and buggy or bicycles) before taking a horse drawn taxi  up to the Grand Hotel...one of the finest hotels in the United States!!  (for you movie buffs, "Somewhere in Time" was filmed here)  It was a bittersweet moment when I entered the Grand Hotel as it was one of my Mom's favorite places on earth.  Though I had seen it from across the water several times, I had never been inside the Hotel (none of us had!) ...rather, as a young man I had heard how much my Mom had enjoyed staying there back in the 70's.  We enjoyed an incredible lunch buffet in the grand dining hall, taking in the views as much as the delicious food!

 Until recently, you were not allowed to even enter the Hotel unless you were a registered guest...after 5 pm ladies must still wear a dress and men are required to wear a jacket and tie.  After a beautiful day on the Island, we drove back home that night, by way of Frankenmuth MI, where we had dinner at the famous Bavarian Inn!

While home, we had two get together's at Dennis and Michelle's, one was just to get the Gamble family together for a visit and the other was a Birthday Party for Hailey....who just turned 11!  Congrats Hailey!  We met some of Michelle's relatives at the birthday party and put faces to names for the first time in some cases!

Before we knew it, it was time to leave.  Time for the long drive back to Washington. 

Thanks to everyone for their hospitality, generosity and for making time for us.  Thank you Dennis and Michelle for opening your home to us and for driving us everywhere!!  Thanks Kathy, Gary, and Patrick for making the trip out to gather as a family.  We really had a great time!

Saturday, July 10, 2010


After four days of travel we finally saw the skyline of Chicago as we made our way to my sister's house. We were glad to settle in for a couple days, and get off the road.

We had a chance to get to know the nieces and nephews that we had not seen for almost ten years. My sister Debra (second oldest) had never met my daughter until we showed up today!! We took the next couple days and caught up as best we could with the “goings on” in everyone's lives. While doing so, we were able to sample some Chicago food favorites! We enjoyed Italian Beef Sandwiches in a cute diner, (See photo) Chicago style Deep Dish Pizza, and of course, a few Chicago Style Hot dogs!!

I was quite impressed with my nieces and nephew. They all seem to be well grounded, hard working young adults. Erin is sassy, Colleen is quiet and Sean is a brainiac. (See his “Epic” computer setup in the above photo)

Time was short, and before we knew it, it was time to head towards Detroit. We had a great time and wish we could have stayed longer.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hay Bales and Corn Fields

Well, we left our 1950's "Motor Inn" motel and headed east through South Dakota.  Driving I-90 across this state is a test of one's patience.  While the skyline and the open prairie has its charm, seeing it for 8-10 hours and 400 plus miles..while listening to the drone of pavement disappearing beneath you at 70 mph...has a way of wearing you down!

The most common sight along this route were the countless, large bales of hay, scattered throughout the vast hay fields    All I could think of was, "amber waves of grain!"

Finally, Minnesota!  A new state....and instead of hay...endless fields of corn!!  We passed many, many fields of corn...usually with an old farmhouse and accompanying barns/silos amidst large stands of trees.  They looked like houses in tiny forests...smack in the middle of hundreds...no...thousands of acres of corn!

We rolled into La Crosse, Wisconsin (Barely in WI) in time to hit the sack.  Maybe I will spot some cheese to photograph tomorrow before we arrive in Chicago!?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Close Encounters and Presidential Profiles

We began our day headed towards South Dakota...but couldn't resist a side trip to Devils Tower National Monument!  It was our nations first National Monument, and some of you (older folks) may recall it from the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind".  It is an interesting piece of geology and adds a bit of intrigue to an already beautiful setting.

Next stop, another side trip...to the town of Deadwood.  You might recall that Wild Bill Hickock was shot in the #10 Saloon in this wild west town!   It has lost much of its charm to tourism, but the valley that the town sits in is still beautiful.  Much of the old town, many structures and the Main Street are still there if you look hard enough.

Lastly, we stopped in Keystone, SD to visit Mt Rushmore.  It was the first time for my daughter, and I never tire of looking up at that incredibly detailed, super sized sculpture!  The entire facility was beautifully restored/improved since my last trip there almost 20 years ago.  The Presidents looked great!

We spent much of the day on "side trips" and made little progress towards Chicago, finally having to stop to get some sleep in the little town of Koduka, SD.  The motel, well...it looks kinda like the "Bates Motel"...but its home for the night!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

East to Gillette, WY


We left Missoula this morning.  After a brief look at the County Courthouse (See above photo) and a fond look at "Finnegans" restaurant, (a classic family restaurant that literally spans/sits above a river below...where we have enjoyed meals on similiar cross country trips) we got back onto I-90 and headed toward Rapid City, SD.

We never made it to South Dakota, deciding instead to call it quits in Gillette, WY.  We just had enough asphalt for the day!

Between Sheridan and Gillette, we chased a storm for about 2 hours!  We were driving 70 miles per hour and finally caught it about 30 miles west of Gillette.  The storms are so clearly seen in these wide open states, and from distances so great, one almost forgets how large they are!  We felt the tail end of this storms fury for a few minutes before it moved south of us.  The second photo is what we saw during those two hours....as we gave chase!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Missoula By Way of Eastern WA

For those aware of our trek to Chicago and Detroit, (and back) we drove from Tacoma, WA to Missoula, MT today.  We got a late start (as usual) and only drove for about 9 hours today.  I have yet to look at a map to see where we will celebrate the 4th of July!

On our way across the rather desolate eastern part of Washington, I was able to snap a few photos.  The one shown above is a good representation of how it feels to drive across the open landscape....lonely...like that little old barn! 

Eastern Washington has its own charm with its sagebrush and the occasional tumbleweed carelessly crossing the roadway in front of you.  The green mountains of Idaho and Montana broke up the monotony and night was falling as we motored into Missoula.