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Road Trip 2004 - Notes

August 3rd – September 4th

Total Mileage: 7,320 miles

 

Automobile road trip from California to Minnesota and back via two-lane roads only. No freeways or divided highways (except when the only alternative). Driving a 2003 Subaru WRX Sport Wagon equipped with radar detector and satellite radio.

 

Route:

California-Nevada-Utah-Colorado-Wyoming-South Dakota-Minnesota-Wisconsin-Minnesota-Ontario-Minnesota-North Dakota-Montana-Idaho-Washington-Oregon-California

 

ROUTE MAP

 

 

August 1: South San Francisco, CA to Fallon, NV  (285 miles)

Took Interstate 80 (US 50) across California to Fallon, NV. The route is freeway until east of Sacramento, California when US 50 changes to a two-lane highway. Fallon is a nice, prosperous town with a military air base nearby. Had a good meal at an Italian restaurant.

 

August 2: Fallon to Delta, UT  (410 miles)

In the morning, stopped to photograph an abandoned brothel alongside the highway east of Fallon [Read Wall Street Journal Article of 10-20-04]. Not too far down the road was an area full of ancient petroglyphs. This entire desert region used to be under the water of an ancient lake. US Highway 50 across Nevada and into eastern Utah is incredibly beautiful with deserts, mountains, old abandoned businesses, farmland and few people or towns. Clearly it earns the nickname "The Loneliest Road in America". The Nevada Hotel in Ely, NV looks like time has stood still. By the time I return home, you will realize I like photos of old signs and old theatres.

For those paying attention, you might wonder why I drove through McGill, NV (which is not on Highway 50). Yes, I missed the turn (my navigator was asleep). I made great time—most of Highway 50 can be comfortably driven well over 100 mph. It was too early to stop for the night in Ely so I continued on. The weather turned bad, and I was forced to drive two hours at night through torrential rains and a thunderstorm in eastern Utah.

 

Photos:

§         Abandoned brothel east of Fallon.

§         US Highway 50 - looking west & watching for cars

§         Austin, NV - old mining town

§         Neon sign on Club Rio in Ely, NV

§         Nevada Hotel & Casino in Ely

§         Nevada Hotel - side wall with advertising

§         Frosty stand in McGill, NV

§         McGill Theatre marquee - McGill

§         McGill Theatre ticket booth

 

August 3: Drove from Delta, UT to Moab, UT  (250 miles)

This was a beautiful drive including green irrigated farmlands, desert & the red of Arches National Park. Scipio, UT is an attractive farming community. Temperatures were in the mid 90ºs. The route is two-lane road except a bit of freeway in Utah where US Highway 50 joins Interstate 70. Arches National Park is incredibly beautiful. The grandeur, size and color of its arches and rock formations is difficult to convey via photos. Moab (4,800 ft elevation) is at the foot of beautiful red cliffs. Good food & shops. Next time I will visit in winter when the weather is cooler. In this town you are nobody if you don’t ride a mountain bike or drive a jeep!

Photos:

§         Abandoned garage & gas pump - Scipio, UT

§         Desert & canyons - Interstate 70 (US 50) in Utah

§         Old gas station sign – Green River, UT

§         Arches National Park- pinnacle & tree

§         Arches National Park & Subaru WRX

§         Arches National Park - North Window Arch

 

August 4: Moab, UT to Ouray, CO (250 miles) 

Glad I have satellite radio! 1940s big band and country western music kept me company in this remote area.

Tried to get lunch of buffalo stew in a cute restaurant in Monticello, Utah. After waiting almost an hour and watching the locals being served, I got the hint, left a buck for my iced tea and left.

Saw a lot of agriculture (mostly bean crops) in southwestern Utah. One interesting sight was an abandoned espresso bar & car wash in Monticello, UT. The scenery wasn’t exceptional until after Durango, Colorado. The scenery from Durango to Ouray is A+. Durango at 6,000 ft is a large, prosperous town that began as a mining center for gold & silver. US 550 from Durango to Ouray is incredible! US 550 heads north passing over Molas Summit at 11,000 ft, through the picturesque old mining town of Silverton (9,300 ft) into Ouray via “The Million Dollar Highway”. US Highway 550 from Silverton to Ouray (“The Million Dollar Highway”) is built on the mountain side with deep chasms, sheer cliffs & incredible hairpin curves. It is not for the faint at heart.

Ouray at 7,800 ft started as a silver/gold mining town and sits in a valley at the base of steep mountains. Ouray is the portal to the mountains south of it, and the setting reminds me of Yosemite Valley. Ouray is not spoiled by franchise or chain stores. I would like to return and spend more time. Beautiful mountain views from my motel room.

Photos:

§         Abandoned car wash & “espresso bar” - Monticello, UT

§         Slow VW van on US 550 North of Durango, CO

§         Corral & view of Engineer Mountain (13,000 ft) from US 550

§         Wild flowers & view of Engineer Mountain (13,000 ft) from US 550

§         View from Molas Summit (11,000 ft) on US 550

 

August 5: Ouray, CO to Leadville, CO  (235 miles)

Gasoline is very cheap compared to home (Super = $2.04 & Regular = $1.88). I am beginning to hate turbo-diesel powered pick-up trucks, which all spew tremendous amounts of black exhaust when accelerating.

Saw hundreds of bikers (mostly Harleys) heading to the big motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. Many beautiful bikes! Found it is nearly impossible (and probably not too smart) to pass a group of bikers riding 2x2 and stretched in a group for a quarter of a mile. Passed one bunch of bikers pulled over on the road side by deputy sheriffs with dogs (drug sniffing?). [Dick G & Michael J: Wish you were riding to Sturgis?]

Leadville at 10,200 ft is the highest incorporated city in the USA. No wonder I was breathing hard carrying my luggage upstairs to my hotel room. Leadville is a picturesque old mining town that is surrounded by mountains of up to 14,000 ft. The name Leadville is derived from the black sand (carbonate of lead) from which silver was extracted. Dinner of a feta cheese and grilled chicken salad was incredible. The restaurant floor was made of clear plastic that covered an old water cistern—the cistern was visible below.

Photos:

§         Wildflowers - Leadville, CO

§         Opera House in Leadville

§         Saloon (Manhattan Bar) in Leadville

§         Old house in Leadville

§         Windows in old Leadville building

§         Red neck wind chime outside Manhattan Bar - Leadville

 

August 6: Leadville, CO to Silverthorne, CO  (80 miles)

The route north from Leadville to Interstate 70 via US 24 is another scenic drive through the Rockies with snow-topped mountain views, winding roads and beautiful green valleys. Even saw some not-so-beautiful mining operations. Fly fishermen were trying their skills in the creek following the highway. Quickly passed through Vail. Vail is overrun with people; too big and spread out; bisected by a freeway, and wall-to-wall condos. In other words, Vail is a real estate developer wet dream. [Sandy N.: Sorry!]

Stopped in Silverthorne (9,100 ft) to have my Subaru serviced. The Subaru WRX is a perfect car for a trip like this. It is fast, handles great and very comfortable. I did notice some loss of power at the higher elevations (over 10,000 feet). Silverthorne is a beautiful new town. Even the Target store looks like a ski lodge. Silverthorne is near skiing and other outdoor recreational areas, plus it has factory outlets. [Rick M.: Starbucks too]

Photos:

§         Abandoned cabin along US 24 - Colorado

§         Abandoned ranch off US 24

 

 

August 7: Silverthorne, CO to Greeley, CO (200 miles)

This was the best drive of the trip! Stopped for lunch (a delicious watermelon & feta cheese salad) in Georgetown (8,300 ft) which is a picturesque old mining town off Interstate 70. Then headed north on US Highway 40, and east on US 34 to Rocky Mountain National Park.

 Just before entering Rocky Mountain National Park is Grand Lake Lodge, which is an old-fashioned lodge overlooking beautiful vistas. The drive through the park is 50 miles, and took three hours. Much of the drive is above timberline, and the road reaches an elevation of 12,100 ft (the highest elevation I have driven). The road had many, many very sharp hairpin turns and awesome vistas!

Highway 34 descends very rapidly (6,700 ft) to Estes Park (an attractive tourist town). After Estes Park, the highway follows a river through a beautiful deep canyon and finally flattens and straightens out into Greeley (4,700 ft). The drive from Silverthorne to Estes Park is a must do! Greeley is another story. As soon as I opened my car door in Greeley, my nostrils were filled with the very strong smell of cattle.

Dial-up modem connect speed in Greeley was 50 kbps, which was fast compared to 20 kbps in most other places.

Photos

§         Old fire house in Georgetown, CO

§         Lamp post with Hotel de Paris in background - Georgetown

§         Lobby of Grand Lake Lodge outside Rocky Mountain National Park

§         Ford motor car collection at Grand Lake Lodge

§         View while driving US 34 – Rocky Mountain National Park

§         Vista from US 34 -Rocky Mountain National Park

§         View while driving US 34 – Rocky Mountain National Park

§         View while driving US 34 – Rocky Mountain National Park

§         Vista from summit (12,100 ft) US 34 - Rocky Mountain National Park

 

August 8: Drove 300 miles from Greeley, CO to Newcastle, WY

The entire route heading north on US 85 is high plains (elevation around 5,000 ft). The highway passes through miles of corn in northern Colorado. Once in Wyoming, the land is prairie all the way to Newcastle. Had picnic lunch in Cheyenne, WY. Newcastle is an unattractive town (ranching and petroleum) at the edge of the Black Hills.

Was very lucky to get a motel room. Although Newcastle is 90 miles from Sturgis, SD, the town is filled with motorcyclists attending the Sturgis Bike Rally. Got the last room in town, which was a rundown, 2-bedroom, basement apartment owned by a motel. No complaints. It beats the alternative of driving 200 miles to get away from the bike rally! Pizza Hut was the best place in town to eat—so veggie pizza for dinner.

There wasn’t much to photograph, but took some shots while driving. The smudges on the photos are bugs on the windshield.

Photos:

§         Grain elevators photographed while driving US 85 in Colorado

§         Prairie land along US 85 in Wyoming

§         Prairie land along US 85 in Wyoming

 

August 9: Newcastle, WY to Pierre, SD  (310 miles)

Woke up to the distinctive sound of Harley Davidson motorcycles. Today was another great day for driving with beautiful scenery and great roads. The Black Hills are covered with pine trees, green grass and red soil.

Mt. Rushmore National Memorial is a must-see sight. I wanted to see it again before Republican fanatics have the likeness of Ronald Regan added. The parking structures which were new since my last visit.

Nearby Keystone, South Dakota was overflowing with thousands of motorcyclists. Headed east through beautiful Buffalo Gap Grass Land National Park, then northwest through Badlands National Park (a must see). After Badlands National Park, I headed north and caught US 14 heading due east toward Minnesota.

The 100 miles of Highway 14 west of Pierre, South Dakota is green farm land with only two small towns. The road is a fast, two-lane road with hardly any traffic.

Pierre (1,400 ft) is the capital of South Dakota and located on the Missouri River. I discovered Dakota Corn which is a delicious mixture of regular popcorn, caramel popcorn and cheese popcorn. In Pierre, all gasoline was less than $2.00 per gallon.

Photos:

§         Mt Rushmore - classic view

§         Mt Rushmore - biker's view

§         Motorcycles – Mt. Rushmore

§         Motorcycles – Mt. Rushmore

§         Abandoned car in grassland near Badlands National Park

§         Badlands National Park

§         Badlands National Park

§         Farmland - Howes, SD

§         Main Street” - Howes, SD

 

August 10: Pierre, SD to Bloomington, MN  (450 miles).

Total mileage from South San Francisco to Bloomington via my indirect route was 3,010 miles.

South Dakota: Back on two-lane US 14 heading east. This is a very fast route (except for a 30 minute wait caused by road paving construction). The highway is mostly straight with rolling hills and slow-bending curves. There isn't much traffic, and it is easy to pass slower vehicles. No radar detector warnings or state troopers all the way through South Dakota. Miles and miles and miles of corn and hay.

Every town has grain elevators. Highway 14 goes through DeSmet which is the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder (author of the "Little House" books). I stopped at a "shopping mall" in Huron (population 12,000) just to check it out. The vacancy rate was at least 50% [Ben M: BACCR 8]. Weather was perfect—unusually cool (mid 60ºs) with beautiful white clouds.

Minnesota: As soon as Highway 14 crosses into Minnesota the scenery seemed to get more scenic and greener, with smaller farms and more trees. Of course, in this "Land of 10,000 Lakes" there was a beautiful roadside rest area next to a lake. Towns are much closer together and more frequent than in South Dakota. Not only is gasoline much cheaper, super is one octane more (93 octane) than at home. The weather remained unusually cool with a nice breeze.

About 100 miles south of the Twin Cities I took US 169 north to Bloomington. There was road construction everywhere in the greater Minneapolis area. Bloomington is an attractive suburb of Minneapolis and the home of Mall of America. Lost (poor signage and closed roads) and tired (9:30 PM), I saw a Days Inn and checked in.

Stayed here three nights until Friday when Mary, my mother and I headed for the Chuba (Czech) family reunion further north in Minnesota. Mary and my mother flew in Wednesday. My mother stayed with a friend in Minneapolis. After WW II my mother's friend dated actor Ernest Borgnine (McHale's Navy). I think he even asked her to marry him. Borgnine was a Navy buddy of my father's.

Photos:

§         Hauling baled hay on US 14 in SD

§         Abandoned amusement ride and abandoned cars along US 14 in SD

§         Baling hay along US 14 in SD

 

August 11 & 12: Minneapolis Area

August 11: The green trees and green lawns in the Minneapolis area make everything (even average houses) look great. More unfriendly signage: The Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport has two terminals (Humphrey Terminal and Lindbergh Terminal). The problem is that each terminal has a different freeway off-ramp and no hint as to which airline uses which terminal. So, as I am driving down the very crowded freeway …. Which terminal? … Which off-ramp? Luckily, I choose the correct one—Lindberg terminal. The Lindbergh Terminal is the main passenger terminal. Mary arrived on time with a small backpack as her only luggage. She had walked to BART from home and took BART to SFO.

August 12: Mary & I slept in. For lunch, we went to a bar & grill in the historic Warehouse District of Minneapolis. This area is next to the Mississippi River and has lots of nice old architecture, but lacks charm and vitality. There were many lofts for sale, and we saw the locks on the Mississippi River. Next, we visited picturesque Nicollet Island in middle of Mississippi River, and then drove around the University of Minnesota. Weather was nice but cool.

Observation: Here is something I had never seen before. The men's room of an Amoco gas station had toilet seat cleaner in a wall dispenser. You put some cleaner on a tissue and wipe the toilet seat with it. Very civilized!

Photos:

§         Minneapolis skyline

§         Lofts in old warehouse district - Minneapolis

§         Bar & grill in old warehouse district

§         Town homes on Nicollet Island on Mississippi River

§         Grain Belt Beer sign Nicollet Island on Mississippi River

 

August 13: Bloomington to Albany, MN  (100 miles).

Mary and I picked-up my mother at her friend’s place, and we drove north to Albany, Minnesota where we spent 4 nights. Traffic along the interstate highway from Minneapolis was horrible. Minnesota truck drivers drive in the fast lane at a not-so-fast speed. It would literally take miles for a slow truck, using the left lane, to pass a slower truck. Meanwhile traffic was backed-up for miles while these two tortoises inch along the highway.

August 14: Holdingford, Minnesota

The Chuba family reunion with 130+ relatives was held on my cousin's farm 100 miles north of Minneapolis. This area of Minnesota was settled and farmed by eastern and northern Europeans. Chuba is my great grandmother's family name. Great grandfather, George Chuba, emigrated from Czechoslovakia in the mid-1800s. Both my great grandmother and grandmother lived 100+ years. Farms belonging to Chuba and Heisick (mother's maiden name) family members occupied much of the county.

Photos:

§         Cousin Ray playing my great grandfather's accordion

§         Onion cupola saved (by my cousin) from demolished Russian Orthodox Church

§         Mary on Caterpillar bulldozer [for Rick]

 

August 16: Albany, St. Cloud, Holdingford & Bowlus, MN

We visited my mother's old stomping grounds of St. Cloud, Holdingford and Bowlus. All are in central Minnesota, north of Minneapolis. Temperatures remained unusually nice in the low 70°s.

St Cloud, with a population of 50,000, is located on the Mississippi River and well known for its granite quarries. The city is not that scenic, but did have many attractive brick buildings built the 1800s.

In the rural area where my mother grew up, there was a town every few miles, and every town had a church or two. Holdingford, with a population of only 700, has two Catholic churches. Back during the early 1900s, one church was established for the German Catholics and one was for Polish Catholics. Holdingford has nice residential areas, but the business district is sad with many empty buildings.

The Longtime Saloon pictured in one of the photos is located in Bowlus, MN (population 200) a few miles from my grandparent's farm. When my mother was 12 years old (in the early 1930s), her older brother would take her to dances held on the second-story dance floor.

Bowlus is best known as the hometown of heavy weight boxer Duane Bobick (The Great White Hope). Bobick was beaten by Cuba's Teofilo Stevenson in the 1972 Olympics. No shame in that—Stevenson was one of the greatest Olympic boxers ever, and went on to win Gold medals in three Olympics. Bobick is probably better remembered by his well-hyped 1972 fight against Ken Norton. Norton knocked Bobick out in round one.

Photos:

§         Old laundromat – Holdingford

§         Searle building - St Cloud

§         1st National Bank building - St Cloud

§         St Germaine Street - St Cloud

§         Paramount Theatre - St Cloud

§         Hunstiger building - St Cloud

§         Heimann building -St Cloud

§         Bruener building - St Cloud

§         Tavern- Bowlus

 

August 17: Albany to Bloomington  (100 miles)

Headed back to Minneapolis area. Mary and my mother will fly back to California tomorrow.

August 18: Bloomington (Minneapolis area)

Took Mary to the airport. Then had the WRX washed. It was filthy after three weeks on the road (especially after the gravel roads in the central Minnesota area). Visited Mall of America which was more interesting than I thought it would be. It is a destination spot for shoppers and families, but my one visit will hold me for a long time. Did my laundry and took it easy the rest of the day.

 

August 19: Bloomington to Aitkin, MN  (165 miles)

Was glad to get away from the maze of freeways and mess of construction and detours in the Minneapolis area. Heading north on US 169 from Minneapolis, the scenery changed to a mixture of beautiful farm lands, wetlands and forest lands. I took a lunch break at one of the beautiful Minnesota rest areas (super-clean, green & next to a lake). The only problem was: mosquitoes, mosquitoes, and more mosquitoes.

Minnesota drivers are terrible! Drivers routinely tailgate, cut you off unnecessarily and without signaling. Large trucks hog the fast lane. Fuel price update: Regular = $1.83; Super = $1.93; Diesel = $1.89.

US Highway 169 follows the western shore of Mille Lacs Lake passing through old-fashioned resort areas. Mille Lacs Lake is huge with 150 miles of shoreline. The lake is so large you can't see across it.

Best Motel Deal On Trip: Stayed at the 40 Club Inn in Aitkin, MN. Price = $47 (including taxes). Room was very clean, nicely decorated, with desk, table, microwave, refrigerator & good beds!

Photos:

§         Farm along US 169

§         Rest area along US 169

§         Farm along US 169

§         Fishing boats on Mille Lacs Lake

§         Fishing boat on Mille Lacs Lake

 

August 20: Aitkin, MN to Chisholm, MN  (360 miles).

Weather continues to be nice: sunny, in low 60°s with some wind.

The Rialto Theatre in Aitkin looks like something right out of the Roaring 20s. From Aitkin I headed to nearby Crosby, MN which is the hometown of Mary's father. I checked out the town and visited the Croft Mine Historical Park. The Crosby/Ironton area was known for its underground iron ore mining. In this area of Minnesota there are small lakes around every turn in the road. Most every home along the highway has at least a half acre of nicely-mown lawn.

From Crosby, I took Minnesota 210 east towards Duluth, MN. The road travels past lakes, over gentle hills and through farmlands and woodlands. East of Carlton, MN the terrain becomes forest and Highway 210 is named the Rushing Rapids Parkway. This extremely winding and rough section of road follows the St Louis River with its rapids thundering through rock gorges below. Because of its scenic beauty and driving fun, I rate this section of highway A+.

A short side trip took me east into Wisconsin, and then I headed north to Duluth. Duluth is a small city (population 60,000) on Lake Superior. I like the little bit I saw of Duluth. With its steep hills and location on the shore of ocean-like Lake Superior, Duluth reminds me of San Francisco. Heading north from Duluth, Highway 61 follows the shoreline of Lake Superior and passes mansions and estates. Further north there are countless grassy public picnic areas between the highway and lakeshore. Lake Superior looks like a calm ocean.

Pushed my luck on finding lodging, and could not find a lodging along the shoreline, nor east on Minnesota Highway 1 (through the Boundary Waters National Canoe Area), nor south on US Highway 53. Northern Minnesota is canoe country. It seemed like every vehicle had a canoe on top, and they had booked all the available lodging. Finally, a nice clerk at an inn in Virginia, MN found me a room in Chisholm about 20 miles away. I checked in around 10:00 PM, had dinner from a nearby McDonalds, and fell asleep.

Photos:

§         Old mining car - Crosby

§         Paint chips & rust on old mining car - Crosby

§         Peeking through window at abandoned bar in the Spina Hotel – Ironton

§         Spina Hotel - Ironton

§         Rialto Theatre - Aitkin

§         Marquee of Rialto Theatre - Aitkin

§         Rapids - St Louis River

§         Breakwater - Lake Superior

§         Shoreline - Lake Superior

 

August 21: Chisholm, MN to International Falls, MN  (145 miles).

Weather continues to be nice: sunny, in low 60°s with some wind and evening rain showers.

Walked around the main street in Chisholm. It is very typical of towns in this area (see photos). Very clean, but cold and Spartan. Hibbing is nearby, and is the home of the Hull-Rust Mahoning Mine. This operation is the largest open-pit iron ore mine in the world. The mine is 600 feet deep, 3 miles long and 2 miles wide. I viewed the mine from an observation area where there was also an exhibit of huge mining equipment, including a 170-ton truck (Hibbing Hummer?). Ore has been mined from here since the late 1800s. Hibbing has some beautiful old homes and a very attractive five-story high school built in 1920.

Question: Hibbing, MN is the hometown of what famous singer and song writer?

Answer: Bob Dylan

After visiting Hibbing, headed north on County Road 5. This road is another beautiful drive, passing by lakes and through woodlands & wetlands. At the junction with Minnesota 1, headed east until catching US 53 north to International Falls. This section of Minnesota Highway 1 is a rollercoaster and a blast to drive. There are countless dips, many 90 degree turns, blind S-turns in which the road surface drops down. I am becoming addicted to these Minnesota roads!

In International Falls I found a nice "historic" motel for $46 (including tax). Amenities included HBO, microwave, fridge and bright blue bathroom fixtures. I ordered a pizza "to go" from an Italian deli. When picking-up the pizza, I was handed a cold, uncooked pizza. After explaining what "to go" means in the rest of the world, the clerk reluctantly heated it and made things right.

Dial-up modem connection speed: a blazing 26.4 kbps.

 

Photos:

§         Abandoned/converted theater - Chisholm, MN

§         O'Neil Hotel - Chisholm

§         Main Street” - Chisholm

§         Open-pit iron mine - Hibbing, MN

§         170-ton mining truck - Hibbing

§         Open-pit iron mine - Hibbing

§         Boy & 170-Ton mining truck – Hibbing

§         House & Subaru WRX in Hibbing

§         Hibbing High School

 

August 22: International Falls, MN to Drayton, ND  (245 miles)

Weather was cool (mid-50°s) and wet in International Falls.

International Falls is on the Canadian border along the Rainy River. A negative aspect of International Falls, besides being one of the coldest winter places in the 48-states, is the acrid smell of its pulp mill. In the smaller towns I have passed through, most of the restaurants are fast-food or poor quality family restaurants. However, I found a great coffee house & internet cafe in International Falls. Lunch was a delicious fresh green salad and hummus on pita with fresh tomatoes and cucumbers.

A short side-trip east on Minnesota Highway 11 (Waters of the Dancing Sky Scenic Byway) took me to Rainy Lake in Voyageurs National Park. This scenic highway runs through forests of birch trees and wetlands. The cattails growing along the road reminded me of family driving trips to Minnesota. My mother would cut cattails to bring home and put in a vase for decoration. The area has a lot of reddish rock formations mixed in with the birch trees. The photos don't hint that Rainy Lake is very large. The small town of Ranier on the lake has a picturesque main street (see photo). The highway ends at Dove Island which is an incredibly beautiful island full of nice homes. I recommend the drive from International Falls to Dove Island.

Since International Falls is so close to Canada, I crossed over to Fort Frances, Ontario and took Ontario Highway 11 eighty-five miles west to the township of Rainy River which is the next border crossing heading west. At International Falls it cost $6.00 to cross a tiny bridge over the river into Canada. Canadian customs & immigration was a breeze (only a few questions). A highway sign warned that radar detectors are illegal in the province of Ontario. The drive from Fort Frances to Rainy River was not spectacular.

Homeland Security:

I had quite an experience entering the US at the Customs & Immigration office in Baudette, MN. After answering the usual questions while sitting in my car, I was told they were going to run a check on my passport, to park my car and come inside the office. The officers acted very cop-like and wore baseball caps SWAT coveralls and side arms. In the office, I was told to empty my pockets on the counter and pull my pockets out, so they could see nothing was still in the pockets.

Next, the officer went through every item in my wallet. As he looked through my possessions, the officer continued to question me. Then he inspected ever inch of my car and inside luggage and bags. He even inspected the car underside with a mirror. I wondered if a body cavity search was next! The entire process took at least 30 minutes. Finally, with a sour face, he said, "You can go". The whole experience seemed like extreme over-kill.

One question the officer asked was if I was carrying anything for someone else. I forgot my mother asked me to bring back a small piece of luggage so she would not have to struggle with it at the airport. I had answered "no", and while he was searching my car, I realized her luggage was in my car. The officer didn't say anything. My friend Rick suggested he probably thought I was into cross-dressing.

Got back on Minnesota Highway 11 and headed west towards home. The rest of the day's trip was uneventful. Northwestern Minnesota is not as scenic as the rest of the state; the land is flat farmland with few trees. Drayton, North Dakota ("Close To Catfish Heaven") is very small, with only two motels and few going-businesses on its main street. Tonight’s motel was decent and cheap at $40 a night. I tried to take a sunset photo from the field next to the motel, but voracious mosquitoes ran me inside.

Dial-up modem connection speed: 24.0 kbps.

 

Photos:

§         Shoreline Rainy Lake - Voyageurs National Park, MN

§         Shoreline Rainy Lake - Voyageurs National Park

§         Boats on Rainy Lake, MN

§         Sidewalk - Rainer, MN

§         Bandshell - International Falls

§         Close-up of bandshell - International Falls

§         Old farm equipment - Highway 11, MN

§         Sunset viewed from inside motel room - Drayton, ND

§         Sunset viewed from inside motel room - Drayton

 

August 23: Drayton, ND to Crosby, ND  (330 miles)

Temperatures were cold (low-50°s) with some rain and strong winds. Major T-storms were visible in the distance with lightning bolts stretching across the entire sky.

Today's route was west on North Dakota 66; then north on US 81 until it intersects North Dakota 5 heading west to Montana. Highway 5 parallels the US-Canadian border about 15-30 miles south of the border. All the roads are undivided. Sights & observations:

o        very few cars on the highway, mostly huge trucks

o        miles and miles of farm land with occasional windbreaks of trees

o        sunflowers & grain crops

o        beautiful black soil

o        arrow-straight roads with a few turns

o        no police; no radar

o        probably made better time than on the interstate

o        oil wells

o        deep gorges further west

Homes in Minnesota and North Dakota are simple and attractive with horizontal siding and shutters. With their large lawns and trees, they look great.

Stopped at Icelandic State Park on Highway 5 to have lunch, and discovered an excellent Pioneer Heritage Center with many historic buildings (church, community center, log cabin & barn). Many of the early immigrants who settled in northeastern North Dakota were Icelanders. I was handed the key to the buildings and asked to lock the doors after I finished looking inside. There is also a lake and camping at the park.

In western North Dakota along Highway 5 there are many towns but few motels. I was glad to find a motel in Crosby, ND. Crosby is the largest town for many miles. If I had not found a room there, it would have had a long drive to the next town. The room was cheap ($37) with a 1/4 star rating.

Dial-up modem connection speed: 28.8 kbps.

 

Photos:

§         Church exterior - Icelandic State Park, ND

§         Church exterior - Icelandic State Park

§         Church interior - Icelandic State Park

§         One-room school house - Icelandic State Park

§         One-room school house (interior) - Icelandic State Park

§         Overall historic site - Icelandic State Park

 

August 24: Crosby, ND to Havre, MT  (400 miles)

Weather started out cold (high 40°s), and warmed up to 72 degrees by the time I got to Havre.

As North Dakota 5 approaches Montana, the terrain changes from flat to rolling plains. Observations:

o        alternating golden and green fields

o        some cattle grazing

o        huge equipment tilling the soil

o        farm equipment driving slowly down the highway

North Dakota Highway 5 turns into Montana 5. Just across the North Dakota/Montana border in Westby, MT were two small lime green lakes. I wondered what the story was with those lakes. Had the highway to myself, except for a few big trucks and a family of deer that ran across the road in the middle of all the grain fields. Plentywood, Montana appears to be a prosperous community. Lunch at the Lula Belle Cafe was great (sausage & vegetable chowder). As looked out my windshield, I could tell I was in Big Sky Country (see photo). Sights & observations:

o        cattle, horses & grazing land

o        excellent road; no traffic

o        beautiful scenery; rolling hills

o        the road was a kick to drive (one of the better driving roads on trip)

o        old style road that follows the lay-of-the-land (up, down & around)

o        within a few miles from Plentywood, the windshield was covered in bugs

o        the highway crossed small rivers with names from Zane Grey novels (such as "Big Muddy")

Many remote, small North Dakota and Montana towns have no local grocery store. The gas station/convenience market has replaced the local grocery store providing a small selection of groceries, video rentals, bakery items & fast foods.

At Scobey I took Montana 13 south to US 2, and then headed west. Sights and observations:

o        3-wheel ATVs are replacing the horse as a cowboy's transportation on the range

o        no place to get a good cup of coffee

o        Montana is easily the winner of the most-bugs-on-windshield award

o        Dairy Queen is king in Minnesota, North Dakota & Montana

o        Bear Paw Mountains visible to the south

o        many casinos

o        gasoline: regular = $1.99

o        railroad tracks parallel US 2 with many freight and Amtrak trains

Stayed at a nice Super 8 hotel in Havre ($49). Compared to the last few motels, this place was the Four Seasons Hotel. Havre was named for Le Havre in France, but pronounced "HAV-er". Havre is at 2,500 ft. The increase in elevation was not evident as US Highway 2 heads towards the Rocky Mountains. Havre is a pretty large town with a small shopping mall, a K-Mart and a couple of nice super markets.

Dial-up modem connection speed: 26.4 kbps.

 

Photos:

§         Old barn along US 2 in MT

§         Barn doors

§         Old farm along US 2 in MT

§         Orpheum Theater - Plentywood, MT

§         Marquee of Orpheum Theater - Plentywood

§         Driver's view of Big Sky Country - Montana 13

 

August 25: Havre, MT to East Glacier Park, MT  (210 miles) 

Weather was cool and rainy most of the day. Continuing west on US Highway 2, the sights included:

o        miles and miles (over 100 miles) of grain crops

o        very flat terrain

o        the Rocky Mountains becoming visible to the west

o        numerous small towns; each with large grain elevators; many with gravel streets

o        a sign proclaiming Joplin, MT to be "The biggest little town on earth."

o        an old-fashioned diner in Chester, MT that was "closed for the year" (photos)

o        an old, abandoned, wooden grain elevator (first one I had seen) in Lothair, MT (photo)

o        an SUV with train wheels driving along the railroad tracks

o        grazing land and cattle after Shelby (3,200 ft)

o        oil wells in the vicinity of Cut Bank—a not-so-attractive town

o        Browning, an even-more-not-so-attractive town, on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation

East Glacier Park (4,800 ft) is a very scenic area and one of the gateways to Glacier National Park. It is within the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Most prominent is the historic Glacier Park Lodge (photos) and the nearby Amtrak Station. There are also good restaurants, other lodging and nice shops. I drove into the Two Medicine Lake area of Glacier. It was raining heavily on and off, but I was able to take a short hike to a waterfall.

Dial-up modem connection speed: 49.6 kbp.

 

Photos:

§         Peeking through window of Sugar Shack Diner

§         Sugar Shack Diner along US 2 in Chester, MT

§         Old, wooden grain elevator - Lothair, MT

§         Driver’s view approaching Glacier National Park

§         Waterfall - Glacier National Park

§         Vista - Glacier National Park

§         Resort cottages - East Glacier Park, MT

§         Lobby of Glacier Park Lodge

§         Historic Glacier Park Lodge

 

August 26: East Glacier Park, MT to Kalispell, MT  (150 miles) 

Raining, foggy and cool (60°s) much of the day.

After heading north on Montana 49, I took US 89 north toward Canada. This route is scenic, but not a great drive. The sights included: range cattle on the road; birch trees, pastures; snow fences over 10 feet high; and the "Chewing Blackbones Campground". The scenery north of Babb was disappointing, and I turned around. Babb is sad looking and poor town. At St. Mary I entered Glacier National Park, and took the "Going-To-The-Sun Road" through the park. This incredibly scenic roadway is 50 miles long and crosses the width of the park:

o        magnificent views of mountains and lakes

o        crosses the continental divide at Logan Pass (6,700 ft)

o        sections of the road are carved out of the mountain (photo)

o        countless small waterfalls splashing on the road

o        extremely winding with places to pull off and enjoy the vistas

o        canvas-top touring limousines (photo)

On the west side of the park, I visited the historic Lake McDonald Lodge (smaller than the Glacier Park Lodge). After exiting the park, US Highway 2 heads west to Kalispell (3,000 ft). Kalispell is a nice, large town located in a valley surrounded by tree covered mountains, lakes and rivers; plus, it has a Costco & a Subaru dealer. Kalispell has casinos and the best donuts of the trip from the bakery in Rosauers Food & Drug.

Dial-up modem connection speed: 19.2 kbps (slowest of the trip).

 

Photos:

§         Two Medicine Lake - Glacier National Park

§         Driving in fog & rain on Montana Highway 49

§         Vista from Going-To-The -Sun Road - Glacier National Park

§         Going-To-The -Sun Road - Glacier National Park

§         Stream flowing through deep, narrow canyon - Glacier National Park

§         Touring cars - Glacier National Park

 

August 27: Kalispell, MT to Bonners Ferry, ID  (150 miles)

Continued west on US 2 heading for Bonners Ferry. It rained on and off, and the weather was cool (60°s). The entire drive from Kalispell to Bonners Ferry is very beautiful:

o        green valleys surrounded by forest covered mountains

o        range cattle & pasture land

o        a series of small lakes

o        some old burned forests that are recovering with new growth trees

o        old homes and barns made out of logs

o        west of Libby the highway followed a beautiful emerald green river green with grassy banks

Stopped at a campground next to McGregor Lake for lunch. There are many little casino/bars along the highway. Libby, Montana has over five small casinos. Gasoline prices: regular = $1.99 & super = $2.19. Stopped to check-out a Pamida Discount Store in Libby. Pamida is a poorman's K-Mart.

 

August 28 & 29: Bonners Ferry, ID

Bonners Ferry, Idaho (2,500 ft) is located in the Kootenai Valley, alongside the Kootenai River; Canada is about 25 miles away. Bonners Ferry is home for my brother Tim, his wife Susan and son Gus. I visited 2+ days with them, the three dogs (Amos, Alaska & Bulah), and another guest, “Cowboy Ron”. Cowboy Ron was an interesting character: ex-special ops in Viet Nam, Purple Heart, former UC Berkeley student, ex-rancher.

Dial-up modem connection speed = 26.4 kbps.

 

Photos:

§         View from Burton Peak of Kootenai Valley - Idaho

§         Alaska

§         Buhlah

§         Amos

§         Jackson main house & 2nd house - Bonners Ferry, ID

§         View from Jackson main house's deck

§         Main Street” - Bonners Ferry

§         Main Street” - Bonners Ferry

§         Doors on old grain elevator - Bonners Ferry

§         Old grain elevator - Bonners Ferry, ID

§         Bonners Ferry & Kootenai River

 

August 30: Bonners Ferry, ID to Post Falls, ID  (110 miles)

Needed to get my car serviced at the Subaru dealership in Post Falls; Have driven 5,900 miles on the trip. The scenery from Bonners Ferry to Post Falls along US Highway 95 is beautiful. Mary and I have driven this route a number of times, so I didn't do much sightseeing. I stopped for lunch in Sandpoint (a very nice town on Lake Pend Oreille). The temperature had warmed up, and it was 80+ degrees in Post Falls. Post Falls is factory outlet center located in between Coeur D'Alene, Idaho and Spokane, Washington.

Dial-up modem connection speed = 26.4 kbps.

 

Photo:

§         Small farm south of Bonners Ferry, ID

 

August 31: Post Falls, ID to Enterprise, OR  (280 miles)

Temperature was hot (mid-90º).

Took US 95 south towards Lewiston, ID. Sights along the way included:

o        controlled burns of pasture lands

o        huge Indian casino with golf course (Coeur D'Alene tribe)

o        small green valleys surrounded by forests

o        terrain change to very large valleys covered with golden grain crops

o         Scare-of-the-Day: While driving about 90+ mph (highway speed limit = 60 mph), I came up on a car that turned out to be a tribal police car patrolling US 95 with radar. I guess he didn't see me in his rearview mirror. Call me lucky!

o        Moscow, Idaho (home of University of Idaho)

o        multiple traffic delays from road construction and stripe painting

o        the highway descends 2,000 feet very steeply into Lewiston which is in Snake River valley (7% grade with two truck run-away ramps)

o        Lewiston was hazy from the Potlatch plant emissions. The last time Mary and I drove through Lewiston, the haze was even worse.

o        casino just outside of Lewiston (Nez Perce tribe)

o        Snake River divides Lewiston, ID and Clarkston, WA

From Clarkston, Washington I took Highway 129 south to Enterprise, Oregon (Highway 3 in Oregon). At a gas station, I asked an old gentleman about Highway 129. He said to watch out for wild life, and that the road was very winding (an understatement). This route is another super, very scenic and lonely stretch of highway:

o        terrain is very arid after Clarkston

o        highway climbs away from the Snake River with lots of hairpin turns

o        terrain changes to miles of flat straight highway through farmland and grain crops

o        terrain changes to evergreen trees and winding road

o        Rattlesnake Summit (4,000 ft)

o        terrain becomes arid again and trees disappear

o        road is carved into the mountainside, the highway descends rapid to a valley (photos) and then heads back up (many, many switchbacks)

o        for over 100 miles there was only one lone mail box on the road

o        terrain changes again to more and more trees with cattle grazing

o        highway enters national forest

o        huge mountains visible to the south

Enterprise, Oregon (4,000 ft) was a very pleasant surprise! It is an old, well-kept community that is surrounded by the Wallowa Mountains (over 9,000 ft). First impression: I like this town and surrounding area. [Mary: two elementary schools; one with 7 students, and the other with 300 students; two libraries in town.]

Dial-up modem connection speed = 26.4 kbps.

 

Photos:

§         Billboard on building - Moscow, ID

§         Highway 129 – Southeastern Washington

§         Rollercoaster Highway 129 – Southeastern Washington

 

September 1: Enterprise, OR to La Grande, OR  (245 miles)

Weather was cloudy with some heavy rain, hail and lightening.

I walked around Enterprise and had lunch. People were very friendly. The Wallowa Mountains remind me of the eastern Sierras. The neighboring town of Joseph has a combination of old and new buildings; it is closer to the mountains and more tourist-oriented than Enterprise.

After driving around Joseph, I took Oregon 82 east to Imnaha. After a few miles the highway descended steadily for 20-30 miles down a narrow canyon while following a creek. I turned around at Imnaha—a town consisting of a school, a store and not much more. Back-tracked to Enterprise to catch Oregon 82 heading west.

On the way back, I spotted a sign for Hells Canyon Overlook (40 miles one-way). The overlook is within the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. It was a beautiful drive through green forests and red rock on a winding road with only a few other vehicles. Saw two deer families; one running across the road and the other walking down the road. I had the overlook to myself. The view was nice, but hardly worth the time and miles to get there.

Some of the sights along Oregon 82 west from Enterprise to La Grande:

o        beautiful wide valley of farmland surrounded by high mountains

o        thousands of black cattle on deep green pasture land

o        terrain change to deep canyon with river and back to rolling farmland

o        sign along way: "Control Noxious Weeds - It is Your Job"

o        big Boise particle-board plant along highway

Dial-up modem connection speed = 31.2 kbps.

 

Photos:

§         Victorian House - Enterprise, OR

§         County Court House - Enterprise

§         Main Street”- Enterprise

§         Old Jeep truck – Enterprise

§         Main Street” - Enterprise

§         Horse & Wallowa Mountains - Enterprise

§         Wallowa Mountains from Oregon 82 west

§         Hells Canyon Overlook

§         Farm outside of Joseph, OR

 

September 2: La Grange, OR to Burns, OR  (300 miles)

Weather was cool (mid-50°s) most of the day with rain on and off; even got some light some snow in the mountains.

In the morning, my car was covered with dust (from wood processing plant nearby?). Gasoline price update: super = $2.31 & regular = $2.11. In the motel's parking lot were a few nomadic, dirt-poor families living out of worn-out trailers and flying American flags. I wondered if they were unemployed, patriotic Bush supporters in search of work and healthcare.

Headed southeast on IS 84 (US 30) towards Haines:

o        the terrain is semi-arid, irrigated farmland

o        unlike Minnesota, Oregon truck drivers stay in the right lane, and even put their flashers on when going slowly uphill

o        just north of Haines, Oregon a sign announces crossing the 45th parallel (halfway between the equator and the pole)

o        a sign at Haines proclaims: "Haines Is The Biggest Little City In Oregon"

o        Baker City, Oregon noticed an old "In & Out Hamburgers" joint [photo for Mary]

The area around Haines is cattle country. After driving past a thousand head of cattle, I stopped for lunch, and had a steak. A few miles north of Haines, I headed west on a series of Forest Service Roads (FSR 73, FSR 51 & FSR 52) for about 80 miles which took me through the Elkhorn Range of the Blue Mountains to US Highway 395 at Ukiah, Oregon:

o        a very scenic drive

o        terrain is beautiful forest land

o        sharp mountain peaks & small lakes

o        meadows & meandering streams

o        at Anthony Lake (7,100 feet) it was snowing & the trees had a dusting of white from the snow

o        Elkhorn Summit at 7,400 feet (photos)

o        ski area closed for season

o        huge areas of recovering forest fire burn areas (photos)

o        terrain got more arid as I headed south

At Ukiah took US 395 heading south (towards home!). This is another scenic route; the highway goes through a series of high semi-desert valleys and forested mountain ranges (highway summits of around 5,000 feet). In between the rain, the clouds would clear and the visibility was incredible. Sighted deer families on three occasions -- the fawns were less than two feet high. I enjoyed a few of Oregon's beautiful rest areas. Casino Watch: only one casino.

Dial-up modem connection speed = 26.4 kbps.

 

Photos

§         In & Out Burgers – Baker City, OR

§         Meadow & stream - Elkhorn Summit, Blue Mountains, OR

§         Meadow & stream - Elkhorn Summit, Blue Mountains

§         Meadow - Elkhorn Summit, Blue Mountains

§         WRX in Elkhorn Range of Blue Mountains

§         "Put-It-Out" - Elkhorn Range, Blue Mountains

§         Forest fire remains & re-growth - Elkhorn Range, Blue Mountains

§         "Super Duck" (survivor of a terrible forest fire) - Blue Mountains

§         Forest Service Road 52 to Ukiah, OR

 

September 3: Burns, OR to Susanville, CA  (305 miles)

The weather was sunny with a cold wind.

Continued heading south on US Highway 395. This section of highway is another lonely road. The highway between Burns and Susanville passes through only two decent-size towns. Most of the drive is high desert with sagebrush and wild rye grass.

In southern Oregon, US 395 passes by Lake Abert which is a remnant of an old prehistoric lake (Lake Chewaucan). Thousands of years ago the lake was 375 feet deep and connected to what is now Summer Lake about 25 to 30 miles away. Lake Abert has no outlet; as a result, the mineral salts which dissolved into the larger prehistoric lake have been concentrated in Lake Abert. The lake has a strong smell, and is full of brine shrimp which serve as food for migrating birds. Barren mountains (7,000 to 8,000 feet high) are visible from the lake. Next, the highway passes through Lakeview, Oregon which is an attractive town near the California border.

Once in California the terrain is alternating high desert and arid forest land as US 395 heads south to Susanville. The only town in California along US 395 before Susanville is Alturas (county seat of Modoc County). Highlights after Alturas are Sage Hen Summit (5,600 feet) and the mini-town of Likely.

 

Photos:

§         Driving south on US 395 in south-eastern Oregon

§         Lake Abert - OR

§         Lake Abert

§         Alger Theater - Lakeview, OR

§         Alger Theater - Lakeview

 

September 4: Susanville, CA to HOME  (320 miles)

The weather was sunny and hot.

From Susanville, took CA Highway 36 west. The forests here are arid when compared to most of the other states visited on my trip. I had gotten used to green vegetation mixed with the trees. Fredonyer Pass is 5,700 feet. The highway continues through farming valleys surrounded by forest-covered mountains with fences made out of logs, green irrigated land and cattle. From CA 36 I took CA 147 and CA 89 a short distance to catch CA 70 which took me to the Sacramento River valley and Marysville.

CA 147 and CA 89 are scenic tree-lined roads that pass streams, lakes (especially, beautiful deep blue Lake Almanor) and tiny mountain towns. Highway 70 follows the descent of the beautiful Feather River into the Sacramento Valley. The many PGE hydro-electric power plants along the Feather River are not attractive, but interesting to see. When the Feather River is dammed at each power station, beautiful emerald green mini-lakes are created.

There were at least 5 bridges under repair and the road was reduced to one-lane. A sign pointed-out that in January 1997 the river's water was eight feet over the road surface. There are great views of the Sacramento Valley as the highway gets closer to the valley. The remainder of the drive from Marysville to home was, at best, long.

At home, a “Welcome Home” sign and a smiling Mary greeted me! It was great to be home after 35 days on the road. Of course, it is even better to be back with Mary. Even the cats were glad to see me (Yeah!).

 

Total mileage for entire trip = 7,320 miles

 

 

 

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