The BTW Weekly Log: Week 2

Begin Day #5

Quick Stats for today:

Today was: September 4, 2000 
Day Number: Five
Miles Travelled: 110 Miles
Region Travelling in:  Indiana National Dunes
Approx Money Spent: 56$

For the Lazy Ones who can read through:

Most of the morning today we updated our pages and then put them back onto the site. So, we started around 12 pm from the motel after lunch. We headed north to the Indiana Dunes National Park. It was a windy and a cold day. We first went to the west beach and then to the main National Park. Because of the weather we could not stay out on the beach for long. In short, we threw away $9 for nothing.

We drove on into Illinois (pronounced as Ili-naye. Reminds us of rats and dogs ;-) ). We left I80 because it was crowded and took the local roads to get across. Some of the areas were not very pleasant - prpbably offshoots of Chicago. Two good things happenned: we got an extra hour because of crossing the timeline. The other thing was we got a motel for $30 ! Desi owned at a town called Bourbonnais, Kankakee ( pronounced as Kaen-k-kee) county (Ajay kept repeatinhg 'Kankakee' every 3.5 minutes :) - much to Deepa's annoyance). So we settle down for today!


SOTD (Saying Of The Day):

If you do not look back over your shoulder you wouldn't even know what you have missed.

 End Day #5


 Begin Day #6

Quick Stats for today:

Today was: September 5, 2000 
Day Number: Six
Miles Travelled: 220 miles
Region Travelling in:  Illinois (along the river Illinois)
Approx Money Spent: $34

For the Lazy Ones who can read through:

One advantage of staying in a desi (Gujju) owned hotel is that he might invite you for tea in the mornig! This is exactly what happened to us. Mr Mahesh Patel and his wife invited us for tea. We are grateful to them. If you ever visit Kankakee county, Illinois, then please stay at Northgate motel in Bourbonnais. Great price and tea in the morning.

We wanted to visit the leaning tower of Pisa at Niles, Indiana. It was suggested by The Roadside America. The visitors center at Niles (630-769-1000) did not know anything about this. So we decided to skip this.

We started out visting the Kankakee river state park - nice quiet place. It reminded us of our childhood hometowns in India. We continued the scenic route - of course not on an interstate. The route snaked itself around the Illinois river. One of the points further ahead was the WG Straton state park. This was such a pretty place that we got off the road for a break and spent a few moments there.

Finally we started whistling on 80 again! We reached a place called Starved Rock State Park in about an hour. This is where we stopped for lunch. The name for this park comes from the fact that a few (red) indians in the 18th century climbed the rock and starved to death up there. They were running away from the Europeans. It was a nice site though they have built a damn around that place. We continued further west on I80 into Iowa.

Iowa struck us with a bolt of surprise. We never imagined that this state could be so beautiful and have so many things to do. It all started as we crossed the Missisippi river and the visitor center. Amazingly clean place. Moreover lots of information and free coffee!! We decided that we will stay at a place called Wapello - which was an hours drive away. Once we reached the motel we wanted to stay in, we did not like the place and its surroundings. We drove to the other end of the town to look at another motel. An old woman stepped out to show us the room which was for 35 dollars a night. After a bit of argueing with the lady, we got it down to 30 dollars. It was a clean and a perfect place. We spent a lot of time that night researching Iowa and deciding how we would tackle this state.


SOTD (Saying Of The Day):

It takes a lot of strength to extract five dollars off an old lady.

End Day #6


Begin Day #7

Quick Stats for today:

Today was: September 6, 2000 
Day Number: Seven
Miles Travelled: 110 miles
Region Travelling in:  Local roads of Iowa
Approx Money Spent: $60 + $30 for Oil Change

For the Lazy Ones who can read through:

We were equipped with the earlier days research on Iowa and had chalked out a tour across the state. It was tough to decide what sites to visit and also the route to take.

We started of with coffee at a place called Kum & Go (not such a nice name). Most of our travel in Iowa was on the local roads. These roads line the huge corn fields of this state. Iowa state is only next to China in the amount of corn production - it produces more corn than all the other 49 US states combined. In all Iowa sounds like a big corn field divided by roads into huge squares.

Our first destination was a place called Amana Colonies. This is a set of seven German villages, each of them preserved as they were in the old times. The first village we visited was Homestead. We visited a old style winery. We got to see barrels of beer (just like in the Asterix coics). Next we went to the town of Amana. We strolled the main road which is lined by several old style shops. We visited a fantastic candle shop where we could see candle making. Some of their candles were unbelievable in colours, shapes and aromas. A chocolate also demonstrated how chocolate was made in the old times. After seeing a beautiful lace / curtain shop, we had a German lunch at Barn Restaurant. The restaurant is appointed with beaituful artifacts - even the waitresses were impeccably dresses. Our next stop was a woollen Mill. The final stop was a great clock/furniture shop. We saw some of the most beautiful granpa clocks. In all our Amana experience was just perfect though we could not afford to buy anything there :).

We took yet another scenic drive to a place called Newton. It hosts a dairy farm called Maytag Dairy farm. Unfortunately we reached five minutes before closing, so we had to pass it on. We planned on staying for the night at a historic place called Pella. After we reached there we found that no motel would go below $45 - tense sitution. The manager at a motel 8 suggested a nearby campground. After we drove there we discovered what a great place it was. It was right next to the Red Rock Lake. Clean, organized and cheap - twelve bucks. We put up our tent and went for a walk to look at the sunset on the lake. A hearty dinner of Spanish rice was cooked and we went to bed that is sleeping bags.


SOTD (Saying Of The Day):


End Day #7


Begin Day #8

Quick Stats for today:

Today was: September 7, 2000 
Day Number: Eight
Miles Travelled: 310 Miles
Region Travelling in:  Iowa back country roads
Approx Money Spent: $47

For the Lazy Ones who can read through:

After a refreshing camping night, a chay and a hot shower put the glow back into our faces. We hit the road travelling through the scenic Red Rock state park and reached the Iowa capital, Des Moines. We wanted to visit the living history farms in Urbandale. Though we found cheap gas, we did not fill up (Ajay said not to).

Living History Farms, LHF is a live museum. The museum employees dress as farmers and live on the farm grounds doing whatever the farmers would do. There are depictions of life from the 1700s, 1800s and 1900s. We started with looking at the life before agriculture. We walked through to the 1800s house where a lady was cooking a very good smelling stew. She explained to us what she was doing and how. We enjoyed the home and other stuff out there. Most of all we enjoyed their costumes. It felt like life in India. The 1900s house was more advanced and bigger. The kitchen was a huge room at the center of the house. It had a advanced wood burning stove with dampers and all. The lady in there was cooking good smelling stuff too. The men were cutting wood outside the house. Then there were a cluster of houses: a black smithy, a tools house, a bank, a lawyer and finally a mansion. Each of this was a good small tour. In all the LHF was a good experince worth the ten bucks per head.

We then took I80 west and realized that we were running low on gas. Had to leave the highway much to Deepa's annoyance. The Danish windmill in Elk Horn is a pretty site and was our next stop. The mill was got from Holland piece by peice and was assembled it here. It commemorates the Danish settlement. It was a good but short stop. Our next good but short stop was to visit Albert The Bull in the town of Audubon. This is a 30 ft high replica of a US bull.

We had planned to leave I80 and go north to I90. It was a long drive. After a long and weary drive we turned a corner and the grotto was in full view in front of us. It is an amazing site. It consists of lots of stones / corals from all over the world arranged to show different phases of Jesus' life. A whole city block is dedicated to this. The site evokes peace, harmony and serenity in oneself. We also discovered that they have a camping site next to it. We put in a donation and stayed the night out there. We strolled in the evening to look at the lights on the grotto. We felt good.


SOTD (Saying Of The Day):

Sometimes it is a good idea to listen to your wife :).

 End Day #8


 Begin Day #9

Quick Stats for today:

Today was: September 8, 2000 
Day Number: Nine
Miles Travelled: 270 miles
Region Travelling in:  Eastern South Dakota
Approx Money Spent: $75

For the Lazy Ones who can read through:

We got up to a cold and wet morning - signs of fall. It was difficult to get out of our warm sleeping bags. We got fresh at the camping site bathrroms which were neat and clean. We met a senior couple then. They were from Florida, travelling in an RV (recreational vehicle) and were on the road sine May 2000 ! The grotto has a restaurant which opens around 8 am. We were the first customers to rub our hands and get them to the coffee cups. A light breakfast for two cost us only three bucks with free coffee refills. We were so overwhelmed that we left the rest of the five bucks as donation to the church. We rolled on northword. We stopped at a toen called Spencer to shop for some stuff.

As we were leaving Iowa, on a local road we found this unnatural formations and got a beaituful photograph (hopefully it will turn out good). Lots of people in Iowa told us that we might change our mind and instead of shifting to CA, we might stay here. We felt it so true! Interestingly, we haven't heard the same in any other state. We stopped for lunch at another beautiful place called Pikes Point State Park. We cooked another Zatarain's packet of pasta.

We enered Minnesota and hit I90 after lunch. Ajay did not break cruise until we entered South Dakota. We wanted to see the great faces and the great places. Before we could see any of them, we booked a camping cabin for 24 bucks next to the town of Mitchell. Cabins are halfway between a tent and a motel and make excellent sense.

The evening, we went into the town of Mitchell to see the corn palace. It is a building that is finished with corn (and its byproducts) on the outside. Every year they have the corn festival in which they redecorate the corn palace. This year's decoration did not strike as extraordinary to us. Anyway, its a good site to see. We then walked into the doll museum next to the corn palace. The doll museum houses more than 4000 dolls of various origins, shapes and sizes. Most of the dolls are placed in scenes from fairy tales. Also we have dolls from variuos countries. In all, we spent an enchanting two hours out there. The curator was all enthu to explain to us about the dolls.

The corn palace was supposed to be lighted up in the evening. Since this did not happen until seven pm, we roamed around Mitchell. We also had dinner at Godfather's Pizaa (a fire of $15 - literally because we ate a pizaa with hot jalapenos as toppings). Finally when we retuned, the corn palace was still in the dark - we quit and crashed into bed at around 10:30 pm.


SOTD (Saying Of The Day):

There is no free light in the world.

End Day #9


Begin Day #10

Quick Stats for today:

Today was: September 9, 2000 
Day Number: Ten
Miles Travelled: 280 miles
Region Travelling in:  South Dakota
Approx Money Spent: $61 + $50 Naional Parks Pass

For the Lazy Ones who can read through:

We started out from Mitchell headed west and wanted to be in Badlands by evening. We had booked another camping cabin for twenty six bucks in a place called Interior next to the badlands. We drove on I90 through brown grasslands known all over the world as prairies. You get the in the middle of nowhere feeling as you traverse them. It is very rough terrain. Windy most of the times. We got off the interstate for a couple of pictures. As we steppned on the grass, hundreds of grasshoppers leapt into the air. Deepa likes them - aiiiyeeee !! We had lunch consisting of sandwiches at a rest area. We had to hang onto the sandwiches tight so that they would not fly away - the prairie winds.

Our first stop in the badlands area was Wall Drug store. This store is like a mini mall now. The owner, Hustead's story is the classic rags to riches story. He and his wife could lure interstate travelers to come and shop in their drug store by just advertising for free ice water. Today, this store attracts more than 20,000 people a day mostly because of historic reasons. We spent about an hour there. We liked the new roaring T-Rex dinosaur the best. We came out and Deepa noticed that we had gained an hour as we had crossed another timeline.

Then we drove to our cabin. One thing we felt on the interstate in South Dakota is that the roadside advertisements (including Wall Drug) are too many and too disturbing. The town of Interior turned out to be one straight out of a Clint Eastwood movie. It was dusty, barren and not pretty. The grocery store was housed in a rickety, old barn like thing. As we entered the motel office, two cowboys in dirty hats poked at us. But they were very friendly and amiable. Our cabin was probably made out of recycled material :).

We retuned to the Badlands National Park for the evening. The badlands is a huge area of unearthly formations, colours and figures. Travelling through them you ge an arie feeling. We settled at an overlook point and waited for the sunset. It was beautiful, more so in the badlands area. We travelled for some more time and finally returned back to the cabin. The night was cold and we could not sleep well.


SOTD (Saying Of The Day):


End Day #10


Begin Day #11

Quick Stats for today:

Today was: September 10, 2000 
Day Number: 11
Miles Travelled: 150
Region Travelling in:  South Western S.Dakota
Approx Money Spent: $60

For the Lazy Ones who can read through:

We were not filled to our hearts from yesterday's travel in the Badlands area. So today we planned a more adventorous and dusty trip. We wanted to visit the Sheep Mountain Table. This is a region in the Badlands that is accessible only by a 7 mile dirt road and is not passable when it rains. It would be our first off roading trip. But everything went perfectly fine. Our Honda CRV lived up to its fullest expectations. It climbed the terrain as easily as it cruised the interstates. The views from the top were unbelievable. Every nook and corner we felt like taking a picture. For the up part of our journey we were given company by a senior couple from N.Carolina (married for 40 years as the lady said).

We then drove to Rapid City and located a Roosvelt Park where we cooked a quick lunch. Because of the bad earlier night's sleep we took a comfortable nap. We then continued to the Bear Country park in this city. In this park you drive through a region where wildlife (wolves, bear and bison) are left free. After the end of the tour we saw a set of bear cubs taking a siesta on the top of a tree. It was fun to do this but this was not worth the $8.50 per head price.

Further we continued climbing the scenic Black Hills country. We landed up in the town of Custer. After we asked at a couple of places, we found the motel Chalet. A very neat and cosy place for just $32 ! Off season prices have come into effect. Hooray to us !


SOTD (Saying Of The Day):

Best gift for some one you hate - Skunk Perfume !!

End Day #11


We have now ended week two ! We have also crossed the 2000 mile mark on this trip as we had planned. It has been one heck of a trip !! We are enjoying the life on the road to the greatest. Not a single time on the road we have felt unsafe or unwell. We spent about $450 this week and about $800 on the entire trip till now. We are now getting a hang of how to find the inexpensive stuff on the road. Hope you are enjoying it as much as we are. We will see you behind the wheel !
Ajay 'n Deepa

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