Thursday, August 19, 2010

Great American Road Trip: Part I

On August 1, my family and I embarked on a 4950-mile, 16-day road trip Out West. Yellowstone was our main destination, but we had plenty of fun getting there, and coming home, too. Sixteen days of 24-hour-a-day togetherness worked out just fine for all of us, which isn't to say we didn't have our moments (each and every one of us), but I think we all agree we'd do it again in a heartbeat!

The first 12 hours of our trip was territory too familiar to all of us, as we've been that way too many times before, so we didn't do much site-seeing the first day, but we did fuel up at a gas station next to this building in Wisconsin. I really wanted to go in and browse the kitsch, but we were only 6 hours into a 16 day journey, and I knew I needed to pace myself, so I satisfied myself with a quick photo from the car. Wisconsin has its kitsch for sure, but it truly is a gorgeous state, and a pleasure to drive through.

We traveled on to Minnesota. My husband and I used to live in Minnesota, but we'd never been to Rochester before, so we stopped there for dinner. We walked around the Mayo Clinic Complex, which is a beautiful mixture of old and new architecture.

We had dinner downtown at Mac's Cafe, which turned out to be an excellent choice. I had baked hummus, and oh my word, I am now hoping to find either a recipe or a local restaurant with baked hummus on the menu. If you are ever in Rochester, MN (and if you are, I hope it's for good things), do eat at Mac's Cafe.

We spent the night in Mankato, MN, and on our way out of town the next morning we began our official touring with a stop at the Betsy and Tacy houses.

I didn't read the Betsy and Tacy books when I was little, but I did read them to my children. They are such sweet stories of best friends growing up across the street from each other. The books are based on the real childhood experiences of the author, Maud Hart Lovelace. Maud is Betsy, who did indeed grow up in "Betsy's house", and her best friend, Bick, is Tacy, who lived in "Tacy's house". The houses are open for touring only on the weekends, but we were there on a Monday, so we just admired the charming neighborhood and took photos. I love old neighborhoods like that, ones built in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It's funny to think that when Maud and Bick were children, the houses and neighborhood were new.

Next stop was New Ulm, MN, with a quick drive past Wanda Ga'g's house. It is also open for touring only on the weekends, so I just stood outside and looked.

I couldn't stop saying

Cats here,
Cats there,
Cats and kittens everywhere.
Hundreds of Cats,
Thousands of Cats,
Millions and Billions and Trillions of Cats

which really got on my children's nerves!

My husband than surprised us with a stop at the Hermann Heights Monument, which I had never heard of before. It is quite impressive to see it rising above the trees as you drive up the hill.

For a small fee, you can climb the stairs up to the inside of the dome, then climb up some more stairs to a ladder that leads you through a tiny little hatch in the ceiling, out to the circular balcony at the foot of the statue.

Those tiny little figures at the foot of Hermann are my children:

I climbed up through the hatch myself, saw how narrow and high the balcony was, felt the whole thing list to the side (which may have been my imagination...), and beat a hasty retreat back to the inside of the dome

where I waited patiently for my family to finish gazing at the scenery. They periodically poked their heads through the hatch to tease me.

Inside the dome:

View from the balcony:

I include this last photo because it is a reminder of the Banana game the kids were playing in the car.

They started off thinking they would play slug bug, where they would punch each on the arm other upon seeing a VW bug, but when no VW bugs were forthcoming (imagine!), they changed to Banana. Anytime one of them spotted a yellow vehicle, he or she would shout "Banana!" and slug his/her sibling on the arm. I expected this to be almost as quiet as slug bug, but it turns our there are a great number of yellow vehicles on the road, and not just service vehicles, either. Try playing Banana sometime, and you'll see what I mean.

That's all for now. Future posts will include tours of Laura Ingalls Wilder sites, frightening storms, more yummy food, breathtaking scenery, and my irrational fear of bison, so please stay tuned!


Anonymous said...

Ooooh! I'm so excited to read all this! :) (and I still haven't finished my trip report, bad me!)

I'd never heard about the Betsy thing, but you're the THIRD person I know who went to visit them this summer!

Tricia said...

It's not completely irrational to be afraid of bison, they can be pretty fierce! Do they still give out the bison warning flyers when you enter Yellowstone?

Glenda said...

Gorgeous pictures, Tracy!

When Rodney and I were first married, we use to go camping in a teeny tiny town called New Ulm, but it's here in Texas :). (Probably too small to be on a map, even.)

A 16-day roadtrip is pretty dang impressive. I'm glad y'all had a good time!

besomom said...

Leila, how weird about the Betsy thing. Why are so many people going to Mankato?

Tricia, we just got the usual NP newspaper, which included warnings for all of the animals. (We were not even warned that dangerous escaped convicts might be hiding out in the park, even though at that time authorities thought there might be.)

Hi, Glenda! Glad you haven't given up my blog, seeing how I've been absent so long.

Glenda said...

You're on my google reader :). It's a great way to keep up in general, but especially when folks take blog breaks. I started posting on mine again - guess I just needed a nice long break!