Friday, October 10, 2008

Day 76...Mitchell, South Dakota to HOME!

I'm up bright and early at 5:00AM...some coffee...pack up the Escape...check out...and I'm on the road. Thirty miles or so out of Mitchell, I hit the fog...not the light fog we get here, this is the "pea soup" variety...visibility is cut to about a thousand feet...slow going for over two hours...then, the fog lifts as the sun gets higher.
Not long into Minnesota, I realize that I have made a huge "error". 76 days on the road, and I have forgotten my time zones. My Garmin's internal clock is set on "Mountain" time, and I'll be coming home on good old "Eastern" two hours to my "ETA".
I roll through Minnesota, no longer fog-bound. I cross the river into more small "mountain drive". I'm rolling along until I get about 40 miles north of the "Dells"...then I hit weekend returning home south traffic. It's pretty intense...80 miles an hour or so...bumper to bumper...much concentration required...very tiring.
Then...I'm in down the tollway...slow, with "toll stops" every twenty or thirty miles or so. As I approach Chicago, everything grinds to a halt. It's A Sunday, but it's still "rush hour" takes me over three hours to get through Chicago onto the Skyway.
Now...I'm's going to get dark soon, and I'll have to slow down.
I am absolutely "pumped" as I finally cross the border into Michigan...I'm "home", but not all the way. I-94 is a "nightmare...tons of's dark now, and I'm getting pretty tired.
The last 200 miles are, to say the least, brutal. Now the Garmin is saying that my ETA is 11:00PM...then 12:30AM...then 1:00AM. Very slow, very tiring. Around Jackson, I hit a MAJOR construction area, and I'm stuck in traffic for 45 minutes plus.
Now it's around 1:45AM...I've been driving for almost 20 hours...but...I'm pulling into my driveway. I'm kneeling down and kissing my front cats are at the bed.
I'm home at last.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Day 75...Saturday, September 26, 2008...Back to Devils Tower...On to Mt. Rushmore

I was up early this morning to check out of my hotel in Hulett, Wyoming and head back to Devils Tower. It's an imposing structure...all the more so by virtue of the fact that it's almost completely obscured by low hills and other mountains as you drive up on the approach. round a corner and BAM...there it is...awesome.
I spend about an hour at the hiking a little around the base and driving around to get as many photos from as many different angles as possible. Plus, there's a prairie dog "village" just inside the entrance, and I spend a little time on the trails that leads around their burrows.'s on to Mt. Rushmore...about a two hour drive from Wyoming into South Dakota. It may be late September, but Mt. Rushmore is absolutely packed...I have a hard time even finding a parking space. The UM/Wisconsin game is coming on satellite radio just as I park and, as a result, I miss almost the whole first half. In retrospect, this is actually an amazing stroke of good luck.
I grab a bowl of chili for lunch in the Park dining room, then head off to view the monument. They have a great viewing platform positioned directly in front of the mountain so that you can see all of the Presidential "profiles". The only "downside" here is that the viewing platform doesn't give you any "angles" for's all straight on. So...I take the requisite photos...then I'm on to my final stop...the Crazy Horse Memorial...about 20 miles or so from Mt. Rushmore.
The Crazy Horse Memorial is mildly disappointing. The original artist worked on it for 40 years or so and managed to sculpt the head of Crazy Horse. The rest is unfinished. It's $10.00 to get in, which I don't mind, but you can't really see much of the monument once you get inside. For another $20.00, you can take a bus to the base of the monument but, there, you're now too close to get any good photos. So, I skip the bus, take a few shots and head back to the Escape.
As I climb in, I'm excited. Last night, I did a little "calculating" as well as map-reading. From Crazy Horse, I'm a little over 1200 miles from home. It's a little after 3:00PM and, if I drive until 9:00PM or so, I can knock that return trip down to under 900's possible to drive that in a single day (and night).
So...I'm sitting in the Escape...and then...I finally get to do something that I've been thinking about for weeks. I turn on my Garmin GPS and touch the screen that says "Go Home". Wow...after 75 days on the road, I'm finally going home!
As I swing out of the parking lot, I pick up the UM game's into the 3rd quarter and things are definitely not looking good...we're behind 19-0...five fumbles in the first half alone. I head down out of the mountains and onto I-90 heading east (towards home), the game turns around completely. A couple of scores, and I'm banging on the steering wheel...we're back in it! the very end...a missed two-point conversion attempt seals an improbable I'm feeling pretty good.
After awhile, the mountains are far behind me...there are some rolling hills for awhile after that...then it's pretty flat. Around 9:15PM or so, I'm in Mitchell, South Dakota...about 930 miles from home. I check in at a Comfort Inn and immediately head across the parking lot to a Ruby Tuesdays. It's been a long day, so a martini is definitely in order...something to wash away the "road dust". I catch the end of the Alabama/Georgia game, gobble down a "triple prime" burger with fries, and wash that down with an extra large "schooner" of Leinenkugel's Honey Weiss Lager (one of my favorite beers).
It's getting late, so I'm heading back to the Comfort Inn to sleep. If I'm up at 5:00AM and get on the road by 6:00AM, the Garmin tells me that can be home tomorrow night around 8:30PM! I'll be dreaming about that tonight.