Tag Archives: minnesota

Great Western Road Trip: Day 2

Today’s Song: Balto, by Enter the Haggis

Current Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba

Today’s song came about because I associate Minnesota with winter, winter with sled dogs, and the idea of pushing forward on this trip. That, and it’s a damn fun driving song too!

I woke up way too early this morning (after waking up for an hour between 3 and 4 AM), early enough that the free breakfast at the Hyatt Place wasn’t even ready to go yet. Fortunately they were kind enough to let me jump in for a light, simple breakfast.

It was a pretty straight shot up I-94 to Fargo, then turning north on I-29. I was hoping to stay on local roads as much as possible during this trip, but sadly sometimes sacrifices must be made in the interest of time and sanity. I did start up a new audiobook, The Lightning-Struck Heart, by TJ Klune. I’ve read the book before and really enjoyed it – it’s a farcical take on gay romances with knights in shining armor, a clumsy, love-besotted wizard, and a sassy gay unicorn with a serious attitude problem. The narrator, Michael Lesley, delivers a jaw-dropping performance, pretty much the best audiobook narration I’ve ever heard. This is definitely worth checking out!

At lunchtime I was coming up on Grand Forks, North Dakota, so I detoured to a brewery I scoped out the day before: The Rhombus Guys Brewery. They have a respectable beer menu and tasty food (with enormous portions). I had the Dark Matter Imperial Stout, which was delicious!

I also had a chance to walk around downtown Grand Forks, which is right on the Red River. It’s really quite lovely!

From there it was a short trip to the border, where I was waived through after a series of brief questions. Then an hour more brought me to Winnipeg. I checked into my hotel and arranged to meet Dave and Sarah (aka Plonq and Atara).

Dave and Sarah picked me up and brought me over to there place, where we shared a delicious meal of Thia and Italian chicken sausages, fresh tomato salad with basil, and grilled vegetables. Dessert was Vinaterta made with Saskatoon berries by a local baker. Yum!

After dinner we headed downtown, back to my hotel. From there we walked over to The Forks, in the middle of the Canada Day celebrations. It’s a really neat place that I’m told we will be revisiting tomorrow when the crowds have died down a bit. The night was capped off by a spectacular fireworks show that we watched from the other side of the river.

And now I am back in my room and quite exhausted. I can sleep in tomorrow, as we’re not meeting up for brunch until after 10 AM. After that It will be a day of taking in the sights around Winnipeg and spending time with great friends!

Miles Driven Today: 470

Time Driving Today: 7:32

Total Miles Driven: 836

Total Time Driving: 14:33

Great Western Road Trip: Day 1

Today’s Song: Get Out The Map, by The Indigo Girls

Current Location: St. Paul, Minnesota

As planned, I was able to finish off packing the car and get on the road by 7 AM.

This was my first time really putting the Mustang through its paces, and oh my did it deliver! The first time I hit a freeway I punched it to see what would happen. Suddenly, I was doing 90 miles per hour. I admit I had to take a few moments to giggle madly. Clearly this isn’t something to do around other cars or populated places, but I see some fun times once I get out to Nevada and Utah…

The first leg of my trip brought me all the way to…Lake Geneva, Wisconsin I stopped for a good breakfast at one of my favorite places, Simple Cafe.

After lingering a bit longer than expected there I started wandering north and west through Wisconsin. My first stop was Water House Foods in Lake Mills. This was a cute little bistro across from the town square.

After a tasty cappuccino, I was back on the road. I changed course a couple of different times as a drove, taking suggestions from folks on Twitter. Eventually I wound up heading north of Madison to Sauk City, where I stopped at Wollersheim Winery and Distillery. I didn’t make it to the winery, but I was able to try a sample of six of their spirits.

Considering I drive into Canada where they may or may not assess a duty on any booze I have in excess of the allotted (small) amount, I limited my purchase to a bottle of the pear eau de vie, which was quite delicious!

The afternoon was getting on so from there I jumped to Interstate 90 and drove directly to St. Paul, getting in at about 5:30 PM. This gave me enough time to grab a quick shower and get settled before heading back out against to The Happy Gnome, where I met Mwako, Charles, Cyn, Lego, and Kellic for dinner. A fantastic meal and drinks ensued, with enjoyable conversation all around. My dinner included a rather enormous chicken sandwich:

I love these folks; I need to get up here more often to see them!

And now I’m back in my room at the Hyatt Place St. Paul, winding down for the night. This has been a great start to the trip – a little bit of meandering, a little lounging around various interesting places, and a little straightforward highway driving to get where I need to go. Tomorrow will sadly be more of the latter, since the drive from here to Winnipeg, Manitoba is not a short one. I’ll be up and on the road bright and early, though!

Miles Driven Today: 366.2

Time Driving Today: 7:01

Total Miles Driven: 366.2

Total Time Driving: 7:01

Great Western Road Trip, Day 0

(Hereafter Great Western Road Trip is abbreviated GWRT)

Today’s Song: Ready To Go, by Republica

Current Location: Volo, Illinois

Everything is packed up, the dogs are with Grandma, the rental car has been procured, and now the reality is setting in: This is really going to happen. I mean, I planned for it but I always suspected some circumstance would force me to put things off.

I have a long trip ahead of me: approximately 8,000 miles in 24 days. My route will take me from Chicago in the upper Midwest to the Canadian Prairie Provinces, over the Rocky Mountains, down the Pacific coast, and then back to Chicago. Along the way I’ll be seeing dozens of friends Dan and I have made through the years, and hopefully making new friends as well.

Why am I doing this? Dan and I had planned to take a two-week Caribbean cruise in April 2017. When he passed away suddenly all of that got cancelled. Now that I had the vacation time and the funds we’d set aside for that available, I kicked around the question of what to do with those for a few weeks. I have always loved road trips, but in the last decade or so they have simply not been possible due to some of Dan’s health issues. So first off this was a way to cross a long road trip like this off my bucket list.

Although we had a wonderful and well-attended memorial for Dan a few weeks ago, many of our dearest friends were unable to join us. I hope to bring the memory of Dan to them, to celebrate his life and to share a toast to an extraordinary man.

What am I hoping to get out of this trip? I know that hopes and what actually happens are two different things but I hope that this trip serves as a reset button, a demarcation point of My Life Before and My Life After. It’s hard to admit it, but it may also mark where “Tom and Dan” ended and where “Just Tom” started (again). In the 100+ hours of driving planned, there’s going to be a lot of time to think and to work things out in my head. Whether this produces anything constructive is anyone’s guess, though.

Throughout the trip I will be posting my experiences to Twitter. I also hope to post a summary of each day here as well, perhaps providing more context for the tweets and additional photos and memories. Way back in the dawn of time (2002, to be exact), I started blogging on LiveJournal. All of those entries are archived here on this site fortunately, since LiveJournal is now a terrible place. I found that I enjoy going back over old posts that talk about what I did where and with whom. This will be a place to keep the memories of this trip in one place. I also hope to have a theme song for each day, as posted above. This will reflect my mood for the day, my location, or a general feeling I get as I drive across the countryside.

Just to recap, here is my full planned itinerary. Things can always change at a moment’s notice though!

Date

Location

6/30/2017 St. Paul, MN
7/1/2017 Winnipeg, MB
7/2/2017 Winnipeg, MB
7/3/2017 Regina, SK
7/4/2017 Regina, SK
7/5/2017 Calgary, AB
7/6/2017 Calgary, AB
7/7/2017 Calgary, AB
7/8/2017 Kalispell, MT
7/9/2017 Richland, WA
7/10/2017 Vancouver, WA
7/11/2017 Vancouver, WA
7/12/2017 Crescent City, CA
7/13/2017 Sunnyvale, CA
7/14/2017 Sunnyvale, CA
7/15/2017 Sunnyvale, CA
7/16/2017 Manteca, CA
7/17/2017 Reno, NV
7/18/2017 Salt Lake City, UT
7/19/2017 Denver, CO
7/20/2017 Denver, CO
7/21/2017 Lenexa, KS
7/22/2017 Florissant, MO
7/23/2017 Volo, IL

See you all tomorrow, when I hit the road for St. Paul, Minnesota!