IL: McLean – 08/10/2016 – 08/11/2016

Parking: Super 8
Rating: 7

Here is what was going through my mind as we did this drive:

That’s a lot of corn that looks ready to harvest. It sure is flat here. More corn. Really flat. Soybeans! More corn. Really, really flat. Why are they not harvesting this corn yet? Why are there no vegetable stands? Corn. Flat. Corn. Flat. Soybeans. Still no vegetable stands. Corn. Corn. Corn. Flat. Flat. Hey, look! They’re harvesting the corn! Still no vegetable stands. Flat.

WI: Menomonie/Poynette – 08/01/2016 – 08/03/2016

Parking: Menomonie – Motel 6
Rating: 7

Parking: Poynette – Jamieson Park
Rating: 9

It has been really hot this summer, and the mosquitoes have gone through many more breeding cycles than usual, so it can sometimes be a little uncomfortable. My partner decided he had enough of the Northland and wanted to make tracks for a while. So, these past two days have been pretty much just watching the world go by my window – there’s Minneapolis – there’s St. Paul – there’s the exit for the Wisconsin Dells – not much fun for me. I picked up a few brochures at a rest stop just to see what the Dells actually looked like and to read about its geological history. I could have had the same experience by printing some images of the Midwest I found on Google and driving I-5 from a few miles north of Olympia to a few miles south over and over with the heater turned all the way up.

ND: Fargo – 07/29/2016 – 08/01/2016

Parking: WoodSpring Suites
Rating: 10

To give the Isuzu a chance to break-in its repairs a little more, we decided to head back to Fargo (just in case something happened, we’d be near the shop). We needed some internet access and to do a month’s worth of laundry, so we decided to stay at a hotel. The WoodSpring is an extended stay hotel, so it does not have a lot of amenities that a “regular” hotel would (no pool, breakfast, or facilities for children), but it’s new, clean, comfortable, and reasonably priced, and the laundry room is huge.

We had a chance to catch up on some TV, do some research on our next locations, and to update this blog.

Musings:
As much as it seems the whole country is homogenized these days, there are still little differences that sneak up on you as you travel. Brand names for the same items change (Best Foods/Hellman’s, Carl’s Jr/Hardees, etc.). Butter has gone from short, fat sticks to long, skinny ones. The grocery store no longer carries Tillimook or Franz products (especially missed is the huckleberry yogurt). I am a little saddened by the changes. But then, the billboards start showing me things that I haven’t seen for twenty years – Steak ‘n’ Shake, Fuddruckers, Piggly Wiggly. And then there’s White Castle which is enough like Krystal to gladden my heart and stomach (note to White Castle – put some mustard on those things, and they’d be perfect). Also, there is the grocery store Aldi which I have shopped in Ireland, but I had had no idea they had become so widespread in the US (except the northwestern part of the country). When strip mall after strip mall (anchored by the now ubiquitous Walmart) look nearly identical across the country, it’s nice to see at least a few regional differences.

MT: Across I-90 – 06/20/16 – 06/22/16

MT

WoW: Plaguelands (de-plagued)

Parking: Econolodge – Missoula, MT
Rating: 7

Parking: Rest Area – Bozeman, MT
Rating: 10

After Flathead Lake, we decided to head to Wyoming by crossing I-90. We stayed a night in a hotel in Zoo Town to take some good showers and do laundry, and then we overnighted at a Rest Area in Bozeman (not the one pictured). These were mostly just driving days.

MT

MT

MT

Rave:
Montana is fantastic. The no sales tax on anything makes you feel like you are getting a discount on everything you buy. They do have an income tax, but either this state is in a big financial hole, or they really know how to squeeze their dollars. For a state that is covered with snow for a significant part of the year, the roads are in excellent shape (they were re-paving I-90 even though its current condition was far better than any interstate in WA). The rest areas are beautiful – the stalls at many of them are individual rooms with granite wall tile and are as clean as possible. The city parks are well-kept and in fantastic locations. The streets are clean, and (in the cities we drove through) businesses were thriving and the administrative buildings were attractive.

I’m sure Montanans complain about things like I complain about Washington, but from this tourist’s perspective, it looked pretty sweet.

If you are looking for a new place to live, you might want to do some research on Kalispell. The city pretty much has everything you need (or if it doesn’t, it probably is under construction). It’s near Flathead Lake (the largest freshwater natural lake in the West) and snow skiing. There are mountains, hills, and plains nearby. Housing is cheap. They have some excellent health care facilities.

WA: Spokane – 05/30/2016 – 06/01/2016

Parking: Rodeway Inn
Rating: 6

There were a few things that we needed to handle, so we needed to be in civilization for a couple of days. Unfortunately, one of the things that needed doing was me going to the dentist because I had a very painful molar.

Hopefully, we won’t be spending too much time in motels, but it’s nice to have a real shower once in a while.