Since leaving WV we have taken a northwest trajectory covering five states (six if you count the 10 minutes we drove through Kentucky on Cincinnati’s bypass road) to arrive in Minneapolis, MN where we will pick up I-94 and begin in earnest our trek west. This route took us through much of what I consider America’s heartland. We have seen cornfields upon cornfields, thriving towns and dying towns, manufacturing plants and nuclear energy generators. The weather has been mostly good with the torrential downpours holding off until the overnight hours on day two. The road conditions have ranged from very poor to pretty good and while we vowed not to complain about the roads in the lower 48 after our trip to Alaska last year, it’s hard not to when your teeth are jarred loose from the cracks and potholes! Yet, nevertheless, these very roads are what lead us to our adventures and so one cannot really grumble too much!
Here is a brief recap of each day’s adventure on the road:
Day Two – Milton, WV to Crawfordsville, IN
Leaving Milton on a cloudy day we left the interstate highway behind to journey along the Ohio River Scenic Byway. This road led us to Cincinnati where we met up with I-74 that took us to our day two stop outside of Indianapolis. The byway runs 943 miles through 3 states (Ohio, Indiana and Illinois) and is described as a “history-rich byway that meanders along the banks of the Ohio River, hugging its shoreline and offering almost continuous views of the river”. Sure sounded appealing! Unfortunately, for the three of us the experience was more of a bust. The 135 mile portion we traveled offered few glimpses of the river and most of those were peek-a-boo through the trees. The “charming river towns” we drove through had seen much better days and many of the businesses and homes were boarded up. “The route is rarely crowded” proved to be true and that aspect was quite pleasant. Now, I don’t want to be totally disparaging because these off-the-beaten-path experiences are what give us a real glimpse of life outside our plot of land back home. And while we didn’t see the river much, we did see some cool bridges spanning it and some lovely rural farmland along its shores. Just saying the words “scenic river” might have been a stretch in describing this part of the byway!
The remainder of our travel day was uneventful and we made it to our campsite between rainstorms so we did not have to set-up in inclement weather. That night, however, the heavens opened up and kept us awake off and on all night. While the sound of rain is usually a nice lullaby, in the tin can of an RV the rain sounds like missiles raining down upon you. Earplugs and a pillow over my head were the answer for me!
Day Three – Crawfordsville, IN – Iowa City, IA
Another gloomy start to our travels with low clouds and drizzle. The cold front that passed through overnight reveals itself in lower humidity and milder temperatures and none of us are complaining about that! After a few hours down the road the sun is peeking out again and we find ourselves driving in the midst of cornfields ripe for the harvest. I was hoping we might see the harvesters working the fields but I guess we are just a tad early. We also crossed the mighty Mississippi River and into the central time zone – always a milestone in our trek west.
Our campground for the night was in a nice setting with trees and a pond but the sites were not at all level so it was a challenge for Art to get us somewhat stable. We slept well with windows wide open as temps dipped into the mid 50’s. Even Sadie slept on her warm soft bed instead of the cooler linoleum!
Day Four – Iowa City, IA – Minneapolis, MN
A nice morning greeted us and we were up and on the road by 8:15. This day turned us north toward Minneapolis. The view out the window is much the same as the day before and we passed through the towns of Cedar Rapids and Waterloo. We were concerned about navigating around Minneapolis, but the bypass took us well around the city and we made it through without too much of a headache.
Having gotten an early start, we arrived to our campsite by 2:30 so we had a few hours to “chillax” before heading into the big city to meet Caryn’s son and his girlfriend for dinner. Art picked a restaurant that was featured just last week on the Food Network’s show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Called Victor’s 1959 Café, this “dive” is known for incredibly delicious Cuban food which is one of Art’s favorite cuisines, so it was a match made in heaven. Thankfully, it did not disappoint and we all stuffed ourselves on traditional Cuban fare. Yum!
Our second day in Minneapolis was spent pretty quietly. Since it was our first drive-free day since we started this trip, we enjoyed a leisurely morning before heading to the little town of Excelsior for a lakeside walk and lunch. This community sits on the banks of Lake Minnetonka, one of the largest in the area, and boasts lovely homes, a quaint downtown, lakeside park and marina. That evening we fired up our little grill and invited Caryn’s son and girlfriend over to the campsite for dinner. It was a lovely way to wind-up our stay here.
Next up, North Dakota…stay tuned!