Bozeman to Bellingham

It is now about a month and a half since my brother and I drove my car to Washington, but now I am finally writing about our last day.

We left Bozeman in the morning without knowing exactly where we were going to spend that night. When we first planned the trip, we were thinking about staying with friends in Coeur d’Alene, ID. But as the day went on, and we were in Coeur d’Alene by the early afternoon, we decided to just go for it and drive all the way to Bellingham.

From Bozeman, we drove west through Butte. A friend had told me about something interesting they had in Butte: a huge statue of the Virgin Mary up on a mountain, called “Our Lady of the Rockies.” You can see it as you drive through town, but it is kind of hard to pick out at first. It is possible to go up onto the mountain and see the statue close up, but you have to pay to take a tour bus from Butte because the road is not open to everyone. So we had to settle for stopping at the Butte visitor’s center and buying a postcard. I did manage to take a couple of pictures from the car, but we were moving, and she was far away, so the pictures are blurry and badly lit. She kind of looks like the Abominable Snowman. Maybe I could sell them to the National Enquirer:

Our next stop, after stopping for lunch at a rest area in far western Montana and noting how much colder it was becoming, was Spokane. My brother is a big Bing Crosby fan, and Bing grew up in Spokane, so we wanted to see what the city had done to commemorate its favorite son. His childhood home, it turns out, is now at the edge of the campus of Gonzaga University, on Sharp Avenue. It now functions as an alumni center. We stepped in and looked around; it looks remarkably like a regular old house, with some Bing memorabilia on the walls.

Then we went further in to campus and visited the Crosby Student Center. This building, built in 1957, was originally the school library. Now it is a student center, and houses part of the university’s collection of “Crosbyana” – Bing memorabilia.

Here is the “Crosbyana” room. Mary, my girlfriend and archivist extraordinaire, notes that there is way too much direct sunlight, and way too much memorabilia close to the heater. Go see this memorabilia while it lasts.

There is a statue of Bing, the quintessential man of leisure (note the golf clubs at his feet) outside the building. He is supposed to have a pipe in his mouth, but it has been repeatedly stolen. I guess they just don’t replace it anymore.

Before we left, we wandered over to the church and took a picture or two:

Then we got in the car, drove across the lovely state of Washington (with a brief stop at the Columbia River Gorge), and up to Bellingham. When we got over the Snoqualmie Pass into western Washington, it began to drizzle and didn’t stop until we got up to Bellingham. Apparently, despite it being August, western Washington wanted to show off its typical weather pattern for my brother, who was just visiting for a day. On the morning after that day, we drove back down to Seattle, he flew back to Wisconsin, and our road trip was ended.

Rapid City to Bozeman

Soon I will get around to reviewing the books that I read in September, but I don’t have the time to do that right now. Here, then, is another post about the road trip I took with my brother in August.

The first thing we did when we woke up in Rapid City was go to Mt. Rushmore.

Scratch that.

The first thing we did when we woke up in Rapid City was eat a continental breakfast at the hotel. Then we plugged Mt. Rushmore into the GPS and it led us southwest of town, past dozens of tourist traps, to Mt. Rushmore — the biggest tourist trap of them all. (I don’t mean to seem disrespectful, but after all, it was conceived to increase tourism in South Dakota. If that isn’t the definition of a tourist trap, what is?) We got there early, just after 8. It turns out this was a good call, since by the time we left, about an hour later, the place was packed.

As you can see, it was a beautiful clear day.

Here is what Gutzon Borglum wanted the mountain to look like originally:

There was a very patriotic soda machine outside the men’s restroom:

When we were done looking around, we went back to the parking lot. We weren’t playing the license plate game on this trip, but we probably could have seen just about all the states in the parking lot. We decided not to go to the Crazy Horse monument for two reasons: 1) it is more expensive, and 2) it isn’t finished. If it were just one or the other, we might have gone. But the double whammy of expensive incompleteness kept us away.

So we drove back through town on the way to the highway. Rapid City does something that I, in my historically nerdy way, think is really cool. They have (almost) life-sized statues of U.S. presidents on the street corners downtown. We saw many of them driving by, but we just had to stop and take pictures of a couple. Here is Teddy in his Rough Riders uniform:

Across the street, Franklin Pierce was hanging out (across the street you can see my car parked in front of Teddy’s Bar):

After that stop, we left Rapid City and headed through the northeast corner of Wyoming and into Montana. In Montana, we stopped at the Little Bighorn National Battlefield. Here is where Custer’s second in command is buried:

The black tombstone in this picture marks where Custer fell and was originally buried:

Here is the memorial to the U.S. soldiers. Most of them are buried under this memorial, but the bodies of the officers were taken elsewhere. Custer, for example, is buried at West Point.

Here is part of the native memorial, which is not far away from the other one:

And finally, here is a view from Last Stand Hill toward the visitors’ center:

After stopping at the battlefield, we drove through Billings to Bozeman, where we spent the night.

Sioux Falls to Rapid City

Sheesh, I really need to finish writing about this road trip before it becomes a distant memory.

On Sunday morning in Sioux Falls, SD, my brother and I got up and went to my buddy Dave’s church – First Evangelical Free of Sioux Falls. It was good to see where Dave had come from, church-wise, and it seemed like a nice enough church. The people were friendly, and it seemed like your typical evangelical church in terms of its architecture and style of service: large, clean building, not a lot of decoration, service very sermon-centered. I’m not trying to find fault with that here; I just noticed it because it was quite a bit unlike the Anglican church that Dave goes to in Vancouver. Dave preached, and did a bang-up job of it too, I might add.

On our way to Rapid City (which is at the western end of the state), we went east instead of west for a few miles. The reason for this is that I had never been to Iowa before, and Sioux Falls is right on South Dakota’s border with Iowa. So we drove across the river and, predictably, we saw a “Welcome to Iowa” sign right next to a cornfield.

After taking a picture, we were on our way west on I-90 to Rapid City. Not too far away from Sioux Falls, though, we stopped in Mitchell to have a look at the famous Corn Palace. Every year, they decorate the Corn Palace, inside and out, with corn. Here is Mt. Rushmore made of corn:

And a few other murals inside:

My brother standing outside:

With all that corn around, I got the hankerin’ for some:

And then, we were on to the Badlands. From I-90, there is a loop that heads south from the highway, through Badlands National Park, and then back up to the highway. We took this loop, stopping along the way at various pullouts and the visitors’ center to take pictures. It wasn’t the best day for hiking, even if we had been interested: it was blazing hot.

The end of the Badlands loop brought us to Wall, SD, home of Wall Drug Store – and little else. We stopped at Wall Drug and picked up a few things, and then headed on to Rapid City.

Once we got to Rapid City, we checked into our hotel, had dinner at a ’50s-style diner across the parking lot, and relaxed in the room until it was time to go to bed.

Wauwatosa to Sioux Falls

On Saturday, August 23, my brother Jas and I drove from Wauwatosa to Sioux Falls, SD. Jas had driven this stretch of I-90 several times before, since his brother-in-law is a doctor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. After Rochester, though, we were both in a place we had never been before.

At a rest stop, we got to see how country singles meet:

Austin, MN is the home of Hormel, the maker of Spam. While passing through, Jas and I stopped at the world’s only Spam Museum:

They had a Wall of Spam just inside the entrance:

They also had a Spam Counter, which told us how many cans of Spam had been sold since its introduction in 1937.

Brett Favre was also there, eating a burger, with a milk mustache, and wearing a Spam jersey that he had signed:

There was also a video screen that repeatedly played the famous Spam sketch from Monty Python.

It ended with a gift shop, as it should. The museum itself was free.

Then we continued driving through southern Minnesota:

And we ended up in Sioux Falls, where we had dinner and stayed with my buddy (and former roommate) Dave from Regent. Oh, and we also went to see the Falls:

Louisville to Wauwatosa

After spending a day and a couple of nights in Louisville, I drove through Indiana, and the Chicago area, to Wisconsin to visit my brother and his family.

The drive was relatively uneventful, but I will make a few comments:
1. Based on what I saw during the day I was passing through, I would not recommend speeding in southeast Indiana. I probably saw 10 cars pulled over by the police within the space of an hour and a half.
2. If you want to save on gas mileage, move to Indiana. It’s flat, and the speed limit on the highway isn’t 75 like it is in the western states (It’s lower).
3. Don’t EVER drive through Chicago, if you can help it. Especially if there is construction going on. And there always seems to be in the summer months.

After I got to Wisconsin, I spent some time hanging around with my sister-in-law and two nephews until my brother got home from work.

The next day was an eventful one. I went to the Milwaukee County Zoo with my sister-in-law and nephews, where we saw some orangutans:

and Calvin and I rode the train:

Then I got in touch with my friends from Regent, Ryan and Tony, and we all went on a tour of the Miller Brewery. At the beginning we were shown a video which began with the words: “From the beginning, man has longed for Miller Time.” From there, it mentioned “Miller Time” perhaps dozens of times. The tour was fun (and we got free samples at the end), but it was mostly good to catch up with Ryan and Tony:

Later that day, my brother and I went to Miller Park to see the Brewers play the Pirates. The Brewers have been selling out lots of games lately, so it was fortunate that we were able to get tickets. It was a great night: I had a brat with “stadium sauce” on it, and the Brewers won, 10-4.

You couldn’t ask for a better day. The only thing that could possibly have made it better would have been if Bernie Brewer (the Brewers’ mascot) still slid into a huge beer mug after a Brewer hit a home run, like he did at the old Milwaukee County Stadium.

Fayetteville to Louisville

My road trip from North Carolina to Washington began when I got into my little ’99 Mercury Tracer and left Fayetteville, NC on a warm August day. On my way out of town, I took this picture to show people in the northwest that an “ABC store” is a liquor store.

I don’t think they have anything they call “ABC stores” in Washington, but some have been influenced by visits to Hawaii to associate the name with the convenience store chain there.

I drove northwest until I hit highway 40 around Winston-Salem (home of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company – hence its name sounding like two brands of cigarette). Just north of town, I stopped at a Bojangles‘ fast food restaurant before I got too far north and wouldn’t see them anymore. Bojangles’ is famous for its chicken and biscuits, though I tend to make sure to get sweet tea and a sweet potato pie whenever I go there. I didn’t go to Bojangles’ very much when I was growing up; I just took it for granted. But when I went to college in Richmond, VA, just far enough north to be out of Bojangles’ orbit, I began to grow nostalgic for it. Now, whenever I go back to North Carolina, I make sure to stop there at least once so I can get a kick out of looking at the menu and seeing side dishes called “fixin’s.” It was a good thing that I stopped at this one, because it was the last one I saw on the trip.

I then continued north on highway 52 toward Mount Airy, which is the hometown of Andy Griffith and the inspiration for Mayberry. I’ve been through there many times before on my way to and from Michigan to visit relatives, but this trip I cut over to interstate 77 before I got there. I took I-77 north to Charleston, WV and got off the highway to look at the capitol. I’ve gone back and forth between North Carolina and Michigan perhaps dozens of times, and each time I looked out the window at the West Virginia capitol, which is only a few blocks from the highway. On this trip, though, I stopped and took a look around.

And boy, am I glad I did! For one thing, they have this great statue of Senator Robert Byrd in the rotunda. If you just glance at it, you could almost convince yourself that he has a Ziploc baggie in one hand, and is pointing at a pile of feces that his dog left on the floor. Or maybe that’s just me.

I drove west from Charleston on interstate 64, and this stretch of road (as well as during my time in Louisville) I encountered some of the worst driving of the trip. I experienced more people cutting me off, and changing lanes without signaling, during this stretch of the trip than any other time. Including when I was driving through Chicago. Unbelievable.

In spite of crazy West Virginia and Kentucky driving, I made it to Louisville, where Ryan and Sarah, friends from college, recently moved. They were great hosts, and took me around to see the city. That night, we went to the Ohio River as the sun was setting:

The next day, I went on a tour of the Louisville Slugger museum, stopped by Churchill Downs, and visited Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Just in terms of appearance, it is worlds away from Regent, where I went. For starters, they have more than one building. It looks more like a small, southern liberal arts college than anything else, though it did remind me a little of Princeton seminary, which I visited several years ago. The only building I went inside was their student union building, where I browsed around the bookstore for a while and got a couple of books.

After Ryan got off work that afternoon, the three of us went to the Jim Beam distillery, just south of Louisville. It is one of the many distilleries that are part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and the nearest one to Louisville. It wasn’t bad, though they apparently don’t give actual tours of the distillery. They do let you inside the old Jim Beam home, though, and they do give samples. If I’d had a little more time, I would like to have gotten to the Maker’s Mark distillery in Loretto, KY. There, you can dip your own bottle in the red wax they seal it with.

After that, we went to a place called Kaelin‘s for dinner. There are many places that claim to have invented the hamburger, but Kaelin’s is the only one (that I know of) to claim to have invented the cheeseburger.

I did not eat one. Instead, I had something else for which Louisville is famous (but which I had never heard of before this trip): a hot brown.
If you have never had one, and you’re not a vegetarian, my advice to you is: do.

Road Trip Recap

Whelp, we finished with the road trip on Tuesday, my brother flew back to Wisconsin from Seattle this morning, and I’m back in Bellingham. It was a fantastic trip; I posted some photos from it on Facebook yesterday. If you are not on Facebook (or if you are, but haven’t gotten around to seeing the pictures yet), here is a link that you can use to look at them:

Bros on the Roads – Road Trip 2008

I’ll get around to blogging about specifics later, but for now here is a brief overview:

Number of states visited: 14

Number of new states visited: 3 (Iowa, South Dakota and Montana)

Number of new states for my brother: 3 (South Dakota, Idaho and Washington)

Number of total states visited in my life: 41

Number of state capitals driven through: 4 (Charleston, Frankfort, Indianapolis, Madison)

Number of state capitols visited: 1 (West Virginia)

Number of miles traveled: 3324.5

Amount spent on gas: $411.42

Gallons of gas consumed: about 110

Cheapest gas: $3.37 / gal

Best mileage for a gallon of gas: 35.55 mpg (I was driving through wonderfully flat Indiana)

Worst mileage for a gallon of gas: 25.34 mpg (driving through mountainous western Montana. Also, speed limits in Western states tend to be higher, so we burned more gas going the same distance)

Number of monuments to alcohol visited: 2 (the Jim Beam distillery and the Miller Brewery)

Number of national parks visited: 3

Worst drivers: Kentucky and West Virginia