June 23, 2017: Missouri and Illinois – Day 3
Taking a long cross country trip has its good sides and its bad sides. On the less comfortable side, it can be hard to stay seated all day long. You get to that point where you forget about it for awhile and then you make a stop, get out of the car and realize how stiff you are, what a relief it is to stretch. That would be one of the bad sides.
On the other hand it’s amazing how time changes. When you’ve driven through three states in one day, it feels like your day has been richly filled, compared to say, sitting at a computer all day long or all week long. In the latter scenario, you find yourself at another Friday night and wonder, really, did the week go by that quickly? I enjoy the feeling of time spreading out and having a day more densely populated with experiences and memories. Maybe it can’t be like this everyday, and maybe I wouldn’t want it to, but it’s fun to remember that it’s possible.
On day 3 of our trip, we drove through Missouri.
And then we drove through a corner of Illinois.
And then we arrived in Kentucky!
Next: Day 3 – Wycliffe Mounds, Kentucky
June 23, 2017: Florida, Missouri – Day 3
We stayed the night in a cabin at the Mark Twain State Park. We got in a little late and may have woken up some fellow campers which I felt bad about but c’est la vie. It’s pretty cool that many campgrounds offer a few cabins for those who don’t want the full blown camping experience of sleeping in a tent. It’s a nice compromise. Unlike many women, I actually love sleeping in tents, but since we knew we’d have a long day driving reserving the cabin made it easier for us.
Later that day we were supposed to arrive in Nashville to begin family reunion activities, but we wanted to take a little time to see the sites along the way. Since we were in Mark Twain territory, we had to at least check out his birthplace, in Florida, Missouri, which we’d noticed on the map. We loaded our belongings back into our car and headed out in search of the Birthplace. We saw a sign leading to it but all we saw was a more recent building indicating it was the “Mark Twain Memorial Shrine.”
We figured we’d go inside and ask where the Birthplace was, not wanting to take the time to visit a museum. On our way in we both mused at how Mark Twain would have felt about having a shrine.
And there it was, the house Samuel Clemens was born in is actually inside the shrine.
The cabin was relocated from it’s original location nearby. I’m pretty sure the Clemens family probably had daylilies on their supper table every day – aren’t you? Snarkiness aside, it was very cool to see the cabin, pardon, “the Birthplace,” and some of the memorabilia of Mark Twain’s more luxurious life after becoming famous.
Day 3 – Driving through Missouri and Illinois
June 22, 2017: Nebraska – Day 2
Driving through Nebraska brought some very Nebraska-esque sites, like covered wagons. And then there was the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument. Quite a surprise when you’re not expecting a giant archway over the interstate!
By the time we made it to Lincoln, Nebraska we were ready for some real food. It’s hard to eat on the road when you try to eat healthy and even more so when you have food sensitivities. With an ulterior motive of renting an audiobook, we decided to make a stop at the old standby, Cracker Barrel.
They had a full menu based on food sensitivities and allergens so I was able to order a gluten-free, corn-free meal with no problem.
Do an unusually high percentage of antique car drivers prefer Cracker Barrel too? It’s possible.
Finding some food made us both happy and ready to keep driving towards the day’s destination: Mark Twain State Park in Missouri.
Chad enjoyed his first Cracker Barrel meal while I drove over the increasingly less flat roads of Nebraska and onward towards Iowa!
We drove through a corner of Iowa and could feel the humidity rising.
By this time I’d gotten news that Charlie was doing just fine and I could stop worrying about her. Before we knew it we were in Missouri and Chad was still working on his dessert.
As the sun set we stopped to get gas, very obviously in Jesse James territory.
Yes, this meant we’d be arriving in the dark, but since we had a cabin booked and didn’t have to set up a tent, we knew we’d be able to relax from our long day in the car soon.
Day 3 – Mark Twain State Park
June 25, 2017: Rawlins, Wyoming – Day 2
Part of the reason we picked the motel we did in Wyoming was that it had an interesting cliff behind it. It was a Rodeway Inn – looked like a motel on the outside, felt more like a hotel on the inside. The last motel we had stayed in together was kind of gross – it smelled like smoke and was a little dingy – so we were relieved that this one was pretty comfortable. And it matched my car!
We were impressed with all the beautiful old churches and other historical buildings in the town of Rawlins. The town looked like it had once lived through better days but was now just a place for people to stopover on their way to somewhere else.
Next: Day 2 – Driving through Wyoming
June 21, 2017 – Summer Solstice – Utah and Wyoming – Day 1
This summer Chad and I set out on an 11 day road trip, driving to Nashville and back. No, we weren’t going to check out the Country Music capital of the world, we were just going to a family reunion. We thought we’d make a vacation out of it rather than just fly in for a day and a half and then fly back.
We had our trip all planned out and were both excited about it and then one of our dogs, Charlie, had to have last minute, unexpected surgery. The surgery went well and she seemed to be doing better so we decided to go ahead and board her at the vet to recover from her surgery in a calm manner (ie, with no way to jump around like she usually does) and then we could still go on our trip. I was questioning this decision though, still worried about my sweet little Charlie.
So we packed up and hit the road. We stopped off in Salt Lake City and then took interstate 80 into Wyoming… and beyond! As soon as we got out of the city and into some wide open spaces I started relaxing and getting revved up for the trip, trying to have faith that Charlie would be just fine.
Wyoming has such beautiful landscapes. It feels like a privilege to see some of the less populated areas of the country. The wide open spaces just fill you with awe.
Chad and I had scoured the map along our route to look for interesting spots along the way. Our first one was an interesting spot on the map in Green River, Wyoming: the Greater Green River Intergalactic Spaceport. We drove through the town of Green River trying to find the “spaceport” right around sunset. When we found it we were disappointed – not because it was just an ordinary old landing strip (which we knew it would be) but because it had several signs warning us that unless we were professional aircraft people we were not welcome. We decided to respect the signs and just enjoy the sunset.
We got back on the road and drove until we reached the Continental Divide. I admitted I didn’t really know what that meant and Chad patiently explained that on the western side of the divide the water runs to the Pacific Ocean and on the eastern side of it, it runs to the Atlantic. So there you have it!
I was starting to get fidgety in the car by this point and Chad agreed that it would be a good idea to go ahead and find somewhere to stop for the night. We had our choice of hotels in Rawlins, Wyoming and picked the one that looked good to us both.
Day 2 – Rawlins, Wyoming
Last year on our trek across the country, we took a detour to go see Shiprock. This plan came about one day on our trip while Chad was studying the map. He said something like, “One possibility if we go through New Mexico would be to stop and see Shiprock.” I’m sure my eyes lit up and that I couldn’t even respond with a sentence, just an “OoooOOOOO!!”
I had seen images of Shiprock while doing keywording work years ago. The idea of a huge rock in the middle of the flat desert was enticing, even worth adding extra time to an already long day of driving.
We weren’t able to get very close to it because it’s on tribal land and is considered sacred to the Navajo. They don’t want silly tourists bumbling around this amazing spot with their cameras. Can you blame them? So we kept a respectful distance and looked on in awe.
It started with Goblin Valley. The name caught my attention, of course, and when I looked it up to see what it was like, I was even more intrigued. Then Chad told me that there was a place not too far from here that was similar, with strange, fragile rock formations. Fantasy Canyon, the place was called.
He warned me it was in oil country, surrounded by oil wells. That did not prepare me for our drive, going past oil well after oil well, and apparently at least one hydraulic fracturing set up as well. About a mile or so from our destination we drove past incredibly beautiful and fascinating landforms – badlands and hoodoos – that were backdrops for pumpjacks and oil storage tanks. Just the beauty of the place could have easily qualified it to be a national park; alas, it would mostly be scenery to the oil and gas crews, and the 5000 visitors per year to the BLM site.
Once arrived at Fantasy Canyon the oil wells were only visible in the mid-distance. A path bordered by rocks led us through the site to admire the strange sandstone formations. Well it kind of did. In places the path was well designated, in other places it was hard to tell what was path and what was off-limits. We walked cautiously so as not to disturb these ancient deposits, some of which were named for animals (diving porpoise) or characters (flying witch).
Visiting this site made it even more clear to me why Chad is such a passionate defender of wilderness. When land is not protected, even land of extreme geological interest such as Fantasy Canyon, instead of remaining a resource of beauty, education and wildlife habitat, it can easily become an industrial casualty. Fantasy Canyon is still intact, but with deep rock fracturing fracking operations nearby, who knows how long it will remain so?
Waking up in Chaco was hot, really hot, so it was a relief to finish out the day in the cool evergreen forest at Mancos State Park, Colorado. The next day before we hit the road we had a fun time doing some yoga, taking photos and relaxing. As ready as I was to get to our destination and get our dogs and cats out of the RV and into a more permanent living situation, I had a lump in my throat as we took down our tent and prepared to leave. The soft forest floor of Mancos had been so inviting!