The lack of available internet, let alone cell/data service on this trip, have made it pretty impossible for me to update this blog like I wanted to but don't worry, we made it! We were really lucky, actually, and completely missed Storm Q which is currently pummeling the Midwest. Had we left on Tuesday, like we had originally intended, we would have been stuck smack dab in the middle of Nebraska when it hit and likely been snowed in for several days. Instead, we barely hit any snow (more on that later) and made it safely to Oregon yesterday afternoon after almost 50 total hours of driving and traveling more than 3000 miles. We got tired, yes, but we rotated shifts and stopped frequently. Just getting to see so many different areas of the country was amazing. We definitely discovered our "favorites" (and those we have no desire to ever visit again), and have a new list of potential future vacation spots where we would like to spend more time. I'll post here in spurts to catch you up, day-by-day....
Day 2: Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska
Monday morning we woke up before sunrise feeling rested and ready to go. It was blustery and chilly outside as a large cold front was making it's way across the upper northwest, but we decided to stop off at the Old Joliet Correctional Facility just down the street and walk around to check out the sights from this famous prison from the Blues Brothers movie. Apparently it was a working jail from 1858 to 2002 until the new Joliet Correctional Facility opened across town. Now it has fallen into disrepair but they're hoping to possibly turn it into a working museum which would be pretty cool.
|Dan escaping from the Old Joliet Correctional Facility, Joliet, IL (a la Blues Brothers)|
|Slightly chilly outside the prison|
Neither of us had driven further than Chicago so this was completely new territory for us....and, honestly, pretty boring:
|Typical Illinois/Iowa countryside...cows, cows and more cows|
|Areas not covered by cows were all farmland|
|Community of Flags, Brooklyn, IA|
|Maytag Dairy Farms, Newton, IA|
So westward we went. Really the only other cool thing from Iowa was their wind farms. Since it is so flat it is the ideal place to put up windmills to capture wind energy and so we'd be driving along Route 80 and come up over a hill to suddenly see dozens of gigantic windmills all over the horizon, gently spinning away like a herd of some sort of giant aliens. Very cool. Here are two pictures, the one shows just how big one of the arms on these things is, and a short video:
|A rest stop showing just how big one of the arms is on these windmills|
|Wind Farm, Iowa|
Once we hit Nebraska one of the first things we noticed was the smell; the air over the whole state seemed to permanently stink of manure and beef by-products, which makes sense since there were cows everywhere. Now, I'm used to the smell of farmland (coming from Lancaster County, PA originally) but this was different and not necessarily the most pleasant thing to smell for hours on end. We kept the car's air on recirculation and enjoyed the scenery without stepping outside to take pictures.
Across Nebraska the land gets very flat and for the most part you are traveling completely straight on Route 80 at 75mph with nothing on either side. The distance goes quickly at this rate, but the state is wide and exits are scarce so we were glad that the highway commission was good about putting decent rest stops at least every 100 miles to let us take a break.
|Buffalo Bill Cody's Fort and Trading Post|
|Pony Express, 1860-1861|
|Much bigger in person than they look in pictures|
|This picture doesn't do justice to the massiveness of this animal|
|I didn't realize they had giraffes in Nebraska!|
Unfortunately, we quickly found out that big cities were the only ones that had a decent variety of ok hotels for good prices and those cities are few and far between. Once you get out in the boonies it is pretty slim pickings. None of our hotels were bad or dirty, just bare bones and outdated and honestly a big overpriced for what you get since they know they're all that's around. Apparently, though, these little places are very proud of their limited ameneties: when we checked in to our place in Ogallala it was about 9:45pm and I'm sure we looked exhausted but the hostess at the front desk made sure to mention the indoor heated pool was open for use until 10:00...ok, thanks lol.