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not like the snowstorm of last year!
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NEW POST!! And yes my life is awesome :)
More interesting than it used to be yeah? LOL
Heyy Y'all!! Here’s the account of my trip, covering 3124 miles and 12 states from November 6th thru 2 am on November 13th. This account is accurate, because it is compiled from my own notes, and not a second-hand source. For further disclaimers, please contact JW Imaging, the party in charge of cameras, pens, memory cards, and paper money.
>>I left Chippewa Falls, WI, around 11:30 AM, Nov. 6th, after considerable delays relating to, but not directly caused by the fact that I had done no packing before that morning. I stopped for a minute in Ellsworth , and then proceeded to make a wrong turn.. the first and only wrong turn I made that day. Corrected within a few miles, I headed to Red Wing, then west on MN 19. The sun made its appearance at Red Wing, and lit my way for the remainder of the day. I stopped at Cannon Falls for about 20 minutes for a snack, and headed on thru Northfield, in which the smell of puffed wheat permeated the air. For the record, the Malt-O-Meal plant seems to occupy a sizeable part of the town.
The countryside flattened out past Northfield, and the most striking land feature was how black the soil was! For lunch, I stopped at the McDonalds drive-thru in New Prague, and continued on. Not too much further, the road descended rapidly down a steep grade to the Minnesota River valley. Further on, I turned north on US 71, which had a faster speed limit of 60! Unfortunately, it was getting late fast, and the sun was setting. Near Willmar, MN, I drove by a lake which the sun was setting over! Seeing potential for a prize winning photograph, I turned around and stopped there for about 10 minutes. That was easily the SECOND- best sunset of 2011… and thankfully I still had cell service, so I posted a shot on facebook for all to enjoy!
Consulting my map at Willmar, I decided to scrap my original route thru North Dakota, and take US 12 directly into South Dakota in order to cover as much distance as possible before I had to stop for the night. So I followed US 12 and the Yellowstone Trail into the dusk, and crossed the Chippewa River about a half hour later. I hit the South Dakota border under cover of darkness, and sped west. The speed limit was 65, and later 70 when the road widened. About 20 miles east of Aberdeen, I pulled off onto an old dirt road to enjoy the stars and the quiet amid the stiff South Dakota wind. I wrote later that night, “All I can say is the sky is really big out here, and the stars are awfully bright… despite an almost full moon!” I took out my tripod and took several time-exposures. The lights of the town in the pictures are about 8-9 miles away. I froze taking pictures, but it was worth it :)
Apparently, I was hungry! I consumed an entire Subway Foot-Long in short order, where I stopped at Aberdeen to catch my breath. Having logged about 450 miles, with the clock reading 9 pm, I decided to stay in that city for the night. I found a very nice motel for a small price a short distance away, and loaded myself in for the night. Here’s an excerpt from my notes from that night,
“Not too far along, I happened upon the Sundown Motel, which is where I’m writing this, lying on a nice big bed haha. Took a nice bath and played guitar, watched a couple minutes of TV… my phone has no service here, so oh well. Got a few plans for tomorrow… there’s a town called Chelsea about 20 miles from here which I think I’ll go see for my friend Chelsea haha, then I think I’ll head north to ND where I originally was headed! Clock says midnight, so I think I’ll sign out :)”
Morning on my second day out, I headed south for the town of Chelsea, which I eventually found… mostly by accident after about 35 miles where I turned off to consult my map, happened to be the very corner where the sign was!! I never found a town… I guess it was one of those communities that had just evaporated over the years, but there was still a very nice sign there, so I photographed that for my friend!
From there, I headed north; by now it was getting late, and I needed to cover as much ground as possible. Rolled into North Dakota about 11:30, and on a whim I fueled up at Ellendale, ND, where gas was expensive!
That turned out to be a good idea though, despite the high price, because there was no good fuel service for 130 miles. I set out on ND 11, and got a number of good pictures of some ice formations along a few lakes there!
Needless to say it was pretty cold! Ate lunch at Herried, SD, then continued on.
My last stop in civilization for the daylight hours was at Mobridge, SD, where again on a whim I put in about $30 of gas. Then I proceeded to freak out the convenience store clerk who was falling asleep behind the counter. When I said hi to him, he almost knocked over the counter, causing laughs from other patrons and myself! He told me I should come back in 2 hours and do that again! From Mobridge, SD, I crossed the wide Missouri River into Mountain Standard Time, gaining an hour!!
I followed SD 20 for hours, across mostly ranchland, where absolutely everyone, including the truckers, waves at you! Near sunset, I discovered the Custer National Forest, with some AMAZING rock formations!
I stopped for about half an hour and photographed the area, then climbed up a good-sized rock and photographed the sunset over the rolling purple hills of western South Dakota!
The original plan was to go see a small sliver of Montana, preferably in the day!! As luck would have it, however, it was dark when I reached US 85. I decided to turn north to Butler anyway, to grab some gas and a sandwich, and then see where I could go! From Butler, SD, feeling adventurous, and with a full tank of gas, I set out for Montana in the dark. The blacktop ended at Camp Crook, SD, and from then on, it was white limestone gravel. I set out into MT, with no idea where I was, but figuring I’d hit something major eventually as long as I headed either south or east, and very thankful for the compass in my truck :)
I drove along thru the darkness, always following the left fork every time the road branched off, though the road looked more like a driveway than a road most of the time!
After about 15 miles, I came to a bridge over the Little Missouri River. I knew the river was close to the SD border, and I was headed East, so I knew that soon I’d be back in SD. I stopped there, took out my tripod, and took some night photos over the river under the bright stars in Big Sky Country! It was still and quiet, temps hovering around 17 degrees, but no wind. Off in the distance I heard a cougar yowling, and I shivered a little. The moon made wide splashes of light over the river, and the trees were reflected clearly in the still water where I was taking time-exposure shots.
Periodically, a truck would roar by on the road with a huge cloud of dust, but mostly the road was quiet, and the only signs of habitation were the lights from the ranches about 5 miles away in each direction. In these parts, it’s so quiet that a mere whisper carries for a good 100 feet! After about 10 minutes, I packed up my camera and climbed back into the truck, thankful for my heater and glad to be back on the road.
About 2 miles further east, I came to a stop sign at Camp Crook Road, and I knew that I was back in SD again. I took the south fork, and continued on down the slightly wider gravel road. The most common road signs read “Stock at Large”, and cattle crossing grates were very common. Wildlife was also a very common sight along the road! The first creature I came across was a cougar!! Possibly the same one I heard yowling 2 miles back, this mountain lion acted very much like a cat as it slunk off the road when it saw my headlights! Unfortunately, I have no pictures due to it being nighttime. Besides the cougar, I saw myriads of rabbits, one of which raced me for more than ¼ mile at speeds of 20 mph! A raccoon and a porcupine rounded out the wildlife I saw, as I traveled over 69 miles on the gravel roads that night. “Yeah this is real cowboy country out here”, I wrote later that night!
Camp Crook Road ended at US 85, and I set off south on 85 to see what I could find! I was hoping for a cell signal, and I rolled through Bella Fourche and Spearfish to the interstate, but no luck. Because of construction in Spearfish, I ended up turned around, so I stopped at Arby’s for supper to consult my maps. I decided to drive down to Sturgis in hopes of finding a cell signal, but again no luck. I hijacked a WIFI signal in Sturgis however, and was able to check my emails. Could not find a motel in Sturgis, so I headed back to Spearfish and spent the night there. Also by this time, I was very clearly coming down with a cold!
Next morning, I headed north again on 85, fueled at Bella Fourche, and then headed east to see what I could see! I happened upon the Bella Fourche lake and dam, which looked very interesting, so I followed the gravel trail out to the dam and was able to secure some cool pictures!
The gravel near the lake is a rounded, flat limestone… very fragile, but very unique!
From Bella Fourche Dam, I headed further east, and soon saw a high peak in the distance!! I REALLY wanted to go see that mountain… even climb it if I could!
Consulting my map, I saw that it was Bear Butte, and Hwy 79 rolled right past it! Hopping on 79, I sped south toward the mountain, but found upon arriving that most of it was privately owned, much to my dismay. I did get some cool photos of it however, and as I was leaving, discovered a state park, but by then I had other plans and did not have time to stop! That is an exploration for NEXT time :)
I rolled south on 79 through Sturgis, and on into the Black Hills National Forest!
I ended up backtracking several times while trying to find my way through the Forest, even with good maps! I rolled through the VERY interesting old-West town of Deadwood, and surrounding areas, driving west on US 85 as it wound down and around all the hills, the speed limit only 45-50 most of the time. In higher elevations, there was even 1-4 inches of snow on the ground!
I stopped at a place called Eagle Cliff, where I took a trail for about ¼ mile, then left it and hiked directly up the steep hill and cliff… no easy matter while carrying my camera and my camera bag!!
Successfully scaling the cliff, I stood on top and took a video to prove I had made it! Then, I discovered that among the Ponderosa Pines there were more cliffs behind me… and more behind those! I continued up the hill to the base of the last cliff,
but decided I didn’t have time to play with that one if I still wanted to make Wyoming that day! I was by now, probably 175 feet up from the base of the hill :)
Back in my truck, continuing SW on 85, I rolled into Wyoming about 45 minutes before sundown.
I hit US 16, and continued west, about 35 miles into Wyoming, leaving the Black Hills behind! On this side of the Black Hills, there is a marked change in the landscape, as grasslands and Ponderosa pines give way to yuccas and sagebrush! I photographed an amazing sunset over the sagebrush in Eastern Wyoming,
and then headed east again, passing through Newcastle WY, where there was a herd of mule deer in the highway. They stood around in the road, and drivers simply had to drive around them! After waiting for a coal train to pass, I headed east on US 16, back through the Black Hills and around myriads of curves, finally arriving at SD 79, which I took north to Rapid City! There is something amazing after coming a hundred miles through the darkness to crest a hill and see the city below you, some 5 miles away, laid out with all its lights shimmering! I ate supper at Rapid City, then scoured the town for a while, finding a very nice inexpensive motel, which I booked for 2 nights. I took some Nyquill and rapidly fell asleep :)
On the morning of November 9th, I headed south out of Rapid City, and straight for Mt. Rushmore.
This is the time of year to see Mount Rushmore, because there are no people there!!
I had the Presidential Trail to myself! Got tons of good pictures there, and got my picture taken by a man who also had a nice camera, and asked me to photograph him and his wife. The largest issue was waiting for the clouds to part enough to get the mountain in blue sky! Perhaps I didn’t quite make that goal, but I still got some pretty good shots!
I then picked up a couple of Ponderosa Pine cones as a souvenir.
From Rushmore, I headed south to Crazy Horse Mountain,
an Indian museum and complex that I had heard great reviews about. The mountain isn’t as impressive as you may think, mainly because it isn’t done yet, but if you take in the history of the carving, and the history of Crazy Horse, the project is awe-inspiring, as all of Rushmore would fit in just Crazy Horse’s head!!
I spent several hours there, and gained a major appreciation for the project and for the people. I would definitely recommend the site for anyone visiting the area!
From Crazy Horse, I drove down the road looking for a good place to wait for a nice Black Hills Sunset! I took a side highway, and found a look-out spot, but without a clear view of the sun. I stayed there for a little while and got some cool scenic pictures
and a few pieces of white quartzite rock for a souvenir, then I headed down the hill looking for a better place to pull off where I could see the sunset. I pulled over about half a mile down the hill, then ran on foot about another half mile down the hill, before climbing up the hillside so I had a good view. The entire hillside showed signs of being a victim of a forest fire in the recent past, as all the mature trees were down and charred, and the new trees were only about 10 feet tall. I got a fair sunset that night though, even if I did have to work for it :)
I then backtracked and headed back to Rapid City, down US 16 again, but this time, under the November full moon
I videotaped the curvy drive! There were a few buffalo grazing the roadside, and plenty of deer! These deer though are the sort that you can just reach out and slap on yer way by. Haha they’re really pretty hard to hit!
I stopped at Wendy’s for supper, and then headed for my motel so I could catch the CMA awards!! Originally, when I was thinking of taking my trip, I considered heading for Nashville so I could actually ATTEND the CMA’s! That however, proved to be cost-prohibitive, so I opted instead to watch it on TV from my motel room in Rapid City SD :)
November 10th, I rolled south out of Rapid City, deciding to bypass Hot Springs and the Badlands, since I really didn’t have money to do more than 2 more nights out here, and I wanted to hit a LOT more highway!
I drove south on US 385 across Nebraska, then took NE 19 into Colorado!
I planned a very nice route across the corner of Colorado, then into Kansas, but failed to check my distance!! I caught the sunset
and a glimpse of the Rockies in Brush Colorado, where I ACTUALLY FOUND A CELL SIGNAL for about an hour along I-76!
From Brush, I headed south on CO 71 for about an hour to the town of Last Chance where I caught East-bound US 36. I ended up doing about 200 miles in Colorado, however, and found the clock approaching 8 pm as I rolled into Kansas, and across the time zone line! I got gas at St. Francis, KS, then headed south and back over the time zone line, down to I-70 and the town of Goodland where I spent the night. I had learned by now that the little mom-and-pop motels close by 8:30 or 9 pm, and with all the time-zone flirting I was doing, I knew I should probably find a place soon, instead of heading further south like I really wanted to.
That motel was one of the worst… and I would definitely NOT recommend it… but I made it do :) It was cheap at $32, but the bed was board-hard with stiff springs and a mild squeak. There was a see-thru curtain on the bathroom window, and the door had no gasket, so light and air poured in the crack. On top of that, the carpet was like 30 years old and frayed… actually gone at the baseboards, where you could lift it up and see the subfloor. Overall, the place was nicely furnished, and reasonably clean, but definitely run-down… and I didn’t like all the commotion outside during the night in the poorly-lit parking lot. I slept well however, cocooned up in the quilt for protection against the hard bed :)
November 11, 2011 dawned clear and warm in Goodland, Kansas.
I had been awaiting this day for years- the much hyped 11-11-11! I had told my sister several years prior that I would send her a text at 11:11:11 on 11-11-11… but found that I still had no cell signal!! I opted instead to make a post on facebook with my WIFI connection before I left the motel, and then filmed a video while driving down the highway in southern Kansas , covering the historic moment. Unfortunately, I was still in Mountain Time, so I made a video at 11:11:11 Central time, and then had to make another one at the moment in Mountain Time as well, since I was then still about 5 minutes inside the time zone line!
I made the Oklahoma panhandle line about 2:30 pm,
and since the panhandle is only 35 miles wide, rolled into the Lone Star State half an hour later!! Somewhere in southern Kansas, I discovered my credit card no longer worked, and I was very thankful to have planned ahead and brought a roll of cash along for just such an occurrence.
On a whim I grabbed a back road in Texas, and explored a small stretch of the back country,
finding a park along the way which afforded some very nice water reflection pictures as the sun was going down!!
Supposedly the park had an admission fee, but since I was just passing thru, I saw no point in trying to find out what that fee was or how to pay it. I was the only person in the park anyway :)
I stopped along the road to grab a chunk of red-tan Texas sandstone from the abundant cliffs, and then had to wait for a couple of cattle who were strolling down the road on my way back out to the highway.
Along about 6 pm, I cruised back into Oklahoma and drove for a couple hours across northern OK, stopping once for gas, and then at Enid to spend the night. The biggest problem I encountered in Enid, was the total LACK of cheap motels! Because it was almost 9 pm, however, after crisscrossing the town twice, I decided my best bet was to just take what I could get, and settled in at Super 8… for $79!! While the price was more than double what I had been paying, the room was VERY nice, and the bed was amazing. I decided that the Lord was trying to give me a nice place for the night.. and I did enjoy it for a change!
I was told the following day that if I come back through and stop again sometime, I’ll get a discount because my name’s on file now, so hey! I may hafta take him up on that on my next Oklahoma road-trip :)
By Enid, I finally had cell phone service again, and made a call home for the fun of it! I only had enough money budgeted for that night, so my plan was to make the drive home on Saturday the 12th. Somewhat exhausted, I slipped into my somewhat expensive, but very nice bed, took a dose of Nyquill and slept soundly thru the night.
Saturday morning, I cruised out of Enid, OK at 9 am,
rolling north on US 81, intending to cut over to US 77 and head north across all of KS and NE. Somewhere in southern KS I missed a turn, but I figured I couldn’t go too wrong, so I continued on for about 35 miles, eventually winding up at US 77, as I had predicted based on my compass I eventually probably should.
I stopped for lunch amid the Kansas high winds at Junction City, where I got gas as well. The temperature was hovering right around 61… not quite the 73 that had been predicted back in Enid, but still very nice!
Further north, I was driving through Waterville, and I saw a cuuuute girl in tight jeans at a gas station as I rolled thru town!! Probably the cutest one I saw the whole trip lol… but I didn’t have my video camera going, so oh well! Woke me up for a while though :)
I hit Lincoln NE at 4 pm, and the traffic was tolerable as I only skirted the city, continuing north on US 77.
Near Fremont, I crossed the Platte River,
and was treated to a golden Nebraska sunset!
I headed north into the night, still on US 77, joining US 75 and cruising across the Mississippi into Sioux City, IA , just before 7 pm. I got gas at Casey’s General Store in Sioux City after finding my way around the confusing highway signage, which proved not too difficult since the traffic was light.. at one point however, I found myself in the right lane where I needed to make a left turn- 4 lanes over! That is a pretty easy fix however when there is no traffic .
Continuing north-east on IA 60, a 4-lane highway thankfully, I crossed into MN around 8:30 pm! Within 3 miles, I was met with road construction however, and was caused to follow a lengthy detour around Worthington, MN. Back on MN 60, I cruised into Mankato about 10:30 pm. By now, I was an expert night driver, and did not mind the dozens of miles, as they quickly ticked off as I sped north, first on MN 60, then on MN 3, and finally back on MN 19 through Northfield and back up to Red Wing where I made my final stop for gas, seeing as it was still 20 cents cheaper than in WI. Following my midnight stop at Red Wing, it was a simple river crossing and I was once again back in the land of the Packers!
I only met 10 cars between US 63 and Menomonie, and only one car in the city of Menomonie! There were plenty of students… some of them not totally sober wandering about the streets of Menomonie at 1 am, but no cars! Rolled East on good old Hwy 29 to my doorstep, and pulled into my driveway at 1:45 am on Sunday, November 13, 2011, having traveled a total of 945 miles and 17 hours that day! So that was fun… and even more fun was the fact that I got to sleep INNNN the next morning :)
Here is what I penned at 3 am before crawling into bed: “Back in my own bed tonight, and God, it’s good!! Drove for the better part of 17 hours today across OK, KS, NE, IA, MN, and finally WI, covering 945 miles! Got home at quarter to 2 am… lived on music haha! Fueled 3 times today, and still have a full tank so yeah! I’ll unpack tomorrow—after I sleep in! There was a pretty huge wind across Kansas today, but it was pretty warm, so that helped! My whole 7-day trip ended up covering 3124 miles!”
So there you have it! I took some 70 videos and close to 2000 pictures, some of which are featured here in this note!
Thanks for reading!
Joel Wiltrout /JW IMAGING 2011