Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.
One Last Dose of Kitsch
We were both up this morning around 6:30. As difficult as it was to pull the plug on a truly fantastic trip, we were both ready to hit the road.
It was a chilly 36º when we left Austin, MN…and didn’t warm up much all day. The clouds thickened and lowered as we drove west, and my weather app showed rain in South Dakota.
Nearing the border, we passed through the town of Blue Earth, Minnesota. Tara spotted a sign for a Jolly Green Giant statue. “Wanna stop?” she asked. Music to my ears. There was still a bit of adventure left in my wife, after all!
Stop we did. It wasn’t hard to find the fella.
Built in 1979, the Jolly Green Giant stands 55.5′ tall. He’s an homage to the local Green Giant cannery, which produces carrots and corn in Blue Earth.
Is it Winter or Spring?
Sure enough, as soon as we crossed into South Dakota, it started raining…and continued, on and off, the entire way across the state. Meanwhile, the temperature hovered in the low 40s, and a brisk wind was blowing. The few times we had to get out of the car to gas up or hit a rest area, we damn near froze to death.
This was in direct contrast to our drive east across the state the afternoon we left. The temperature that day was in the mid-80s pretty much the whole way, until the sun went down.
This just sums up the weather throughout our trip: it’s like we experienced two distinct seasons. The first half of our trip was hot and humid; the second half, cold and damp. In other words, a typical May in the Midwest.
In Oacama, just across the Missouri River, we stopped for lunch at Al’s Oasis, a roadside restaurant that has been in business since 1919. It’s got that classic Old West vibe inside: all rustic wood, wall-mounted animal heads, and wagon wheel chandeliers. I loved it. Tara and I enjoyed the salad bar—our second one on the trip. Whoever said salad bars will be extinct after COVID is, quite frankly, wrong.
Finally…finally!…we arrived home around 2:45. Sydney was very happy to see us.
And the neighborhood looks a LOT different than when we left, just a little over a week ago. Everything has greened up, our lilacs are blooming, and leaves are opening on the trees.
Guess it really is spring, after all!
The Final Tally
The 3,000+ miles is impressive…but man, we spent nearly 54 hours in the car. That’s a lot of driving!
Kinda the point of a road trip, I suppose.
Traveling During a Pandemic & a Few Final Words
Traveling during the pandemic wasn’t ideal, but it also wasn’t as difficult as I’d feared it might be. It helps that both Tara and I are fully vaccinated. Also, every other state we visited was much more strict than South Dakota. Masks were mandatory pretty much everywhere, and honestly, that’s something we weren’t used to. We wear ours, but it was weird to see 100% compliance everywhere. Rest areas, hotel lobbies, convenience stores…all required them. I often had to make a return trip to the car because I’d forgotten to grab mine.
Everywhere we stopped, there were plenty of precautions in place. Sure, a few exhibits were closed—hands-on sections in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Spam Museum, for instance, and free samples at places like Young’s Jersey Dairy and the Metamora fudge shop—but those were minor inconveniences more than anything else. By and large, it was business as usual.
We talked about things we’d have done differently during the trip, and for the most part, we planned it out really well. There’s very little we’d change; I think the sole exception would have been heading into Cincinnati after Metamora that third day on the road, rather than going straight to Yellow Springs, our home base for three days. Only because Cincy was a lot closer to Metamora than Dayton, so we could have maybe planned a visit to Amish country or toured the Ohio State Reformatory with the extra time we had. But then we wouldn’t have met up with our blogging friend, so really, I can’t say we have a single complaint.
In fact, we had so much fun, we are already tentatively planning another road trip in the fall of 2022. This one will give us more time in some of the places we discovered along the way, like the Amana Colonies in Iowa, and an opportunity to see other sights we missed. We’re thinking another loop around the upper Midwest, but not as far as Ohio; we’d focus on Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan. Probably late September or early October, so we can catch the fall foliage. Granted, this is all a year and a half away, but I am already excited for our next adventure.
I don’t know that I would blog every day from the road again; as much as I enjoyed sharing the trip with y’all, going through photos and writing posts every evening after a full day of exploring cut into time I would otherwise have spent relaxing. Case in point: our first night in Ohio, Tara luxuriated by taking a bubble bath while I was pecking away on the laptop. Maybe the better solution is to write every few days, or do a big summary when I get home.
In any case, thank you all for following along! I appreciate the comments and hope everybody can make their own travel adventures in the very near future.