On The Road Again

You’re Entering Wall Drug Country!

Wall Drug Country

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MONDAY 7/16: Wall Drug Country

After the lull across North Dakota on Sunday, we’re excited to see the signs welcoming us to Wall Drug country. And, the signs touting FREE ICE WATER  and 5 cent Coffee! Already, South Dakota is showing itself to be a happening place, comparatively speaking. Seriously, though I am excited to be here. I’ve planned this vacation for hours. I’ve scoured a few websites and even downloaded the Black Hills/Badlands app. Yes, there’s an app for that.

Monday morning we grab some breakfast at the Frontier Cabinssuper swanky Frontier Cabins Dining Room/Gift Shop/Fireworks stand. Seriously, this place is truly a hidden gem. We were given a cabin upgrade on check-in because the cabin size we wanted wasn’t available for two nights. We had agreed to switch cabins after the first night, but they didn’t want to inconvenience us and just upgraded our accommodations. And the kicker? You get a FREE BAG OF ICE for every day you stay! SD, you’re creeping right on up in my book.  No, we didn’t stay in a teepee, although they’re available for $50/night. The cabin was clean, homey and perfect after a long two days on the road.Frontier Cabins

After breakfast, it’s back in the car to see the natural beauty of South Dakota. There is plenty to see all within just an hour or so drive from Wall. We head East (or is it West, South?) from Wall for the Badlands. A few minutes later we’re greeted by this:

Beware Rattlesnakes

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Fantastic. They’re warning the rattlesnakes to Beware! This is my kind of place. The Badlands showcase some of the most eerily beautiful scenery I’ve experienced. My oldest is in heaven climbing all the rock formations. My youngest is bewaring the rattlesnakes and the crevices that could swallow him whole and pretty much anything else that may cause instantaneous death.

Badlands Jumper

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This area deserves much more time than what we are able to spend. The scorching heat combined with the king’s anti-outdoors sentiments make for a relatively quick stop. I really think I could spend an entire day,  if my skin wouldn’t melt off my bones. I’d love to dig around in those nooks and crannies and see what treasures Old West marauders may have stashed. There were marauders here, right?

So back in the car it is, with the A/C blasting and Custer State Park in our sights.

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Bypassing Sinclair Lewis

Sunday 7/15: Sinclair Lewis and  The Big Buffalo

Any road trip has its highs and lows. Our last cross-country road trip bottomed out somewhere in Nebraska.Nowhere Actually, it bottomed out in Nowhere, NE. By lows, I don’t mean anything catastrophic. You just have those days where the scenery never changes and you drive for six hours and it still seems like you’re in the same spot.

Sunday is a low. We set our course for Minnesota, North Dakota and, finally, South Dakota. In our never-ending quest to hunt down local haunts and legends, we make a pit stop in Sauk Centre, MN. Yes, the birthplace of Sinclair Lewis. Oh, you didn’t know that’s where Mr. Lewis hailed from? Me either. And, if you can’t name one of his works, you’re not alone there either. He won a Nobel Prize, was an alcoholic, spent 10 days in a psychiatric institution and died in Rome. I learned that from Wikipedia, not Sauk Centre.

Palmer House In Sauk Centre we stop to grab a few photos of the allegedly haunted Palmer House Hotel.  The hotel looks like any other allegedly haunted hotel on the outside. It also looks like your average non-allegedly haunted hotel. Either way, I grab a few quick shots. We think ,”This would be a great place to leave a few ScareFest passes for a giveaway”. After all, Palmer House Hotelthere are paranormal groups here all the time. This hits a primary demographic for ScareFest fans.

Lee goes inside. The inside apparently doesn’t live up to his standards. I think the phrase was “smelled like someone’s attic.” He can’t find anyone around to discuss the giveaway. The only person that appears to work there was an older gentleman who had no interest in talking with him. He steps out from around a corner, looks at Lee and walks up the stairs without a word. Sorry, Palmer House visitors, there’s no free ScareFest passes waiting for you there. That’s the extent of our dealings with the haunted Palmer House. On a side note, we bypassed Sinclair Lewis.

From Minnesota it’s a straight shot across North Dakota. Remember way back when I said you can’t see one Dakota without the other? I was terribly wrong. I’m sure the North Dakotans are great people. However, their roadside attractions leave much to be desired. That is with the exception of the World’s Largest Buffalo.World's Largest Buffalo Road Trip Rule #3A states that “One can not, under any circumstance, drive past the World’s Largest anything without stopping for a photograph.” I choose my rule-breaking carefully, so this is one rule that I always abide by. I can proudly say that my family was photographed with the World’s Largest Buffalo.World's Largest Buffalo I’m sure it’s something they will remember all their lives. Or, something they will be embarrassed to tell their friends about. Either way, I win. Two important notes about the World’s Largest Buffalo: 1) His name is Dakota Thunder. 2) He’s anatomically correct.

Thankful for this little diversion, we hop back on the devil’s path through North Dakota, but something tells me there’s not much more than this to see off the interstate, either. After a few more hours, we cross the line and leave the monotony of North Dakota in our rear-view mirror. We can now check ND off the list of  “States To See” and Sharpie it in under Nebraska on the list of “States To Never See Again”.

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The Dickie Is Loaded!

SATURDAY 7/14: The dickie is loaded!

Who knew you could fit so much stuff into the trunk (or if you’re my husband, “boot”) of a car. How many people call it a boot? I’d never even heard the term until I met him. Apparently he’s British because that’s where the term is most widely used. I guess I’m lucky. He could be from South Asia and call it a dickie.

Road trip Day 1 is underway. We’re all trying to carve out our own little habitat in each corner of the car. Our first planned stop is at Giordano’s in Chicago for some authentic stuffed pizza. He’s raved about it since a trip a couple of years ago. I’m excited for pizza, but Chicago, not so much. I don’t have anything against the town, but it’s not on my bucket list. We roll into the area at 1:30ish in the afternoon, belly tanks on E. As is the custom on any Kirkland Road Trip, Mother Nature welcomes us into the large metropolitan area with a torrential downpour. Bad weather, mixed with bad traffic equals grumpiness. The only thing keeping us from going all Donner party is knowing that the sweet salvation of a stuffed pizza pie is a mile up the road.

Rose Water Tower

Then, the clouds part and we see the Rose Water Tower beckoning us into the parking lot of Giordano’s. I swear I heard a celestial “Ahhhhh!”. My first Giordano’s is well worth the wait. It’s even worth suffering through my boys’ game of “Extreme Rock, Paper, Scissors” at the table. Yes, I said suffer. My youngest pulls out all the stops and yells “Banana Hammock” to the completely packed dining room. As you can guess, he won that round. What in the world could possibly beat a banana hammock?

With bellies once again full, we’re back on the road aiming for Wisconsin. What’s there to see and/or do in Wisconsin? Well, there’s cheese. And the Beast of Bray Road, of course. Bray RoadDoesn’t everyone come to Wisconsin to find the beast? You see, we love finding local legends and reportedly haunted locations to check out on our way. With the aid of our Weird USA book and the every-ready Garmin, we head for Bray Road just outside of Elkhorn, WI. Yes, it’s at least 45 minutes “out of our way”, but when will we ever have the opportunity to search for an elusive werewolf-like creature that hasn’t been spotted since sometime in the 1990’s?

The excursion is unsuccessful in that we catch no glimpse of The Beast. However, we do see some very pretty Wisconsin countryside with only two wrong turns. All in all, it’s a nice diversion.  We spend the rest of Day 1 trekking all the way across Wisconsin for a stopover in Hudson.

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Pack It Up, Pack It In!

Yes, I quoted House of Pain. Stick with me long enough and you’ll learn I’m a connoisseur of fine musical nostalgia. I can’t believe our trip is already halfway done. My plans were to post all along the way. Luckily, we’ve been so busy I haven’t had time. I know a lot of people take vacations to relax. We’re not those people. There’s so many places to see, on and off the beaten path. We try to cram as many sites in during a trip as we can. In an effort to keep you from snoozing through our trip, I’ll try to keep it short and sweet and retro-post a day at a time.

FRIDAY 7/13: Pack it up!

The Goods

I can pack. That is one thing I do well. I’m pretty sure I could pack enough supplies for a month into three Walmart bags. I’m learning to pare down what I take, with the exception of shoes. I always have to bring those “just-in-case” shoes. You know, the just-in-case we go somewhere “nice” for dinner, the just-in-case my feet get hot, and of course, the just-in-case I decide to go mountain climbing. I figure every decent road trip deserves at least four changes of shoes.Just in case

His philosophy on underwear mirrors my philosophy on shoes. But, for modesty’s sake we won’t even go into his “just-in-cases”.

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Quick Rundown DOTD: Day 1

Welcome to DOTD

Just wanted to share a few pics from Days of the Dead in Indianapolis. There are some great artists up here. The same artist created the Captain America and Star Wars figures in the photos below. These are custom-made dolls, about 12″ tall. They are freaking amazing! He has tons of different characters and all are recreated as zombies. Definitely going to hit him up to come to ScareFest in 2013!
Zombie Capt. America
Very cool custom action figures by an artist at Days of the Dead. Captain America was one of MANY themed dolls he has created, all in full zombie regalia.
Star Wars Zombies

More art/custom toys. Here’s a whole slew of Star Wars Zombies!

Pumpkin head creation
Another great artist at DOTD!

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But First…A Pre-trip Trip

Part of our time The majority of our time revolves around ScareFest. Lee is the Programming Director and head of Security and I am the Administrator and (self-titled) Social Media Maven. We’ve helped to grow the event since it began in 2008. But, we haven’t helped grow it enough that we can get paid by ScareFest, YET. We’re getting there. To GET THERE we must market our fluffy asses off (i.e at other conventions).  That’s just what we plan to do this weekend.

We’re taking our ScareFest goods and propaganda to Days of the Dead in Indianapolis. If you’re in Indianapolis this weekend and find yourself looking for something to do, stop by our booth and say Hey! We’ll also have ScareFest Tickets to give away!

Days of the Dead

We’ll be posting pics and updates all weekend long on our blog as well as all the ScareFest sites.

Oh, and I promise there will be Road Trip updates in the coming days. After all, we’re leaving in 1 week.

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