Road Trippin’ VIII: The Journey Home

Given that the seventh and final leg of our journey involved the longest drive, you might think there would be much to say about it. But just like the first day of our trip, we were on familiar territory and had planned no stops other than for food and fuel, which meant there wouldn’t be much to talk about unless something tragic or unusual occurred. Fortunately, that did not happen. Instead, we passed a pleasant day as quickly and efficiently as we could with the goal of spending the night in our own bed.

To be fair, the trip wasn’t entirely unremarkable. For example, on this day, the Jarhead decided not to hog the driver’s seat. It probably helped that he knew I was familiar with the route and was unlikely, therefore, to miss a turn and get us lost. It may also have helped that we were passing some of the flattest and straightest terrain this side of North Dakota, Saskatchewan, and Iowa, and would be willing to do the speed limit or better. A more likely explanation, however, is that, having stayed up late watching TV and eating junk, he was less interested in driving than he was sleeping. Whatever the case, we did spend the entire day driving and succeeded in making it back to Chez Diersen before bedtime. To my intense relief, the kids and the cats were all alive and well, and none the worse for having spent the week alone.

Looking back on the previous posts and the comments I’ve received from readers, it occurs to me that I may have given folks the impression that North Dakota, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and Minnesota don’t have much to offer the travelers and tourists in their midst. In fact, there is more to see and do in the upper Midwest and south central Canada than can be discussed in eight blog entries, and you could spend a week in each state and every province and still not see and do it all.

For example, in South Dakota alone there are the Black Hills, the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park, the Corn Palace, and the Mammoth Site at Hot Springs. These did not receive a mention because we did not visit them this year since, one, we have visited them all once or twice on other trips and, two, our primary goal was to make it from Wisconsin to Idaho by way of the Canadian Rockies within a week. The same is true for Yellowstone National Park, Big Horn National Forest, and a multitude of state parks and cave systems.

That said, if you haven’t already done so, be sure to visit them as you make your away along I-90. We did so last back in 2011, and here is some of what we saw then:


If you have the time, you especially should not miss the Mammoth Site at Hot Springs where you will see where the remains of various mammoths and other creatures have been found, studied, and preserved. It’s off the interstate by about an hour, but it is well worth a visit not only because it gives you such a sense of what we know about prehistoric North America, but also because it helps you appreciate how much more we still have to learn! For more information about this fun and educational place, visit


Animal lovers, meanwhile, should be sure to check out the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary. I have yet to visit this one, but it comes highly recommended by equine enthusiasts like my friend and fellow writer, J.S. McCormick. Founded in 1988 by Dayton O. Hyde, the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary offers tours ranging from two hours to three days. They aren’t cheap and reservations are required, but if you love horses, it is not to be missed. To learn more about this amazing place, visit

Well, that about covers it. I hope you’ve enjoyed the adventure and, perhaps, been inspired to make a road trip of your own. Meanwhile, thanks for playing along!



Road Trippin’ lll: Oh Canada!

We left Grand Forks relatively unscathed but rather unimpressed. As I mentioned in the last post, we had chosen to spend the night in a hotel with the aim of having a hot shower and a hot breakfast before conquering the wilds of Canada. Apparently, however, I set the bar too low when I established those parameters, for although the shower did yield hot water and the eggs and sausage on the breakfast bar were hot-ish, there is little positive I can say about the place other than they are quick to respond to bad reviews. Assuming the corporate office is as swift to familiarize the Grand Forks staff with the concepts of professionalism and outgoing mail as they are to offer an apology, and assuming they are as adept at training their housekeepers in the removal of body hair from the bathroom floor as they are at issuing vouchers for a free stay, we may give them another chance—that is, if the Jarhead decides he wants to see North Dakota again within the next twelve months.

Anyway, after departing the hotel—and after searching for and stopping at the last local post office in our path—the Jarhead and I were tooling up I-29 on our way to Brandon, Manitoba. Although we had been through the eastern provinces of Canada in 2006 I was a bit nervous as we approached the border crossing. Would they think we look suspicious? Would they want to search the vehicle? Would they find our cooler packed with salad, venison sausage, Fresca, Atkins diet products, pistachios, cashews, Pop Tarts and dark chocolate a tad schizophrenic and deny us entry in the interest of public safety? Or would they see how much food we were bringing and conclude that we are lying about how long we plan to stay?

Turns out—and I know this will come as a shock—the Canadian border agents weren’t the least bit interested in our cooler or its contents. Nor were they interested in our vehicle or us, for that matter. In fact, I was somewhat offended by how disinterested the agent by whom we were interviewed was in us and our journey. I understand these folks meet an American about every five minutes or so, but they haven’t met US. They don’t know how amazing or fascinating we are, or how exciting or dangerous we might be. Seems to me they could make a little more effort to get to know a body fore deciding you’re just another boring tourist with weird eating habits…

Anyway, as I was recovering from the sting of the agent’s indifference, it occurred to me that ours would be the perfect cover if someone wanted to smuggle drugs or other contraband into Canada. Not that I would ever do something like that myself, but if the Canadian border agents are letting people like me and the Jarhead just waltz across the border in our Midwestern tourist clothing and cheap sunglasses, no doubt American border agents are doing the same. Could that not explain why the DEA and other agencies have failed to stem the flow of drugs and guns into the US? Is it not, then, possible, that the drug cartels and gun runners have figured this out as well and are exploiting this gap in our homeland’s security???

In any case, at some point I changed my mind and decided I did not want anyone to search the vehicle. This moment arrived approximately three seconds after I remembered the tiny bottles of vodka that the Jarhead had stashed in the back seat in case I needed sedation as we drove through the mountains, and which he had failed to mention when the agent inquired about alcohol. I don’t know what sort of hell we would have faced if we’d been caught with unclaimed booze in the vehicle, but I do know what sort of hell the Jarhead would have experienced if they had confiscated the stuff and I was forced to endure a trip through the mountains without it.

The first thing we noticed upon entering Manitoba was a sign advising us of the speed limit, which was 110. This excited the Jarhead tremendously until I reminded him that Canada operates on the metric system, and that the speed limit referred to kilometers not miles. That didn’t seem to phase him much until he did the math and realized that, unless he wanted the next Canadian he met to be a member of law enforcement, he’d be traveling at a measly 65 miles per hour.

The second thing we noticed about Manitoba is that it looks a lot like North Dakota, which looks a lot like Iowa only with miles and miles of hay fields instead of miles and miles of corn. That’s not to suggest there’s anything wrong with Iowa or North Dakota—or corn or hay fields for that matter. It’s just that as natives of Minnesota and residents of Wisconsin, we’ve already seen our share of cropland and, while fields may come in many shapes, sizes and colors, they are nowhere near as exciting as the mountains, cliffs, canyons and rivers that awaited us in Alberta.

It was soon after we made this discovery that we decided not to stop for the day at dinner time as planned, but to continue as long and as late into the evening as we could. That way, we would get through more of the boring bits in the dark, and save the daylight and our energy for the star of this road show:  The Canadian Rockies.