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’ llll: Are we there yet?

Having spent most of the previous evening driving through Saskatchewan—whose primary purpose seems to be to occupy the space between Manitoba and Alberta—we were excited to be more than halfway to Calgary. Again, there’s really nothing wrong with a place whose only topographical features are hayfields and power lines; it just wasn’t what we had come to see.

And that’s not to say there was nothing to break up the monotony of the drive. For example, there were lots of Humpty’s Restaurants along the way. Essentially the Canadian equivalent of Denny’s, Humpty’s offers the weary traveler an array of hot and cold beverages, and a variety of foods—including some I have yet to see available on any US roadway, like pierogi, turkey schnitzel, and bangers and mash.

Also helping to make the trip more interesting on this leg of the journey were the other travelers we met along the way. I must admit to using the first person plural a bit generously here since the Jarhead can barely bring himself to exchange greetings with strangers, much less make small talk. I, on the other hand, will strike up or join a conversation with just about anyone who isn’t holding a weapon or a hostage. That probably isn’t a fair statement, given I’ve never had occasion to avoid or ignore someone bearing a firearm or keeping people against their will; but I like to think that when the situation presents itself, I’ll be smart enough to recognize what’s happening, and have the sense to zip my lips.

Meanwhile, I was more than happy to chat with the nice Aussie woman who approached me during one of our pit stops to ask if I was a ‘local lady.’ Resisting the urge to say, ‘No, I’m the local slut,’ I told her and her travel companions I was a Yank from Wisconsin, and then made polite inquiries into their origins, their itinerary, and their impressions of North America, while the Jarhead waited outside cursing the bus in the parking lot as if the volume of people in the washroom alone were to blame for the delay in my returning to the truck.

Later that day, as we approached the mountains east of Banff, we spotted a dude on a bicycle a ways up the road. Upon noticing him, the Jarhead surprised me by suggesting that we pull over and offer to throw his bike in the back and give him a ride. I should have known he meant it sarcastically, since he’s even less of a humanitarian than a conversationalist when it comes to strangers, but all of that was lost on me at the moment.

“No way,” I said in response. “I know bicyclists are almost never serial killers, but with our luck we’d find the one who is, and we have no means to defend ourselves.”

“We could run him over,” he offered. “Unfortunately, those guys are pretty fit, so we’d have to back up and do it again two or three times.”

“So you agree it’s a bad idea.”

“Of course I think it’s a bad idea.”

“Then why did you suggest it?”

“Because then I could tell him how stupid it is to ride a bike through the mountains when there are so many motorized forms of transportation available.”

So that was Thursday…

That afternoon we entered Banff National Park and were on course for Lake Louise. By nightfall we had reached Baker Creek lodge and secured a nice room with a fireplace, kitchenette, and whirlpool tub—none of which we used. Instead, we gathered up the rum, a couple cans of coke, and the remains of our crackers and deer sausage, and had dinner on a swing under the stars.

It was probably the rum, but I didn’t give a single thought to bears, bandits, or any other potential threats to my existence while we were out there. Nor did I worry about earthquakes or volcanic eruptions, or wonder if the creek would suddenly shift course and wash us away. Instead, I just enjoyed the peace and tranquility, and crossed my fingers that the Jarhead wouldn’t fall asleep before I was sober enough to walk back to our cabin.

It had been a long drive, and we were looking forward to sleeping in on Friday, and to seeing everything that awaited us in Kootenay and British Columbia.