It has been a cold spring in the Northwest and we were hoping to escape to better weather as we made our way east to Ohio for the big rally at the Airstream factory. Unfortunately that didn’t happen but luckily we managed to mostly stay out of the snow. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Leaving Missoula we were barely 25 miles out of town before we got stuck in a 2 hour back-up, totally stopped, because of an accident that blocked eastbound I-90. We heard about the accident on the news just before we left, but knew were were heading westbound. They neglected to mention that the highway patrol was alternating traffic in the westbound lanes to let the eastbound cars get around as there are no other roads to get through this stretch. What a mess!
This was one of those times I was glad I could run back to grab food and use the restroom in the trailer!
Luckily we hadn’t planned too long of a driving day and stopped for the night at Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, a bit east of Butte. This was one of our stops last summer and back then it was sunny and warm. This time we awoke to big snowflakes coming down and skedaddled out of there before it started to stick.
We hoped we could out drive the front, but it seemed like we just kept traveling with it.
Some days we’d drive all day and finally make it out of the storm only to have it catch up to us in the evening. The whole drive across the country is a blur of rainy highway and chilly nights. Bottom line: we will not be coming north this early in the future!
We had planned to stop at Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, but with the bad weather there was no point so we just stayed at a KOA near the freeway and kept driving. We did see lots of pronghorn antelope (like 100) through Wyoming and Western South Dakota which was kinda cool. We spent the next night in Chamberlain, SD at an overpriced Army COE campground (sorry no picture of that one). Finally after 4 days straight on the road we decided we needed a day to recuperate and stayed 2 nights in Sioux Falls, SD at a nice little campground in the middle of a neighborhood.
Even thought it was rainy and cool, we managed to see the falls. On a sunny day Falls Park looked like it would be a nice place to hang out and enjoy the trails, cafe and picnic areas. They even have music and a farmer’s market there in the summer.
We also went to the biggest outdoor store I have ever seen, Scheels. This place was like it’s own mall with a ferris wheel inside, a mini bowling game called roller ball, video shooting gallery (it was a little disconcerting to see a 7 year old girl holding a rifle and nonchalantly shooting deer on the screen, poor Bambi!) and it’s own restaurant. They had casual clothes and shoes plus clothes and gear for every outdoor sport imaginable and even home decorating stuff. It was like REI, Cabella’s and Sports Authority all rolled into one and then some.
But alas, the weather was still windy and wet and we had miles to cover so after our shopping day we hit the road again.
Are we there yet?! I guess I never realized exactly how far east it is to Ohio. We needed something interesting to see so headed for Effigy Mounds National Monument on the Iowa/Wisconsin border.
Native Americans in this area created huge mounds of dirt in the shape of bears and birds and other animals nearly 1000 years ago. There wasn’t a lot of definitive information at the visitor’s center but it seems it was a spiritual act used for burial. Today all you see are grassy mounds. Maybe from above it would be cooler. But we did enjoy a short hike during a brief sun filled morning and great views of the Mississippi River.
We stayed at nearby Pikes Peak State Park, not to be confused with Pikes Peak in Colorado. It was discovered and named by the same man. The campground was a little dark and compact for us, but luckily it was pretty empty mid-week.
It did have some great views of the Wisconsin river meeting the Mississippi.
After 2 nights it was time to keep moving. Somehow I missed the sign for Iowa, but we made our way across all the “I” states.
We were headed for Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Knowing that we loved Padre Island National Seashore, when I saw Indiana Dunes on the map I thought it would be a great place to stay our last few days before making the final trek to Ohio. Not so much.
The National Lakeshore is a disconnected park, with bits and pieces surrounded by neighborhoods (some nice and some not so nice), a prison, and a couple of towns that seem down on their luck. Not far to the south is a steel mill. This area is a suburb of Chicago, as evidenced by the packed parking lot at the train station. It’s an hour and a half ride into the city and some campers make the trip.
Just across the street from the campground entrance was a wood fired pizza oven in an old Studebaker. For less than $20 we got two thin crust pizzas and a bottle of butterscotch root beer. Their speciality, The Purple Pig, with pulled pork, barbecue sauce and a tangy purple cabbage slaw on top was delicious!
As for the lakeshore, you have to drive to the disconnected beaches from the campground. So after doing laundry and errands and enduring the rain, I decided we had to see at least one of the beaches.
After a quick visit to the small visitor’s center (not much exciting there except for the outdoor art), we visited Beverly Shores. It looked just like the ocean. I was surprised by how soft the beach sand was, but just to remind us we weren’t in Mexico the cold wind kept whipping at our faces and we could see industrial bulidings along the shore both to the east and the west.
The best part was a collection of houses from the 1933-34 World’s Fair. A developer moved them here to entice people to buy his houses in the area. Each house is unique. You can look at them from the street, but they are occupied so you can’t go inside except for once a year when they have an open house. There is some sort of partnership where people live in them as they work on restoration.
The pink Florida house was pretty cool, as was the cabin, but our favorite was the one made from metal panels kinda like an Airstream! 🙂 It was modern looking on the outside but the inside was supposed to have a traditional layout and furnishings.
I’m sure there are some more scenic parts to the National Lakeshore that we missed, at least I hope that’s the case since we weren’t impressed. We were not sad when it came time to move on.
Next up Jackson Center, Ohio, home of Airstream and the reason we’ve been making this crazy, long trek across the country in the chilly spring weather.