Category Archives: Travel

Found (in Oberlin): The Place Where the Sidewalk Ends

We spent Memorial Day weekend in Oberlin for Andrew’s Graduation (more on that later) and much of the time was down-time as we waited for Andrew to do this or that. Sometimes we simply rested on the grass, other times we drove around the area. On one of our drives we drove through a new neighborhood in Oberlin, not far from Andrew’s house. In one corner of the neighborhood was a strange brick structure in the middle of a neatly mowed lot with sidewalks leading to it and floodlights pointed towards it. Dean and I discussed what it could be for (it had signs inside it that said “PRIVATE”). On the way back to the car, however, I found something more interesting. I found the place where the sidewalk ends. Right there in Oberlin*.

Where the sidewalk ends

Where the Sidewalk Ends

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends,
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.

— Shel Silverstein — 1974

* It is fitting to have found this during Andrew’s college graduation weekend. Interpretations of the poem suggest that the place where the sidewalk ends is where childhood ends and adulthood begins.

We went to watch Rugby but saw the Big Parade instead

Andrew graduates on Memorial Day. His final rugby game was supposed to take place yesterday, Saturday, May 2 so we planned a trip to Oberlin to watch his last game. We knew we would not be able to spend much time with him since he was also going to a banquet for the end of the Rugby season, but these days, even an hour or two is enough for us. Shortly before we were planning on leaving for Oberlin Andrew called and told Dean the game had been cancelled. Denison (the opposing team) decided that with finals coming up next week they should study and not play rugby. Dean was bummed but since we’d already paid for our hotel room we decided to go instead and only stay one night.

We arrived at Oberlin around 6 and met Andrew at Weia Teia for dinner. He brought a friend with him and they both told us about how it was lucky we were in town that weekend because the Big Parade was the next morning and the Folkfest started that evening. Among the names of folks singers for the weekend was Tom Paxton – an artist I’d never seen, but had heard of. Another name Andrew mentioned was Kimya Dawson — a name I didn’t recognize, but when I later looked her up, would have loved to have seen her live. Her highly recognizable singing voice made me smile though the movie Juno (as well as a couple of Comcast ads).

Andrew took us to see an art exhibit called Erosion. My favorite part of the show was a series of journal entries the artist’s mother wrote and the artist’s corresponding leaves or flowers captured in glass.

After the art show we went to a dance titled The Only Way (scroll down to the second entry) about the struggle for women’s rights.The dancing was amazing and the message important.

Andrew had to leave us to work on his float for the parade so Dean and I went back to our hotel.

The next morning we arrived in Oberlin shortly after 10. I spent 45 minutes shopping at my current favorite store, Bead Paradise, where I bought three shirts, a pair of sunglasses, a chain for my new sunglasses and a beautiful Hobo wallet.

The parade was a lot of fun. See this YouTube video for some highlilghts. I took photos of all the floats and groups, but wondered where Andrew’s was, only to be told by Dean that he’d already gone by. I concentrated on a friend of Andrew’s (and son of family friends) that I missed my own son walking right in front of me. The fact that he was wearing a long red dress and straw hat had nothing to do with my not recognizing him. (He’s the tall one in the image below.)

Andrew parade

After the parade we walked around Tappan Square  and finally met up with Andrew and a few of his friends. We got in line with them for a free meal. As we approached the tent where the food was being served we saw a number of men and boys with shaved heads except for a small ponytail. Yes, we were in the Hare Krishna food line. I am not sure any salt was used.

Hare Krishna food

After lunch we listened to some folk singers and lazed in the sun. We met several of Andrew’s friends — all of whom were very friendly.

I love Oberlin and the feeling of community (and Bead Paradise) and am going to probably go through a period of mourning after Andrew graduates.

Where else can you sit in a kabob restaurant and watch an Alaskan husky wearing a batman costume people watch?

Dean and husky

Detail

 

Nemesis no more

In the world of birding a nemesis bird is a bird that a birder has gone to some (often great) lengths to see but has had no luck. While I am an incidental birder at best, and probably have no right to call any bird my nemesis bird, I did go to some lengths to see a painted bunting on a number of occasions, yet when an opportunity arose to drive 45 minutes to see one a few years ago, I did not go.

The painted bunting is probably the most colorful bird the United States has to offer. I was so taken with this bird that I considered using its name as my online name but thought it might be a little too suggestive so chose cedar waxwing instead.

A number of springs ago I arranged a vacation for my family and another family to stay on Tybee Island near Savannah in Georgia so I could see a painted bunting — something the island is known for. Even though I went to the places painted buntings usually hang out a couple of times that week, I never saw one. In fact, the folks there said that they’d not seen one that year.

There was a painted bunting sighting in Annapolis a few years ago, as reported on a birding list I subscribe to. I considered trying to see the bird, but shyness won out. One Saturday I had a conversation with a woman at a rugby game whose son was on the opposing team from Andrew’s team and she mentioned that she had a painted bunting at her feeder in Annapolis (I must have had binoculars with me). It turned out it was the same bird that was mentioned on the list and she invited me to visit the next week for coffee to see the bird for myself. I said I might and we exchanged telephone numbers, but I didn’t go.

Whenever we visited Florida I’d keep the painted bunting on my mind whenever we were in a natural area. The two times I visited Mississippi I thought I might be able to catch a glimpse of one — but no luck.

We always visit Merrritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Playalinda Beach when we visit Dean’s sister, Diane, who lives in Orlando, Florida. This year we headed to Vero Beach / wetlands first, but it began raining and we didn’t see too many birds on our brief, wet walk. I suggested we drive up to Merritt Island, have lunch, then go birding there. After lunch at Sonny’s BBQ we stopped at the Merritt Island NWR Visitor’s center. I immediately checked the log to see if a painted bunting had been seen (one had — right at the visitor’s center). I went outside and saw a man with a camera who was saying to his female companion something about how the female looked so different from the male. I knew, then, I was going to see a painted bunting. I asked him if he was talking about a painted bunting, explaining that it was my nemesis bird. He moved away from the railing so I could get a good look. There in the bushes was a blue, red, green and yellow bird. The man with the camera said, “Nemesis no more” and moved on to let me enjoy my ex-nemesis bird in solitude.

Dean took a photo for me, I took a few more, Diane even took a photo.

As I turned around to leave, two other very excited people were walking towards the feeder saying, “Painted bunting! It is a painted bunting!” I smiled, knowingly. at them, knowing exactly how they felt.

Real Locations of Fictional Places

Map of YorkshireSo I was watching Downton Abbey Sunday night and heard Lady Grantham mention the town of Thirsk. I wanted to hear the rest of the dialog, so didn’t exclaim to Dean, “Thirsk! That’s where the All Creatures Great and Small author lived.” After the episode ended, I didn’t think it important enough to tell Dean — and he would not have cared anyway. I guess I knew that Downton Abbey was located (but not filmed) in Yorkshire — and mention of York later in the episode made me even more certain, but I wondered where exactly it was supposed to be.

I read on Downton Abbey Wiki that in some episodes a sign in the fictional town of Downton points to Ripon (9 miles one way) and Thirsk (6 miles another way). So I located Ripon and Thirsk on a Google map, printed it out and drew a 12 mile wide circle around Thirsk, with Thirsk being the center and did the same with Ripon, only making that circle 18 miles. The circles crossed in two locations, so I’m thinking that the fictional town of Downton is either located in the tiny hamlet of Gatenby or Pilmoor, North Yorkshire. Because Easingwold, according to the wiki I mentioned earlier, is also mentioned in Downton Abbey, I think Pilmoor is more likely the location.

James HerriotArticle about James HerriotThis is not the first time I have scoured a map to find a location from a fictional source. In fact the first time I did it was after reading the All Creatures Great and Small series. Because I’d spent some wonderful weeks in Yorkshire and the All Creatures Great and Small series took place in Yorkshire, I wondered if I may have been in the town where it took place or even crossed paths with the author. I asked Jack Burgoyne, my boyfriend’s father and a librarian, if he knew where the books took place but he didn’t know — however he did know that James Herriot was a pseudonym and Darrowby, England was not a real place. When I returned to the United States after visiting Jeremy and his family, I pulled out a map of England and noted the real places mentioned in the books (which, when I search the book now, not many other than Leeds and York are mentioned) and tried to figure out where “Darrowby” was. I was never successful, but the search was fun. The last time I visited the Burgyones as Jeremy’s girlfriend, Jack alerted me to an article in the newspaper about James Harriot, aka James Alfred Wight. It seemed that he’d been awarded the OBE and the London Gazette gave away his real name and the Evening Post (Leeds?) gave more away stating — the town was Thirsk, in North Yorkshire. I now knew that I’d never been to the town where the books took place nor was it likely I’d crossed paths with the author.

One other time I scoured a map for a real location from a fictional source was when I was reading Steven King’s Christine. Dean and I were living in Pittsburgh at the time and Creepshow had just been filmed in and around Pittsburgh. Placenames in Christine reminded me of places in around Pittsburgh, so I pulled out a map of the area and pinpointed where I thought the town where Arnie Cunningham lived — Murrysville, Pennsylvania. I figured that since King wrote this book, in part, while working on Creepshow, he may have very well set in the area. Something I read later, I think, made me think that my hunch was pretty close. (And Wikipedia confirms it: “Stephen King’s 1983 novel Christine takes place in the fictional suburb of Libertyville, Pennsylvania, which is adjacent to Monroeville. The Monroeville Mall is mentioned repeatedly.”)

So while I don’t always hit the nail on the head when sleuthing for real locations of fictional places, I come pretty close. The internet is a big help these days, since people often do the work for me, but I get a strange pleasure out of doing it myself.

 

Aunt Ginny’s 3-D Viewer

Drawing of a house in Elgin
Drawing of Grandma and Grandpa Green’s house in Elgin

I have lots of vague memories of my grandparent’s house in Elgin. They lived in a tall, narrow house on a bit of a rise on the corner of Raymond and Bent Streets. Downstairs was a living room, kitchen, dining room and a room off the dining room that, I think served as my uncles’ bedroom when they lived at home, but was a sort of playroom/library/extra bedroom by the time I came along.

Milprem. Helps you take the misery out of menopause. Photo of miserable middle aged woman and her doctor
Box containing 3-d viewer

One of the items I remember playing with most often was a sort of early View-Master — a stereoscopic viewer for kids. The box it was kept in didn’t exactly depict the treasure within.

The viewer itself was brain-colored marbled plastic with double eyepieces at one end and a slot for holding cards at the other end. You’d place a card — or group of cards in the slot at the end and look through the eyepieces and see a single 3-dimensional drawing.

In addition to the viewer, the kit came with several sets of story cards — looking through them today brings back happy memories of being a kid at my grandparent’s home. Here is one of the sets.

The Little Pig That Flew Just Once

 

1. "How does one fly Mr. Crow?" "Oh I dunno you just ups and flies is all that I can say."
“How does one fly Mr. Crow?” “Oh I dunno you just ups and flies is all that I can say.”
"Ya just take off and fly and that's all there is to it I guess." "Do you suppose I could fly Mr. Crow?" "Maybe -- try and see."
“Ya just take off and fly and that’s all there is to it I guess.” “Do you suppose I could fly Mr. Crow?” “Maybe — try and see.”
With that the pig 'reved' up his little old screw-like tail -- and into the air he rose.
With that the pig ‘reved’ up his little old screw-like tail — and into the air he rose.
What fun they had! They turned and dived, and spun and just capered all over the sky.
What fun they had! They turned and dived, and spun and just capered all over the sky.
He led a flock of geese for  a while.
He led a flock of geese for a while.
He played leapfrog in the clouds. The pig had worlds of fun until he happened to look down.
He played leapfrog in the clouds. The pig had worlds of fun until he happened to look down.
He squeals as he realizes  where he is.
He squeals as he realizes where he is.
The little pig was so frightened he forgot to fly -- he just turned loose and fell. Luckily he landed in a nice soft tree.
The little pig was so frightened he forgot to fly — he just turned loose and fell. Luckily he landed in a nice soft tree.
He grabbed a limb and held on for dear life. Mr. Crow had to help him get down.
He grabbed a limb and held on for dear life. Mr. Crow had to help him get down.
The little pig was glad to be back in his mud hole and they tell me that to this day no other little pig has tried to fly.
The little pig was glad to be back in his mud hole and they tell me that to this day no other little pig has tried to fly.

I’m fairly certain I liked this more when I was a kid than I do now. The others are a little better — and some are not at all PC. If I feel like it I might upload the rest, but don’t hold your breath.

An Unexpected Journey: Part 4 Missoula, MT to Olympia, Washington

Missoula to Olympia

The view out my window when I awoke after a wonderful night’s sleep, with the sound of the Clark Fork River as the backdrop of my dreams, was more than I could have imagined. A lone osprey sat on the topmost branch of the tree directly across the river from our room.

It was difficult to get any work done while the osprey sat there, but I managed a couple hours’ worth.

After packing up and loading up the car, Clare and I had a delicious (and decadently expensive) breakfast in the dining room of the hotel. Clare even got to see the osprey hover.

The drive to Olympia involved misty mountains, Idaho and an unexpectedly barren landscape of Eastern Washington state.

As we neared the Seattle area I expressed disappointment that I’d neglected to bring the Twin Peaks soundtrack.

The Tacoma area was much more built-up than I expected, but Olympia seemed more low-key.

Clare’s house is tiny and, strangely laid out, but a good match for her and her roommate, Bennett. The kitchen is wonderful, with lots of cupboard space and a nice view of the front yard.

We had a late dinner at a bar in Olympia. I must have not been as hungry as I thought because my wild salmon taco was unappetizing. Hopefully next time I am in Olympia I will have something worth eating.

Clare and Bennett had an event to attend, so I reluctantly stayed home. I got to meet one of Bennett’s friends who, when stopping by to pick up some of his stuff, assured me they found a great house in a safe area.

The next morning Clare and Bennett drove me to the airport where I bid Clare a fond adieu. I am pretty sure she is unaware of how much I appreciated the invitation to join her on her trip across the U. S. Someday she will understand, I’m sure.

Photos on page 2

An Unexpected Journey: Part 3 Sheridan, WY to Missoula MT

sheridan_missoula

I awoke early — around 5:30 and did some work before going down to the fake riverside restaurant for breakfast. I’d checked the route and saw that we had an easy day — only 6 hours drive and no planned stops. I did want to stop in Bozeman, having been there 26 years ago for a wedding in nearby Red Lodge.

I called Dean while waiting for my breakfast, then called my mom after eating. When I returned to the room, Clare was awake and we left soon after.

When we got to the car the bees were still there — fewer, but definitely still there. Some seemed to be moving out to other cars. Clare was worried that the bees were the cause of her allergies — they carried pollen into the engine area and when we had the heat or air conditioning on the pollen entered the car. Although I was the first to suggest it, I realized later that was not what was going on. And these guys were not even really bees — more like yellow-jackets.

The drive across Eastern Montana was uneventful. Clare drove first. It is quite flat and almost desert-like, although we did eventually see mountains in the distance. Actually we’d see mountains in the distance and a little while later I’d try to find the mountains again — thinking they must be behind us. It wasn’t until much later when I checked the altitude that I realized we were in the mountains.

We decided to stop for lunch in Bozeman for a couple of reasons. 1) we were hungry 2) I’d been there before. We searched for a nice local diner, but came up empty so turned around and ate at a place near the University with new construction and that “old town” or “Disneyland Main Street” sort of feel — you probably have one in your town. The first place we tried was closed, so we ate at a place that offered vegetarian options.

As we left Bozeman we experienced another violent rainstorm — see the video after the break.

I’d never been west of Bozeman in Montana, so the rest of the journey through Montana was new to me. It is lovely country. We tried listening to “A River Runs Through It” as we drove to Missoula, but it didn’t keep our interest — although now, having been in Missoula — I want to read/listen to/re-watch it.

We rolled into Missoula when there was plenty of daylight left. Clare was trying to arrange a meet-up with friends of a friend. We found the river and thought it beautiful. For lodging, we tried to get a room at a B&B on the river, but no one answered the door, even though the sign said it had a vacancy. I called a couple of hotels in the area and found one with rooms which was a block and a half from where we were parked.

The Doubletree Hotel in Missoula is right on the river. We were offered a room with a view of the river for a substantial amount more than the room without a view, but having seen the river, I chose the room with a view. Clare’d finally talked to the friend of a friend and made plans to meet him later that evening. We admired the river from our balcony, but wanted to get closer, so we went outside and tried to find river access. At first we didn’t think it was possible, but a hotel employee showed us how to get to the river by going around the hotel near the lobby.

As we passed the lobby Clare remarked on the black lab that was tied up to a bench by the lobby door. She said it was there when I was checking in. Now it was howling mournfully.

We spent the last of the daylight on the riverbank. Clare, ever her father’s daughter, took off her shoes and waded into the river before we headed back to our room. On the way back to the room, Clare noticed a man of about 65 – 70 sitting next to the dog and remarked that the dog found its owner. The man looked up and Clare called out, “Is that your dog?”. He replied, “Angel?” Clare called back, “Angel? That’s her name?” He stood up and held out his hand and Clare walked over to him and shook it. He replied that he was pleased to meet her. She asked again if the dog was his and he said that it wasn’t. I realized this was a case of mistaken identity and told him that Clare was not Angel. He didn’t hear me or ignored me. He then said something to Clare about buying her cowboy boots (she was still barefooted) and followed us into the lobby. When we passed the gift store he stopped and said, “Oh it’s closed.” We headed towards our room and he asked where we were going. I said, “she’s not who you think she is,” before we turned again to go. He said again, “Where you goin'”? I shouted, “She is not Angel! She is not who you are looking for.” He finally understood, and mumbled that he had the wrong person.

We returned to our room feeling alternately embarrassed and amused. We figured he’d either hired a prostitute named Angel, met someone online named Angel or had a long-lost granddaughter named Angel whom he’d never met. We figured that the first guess was probably right — that he was waiting for a prostitute named Angel and the mix-up with the dog and Clare’s friendliness and his state of inebriation  made him think Clare was the Angel for whom he was waiting. The only question I had was who thought I was. Angel’s pimp?

About a half hour later Clare and I left the room to get a bite to eat at the bar and as we rounded the corner to the elevator we saw the same man, this time accompanied by two young women, one had pink hair and one had blue hair. We heard him say “I hope there is time for music.”

For a brief moment, everyone froze. Clare said the young women looked at her. I don’t know who looked at whom because I immediately looked at the ground. Once out of earshot we broke out in laughter. It looked like he found his Angel. And Angel’s friend. Now I knew who he thought I was.

After thinking about it, it was really sad that these two young women — probably even younger than Clare — had to make money by entertaining this man. If indeed that was the situation. We may have been wrong in our conclusions — but probably not.

Clare went out with the friend of a friend later that night and had a great time. She saw a band called Baby & Bukowski and said the show was the best live performance she’d ever seen. Their music is good — click the link and check them out yourself.

Photos and video on page 2.

An Unexpected Journey: Part 2 Sioux Falls, SD to Sheridan, WY

Sioux Falls to Sheridan

Our Holiday Inn Express was nothing to write home about — in fact, I don’t even remember what it looked like. It was good just to have a place to sleep after the long drive and an hour or so of working.

We knew we had a long trip ahead of us with a couple of stops on the way. Mount Rushmore was a must — Clare needed to prove to her friends that it really existed. My cousin suggested I stop by Wall Drug and the Corn Palace. Both intrigued me, but it was the Corn Palace I preferred.

When we got to the car, parked in the sun in front of the hotel, Clare noticed a number of bees flying around the hood. She remarked on it, but we thought nothing of it as we headed westward.

I mentioned to Clare that I wanted to stop at the Corn Palace, having seen it in the  documentary King Corn, and when she saw it in a tourist pamphlet she agreed it might be fun. Mitchell, the town that hosts “THE WORLD’S ONLY CORN PALACE!” is a small town, just off Interstate 90. It didn’t take us too long to find it once we exited the highway. We agreed that we were not going in, we just wanted to take a few photos, so we parked a few blocks away and walked to the Corn Palace. (which is made out of corn in case you wondered).

After the Corn Palace we decided to give Wall Drug a miss, despite the tempting signage. Sorry Beth…

As we neared Mount Rushmore, the scenery changed from fields of corn to something that looked like it could be the filming location for a movie about another planet. We had entered the Badlands.

Our next stop was to be Mount Rushmore. Mount Rushmore was not a place I had on my bucket list, but since it was on the way and Clare was determined to prove to Nick and Bennett that it actually exists, we took the 2 hour detour to visit the four presidents.

Mount Rushmore is near a tiny town (whose name I cannot figure out) that looks nearly as kitschy as Wisconsin Dells. We stopped for a late lunch/early dinner at a bar that employed people from everywhere except the US.  Our waiter was from Turkey — something he told us upfront. For some reason — maybe he was tired of being asked where he was from.

When we returned to the car Clare noticed the bees again. This time there were many more than back at the hotel. We looked closely and they seemed to be entering and exiting the car through the grill. One landed on a dead bug and carried away a set of wings. We opened the hood and the bees came and went. We thought it was amusing.

Mount Rushmore was sort of interesting. Lots of motorcyclists were there. Lots of people were taking photos. But in the end, it is only a large rock with the faces of four presidents.

When we returned to the car, the bees were still there.

After the two hour detour, we got back on Interstate 90 and drove to Wyoming where we’d already booked a hotel room.

I posted on Facebook that I’d hoped to see the Devil’s Tower (the rock formation that was prominently featured in Close Encounters of the Third Kind), but when Clare and I stopped at a rest area/tourist information place we were told that we could not see it from Interstate 90 and it might be a 50 mile drive. Oh well, I thought, maybe someday…

After entering Wyoming I asked Clare if she would take over driving — we were about an hour away from Sheridan. She said okay and I pulled into a parking area. As we switched seats I happened to look out over the field to the right of the highway and saw the Devil’s Tower in the distance. It was pretty far away, but unmistakable. I think I also saw a Western Tanager fly past.

If you have ever been out West, you know that the sky seems bigger there. Growing up in Illinois, I remember being able to look out across the cornfields and see rain miles away — it always looked like a gray sheet of paper coming out of the cloud. Further west, were we were, the rain in the distance looks different — more like wisps of mist hanging from the clouds to the earth. We wondered what they were and asked our Turkish waiter, but he didn’t seem to understand the question and said something about all the rain they got there. Later on our trip drove through one and found out the mist was a rainstorm.


Also, if you have been out West recently, you know that the speed limit is 75 mph on the Interstate. When I drove, I probably drove a little more than 75. Clare drove even faster. However, there are few cars on the road out there. When darkness fell we had two scary incidents. A violent thunderstorm took place for a few minutes and a doe strolled out in front of us (not at the same time, thank goodness). Clare is an excellent driver and navigated the tumultuous rain very well. When the deer walked directly in front of our car Clare slowed down and swerved around her.

Our hotel in Sheridan was also a convention center. It had a strange bit of water over which a bridge separated the lounge area from the restaurant area.

20130906_223253

We checked out the bar and then went to bed. We were halfway through with our journey.

An Unexpected Journey: Part 1 Maryland to Sioux Falls, SD

When we last left our intrepid traveler she was embarking on a journey from one coast to another. Wednesday morning she called from Illinois to tell me that her traveling companion had to go home on family business. She was heartbroken for an number of reasons. I asked if she wanted me to fly out and help her drive. I told her to think about it and let me know later that day.

When we spoke again she said she’d like me to help her drive to Olympia, so I booked a flight to Chicago for the next morning.

She picked me up and we drove to my Mom’s house where she’d stayed the past two nights. Mom was confused and didn’t understand that I wasn’t sticking around. She thought I was there to drive Clare back to our house (Washington State/Washington DC — people do occasionally get confused about that, I suppose). So Mom was sad when we drove off. Clare was also sad. I guess I was the only not sad person because I’d always wanted to drive cross-country and I got a few more intense days with my daughter.

Clare planned the trip and our first stop was to be Sioux Falls, South Dakota about 8 hours from Elgin and to get there we had to drive through Wisconsin and Minnesota.

elgin_souix

Clare was feeling poorly — she thought allergies. I thought common cold — so I drove first. We headed north thorough Wisconsin — we passed Baraboo and the Dells, places I remember fondly from my childhood.

About an hour after the Dells area we entered Minnesota, a virgin state for both of us. Southern Minnesota is pretty much the same as Wisconsin, except maybe more hilly and with fewer (actually zero) signs for cheese. We did, however, begin seeing signs for Wall Drug.

We also saw thousands of wind turbines. For miles and miles it looked like an alien invasion — giant white creatures twirling their appendages at us. As darkness fell all we could see were thousands of blinking lights. It was spectacular. I tried to get a photo or two, but everything is blurry.

South Dakota (another virgin state for us) didn’t seem much different from Wisconsin or Minnesota. the Wall Drug billboards and signs became more frequent and were joined by Rushmore  and the Corn Palace signs. Many of the Rushmore signs were on what seemed to be abandoned semi (articulated lorry) trailers.

By this time, Clare was driving and I was trying to work a little — but that didn’t last long. It was dark by the time we rolled into Sioux Falls and as we navigated to the hotel at which we hoped to sleep we saw fireworks in the distance. Not your average fireworks either. Some pretty amazing pyrotechnics. Earlier in the day I suggested that we maybe should book a hotel in Sioux Falls in case there was a convention there and all the hotels were full. Clare thought I was being silly and I sort of thought that too. Turns out that the first two hotels we tried were booked because of a convention. A fireworks convention. Luckily there was another nearby hotel that had a room for us.

I’d worried the night before the trip — about the flight and about the drive, but it all worked out fine in the end.

Perfect illustration for my feelings about the turbines