Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Road trip: Part 1 - Manhattan to Winnipeg

When my parents started talking about visiting us here in Manhattan, KS, we started talking about seeing parts of the USA and visiting family in Canada. We ummm-ed and ahhhh-ed about flying or driving to Winnipeg, Manitoba (where my Uncle and his family live), how long to spend in Manhattan, do we go else where... etc etc... And after doing the numbers on car hire and flights for 4 adults, it was a much-of-a-muchness, so we decided to drive and see some of the continent that is North America.

Planning the route was fun. My Dad and I spent a few afternoons talking it over (thanks to FaceTime), discussing pro's and con's on different routes. We had 2 constraints: we would be travelling with an infant/toddler; and we only had 2 weeks for the whole trip. This translated to 4-6 hours car travel per day, depending on how Jimmy traveled, 3 days travel from Manhattan, KS, to Winnipeg, MB, plus however long we would spend with our relatives in Canada, which left about 1 week to get back to Manhattan, KS.

We wanted to visit Yellowstone National Park, but we would have had 2-3 nights there, with too much driving per day either side. So, that ruled that out. A few days later, it seemed my Dad and I had been on the same wavelength and we talked about going east of Winnipeg, out to Lake Superior and then south along the Mississippi, stopping in St Louis, MI, before heading back to Manhattan, KS.

Our planning, in terms of finding accommodation was a little haphazard, mostly involved planning a route on Google Maps, then zooming in somewhere that was 4-6 hours from point A and hoping that there was somewhere there to stay, i.e. a State Park or commercial campground. But it worked. We couldn't really plan pit stops, lunch breaks or sightseeing because we had no idea how Jimmy was going to travel from one day to the next, so the focus was on our accommodation and everything else would follow, more or less.

Sorting out our accommodation lead to some interesting discoveries and realisations: not all places allow online bookings and require actual cheques to be sent for a booking; bookings over the weekends need to be 2 nights. Cheques aside, this meant that we wouldn't have time to take in St Louis, so we decided to see Kansas City, MI/KS, instead, after spending 2 nights on the backwaters of the Mississippi.

Enough about the planning! Here's what happened, with lots of photos. Hope you enjoy the photos as much as we enjoyed being able to take them.
Car selfie!

Day 1: Manhattan to Hillview Recreation Area
We quickly packed the hire car, after saying goodbye to our very first guest T, and were off on our adventure. There was to be no turning back for handkerchiefs or knives - we had to make it to Hillview Recreation Area, Plymouth County, IA, before Jimmy lost it.
Lunch, when we realised that we hadn't packed sharp kitchen knives.
Jimmy losing it... ok, it's probably him mid yawn...
Water towers stand tall in the Great Plains, like things out of War of the Worlds.
My parents have a collection of similar jars, that once held peanut butter.
Yellow firehydrant? Well, I never... Only in Nebraska?
Sleeping darling.
A patch of clear sky! It was a grey old day.
Photo credit: Jimmy.
And lose it he did, but it was after 8 pm and we had been on the road for most of the afternoon, with a few quick stops, including one just north of Omaha (actually, we were probably on the outer suburbs). With an unhappy Jimmy, thinking he was going to miss out on boobie, we made it to our cabin at Hillview, some time after 9 pm. Jimmy was a little unsettled, possibly thinking that we were moving again, but we were very glad we didn't have to set up tents in the dark and the drizzle.

Day 2: Hillview to Detroit Lakes
The view!
We woke up to a light drizzle, after a bit of a downpour during the night, and a lovely view! We thought it was a little spoilt by the power lines, but there were a lot of turkey vultures to marvel at. It's the sort of place that would be nice to spend a weekend at. Too bad we only had one night, but we enjoyed the hot showers and the cool morning and eventually managed to tear ourselves away by 10 am (or so).

Cool? It was lovely! Plus skin dries quicker than cotton.
More view... and a rather wet fire circle.
Another selfie, but with the inside of the cabin too.
The two cabins at Hillview Recreation Area, Plymouth County, Iowa.
Turkey vultures trying to dry their wings (in the drizzle...).
There was some "where's Jimmy?" action after breakfast.
On the road... rain, rain, and more drizzly rain...
It was a dreary wet day to be travelling, and we had trouble finding a spot for a picnic lunch. We had two problems: firstly, we needed somewhere dry and away from the freeway enough for Jimmy to toddle around; secondly, we kept missing the exits for the tourist centres/information centres because the signs that point to the exits are placed on the wrong side of the road (just like traffic lights and street signs in general). OK, so this takes a little explaining, but road signs and traffic lights in the USA are on the opposite side of intersections etc to what they are in Australia, plus we found that we'd only get one or two signs to say an exit was coming up and then WOOSH! we'd pass it.

After driving 2 or 7 miles from the freeway for lunch and coffee - where we should have investigated before settling for what we - we became determined to actually stop at one of these tourist centres, because they all seemed to be just off the freeway. But our lunch stop was worth it for the deliciously cream laden hot drinks Michael and I had (because they didn't have any whole milk, they kindly made our drinks on cream and milk). So, if you're ever in Flandreau, SD, stop in at Bean and Vine and let them know an Australian, in flip flops, sent you.
One happy traveller! 
Later, we stopped in a town, just off the freeway in South Dakota, for a spot of Geocaching and while I was using a nearby restroom, a police car pulled up behind our hire car and the officer was having a friendly chat with Michael, Granny, and Pop, while they were turning Jimmy's car seat around (we were hoping it would keep him happy until we reached Detroit Lakes). Turns out Michael and Granny were "muggled" big time! Fortunately the officer was aware of what Geocaching is and there wasn't an issue - just a reminder for Michael and Granny to be a little less brazen in almost empty parking lots.
Disposable nappies don't hold up Jimmy's pants quite as well as our usual cloth ones...
It was shortly afterwards that my camera ran out of battery... and I was really bad and didn't recharge it until we were in our hotel in Winnipeg... Oops! Luckily, Michael took some photos - yay!

We kept travelling north until we reached Fargo, ND. Yes. Fargo, like the Cohen Brother's movie and that new TV show. And yes, it's just as flat and seemingly drained as it's made out to be, even in summer, but I did see some interesting characters around what looked like a university, so there is life there, it's just a little hard to see from the main roads... From Fargo, we headed east and reached Detroit Lakes and the American Legion Campgrounds by 7pm... And no, Jimmy hadn't lost it, but we were cutting it pretty fine.

The owner of the campgrounds was so lovely and warm and friendly. He was a little chuffed that we'd come so far to camp at his campgrounds. Turns out we tied for the guests from the most distant place with some Australian's who had been there a year or so previous - yay! And for that we were given a bundle of wood.

A group of happy campers! Thanks for setting up the timer Michael!
Oh that made my day! I think it made all of us (except maybe Jimmy) a little happier. Wood meant a hot dinner, hot drinks, and, after a trip to the campground shop, marshmallows! Too bad about the small amount of rain, but it was soooo good... We may have gone back to the shop the next morning for eggs and sausages for breakfast.

Day 3: Detroit Lakes to Winnipeg, Manitoba
After sausages, showers, tea, and packing up in a light drizzle (is it ever not damp that far north?!), we managed to leave, making for the 59. Did I mention we left after 11am? Oh and after passing through the first town after Detroit Lakes, it turned out that there was a detour on the 59... Oh and we only had  a quarter of a tank of petrol/gas. So, we turned back, tried to get fuel in the town but they were all out! Oh dear...

As we had basically wasted an hour, we refueled back in Detroit Lakes and made for Fargo and the 29 (interstate freeway). The rationale was that the faster, straighter, only ever so slightly longer route was better than the route that would have been shorter, if there was no detour. We lost out what was looking like a scenic route, but oh well...

We did make it to a Visitor's Center for our lunch stop! That was a bit of an achievement, and we were pretty pleased with it because it was just off the freeway - win! I think we ended up spending about 2 hours there, using the wifi, drinking the free-but-not-coffee coffee with powdered creamer (yum... not), enjoying the grassy area, the sunshine, using the very nice restrooms, and enjoying a little bison salami. It was actually hard to get back in the car, but get back in the car we did until we reached the US-Canada border.

Our crossing was pretty straight forward: we lined up (in the car); we were asked to pop into the office on the other side of the boom gate; our passports were collected, I used the loo (restroom), and then we received our newly stamped passports. Done. No fuss, no bother, but it was a little chilly out...

We drove another hour or so north and arrived safely in Winnipeg to a warm welcome, thanks to my uncle, my aunty, and my cousins!

Stay tuned!

No comments:

Post a Comment