On the Road Again–Homeward Bound Part 1

The big Homecoming car show and Saturday evening’s festivities were completed, so on Sunday morning we elected to head for home rather than return to Hickory Corners for another day of car shows, photos and a parade around the grounds.  

After a quick breakfast followed by some thank yous and goodbyes  we hit  Interstate 94 and headed west. But instead of going back the way we came we took the northern route and were headed towards South Dakota and the Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse national monuments.

However, this time both of us were carrying some additional hardware.  At the awards banquet the previous night for the Homecoming Virtual Car Show Elayne received a first place plaque for the decade of the ’60s for her 1964 convertible and Jim got one for for the decade of the ’80s for his 1988 Mark VII.  Who could have guessed it?

The driving distance between Kalamazoo and the monuments is nearly 1100 miles.  Sunday’s leg turned into a marathon of more than 700 miles.  We knew we had to make tracks covering as much distance as possible on Sunday so on Monday we would reach both locations by midday to give us ample time to enjoy these attractions.

 We learned a lot during our odyssey and one of our new facts was what the locals call the summer season out in the Heartland of America. On the West Coast we know summer is a time of little or no rain and warm temperatures. But in the Midwest they call it “barrel season” and for good reason. In the winter it is typically too cold and nasty for major construction projects so they are packed into the warmer months.. Thus, barrels appear everywhere along major and minor roads in summer.

Construction barrels in the Heartland are everywhere in summer.

Our route took us around the south end of Lake Michigan where the I-94 merged into the I-90.  Fortunately, being Sunday and relatively early we hit the Chicago area at a time of low traffic, unlike the outbound leg where we passed south of the city in the middle of rush hour on Wednesday and encountered some ugly delays.

We could be forgiven if we didn’t always know exactly where we were…

This stretch was supposed to be a tollway and we tried doing the right thing both on the eastbound and westbound legs.  There was no way to pay cash and Jim established an online account but kept seeing his balance at $0. Maybe the account is billed monthly. We still haven’t figured this one out.

 I-90 turned northward as it swung around the west side of Lake Michigan and before long  the great city of Chicago arose straight ahead and then ultimately to our right. 

For us California folk it was directly comparable to heading up the Harbor Freeway toward Pasadena and coming up on the city of Los Angeles off to the right. 

Chicago’s tall buildings sped by at freeway speeds and I still marvel at the ability of the cell phone’s camera to stop the action and capture this moment in time. A white Lincoln MKX in front of us showed us the way through town.

 It is about 168 miles from Chicago to the Wisconsin border and the nominal driving time is about 3 and a 1/2 hours. Wisconsin with it’s abundant waters and woods is a popular playground for the Illinois urban areas so I-90  is often crowded on weekends. We hit some slowing on our side but a major traffic jam in the southbound lanes. Ultimately, we discovered an accident causing the problem and a lookyloo slowdown in our lanes.  Getting past that we finally hit clear sailing.

 After a fast food lunch in Rockford Illinois we kept on moving. North of Chicago the road started veering northwest. We passed the Wisconsin border and at La Crosse crossed the mighty Mississippi River then headed straight toward Minnesota, where we crossed the state line about 1:45 p.m.

We passed some of the best and most beautiful farms in the world on this leg.

 The freeway hugged the border between Minnesota and Iowa and headed directly west over the next several hours. We exited for dinner in the small, but charming, little town of Austin, MN. and grabbed a bite at Kenny’s Oak Grill. Broasted chicken tasted mighty good, as tired and hungry as we were.

Homeward bound heading west in Minnesota.

Then we jumped back on the freeway for another 3 hours, before ultimately ending up in Sioux Falls. SD, exhausted,  but having accomplished our goal of getting within hailing distance of Mount Rushmore. Next: our one day as pure tourists.

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