In 2006 I spent a day driving through SD during MINI Takes the States. It was one of my favorite days ever. This trip didn’t disappoint. I drove through Deadwood on my way out of town and then took the Black Hills Parkway to Rapid City. From there it was a quick trip down the highway to Wall, SD.
You can’t drive through South Dakota without being enticed to visit Wall Drug, there are ads for it every hundred feet or so across the state!
Wall Drug is famous for offering free ice water. That’s how they began to draw people in and it’s only grown from there! I hadn’t had breakfast so I got a maple donut and a large coffee and sat in the Art Gallery Dining Room.
After breakfast, I did a little shopping and spent a lot of time just wandering around ogling the sights.
When I left Wall Drug, I drove to the Badlands. There was a little wait to get in and the Park Ranger was very enthusiastic about my car! I drove the Badlands Loop Road and stopped occasionally for photos.
The other thing I love about South Dakota is the 80 mph on their freeways! I saw one state trooper and he was busy and didn’t seem to notice when I blew past! It’s a good thing South Dakota doesn’t appear to care much about limiting speed because I had to drive across the state to get to my next stop. I stopped for a quick lunch and then set out for the Corn Palace.
It took hours to get to Mitchell, home of the Corn Palace. And it was pretty crowded so I had to park a block away and walk in. I read some corn facts and then did a little shopping.
That was my last stop so I hopped back on the freeway and motored down to Sioux Falls> Tomorrow is my final vacation day as I work my way back to Chicago. Sad that it’s going to end but planning to cram a couple more fun stops in before I get home.
Another day where I rose before the sun, only this time I had a massive drive planned. I was taking the long way so I could drive through Yellowstone. I wasn’t going to be able to see the Grand Prismatic Spring or Old Faithful, but I could swing past the West Thumb Geyser Basin. The route I planned was 534 miles so I didn’t plan on making a lot of stops.
The drive into Yellowstone was incredible, although there were large stretches that had been ravaged by forest fires which left ghostly tree skeletons.
I found the West Thumb Geyser Basin, which smelled awful! While I was there one of the geysers was erupting but just barely and there was so much smoke you couldn’t see it in my pictures.
After I stopped at the geysers, I tried to hustle out of the park. There were more buffalo crossing the street that held me up and I saw a sign for an overlook at a summit which lured me off track for a bit too.
After I left the park I realized I needed gas and I wanted to pick up a sandwich for my picnic lunch. I was passing through Cody and got redirected because their holiday parade was about to march through town. I pulled into a gas station and as I was filling up I met Sandy! She was admiring my car and we struck up a conversation. Turns out she’s from NW Indiana so we are practically neighbors! Also, she works in Chicago frequently. She was traveling with her daughter Maghan and her granddaughter Avery. We took some pictures and exchanged contact information so we can meet up for cocktails next time they visit Chicago!
After I left Cody, I ended up on the Bighorn Scenic Byway. It was a beautiful, twisty drive up the mountains and through Granite Pass.
Coming off the mountain was thrilling, very twisty with steep grades!
Tomorrow I am spending the entire day in South Dakota. I haven’t cemented all my plans but they will definitely involve free water at Wall Drug and a visit to the Corn Palace!
When I arrived in Jackson I dumped my bags in my room and then got back in the car to drive the Wilson Moose Road. It’s a road that runs from Wilson to Moose and Moose is inside the national park. I didn’t realize that many Californians, several residents of Washington state, and half of Utah would be staying in Jackson too. Traffic was worse than the beltway at 4 o’clock on a Friday before a three day weekend!
As I was inching my way along a guy in a giant pickup with Texas plates pulled up next to me. “Is that supposed to be blessings? Like sprinkles of blessings?” I wasn’t entirely sure what he meant but I said “Sparkles, because my car sparkles” which must not have been what he was looking for because he pulled away without comment.
I found the Wilson Moose road and it was super fun except a large stretch was gravel. I’m hoping that some of my annual park pass fees will help them pave more!
I drove to the store at Moose Junction and bought some water and a sandwich and then drove over to Mormon Row for a parking lot picnic.
The sun was setting but it was really cloudy so I decided to call it a night.
The next morning my insomnia paid off when I woke up before sunrise. I dressed quickly and drove back to Mormon Row. I got a couple of shots and then drove to the Oxbow Landing. That was worth the early wake because the lighting was perfect.
While I was there a woman stopped me to tell me she loved my car. She had seen me on Mormon Row. We talked about how beautiful the park was. She was Hawaiian and had a friend from Chicago cat sitting for her! I offered to fill in if her other Chicago friend can’t make it next time! She had just been to Glacier National Park which has suddenly moved to the top of my list of places to visit. She showed me her pics and WOW. Eventually, I moved on and stopped by the overlook at a lake for another pic.
AT that point, I realized I was getting VERY low on gas. I motored to the gas station in the park but it wasn’t opened yet. I decided to head back to Jackson and fill up and have some breakfast. I picked up some detergent from the front desk, took advantage of their laundry facilities and had a little nap. Afterwards I went back to Moose Junction for a sandwich and then drove to the top of Signal Mountain.
On my way up the mountain, I spotted a large deer looking animal. Although it seemed a lot larger than any deer I’ve ever seen before so maybe it was some sort of elk without antlers?
After lunch, I drove over to Jenny Lake. I took a wrong turn and ended up in a parking lot at the trail head. There was a park ranger there who stopped me because she wanted to ask about my car. She asked me if I could be in the 4th of July Parade in the park on Monday. I was crushed that I had to turn her down!
I headed back to the hotel to reorganize all my stuff before heading out tomorrow. Since I’d spent so much time sitting this week, I walked over to the town square for dinner and a little shopping. I stopped in the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar for a beer while I reconned the dinner options.
Tomorrow I drive to Deadwood by way of Yellowstone. After seeing the quality of the pics at sunrise, I’m going to try to hit the road right before the sun comes up!
When I awoke, there was chill in the air, but it was over 40 so I put the top down and popped over to Starbucks for a flat white to keep me warm on the inside. My first stop was Pike’s Peak. They opened at 7:30 and I timed my arrival so I’d be there soon after it opened. I stopped for a couple of pics on my way in and then ended up about 10 cars back in the line when they opened.
When I got my ticket they told me the construction at the summit was delayed because of weather and everyone was required to park at the Devil’s Playground and ride a shuttle up. I took the altitude sickness warnings so I stopped frequently to get out and take pics on the way up.
When I parked at the top, I was directed over to a parking area and then walked to the bus line. The busses were large school busses. The last time I rode in a school bus was when I was ziplining in Costa Rica and the bus ride was fun but riding an old, battered bus up the side of the mountain was as terrifying as the zip lines. Maybe I have an aversion to school busses?
When we got to the top there was construction everywhere. And mud. Tons of mud. I walked along the viewing platform and got a great selfie with a tiny snowman. There was a huge line for the donuts so I decided to ride back down.
The bus ride down was even more terrifying than the ride up. I had to close my eyes because the chatty driver was just zipping past the sheer drop offs like no big deal! When I got back to my car, I pulled out ahead of everybody else which was good and bad. I didn’t have to worry about them holding me up, but they also weren’t going to set a super slow pace or potentially break my fall!
When I finally made it down the mountain, I popped over to the Garden of the Gods. It wasn’t on my original itinerary, but Marc and Brian suggested that I stop by. They were right, it was glorious! Super crowded but glorious.
I decided to pick up some tacos at Jack in the Box before I started the drive to Steamboat Springs and then have a parking lot picnic somewhere on the way. I routed myself avoiding freeways which took me across the Ute Pass to the start of the Gold Belt Tour Scenic Byway.
After lunch I motored to Breckenridge.
Breckinridge was super crowded. There were mobs of people everywhere just shuffling down the sidewalks. I didn’t linger.My route took me through Silverthorne and it started raining. I had to put up my top because the aerodynamics don’t work on switchbacks but as soon as I crested that mountain it stopped and I put it back down.
I passed Keystone and then it was pretty much a straight shot (up and down mountains!) to Steamboat Springs. I dumped my bags went out for a sandwich and hustled back to my room to join the Tuesday night Twitch streams. Tomorrow is a long day of driving to Wyoming. Can’t wait to see the Tetons!
I woke up very early but Marc and Brain had suggested a couple of things to add to my itinerary so I rolled out by 7 am. My first destination was Council Grove, KS where I picked up the Flint Hills Scenic Byway. Sadly, I passed the perfect spot for a picture of the byway sign because I was sure there would be another and then the rain came so I couldn’t stop! I enjoyed the drive in spite of the rain. When I got to Cassoday, KS I routed myself towards Colorado Spring. I made great time and finally stopped for gas at the Wildlife Travel Center. I got there at the same time as an entire busload of Amish folk and the pumps were all taken by pickups. When I went inside to tour the wildlife, I discovered everyone in there was either wearing Amish outfits or very large cowboy hats. TBH it was more fun to watch than the wildlife!
Before I got back on the road, I opened up the Roadtrippers app to find any interesting spots along my route and hit the jackpot! A little town named Goodland had a giant Van Gogh exhibit of Sunflowers!
As I was making my way back to the interstate, I noticed a sign for the Sky and Land Scenic Byway. I pulled into a parking lot and discovered that along the route was Mt Sunflower, the highest point in Kansas. I decided that was well worth the trip because it would give me a sort of practice mountain before I got to Pike’s Peak. I took the byway from Goodland to Sharon Springs. I found the road to Mt Sunflower and was really surprised it wasn’t paved but I thought maybe it would be paved when I got closer to the actual mountain. That was wrong. It was never paved and it isn’t an actual mountain! It’s a 12 mile driveway that is apparently part of a working cattle ranch with a few pieces of metal art!
In spite of the dust, I had a great time posing for pictures until some cowboy pulled in. I left him to it and drove the 12 miles back to the main road.
From there it wasn’t far to the state line.
From the state line to Colorado was a couple of county roads and some of them seemed very rinky dink. The best roads were in El Paso county. Didn’t stop me from hauling ass though. When I finally made it to Colorado Springs I stopped at Costco for affordable gas, a car wash (obviously), and In and Out for dinner. Tomorrow I drive up Pike’s Peak which now that I can see it looks a little intimidating! Better get some rest now…
Since I bought my new MINI and the 2021 MINI Takes the State event was cancelled I decided to plan my own event. It was cloudy day as I pulled out of Chicago but it wasn’t raining so I put the top down and the radio up.
As I motored south, the clouds came and went and I drove through occasional showers. At one point I realized I’d have to stop for gas about half way and if it was raining when I pulled over I’d get soaked. Also, the gas stations were few and far between. Suddenly it was like a strange kind of game of chicken where I couldn’t stop unless it wasn’t raining but I was already running very low on gas.
I ended up making it to a Dodge’s that had definitely seen better days and was at least 5 miles off the freeway. At least it wasn’t raining and according to my MINI I had 24 miles left in that tank.
After I got back on the freeway, I hauled ass to Missouri.
I made GREAT time zipping through Missouri and soon I was in Kansas.
,I drove to my hotel to drop off my bags and text my KC MINI buddies to meet up for dinner and then SURPRISE they told me they were going to a little MINI event and I could join them if I wanted. Of course I was all “Heck yeah!”.
When I found the guys, they were parking MINIs in front of an amazing mural to create a MINI rainbow to celebrate Pride!
When the KC MINI Enthusiast club members found out I drove down from Chicago they insisted I join the rainbow, so of course I did!
After the MINI meetup Brian, Marc, and I hopped back in our cars and drove to their favorite BBQ joint, Jack Stacks. We ordered a cocktail and some burnt ends.
We had an amazing time catching up on everything that’s happened since the pandemic, it was just like the before times! While we were there, Marc and Brian toyed with the idea of visiting Chicago and staying in my guest room. They also gave me some tips about what to visit on my way to Colorado Springs. I’ve got some homework to do!
Afterwards, I returned to the hotel to listen to DJ Iamelectro’s Yacht Rock Sunday show while I plot my course for tomorrow’s adventures…
When I work up on Tuesday the sun had just crested the valley and the view from my balcony was amazing. I’d have stayed out there all day but I needed to find a tire and put in a full day of work! I started looking up tire shops so I could start calling as soon as they opened but before I even got started I got a call from Royal Tire. They were responding to my frantic online inquiry and called me as soon as they got there!
They told me the MINI tire size is unusual and they don’t carry it in stock. It would be a couple of days for them to order one in, but they just happened to have a used MINI tire in their back room and would sell it to me for $35 He started to tell me about the tire but I was shouting, “I’ll take it!” so he didn’t get very far!
Next I had to find a tow truck. Unfortunately, the phone number for the guy who towed me to the hotel didn’t work and the mailbox was full. Luckily I found another one and he told me he could make it in an hour.
I did a little work while I waited Because I had Zoom meetings all day and needed stable wifi, I went ahead and booked the hotel room for another night. I was using points and it was totally worth it to avoid having to try to do meetings from the lobby.
The tire shop called at noon when my car was ready and then I had to find a ride to pick it up. Diane had told me there were only 2 Lyft drivers in the area and apparently neither one was working. I called the front desk and they told me to call Griffin Transport.
Griffin Transport is a guy who lives in Boyne City. I think he operates out of his house and he just drives into town when someone calls him. It was a lot like Lyft except I paid him in cash and it cost a lot more.
My car was ready and they all appreciated how cute it was. I drove it back to the hotel and the front desk crew were just as excited as I was! I had a few more meetings to wrap up and then finally it was time to drive home.
I said goodbye to all my friends in the hotel and loaded up the MINI. Because it was after 5 and I had early morning meetings the next day I opted for the fastest route instead of the most inteesting.
The first half of the trip was backroads and those eventually turned into a freeway but I fell in behind some other cars from Illinois and we hauled ass. The temperature was perfect in the upper 60s and I had some fantastic playlists loaded up. I’m not usually a fan of freeway driving but it was really good to get home!
As soon as I woke up, I tried to find an open tire shop. Every tire shop in the area was closed for the Memorial Day holiday so I booked another night at the Holiday Inn. This time I was able to use my points which was not allowed on the first night because they were sold out. I went out to the front desk and explained that I had booked another room because I wanted to move out of the accessible room in case it was needed. I asked if I could just stay there until the new room was ready because I knew they’d been sold out. She told me I could have a late checkout at 1 but I couldn’t get the new room until three. So I went back and packed up. I ate the leftover half of yesterday’s sandwich and worked on my bullet journal a bit.
When it was time to leave I dropped all of my stuff off in the MINI and got a Lyft to the casino. I figured if I had to kill 2 hours that might be a fun place to do it. The Lyft driver, Diane, used to work at the casino. In fact she worked there for 18 years but when the pandemic hit, they laid off 100 people. Apparently, they pulled the names from a hat. Diane was very bitter and really who could blame her? She told me that she was one of two Lyft drivers in town and neither one of them would be working later but that the casino had a free shuttle that would drop me off at the hotel.
As I went in I noticed the sign said the shuttle started running at 5. It’s actually pretty hard to spend 4 hours in a casino and still have a home and a car! I got the players club card and she loaded $5 on it for me. I walked the circumference of the casino a few times and stopped and played random penny games. Penny games don’t actually exist. You have to bet on multiple lines and you can bet different amounts. The quarter slots were actually cheaper!
By the time five o’clock rolled around I was more than ready to go and down to six cents. I asked the security guard where I was supposed to go to catch the shuttle. He glared at me and said, “there is no shuttle.” I told him I was told there would be a shuttle. He barked into his walkie talkie “Maxie, have we got a shuttle tonight?” Maxie replied, “no.” He looked at me and said, “there is no shuttle.” I cheerily replied, “Thank you!” and walked over to the snack bar to try to find a ride.
I remembered the hotel had that limo parked outside my window so I called the front desk. They were delighted to hear from me and told me the limo would be around in about 10 minutes.
When I got back they had my key ready and the front desk guy from last night was there. He asked me if Brent had looked at my tire and I confessed that I hadn’t asked him. I told him the blowout was pretty severe and even if he could plug it I thought the tire was compromised. The limo driver came in to chat with us and suggested Belle Tire or Royal Tire might have tires and asked if I’d called them. I told him I had but everyone was closed today. We all sighed heavily and then I trundled up to my new room.
I ordered in a grinder, which was one of the best I’ve ever had TBH. I sat on the balcony admiring the view and enjoying my grinder and worrying about how I was going to work tomorrow, get a new tire, and find the time to drive home to Chicago.
In spite of the dreadful sensory overload and abundance of predators in the Wilderness Room, I slept like a baby. My car was nice and shiny after the car wash the night before so I loaded her up and headed out. When I got to the Mackinaw bridge I paid the toll for the minivan behind me in a futile attempt to earn some good karma. They sped up to wave and honk and seemed super appreciative, so that was worthwhile!
I jumped off the freeway and took some random back roads to get to M119 otherwise known as the Tunnel of Trees.
When I left the Tunnel of Trees I stopped to look for more sites of interest on my way to Ludington and settled on an urban farm that makes homemade jam.
The road got wider and the speed limit increased. I passed through a few towns and after I passed Petoskey I began hauling ass. There’s a chance I was doing 75 when I heard a loud explosion and my steering started pulling hard to the left. I pulled off and realized I’d just suffered a catastrophic blowout. I jumped out and my front drivers side tire was completely flat. Like so flat that not a breath of air remained in my “run flat” tire!
I don’t think you are supposed to run on a run flat that was that flat so I called AAA for a tow. She asked me where I was going to go so while we were talking I started looking for towns with tire shops in the area. Petoskey was the closest town even though I’d passed it about 10 miles back. While I waited for the tow truck I started calling tire shops. Since it was Sunday, none of them were open. I finally got ahold of the tire center in the Walmart but her news was not great. She didn’t have any tires that would fit my MINI and suggested I might have to wait for Belle Tires to open. Meanwhile the tow truck driver called and said he was only 5 minutes away (which was much sooner than the AAA lady had told me to expect)!
The lady at Walmart told me there was a Holiday Inn Express just down the road from Belle Tires so I panicked and booked a room there. When the tow truck driver showed up, it didn’t take him long to load up my car and I hopped in the cab for the ride to the hotel.
Along the way, the driver told me I couldn’t be stuck in a nicer town. He was worried I wouldn’t be able to see much of it so he offered to let me drive his car around while I was in town. He told me the hotel had a free limo service that could take me to the casino and suggested I spend some time there as well.
As we drove in to town we passed a couple of closed tire shops and a Hampton Inn where I could have stayed to work on cementing my 2022 status. The Holiday Inn Express is perched on top of a hill with a magnificent view and charming balconies and suddenly things didn’t seem so bad! I imagined having my morning coffee on the balcony overlooking the entire valley and couldn’t wait to get inside! The driver unhooked my MINI and told me to give him a call when I needed the tow to the tire shop.
When I entered the hotel I was told they’d been sold out the night before and I’d actually booked their last available room. She said she couldn’t do any early checkins and suggested I call a taxi and go somewhere else to wait. I said I could just sit on the patio until something became available and rolled my bags out there. While I was waiting I researched more tire shops, got my points back for the room in Luddington and found out my ferry ticket was non refundable. I waited about an hour and since it was a little chilly I decided to move into the lobby. They must not have liked that because it wasn’t long after that they found me a room!
The room turned out to be the accessible room, which always makes me feel bad because someone else might actually need it! Also, it was on the ground floor right with a view of the limo in the parking lot.
The room only had a broken easy chair and a desk chair so I sat on the bed. The next thing I knew, two hours had passed and I was feeling much more rested! I thought about going to the casino but I weighed that against the possible cost of my new tires and an extended stay at the Holiday Inn and decided to have Doordash bring me a sandwich instead!
I passed some time with my bullet journal and then even did a little work. The two truck driver called me up to make sure I was doing OK and see if I’d been lucky at the casino. He seemed disappointed that I hadn’t gone out. Not long after that the front desk called me. They said another guest had noticed my car had a flat and wanted to let me know, which was super sweet! I explained that was why I was here and I would probably be extending my stay until the tire shop opened up on Tuesday.
A little while later the front desk called again. He said he had asked around there was a maintenance guy named Brent who had plugged tires before. He told me to come to the front desk at 9am and ask for him, that he would take a look at my tire and see if he could plug it. I didn’t have the heart to tell him there was probably no way that was going to work on my run flat that had suffered a catastrophic failure!
Later when I went out to drop off my breakfast request, the front desk guy told me about a time he had a flat but didn’t know what to do so he gunned it and drove home anyway. He recommended the shop that had come out and fixed his tire for him, which sadly will also be closed until Tuesday.
I went back to my room and turned on Twitch to watch DJ Iamelectro’s Yacht Rock Sunday and cheer myself up! I mean if Yacht Rock can’t lift your spirits what can? Besides the fudge I’d purchased for the pod which also helped!
Day three of my vacation was less driving and more sightseeing! I got up early and headed to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The drive there was supposed to be the best scenic byway in Michigan, but the drive from Eagle Harbor to Copper Harbor was actually a lot more fun.
The hotel I stayed in had an underground garage and it seemed like it was going to be warm enough to put the top down. When I pulled out of the garage, I realized it was a lot colder outside! Usually I don’t put the top down if it is under 40, but it was 32 and stopping to put the top on felt like quitting so I just kept going.
Along the way I stopped at several overlooks and walked some short trails to get pictures of the lake.
Then I found the rocks and they were stunning.
My next destination was the National Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point. They are still enforcing a mask mandate, which has been hit and miss in most of the other places I’ve visited.
The museum had a lot of interesting exhibits, and a ton of stuff about the Edmund Fitzgerald.
When I left there, I headed up to Sault Saint Marie for lunch. They had a drive in that was supposed to have a view of the bridge to Canada and amazing hamburgers. Both are true, although I got there during peak time and the only spot open didn’t have a great view.
After lunch I headed south to St Ignace. The road was practically empty so I hit the fun button and hauled ass. My first stop was the car wash. Then I checked into the Bear Cove Inn. I’d booked the Wilderness Room and they weren’t lying!
I appreciate a theme, but even I thought they might have gone a little too far! Suspending a bird of prey over the bed was a bold choice!
I needed some dinner so I googled pasty shops in St Ignace. I found one down the street and while I was out I picked up some fudge for the Fudge Cam. I brought it all back to my room to eat while I got set up for the Saturday Night Dance Party.
The room is a lot to take in but at least it has a great view…