The Sunflower State

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!

This was a super interesting place with lots of taxidermied animals and cowboys!

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!

This is the most Kansas thing ever.

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!

Worth the trip for the photo opp!

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.

Colorado really is colorful, I love it!

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…

I really admire this guys commitment. He is clearly a fan!

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Seeking Higher Elevations on My Summer Vacation

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.

It was an early start but I wasn’t going to let my Pride hangover hold me back.

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.

The Show Me State

I made GREAT time zipping through Missouri and soon I was in Kansas.

The Sunflower State?

,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!

My people!

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!

Super grateful the KC MINI Enthusiasts let me crash their Pride party!

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.

Kansas City BBQ is delicious.

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…

Some super smooth yacht rock jams while I google the Garden of the Gods…

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All’s Well That Ends Well

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.

Sure it was used, but I’ve never loved a tire 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.

Goodbye home away from 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.

Over 6 hours unless you are hauling ass, in which case you can make it in less than 5 and a half.

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!

A summary of my Memorial Day weekend, which doesn’t include any of miles on the bed of the tow truck!
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Its Hard to Replace Tires on Holiday Weekends

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.

So much cancelling…

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!

Big wins in the penny parlor!

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 guess it was a small price to pay for hours of not sitting in the hotel lobby?

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.

The only thing missing was the champagne!

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.

This room def has a better view

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.

This view really is magnificent
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Everything Started Out So Well…

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!

Miss seeing all the MINIs on the Mack!

I jumped off the freeway and took some random back roads to get to M119 otherwise known as the Tunnel of Trees.

This is as fun as the road to Copper Harbor

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.

I considered turning around and driving through the tunnel again which would have been a huge mistake!

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!

Not much of a shoulder and traffic didn’t really slow down in spite of the fact that I was almost over the line!

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.

My poor MINI!

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.

Best tow I’ve ever had! Super nice guy!

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.

Not doing much to lift my spirits with this view!

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!

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Working My Way Towards the Wilderness Room

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.

Another early drive along the lakeshore

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.

Overlook of Lake Superior

Then I found the rocks and they were stunning.

The view from the overlook

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.

If you are going to have a mask mandate, this is the kind of sign you need!

The museum had a lot of interesting exhibits, and a ton of stuff about the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Very old fashioned dive suit! Hard to believe it even worked!

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.

That’s the bridge to Canada

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!

The room designer was not afraid to mix patterns.

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!

There’s a wolf pack on the shower curtain.

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.

Everywhere you look there are animals tucked away. But the pasty was fantastic!

The room is a lot to take in but at least it has a great view…

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SPRKL at Copper Harbor

I slept late because of the blackout blinds in my room so I missed the sunrise. That was just as well because it was only 36 when I pulled out of the hotel. I grabbed a coffee at the Kwik Stop and drove down to the lake for a glimpse of the shore. In Duluth, the lakefront is beautiful.

Duluth just barely after sunrise. OK a couple of hours after sunrise.

I didn’t linger because it was a five-hour drive to Copper Harbor and I was really cold away from my heated seat! I stopped in Ashland for a quick photo with a fish and then hit the road again. I didn’t stop again until I arrived in Michigan and by then I was low on gas and out of coffee. I took the 2 to the 28 to the 45 and the entire way the scenery was breathtaking.  

Crossing another state line.

As I headed north, I saw a sign advertising a place called the Jam Pot so I decided to turn off and find it to pick up some jelly for the pod. As I was walking out a lovely couple stopped me. They’d been tailing me off and on for hours and wanted to say how much they enjoyed spotting my car!

I found the Jam Pot, totally worth the stop!

The road was running along the coast and it was a delightful drive so when I left the Jam Pot I decided to stay on that road North instead. That was the right decision because it was very twisty with random breaks between the trees where Lake Superior would pop into view. It turned out to be my favorite part of the drive!

My goal was the find the Brockway Mountain Drive. I would have taken a picture but I was hauling ass and just happened to see it which resulted in a quick turn! I did notice it said “rough road” but TBH it was sort of a blur.

The word “rough” was a complete understatement. I’ll probably need an alignment when I get home, but it was completely deserted and so I hit the Fun Button and went screaming up the mountain. The view from the top is incredible.

The southern view from the West Bluff.

The top of the mountain is 726 feet above the lake and 1,328 feet above sea level. When you are up there you feel like it is the top of the world!

Coming down the other side of the mountain had a smoother road and better views.

I drove down the mountain and into Copper Harbor. The ride down was very steep but the road was much better and so were the views.

I love a byway!

I’d forgotten to stop for lunch earlier and thought I’d find a pasty in Copper Harbor but I found myself on the road south and it didn’t seem worth it to turn around. On my way to Marquette I passed the Snow-mometer and snapped a quick shot. Also, I had to slam on the brakes when an actual MOOSE crossed the road in front of me!

The Keweenaw Snow-mometer

It seemed to take forever to get to Marquette and since I missed lunch I decided to check in and have something “super yooper” delivered. The best I could do was a Slim Jim sandwich from Bob’s Big Boy. The girls at the front desk thought that was hysterical. Tomorrow I’ll be driving by the Painted Rocks on my way to the Shipwreck Museum. Better get some rest!

Why yes, SPRKL, I would love a break! Thank you for asking!
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Getting SPRKL on the UP

The past year has been a nightmare and now that I’m vaccinated and have personal time to burn, it seemed like a perfect time for a road trip in my new MINI. Initially, I’d planned to drive to Greensboro and meet Bob there for a remote location of the Saturday Night Dance Party (with special guests, Mike and Jane). Sadly, two days before we were scheduled to leave, their daughter was diagnosed with Covid. Luckily, Gogo is doing well but Bob and I didn’t want to risk it. Bob backed out altogether and I scrambled to come up with an alternate plan.

I decided to take a trip around Lake Michigan by way of Minnesota. I set put the top down and the radio up and headed to the Wisconsin Dells right after work.

Off to a slow start!

By the time I made it to the freeway, traffic eased up substantially and I made the drive in a little over three hours!

The next morning I set out for Duluth. The first thing I did was ask Waze to avoid any freeways. Then I set a course for the Apple Blossom Scenic Byway. Along the way I saw a lot of typical Wisconsin sites.

You will only see these trucks in Wisconsin. Obviously.

I stopped for gas and bought an apple fritter to take with me to the Apple Blossom Scenic Byway. However, it was raining pretty hard so a picnic appeared to be out of the question.

I missed the blossoms by a week!

The road was fun to drive, very twisty, but the low clouds and rain meant there really wasn’t a view. It’s too bad because the Byway runs across the mountain tops that overlook the Mississippi river and the views are probably stunning when they aren’t experiencing torrential downpours!

When the Byway ended I hopped on the great river road and hauled ass along the river. In Winona I crossed the Mississippi again and continued to drive north next to the river but on the Wisconsin side.

A view of the Mississippi from Minnesota.
A view of the Mississippi from Wisconsin

Along the way, I drove through nearly constant downpours.

It was wet. Cold and wet. I did not pack appropriately.

Finally, I took a “shortcut” on a different scenic route. There was no traffic and it was very rural, so I switched to sport mode and fired up the Fun Button!

I decided not to take their “advice” but it was sweet of them to offer!

Afterwards I continued north to Duluth. Although I’m using this weekend to drive around Lake Michigan, I thought it would be fun to catch a glimpse of Lake Superior on my way. Thanks to the nice clerk at the Tru by Hilton Duluth, I can see it from here!

Keeping an eye on my car AND the lake!
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Hello Blog, It’s Been a While…

Hola! I didn’t realized until I logged on today just how long it has been since I’ve blogged an adventure! Turns out when I travel with people or to visit people I am not very good at keeping up… This year I am heading back out for a solo adventure so I thought I’d ease back into the blogging with a preview of my Thanksgiving travel.

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Delta had a fare sale and I had global upgrades so I decided to go to Spain! My friend Courtney spent a few weeks in Spain last summer and she reviewed my plans and made a few recommendations!

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My trip begins in Barcelona

On my first day I will take it easy and stroll around the city and through a market. I don’t believe in jet lag but I also don’t speak Catalan so why not cram most of the fun into the second day? On the second day I plan to see as much of Barcelona as I can squeeze in! I’m most excited to see the Sagrada Familia and the Flamenco show, but Courtney made it sound like La Boqueria is Insta heaven so I’m looking forward to that as well.

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The second part of my visit is on the coast and in Madrid

I thought it might be fun to take a train down the coast and see more of the countryside. I’ll ride down to Alicante and spend a night on the coast before I head over to Madrid. When I get there I plan to visit the Christmas market and check out some churches and museums.

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The final leg of my journey is back in Barcelona. I’m taking a Paella making class, touring another Christmas market, and hopefully visiting Park Guell

To prepare for my journey, I’m trying to refresh my high school Spanish and reading about the history of Spain. So if you need me in the next few weeks, I’ll be curled up on my couch with my copies of Spanish for Dummies and Spain: A History. Hasta Pronto!

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Minneapolis to Bismarck

One of the reasons I was so excited about this trip is because I only had three states left to visit and both North Dakota and Idaho were on my way to Portland. Cynthia and Robert took a little longer to get ready so I went over to Target to wait for them and pick up some washer fluid. We got some coffee while we were there and then left Minneapolis.


Pit stop!

Robert is a terrific co-pilot (when he’s not practicing his driving) and he was scanning Roadtrippers for interesting stops along our route. I’d already mentioned the giant otter so we started with that one.

Otto the Big Otter is in a park not far from the freeway. Also in the park are more geese than I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

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Hitchcock would have loved this park

There’s a really cool tree in the lake that also had a TON of creepy birds. Seriously, there was geese poop everywhere! We walked over to the otter to snap some pics and found an amazing woman doing yoga on top of the giant otter.


Side crane pose?

We decided that the geese might be problematic in terms of our picnic and decided to head to another Fergus Falls park which was supposed to have a giant Canadian goose statue. TBH that one was a big let down, especially after seeing Otto. But it was a lovely place for a picnic!



Picnic in the park!

Our next stop was Fargo.


Forty eight down, two to go!

Fargo is famous for its woodchipper. Well, I’m sure they are famous for more, but that’s the first thing that comes to MY mind. The Cynthia found out the woodchipper is in the visitor’s center and that you could borrow hats to pose for pictures. Not only that, but the staff there are super helpful and happy to take your picture for you!


The woodchipper!

They also gave us a very handy brochure “9 Places to Visit in North Dakota Along Interstate 94”. We jumped back in our cars and headed to Jamestown to see the largest buffalo in the world.


This attraction did not disappoint

Cynthia and I had a lot of fun with the big buffalo!

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Pucker up!

And the stage coach…


Taking the stagecoach for a little spin.

I love North Dakota!

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