Sunday, August 18, 2013

The World's Largest Truck Stop

This is where we were on Friday - just before leaving Iowa and entering Illinois - at the World's Largest Truck Stop!  It is huge - and there were lots and lots of things to buy and plenty of food choices.  Bathrooms were great and there were trucks galore out in the parking lot!

Fabulous displays of -------trucks!

I took a walk down memory lane with an Orange Julius!  Haven't had one of those since I can't remember when!

Look how happy and excited I am!

Just as we were leaving - I walked past the cash register where it said - in big letters up on the wall above the counter - "Nothing can surpass the joy of shopping with us." Wow, can you believe it?  I felt kind of bad that I actually hadn't made a purchase except the Julius and some peanuts - hmmm even that made me feel pretty happy. I don't know what the rest of you are going to do because getting out here to Iowa takes a pretty long time.

The only bad part of this stop was getting out of the parking lot - easy to get in, HARD to get out!

Here we are waiting and waiting in a long line of cars:

George wasn't feeling the joy!

Finally we crossed the mighty Mississippi River!

We were in Illinois!

We have just finished two wonderful days visiting with George's sister Grace and her husband Jim as well as their children and grandchildren.  What great hosts they are!  We ate and ate lots of good food, talked and talked late into the night, and thoroughly enjoyed being around such lovely relatives.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Yesterday the Rockies - Today the Country's Best Rest Stop

First - for those of you who didn't believe we really stayed down the road from the state correction facility last night - I took a quick picture as we pulled out of the Comfort Inn on our way to a really great dinner.

But Honey Badger and her buddy George don't care!  We had a great night's sleep!

And today we traveled through Nebraska and part of Iowa and discovered the best rest stop in the country - so far.

Here it is - located just east of Council Bluffs, Iowa.  

And it features:

Beautiful flowers planted at the entrance....

Interesting sculptures

Lovely gardens and picnic tables in the back...

Cool designs on the floors...

Nice maps....
An entire row of vending machines that look like they work - don't laugh we don't carry any food with us and locating provisions, or at least a diet Coke when I'm sleepy and have to drive, is a big deal.

As well as really clean, nice bathrooms and murals on the walls AND

The State of Iowa Welcome Center!

I had really hoped to see some original Oregon Trail wagon ruts but the rest stop that advertised those was closed!  Bummer - but as we looked out at the landscape we consoled ourselves knowing that this is kind of what it looked like back in the day.  (you know, without the trucks and miles of corn)  And when we crossed the Platte River it looked exactly as the Oregon Trail diaries had described it - wide and shallow and muddy.

Tonight we are in Des Moines where it took forever to find our hotel and George agreed with me that he didn't much care for our navigator when it told us to take streets that weren't there, or streets that were alleys with mostly railroad tracks!

I wish I could say this is our hotel - but it's the State Capitol Building.  Pretty!  In fact Des Moines seems like a really nice town!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Top of the World

Today we took a drive over the Rockies - through Rocky Mountain National Park.  They call the Rockies the spine of North America because they extend from Alaska to Mexico - 2,700 miles!

We headed out at about 8 this morning.  It took about an hour and a half to reach the entrance to the park, but all of it was beautiful mountain driving.

At first we were traveling through the clouds and the day got grayer and grayer.

But as we neared the park, the skies turned blue!

We were delighted!  (George looks like he doesn't think he will fit into my picture, but really he's just frustrated with how long it takes me to do a "self" picture.  I keep accidentally pressing the wrong buttons.)

We climbed higher and higher through the beautiful forested mountains.

Boy was I happy that George was driving those hairpin curves!

Actually, I think he was happy that HE was driving those curves, too!

Finally we reached the Continental Divide - what a thrill!  Now all of the rivers are going the "wrong" way!

Higher still!  We reached the tree line - the place where it is too high for trees to grow - 11,400 feet above sea level.  This is now Alpine Tundra.

The Ridge Trail Road continued higher yet, until we were over 12,000 feet above sea level.  The road is the highest major highway in North America. It is aptly named - at one point I could look down on both sides of the car and see the land falling away.  No guard rails either!  And there were bikers riding the road - can you imagine what fabulous condition they were in to pedal up to 12,000 feet? - with cars driving by and no guard rails to protect you from a very long fall?

At the exit from the park I convinced George to stop at the Visitor's Center to check out the shopping.  Those of you who know George, know that shopping is not one of his favorite activities..

But the we would have missed out on this.....

and this!!!

There was also a little nature area where they had samples of some of the region's animals.

I loved the beaver.  In fact on the drive out of the park I thought I saw a small beaver dam and lodge.

This is a marmot - apparently quite common in the park - but we didn't see any.

and I had no idea there were badgers in the Rockies!

One thing that made me sad were the large stands of dead trees in many of the park forests.  The bark beetles are busy at work in our nation's forests killing conifers.  They are a natural pest that has been around for a long time.  Warmer winters and dryer conditions in the forests are making them more prevalent. I remember seeing their grim work in Glacier National Park a couple of years ago.

On our way down the mountains we had a long wait while the fire department came to put out a fire in a truck with a horse trailer that was just around a curve in the road.  Fortunately, the horses were fine, but the truck was really damaged.

This is the best picture I could get as we zoomed by.

We drove down out of the mountains and came to the rolling little hills of eastern Colorado - such a different landscape! We have entered the Midwest!

We found ourselves driving beside great fields of sunflowers...

and lots of corn!

We had a shorter day on the road - only about 300 miles, but what a great day!

Tonight we are in Sterling, Colorado at the Comfort Inn - just down the road from the state correctional facility - but I'm pretty sure we'll sleep well tonight!  As I sit here finishing up this post, we are experiencing a good old-fashioned Midwest thunder storm!  Lots of lightning, wind, rain, and rolling thunder! I was hoping for something like this!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Rainbow Over the Rockies

Today was another long day.  We stayed in Beaver, Utah last night.  Just a little town on I-15 with beautiful scenery all around - very refreshing.  This morning we left at about 7 and headed for Arches National Park.

We zoomed across central Utah at our usual 80 MPH since the speed limit here is 75.  In Nevada yesterday we even had some stretches of road with 80 MPH speed limits.  

We turned down the highway to Arches and started seeing amazing red rock formations even before we entered the park.

This enormous wall of red rock looks as though it were carved into figures many millennia ago and then eroded to the shape it's in now - even though it is all a natural formation.

Finally we entered the park.  The formations are just amazing!

This one reminded me of an Easter Island stone head,

This section is called Park Avenue


Here is one of many balancing rocks.

The formation on the left is called the three gossips

This one is called sheep rock.

Another balancing rock

And finally - an arch!  This is the most photographed one called delicate arch.  To get closer we needed to do a hike and it was hot - so we settled for the distant view - actually kind of disappointing.  This arch is on the Utah license plate and the park claims it is probably the most famous arch in the world.  Hmm I'm not convinced - but it is beautiful.

We left Arches and headed east for Colorado.  Here we are traveling beside the Colorado River.

This is the beginning of the Rocky Mountains!

Just look at that red hillside.  It's very clear how Colorado got its name - from the Spanish word for red.

We passed through Vail.  By this time we were wishing we had made reservations in Vail and not Silverthorne.  We were nearing 500 miles for the second day in a row.  That's a lot of sitting.  I told George tonight that my legs were going to atrophy!

It started to shower in the mountains - and we were fortunate enough to see a lovely rainbow! A magical ending to another magical day on the road!