Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Road Trip Report: Section 2

It's another beautiful day in Colorado with temps in the mid 40's and not a cloud in the sky. The weather for tomorrow is forecasting 3"-5" of fresh snow which should make for some nice fresh tracks and hopefully some more terrain open by this weekend.

So back to the trip. Yesterday covered a little over the first 1000 miles of the trip so we'll dive into more of the Midwest today. After dinner in Chicago we headed up to Rockford, IL to meet up with some old clients/friends of mine. I received a text from my friend telling me to meet at the SMSF Club and that I should know what it stood for. Naturally I start racking my brain at all the possible inside jokes and keep coming up blank. We finally roll up and the building only has windows in the front and they are all blacked out so you can't see in. Looking at the building, and knowing my friends, I was confident they had just directed me to meet them at a strip club. I call to make sure we are at the right place and he confirms. We walk in not sure what to expect, and it turns out to be a 'private club'. Now first reaction to 'private club' would be right in line with my assumptions too, but this turned out to just be a local bar that you had to be a member of to drink at or invite friends to drink at. Now I'm assuming you are thinking the same thing I was, why belong to a private bar? Well, it turns out it some sort of not for profit fraternity set up where members pay very minimal dues each year with huge rewards... all drinks are only $2. Yes, $2. And these aren't the skimpy tiny cups, these are regular size, very strong drinks. Without boring you with the details of the next few hours catching up with friends, I will just say that Laur ended up getting a good lesson in driving stick shift that night.
At some point at the SMSF Club, my friend recommended that we try out the laser maze in the morning before heading out of town. He had just had his sons 13th birthday party there and said it was a blast. And no, this is not laser tag. Picture any major heist movie where the thief has to navigate through a web of lasers in order to get to the jewel.
Yea that's a laser maze.

And if you are wondering, yes we were twice as old and twice as tall as any other person in line.

After the laser maze it was off to my aunt and uncle's house in Iowa. We decided to take a smaller highway on the way from Rockford to Iowa and we couldn't have made a decision. Here are just a few shots from the views we had along the drive.

Along the way I decided it would be cool to see the house I grew up in IA and luckily we made it there just before dark and managed to get some pictures of the house and drive around my old town. Now granted I was only 5 when I moved so my memory of Marshalltown is a little dusty, but a few things including the country club and some neighbors prompted some visual flashbacks. Here is a picture of the house, (no it was not that green when I lived there).

After visiting the house we figured it would be cool to check out main street and see what it was like considering I don't remember anything about it. We pull up to main street and it is all barricaded off and the streets are filled with people. With curiosity taking over, we decide to park and walk into the crowd. No more than 5 minutes walking down main street and suddenly a parade starts rolling by, complete with the high school football team (they were runner up's in the State Championship - which is a huge deal in IA). Apparently we had stumbled upon the 'Lighting of Courthouse Square" complete with vendors, parade, and of course the lighting of the tree in, you guessed it, courthouse square. Very random, and very cool, and made for a good night in Marshalltown.
We finally arrived at my aunt and uncle's and were welcomed to a delicious hot meal with warm cider. After eating junk for days straight, the meal couldn't have come at a better time or tasted any better. The night concluded playing a solid game of dominoes in front of the fire. (which I lost terribly, but learned some interesting new family rules).

The next morning after a hearty breakfast we hit the road for our longest single day of driving on the trip - over 600 miles with no real planned stops. The whiteboard yet again found itself getting a lot of use, and Laur's drawing skills seem to be improving.

We did manage to hit up a cool casino along the way:

Minnesota gave us a nice warm sunny welcome:

As did South Dakota:

The next few hours were pretty uneventful and we made it to Wall, SD that night.

That's all for now. Tomorrow will include some interesting stories from Wall, and the full report from Badlands National Park, which was probably one of the coolest things we did along the trip. But here is a sneak peak at what Badlands was like...

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