From Tennessee to Alaska

497– The Second Leg

Day two.  I was on a road trip that was taking me through an expanse of land measuring the distance of the United States from one coast to the other– twice.  And I was on day two.

S and I began driving away from Madison, Wisconsin at 10:15AM on May 28, 2012, heading to Mitchell, South Dakota.  It was a 497 mile journey that Google Maps says should take a person 8 hours and 21 minutes to drive.  Why doesn’t Google factor in other things like a human’s need to eat and then expend that waste?  Or trailers being tossed about in the wind, slowing the driver down that is towing it?  Or puppies?  Why are we not in that era of figuring true travel times yet?  People own phones that have artificial intelligence in them but I can’t factor in reality to my travel times on Google maps?  Oh well, maybe someday…

Second Leg of trip

Our time in Madison had been interesting, but I was excited to get back on the road and knock another few miles off the trip.  S and I had been focused on so many other things for so long and had not paid any attention to one another really, that when Callie fell asleep the night before, we took the opportunity to be intimate.  Doing so with a child in the room may be mentally damaging for the child, doing so with a puppy in the room may be mentally damaging for its owners.  Especially when the puppy wakes up and starts crying that loud, ear-piercing cry that only puppies can do and then starts licking your foot that’s hanging off the bed.  The morning of May 28, S and I attempted to finish getting ready and pack before Callie woke up.  She woke up as we were packing and wanted to jump off the bed, which was about 2 1/2 feet tall.  I  kept helping her down and then she’d want back up and this went on for a few minutes before S said, “Just let her jump down herself, she’ll be fine.”  I thought it was too high and she would get hurt, but he insisted so we could finish getting things together and leave.  A minute later…Callie jumped off the bed and landed on her front right leg the wrong way, laid down on the ground crying like she’d just been hit by a car.  Me, a new “mom,” was horrified and thought she was instantly going to die.  S, a rational puppy owner, ran over, calmed her down, squeezed her leg from top to paw without a squeak from Callie.  She limped a little but fell asleep quickly in the car and it never bothered her again.  After that, I couldn’t imagine how my mom felt when she heard me screaming my head off after slamming my head (with a helmet on) into a curb and fracturing my arm after a bike crash when I was 10.  I think I’ll just have to make my kids live in a bubble when I have them.

Driving through the rest of Wisconsin, I considered the drive the day prior.  In Michigan, S and I were able to go 70-75mph and I felt like we were making really good time.  When we hit the toll roads in Indiana, half of it was 55mph and many parts of it were 35-45mph.  It was extremely irritating to PAY to be on a road we had to drive much slower on.  As soon as S and I got off the toll road, the speed limit on I-90W was 65mph.

Having to pay attention because I was driving made me see the beautiful sights in Wisconsin…as well as so many other places.  As a child, I was a passenger on 7 round trip cross country road trips from Beale AFB, CA to Somerset, KY.  My mom always drove with no assistance and changed the route each year (there are 3 different routes to take).  However, I either was sleeping or reading on all of those trips, so I was definitely getting the full experience for the first time during this road trip.  I was pleasantly surprised by some rock formations in Wisconsin as well as many lakes I didn’t think would be there.  We crossed the border into Minnesota at 1:22PM and it reminded me SO much of Kentucky.  I kind of started to miss home and family looking at the rock that had been blown away to make the highway and you could see all the layers and history of the land.  I’m sure the foliage was different, but there was a similarity that made me think of listening to the locusts’ buzzing on a hot Kentucky day.

The speed limit as soon as we crossed the Wisconsin border went up to 70mph (hadn’t had that since Michigan) and I was hoping we would go back to making good time.  Unfortunately, the rolling hills from southeast Minnesota didn’t last for long and S and I found ourselves driving through the plains, with strong winds blowing the U-Haul trailer he was towing back and forth.  He could absolutely not go any faster than 70mph and usually didn’t even make it up to that.  However, as soon as I began to get irritated with how slow we going, we passed Rochester, Minnesota and began seeing electrical wind farms.  I know there is a lot of controversy surrounding these, but I find them fascinating.  It is always in the middle of nowhere that you run upon these seemingly-futuristic “farms” and it always makes me feel like I’m on another planet.  Could you imagine Gus and Woodrow (from “Lonesome Dove”) herding their cattle up to Montana running into such a thing as a wind farm?

May 28 in Minnesota was 80 degrees (Fahrenheit) and sunny with beautiful, puffy, white clouds floating through an incredibly blue sky…all covering LOTS of flat land.  Yes, “find the beauty in everything.”  The plains ARE beautiful, however there is definitely a reason they are called the ‘plains.’  If you would like to argue language, we may, but it’s something I have to point out.  After a few hours in Minnesota, I did begin to yearn for the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range on the West Coast that we would be able to see on our way to Seattle, WA.  I am, and always have been, a mountain girl at heart.  I do find the beauty in Minnesota, but it is not something I yearn for.

As S and I drove into South Dakota and the wind became even worse against our vehicles, I wondered if it was always like that or if it was a seasonal thing?  No matter for me though, because we were in Mitchell and I would finally get to sleep again.  The next day would be a short drive to Rapid City and I would get to experience another first in my relationship with S– seeing Mount Rushmore!

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434– The First Leg

Whenever there is some new change in my life about to happen, it seems daunting.  When I take a long trip, sometimes it’s hard for me to believe I’m actually going to make it to the end.  As my husband will tell you, I’m slightly a pessimist at heart.  I just call myself a ‘realist.’  Regardless, the journey ahead of us upon leaving Clio, Michigan seemed almost impossible– until I got on the road.  That first turn of the wheels is always the hardest, I guess.  Whenever I thought I couldn’t make it, I always started thinking about those adventurers– Lewis and Clark, Amelia Earhart, Alexander the Great, etc– who walked or flew or rode horseback through their adventures.  I was embarking on a journey thousands of others have accomplished, on a road of asphalt, and in a luxury SUV– it wouldn’t be nearly as difficult as those early adventures.

Especially with these two

Route from Clio – Madison

Our first day of driving would come out to be about 434 miles (698.5km) and end in Madison, Wisconsin.  We started in Clio going I-69S, speeding away from a thunderstorm that looked like the start of Dorothy’s tornado in The Wizard of Oz.  S and I had discussed extensively about our rest stops because I have a tendency to guzzle my beverages and need to use the restroom every 10-20 minutes.  We were both really concerned about this because it definitely would put a damper on our travel time management.  Fortunately, I didn’t have anything to worry about.  I kept track of how much I drank and Callie took care of the rest– we had to stop about every 2-4 hours for her so it worked out great for me.

How can you turn these baby blues down?

Our first rest stop was at the Indiana Welcome Center.  It was HOT!  The temperature was around 95 degrees Fahrenheit, with humidity, and found out Callie hated high temperatures just as much as she hated the cool mornings in Michigan.  We also had to remember she was only 9 weeks old and hadn’t really had a chance to learn how to deal with different types of weather.

We stopped at a Panera Bread for lunch and quickly realized having Callie was going to make eating more of a process.  Even though we hadn’t thought it through for this first stop, we were fortunate because the Panera Bread was right next door to a funeral home that was closed on Sundays.  Behind the funeral home was a large grassy area with a big pine tree and we had ourselves a little picnic, let Callie eat, and tried to get her to play even though she was obviously not enjoying the heat.  Before leaving, I looked up pet-friendly hotels in Madison and made a reservation at Holiday Inn Express Madison for around $110 ($20 for pet fee).  This was the first and last comfortable bed and nice hotel we would get to stay in during our trip.

Just before Chicago, we saw we should have taken I-294 after Gary, Indiana (instead of staying on 94), and then 88E to 39N to bypass Chicago and Indiana’s multitude of toll roads.  I usually don’t mind toll roads so much, but there were so many of them and if we exited the highway for a rest stop, we had to pay when we got back on.  Also, although there were many that were manned, there were a few that were just to drop coins in.  Well, after the 7th toll, I didn’t have any coins.  I’m pretty sure S and I are wanted in Indiana due to toll violations.

I need to go potty, please

Callie turned out to be a wonderful travel dog.  She would just sleep for hours and then wake up and look like the picture to the right and we would stop and let her go to the bathroom.  She didn’t have an accident in either vehicle the entire trip.  It was definitely an interesting way to housebreak her as well.  It was good planning on our part that we started the trip immediately upon getting her, because she grew quite fast and we had to carry her from the hotel room to the grass outside whenever she needed to go to the bathroom, so it was nice she was kind of small during the trip.  I couldn’t imagine having to do that now– we would just have had a lot of accidents to clean up in the hotel hallways.  We did learn rather quickly to ask for a room on the first floor near an outside door when we made our reservations though.

Next– Wisconsin!  There were some beautiful stretches of road…(and I didn’t see ANY cheese!)

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On the road again…

After so many “Goodbye’s,” packing our whole apartment up ourselves, and just dealing with the physical and mental stress of moving to the other side of the country (plus some), S and I were looking forward to getting to Michigan to have some stabilization time with his family.  We had these grand ideas it was going to be relaxing and peaceful and…well, like a trip to the spa for a week before our arduous journey to Alaska.

Ah yes…Michigan (in my dreams)

Little did we know we’d be dealing with this creature at 3AM…

Remind you of anything?

I quickly came to realize puppies are absolutely adorable– when you can pick them up and kiss them and watch them fall asleep and then get to walk away (like grandchildren).  Puppies are absolutely nightmarish when you own one and have to get up in the middle of the night to let them outside.  Or when you have to get up at 5AM and they want to play and you’re only allowed to have them outside or in the garage and your puppy is a priss about wet grass and chilly weather…okay, sorry.  I could ramble on forever about that.  What happened was, being in Michigan was not a week-long relaxing stop on our way to Alaska, it was an introduction into the world of being an adult and having another entity completely rely on you for everything.

Well, for some of us at least

At some points during that week, I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to be going to Alaska because I didn’t know if my husband would want me around anymore.  We were barely getting any sleep, we didn’t know how to schedule for who would get up at 3AM with so-called “puppy” (I think “monster” would be a better descriptor at that point in her life), and this was weighing on our normal ability to be kind and loving to one another.  Fortunately, we were still able to communicate and were rational enough to know what was going on and just stuck it out until we could get some sleep.  Unfortunately, sleeping well wasn’t really on the schedule for another 3 weeks.

All three of us did end up getting on the road on Sunday, May 27, 2012 (which also happens to be the birthday of the darling who brought S and I together– his beautiful niece).  I had my handy-dandy iPhone app, Pet Friendly Hotels, downloaded, Callie sleeping in the passenger seat, and my hot coffee ready to go.  I was ready for hotels, fast food, and one long road for the next two weeks.  I couldn’t believe I was about to drive 4,462 miles (7,181 km) all by myself.

What’s the longest drive you’ve ever made by yourself?

Note:  The Pet Friendly Hotels App is free and it was truly a life-saver.  I didn’t always make reservations through them, but it was really nice to know instantly which hotels in the area allowed animals instead of trying to find access to the internet and trudging through hotel sites and making phone calls.  I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone traveling with animals– no matter how far you’re traveling.

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