Monday, April 25, 2016


Mostly we've enjoyed the flexibility of planning as we go from day-to-day, but sometimes it means making detours and backtracking. We started heading off toward Nebraska, but then realized (again) that the attraction we wanted to go see, the Agate Fossil Site, was also closed until May. So instead we backtracked to Des Moines, Iowa. And went downtown for a walk along the river, did some necessary shopping in the chic East Village.

We have traveled 6711 mi / 10800 km so far.

Ah, wonderful weather at that time.

Nice views of the downtown.

I had never seen an outdoor ice rink sans ice.

Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge in the background.

On the bridge.

A railroad track re-purposed as a pedestrian walkway.

The hipster East Village with a view of the Capital.

The next day we took a spin through the artsy district and visited the historic Governor's mansion.

Went to visit the Western Gateway Park, also known as the "Pappajohn" sculpture park. Many creepy modern pieces in this park. 

This one was interesting.

Crafty anime girl.

Terrace Hill is the home of the current Iowa governor. Their family lives on the third floor, but tours are given of the first two floors. A total of 18,000 square feet. 

(Back of the mansion). Photos weren't allowed inside, but it had some nice wooden archways, stained glass windows, etc. The governor wasn't in that day, but he does have an office on the second floor. 

We also took a detour to see the covered Bridges of Madison County. Inspired by that one movie that I didn't watch...

All of the bridges looked very similar and were sadly covered in graffiti on the inside. They certainly must have painted them for the movie. 

Some of the bridges you could even drive through, but not us. The RV was too chubby to fit through. 

The RV wishing it could see the other side of the bridge.

Saturday, April 23, 2016


We arrived in the Twin Cities and immediately realized that the attraction that we were supposed to visit, Fort Snelling, was not open until May. Sigh. It seems like post-May seems to be a better time to visit the northern states, since it appears to be very sleepy until then. Nevertheless, we took to exploring the cities.

We have driven 6196 mi / 9971 km so far.

Downtown St. Paul with its many sky walkways.

Also downtown St. Paul in a park near the CHS baseball field.

The impressive Cathedral of Saint Paul, which is a replica of St. Peter's in Rome. 

Me looking quite small in front of the cathedral.

Beautiful interior. 

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. It was under renovation, so the Spoonbridge and Cherry was the only one on exhibit.

Obligatory silly perspective photos.

Mall of 'Merica!

An entire amusement park in the middle of the mall. Complete with several roller coasters, a log ride, and mini golf course.
One of the most unique things we've done so far on the trip was playing around with heavy construction equipment at Extreme Sandbox! We each got to independently operate our own 19 ton excavators and do things like dig holes, roll around, complete an obstacle course, and pick up and swing around a car. Marc took to it very quickly, but I ended up doing things like scooping a large bucket full of dirt out of a hole and then forgetting what I was doing and immediately dumping that scoop back into that same hole I was digging. I guess I'll stick to psychology :)


Me still trying to figure out what I'm doing.

Fashionable construction workers.

From Marc's cabin.

The hole he dug.

Marc lifting and swiveling around a car.

Before we left we also visited the James J. Hill House:
An impressively large mansion for the railroad magnate at 36,000 square feet. 

Obviously one needs a pipe organ to entertain guests in your fine art gallery,

The dark woods, intricate carvings, and low lighting made it more beautifully creepy than this picture conveys. 

Quite a small master bedroom, as per the style of the time.

A very lavish dining room.

Marc was most interested in the basement furnace and heating system. At the time it was coal and there was a servant whose full time job was to scoop coal down here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Arriving in Wisconsin, we made a brief stop in its capital, Madison, to go on a guided tour of its state capitol.

East Washington Avenue, with the capitol in the background.

Our tour group.

Office of the Governor. Wisconsin's state capitol adopted a very open-door policy: anybody can walk up to the Governor's office, and he/she will discuss with you about the problem that concerns you (provided that he/she is not too busy).

Touching the nose of this badger (the state's animal) brings good luck.

Supreme Court.

Senate Chamber.

We camped in Spring Green which is about 1 hour away from Madison to visit the former house of American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, which he called the Taliesin studio. Being one of the greatest architects, I guess we expected better, but the house did not impress us (Lauren was particularly disappointed). For example he had the peculiarity of liking to have really low ceilings (as low as 5'11" / 180 cm in one spot—my head touched them!) to "make the guest want to move along and go to a spot with higher ceilings."

Frank Lloyd Wright liked to have some trees close to walls, but did not think (or care?) the tree's growth would eventually push the wall. Or perhaps it was intentional given his idea that his house was just a place for testing ideas and not meant to be permanent.

Next night, we camped near a French-sounding village named Trempealeau located along the Mississippi, and went on a short hike in the morning.

Except 1 other camper, the campground was practically empty. We chose the best spot near the water. This was also our first night "dry camping", ie. without water or electrical hookups, so we used our batteries and fresh water tank.

Hiking in Perrot State Park with the Mississippi in the background. The other side of the river is Minnesota.

View from the peak of Perrot State Park.

We continued driving north on highway 35 (part of the Great River Road) and stopped in Buena Vista Park in Alma, which has another great view of the Mississippi river:

Again, continuing north we stopped in Little House Wayside, a replica of the house described in one of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books. The house was erected on the plot where she was born:

By now we have driven 5953 miles 9580 km:

Next stop: Minnesota!