“I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future.”
After an overnight in the outskirts of Madison, Wisconsin and picking up our new addition Dan Reesman, whom we had last seen when he traveled with us early last year to Prague and Budapest, we did a quick outdoor workout in the morning and picked up some breakfast.
And I truly mean “pick up” as there’s no outdoor dining here if you’re worried about indoor transmission of COVID-19.
But at least you won’t get shot inside.
As for mask compliance, it seemed to be 50/50.
After breakfast in the parking lot, we drove through the surreal landscapes of Dells Winsconsin.
I use the word surreal because Dells is known for numerous theme parks and entertainment centers, including Noah’s Ark Water Park (claiming to be the country’ largest), Mt. Olympus Water Theme Park. Mirror Lake State Park, an upside building, a robot theme park…
Except most of the outdoor water parks (which were packed), Noah’s Ark and plenty others remain closed due to COVID-19.
For our group, we were just happy that Carr Valley Cheese was open for us.
…among other oddities.
We then headed onwards to cute town of La Crosse to briefly stretch our legs and stock up our fridge.
Then crossing the Mississippi River onwards into South Dakota, we headed for the 4 hour drive to Siuox Falls.
We reached the airport by 7pm where we picked up our last addition to the first part of the trip, South Dakotan local Brandon Bowar, whom we had last seen in Tanzania exactly one year ago.
We then finally got to cook our first meal of the trip (thanks to Brynn & Noeleen!), while setting up shop in the Sioux Falls KOA.
First homecooked group dinner!
And we finally take our full group photos!
Because we arrived at the park early this time, we also called in the local RV repairman George, to come by and tune up all our tank issues. He then went above and beyond to figure out that our tire pressures were low and our A/C unit was flipped in reverse (the parts that were supposed to suck in air was actually blowing it out).
This is freedom.
- At time of posting in Sioux Falls, it was 20 °C -
Humidity: 58% | Wind Speed: 8km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy
“But why think about that when all the golden lands ahead of you and all kinds of unforeseen events wait lurking to surprise you and make you glad you’re alive to see?”
After our first day on the road that was filled with more the energy of eager anticipation than pretty sights, we woke up to a crowded RV park at the KOA outside of Cuyahoga Falls.
After morning instant coffee on our RV stovetop, we drove out at 8am this morning for a 20 minute stroll to see Brandywine Falls inside Cuyahoga Valley National Forest.
Then after another pitstop at a local Panera’s and filling up on gas, we set off for a 5 hour drive across Indiana to Chicago.
Ohio’s mask game has been pretty robust as of late:
Despite a minor annoyance on the road where the rubber liner on the driver’s side ripped off like a streamer (which Road Bear’s customer service advised us to cut off with scissors), we finally reached Chicago by 4:45pm.
The goal was to meet up with my local close friend Norman, who had showed us around Chicago 5 years ago back in 2015:
2015: Norman second from the right.
He would not fail us today in 2020: Brotherhoods do last.
Even better, our monsooner guide Melissa Weinmann, whom we last saw when she led us around Vanuatu (and sadly had to cut her Peace Corps tour short due to COVID-19) also stopped in to shepherd us around her native Chicago. And by the way: HAPPY BIRTHDAY MELISSA!
Once getting into Chicago proper, we decided to leave the RV at my friend Norman’s high school parking lot so we didn’t have to navigate through the city’s narrower streets; both Melissa and Norman then drove us over in their respective vehicles for an early outdoor dinner/dunch at Mott St.
Due to COVID-19, there currently is a cap at 6 people for group dining in the state of Illinois, so we had to split our group into 2.
That didn’t stop us from eating the entire menu here:
Afterwards, we waited on a quickly moving line for Mario’s Italian Ices:
After stopping outside of Norman’s alma mater at UIC to quickly finish our desserts . . .
. . . we drove into downtown Chicago for the obligatory and gorgeous skyline shots from Museum Campus:
Gotta pee? Nature calling? No problem. Nothing’s stopping Brynn!
Then before dropping us off back at our RV, Norman took us into the underground tunnels of Lower Wacker as this was where they shot the infamous Batpod vs. Joker scene from The Dark Knight:
With that, we said our goodbyes to Norman and Melissa back at our RV at 8pm and continued onwards towards Madison, Wisconsin.
I’m familiar with this part of this journey: Norman had taken me on this route before back in April 2015 to attend a conference where I facilitated a workshop on none other than traveling.
I’m glad I stick to some habits.
So upon our arrival in the vicinity of Madison at 10:30pm, we settled in at the Madison KOA Holiday and met up with #6 of our crew who was already waiting for us: local Wisconsin-ite Daniel Reesman, whom we had last seen when he traveled with us early last year to Prague and Budapest.
Tomorrow we push forward into South Dakota!
- At time of posting in Madison, WI, it was 22 °C -
Humidity: 91% | Wind Speed: 13km/hr | Cloud Cover: scattered thunderstorms