US Road Trip Day 4 – Highballs and Missed Reunions

For the first time since we started our road trip, we woke up early – well, eight o’clock was early by our standards. We stuffed some suspicious-looking muffins from the breakfast buffet into our pockets to eat on the road, but the coffee looked and smelled like tar, so thick you could stand a spoon up in it. We left it stewing on the burner for someone else to try.

My friend was on a mission to get to her hometown in Wisconsin because tonight was her high school reunion. I’ve never harboured a desire to show up at a high school reunion; I imagine it would turn out rather like ‘Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion’ without the rich guy flying me off in a helicopter at the end. Nonetheless, my friend had a dress all picked out and ready to go, so we hit the road a little after eight with my friend at the wheel and Sprocket sprawled lazily across me in the back seat.

The badlands diminished in size and then disappeared completely as we sped along the interstate and pretty soon there was nothing but flat fields spreading out on either side of us. When I think of a road trip across America, this is what I think of – vast open spaces with almost nothing as far as the eye can see. It is very grand, austerely beautiful and absolutely deadly to drive through, as the unchanging scenery and the arrow-straight highway hypnotizes the eyes. Only the occasional silo, gleaming silver under the relentless sunshine, broke the monotony and gave us cause for discussion.

US road trip America USA North Dakota

To keep ourselves awake, we switched on an audio book and were carried away into a fictional town filled with psychics and murder most foul. We stopped only to fill up the fuel tank and made good time to Fargo, where we dipped down south into Minnesota. This was Lake Country now and everything looked fresher and greener. Pretty little lakes of sparkling blue whipped by as we drove along 1-94.

us road trip usa america minnesota lake country district

I liked Minnesota; it had a sense of humour that was apparent from the road signs along the sides of the road, advising drivers to ‘Be Polite’ and ‘Be Kind.’ Sprocket approved too, rousing himself from my lap and gazing out the window at the passing towns.

us road trip usa america doggy dog sprocket car driving

I saw a sign for Brainerd and my thoughts flew instantly to Frances McDormand’s star turn as the Minnesotan police chief in the film Fargo. I couldn’t help myself, blurting out random lines like ‘the little guy was kinda funny-lookin’. My friend raised her eyebrows, then launched into a pitch-perfect Minnesota accent, so we switched off the audio book and chatted in dialect until our jaws ached from the effort and our sides ached from laughing at our silliness.

It took over four hours to cross Minnesota, at which point it was well past lunch time. After Minneapolis we started looking for a rest stop with a restaurant but the only signs we could see were for the usual fast food fare. “Well“, my friend said, “if we’re going to do fast food, let’s do it properly” so we pushed on through to Wisconsin in search of the fast food of her youth. Culver’s is a home-grown Wisconsin chain that fries just about everything in butter – I could feel my arteries harden just thinking about it, but the fries were heavenly and the frozen custard made us giddy with delight. Sprocket doesn’t normally eat people food, but on a road trip like this, rules don’t apply, so we got him his very own burger, minus the bun, and fed him bite-sized pieces to prolong his joy.

us road trip usa america driving car culvers fast food

Armed with our frozen custards, we got back into the car and set off once more along 1-94, cutting south-east across Wisconsin. Lushly forested hills rose and fell along the way,  and the sun hung low in the sky, finally setting in a haze of pink out the back window as we reached Wisconsin Dells.

us road trip wisconsin sunset usa america road trip

As twilight began to glimmer, my friend realised there was no way were were going to make it in time for her reunion, so she got on the phone and made arrangements to meet up with her friends the following day. We turned off the highway and travelled the last 75 miles along back roads in complete darkness. It was almost midnight when we pulled up outside the farm, where we were greeted by my friend’s parents with hugs and smiles as big as their hearts. Sprocket got to meet his country cousin, Paddy, a golden retriever with a simple, happy way about him, while we were ushered into the farmhouse and stuffed full of the most delicious food and plied with old-fashioned cocktails served in highball glasses. We chatted until the wee small hours and stumbled deliciously tired into bed and fell asleep almost immediately.

(continued here)


About ailsapm

Hi there! I’m Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney. I’ve lived in many places, and travelled to many more. I had a lot of fun getting there and being there, wherever there happened to be at the time. I climbed a castle wall in Czesky Krumlov, abseiled down cliffs to go caving in the west of Ireland, slept on the beach in Paros, got chased by a swarm of bees in Vourvourou (ok that wasn’t fun, but it was exciting), learned flower arranging in Tokyo, found myself in the middle of a riot in Seoul, learned to snowboard in Salzburg, got lost in a labyrinth in Budapest and had my ice cream stolen by a gull in Cornwall. And I’m just getting started. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far, I’d love you to follow my travelogue - - and remember, anyone who tries to tell you it’s a small world hasn’t tried to see it all.
This entry was posted in minnesota, North Dakota, Photography, Travel, United States, wisconsin and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

95 Responses to US Road Trip Day 4 – Highballs and Missed Reunions

  1. Can I ask what the frozen custard is? We don’t have them in the UK, is it just like ice cream?

    • ailsapm says:

      Hi globalgadaboutgirl, frozen custard is made with eggs in addition to the cream and sugar that regular ice cream has, so it has a thicker consistency. It was my first time trying it, and I liked it. A lot. 🙂

  2. megtraveling says:

    Reunion or not, this sounds like a fun trip! I like your movie references too 🙂

  3. Oh wow that sounds amazing! 🙂 Such a stark contrast between the yellow barrenness and the fresh green lakes too.

  4. magdalena36 says:

    The last picture is wonderful.
    regards magdalena

  5. Sounds like a fabulous way to miss a reunion. 🙂

  6. How comforting it is to arrive at the midnight hour and find there’s someone who left the light on!

  7. Penny says:

    Good story. Liked your description of driving across the flatlands. I would be a goner.

  8. Sounds like a great road trip.

  9. Áine Warren says:

    Sounds wonderful. I sometimes wish Ireland wasn’t separated from the rest of Europe by a sea, the UK, and then more sea – I’d love to be able to just get in a car and go on a long road trip.

    • ailsapm says:

      There’s always the ferry, Áine, but then of course you have to deal with driving on the other side of the road with the steering wheel on the wrong side! 🙂

      • Áine Warren says:

        Haha true! Not that I can actually drive (yet), I was hoping someone else could take that responsibility. I quite like the idea of a ferry trip and taking the channel tunnel over to France. Maybe someday!

        • ailsapm says:

          I did a road trip from Germany down through France into Spain and then back up through France, ferry to the UK and another ferry to Ireland.It was fun, but completely different to road tripping in the US – everything is so far apart here – at least in the western US – that it changes the whole feel of the trip! That settles it, you simply have to learn to drive, travel to the US and drive from coast to coast! 🙂

          • Áine Warren says:

            Sounds like a great trip! And yeah, from what I gather from people who have done similar trips in Europe via train, central Europe is quite densely populated, with vairly large cities quite close together. I’ll definitely have to do that sometime! 🙂

  10. love frozen custard, and hope you bought cheese 🙂

  11. Angelia Sims says:

    The sunset on the road photo with the lone cloud is stunning. Incredible shot. We drove from southeast Oklahoma to grandmas house in Pueblo, Colorado every year. Lots of good memories from our annual visits.

    • ailsapm says:

      I’m entirely addicted to road-tripping at this point, Angelia. Colorado is supposed to be amazing, I’ve never been, but I plan on it at some point!

  12. Katrin says:

    The ending made me cry! I guess it’s because it was my parents waiting to greet you and feed you! Miss them so much! Wonderful writing and gorgeous photographs. Sprocket is lucky to count you as a friend.

  13. This took me back to my childhood when we drove many times across many routes going from California to Connecticut! The middle part is indeed boring and I slept a lot. Loved the photos.

  14. Dieu says:

    The first photo is absolutely heavenly.

  15. Dip It Black says:

    Love the story haha.
    At the end you seemed to have a great time driving!
    Love the picture at the end!


  16. Sid Dunnebacke says:

    Interesting – all of my road trips throughout Michigan were similarly flat, but covered with forests rather than fields. Sprocket looks like a real charmer!

  17. writecrites says:

    You had me at “butter.” Seriously, I look forward to each episode, but I did miss the video this time 🙂

    • ailsapm says:

      Butter makes everything better, Jennifer. Nice to know my fledgling video efforts are appreciated – I haven’t managed to get footage every day, but there’s lots more to come! Yaay. 🙂

  18. I really like your writing! And that picture of Sprocket is so great. Have fun in Wisconsin. Just went up to Lake Pepin yesterday – there are some wineries and creameries worth checking out if you have time.

  19. Gunta says:

    Really enjoying your road trip… bringing back lots of memories. I’ve criss-crossed the country many times… been through all 48 states. I find that even the middle of the country tends to be much more interesting if you can avoid the interstates.

    • ailsapm says:

      That’s good advice, Gunta. Next time I’ll try that, although my friend was on a schedule so the interstate was the way to go this time! How fantastic that you’ve been to all 48 states. I’m on a mission now!

  20. Kate says:

    Frozen custard? America has EVERYTHING.

  21. melmannphoto says:

    Passing through the Plains toward the Great Lakes – reversing the pioneer travels. Now you know what Laura Ingalls Wilder saw as inspiration for her books. Well told – can’t wait to hear the conclusion.

    • ailsapm says:

      Thanks Mel, actually we passed through Wisconsin not far from where Laura was born – Pepin, just southeast of Minneapolis. I think they cut across South Dakota at that point – that would make for an interesting road trip too! Next time. 😉

  22. Smiled at your reference to the signs observed in Minnesota! And where did we have our last fast-food meal (when I dilly-dallied too long taking pics of the moonrise over Split Rock I posted recently about . . . ) — Culver’s! ~ Kat

  23. Babushka says:

    Hi! I saw that you liked a post of mine and came back here to check your space out to be so pleasantly surprised! I love travel too. I haven’t read this post yet, but am commenting here just to say that I look forward to visiting your space 🙂

  24. SwittersB says:

    Sprocket (how did that name come up?) shot is wonderful!!! Great photographer’s eye. Very nice.

    Gary (SwittersB)

    • ailsapm says:

      Thanks Gary! You know, I’m not sure where Sprocket got his name, but it suits him perfectly. He’s also very photogenic. 😉

  25. Matt says:

    This is the first time I’ve read your blog and I must say your photos are simply fantastic and the way you describe scenes is incredible. I’m really looking forward to your next post 🙂

    • ailsapm says:

      Wow, thanks Matt for the compliment, I’m very happy you found my site, Welcome aboard. Hope you join in the weekly travel themes at some point 🙂

  26. pommepal says:

    G’day Ailsa, another great day in road trip land, the photos are so good, love old Sprocket gazing out of the window. The film “Fargo” is one of my all time favourites. Sorry your friend missed the reunion but I’m sure she will make up for it when she catches up with every one the next day.
    Pleased to see there is a “to be continued” at the bottom, I look forward to your story.

  27. High school reunions – blah.
    Frozen custard – YAY!
    Love that sunset A LOT.

  28. Madoqua says:

    Australia has the bush tucker, but not the frozen custard! That sounds so delicious!

  29. elpnl020 says:

    Hi, thanks for liking my post!

    I took a road trip in the US once and my friend and i took a similar route (but in opposite direction) from the one your describing. We had the book roadside america as our companion along the way and i think you might enjoy that…. they also have a website:

    Enjoy your trip!


  30. Thanks for liking my post! I enjoyed reading your blog as well-you’re in my neck of woods (well, a bit north of it) with your latest one! Love Culvers’ frozen yogurt!

  31. Danger Daren says:

    I’m traveling in Europe right now, and I’m jealous of you on your road trip through my homeland! My dad was from Minnesota, and it’s been forever since I’ve been back there. Good on ya’!

  32. A Table in the Sun says:

    It was fun traveling along with you. I’m due for a good road trip.

  33. Sounds like a lovely trip! I have always allowed my dogs to eat people food on road trips too. In my twenties, I had a canine sidekick named Bismarck, who adored food. I used to buy him cheeseburgers at the drive-thru and pass them back to him, wrapper and all. At the next rest stop, I would toss the wrapper and the pickles, the only things left. 😉

  34. cxtan6 says:

    Sounds like a fun trip you had! Minnesota is one of the places that I have longed to visit. Really hope to drive there sometime this year.

  35. tms says:

    I especially like the first picture – for its minimalism.

  36. The Hook says:

    I LOVED the quiet desolation of that first pic…

  37. loved every snap – the quiet yellow of the first, the gleaming lakes of the second, the perfect timing and angle of sprocket shot (he’s a handsome dude!), the chocolate drink looks delicious and the last snap was breath taking! beautiful , each one!

  38. You sure covered the miles on this day’s drive! Lots of changing scenery…

  39. Keep covering those miles! They all add up to memories! Good ones as well as the other kind.

  40. CurtissAnn says:

    A number of things have given me enjoyment in my lifetime. A road trip rates in the top five. Enjoy! What memories you are making!

  41. vyvacious says:

    Ahhh, frozen custard! My favorite :)) Can’t wait for your next picture-filled post!

  42. I love Culver’s frozen custard! Unfortunately we don’t have them in our area, but every time we see them when we travel we stop if they’re open. Very nice photos, and I especially like the one with Sprocket looking out the window 🙂 It’s an interesting contrast to see the difference above and below the open window too.

    • ailsapm says:

      Thanks, Learning2Hear, I liked that shot too, it was kind of quirky. I probably should have used a polarizer to prevent blowout in the top part of the window, but I liked the contrast too. Oh, loved that frozen custard, I’d never had it before but it was delish! 🙂

  43. Kimberly says:

    Sprocket? Like the Fraggle Rock dog? Amazing. Saturday morning 20-minute-ads-for-toys AKA “cartoons” of the 80s. Life was good.

  44. sued51 says:

    Beautiful photos! You definitely take us along for the ride…well done…

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