Roadtripping Seattle to Minnesota

Rob and I just began at least two months of road tripping around the USA. Our first stop is Minnesota to meet up with Paul and Karen from Baker. Paul will be joining us for a week of canoeing around the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA).

Day 1: Seattle, WA to Superior, MT
We finally left town around noon after some last-minute errands. On I-90 east, we passed a whole military convoy with tanks and all with everyone in battle stations.

We passed a military convoy at battle stations driving I-90 East.

We passed a military convoy at battle stations driving I-90 East.

Our one time constraint was a frypan pick at GSI Outdoors in Spokane Valley by 5pm. We made it with 30 minutes to spare then continued on to MT. I was looking at the wrong directions so we ended up at a $6/night campground instead of the free one. A random local woman saw our headlamps and pulled over to see what was going on. I guess that place is used infrequently.

Day 2: Superior, MT to Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, WY
We passed a sign for Testicle Festival.in Clinton MT. Rob remembered that The Stranger was there and we found ridiculous pics of festival folks under Drunk of the Week. For lunch, we made an epic Costco sample run in Bozeman. We looked up Costco just before the exit for it.

After another bout of driving, we made it to Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area by 5 pm and attempted to camp in the Horseshoe Bend Campground. There were howling winds when we reached the campground, around 20-30 mph. We attempted to pitch the tent but it was collapsing in the strong winds, we didn’t think we would need to bring the mountaineering tent for summer camping!

Rob using the car to block the wind so we could enjoy some Montucky Cold Snacks and strawberries.

Rob using the car to block the wind so we could enjoy some Montucky Cold Snacks and strawberries.

As we tried to light the stove, the nice folks in the RV across the way took pity on us and invited us to use their microwave and join them for dinner. Turns out Charlie and Willy live nearby and had been staking out their RV spot all week for the Labor Day weekend. They also invited us to go out with them on the lake the next morning with them.

Day 3: Bighorn Canyon, WY to Devils Tower, WY
We began the day with an awesome boat ride with Willy, Charlie, their friend Bill and the camp host, Bob. They started opening beers at 10 AM because by then it is noon in New York. Unfortunately we didn’t see any animals or catch any fish, but we did finish off all the Deep Eddy lemon vodka we had.

Cruisin' on Bighorn Lake (MT/WY border) with Willy and Charlie.

Cruisin’ on Bighorn Lake (MT/WY border) with Willy and Charlie.

Bighorn Canyon View from the water.

Bighorn Canyon View from the water.

View of Bighorn Canyon from Devils Canyon Overlook

View of Bighorn Canyon from Devils Canyon Overlook

From Bighorn Canyon, we drove over the steep Pryor mountains and through the national forestland there. We passed a number of cars parked on the roadsides near pasture gates, but didn’t see any folks. From there, we rejoined I-90 and passed through Moorcroft, home of the West TX trail museum. This was the end point where the cattle were loaded onto train cars.

Camp that night was at Devils Tower (where Close Encounter of the Third Kind was filmed). Free firewood made Rob’s night since he had fire-envy as we drove into camp. The winds started to pick up right around bed time and I was afraid the large trees overhead would fall on us.

Day 4: Devils Tower, WY to Badlands National Park, SD
We toured Devils Tower in the morning and watched a bunch of climbers going up. It was really busy, we didn’t realize there would be so many tourists in the Wyoming/South Dakota area. The Native Americans in the area are petitioning to change the name to “Beer Lodge,” which had been mistranslated as “Bad Gods” and became Devils Tower. The creation legend involves the uplift of land saving kids from a bear.

Us at Devils Tower (East side)

Us at Devils Tower (East side)

Rob saw this awesome dead tree and knowing how I love dead tree pics, he took one.

Rob saw this awesome dead tree and knowing how I love dead tree pics, he took one.

Stopped by the Prairie Dog Village. It reminded Rob of Lubbock, TX.

Prairie Dog Village near Devils Tower. They're not shy at all. Apparently they also spread the plague.

Prairie Dog Village near Devils Tower. They’re not shy at all. Apparently they also spread the plague.

Continued heading east to Rapid City, SD, then south to Mt. Rushmore. We passed so many ridiculous tourist traps on the way – Independence Hall replica with Liberty Bell, Reptile world, black light mini golf, 2 level human maze, alpine slide with chair lift, Dances with Wolves set tours and more.

Mt. Rushmore was also busy as it was still Labor Day Weekend. Unfortunately we were too early for the illuminations ceremony which consists of a video about America and then the lighting of the memorial. Instead, we did the 0.5 mile (but 450 step) Presidential traverse and learned about the building process. No one died building Mt. Rushmore and the only person seriously injured jumped off a out of control tram car that was eventually stopped in time.

Amanda and Mt. Rushmore

Amanda and Mt. Rushmore

We made a brief road-side stop at Wall Drug: a ridiculous, but free tourist trap that got people to stop by advertising free ice water. Like Bucky’s, it had signs almost the entire way from Rapid City. We enjoyed the tacky kitschy strip mall, but failed to get our promised free ice water.

We finally made it to camp in the Sage Creek primitive Campground in Badlands National Park. It was a huge grassy field with bison nearby and coyotes howling (but hopefully less nearby).

Bison in the Sage Creek Campground

Bison in the Sage Creek Campground

Day 5: Badlands National Park, SD to Minneapolis, MN
We woke up at 6:30am and were out of camp by 6:50am. New record! We drove the overlook-dotted road toward the visitors centers. Overlook #2 featured a herd of Bighorn sheep blocking the road. A storm brought heavy rain partway through the drive; we tried to hike a short loop during a dry spell and ended up getting drenched. We arrived at the visitor center just in time to avoid another downpour. After seeing the amazing landscape, it’s pretty clear why folks called it “the land that is bad to cross.” The rock is really soft and erodes an inch a year so they’re always finding new fossils. After rain storms visitors often discover new ones; the park has a huge collection from a variety or prehistoric creatures. By the time we went through all the exhibits at the visitors’ center the storm had passed and the sun was out. We hiked the Window, Door and Notch trails (total of 2.5 miles) and got on the road to Minneapolis, an 8 hr drive plus a 1 hour time change.

Rob in Badlands National Park

Rob in Badlands National Park

View at the end of the Door Trail in Badlands National Park.

View at the end of the Door Trail in Badlands National Park.

Panorama in Badlands National Park

Panorama in Badlands National Park

Bighorn sheep blocking the road in Badlands National Park

Bighorn sheep blocking the road in Badlands National Park

Stopped at the Corn Palace in Mitchell to see the murals made with corn and other grains.

Corn Palace Mural inside the Mitchell Civic Center.

Corn Palace Mural inside the Mitchell Civic Center.

We arrived in Minneapolis around 9 pm and met up with Karen, a friend from college. For a nice change, we went out from some tasty burgers nearby. Finally, we had our first shower of the trip and also our first night on a real bed. Thanks Karen!

Final Day in Stockholm + Back in Seattle

Last Day 😦
Unfortunately it took us until noon to finish packing the tandem and the rest of baggage, but we finally made it to Skansen, the open-air folk museum. We spent the last afternoon learning how to make linen, felt and sap, visiting a collection of Scandinavian animals including European bison, grizzly bears and reindeer. Finally we caught the midnight train to the airport for a few Zzzs before our morning flight.

The furniture factory at Skansen. A informative stop. We sniffed a bunch of glue - fish and horse.

The furniture factory at Skansen.

Clothing hanging by a washing pond at Skansen.

Clothing hanging by a washing pond at Skansen.

Making felt from wool at Skansen. The mill wheel acts like a giant old-fashioned music box with protrusions on the turning wheel picking up and dropping the wood pounding blocks as it turns.

Making felt from wool at Skansen. The mill wheel acts like a giant old-fashioned music box with protrusions on the turning wheel picking up and dropping the wood pounding blocks as it turns.

Reindeer at Skansen.

Reindeer at Skansen.

Back in Seattle
Thanks Steffen+Audrey and Mike+Steph for letting us stay with them on our week and half back! Friends, it was great to see you guys! We don’t need to cook ribs for awhile now. :). We’re headed out on our roadtrip to New York and back.

A day off from biking and some truly flat riding on Gotland

Day 5
Today we needed to get as close to Oskarshamn (Oskar’s Harbor) as possible in order to pick up a rent car for our day off, but far enough away that we could camp. Partway through the route, we landed on a terrible gravel road – a seemingly endless expanse of dirt covered in a minefield of large but passable gravel that our skinny road tires bounced off and shot sideways. During this beautiful, but rocky section we despaired of covering any ground today. It finally ended and one flat tire later, we made it to the coastal town of Figeholm late in the afternoon with the wind whipping and under ominous gray clouds.

We stopped at the grocery store and Rob made the amazing purchase of a small package of bacon. Then, we followed the cycle route sign out of town. Quickly, I realized that we were no longer on the map cycle route, but we continued thinking it had just been rerouted. Maybe some new section had been built. Ten km down the road going the wrong direction, we gave up, backtracked and followed the old route, which looked like someone’s driveway at first. Exhausted after 107 km, we finally found a camp next to a lake not far from the highway. A German couple was also exploring it for camping, but it was too loud for them. We didn’t care. They gave us the brillant tip that a free tourist attraction of a preserved organic farm was just a km down the road with bathrooms dispensing hot water into sinks. YAY!!! Best sink shower ever. Also, OMG bacon appetizer followed by cheesy ramen. I thought Rob was crazy putting cheese is ramen, but it is so good.

On the crummy gravel road, we met a touring cyclist from Moscow, who was doing this without a good map. Considering how many navigation we had with gps enabled phones, I’m not sure how he was faring.

Day 6
Today, we got up at stupid o’clock to bike into Oskarshamn and pickup our rent car. After biking 20 km into town, we realize that the car rental place is incorrect in the Bing Maps data as we get our second flat tire of the trip. This must have been the first day of school because there was a parade of children and parents headed to schools around town as we fixed the flat.

The car rental location was finally located outside of town and turns out that it’s a Hertz/Skoda/Volvo dealer. Our rent car is a Volvo XC70 Euro diesel edition. We couldn’t believe it. It has all the bells and whistles. Rob has fun with the car-distance cruise control, land departure warnings and diesel engine.

We hit the road head to Glass Country visiting a few glassworks. Kosta, the big production facility, had a huge hot shop that you could wander around. Small teams of glass workers made a ton of identical pieces in a well-choreographed assembly line.

Kosta Glassblowing

Kosta Glassblowing

The store showcased more interesting and more hideous objects including a set of huge glass makeup objects. We finished the day in Kalmar exploring the slott (castle) and seaside town) before heading back to catch our ferry to Gotland.

Kalmar Castle

Kalmar Castle

Gotland, Sweden’s largest island, was once the home of the Goths. It’s biggest city, Visby, is a Unesco heritage site with intact city walls and 27 of 29 of its original towers. Arriving after midnight, we pitched camp in a park next to the wall.

Day 7
Biking away from camp, we promptly passed a no camping sign. Oops. It was facing a different direction than the one we came from. After a quick store run and quite possibly the nastiest (but free) public restroom, we checked our bags at the TI and took a pay-what-you-want tour of Visby. Our tour group also included a number of folks from the US, including a couple from Camano Island. It was a really neat medieval town. Apparently we missed an amazing Renaissance festival by a couple weeks. Our guide mentioned that he allows runs into a guy with a 40kg armor suit and wondered how much his airline baggage fees must be. The walk around town included a scratch and sniff stop at an old house to smell the local tar. This stuff coats all the old houses and has a slightly burned pine scent. Building in Visby date back to 1100 or 1200 AD. Visby was another Hanseatic League town (German), but eventually overtaken by pirates after ship technology improved (larger ships couldn’t use the harbor and had longer range). Eventually the Hanseatic League folks got sick of the pirates attacking, so they eventually destroyed most of it (except the German church). They shot their ship ballast from catapults and you can still see a piece stuck in one of the old towers.

When the tour finished we headed off to meet our Warmshowers (Couchsurfing for cycle tourists) hosts on the east side of the island. On the way we detoured by the Hogflint lookout for a last look at Visby. 55km later and one endless headwind, we arrived in Norrlanda at the home Philip and Lene. They were awesome Warmshowers hosts! They cooked us an amazing dinner complete with Philip’s childhood snack ( a rough cracker a Swedish caviar spread – he compared it to vegemite). All the veggies were grown in their large and lovely garden. We stayed in the backhouse which they are in the process of renovating. In the morning, Phillip took our tandem for a brief ride and he let Rob try his neat vintage cycle. He sent us off with a large zucchini and a handful of carrots from the garden. We need to go track down a documentary that Lene mentioned called Bikes vs. Cars.

Rob riding our Warmshower host's bike.

Rob riding our Warmshower host’s bike.

Rob and Philip, one of our Warmshowers hosts.

Rob and Philip, one of our Warmshowers hosts.

Day 8=Lots of miles
With one day left to explore the island, we set off for Faro Island (Sheep Island) a short ferry ride north of Gotland. Faro is known for all these crazy formations they can Langhammars.

Langhammar on the Faro Coastline

Langhammar on the Faro Coastline

We biked out to the coast line with the largest concentration of formation (a natural park) and followed a band of cars along a scenic coastal road with lots of pullouts.

Langhammars on the Faro Coast.

Langhammars on the Faro Coast.

Many of the pullouts had special disposal cans for the one-time use grills. 🙂 Upon returning to Gotland, we looped around the north coast via the Blue Lagoon, an old quarry turned swimming hole.

Amanda pondering a dip in the Blue Lagoon quarry

Amanda pondering a dip in the Blue Lagoon quarry

After a quick snack a beautiful albeit windy lake park, we headed out for a quick dip to clean off our sweaty, salty bodies. The water felt great. Rob jumped in Chamois and all. Unfortunately we couldn’t camp there like we saw many folks doing. Our ferry back to Stockholm was to leave Visby at 7:30am the next morning and we need to get at least within 20km before camping. Pushing on for a few more hours, we finally found camp near the beach after a total of ~100miles on the day. Rob cooked an amazing dinner of red thai curry noodles chock full of veggies. YUM!

Sunset view from our beach camp

Sunset view from our beach camp

Day 9
Another day of waking at stupid o’clock to pack up camp and bike to the ferry. I was hoping to pick up pastries at a store, but none of them opened until 8 or 9. Grrr. At least we learned something from our previous ferry ride. We boiled water in the microwave and made packages of miso soup that we ate along with leftover bread and oatmeal that Rob splattered all over the microwave. We also managed to grab one of the last tables with bench seating, so we could get some sleep. Finally arriving in Nynashamn, I finally got my pastries. Rob picked the best one of the trip – a danish with blueberry and cheese. SO good. Then we caught a very peaceful regional train to Stockholm (~ 1hr). We found a bike area and had everything set up, then two stops later a whole school of elementary aged kids gets on the bus. They asked where we are from. Upon hearing the US, the immediate response was “Are you from California?” Sigh. Eventually another field trip got on too. So much for a quiet ride back.

Upon arriving in Stockholm, we ditched our stuff at the hotel and acquired a massive bike box to pack up the tandem in while we had the hotel room. Then, we went shopping for dinner. Rob and I decided it was time to try a one-time use grill. Two grocery stores later, we were still grill-less and wondering if they were banned because of the dry weather. The third store, however, had a massive stack right near the front door (only 29 kor ~$4). Two 10 kor packages of sausage and a tube of dill potatoes rounded out our leftover veggies. A short ride to the garden isle near Tivoli lead us to a cluster of covered picnic tables. Some older Swedes were enjoying beers at one table. We settled in at the next one and opened a beer from Poland we had stashed with our cruise luggage and set about grilling. It took a bit for the coals to be ready (and we weren’t exactly patient), but we managed to grill a pretty good dinner on it.

Prepping the one-time use grill for dinner.

Prepping the one-time use grill for dinner.