Great American Road Trip, August 2007

Great American Road Trip

August 2-17, 2007

Matt & Rebecca are embarked on an epic road trip. We will attempt to provide daily updates. We welcome feedback. Please drop us a line at mfender@vt.edu or fender.rebecca@gmail.com.

The Gateway Arch from I-70 Rebecca poses by an Elk mount in Cabelas

8/15/07 8:36PM Eastern Time
N38°03'58.4" W085°41'50.5"

Louisville, KY
We drove east this morning and left Kansas behind. We drove all the way across Missouri, and we stopped in St. Louis to visit the Cabelas store there and have lunch at a Chevys. We crossed the Mississippi and got a nice view of the gateway arch. We crossed Illinois and Indiana, and we are now encamped in one final Fairfield Inn. We should be home tomorrow afternoon.

While driving we finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on audio. I had read it before and it was extremely satisfying the second time through. Rebecca liked it as well. We started Dan Brown's Digitial Fortress. The story is about cryptology and the NSA. I don't know a lot about cryptology, but I know more than Dan Brown does. There are some major holes in his storyline.

Matt with a Rainbow -Cuttthroat hybrid caught on the Blue River View from our hotel window in Breckenridge

8/14/07 10:10PM Central Time
N39°02'22.9" W095°45'35.6"

Topeka, KS
Yesterday I went fishing again. This time I fished with Guide Dennis McClean, also of Breckenridge Outfitters. We fished the Blue River just below the Green Mountain Reservoir. We had to work around a few other folks who were on the river, but Dennis put me onto some good fish without much trouble. We caught Rainbow-Cuttthroat hybrids exclusively, and while we got some decent fish, they weren’t as big as the day before. The river was beautiful.

I used my 4 weight the whole time, and we mostly fished nymph droppers, with either a Caddis fly or a dry fly called a “Stevie Wonder” on top. We used Pheasant Tails as our nymphs, tied on #18 barb-less hooks. These hooks seemed really small to me, and there were several fish that managed to wriggle of the hook while I played them. I did manage to catch a couple of nice trout on just a single Caddis dry fly, which was quite satisfying. Dennis reminded me that this is properly termed a “Long Distance Release”.

Yesterday evening Rebecca and I celebrated our last night in Breckenridge by dining at a restaurant called Hearthstone. I was initially disappointed in the service. We arrived about 10 minutes early for our 7:45 reservation, and we were kept waiting by the unapologetic staff until 8:05. Once we were seated the service was excellent however, and the food was fabulous. Rebecca started with a Sweet Potato Gnocchi appetizer, and I had Foie Gras. We both had Elk chops with Truffle mashed potatoes for our main courses, and the Elk was excellent. It was roasted, with a granola crust and a blackberry sauce. Overall a good experience.

This morning we got up early, packed, and hit the road back east. We descended rapidly as we drove back down to Denver, then east on I-70 into Kansas. The town of Breckenridge is at 9,600 feet of elevation. Topeka is at about 900.

After we arrived tonight and checked into a Fairfield Inn, we went to see The Bourne Ultimatum. We liked it well enough, but we both thought it was a bit weak on new plot developments and Rebecca commented that the snatchy camera work made her a bit queasy. Tomorrow we plan to travel to Kentucky for a final stop, before the last leg home.

Matt with a nice Rainbow Trout caught on the South Fork of the South Platte Brown Trout caught on the South Fork of the South Platte

8/12/07 8:10PM Mountain Time
N39°28'30.3" W106°02'47.2"

Breckenridge, CO
Today I rose early and went fishing. Guide Andy D'Onofrio from Breckenridge Outfitters picked me up at our lodgings, and we drove about 30 minutes to a spot on the South Fork of the South Platte River. The place we fished was state-leased land. I learned that in Colorado, unlike many states, the landowner owns the streambed and has exclusive rights to wade fishing the streams. We started on the stream just a few hundred yards from where we parked. Andy waded wet, but I elected to wear my breathable waders. I had my 9' 4 weight and my 9' 6 weight rods. The 6 weight stayed in the truck. We rigged the four and Andy let me use his 8' 2 weight, which proved excellent. I chose not to bring my two weight, which I regret.

The rigging we used here was unfamilar to me. We started with "dropper" rigs involving a grasshopper dryfly with one or two nymphs tied 10-12" beneath it. We had good success early using a grasshopper dry fly with both a Copper John and a San Juan Worm tied beneath it. We landed several fish on each nymph. Later we caught numerous fish on double rigged dry flies with a grasshopper tied above a PMD with about 10" in between.

Andy put me on to some great fish and was extremely knowledgeable about the stream. I caught some nice Brown Trout, but also a couple of nice Rainbows, a Rainbow-Cuttthroat hyrid called a Cuttbow, and one small Brook Trout. We didn't see any pure Cutthroats. The stream itself was only about 15-20' wide, so it seemed remarkable to me to find such big trout in it.

I returned to our room about 2:00 and met Rebecca who had just returned from relaxing and reading by the pool. We passed a pleasant afternoon reading and napping. We just took a walk around town, and Rebecca is preparing a dinner of pasta and fresh green beans as I write this. We also plan to finish a nice bottle of 2004 Frog's Leap Zin I scored at a shop in town. Tomorrow I'll be doing a final fishing trip in the morning.

Marriott's Mountain View Lodge in Breckenridge CO

8/11/07 9:21PM Mountain Time
N39°28'30.3" W106°02'47.2"

Breckenridge, CO
Yesterday we drove up from Denver. The meager engine in our rented Taurus made the drive a bit challenging, but we arrived safely. We checked into the Marriott and got settled in. The property is really a timeshare, but we are renting by the day. The room is an efficiency with a full kitchen. We went to the grocery store and bought food for the next few days. It is nice not to have to eat every meal out.

We took it easy yesterday and got used to the altitude. We both felt dehydrated and had mild headaches, but we are feeling better today. This morning we walked down to Breckenridge outfitters, our Orvis endorsed fishing outfitter. Rebecca and I went out with a guide and did a 2-hour fishing trip near town. We fished the Blue River with dry flies and we also tried some nymphs. Our guide did a great job orienting Rebecca to the sport and taught her how to cast in short order. We didn't catch any fish, but we had fun anyway.

This afternoon we played nine holes at the Breckenridge Golf Club. It is a municipal course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, and it was very nice. Rebecca was a good sport through both activities and we had fun. Tomorrow I'm off for a half-day fishing trip with the same folks, and Rebecca plans to read by the pool. We are here until Tuesday.

Matt & Rebecca at Mt. Rushmore Motorcycles parked in Deadwood, SD
Matt standing at the spot where Wild Bill was shot View from the stands of the Cubs at the Rockies

8/10/07 10:12AM Mountain Time
N39°54'55.2" W104°59'38.2"

Denver, CO
We rose early yesterday and headed into the Black Hills. We were immediately surrounded by motorcycles due to the Sturgis Bike Rally. It quickly became annoying. There were hundreds and hundreds of them cruising along, and it made it difficult to make much time while driving. We visited Mt. Rushmore, which was actually pretty impressive. The sheer scale of the thing makes it worth seeing.

We then drove north to Deadwood, SD which is a modern version of an old west town. The main street is lined with bars and restaurants offering various combinations of steaks, alcohol, and gambling. The town was significantly revitalized a few years ago when gambling was legalized. You can actually play a hand of poker in the bar where Wild Bill Hickok was shot in the back holding aces and eights.

We left Deadwood (and most of the bikers) and headed west into Wyoming. We made our way south through some beautiful ranchland. The two-lane state roads were straight and well-maintained and we made good progress. We arrived in Denver just in time to check into yet another Fairfield Inn and head to Coors Field for our ballgame. We arrived just in time for the first pitch. Rebecca had secured good club-level seats for us. We were on the right field line about halfway between first base and the foul pole. A kid sitting two seats behind me caught a foul ball. Ted Lilly had a good start for the Cubs and they beat the rockies 10-2.

Today we are going to get a bite to eat and head up to Breckenridge. It it only supposed to be a 1.5 hour drive, so it should be a relaxing day.

The Corn Palace
View of the Badlands Mule Deer

8/9/07 7:33AM Mountain Time
N44°05’55.7” W103°08’55.7”

Rapid City, SD
We drove from the Chicago Area to Rapid City, SD yesterday. We went back up into Wisconsin, across Minnesota, and almost all the way across South Dakota. We stopped to view the “Corn Palace” in Mitchell, SD. This is an amazingly stupid tourist trap, but we felt obliged to stop by the massive numbers of signs. It make the signs for South of the Border in South Carolina seem paltry.

We also drove through Badlands National Park on the way here. It consists of a bunch of really bizarre rock formations that seem to spring up out of the prairie. On a hot day in August, we determined it was best seen from the comfort of an air-conditioned car. We spotted numerous mule deer in the park

We are encamped at a Fairfield Inn, and it was wise to make a reservation in advance. The annual Sturgis, SD motorcycle rally starts on Sunday and quite a few folks have decided to arrive early. We arrived to find the motel parking lot full of motorcycles and overweight, tattooed guys drinking beer.

Today we are going to check out Mt. Rushmore and maybe a couple of other attractions in the Black Hills. After that, we’ll drive to Denver and tonight we’ll see the Rockies play the Cubs.

Picture of flooded car Picture of Matt & Rebecca with Alice, Rachel, and Matthew
Matt re-commits himself to proper dental hygene Aunt Myrtle's 90th Birthday

8/8/07 6:41AM Central Time
N42°02’45.6” W087°59’06.4”

Arlington Heights, IL
Monday evening we had a nice dinner with Rebecca’s parents, her aunt and uncle, and her Cousin David at a place called Retro Bistro. It was very nice. I had roast duck with a pate sampler to start. Yesterday morning, Rebecca and I awoke to discover that the hotel parking lot had flooded due to heavy rain the night before and our car was surrounded by about 10” of water. With typical Marriott service, the staff here at the Courtyard had donned fireman’s boots, and they retrieved our car for us.

After a quick breakfast at Denny’s, we went over to visit our friend Alice Chin, who lives nearby. We saw her and her two children for a few minutes, then headed back to Rebecca’s aunt and uncle’s house. I had discovered the night before that I had lost a filling in one of my back teeth, so Rebecca’s Aunt Diane arranged for me to see her dentist. Dr. Schwartz advised me that my filling had “leaked” and that I had additional decay in the tooth. He put in a temporary filling, but admonished me to see a dentist as soon as I return home. I dutifully called and made an appointment.

Yesterday evening we all took Rebecca’s Great-aunt Myrtle out to dinner to celebrate her 90th birthday. We ate a place called Lovell’s, owned by the one of the Apollo 13 astronauts. The restaurant was excellent and we all had a good time. Aunt Myrtle seemed to really enjoy herself. We bid farewell to Rebecca’s family last night, and today we continue our road trip.

Today will be our longest day of driving, as we need to cover 838 miles to Mt. Rushmore. We plan to finish Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and start Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Picture of Matt and Rebecca in Moose hats

8/6/07 3:34PM Central Time
N42°02’45.6” W087°59’06.4”

Arlington Heights, IL
Yesterday afternoon we ate pizza at a place called the Moose Jaw Pizza and Brew Pub. Rebecca and I, together with her mom and dad, then played 18 holes of mini-golf. Being the family expert at mini-golf, Rebecca won. We had a relaxed evening at the hotel and a quick dinner at Culver’s. Culver’s is a chain of quasi-fast food restaurants in the mid-west. I enjoyed their famous Butter-burger and some of their house-made frozen custard.

This morning we got up and the four of us played nine holes on the same course Gary and I played on Saturday. We had a good time. We then got into to our separate cars and drove down to the Chicago suburbs, where Rebecca and I checked into a Fairfield Inn in Arlington Heights. The drive down was pleasantly uneventful after the trafic woes we had going up on Friday. We are about to head over to Rebecca’s Aunt Diane’s house, where we will meet up with more family and head to dinner.

Picture of Trappers Turn Golf Course Picture of Amphibious Tour vehicle

8/5/07 12:53PM Central Time
N43°34'13.1" W089°46'25.1"

Lake Delton, WI
Yesterday, after a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, Rebecca, her mom, and her cousin Matt took in the indoor water park. Her dad, Gary, and I played nine holes of golf at a course owned by the resort called Trapper’s Turn. It started raining on the first hole, and continued the entire time, but we had fun anyway. The course was well-appointed and very well maintained, but not particularly scenic. The coolest thing were the GPS systems integrated into the golf carts that provide information on each hole automatically as you approach the tee. It also tells you how far the cart is from the pin at any given time and allows you to place your food order at the clubhouse.

The cart also knows when you are out of bounds, and at one point, as I was attempting to drive around a green, it simply stopped, and the prompt on the screen informed me that I must back up and could proceed no further. It felt a bit like big brother.

Several of our group took a tour on an amphibious tour vehicle called a “Duck.” It is sort of an open-top bus which can also operate as a boat. I was vaguely interested, but decided to play golf instead.

Rebecca and several of the ladies availed themselves of the spa and were pleased with the experience. We had drinks then changed for dinner. Dinner was at a local restaurant called The Del Bar. It is a steakhouse which has been in business for 60+ years. The meal was quite good. They offer a great wine list and cook a tasty steak. We shared a couple of bottles of Frog’s Leap Cab, and I had Oysters Rockefeller and a 20 oz. bone-in rib-eye. The steak was excellent. Rebecca had French onion soup and King Crab legs.

After dinner we returned to the hotel and the guys shared drinks and cigars. Rebecca and I went to bed, but several of her cousins hit the casino and finished the night up several hundred dollars. This morning we got up late and visited the indoor water park. We are now going to clean up, have lunch, and maybe take in a movie.

Picture of Water Park at Kalahari Resort

8/4/07 10:06AM Central Time
N43°34'13.1" W089°46'25.1"

Lake Delton, WI
We are at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells. "The Dells" as it is known locally is a resort area popular with folks all across the upper midwest. It consists of a bunch of hotels with massive water parks. They operate year round, and given the weather in Wisconsin in the winter, this explains why there are several places which claim to have the largest indoor water park in the world. I guess it depends on how you measure.

We left Indianna yesterday morning about 10:45 and made it here about 4:00. Traffic was extremely heavy not only coming through Chicago, but pretty much the entre route. Coming up to Wisconsin on a Friday afternoon in the summer was not an original idea.

We met up with Rebecca's extended family and enjoyed a nice dinner at the hotel followed by drinks at the bar and more visiting. Thre occassion is her Uncle Dale's 70th birthday. I am hoping to get at least one round of golf in while we are here.

Picture of our Rental Car outside the motel

8/3/07 9:36AM Central Time
N41°28'05.3" W087°19'35.0"

Merillville, IN.
We have just spent the night in a Fairfield Inn and we are getting to ready to depart for Wisconsin Dells. We left Charlottesville yesterday morning about 10:00 in a rented, green Ford Taurus. I was a bit disappointed in the lame car, but it is cheap and they don't know what they are getting into with the "unlimited mileage." Our plan is to drive in excess of 4,000 miles. We took a little over 11 hours to drive 768 miles.

We had dinner last night at Red Robin, and for once I didn't fill up on a giant milkshake before my burger came. We're going to depart in a couple of hours and head through Chicago up to Wisonsin Dells, where we will be meeting Rebeccas's parents and some of her extended family.

We spent the drive yesterday listenting to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which we will continue today.

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