Route Map


Day 9: Riding a Mile High

Start: Denver, CO
End: Denver, CO
Miles driven: 20.2 (2805.6 tota

After sleeping in for the first time in a long time, we set out for downtown Denver. Our first stop was Denver's equivalent of the National Mall, flanked by City Hall, the State House and museums. On the State House steps we found the mark indicating the elevation of 1 mile above sea level for which Denver derives its nickname and took in spectacular views of the city and the Rockies.

We then took a short walk to the Colorado History Museum. In addition to getting an overview of the development and founding of the State of Colorado, there were special exhibits on Native American culture, the mining industry, and women in the West.

Some lunch, a crossword, and a light rail ride later, we were in the Santa
Fe district. There we took in numerous small, independent art galleries and also stumbled across Colorado Democratic Party HQ (where incidentally, the hours are 9-4, 5 days a week). We walked back downtown as the sun set and day turned to night in the city.


Day 8: Prairie Dogs, Buffalo, and Burros...Oh my!

Start: Rapid City, SD
End: Denver, CO
Miles Driven: 453.6 (2785.4 total)

e began the beautiful, sunny, 58-degree day at Mt Rushmore. It was truly an amazing sight--so much more impressive in person than we had imagined. It was also eerily quiet; we were literally the only tourists there! We walked the Presidential Trail, a beautiful half-mile walkway around the memorial, and took lots of pictures. December is definitely the time to be a tourist in the Midwest.

Our next stop was Custer State Park. The park is host to the world's largest herd of free-roaming buffalo, so we decided to drive the Wildlife Loop to see what we could see. After a few miles without wildlife, we were getting pretty disappointed, when we came across several buffalo just lounging by the side of the road. As we continue
d on our way, we were stopped by a group of burros who had situated themselves in the middle of the road. We were at a standstill, until the burros started to approach the car. We had no choice but to wait for them to lick their fill of salt off our car and lose interest before we could travel on.
After seeing a coyote, prairie dogs and deer, we set out for Colorado. Driving through Wyoming was breathtaking. We saw miles
and miles of rolling hills, distinctive buttes and the Laramie Mountains.

We made it to Colorado in time to see the sun set over the Rockies and the sky's many colors lasted long after the sun had disappeared. In Denver, we found a city lit up with holiday lights. We took a few hours to explore the city by night before heading to our hotel to rest up for daytime adventures.


Day 7: Driving the Sunshine State

Start: Minneapolis, MN
End: Rapid City, SD
Miles Driven: 590.5 (2331.8 Total)

The majority of the day was spent traveling through the "Sunshine State". No, not Florida--South Dakota. The state did live up to its motto as we enjoyed our first full day of clear skies since we set out on this road trip, and we broke out of single-digit temperatures as we passed from Minnesota to South Dakota.

There were two distinct things about driving across South Dakota: the beautiful rolling farmland, and billboards. Lots and lots of billboards. They all centered around either "red state values", or tourist traps. And after the 53rd sign advertising Wall Drug Store, we were finally duped into going. It was well worth the stop; neither of us had ever seen such a wide selection of cowboy boots, especially not at the bargain price of $500 a pair.

After eight hours on the road, and the most stunning sunset yet of our trip, we finally reached our destination of Rapid City, South Dakota. We grabbed a bite to eat and walked around downtown. On each street corner there is a statue of a past American president. Katrina particularly enjoyed meeting President John Adams (see picture above).


Day 6: Is it cold in Minnesota? You betcha...

Start: Madison, WI
End: Minneapolis, MN
Miles Driven: 302.8 (1741.3 total)

This morning Katrina had to drag Patrick out of our suite to set out for Minnesota. On the way, we stopped for some Wisconsin cheese and Katrina loaded up on free samples. Then it was straight driving until Minneapolis, where the Mall of America waited for us.

We arrived at America's biggest mall and were immediately overwhelmed. Even Katrina, who grew up with the country's second biggest mall, was awed by the multitude of shops and the amusement park around which the mall is centered. We decided to ride the roller coaster, so we bought our tickets, walked past the kiosk for lost children (apparently there are many), and hopped on. It definitely was not the fastest roller coaster either of us had ever ridden, but it was hands-down the best thrill we've had at a mall.

Once we had taken our fill of the mall, we headed downtown. After thoroughly freezing our butts off for two blocks, we realized that everyone else walking through the city was doing so above our heads, through glass walkways. Minneapolis's downtown is completely connected through the Sky Way, a network of heated glass tunnels one story above the street. A person can walk 10 city blocks without stepping a foot outside.

Which we did, in our journey to the Target Center to watch the Timberwolves-Rockets NBA game. Katrina was very excited to watch her first live NBA game, and the action did not disappoint. The Timberwolves pulled out a win with the combo of Kevin Garnett's dominance and Yao Ming's clumsiness. We then headed back to our hotel (which was no Clarion Suites, Madison) to crash for the evening.


Day 5: My Kind of Town

Start: Chicago, IL
End: Madison, WI
Miles Driven: 141.9 (1438.5 Total)

We headed out into cold and blustery Chicago this morning to take in a day of sightseeing. We began with the Thompson Center, a huge shopping and business center that houses the Illinois State Arts Gallery. Here we saw pieces by artists from across the state--some very interesting, and some upon which Patrick felt he could make serious improvements.

Back on the streets, we h
appened upon Christkindlmarket: a festival of German food, toys and chocolate treats. Katrina had to resist many temptations there as we moved on to explore the city. Our next stop was Millennium Park with its impressive amphitheater and Cloud Gate sculpture, which reflects the Chicago skyline from every curvaceous angle.

Further exploration of downtown led us to the Chicago Cultural Center. Despite an unassuming appearance from the street, the Center is a beautiful building with ma
rble staircases and mosaic tile ceilings, and is full of fantastic cultural events! There was a free art exhibit, a Moroccan pottery, jewelry and tapestry exhibition, and a local jazz quartet performing. Our final stop in Chicago was the Harold Washington Public Library where we took refuge from the cold weather, checked out a Blues exhibit, and completed the Chicago Tribune crossword.

Our day concluded with traveling to Madison, WI (taking us through Rockford, IL, the hometown of Katie List). Madison turned out to be a hidden treasure with its beautiful State House and the delectable dinner we had at the nearby Cafe Continental. With the flash of our Choice Privileges card at the local Clarion Suites we were able to score a sweet 1 bedroom suite not to mention the guest laundry and the indoor pool. Our kind of town, Madison is......


Day 4: Hooray America!

Start: Toronto, ON
End: Chicago, IL
Miles Driven: 671.8 (1296.6 Total)

We got going at the crack of dawn, much to Patrick's dismay, and said farewell to Toronto. Next stop Niagara Falls. We pulled in around 9AM and being a Monday morning and was an ideal time to be there. When we first arrived we were the only ones there and were able to snap some great photos.

On our way west we passed through Hamilton, Ont. and as we drove down Main St. of the fairly large city we believe it or not saw our second criminal apprehension in as many days. We knew right there and then it was time to get out of Canada as soon as possible and made a B-line towards Michigan. After sitting in traffic at customs for a half hour we finally made it back to the states and what is the first thing we see...a "Freedom Isn't Free" bumper sticker. It's so good to be back.

The drive through Michigan was a snowy one and disaster was averted when Patrick called his dad for a weather forecast who alerted us of lake effect snow warnings off of Lake Michigan. A foot of snow was awaiting us on our planned route so we changed course in the nick of time. A beautful sunset in Indiana made the final hours of a long day of driving a little easier. Finally we reached our destination, the Quality Inn in Chicago and celebrated with Chicago classic stuffed pizza.


Day 3: To the Top of Toronto and Back

Start: Toronto, ON
End: Toronto, ON

Miles Driven: 0 (624.8 total)

This morning we had our first snafu of the trip: Katrina almost set her hair on fire as her hair dryer shorted out. Luckily, we both left the house in one piece and headed out to explore Toronto.

We rode "the Rocket" (Toronto's subway) into town and got off at Eaton Centre, Toronto's massive downtown mall. Once above ground, we walked down Yonge St, the longest street in the world, to the CN Tower, the tallest free-standing structure in the world. We took an exhilarating 58 second elevator ride up to the observation deck. The most interesting part was the glass floor--all that stood between us and a 1,815 foot drop was a couple thick sheets of glass. It was pretty unnerving to stand on though the young children jumping
up and down on the glass floor didn't seem to care.

As we further explored the downtown area we came across the convention center which was simultaneously hosting an antique show and "AnimeCon". Though we both love old furniture...we decided to check out the Anime conference instead. Above are some of the fellow attendees we met.

On our way to our next destination we came upon what we thought was a dow
ntown footrace but when the second competitor yelled "thief" we realized it was something much different. Luckily the two speedy plain-clothed officers were able to apprehend the race leader/shoplifter a few feet from where we stood and retrieved the three pairs of tan slacks and pair of blue deck shoes strewn across the sidewalk. Pictures of the chase and arrest were confiscated as evidence (or would have been if we had taken any).

We finally reached our next stop....the Steam Whistle Brewery where we took a tour of the facilities. We learned about the intricacies of the production process and the qualities that make their pilsner so unique. Their beer is known for having 2 "fingers" worth of head to preserve the integrity of the beer to the last drop which protects those with sensitive palates. Patrick and his sensitive palate were thrilled when we had our free samples. But not as thrilled as Patrick when he got to pull the brewery namesake's very own steam whistle to bring an end to the tour.

We ended the day in Little Italy for dinner with Nicole and Elizabeth. We ate at Bar Italia and feasted on salmon, spinach linguine, tiramisu, chocolate truffle cake, cheesecake, and plenty of Shiraz. As the snow began to fall, we got a nightcap at a local martini bar where the ladies ordered from the extensive martini menu, and Patrick got a Labatt 50 in true Canadian style. We then headed home to rest up for a big driving day tomorrow.