So far we’ve gone 10,956 miles in 49 days, with only 6 days to go. As I type we’re whooshing down Route I-94 heading toward Michigan. Not too long ago we went into Indiana, a state we’re passing through for only a few minutes—but it still counts! :-) The grass and shrubs have definitely looked more shaggy since Illinois, but that’s new. For the past few days we’ve been in clean, manicured farm country.
Let’s catch up:
Wall Drug, SD and the Badlands
Wednesday, the day after we saw Mount Rushmore, was a long driving day (about 700 miles!), but Karen is never one to let a cool-sounding place pass by without calling out “Stop!” So that’s what we did in Wall Drug, South Dakota, where the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was in full swing. The entire town, which was originally built around a drug store, was filled with bikers, bikers, and more bikers. How could we pass up a chance to buy a Harley Davidson t-shirt in the biker heartland of America?
BIG, BAD BADLANDS
The badlands: Truly bad, or just misunderstood? Here’s Evan:
EVAN: The Badlands were covered with white rock and it seemed sort of like the moon. It was very hot and I liked it because in some places the rock was burned so badly that it made colors (Mark’s note: actually, this was different levels of sediment—and way cool) and suddenly when you leave the Badlands it looks like you’re in the regular world again. There were a lot of motorcycle guys everywhere too.
So then we reached Minnesota. The photo above was the most difficult "entering a new state" photo we've taken. The sign was on the highway, and we had to climb up a hill, through some brambles, and then squeeze into a tiny area of dirt in the middle of some bushes. Note that Evan is parting a shrub with his arm so the state name can be seen.
In Minnesota we stayed Chaska, just outside of Minneapolis, with our friends Patricia Danielson, Vicki Boeddeker, and Mike Weinkauf. Patricia took a couple of days off work to show us around the Twin Cities. We saw first-hand the damaged remains of the collapsed bridge on I-35W—just awful. Five weeks and two days after crossing the Mississippi in the south (into Louisiana), we crossed it in the north. It’s a lot calmer in the north! We also saw the beautiful state capital building. Thanks Patricia, Vicki, and Mike!
A note from KAREN: Mark asked why I’ve only been writing about bad experiences. I don’t see it that way, I see them as different experiences than life in Wayland, MA. For example, my 2nd night in Vicki’s house. Here we are, comfy cozy, away from bears and rattlesnakes, what else could happen at night? My first big lightening storm on the prairies of Minnesota, that’s what!! Holy cow ! I got out of bed and was blinded by the flashing lightning, and then jumped out of my PJ’s when I heard the loud crack and kaboom of the lightning right outside the window! Did a tree fall down? Did we get hit by lightning? Another night of no sleeping because of fear!! The next morning, as usual, everyone including Mark said it was a normal storm, no big deal . WELL, we got an email from a friend in the area who said the storm blew out windows like a tornado and power was out for a few days. She asked if we were in the eye of the storm! See, I’m not crazy!!
Wild Rupus was wild indeed. An amazing independent bookstore in Minneapolis, the whole store was designed to look like it was transforming from an inside space to the outdoors. Helping to create the effect were a whole menagerie of animals, including chickens, ferrets, Australian flying squirrels, fish, tarantulas, rats and many more. The kids were in heaven. Here we are with Manager Kristin Bergsagel bookseller Josh Harrod, Poopsie the ferret, and a Japanese chicken named Elvis. Thanks, Wild Rumpus—you are terrific!
THE RED BALLOON
Like a matching bookend to Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis, St. Paul is home to another amazing bookstore called The Red Balloon. Susan Hepburn was a terrific host, serving up lemon drops and lemonade. The Red Balloon is another must-visit bookstore for anyone the St. Paul area!
As a nice surprise, we were lucky enough to meet Shelley Swanson Sateren, fellow SCBWI member and author of the middle-grade novel Cat on a Hottie’s Tin Roof. Here’s Evan’s review:
EVAN’S REVIEW: Cat on a Hottie’s Tin Roof is a fun book about a girl who is geeky who when her friend moves away from Paris she finds a new friend who is stylish and cool. It was an interesting story because it’s interesting to see how a girl with so much smarts can try and be cool and fit in with everyone else. You should read it.
It was great to meet you, Shelley!
BACK TO THE HONDA DEALER ONE MORE TIME
Penelope’s rattling got kind of dubious so we stopped at the Honda dealer in Hopkins, MN. $560 later, (replaced ‘severely cracked’ exhaust manifold and gaskets, oil change, new battery) the minivan sounded a bit better—at least for the first twenty miles or so. After that, we’re pretty much back to the rattling we started out with. Oh well, it’s only money. :-)
Here’s Shane Beals, the Honda guy who washed Penelope—she badly needed it. Thanks, Shane!
Next we drove through Wisconsin, a land of beautiful manicured farms and more red barns than you can shake a cheddar wheel at. So lovely!
In Green Bay we stopped to see a surprisingly large athletic facility where a local team plays a sport that apparently involves feet and leather hats. I hear that the locals are rather enthusiastic about it.
Just south of Green Bay, in DePere, is Butterfly Books, a roomy and cheerful independent bookstore run by Barbara Wilson. Barbara and her friendly team of booksellers were very kind, staying open later than usual on a Saturday afternoon just so that we could visit. Here I am with Barbara and Samantha Parker, bookseller and saxophone player. Great to meet you!
ROLLING AROUND IN PAIN IN MILWAUKEE
In Milwaukee we stayed with our friends Posh (really Josh, but he’s yet another friend with a mysterious nickname given by Karen) and Boris. They showed us around Milwaukee, and took us for custard at Kopps, a Milwaukee thing-to-do. The custard was a lot like ice cream except a lot denser—it’s made with eggs and who-knows-what-else and it sneaks up on you. Thank god I only had a small cone—by bedtime I felt so full that I rolled around in pain clutching at my stomach. But honestly, it was so tasty it was worth it! :-)
As any fan of Laverne and Shirley can tell you, Milwaukee is home to many breweries, so how could we pass up the opportunity to tour the Miller factory?
In beautiful Cedarburg, WI, about twenty minutes north of Milwaukee, is the terrific Creekside Books. Owner Glen Switalski is a man with an amazing story: After his doctor told him he needed to lose weight, he lost well over 100 lbs by exercise, diet and sheer force of will. Today he can be seen riding his exercise bike in and around his store every day. The guy is an aerobic, bookselling powerhouse! Creekside Books is a great independent bookstore, and Gary is a truly an inspirational guy.
Here I am with Lindsay McLaughlin, a reader and artist who came to see me. She was fun to talk with, and very helpful in suggesting places we could go in the area. Great to meet you, Lindsay! :-)
Illinois: An All-Too-Short Trip Through the Land of Lincoln
Southward from Milwaukee...! Unfortunately, we had only a few hours in Illinois. Still, it counts as state number 31 on our trip! :-)
UNDER THE SYCAMORE TREE
In Grayslake, Illinois, about forty minutes north of Chicago, is a magical bookstore called Under the Sycamore Tree. A new independent store, owner Jackie Harris opened up shop this past November. It’s a roomy, bright place with a big “sycamore tree” inside. The store has taken inspiration from Wild Rumpus (see Minnesota) and filled its space with wild animals. My kids were in their element. Zoe ran at me with a giant grin and a very big python named ‘Snakey’. Under the Sycamore Tree is yet another example of how independent bookstores tend to be run by smart, thoughtful, nice people. Jackie, it was a pleasure to meet you!
Here I am with Jackie and her daughter, Haley:
Because we’re meeting a friend in Michigan later today, we had only about an hour or so to see Chicago. I know, I know—not even close to scratching the surface. So on top of just driving around a little, we decided that with our limited time we’d stop by Lake Michigan. As far as my eyes could tell, the lake might as well have been an ocean. Way cool. Next time, we’ll plan to spend more time here!
Our Trip Through Indiana: Don’t Blink Or You’ll Miss It
If you thought our stop in Chicago was too short, Indiana is only about a half hour of highway to us. Still, it counts as state #32. :-)
Next stop, Michigan!
LEMONADE MOUTH (Delacorte Press, 2007)
I AM THE WALLPAPER (Delacorte Press, 2005)