Monday, September 7, 2009

The mighty plains

Driving westward from Shorewood, IL there is not a lot going on. Sure, I-80 is packed with trucks and it is generally no fun to drive as a result. But the scenery leaves much to be desired. We crossed the Mississippi again and then cut north to Winnebago county, the home of Winnebago Industries. The makers of our fair Landshark.

Winnebago Industries was started 50+ years ago in an otherwise unremarkable town in Iowa. Seemingly the goal of the company was to employ people from Winnebago. Well, they have done so. And in the process made the RV industry. The factory tour started out very slow with a bus tour of the factory buildings outside. Imagine driving in a bus around a truck stop with identical trucks and with a few warehouse exteriors thrown in. After 10 minutes the kids were out of their minds and Martha was giving me a look to say "we drove 300 miles out of our way for THIS!?!" Fortunately, the bus stopped, we put on safety glasses and we went in to watch a chassis being welded together. It was loud. There were copious amounts of sparks flying around. And it smelled like ozone. Whew. Dodged that bullet. There were three more trips off of the bus to watch the rest of the RV building process. And in the end we got to go into a couple of models whose MSRP was 15x what we paid for Landshark.

Continuing onwards, we headed north to Minnesota for about 10 miles before heading west in a long cut across South Dakota. I didn't expect much out of South Dakota and that was probably a good thing. As the day got later and later (though we did have an hour time change working for us) we watched approaching thunderstorms. Being originally from "tornado alley" in Illinois, we stopped on the edge of what we thought was safe. We filled gas (10+ minutes) and picked up some milk. In that time, the wind shifted 180 degrees and kicked up over 40 knots and dust was flying everywhere including my eyes. We were parked 10 minutes later and the wind had completely died. The sun was out way to the west of us and we could pick up a double rainbow in the now passed storm. Amazing.

Cedar Point until Winnebago County ... no photos

I don't know if I'm lame, Martha is lame or we were just thrown off our game. But however you put it, the 1 week between our trip to Cedar Point and Winnebago county was not immortalized on camera. We scored another national park for the Monopoly game (Indiana Sand Dunes National Park, only 4 miles off the road which pointedly avoided the tollways) bringing us closer to finishing the board. Admittedly, we only ranked the park as "Mediterranean Ave," but something had to be.

After that roadside attraction, we stayed for several days with my family in Shorewood, IL. The boys scored a 2 day sleepover in Evanston, IL with the aunts, and Sarah felt so left out, we dropped her off for 1 of those nights! Amazingly, Mom and Dad got to see a big screen movie for the first time in years. And somehow, Dad got to pick it. We saw Star Trek. Excellent choice! Not much of a date movie, but any movie is a date movie these days. And special kudos to the second run theater in which it played. Not only were there several 3+ star movies playing, each ticket was only $1.50. On Friday/Saturday nights the ticket price bumps to $2. Wow. Finally a movie house that fits our budget.

Sunday dinner was another real treat. We had graduation roast beef for dinner. If you are not acquainted with that meal, but you live close enough to join us for Super Bowl Sunday, you will be. It's what our family served for every first communion, confirmation, graduation and perhaps even some of the wedding receptions. With 5 kids in the family, it was an almost annual meal. After long wait, my mom has shared the recipe. I made it two days ago and it is outstanding.

The other highlight of our trip home was a chance to visit all of my friends from high school. Mike & Kim were also in town, so it was the first time most have been together since they got married a year+ ago. Well before the economy went to liverwurst. It was great to see everyone.

On Monday morning, it was time to head to Iowa and continue our ride westward...

Fallen off a cliff?

Clearly any of the regular readers of this blog are wondering if I have fallen off a cliff. That is not the case. After we got to Chicago, life just became too busy and has remained so for the rest of our trip. I have an hour or so this afternoon and will try to edit & upload some photos as well as try to get as much as I can get down before my memory becomes too fogged. In any case, we are alive & well with LandShark parked in the driveway.