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Road Trip Part 4: Middle West Passage St. Louis to L’Anse with Madison In-between

I couldn’t get over the view. Even though there was not a single cup, plastic or otherwise in my entire hotel room. I had to use my to go cup from the evening before so I drink coffee while staring out the window at the St. Louis Arch.

While looking it brought back memories of the only other time I was in St. Louis – when I was a Junior in High School. We came on a band trip – our new teach actually signed us up for a contest. It was unfortunate, he actually thought we cared about music (which maybe a couple kids did, but not the majority). We were all excited to go to 6 flags and to spell words with our bodies under the Arch so someone could take pictures from above. I’m almost sure I went up in the Arch. Almost. I can’t actually remember. But I do remember the music video my friends made at 6 Flags to Beastie Boys “Fight for the Right to Party.” Memories.

After my coffee I gathered the dog and got back on the road with a slightly difficult retrieval of my car from the valet. I found my gas tank on empty from the long haul the night before. And as I drove out of the hotel as soon as I left downtown and crossed the bridge on the interstate I was suddenly in Illinois. I wasn’t prepared to be out of gas or in Illinois – so I stopped immediately at an extremely forlorn gas station. The gas station seemed more into selling lotto tickets than selling gas. The only thing near it was a sad tourist sign directly me to some ancient indigenous mounds. It was actually tempting to go see the mounds but it was so unclear how far away they actually were (down a very unkept under resourced road – so inviting) that I chose not to follow the possible rabbit hole of adventure. Also, at this moment in time I was under the belief that I might be able to make it all the way to L’Anse that day – so such a side trip, as rewarding as it might possibly have been, was determined to be too risky.

Illinois stretched out before me like an endless cornfield. I stopped at a Dunkin’ for breakfast (and found about 100 other humans doing the same thing) and a Cracker Barrel for lunch. Cracker Barrel was BUSY with an obvious post-church crowd – it was a Sunday in no where Illinois after all. I ordered a salad with fried chicken and it came with iceberg lettuce and two bowls of pickle ranch dressing. I dipped a cucumber in the dressing to test it out – it was rich. Who on earth could eat two large servings of it?

I have loved Cracker Barrels since I was 16. That was the first time I was to brought to one in the middle of nowhere Illinois on a road trip down to Florida. It could have been this very one….highly unlikely. My Father and Step-Mom brought me on our drive from Duluth to Pampano Beach. The stop at a Cracker Barrel makes a lot more sense to me now – as there really is no where else to stop and take a break in the middle of no where Illinois. And you need a break from no where monotony. The best part of a Cracker Barrel is not the food – it is the store. In this store I bought some cards, gifts and candy – then got back into the car with my Red Vines and poured the dog out of her purse.

We pushed on and on and on until Wisconsin and I thought “maybe we’ll make it!” to Upper Michigan today. Just as we passed Janestown, Wisconsin I got a text from Jeremy saying “Are you stopping soon? There is way too much Wisconsin left for you to make it today. You should stop.” I counted the hours left of driving if I made no more stops – I would arrive around midnight if I was lucky. Which meant about 3 or more hours of avoiding deer crossing country roads at dusk. I pulled off the high way into the parking lot of the World’s Largest Culver’s. Not because I needed to see The World’s Largest Culver’s, or eat at one (but it was a fine sight to see, and a very large Culver’s). I needed to find a hotel in Madison, Wisconsin – which I did. I found a fancy one called The Concourse and Governor’s Club overlooking the Capital building. It had a jacuzzi bathtub in the room, and upon check-in I learned that The Club portion meant I got “free” appetizers and beverages all night long in the The Club, plus a full breakfast in the morning.

It was a very nice view and the appetizers were OK. The drinks were only alcohol, because Wisconsin. There was bottled water in the non-alcohol variety. I met some very nice in The Club however, an accountant, and two couples celebrating anniversaries and birthdays. Apparently, The Club was a “special occasion” type of place. When they asked me what mine was I replied “Avoiding deer so I can make it to the UP alive.” They nodded at the wisdom of stopping for the night.

The bed and bathtub were amazing. And this particular hotel had two SPECIAL monikered mugs in the room to drink coffee out of, and even more of them in The Club next to the full breakfast with bacon. Hopped up on bacon and coffee with a stop for lunch at Kwik Trip I made it to L’Anse by 4:30pm on July 3rd. My first South to North road trip, complete.

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