Remember a couple of posts ago when I said we would do Wisconsin justice after our visit to Chicago?
Yeah. Scratch that.
We left Chicago and headed north toward Milwaukee. Our dear friend Jo Wishnie has sent us a ton of great suggestions of places to visit, and we really had every intention of stopping there. First, though, we stopped at Cummins to spend an overnight and get an oil change for Scoopy. We were in and out by 9:30 the next morning, so we rolled into Milwaukee and right out the other side and drove straight on to Sheboygan.
There were three things plotting against a stay in Milwaukee. First, the smoke from western fires were reaching the Great Lakes and it was hard to tell the sky from the water, it was that hazy. Second, the state fair had just finished up and they had not yet opened the campground to the general public, so really, not a lot of affordable places to stay. And third, after a non-stop week in Chicago, we were exhausted.
The Bold Look of Kohler
We settled into the Sheboygan Elks Lodge with only two things on our agenda over the next three days other than relaxing. First, we wanted to find a fishmonger and get more whitefish, and two, I wanted to go visit the Kohler factories and Design Center.
Truthfully, Kohler was the main reason we were even in Sheboygan. I am a big fan. When we built our house in 2003, we had several bathrooms to kit out. I spent a lot of time searching for just the right fixtures and I loved Kohler products the very best of all. We ended up on a three-hour tour of the factories, which was great. Unfortunately there were no photos were allowed. The best part, though, was the Design Center. I love me some fixtures!
Having moseyed about at a leisurely pace (for us) on Highway 2 and around Lake Michigan, we were now on a mission to go west and get to Cody, WY. When I am in "lemming" mode (go until we reach our destination or fall off a cliff, whichever comes first) it is difficult for me to slow down and stay in the moment. But I knew Steven would appreciate a slower pace and perhaps a photo op or two, so I researched Roadside America along I-90 and planned our stops accordingly. This was right up his alley, the weirder, the creepier, the better.
We are (in) Sparta!
No, not the ancient Greek city in the Peloponnese, rather, the Walmart parking lot in Sparta, Wisconsin. Here we experienced the second worst storm we'd seen on the road, the first being in North Dakota. But fortunately we awoke to blue skies, which meant Steven could venture out to visit F.A.S.T. - the Fiberglass Statue Mold Yard. This is essentially a “graveyard” of used molds for fiberglass statues and falls firmly into the category of curiosity of the creepy kind. I know, exciting, right? The information available warns of wasps and sharp edges, so I declined to accompany him, although I admit Bob's Big Boy was tempting. He loved it, though, so that's all that matters.
In The Valley of the Jolly (Ho! Ho! Ho!) Green Giant
Who doesn't remember the Jolly Green Giant and Sprout? We found them in Blue Earth, MN, our next stop. Blue Earth is one of the few small towns we've seen in our travels that is flourishing. At least, it appears that way. We saw no business for sale on Main street, none closed and boarded up. Folks were out and about shopping, visiting, eating in the restaurants. I guess it's good to be a company town, and even though Green Giant has changed hands several times, its identity remains squarely in Blue Earth. Having Winnebago Industries close by doesn't hurt either.
We stayed three nights at the county fairgrounds at the edge of town, $20 for full hook ups. You can't beat that! And as luck would have it, the fairgrounds is where the 60' tall Jolly Green Giant resides. Although he is made of fiberglass and hails from Sparta, it was a competitor who created him, not F.A.S.T. Apparently gigantic fiberglass things are big in Sparta, no pun intended. Throughout Blue Earth, there were also "painted Sprouts" on display. You remember Sprout, right? The Jolly Green Giant's little sidekick? There were some pretty cute ones around town and we enjoyed searching them out. Our time in the Valley of the Jolly Green Giant was very relaxing, a good mix of rest, chores and exploring.
We left Blue Earth and made our way to Mitchell, SD, Home of the Corn Palace. This was a return trip for us and we stayed at the same place - Camp Cabela's. Last time we stayed here we made our very first visit ever to the Cabela's store, and we remember being so overwhelmed by the merchandise (so much camo!) and vast selections, we didn't stay for long. This time we were like old hands, making our way from one familiar area to another. I guess if you take advantage of their generous parking policies, you're bound to buy something eventually. Steven got a couple of shirts but I think we're still ahead in the camping cost category.
We stayed just one night in Mitchell. Try as we might to summon the interest to visit the Corn Palace, we just couldn’t. So once again, we drove by it and then left town without visiting. We did, however, enjoy some freaking awesome Mexican food, which I had been avoiding after a not-so-pleasant experience in Duluth.
Two years ago at this same time of year we were making our way from Cody to Campbellsville, KY for our first stint at Amazon. We drove by a stunning, gleaming statue, and I hollered, "what was that???" but didn't stop to see it. We were kind of caught off-guard, so we just kept going. We weren't going to make the same mistake this time. Her name is Dignity and she's a 50-foot high stainless steel sculpture of an Indigenous woman in Plains-style dress holding a billowing, blue star quilt. She was created by the South Dakota artist laureate Dale Lamphere and sits on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River near Chamberlain, South Dakota. When we saw her during our drive-by, she had just been installed and, wow, what an grand impression she made!
On a sunny day, Dignity gleams, but she's still beautiful no matter the weather. We are so glad we made this stop a priority. The bluff where she sits is actually at a rest stop on I-90, and there is a visitors center there as well. Do not miss this stop if you pass by!
There is one other thing we passed by that piqued Steven's interest as we traveled along I-90. 1880 Town, a western-themed tourist site that boasts movie sets from "Dances with Wolves". We saw it in 2016, too, and as per usual, we just rolled on by. This time was no different, as we continued to the Elks Lodge in Rapid City. This is a very popular lodge and they only have ten sites. Getting in means arriving early so there would be no stopping at the 1880 Town. We got the second to the last site available and the last one was nearly unusable. Yet, we sat and watched a 40 ft. motorhome back right in and set up. I like to think I'm pretty good at getting into tight places with Scoopy, but that guy had some skills!
I took the opportunity to get a cut and color and I have to say that, since I've been on the road, I've had my best cuts in Duluth and Rapid City. Crazy, huh? You just never know, although I will say the one thing both these shops had in common is that they are Aveda stylists. It's tempting to say "you get what you pay for", but my third best cut was at a Supercuts in Tucson. It's a crapshoot, really.
Even though it required backtracking 110 miles, Steven got up early one morning and made the trip to 1880 Town. It is a touristy place, to be sure, but for him, it presented the opportunity to photograph a series rather than a single subject. He explains it here.
Our final stop before Cody was Deer Park Campground in Buffalo, WY. I wish I had something exciting to write about, but our stay in Buffalo was filled with chores. Sometimes that's kind of relaxing, in that it's a productive stay, but not the kind of place where we're running around seeing things. That can be exhausting. We knew we'd be boondocking once we got to Cody, so we needed to get completely caught up on laundry and cleaning. We literally left the campground once and that was to eat breakfast at a little café downtown.
So that's it! Our trip west from Chicago was 1,200 miles over 15 days. To me, that's a pretty good mosey. Steven got to photograph some stuff and we didn't fall off a cliff!
Up Next: Cody!