We left Mankato at about 9:30am. We headed northeast on US Rt 169 towards the Cities, and while we enjoyed rolling through the familiar Midwest farmland, drawing ever closer to family, we also had those feelings of "dang, the trip is nearly over."
Approaching the Cities, we turned east on St Rt 5 which merged into I-494. We stuck with 494 as it curved north around St. Paul, crossed I-94, and magically became I-694. Shortly after that, we hooked into I-35E headed north. Despite all the alphabet soup of road names, it seems remarkably easy (to me) to get out of the Twin Cities. OK, OK, traffic notwithstanding--what I'm saying is that we wanted to skirt the downtown area with a minimum of hassle, then get back "out of town", and that was exactly what we did. At Forest Lake, we turned east on US Rt 8, the road that would take us nearly all the way to our destination, but first, we navigated through the little gorge of Taylors Falls/St. Croix Falls.
I've been through this area maybe a dozen times, but it never ceases to impress, especially when you realize that is actually the Mississippi River down there under the bridge. Coming from the west, the road meanders down through the little town of Taylors Falls, then climbs up again on the Wisconsin side as it straightens out into farmland. We casually drove the speed limit the rest of the way into Barron County's largest town, and we were getting ready to enjoy lunch before we knew it. The steaks and beers were among the best I can remember. From Mankato that day, we drove about 190 miles in about 3 hours and 40 minutes.
Northern California to northern Wisconsin: about 2300 miles, and we drove it in five and a half days with stops in Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, and Minnesota. When I figure out how to snap a map picture and download it, I will attach. The car was brilliant. After all that seat time, neither of us complained about the seats. We had gotten excellent mileage, even considering how much speed we carried through central Nevada. The hard top kept things cozy, and we both agreed it cut down on wind/road noise as compared to the soft top (or obviously, no top). It carried everything we needed/wanted, plus a little more (that 1-gallon fuel can never got used). I haven't checked our VIN yet, but it's an '05, so it will probably be on the oil line recall list. In light of said recall, I would definitely have that work done prior to such a trip, especially because we chose some rather rural routes, but that wouldn't have otherwise affected our route. The time of year was perfect, with very little risk of snow, and we ended up having near-constant sunshine. Any shortcoming of the car, of course, would have been completely forgiven after our route through Utah and Colorado. Whether climbing those sunny mountain passes or jamming along the Arkansas River, the Rocky Mountain portion of our trip was fantastic. I'm not the wide-eyed youngster I was on my first cross-country in 1994, but I still pause and wonder at the incredible sights, roads, and terrain we have in this country. Seeing such things in a book, a movie, or even very good photos just isn't the same as seeing it firsthand, on the ground. And what a blessing to have so many options for crossing it. A drive like this, especially in the history-laden west, makes me think about people who wanted to make such a crossing only 150 years ago. Months by horse or wagon. Now, in just a few days, we can move nearly as quickly or as slowly as we like. What a blessing. The little Elise was a fantastic companion, and while it was our last drive for some time, we definitely hope to add a few more lines to our atlas with this car.
Last edited by adracer; 11-26-2011 at 02:51 AM.