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Discussion Starter #21
After a solid half-hour of wandering around the area, we started back up the hill. I liked the contrast between the blue sky and the green/brown grass, so I took a picture. A little further up the hill, and the car offered even more contrast, so that picture is the first one here. As we got to the top, I liked the way the car was sitting at the edge of the grass. And finally, I really liked the car with the bridge. While not as geographically remote as those pictures we took way back on the Nevada/Utah border, this gave the same sense of being off the beaten track. The photo of the Lotus with the bridge was our laptop's screen background for many months afterward.
 

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Discussion Starter #22 (Edited)
Back on St Rt 44, we continued east. We intended to take this all the way to the Minnesota border, crossing Interstate 29 and possibly picking up US Rt 18 again, but construction changed our route. We ended up turning north on St Rt 37 at the town of Parkston and driving the few miles to Mitchell. At Mitchell, which is right on Interstate 90, we stopped for fuel and lunch, sitting outside a small truck stop, eating our sub sandwiches, and watching the multitude of motorcycles making their way east from Sturgis. We even witnessed a few sportbikes loaded with soft luggage mixed in among the throngs of Harley-Davidsons. Some of the bikes were trailer queens, but the bulk were being ridden, many of them two-up. I'm no great fan of cruisers in general, or Harleys in particular, but it was nevertheless good to see folks out, enjoying the ride in the sunshine. I thought about that again a couple of hours further east on the road when the rain began coming down in earnest.

We had to decide how to time our arrival in Wisconsin. We decided that we wanted to get there in the early afternoon with plenty of daylight left. Since we were only in the middle of the day in Mitchell, we decided to stop for a nice dinner somewhere without pushing very far into the evening. We crossed the border into Minnesota and decided to drive about 40 miles further east on I-90. At the town of Worthington, we cut northeast on Minnesota St Rt 60, wandering through the lush greenery of the upper Midwest until arriving in Mankato, Minnesota. My wife had accumulated lots of Hilton hotel points from her business travels over the past two years, so we snagged a room at the Hilton Garden right on the river, which was positioned strategically near a cool little brewpub. The parking garage was a very clean arrangement, but after driving through the rain for the last 20 minutes of this leg, I wanted the car washed NOW. That involved filling our bucket in our room. In order to get it all done at once, our room's trash can was pressed into service as a second bucket, and we carried it all up in the elevator and out to the garage. I felt better.

Just a block away, Pub 500 had great food and service, and they also had a funny trivia game going inside, at which we did fairly well. Speaking of trivia, we learned it was the last day of summer camp for the Minnesota Vikings, who practice there in Mankato. That day, we drove a little over 400 miles in about 8 hours with leisurely stops at the river and for lunch, still arriving in Mankato with daylight to spare.
 

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You missed the corn palace in Mitchell? We finally were able to see it this year. We also stopped in Sturges. It is quite different looking than I expected from all the TV specials.
 

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Discussion Starter #24
I guess we did miss it. In fact, I didn't know it existed. We actually had a little bit of time to spare, so we could have checked it out. Ah, regrets;)

When you hit Sturgis and Mitchell, which way were you going, and what time of year? Two wheels or four?
 

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Discussion Starter #25 (Edited)
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.
 

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I guess we did miss it. In fact, I didn't know it existed. We actually had a little bit of time to spare, so we could have checked it out. Ah, regrets;)

When you hit Sturgis and Mitchell, which way were you going, and what time of year? Two wheels or four?
We were in our M100 going west heading toward Seattle. Our next stop was the badlands then the minute man site. It was mid October of this year.
 

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Discussion Starter #27
Now you have me wondering--I'll have to go look up the Corn Palace.

Was it getting cool as you went through the mountains at that point? I would guess. I haven't seen the SD Badlands since '98. Remote and impressive, for sure. Sounds like an excellent trip. Any pics?
 

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Adracer,

Thanks for the write up! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, years after the event.:)

I'm still drooling too about the KG Elise. Mine is Saffron but KG just seems so much cooler.
 

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Discussion Starter #30
Glad you guys liked it. I admit, I've gone back a couple of times over the last few years and re-read it. It was a great trip. Never did figure out how to capture a screen shot of a map, but I'll get there eventually.

KG has been a fun color. It attracts some unwanted attention, I suppose, but we bought it because we liked it, plain and simple. The Saffron Yellow is a good color in person, and I really liked it when I saw it with black stripes, but I already have a yellow car, and when my wife saw the KG, that was it.

Just back in the US two days ago, and we'll be landing in Virginia (with the car) in eight days. Probably won't have a lot to report on that trip, but reading about all the activities, from weekly C&Cs to the get-togethers out in the Shenandoah, Deal's Gap, and other places, I'm hoping we find some neat motoring destinations and events around the mid-Atlantic and the Appalachians. See you out there!
 
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