This August Ryan and I set off on a 4500-mile road trip around the American West that we affectionately called "Epic American Road Trip". Along the way we traversed nine states and visited six national parks over the course of 10 days. I'd like to share our adventure here. The links to each day of our trip are below:
We started off the second day of our trip by driving to Mt. Evans, west of Denver. The Mt. Evans Scenic Byway starts in Idaho Springs and ends at the top of Mt. Evans, at an elevation of 14,130 feet. It's the highest paved road in North America. A friendly gas station attendant gave us directions to get on the byway since there was a little construction going on. The drive was gorgeous, through evergreen forest and with great views of the mountains all around. We arrived at Echo Lake after a little while. There's a gift shop and restaurant there so we took some pictures of the pretty lake, used the restroom, and caught our breath, since the air was already noticeably thinner.
We left after work on Friday night and drove on to Valentine, NE. Along the way we stopped to get gas at the Cowboy Town place (first bison sighting!) and got dinner at Al's Oasis, which has long been a favorite place of mine. It's kitschy and touristy but the food is actually pretty good. We were served quickly and enjoyed people-watching the many Sturgis Rally attendees who were there while we ate.
We then hit the road and drove mostly through the dark onto Valentine, NE, where we were staying for the night.
Currently I’m sitting in MIA waiting for my flight to Havana, Cuba, which takes off in a little over an hour. Before I head to the land of cigars, salsa music, classic American cars and uncertain internet, I thought I’d quickly write about my time in Miami before I forget the details in the undoubtedly fun and colorful blur that my month in Cuba will be.
The National Music Museum of the United States is located, of all places, in Vermillion, South Dakota, a city of about 10,000 people. It was founded in 1973 on the campus of the University of South Dakota (USD) as "America's Shrine to Music" and "Center for the Study of the History of Musical Instruments."
Pipestone National Monument is one of the few areas where catlinite (pipestone) was and is mined by many different Native American tribes. It was a place of peace where they would quarry the stone for their prayer pipes, believing that the smoke from the pipes carried their prayers to the Great Spirit. Pipestone is still quarried there today, and you can see cultural demonstrations of people making it into pipes at the very interesting visitor center. There are some nice trails around to the different quarry sites, through tallgrass prairie, and past Winnewissa Falls and the jumping rock.
If you're ever in the Duluth, Minnesota area and you enjoy learning about early 20th century history (or even if you just enjoy seeing fancy houses), I highly recommend visiting the Glensheen Historic Estate. It's a mansion of 39 rooms as well as some beautiful gardens and a wonderful pebble beach along the shore of Lake Superior. I have been there twice. The first time pictures were not allowed inside, but it has since been taken over by the University of Minnesota, so the tours are a little different, and they let you take pictures!