Weeks 5 & 6 - Seattle, Washington
to Minneapolis, Minnesota
Day 29 - Thursday, July 9th
Busy day sightseeing today. First, I made the 15-minute drive from Kirkland to the
headquarters of the Evil Empire (aka Microsoft) and took
a spin through their low-key Redmond campus. Then it was off to downtown Seattle for a ride up
to the top of the Space Needle and an extensive hike
down the length of the waterfront and back through the endless street markets, including the
famous fish market where they love to show
off for the customers by tossing around huge salmon and other seafood.
The afternoon entertainment was a kayak trip on Lake Washington with Jim, the express purpose
of which was gawking up close at Bill Gates 40 million dollar compound, located just a mile or
two down the lakeshore from the Relfs' house. It was the first time I had been in a kayak and I
went in the lake a few times, but it was a lot of fun. I dried off just in time to set out for
tonight's Mariners game kicking off the second half of the baseball season. I went to the game
with Don Piper, another of my dad's cousins, and his son Aaron, who's about my age. They are
both huge Mariners fans and thus have been in a severe funk for most of this season. Next door
to the featureless Kingdome is the Mariners' nearly- completed new ballpark. It is scheduled to
open in the middle of the '99 season, becoming the first new ballpark that I will have to visit
to ensure my collection remains complete.
I rode back with Don and Aaron and spent another night at the Relfs' place, looking forward
to a long day of driving on Friday.
Day 30 - Friday, July 10th
I got off by 6 am, heading due east with a goal of getting to
Park. Thanks to the lack of daytime speed limits in the great state of Montana, I covered
over 750 miles in less than 11 hours and, despite losing a hour crossing back into Mountain
time, I got to Yellowstone in time to find a motel room just outside the park and get a couple
hours of sightseeing in before dark. The most striking thing is the vast areas of toothpick-like
dead trees left over from the 1988 fires that wiped out thousands of acres. The new growth is
starting up, but it will be decades before they will be more than shrubs. I did most of the
geysers tonight, culminating in
Old Faithful, which made everybody wait about 15 minutes past the expected eruption time
before delivering the goods in the rapidly fading daylight. The trip passed the 10,000-mile mark
near the end of the day today.
Day 31 - Saturday, July 11th
Another long day of driving today, but I did my best to see as much of Yellowstone as
possible before hitting the road in earnest. I drove the north loop, through
Mammoth Hot Springs,
past dozens of bison and elk, over the mountains and along the shore of the huge Lake
Yellowstone for a total of 120 extremely scenic miles inside the park boundaries. After fighting
some nasty road construction traffic getting out the park's east entrance, I hit the wide open
spaces of central Wyoming, passed through Cody (the rodeo capital of the world) and made good
time on I-90 into South Dakota. I ventured off the interstate to visit
Mount Rushmore and
the neighboring, in-progress Crazy Horse monument. With
the tourist quota met, I covered another 150 miles of I-90, succumbed to the countless little
billboards by stopping at the Wall
Drug Store (billed as the largest drug store in the world), and called it a night in the
little town of Murdo, just after crossing into the Central Time Zone. Somehow, I felt much more
tired after losing that hour.
Day 32 - Sunday, July 12th
While covering the rest of South Dakota, I stopped at the
Corn Palace in the town of
Mitchell. This building, covering an entire city block, is almost completely covered with
artwork made entirely from corn. They've been redecorating it every year since before the turn
of the century. Inside, it smells like you're inside a box of Corn Pops cereal.
Halfway across the bottom edge of Minnesota, I turned south into Iowa and headed for
Dyersville. Today represents the halfway point of my two-month trip, and what could be more
appropriate than visiting the Field
of Dreams. Despite all the people who they let play on the field, it is in pristine
condition, with sprinklers, lights and bleachers all in place. I went out and hit some balls
with three other guys, and even had a full-speed collision with one of the guys while chasing a
fly ball. I came away unscathed, but the other guy ended up with a major fat lip. The whole
place was a great experience, but unfortunately I must report that I was unable to conjure up my
dad's ghost for "a catch".
I stopped for the night about 25 miles later in Dubuque Iowa (is there any other place that
has three Us in its name?), right on the banks of the mighty Mississippi.
Day 33 - Monday, July 13th
I went to Dubuque's Mississippi River Museum this morning, which includes three floors of
exhibits on the history of the river and the city, plus a separate building dedicated to
riverboats and an authentic dual-paddlewheel channel dredging boat. Appropriately, I had spent
most of my driving time on Sunday listening to an audiobook of the excellent, non-fiction
"Rising Tide", a detailed account of the largest known floods on the Mississippi in 1927. It
also details the people and technology involved in early efforts to survey, navigate, bridge,
and control the all-powerful Mississippi - the longest river in the world.
It was about 3½ hours to Milwaukee, and I got there
in time to do some sightseeing before the 7 pm game between the Brewers and the Phillies. I took
a walk along the shores of Lake Michigan in one of the many large parks and then stopped at the
towns best known business, the Miller Brewery, for a tour. I was too late for the full tour, but
I watched their mini-movie about the company and the beer-making process and was treated to a
couple of free beers at their on-site pub.
Milwaukee County Stadium, like so many other stadiums around the country, is being replaced
by a new ballpark. The predictably named Miller Park, set to open in 2000, is being built right
next door to the existing stadium, so everything is torn up and parking is quite a hike from the
After only 1 game in the previous 9 days, thanks to the All-Star break and the sheer distance
from Seattle to Milwaukee, tonight begins a stretch of 10 games in 14 days. Play Ball!
Another night in the Rodeo, about halfway between Milwaukee and Chicago.
Day 34 - Tuesday, July 14th
I made a last-minute alteration to the itinerary this morning when I saw in the newspaper
that the White Sox would be playing a double-header against the Blue Jays on Wednesday. Two for
the price of one vs. one of my favorite teams beats seeing the Twins any day, so I decided to
head to St. Louis today instead of on Wednesday.
Not content with the direct route to St. Louis, straight down I-55, I headed straight west to
spend the day with my new friend the Mississippi River. I got to the "Quad
Cities" (I'd be very surprised if anyone outside the midwest can name all four) around noon
and then proceeded to follow the river south toward St. Louis. The hastily-devised plan (I know
this sounds really nuts) was to cross the river on every bridge along the way and travel the
scenic roads that twist and turn along each bank of the river, many being officially designated
as "The Great River Road". It took
longer than I had naively anticipated, but I managed to cross the Mississippi 16 times on 16
separate bridges, every single one along the more than 250-mile stretch of river between
Davenport Iowa and St. Louis. If I had had more time, I would have included the 3 or 4 toll
ferries that operate along the way. The widely varied scenery along the way, through industrial
towns, huge farms and historic places like Mark Twain's hometown of
Hannibal, was fascinating. The river itself was apparently
somewhat swollen and along many stretches of road its immense waters, up to a mile wide in
places, lapped right up to the side of the road. It's easy to see how this river becomes the
focus of life for so many that live along it.
I made it to St. Louis just in time for the Cards-Reds game at Busch Stadium, which sits in
the shadow of the famous 600-foot Gateway Arch.
Taking the boring way back to Chicago, I hit I-55, stopping for the night at a motel in
Day 35 - Wednesday, July 15th
Springfield's claim to fame is Abraham
Lincoln, and they exploit that to the hilt. Four city blocks right in the middle of town have
been preserved and restored to look as they did when Lincoln, then an attorney, lived on 8th
Street. The house itself is the major tourist attraction, billed as "the only house Lincoln ever
I headed straight into the heart of downtown Chicago, "The Loop", with it's attendant traffic
snarls and outrageous parking fees. The world's tallest building (at least according to
Chicagoans), the Sears Tower, was the first stop.
Unfortunately, it was rather hazy today, so the view didn't quite extend to four states as they
so like to tout - but ¼ mile straight up affords some amazing views no matter what the weather.
Chicago wouldn't be Chicago without Michael Jordan, so I also made quick stops at his downtown
restaurant and at United Center to see his famous statue. I must say that the statue looks much
better and more life-like up close in 3D than it does in photos and on TV, where it always
looked cartoonish to me.
I got to the "new" Comisky Park at 3:45 for the 4 pm doubleheader. You know something is out
of whack when parking ($10) costs twice as much as my ticket did!
Game 16 (and 16A)
I had a bed to sleep in at my cousin Steve's place in Albion Michigan, so I got on I-94 after
the games for what should have been an easy 3-hour drive. I ended up sitting through one of the
worst traffic nightmares I've ever been in, thanks to extensive nighttime construction that left
traffic literally stopped for over 40 minutes. I lost at least an hour, and with the other hour
I lost crossing back into Eastern time, I didn't get to Steve's until about 3 am.
Day 36 - Thursday, July 16th
Steve gave me the grand tour of Albion this morning. He graduated from
Albion College this year and is now the driving
force behind a new community development organization. I'm betting that within a few years, he's
going to be running the whole town!
After lunch and laundry, I headed for the Motor City, an hour and a half away. There are only
four ballparks left in the majors that can be called landmarks, and
Tigers Stadium is the first one on the itinerary. The
stadium, which opened on the same day as Fenway Park in 1912, is set to be replaced in just a
couple years with a new park, so I'm glad to have been able to see this part of baseball history
before it succumbs to progress (read: luxury boxes).
I slept in the Rodeo at a turnpike rest stop just east of Toledo.
Day 37 - Friday, July 17th
Cedar Point in Sandusky Ohio is one of the oldest
and biggest amusement parks in the country, boasting a vast array of thrill rides and the
unmatched scenery provided by having Lake Erie and Sandusky Bay on either side of its narrow
peninsula. I got there as it opened and was able to tackle all ten of the major rides in a
little over four hours, with only the last two requiring significant waits. A "top 10" list of
roller coasters that was in the USA Today travel section ranked the Magnum XL-200 very highly
and it lived up to the hype. The initial drop is nearly 200 feet and reaches speeds of 72 mph.
But the ride that puts all the coasters to shame is the new Power Tower - which takes you up a
200-foot tower and then propels you straight down faster than a free-fall. The lines are long
and the ride only lasts a few seconds, but it's a killer sensation.
Today's other attraction was the Pro Football Hall
of Fame in Canton Ohio. I got there at about 5 pm and spent a couple hours taking in the
storied history of the NFL and its greatest players. There is a new theatre that takes you
"inside the locker room and onto the field" with some innovative attempts at realism. All in
all, the place was excellent, with plenty of personal NFL memories brought back for even a
relative youngster like me.
My accommodations for the night were provided by my uncle and aunt, Bob and Carol Marshall,
in Columbus. Carol is famous in the family for her cooking, and between dinner and breakfast on
Saturday, I ate enough to last me the whole weekend!
Day 38 - Saturday, July 18th
I took the Rodeo in for another well-deserved oil change this morning before heading
southwest on I-71 toward Cincinnati. The initial destination was
Kings Island, another major amusement park, the site of the #1 roller coaster on my
reviewer's list - "The Beast". In contrast to Cedar Point, the crowds here were far too big for
the number of major rides and the lines were extremely long. It took over an hour each to ride
The Beast and another of the big coasters and I only ended up hitting four roller coasters plus
the replica Eiffel Tower in about the same time as I had spent at Cedar point yesterday. The
Beast didn't disappoint though, it being the longest wooden coaster in the world and whipping
riders through several long, pitch-black tunnels at high speed.
When I couldn't stomach the thought of another hour-long line, I continued on to downtown
Cincinnati and Cinergy Field (formerly Riverfront Stadium) on the banks of the Ohio River.
I crossed the river into Kentucky and got about halfway to Louisville before stopping for the
night at a motel in the little riverside town of Carrollton.
Day 39 - Sunday, July 19th
I must have set some sort of record today for most totally unrelated attractions visited. The
first stop was the legendary Churchill Downs, home
of the Kentucky Derby since 1875. I visited the onsite museum, which included a guided tour out
into the grandstand to see the track and watch the horses that were working out. Interesting
fact: on Derby day, they get over 90,000 people to pay $30 each just to get on the enormous
track infield. Most of these people will not even be able to see the race!
Next up was the downtown factory of the Louisville Slugger
Company. This being Sunday, there were no tours available, but it was worth checking the
place out just to see the 6-story baseball bat leaning against the front of the building.
Stop number three was about 20 miles south of Louisville at the venerable Fort Knox. I drove
through the military base, perused the collection of tanks arrayed outside the Patton Museum,
and then broke in to the U.S. Gold Bullion Reserve and made off with the loot (OK, maybe I just
read the plaque and admired the famous security).
Rolling ever southward through the small towns of central Kentucky, I visited the
Abraham Lincoln's Birthplace National Historic
Site (whew, that's a mouthful!), thus completing the Lincoln retrospective that I had begun
in Springfield Illinois. Here in
Kentucky, where Abe lived from birth to age 7, they have rebuilt the one-room log cabin that his
family lived in on their farm beginning in 1808. Just down the hill from the cabin, there is a
little natural spring where they got all their water.
The day's primary attraction was next, and it was about 1:30 pm (after crossing back into
Central Time) when I arrived at Mammoth Cave
National Park. The network of caves that interconnect under these rolling Kentucky hills is
more that three times as long as any other known cave in the world. These caves were also quite
different in appearance from Carlsbad Caverns and the Lost World Caverns. Here, there were few
if any other-worldly stalactites, stalagmites and other rock formations - these caves are more
like an incredible underground maze, with mainly bland-looking tunnels snaking up and down,
often requiring one to crouch under 3-foot ceilings or squeeze through extremely tight spots.
They claim over 350 miles of surveyed passages, and several hundred more that are still
unexplored. The hike I went on covered about 2 miles and descended to over 300 feet below the
Next (there couldn't be more, could there?), I took a walk through the
National Corvette Museum, which is located near the GM
Assembly Plant in Bowling Green Kentucky where all 'Vettes are made. There are several dozen
Corvettes on display, from the first 50's models to the brand new S5 models to space age looking
prototypes. All hail the great American sports car!
Finally, I stopped to see the
Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, which has been relocated from its original downtown
location to become part of a huge suburban complex called Opryland. Not content with this
tradition-free site, I proceeded downtown to see the real thing, which is still used for
It was still only 7:30 pm, and I covered another 50 miles toward Memphis before spotting my
cheapest motel so far ($22) along I-40.
Day 40 - Monday, July 20th
I put on my blue suede shoes and headed to
Graceland, arriving at 9:30 am, before the crowds got too bad. The mansion tour is the main
draw, but you also get to see all Elvis' cars, planes, jumpsuits, etc. Even though he was a
little before my time, I felt like I was in a time warp to the 70's as soon as I entered the
Today was not a good day for 18-wheelers. First, as I was getting on the interstate this
morning, I passed a semi lying on its side on one of the exit ramps. What an incredibly lousy
feeling that must be when you realize that your truck is going to tip over. Then, just across
the Arkansas border on I-40, I went by a totally burned-out shell of another tractor trailer. It
was right on the interstate, closing the eastbound lanes, and there was over 4 miles of
completely stopped traffic stacked up behind it.
Passing through Little Rock, I couldn't resist checking out a few Clinton sites. I went by
the Governor's Mansion, which is unobtrusively located in a residential area with other houses
on three sides, and then the infamous Excelsior Hotel, where he made his moves on Paula Jones.
I got to the heart of the Ozarks, Branson
Missouri, by 5:30 pm and soaked in the schlock. The best I can tell, it's like Las Vegas without
the gambling, the showgirls, and the edge - all that's left is the tackiness. Thirty bucks to
listen to country music seems a bit steep, so I went to the local
IMAX theatre to see the Everest movie on their 6-story screen.
Day 41 - Tuesday, July 21st
I saw another of the cheap shows, "Waltzing Waters", where classical and pop music
accompanies an amazing water and light show. Then it was a return to backwoods Ozark country as
I headed west for a quick jaunt into Oklahoma and then north toward Kansas City.
I got to the Kansas City metro area at about 4 pm, visited the
NCAA Hall of Champions, fought a little rush
hour traffic, and pulled in to Kauffman Stadium just as the gates were opening.
Called it a day at a motel near the stadium, with a long drive ahead of me on Wednesday.
Day 42 - Wednesday, July 22nd
Heading north on I-29, I got to the Omaha area at noon and crossed the Missouri River to
visit the great state of Nebraska. I've become a huge fan of the "welcome centers" that usually
awaits travelers right across state lines - free maps, motel discount coupons, brochures for
every possible attraction in the state, and sometimes even free food and drink! Anyway, I pulled
into the Nebraska place and got my stuff and some advice on what to visit in and around Omaha.
On the way out I noticed that there was a stadium across the street and heard a public address
announcer giving the starting lineups for the minor league baseball game that was about to
start. It seemed like it was meant to be, so I went over, bought a $3.50 ticket, and attended
the first minor league game of my life. The AAA Omaha
Royals (can your guess their parent team?) were hosting the Mariners' farm team, the Frenso
Grizzlies and I settled in to a front row seat right on top of the first base dugout. It was a
real good day for the hometown boys - 6 homeruns and a 10-2 lead when I headed out after the 7th
inning. Despite the fact that, even in the minors, they gouge you at the concession stands, I
had a good time. Even the weather cooperated, keeping the blazing sun behind clouds for most of
the game, but taking a break in the rain showers that I saw both before and after.
League Box Score (AAA)
Back over the river in Council Bluffs
Iowa, I visited the Historical Trails Museum, which
documents the westward expansion that was keyed by the trails blazed by Lewis and Clark and
various others. Quite a few of these trails came through this area, following the Missouri River
and then diverging westward.
Even though I spent two and a half hours in Nebraska, it appears to have locked up the
"fewest miles" title in my travels through all 48 of the continental United States. With a grand
total of 4 miles, Nebraska joins runaway "most miles" champ California, which clocked in with
Back on I-29, I pushed on through Iowa, South Dakota and the southeast corner of North Dakota
before hanging a right into Minnesota. Today's total of 6 states is the highest one-day tally of
the trip. I stopped for the night at a secluded rest stop about an hour outside of the twin
cities. The comfortable weather and quiet tree-lined rest area made for the best night in the
Rodeo so far.