In 2007, we planned a vacation around the wedding of my brother, Scott, and Erin, in Orlando. This week, we do it again. My cousin, Allison, is getting married in Minneapolis on the 30th, so this seemed like a pretty good excuse to head north.
The bad news is that we are down several members of our family due to important reasons like moving into a new house (my brother and his family), and band camp (daughter Mallory). We will travel on without them, but we will miss them! The “we” on this trip is myself, Stephanie, Miles (18yo), Marissa (13yo), and my parents, KK and PK.
Departure from the house this morning was 75 minutes late. Is it possible that it has always been Mallory that kept us on-time?
As has been our tradition when heading out on vacation, we stopped at the QuikTrip a half mile from the house to fuel ourselves with breakfast. Nothing sets the tone for the trip like dropping $15 on breakfast pizzas within 5 minutes of leaving the house.
One hour into the drive, we pulled over at the truck stop in Big Cabin, OK, to meet KK’s friend, Jack. KK had borrowed Jack’s GPS for their recent two week drive through Alaska. Now seemed as good a time as any to return it.
This truck stop has one of the biggest Indians you will ever see proudly standing out front. (But don’t park next to it for too long, or the manager will drive out on his golf cart and ask you to move.)
Marissa’s goal on this trip is to dance across each state line. The Missouri state line was our first opportunity. We pulled over and I danced with Marissa while Stephanie worked the camera. Miles stayed in the car and pretended he didn’t know us.
When we got back in the car, Stephanie had a text from our friend, Angela. “Did you just take your family’s picture next to the Missouri sign?” Turns out the Parris family was driving past us at that exact moment. Angela’s daughter also texted Marissa about seeing us. This incident will go in our travel serendipity hall of fame. (Angela, we will notify you about the time and place of the induction ceremony later.)
KK and PK had driven on ahead and had pulled off at the next exit to wait for us. When we pulled off to hook up with them, we realized we were just a mile from the Tri-State marker identifying where Oklahoma, Missouri, and Kansas meet. Time for a detour.
It was very easy to find the marker only because we were looking for it. There was no signage visible except for the final turn. We drove down a gravel road past a corral full of bison, and joined another car at the monument.
I had only been out of the car for 5 seconds when a tourist from the other car asked me to take their picture in front of the monument. A closer look at this fellow shows that he is wearing a Centennial National Parks t-shirt and sporting a Yellowstone cap. I have found my people.
They asked me where I was from and I told them Tulsa. They were from Kansas, but had driven 5 hours to visit the marker. From what I could understand, their goal was to visit all four corners of their state. Have fun, Kansans!
The fellow from Kansas told me the true geographic point where the three states touch was off in the brush & trees a ways. They had tromped through there looking for it, but did not find it. We had no interest in doing that. We got our pictures. We’re happy.
We drove into Kansas City with the plan to have a picnic lunch at a park. My great idea was to find some picnic tables in a park new Union Station and the WWI Museum. What we didn’t anticipate was that all of Kansas City was in that area of town. The traffic was bad, parking was at a premium, and there were certainly no picnic tables.
We drove for miles down Main Street and past several good sized parks, but still no picnic tables. This may be the city of fountains, but you better not try to enjoy it with a sandwich in your hand.
After driving around KC for about 30 minutes, and making one pit stop at Starbucks, we decided to cut our losses and get out of town. Down the highway another 30 minutes was the town of Kearney, and their elementary school parking lot was good enough for us.
Our next bit of excitement was approaching the Iowa state line. The dancing needed to continue, but as we got to within a mile of the line, our side of the road went under construction and we were detoured to a lane on the other side of the road. Fortunately, there was an exit that allowed us to cross back over right before the state line. We pulled over on the off ramp and hiked up the embankment to the Iowa sign. Commence Dance Party.
I should note that the first thing we saw when pulling off the interstate was a tractor driving down the highway. I can’t make this stuff up.
Once we walked back to the vehicle, there was a debate if we could get back on the interstate right there. The ramp appeared open to me, but there was a sign next to it that said to detour. The rest of the family voted detour, and that turned out to be a blessing. We had to drive on the Iowa state highway for a bit, and traveled through the town of Lamoni.
Lamoni had an Amish Country Store and Iowa Welcome Center. We enjoyed cow yard art, live chickens, Amish goods of all kinds, and half price shakes. That is a top notch welcome center.
Leaving Lamoni, it was a short drive up the interstate before we turned east on Highway 2. Once we exited the interstate, we only had service on our phones very briefly over the next hour until we arrived in our destination of Centerville. We passed through several real towns, and the phones would say “No Service” the entire time. I found this odd.
The drive was fairly sparsely populated, but nearly all of the farm homes that we saw along the road had immaculate lawns. It appeared as though everybody mowed their yard today. And not just their yard, they would mow up and down along the highway on either side of their house. Great job on your yards, Iowa!
As we closed in on Centerville, we noticed house after house that had painted bicycles in their yards. A yard might have 3 bicycles, each completely painted red, then white, and also blue. The Centerville sign even had a painted bicycle in front of it. These Iowans love their bikes!
When checking into our hotel, KK asked the clerks about the bicycles. Turns out that there is a bike ride across Iowa going on right now called RAGBRAI (the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa). She said 3,000 bicyclist would be in Centerville on Tuesday, and this was the first time the ride had ever come through Centerville. The town is psyched. She said their hotel has been sold out for 8 months for this event.
After unloading, we convened in KK and PK’s room for dinner and then we played some Phase 10, an entertaining card game. Marissa, who seemingly plays all games against her wishes, won the first two hands and seemed to get the hang of it pretty quick.
We shut down the game at 10pm and are ready for our first full day in Iowa tomorrow. Bring on some Iowa culture.