Saturday, June 10, 2017

Traveling a Triangle: 3 States in 3 Days

Traveling a Triangle: 3 States in 3 Days 
April, 2017

One of my bucket list goals is to visit all of the 50 United States by the time I am 50-years-old. When a woman’s biological travel clock is ticking, she must plan and go. I recently planned a quick four-day jaunt to Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota with my 16-year-old daughter.  This journey marked the beginning of my travel goals. Being Florida natives we had no idea what to expect on this adventure except for what I researched via the inter web. We jet-set from Florida to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Round trip Allegiant flights were cheap and flight days worked out perfectly for Thursday and Sunday.

Obama once visited Lost Nation, Iowa.

Maquoketa Caves

Our first adventure destination was the Maquoketa Caves State Park in Iowa. Driving through a Lost Nation on the way to Maquoketa (pronounced Ma-Coke-A-Da) is exactly as boring as it sounds. Don’t count on using a map app. Print directions or ask a rental car agency for a map before traversing the barren land of no cell towers. However, there was an almost mystical American beauty about the back winding country roads. We drove past endless dormant corn fields and both newly constructed and dilapidated red barns, many of which were garnished by the high flying, grand old flag. As for the caves, it’s a definite go to and must see, nothing boring about it. It's free and the natural beauty affords a peaceful calm that is priceless and majestic. Pictures can’t possibly do it justice. You need to see and feel the damp ground as you walk in semi-darkness to get to the end of the cave that is flooded with light through a large opening in the mouth of the cave.

Iowa = corn fields and barns.

Our next adventure stop was The House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin. At first, no words for this place. And then, lots of words for this place came to mind. Alex Jordan built it in 1945 and kept expanding to build what is now an enormous resort, inn, golf course and tourist attraction. There is a fee to walk the separate phases of the home. We paid for all three levels and got our monies worth. I confess that when we got to the last level we practically ran through it because we were so ready to get out of crazy town. If you're looking to laugh a lot, take some obscure pictures and make some memories, I suggest spending two or three hours here. I can't even begin to describe in words how ornately eccentric this place was but here are a few examples: Mr. Jordan designed musical instruments that automatically self-play. Not just a little banjo that picks itself but huge displays as large as a mammoth pipe organ type structure. We then walked onto an infinity (and beyond) walkway that extends out beyond the supporting rock underneath it. It gives the illusion that it goes on forever. If you're not careful it will give you a Buzz. Ha! There are collections of everything you can imagine; from guns to creepy clowns to colored glass bottles. The two largest and coolest attractions are the world's largest carousel valued at almost 5M dollars and a giant life-size indoor whale. It's remarkable, surreal and overwhelming. Go experience it and get freaked out!

To Infinity and Beyond!

Very cool life size whale built indoors.

Only one horse on the entire carousel.

The House on the Rock Weirdness

On the drive from crazy town to Madison, Wisconsin we discovered Arena Cheese Store in Arena, WI. Turns out the owner of this shop was also the inventor of Colby-Jack Longhorn cheese! We nibbled on some squeaky fresh cheese curds and kept driving until we happened upon The Shoe Box in Black Earth, WI. This was worth an hour of our time. The store was full of friendly staff, a vast selection and good deals. 
One the side of the road find.
Wisconsin's finest cheese.
That night we stayed across from the Alliant Energy Center in Madison and spontaneously decided to see what all the commotion was about in the parking lot. Turns out it was an I Love the 90's concert tour, so we decided to buy a couple of tickets and were in our seats within 10 minutes. I haven't had that much fun reliving the old days, with my teenage daughter at my side, as I did that night. She said it was weird at first and then it gave her a new appreciation for 90's music. The next morning we headed to the Madison Farmers’ Market on the Capitol Square. Lots of food trucks, crafts and farmer's produce for sale. The festivities brought an early morning energy and the market truly extended all around the entire Capitol. It was a bit crowded but a typical downtown area. 

Salt N Pepa, Tone Loc, Young MC, Color Me Badd, Coolio, Rob Base, All 4 One

Capitol Building in Wisconsin

The final phase of the trip was destination Minneapolis, Minnesota - Mall of America! Our hotel was about a 10 minute drive away. We ate in the mall at Cadillac Ranch and traversed three floors of mall for three hours. Neither of us are big shoppers and we weren't inclined to ride the roller coasters but we did want to see it all. Once we found out there is no tax on clothes we were spurred on to spend. We really had a blast people watching and were mesmerized by the enormity of it all. 

Mall of America Shopping Extravaganza

Before driving back to Cedar Rapids airport the next morning we attended Eagle Brook Church in Woodbury, MI. We enjoyed our time worshipping at this large church on Easter and found the message to be on point. The route back to the airport in Iowa was less than desirable. We were left without cell service several times and at one point our map app led us down a dirt road? Stress! I should have researched the drive from Minneapolis to Cedar Rapids better but we made it in plenty of time and didn't run into any snafus. 

Overall, traveling the triangle was more fun than we could of imagined. #IowatoWisconsintoMinnesota #50by50

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