20. Nebraska… Wow!

Of all the states between Florida and Washington State … I would not have expected to enjoy Nebraska so much.

We liked Route 34 through Nebraska as much as Route 36 through Kansas.

For goodness sakes… forget about Rt70!

A real #stickandrudder pro right off our three o’clock. Showing off the low altitude #skills

Threading the needle through Nebraska … we feel so lucky we didn’t get hit like so many people throughout the Midwest

First time we pulled off the road because of a storm, though. 

Thanks to the city of Cambridge Nebraska for the convenient, clean (and free!) RV park right off Rt34!

Nebraska is a land of green rolling hills cut by rail lines and punctuated by alien-looking, somewhat scary, enormous and tightly clustered wind-mills

19. Kansas – Not what we were told (so nice!)

All we heard about Kansas was that it was flat, straight, boring and seemed to last forever. That may be true of Route 70, but if you get off the highway and take Rt 36 then Kansas offers a diversity of small towns and beautiful countryside.

MARYSVILLE, KS – “Marysville has always been known as Black Squirrel City. The folklore was that in the early 1900’s a carnival came to town, and the carnival brought two Black Squirrels – one male and one female, and a small boy let them out and they’ve been here ever since.”

Every small town along Rt36 in Kansas had some fun Americana. None of these small town mainstreets had a chain store or chain restaurant – never mind a big box store. It was wonderful seeing Ma’s Diner and Jack’s Auto Repair and all the historic family businesses. This is what it used to be like everywhere.

Rocky Pond Campground in Belleville, KS is a pretty, clean, well administered park and a great stop if you’re cruising rt36

A pretty afternoon when we pulled up and a lovely sunrise to start our drive to Nebraska

18. Historic, nostalgic Missouri

Finally crossed the Mississippi river (exciting!) into Missouri and stayed over at the Mark Twain Cave Campground.

Mark Twain was born in Missouri, just a bit West, but lived in Hannibal as a boy. There’s a lot of fun historic sites right near the river, and also this very nice campground.

It is fun to wander around in a new park. There was a guided motorcycle tour group parked near us (very cool), and we got in a little nature hike… Past where the gravel ends…

We took route 36 across Missouri and it was *so* much more fun than rt70. Oh. Man. #getoffthehighway #seeamerica

St. Joseph c.1890

St Joseph Missouri was where Kindra’s dad was born and lived to the time he entered the Marines and went to Korea. St. Joes was also the beginning of the Pony Express line that ran to Sacramento, CA. It was a nostalgic, historic stop on Main Street for us. (photo c. 1890)

There are sculptures and historic markers all through Missouri and along Route 36. It was all amazing Americana and made me wish they had taught more about the Pony Express when I was in grade school.

17. Illinois – Waiting out Tornadoes

Percival Springs Airport (2T2) has its own RV park and was our home for the several days we waited in Illinois for tornados to pass through Missouri and Kansas and Nebraska.

They host helicopter medical services and a 2000 foot grass strip most suited to STOL operations.

The cafe is nice and the folks who run the place are really friendly and helpful.

The field is close to Effingham restaurants and shops (including Menards!) and we wouldn’t stay anywhere else in the area. We were 140 miles East of Saint Louis and tensely watched the weather radar and waited for a safe time to sprint for Missouri. (at 50 mph…)

Sunset our first night at Percival Springs Airport in Effingham, IL

Sunsets and sunrises and a stunning, glowing, orange/ red moonrise were all part of enjoying our stay at Percival Springs Airport in Watson, IL. Our visit was also good timing to appreciate the flowering landscaping that RV host Bill had worked so hard on.

16. Illinois – The First Night

We loved driving through Illinois because of the beautiful countryside. I’ve flown into Chicago Midway a couple times, but never had a chance to tour the rest of the state. Get off rt70 and drive the County roads, they’re terrific!

All of Illinois looked like this…

Our first night in Illinois was a Wednesday, and we lucked into an empty campground. We could only stay one night because a big reunion was taking over the whole park the next day.

It was graduation weekend at the local high school and I guess it is a tradition for the visiting grandparents to take over this particular campground for the event. We spoke to some of these folks as they were coming in Thursday morning. They were so excited! Talking to strangers in RV parks is a new favorite past-time…

We were going to move on from Illinois the next morning, but travel had to wait for a series of tornadoes moving North from Texas and Oklahoma through Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska. So we rolled down the road to a spot where we could wait out the weather.

Meanwhile, it seems Illinois is carpeted by these beautiful yellow wildflowers. I understand they can be a nuisance to farms, but the butterweed sure was pretty.

15. Indiana (Hard Fail)

After an unplanned but wonderful visit to Ohio, we are truly heading West. Indiana is the first State on this trip that I’ve never visited before. 

One of the things we’ve learned to expect is that the amount of fun we are able to have on a ride is directly related to the road conditions. If the roads are nice we can go about anywhere and any distance, but if the roads are bad…

… anyway, Indiana is falling apart. I couldn’t say why West Virginia and Ohio were so nice and just over the border into Indiana was so bad, but it was like passing through a curtain and it never got better. Indianapolis is a fright and I’m just glad we made it through without breaking down. I will never go back to Indiana if I can help it. Hard fail.

We felt lucky to find Summit Lake. Summit Lake State Park has several camping areas and they’re all nice. Seemed like they just put down new gravel, which was tricky to drive and park on because it was so loose. Off the gravel was boggy and wet. Parking and leveling was a surprising fiddle. Really pretty though.

14. Ohio – Unplanned Delight

The trip from Summersville, WV to Syracuse, OH was our first real climbing test, with marked grades of 6% throughout that hilly part of the country. We continued happily traversing this beautiful landscape as we had South and North Carolina (of course, the elevation was never more than 3000′ asl).

Driving 100 miles, stopping to walk the dog or refuel or have a snack, and then driving another 100 miles has turned out to be a relaxed and easy pace. There were days we covered more than 300 miles, but it is more fun to rove the country using smaller steps.

Parked up at a sweet little campground just over the bridge from West Virginia. We spent the night in the famous Ohio River Valley and no one else was around this particular weeknight.

If you’re driving through Ohio, the Columbus Museum of Art is worth a side trip. Beautiful building and diverse, engaging collection.

We saw some of our favorites, and some surprises, too. Very nice!

Kindra and I had a nice date going around Columbus. So much has changed since I visited in high school and college!

We particularly enjoyed Upper Cup Coffee on Parsons Ave.

13. I really wanted this to be post # 15…

Kindra and I were married on May 1st of 2004. This year’s May Day was a very special anniversary for us and a great moment for us to reminisce and count our blessings.

When we were first dating, back in 2001 and 2002, we enjoyed visiting the wineries around Monticello in the Orange Country wine growing region of Virginia. As the population of Northern Va grew it became a longer and longer drive in the newly congested traffic… so we stopped going – but we have many fond memories.

For this year, we wanted to visit and stay over at a Harvest Host winery for all of the benefits of that system but also out of nostalgia for our early dating days. We chose the Kirkwood Winery and Distillery just outside of Summersville, WV.

I was telling the story as I prepared to write this post and unconsciously said “so that is what we did for our honeymoon…” obviously meaning anniversary, but what a sweet slip of the tongue! Kirkwood was perfect as a quietly romantic place to mark year 15.
They did a great job with the shop. Kirkwood is very photogenic!

Frank and Elizabeth Dix have done a terrific job taking a somewhat neglected historic winery and bringing it back to life. We enjoyed the tour Frank gave and Elizabeth’s wine and whiskey tasting. Good thing we weren’t driving that day! (We bought a case!)

Parked up at Kirkwood behind new buds on the vines facing the valley road.
View from our parking spot across the valley road

Kirkwood is in a beautiful valley and we visited on a perfect day.

We had the valley and the hillside to ourselves. The walk out among the vines was so pretty.

12. Pro ℞e Nata Brewery

On our way out of Richmond, our first destination was Crozet, VA. We enjoyed a nice stop just past Charlottesville and a good shakedown test for our first driving day in three weeks.

The Pro ℞e Nata Brewery is a project started by a local dentist who told me; “This is my mid-life crisis!”

John was very nice and made us welcome on a day when they were otherwise closed to the public.

His team working the warehouse helped us get set up and even sold us some beer.

Everything was *very* good.

Harvest host guests receive a coaster for their dash and a map of the desirable places to park.
Parked up behind the brewery
Right off the highway exit. Easy to find and plenty of room.
Somewhat still under construction. What they’ve already accomplished is terrific.
Playground for the kids!
Of course there is an axe-throwing range
The brewery is ready for your electric vehicle!
They have started a 9-unit shipping container structure in the back for more vendor/store/catering/whatever space. Even in this early stage it looks really cool.

11. Virginia Museum of Fine Art

Whenever we visit Richmond, we try to make time to visit the VMFA. The permanent collections are terrific, and it is a very well curated gallery, but there are visiting exhibits that change every year and always a few surprises, as well. This trip was no exception and we had a lot of fun!

There is a lovely cafe that looks out over a live pond
with beautiful fish and a glass “reed” sculpture.
The view from our cafe table out over the museum campus

The building itself is beautiful. I have my favorite rooms, for sure. We plan our route through the museum to make sure we don’t miss them.

Strangely specific max for this gallery… so… since I stopped
and pondered this sign for a moment, does that make it art?