The Great Southern Road Trip: Days One and Two

For our fifth wedding anniversary this year, we decided to take a road trip to race Ironman Chattanooga and cross a whole bunch of states off my list. This is the story of that trip.

Day One: 9.19

We left Colorado fairly early Monday morning. As I did before IMAZ, I marked up Fiona the Rav before hitting the road.

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(144.6 as opposed to 140.6, because the IMChoo course has an extra four miles on the bike.)

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Bye, state. See you again in about two weeks!

The first day saw us drive to Lansing, Kan. (just outside of Kansas City), to stay with our friends Norm and Emily. Norm was recently stationed in Leavenworth and while in general we believe we’re beyond couch-surfing, if our friends offer a free bed and free food, we’ll take them up on their hospitality.

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Oasis on the Plains. Fancy rest stop in Kansas.

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Downtown Leavenworth.

States Hit: 2 (CO, KS)
New States Hit: 0

Day Two: 9.20

We left Norm and Emily’s house fairly early so as to get back on the road. We continued our long haul on I-70 towards Tennessee.

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Bugs on my sideview mirror. Gross.

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St. Louis Gateway Arch.

We powered through, knowing that the first two days of the trip (and probably the last day or two) would be the boring days. We stopped for the night just outside of Nashville, Tenn., where we planned a layover day.

States Hit: 4 (KS, MO, KY, TN)
New States Hit: 2 (KY, TN)

On the Great Minnesota Road Trip

In late August, I took a little over a week off work to drive to Minnesota for a small vacation. I detoured through Indianapolis to pick up Brandon from recurrent training and then continued on north. We hit up the Minnesota State Fair and I got to see the North Shore for the first time, which was super exciting (for me). Here is a glimpse into the trip, in photos.

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Working early on little sleep and then driving far (Denver to Independence, Mo.) meant I needed to stay awake. This photo is of me the most caffeinated I’ve been since probably high school.

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Well played, random Indiana sign. This actually makes sense.

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Dinner view in Indianapolis.

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Norske Nook, in Osseo, Wisc. Supposedly really good pie. I was disappointed in said pie.

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Across this bridge and into Minnesota.

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At the State Fair. Seen eating a dough-sant, the Minnesota version of a cronut. Super tasty.

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Brandon’s face after trying my breakfast sausage (in pancake batter) on a stick.

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From the top of the Giant Slide.

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Deep-fried pumpkin pie. Quite possibly the best thing I ate at the fair that day.

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Dinosaurs and cheese curds.

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U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth, Minn.

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World’s largest hockey stick in Eveleth, Minn.

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On Shagawa Lake in Ely, Minn. Brandon spent a lot of his youth fishing for walleye on this lake.

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With my delicious walleye sandwich for dinner at Grandma’s in Duluth, Minn.

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Being a nerd at Split Rock Lighthouse.

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Split Rock.

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Dinosaurs at the lighthouse light … playing their own form of Wipeout.

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Split Rock.

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Lighthouse selfie.

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Gooseberry Falls.

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Upper Gooseberry Falls.

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View at lunch near Two Harbors, Minn.

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Sign at Black Bear Casino in Minnesota. Silly snowmobilers …

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Driving a tractor at the in-laws’ house.

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With the Herb Brooks statue just outside the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

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At Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis, Minn.

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Izzy’s Ice Cream, St. Paul, Minn.

IMAZ Trip

In November, Brandon and I also drove down to Tempe, Ariz., to volunteer and ultimately sign up for Ironman Arizona.

I recapped the volunteer experience on our tri blog, but I wanted to share the basic trip here.

We left late Wednesday night after I got off work, planning to do most of the drive overnight. We made it into New Mexico and to a rest stop not too far out of Las Vegas, N.M. where we stopped to crash for a few hours. After about three hours of sleep (and the two of us shared driving/napping duties), we woke up and continued on, stopping in Socorro for a breakfast sandwich from a gas station, where I saw this across the way.
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We got back on the road and save for gas, didn’t stop again until we hit Arizona and The Thing.
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The Thing is a piece of roadside Americana (if you will) that has been around as long as I can remember. We’d drive down to Tucson for Christmas when I was a kid and always pass it by. My brother and I would always want to stop (you see billboards for it for at least 50 miles, if not more) but we never did … well, at least until a few years back. I can’t remember now whether it was high school or college, but we finally saw it. I’m not going to ruin the surprise, but it probably wasn’t worth the stop. Luckily, it was only around $5 for the three of us (dad, brother and I; mom stayed in the car) to see it.

So, as Brandon and I did this, our second desert drive, I talked him into stopping. I figured we needed a break (we needed food anyway) and this kitschy roadside crap is worth seeing at least once, right?

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After The Thing, we powered on to Tucson for lunch. The standard stops ensued – eegee’s for a slushy, Wienerschnitzel for fries, Lucky Wishbone for fried shrimp and garlic toast (for me) and then on to In-N-Out for a double double protein style (for Brandon). This delicious (but bad for you) food is the reason why we’re going to Tucson AFTER we do IMAZ next year.

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Lunch (and then gas) and then on to Phoenix (well, Scottsdale) to Brandon’s (great) aunt and uncle’s house which would be our home for the weekend. It was great to see Bernie and Judy and meet their dachshund, Sophie.
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We had a meet up with some of our fellow MX12 VIPers on Friday, so we headed down to Mill Ave./Tempe Town Lake.

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Mill Ave.

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Meet up.

After, we met up with one of Brandon’s friends from college who owns a Trek bike shop in West Phoenix and then some more In-N-Out (mainly for me).
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Saturday, we checked in for the four different areas we were volunteering for and then worked bike check-in, which was fun and informative.
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When we were done, we met back up with Uncle Bernie and Aunt Judy, who took us up to Greasewood Flats, a really cool restaurant up in the foothills.
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After a fun night, it was time to sleep, for we had an early wake-up call since we had to be at Tempe Beach Park at about the same time as the athletes.

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Pre-race.

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Athletes on their way.

We stripped/peeled wetsuits, took a break, and then it was off to sunscreening.
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After sunscreening and another break, we volunteered at the TriSports.com-run run aid station, which had a disco theme.
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After that shift ended, it was off to the park again to camp out so we could be (first!) in line to register for next year.
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Given that online registration sold out in 40 seconds this year, this ended up being a great idea.

We took the rest of Monday pretty easy and then hit the road early Tuesday, taking the northern route out of the Phoenix area and Arizona and back to I-25 off of I-40, something I’d never done before.
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(right near the 25/40 interchange)

Then back home with plenty of time to enjoy Thanksgiving.

On Driving: US-83

I always thought it might be fun to start a blog/site that talked about different drives in Colorado/across the states. Show pictures, describe how scenic it was, etc.

I thought this after doing some of the better drives – that is, CO-82 into Aspen, for example. Or good parts of US-285 in the mountains.

Then, on Sunday, August 5, I decided to drive back from dropping Brandon off in Colorado Springs taking the long way – up US-83, also known as Parker Road for those in the metro. I took a few pictures, but I don’t know if they truly describe that drive.

The drive wasn’t all that exciting, to be perfectly honest. Not one of the better ones in Colorado, even. Still, it had its own charm. It started off in a bit of suburbia in the Springs … or as close to one gets down there. I passed by what could be THE megachurch in the Springs – this place had a huge campus and I didn’t even capture all of it on “film,” so to speak, because I didn’t realize the magnitude until after I’d passed.

After the megachurch, the road stopped and started, dead-ending and forcing you to turn another direction. It then traveled through almost mini-foothills, with the more stereotypical Colorado look of rocks and pine trees (though mostly Ponderosas).  As you passed the the Tri Lakes area and traversed from El Paso County into Douglas County, you got into farm/ranch land, the reason you still see 4-H in play at the Douglas County Fair every year. Some of that vast openness was in a valley so you could barely even see the mountains; you could have been almost anywhere in the country at that point.

You could also see quite a few for sale signs, advertising for ranch land, horse property, etc.

Getting closer to Castle Rock and the last part, for me, at least, of unfamiliarity with US-83, I passed by Castlewood Canyon State Park – a place I’d heard about from coworkers, but had never stopped by. I know now that I’ll be returning some day to hike around it.

After you cross US-86 and Franktown, you’re essentially in Parker, with lots of horse property leading into nice houses leading into commercial property leading into quaint downtown Parker leading into nothing quite so special anymore, including the turn off to the Dam Road at Cherry Creek State Park and my way home.

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Megachurch.

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More “typical” Colorado.

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I could be anywhere, right now.

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Right before hitting Castlewood Canyon State Park.