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Serendipity: Road trip loop from MSP to Yellowstone & back.

Serendipity: Road trip loop from MSP to Yellowstone & back.

Old Mar 6th, 2011, 02:39 AM
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Serendipity: Road trip loop from MSP to Yellowstone & back.

Last September we two 66 year-olds from the UK drove a three week, 3500 mile loop through ND, MT, WY, SD and back to MS. Most Fodor correspondents advised flying to somewhere nearer to Yellowstone. I’m glad that we ignored them, our trip was so full of interest that we are returning for another visit this May/June to see what spring is like. Highlights, in chronological order:

· United Tribes Pow-Wow in Bismarck. The “Feather has fallen” dance was particularly poignant.
· Enchanted Highway on a beautiful sunny morning. We were lucky enough to meet Gary Greff, the sculptor, a very practical visionary.
· Theo. Roosevelt NP, and a short hike in the Painted Canyon. “Watch out for rattlesnakes, poison ivy and a bison on the trail!” Advice guaranteed to spook two elderly Brits. It was a very cautious walk.
· Yellowstone, all the different and unfamiliar animals, Old Faithful and its companions, and of course the colours. [They deserve that “u”!]
· Snow-capped Tetons, and a ferry across Jenny Lake for a steep climb to Inspiration Point.
· Gunfight outside Irma’s in Cody. No one died!
· Little Bighorn and a fantastic lecture by the Ranger, who brought the tragic events to vivid life.
· Crazy Horse, & Mount Rushmore, particularly the light shows. When “The Star Spangled Banner” is sung by ordinary citizens [as it was in the gathering dusk of Rushmore’s lighting ceremony], rather than by an over-rated diva, there can be few more moving anthems.
· Custer State Park, particularly that corkscrew drive up from Keystone.
· Badlands NP – amazing scenery. We hope to see more wild flowers on our upcoming trip.
· Wounded Knee and the awful story behind the hilltop headstone.
· Mitchell’s Corn Palace. Inside, e National Children’s Tractor Pull Championships, outside a Main Street.filled with hot rods.
· Sioux Falls in full flood, unusual for that time of year but there had been big rain in Minnesota while we were away.
· Minneapolis and the Guthrie Theatre’s production of “The Master Butcher’s Singing Club.” Louise Erdrich’s books have a strong sense of place and this world premier captured the spirit of the novel.

To this list I should add the people that we met, guides, docents, casual acquaintances, fellow diners and folk who were prepared to stop and answer some of our dumb questions. Thank you all!
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Old Mar 6th, 2011, 01:25 PM
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It sounds as if you had a wonderful trip. And I'm glad you plan to come back in May/June. We've been to Yellowstone only in August and February, but everyone we spoke to there (rangers, guides, other visitors), told us we really needed to see it in September and late May/early June as well.

We'll be following much of your route in late August/early September in our RV and I've saved your report to a word document for reference. (We'll get to see Yellowstone in September and hope to do May/June next year on our way to Alaska.)

I agree with you about our national anthem. I much prefer to hear ordinary citizens sing it. We may not be able to handle the range changes all that well, but for what we lack in technique we make up in feeling. And don't get me started on the liberties some performers take with the tempo and other aspects of how it's written.
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Old Mar 6th, 2011, 01:28 PM
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It sounds like you had a wonderful "off the beaten track" trip. Thanks so much for posting a report!

Lee Ann
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Old Mar 6th, 2011, 03:50 PM
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Roger, thankyou for the trip report. My wife and I live in Minnesota and are traveling to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons this year at the end of May and first part of June. Have you decided what airport you are fling into and what routes you are traveling on to get to the parks?
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Old Mar 7th, 2011, 07:02 AM
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ziggypop, we'll be flying into MSP again. When we come to the States we like to try to avoid Interstates but sometimes it's unavoidable. Also, in the past we sought lodgings when we arrived at somewhere interesting, without booking ahead. This time, since we know what we want to do we have pre-booked a number of places.

From the airport we aim to head down to New Ulm and spend half a day exploring the town [& perhaps eating some bratwurst] before going on to Sioux Falls.
We have booked 2 nights in Wall SD, to use as a base for enjoying springtime in the Badlands. Prairie dogs may be pests to you but, since we have none here we think they are cute - so we'll drive the park loop through Prairie Dog Town.

One of the roads that we must travel again is WY 14 through Shell Canyon. Beautiful!
We have 2 nights at the Old Faithful Inn, because you have to. Then 2 nights in Jackson [the Saturday farmers' market is a great place to pick up some local cheese & crusty bread for a picnic]. Maybe we'll be lucky & see some bears in Yellowstone this time.
On the way back eastward we are going to spend 2 nights at Blue Bell Lodge in Custer State Park, enjoying some meadow trails & nattering to fellow travellers.
This is not the whole itinerary but it covers the main points.
If you live in northern Minnesota you will probably find this route too far south, but if you do you will probably know the bear center at Ely. Now that's a place I would love to visit.

Enjoy your trip. Good weather makes all the difference. We were lucky in September and I hope that you and we can be as fortunate this time.
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Old Mar 7th, 2011, 09:03 AM
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Roger, I live 60 miles NNW of New Ulm. If you have time, tour the brewery in New Ulm and be sure to drive around the town looking at the unique homes and Herman The German statue. Downtown New Ulm has a few small stores and shops worth checking out also. If your schedule allows after New Ulm head west on US highway 212 to Watertown, SD. and stop at the Terry Redlin Museum. It is a free will donation museum full of paintings from a famous area artist. 212 isn't an interstate highway but would take you to Yellowstone if desired. I think Watertown is a couple of hours north of Souix Falls. We are booked in the Old Faithful Inn May 28-29- 30,I hope our paths cross as we are traveling to your 'Island' in a couple of years. Enjoy the USA, ziggypop
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Old Mar 8th, 2011, 12:25 AM
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Thanks for those ideas, I've made a note of them. We made a brief stop in New Ulm last time and visited Sven & Ole's Books. To my mind, any town that sustains an independent book store deserves a second visit.

Sorry we will miss you at Old Faithful. Have a great trip.
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Old Mar 8th, 2011, 03:27 AM
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Sounds like a fantastic trip. You are in for a treat in Yellowstone when you go there should be hundreds of baby bison, elk, and if you are lucky, maybe baby moose, bear, wolf, etc.

Have a great trip.
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Old Mar 21st, 2011, 08:17 AM
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Hello Roger, your post was fun to read and brought back many memories of our trips out west.

I was surprised to see you mention New Ulm. We live about 45 minutes from there. I would recommend a short drive west of town to the Harkin General Store. It's a general store that was pretty much abandoned when the townsite moved, and it has much of the original early 1900's stock on the shelves.

In New Ulm I'd also recommend a stop at The Sausage Shop, they have excellent meats, jerky, etc. and if you have the ability to cook while you're traveling I'd recommend the landjaeger saugsages, they're made from beef and pork and are wonderful.

In Sioux Falls, Falls Park and the Sertoma Butterfly House are fun stops.

If you go through Cody again, the Buffalo Bill Museum is a wonderful museum that we enjoyed very much. Perhaps you stopped there on your first visit, but if not it's well worth 1/2 a day.

We also enjoyed the gunfight in Cody and staying at the Irma was worth it for the historical significance alone.

While in Custer State Park if you visit the town of Custer, the 1880 Courthouse Museum is an interesting place, and if you're hungry I'd highly recommend Baker's Bakery right on main street. Wonderful pastries and on one morning we stayed for breakfast- it was delicious!

There's so much to see and do... have a wonderful trip and I hope you enjoy your time in my adopted home state of Minnesota.
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Old Mar 28th, 2011, 11:30 PM
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Hi Tonia. I imagined that my report had been buried in the archives so I was delighted, when browsing, to discover your recent input.

We will certainly follow up your suggestions when in New Ulm. We plan to spend most of a day there. Harkin General Store sounds interesting. We once went to Mast General Store in Valle Crusis NC, a fine old building full of nooks & crannies stuffed with all sorts of merchandise. Like in the UK, much of it was made in China but it was good to see places like that surviving competition from the big chains. Harkin sounds a bit more traditional.

We will not be self-catering at any point, but I guess the Sausage Shop will be able to direct us to a local eatery that serves their produce.

We did enjoy the Buffalo Bill Museum but must have missed Custer's Courthouse Museum. We'll put that right this time. Baker's Bakery is now on our list too!

Thanks again for your suggestions. We are looking forward to our trip.
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Old Mar 29th, 2011, 02:46 AM
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Thanks for posting the report. I am not sure why anyone would call this trip "off the beaten path" although for those who insist on flying as close as possible to whatever "ground zero" happens to be I can kinda see why this sort of meandering journey wouldn't appeal.

I think you had a great trip and saw some of my own "home" country (the Tetons) and hope your future trip is even better.
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Old Mar 29th, 2011, 06:53 AM
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I thought of another fun stop... off of I-90 in Chamberlain/Oacoma is Al's Oasis. They have a very nice grocery store for stocking up on supplies, a gas station, a gift shop and a restaurant with 5 cent coffee. The food is basic but good, but the part we enjoyed most was watching the locals, many cowboys in their best "duds," and they seemed like actual ranchers not just dressing the part .
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Old Jun 2nd, 2011, 09:37 AM
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It sounds like a wonderful trip! I dont know if you made to Glacier National Park on your last trip but it is a wonderful place to stop and only 5/6 hours from yellowstone in montana. You will not regreat stopping there!

Hope you have a wonderful time!
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Old Jun 4th, 2011, 05:05 AM
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Sarah, you are the second person who has suggested Glacier on this trip. Because of the itinerary I planned, that will have to wait for a future trip to the States - maybe flying in to the west coast.

Today we are in Gillette WY, planning to drive via Devil's Tower to Custer State Park, where we have booked a cabin for two nights. Our trip has been great so far.
Highlights:-
Waking up in Old Faithful Lodge to 6" of overnight snow. The early morning view of the lodge and geysers from Observation Point was magic and well worth the trudge through virgin snow.

Yesterday's drive down the Chief Joseph Highway and later through Shell Canyon was pretty spectacular too. We had dinner at the Occidental Hotel in Buffalo, which has a real sense of history [which we Brits love!].

Thanks for taking the trouble to contact us.
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Old Jun 4th, 2011, 11:21 AM
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If you find yourself in Hill City, SD (on the way to Custer) the Alpine Inn is a very good dining spot. We also have enjoyed a good lunch at the Blue Bell Lodge dining room, where you are staying. Jewel Cave (very near Custer) is a very interesting spot, especially if you need to fill a rainy day (call ahead for time reservations to ensure a spot on the tour). Wind Cave, within the park, is also quite interesting. If you want a bird's eye view of the area, drive up to Coolidge Ranger Tower site (steep gravel road - it's open in Summer/Fall) where you can see for miles in every direction. It's in the general area near where you're staying. The Mammoth Dig Site in nearby Hot Springs is also very interesting. (On-going dig with exposed Mammoth elephant remains in an enclosed A/C building).
Enjoy your stay!
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Old Jun 4th, 2011, 07:10 PM
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Roger - would be keen to hear more of your East Coast USA 2009 itenerary. Hope to do Similar trip August 2011 - we are from NZ Three weeks - week in NY with our daughter and then three weeks on the road exiting out of NY back to LA and then home. I gather you are currently in the US - hopefully you can reply once you get back in the UK
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Old Jun 6th, 2011, 06:27 PM
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We missed out on Hill City, Hotwheels, and I would like to have visited the CCC museum there. There was just too much to see & do in Custer NP.

We saw our first rattlesnake in the Park, from the safety of our car. It was crossing the road and I may have just clipped it, but I decided not to get out and investigate! You have some fearsome critters in the USA. The UK's most dangerous species is the mother-in-law.

Enid, I'll try to put together a trip report on our E Coast trip when we get back to the UK [11th June]. I'll post a reminder on this page. Thanks for your interest.
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Old Jun 7th, 2011, 01:06 AM
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Thank you so much - will keep an eye out for your reply. We leave 27th July Enjoy your current trip
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Old Jun 10th, 2011, 11:43 AM
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Enid. Back home!
I have scribbled a summary of our 2009 trip,"Eastern Circuit via the Outer Banks".

Hope it proves some use, though it looks like you have set yourself an epic journey.

Good luck!
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