Road Trip | Interstate 35

After three “shorter” road trips this year (Oregon in April, Kansas in July, and Montana in August), we’re finally getting around to our annual epic road trip. Being that it is November, we decided to make a swing south, with stops in Austin, New Orleans, Panama City Beach, and Memphis, visiting relatives and taking in some of the sights.

The first leg of our journey was a 2-day drive on Interstate 35 (I-35). We got on the freeway in Roseville, MN, and got off 1200 miles later in Austin. Just one highway (except for a detour to avoid a crash in a construction zone between Waco and Austin).

I-35 cuts through the heart of the country, from Duluth, MN to the Mexican border in Laredo , TX, traversing 6 states along the way. (Note: most descriptions of the highway have it starting in Laredo and going north; I, obviously, think it’s the other way around.)

Along the way we stopped to have lunch with my cousins at a BJ’s Restaurant and Brew House in Dallas and in Waco to visit Magnolia Markets.  If you are a fan of the HGTV show “Fixer Upper”, then you’ll know why we stood in line for 20 minutes to buy cupcakes!

While there is, to be honest, a certain monotany in driving 1200 miles along one highway, it is an interesting way to watch and experience the variations in geography, climate, and language as you make your way south. We left behind corn fields being harvested in Minnesota for the “home on the range” terrain of central Texas, with a few cotton fields thrown in for fun. Bare trees in Minnesota slowly gave way to ones that were still colorful to the still-fully green trees of Austin.

And somewhere along the way the accent of American English shifted from the nasal whine of “Minnesotan” to “southern.” Based on my numerous trips up and down the interstate I would say that  the shift begins to take place at about the Iowa-Missouri border. What I’d love to do sometime is stop at every truck stop along the way and ask a clerk to read a short sentence to see if I can plot the shifting of the vowels as I move south. Another time.

I-35 is an important part of life in the Twin Cities with 35W going through Minneapolis, and 35E going through St. Paul, so it’s easy to forget that it is not “our highway.” This also means that it is strange to go to other cities that give pride of place to the highway. I find myself wanting to say, “hey, that’s OUR highway, not YOURS.”

But maybe that’s the point; it doesn’t belong to Minnesota, or Texas, or any of the other states along the way. It’s Middle America’s Main Street!

If you’re into American road trips, or just find yourself traveling on freeways and wonder how they got built, then you might enjoy this book: The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways

The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways

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Friday Photo: Millican, Oregon

My sister and I spent the better part of this week traversing the western United States on our drive home from a family reunion in Oregon. The timing of the reunion coincided with my mom’s 90th birthday. We all gathered outside of Bend, the city where she grew up.

My mom (aka Gracie) was born in Westbrook, MN in 1927. In 1931, when she was just four years old, she and her 3 siblings and her parents climbed into a Model A and headed west.  Their destination was Bend, Oregon, where her father had accepted a call to be the pastor of the First Baptist Church.

Even though she was very young when she made the trip, she still has quite a few memories of the drive. One story she told us was of stopping at a “town” in the Oregon desert, east of Bend called Millican. “There was just one building,” she told us. “I remember it because we all thought it was so funny that a town would only have one building.”

On Monday, as my sister and I were driving across the Oregon desert (my mom and brother-in-law having left by plane earlier in the day), we were on the look-out for the one-building “town” of Millican. Sure enough, it was there, only the establishment that may or may not have been there in 1931 was definitely closed! Why it is listed on the map is a mystery.


And if you ever have the chance to drive across the desert of eastern Oregon, do it! It’s gorgeous!


We are back home now, and declare the two weeks of birthday celebrations officially over!


A Snowy Wall

We may be snowless this winter here in the Twin Cities, but there was snow in the mountains outside of Beijing earlier this month. Dutch photographer Tom van Dillen captured the beauty of the Great Wall under a blanket of snow with his drone:


Related Posts:

The Great Wall by Drone

A Miniature Great Wall

The Great Wall: Fact or Fantasy

No Great Wall from Space

Port-a-Potties at the Wall

Winter Wall

Friday Photo: Delivering Coal

Snapped one afternoon during a stroll through one of Beijing’s remaining hutong (lane) neighborhoods. So much going on: the man delivering coal briquettes; the fresh fruit; the umbrellas. the sign for donkey meat hot pot; the “family style restaurant;” the white sky.

Beijing hutong

Sigh. I do miss Beijing!


Newfoundland Road Trip by the Numbers

We returned safe and sound from our annual epic road trip on Monday. Here is how the trip unfolded, by the numbers….

Miles driven: 5390.7. We thought about driving around for 10 more miles, but that would have been cheating.


States/provinces traversed: 8.  In case you’re wondering which ones: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland.

Beds slept in: 13. Hotel beds, blow-up mattresses, sofa beds, and ferry bunk beds. You name it, I slept on it!


Ferry crossings: 4. We were on a huge ferry between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland (16 hours), and a smaller one between Newfoundland mainland and Fogo Island (45 minutes).



Hikes on Fogo Island: 5


Stuffed animal trip mascots that my mom bought: 3.  2 puffins she named “Chip” and “Dip,” and Sable, a Newfoundland dog.


Books read (by all of us): 11.

Stops at Tim Hortons for coffee and donuts: no comment.

Fish and chips meals consumed: no comment.

Fleece jackets purchased: no comment.

Photos taken: thousands.

Fun memories: countless! (I broke my selfie ban to take this one.)


Related Posts:

Sunrise and Ferries

A Pittman Drinking Song

Newfoundland Names

Halfway to Ireland

A Night Crossing

Got Chips?

Sunrise and Ferries

On Thursday morning, we were up before the sun to catch an early morning ferry from Fogo Island back over to “mainland” Newfoundland. Even though getting in line for the ferry at 5:15AM wasn’t the most fun thing we did all week, it did give us the chance to see this gorgeous sunrise:


After a 45 minute ride on that ferry, we drove 5 hours to the southern side of Newfoundland to catch the overnight ferry back to Nova Scotia. For some reason, I woke up early on Friday morning, and decided to head to the outside deck for some fresh air.  This is what greeted me:

The four of us (my, my sister, brother-in-law, and mom) once again shared a lovely stateroom. As we were settling in, we got to chuckling about this classic scene from the Marx Brother’s movie “A Night at the Opera:” (email readers, go here to see the video)

Of course it wasn’t like that; everything about the ferry was great; the room, the service, the friendly staff, and the delicious food.

We are on the marathon drive home now (4 days — 500 miles each day), and already missing Newfoundland.

A Pittman Drinking Song

As we discovered on our visit to Newfoundland last year, there are quite a few Pittmans on the island. On this trip, we learned that a popular Newfoundland drinking song is about a certain Bob Pittman who seems to have a girlfriend in every outport in Placentia Bay. The title of the song is The Ryans and the Pittmans, although we’re not sure why since there is no mention of a Ryan anywhere in the song.

Maybe that’s why it is also know by the title We’ll Rant and We’ll Roar (the first line of the chorus. In this version, sung by Great Big Sea, the first verse where the singer identifies himself as Bob Pittman is curiously omitted (maybe because it is a bit “salty”). (email readers, go here to see the video)

If you’re curious, you can read all the lyrics here.

Truth be told, if there were really a drinking song about this Pittman, it would have to feature Pepsi!

Related Post:

The Newfoundland Pittmans

Newfoundland Names

We are using a large, old-fashioned fold-out map to make our way from place to place here in Newfoundland (I’m anti-GPS). Long hours in the car means plenty of time to study the map. One fun thing up here is noticing the unique and quirky place names.


Here are some of the more interesting ones we’ve spotted:

Famish Gut

Come by Chance

Hole in the Wall

Nonsuch Harbour


Jerry’s Nose (we drove through that one)

Cut Throat Island

American Tickle

Chimney Tickle

Haha Bay

Leading Tickle

Welcome Come By

Naked Man

God Almighty Cove

Blow Me Down


Joe Batts Arm