Day 24: Winnipeg, MB. 6,660.4 km.
I guess I can't end this story in Fergus Falls, can I?
Morning started with a quite acceptable breakfast in the hotel, and then I re-packed the car in the frigid cold…it was definitely below -20°C; closer to -25, I think. But I had made a bit of a mess of things while unpacking the previous night, and the extra bags from our shopping in Albertville had clogged the rear window, so I spent a little while rearranging things and then bringing everything from the hotel room to the car.
The car, I should mention, was very reluctant to start. But, start it did, and off we went in the general direction of home…with a few stops on the way.
We stopped in Fargo, to visit Kohl's, Target, and JCPenney. We didn't buy anything at any of them, but the JCPenney turned out to be attached to a very nice mall that we wandered around, and ended up picking some stuff up at The Gap. Then it was a quick lunch at the food court, and out onto the I-29 north to Winnipeg.
Unfortunately, while we were shopping, it got snowy, and there was a lot of blowing snow on the road, combined with less-than-ideal visibility. But traffic was light, and we made decent progress, with the worst problems (again) being caused by snow plows plowing the shoulder. One of them was kicking up so much snow that I couldn't see the road in front of my car, and didn't know if I was going straight, veering left (towards the snowplow), or veering right (towards the guardrail and dropoff on the side of the bridge)! I actually came to a complete stop briefly, and when the snow cleared I had two wheels over the dotted line! We passed that plow safely, as well as another one a little while later.
Then, after two quick stops (gas in Grand Forks; duty-free in Pembina), we were home! A weird feeling, after so long away, but it's nice to be back.
And that's it: over three weeks on the road, over six thousand kilometers driven, and ten different cities slept in. We've had a lot to be thankful for: we visited lots of relatives and friends, had some great experiences, and were safe and healthy the whole time. It was a great trip — the longest either of us have ever been on — and we don't know when (or if) we'll have the chance to take another one like it.
Thanks for reading along with us; I hope you enjoyed it!
Day 23: Rogers, MN. 5,909.4 km.
Today was, in a way, our “day off” from our trip. There are only a few days left on our vacation, and they're scheduled for shopping and driving. Today was our day of rest.
After breakfast (no waffles, but fantastic cinnamon rolls!), we were hoping to watch the Grace church service on my iPad. Unfortunately, the wifi in our room is extremely unreliable, and we could only watch about five seconds at a time. After struggling with that for a bit, we resigned ourself to it not working, and decided to get out of our hotel room.
We found a small coffee shop nearby (“Caribou Coffee”, which is a chain we've seen in a few places) and went for a coffee and snack. We ended up sitting at our table for 2-3 hours, talking, using the coffee shop's wifi on our phones, and playing checkers (Ali won).
We also realized that we hadn't thought about what we'd do for supper today. We ended up going to a grocery store (actually a Super Target) and picked up some food to eat in our hotel room. In the parking lot, I gave a boost to a local with a dead battery, whose wife declared “Well, Minnesota Nice failed but Canada Nice came through!” (She also said she could hear my accent; I haven't really noticed the locals speaking differently than Winnipegers/Canadians, but Ali says she's heard a difference.)
After we got back to our hotel room, we napped, watched a bit of a movie, read, and generally relaxed. After supper we went down to the hot tub for a bit, and now I expect we'll probably turn in a bit early.
Day 22: Rogers, MN. 5,905.7 km.
Today (the 18th) was planned as a nice short drive, in daylight. We had breakfast at our hotel in Madison (waffles, mmm!), and only needed to drive about 4.5 hours to Minneapolis (well, Rogers, where our hotel is).
When I checked the weather in the morning (just wondering how warm to dress), though, I found a weather warning: 1-5 inches of snow for the Minneapolis area! Not something we'd want to drive in, so we figured the earlier we got going, the better.
We left the hotel around 9:00, stopped for gas, and headed west on the interstate. Then we saw this:
So, we stopped to buy cheese for dad…unless Ali gets hungry on the drive home and there's nowhere to stop for lunch 🙂
Back on the highway, we had a bit of snow, but nothing treacherous. The pavement was clear and dry; in fact, we passed a few plows that seemed like they were just wasting Wisconsin's money, because there was hardly anything to clear. One of them was even making things worse, by kicking up a huge cloud of snow from the shoulder that was blowing across the road and temporarily reducing visibility to just a few meters.
Halfway to Minneapolis, we stopped at a rest area; Ali wanted some fresh air, and my shoulder was bugging me (for some reason, over the last two days I've gotten a sore neck and shoulder while driving). We ended up taking about a 20 minute break there. They had a TV showing weather maps, and it looked like the weather around Minneapolis was clear, so that was good news!
And, as it turned out, accurate. By the time we got to the city, everything was clear and dry, though there were signs that there had been a fair bit of snow in the recent past. From talking to people later, we learned that it had snowed heavily in the morning, but it was all over and done by the time we got there.
It was early when we arrived — around 2:00 or so — so we decided to go to the Mall Of America before going to our hotel. This was a bit daring, because we didn't have a map or directions to the mall. We navigated on the basis of me knowing that it was in the south end of the city, remembering a highway number from looking at a map way back in the Wisconsin rest stop, and assuming that there would be signs when we got close.
And it worked! There were a few signs, and then we drove for a while without seeing any signs, and then just when we were thinking we might need to pull off the highway and ask for directions, there it was!
Finding parking, though, that was another question. We drove into the first parkade we saw, ended up in a turning lane that forced us to go to a particular level, and drove in circles until we saw someone leaving and took their spot. Then we walked across the walkway to Nordstrom's, entered the mall, looked at a map…and then I said “I don't remember if I locked the car or not”.
So I went back to check, and good thing too, because it was indeed unlocked. By the time I got back (it wasn't long) Ali had a list of stores we might want to check out, and off we went.
There's not much to talk about, though. We went shopping, had supper, walked through a bit of the amusement park, checked out a little bit of the aquarium that we could see for free, and eventually left again for our hotel. We saw some neat stores — Alpaca Connection, the LEGO store, the Victorinox store — and had a nice walk around, but didn't buy much. Before leaving, we stopped at the “eBar” in Nordstrom's for a couple of excellent iced teas and a chat with the barista (?), and browsed around Norsstrom's a bit on the way out ($120 ties!).
One weird thing: at the LEGO store, we overheard a mom talking to a security guard about her missing child: giving a description, asking if she should stay where she last saw him or go searching, etc.. And by her tone of voice and demeanour, she could have been discussing the weather — she was totally calm and almost bored-sounding!
Anyway, after we left the mall, I successfully navigated us back to the interstate, where we could follow our printed-out directions to our hotel. It's in a suburb named Rogers, a little bit northwest of Minneapolis. When I looked at the map, I thought the hotel was in a weird place…the street layout looked residential. And sure enough, our directions took us through an industrial area, into a residential area, with not a hotel in sight!
We retraced our steps, drove to an area where we had seen other hotels, gave up, and I asked for directions at a gas station. The directions were very simple and worked perfectly. It turned out that there are at least two pieces of “135th Ave N” in Rogers, and they're not anywhere near each other, and they're not connected, and our directions took us to the wrong one.
Once we got to the hotel, though, we checked in, found that our room was very nice…and then found that it had no bathtub, which was something I specifically checked for when booking! After talking to the front desk, it turns out they overbooked, so they “upgraded” us. The upgraded room is the same price, and seems to have all the same amenities except no tub, so, not really an upgrade. We might be able to switch rooms tomorrow…we'll see.
And now, we stay put for a few days before the final drive to Winnipeg!