Chicago --> SD

We woke up bright and early in Chicago on October 9th, and started heading towards Wisconsin! The drive was a beautiful mix of corn fields and hills, with bright blue skies--definitely one of our favorite drives so far! We stopped in Madison, which we ended up absolutely loving (we didn’t expect to care too much about Wisconsin because, let’s be serious, Wisconsin doesn’t seem that cool). Madison is a college town, with a great mix of restaurants, coffee shops, big name stores and small specialty gift shops with pretty books and Wisconsin-pride knick knacks. We walked down the main street, stopping in the little stores and Urban Outfitters, and ended up sitting outside at a great coffee shop called Colectivo--there was a hilarious guy playing a drum nearby and we split a Po-Boy--it was really nice!

We left towards Dodgeville where we’d park in the corner of WalMart for the night, but we had a lot of time before the sun went down. We ate some hummus, listened to music, John worked on leather and I wrote about the day before we made dinner and went to bed. The next morning we went to the House on the Rock, which was the life-long project of a man named Alex Jordan who built a Frank Lloyd Wright-style house on a big rock in Wisconsin. Over the years it 1,000% transformed from just a house to a giant warehouse filled with his many collections of guns, crowns, carousel animals, stained glass lamps, armor, and a million other things. Of course he doesn’t just display them all in cases, he created these perfect villages with cobblestone streets to show them all off. ALSO, he has the world’s largest carousel, the largest collection of perfectly crafted doll houses, a ginormous sculpture of a whale fighting an octopus, with rooms filled with nautical memorabilia and coin operated music machines that involved entire rooms of mannequins playing instruments. Honestly, I could write for hours about this place and feel like I didn’t do it justice--every room we walked in we would just look at each other like, “Seriously?” It was bizarre and overwhelming and inspiring, and I would highly recommend you go there and get your butt kicked with all that craziness. (John here, I think I feel a little more strongly than Kristen, so I should add that this is by far the highlight of the trip up to this point. This was the most motivating, inspiring place I have ever been. Like seriously, you should all get in a plane and fly here immediately. The whole time we were walking around I kept thinking that I'd be fine with just going home from here, because if this whole trip was just to get here, I'd consider it a huge success. At the end of this blog I'll include all of my photos, but know that they're a sad sad attempt at capturing this place. I really almost don't want to post them, because its a place that you can't really explain to someone who hasn't been there. Ok, I'm done. But seriously, get to this place.)

After we had been there for 4 ½ hours (and we pretty much rushed through the end) we drove a few hours into Minnesota, where we were welcomed by a world class sunset. We stayed at WalMart that night, and drove to Minnetonka in the morning to visit John’s great aunt Nancy and her son Scott’s family. She wasn’t able to come to our wedding and hadn’t seen John in years, so we know it meant a lot to her for us to visit. We spent a few hours catching up, showing her wedding pictures and eating pizza before we decided to get some more driving done. We made a very brief stop at the Mall of America (my inner 16 year old wanted to see it), and after being there for less than a half hour we were like, “Yeah, let’s get out of here.” It’s just a big mall..and if you’re from the Philadelphia area and go to the King of Prussia mall, the only difference is that one has a roller coaster in it--BUT we can say we went there!

Minnesota was a pretty brutal drive because the winds were at least 30 mph against us, and with our flat-faced Penny it took us at least 2 extra hours to get where we needed to. The landscape was flat and filled with brown corn fields for hours, and hours and hours. We couldn’t wait to get to WalMart for the night to sleep so we could head into South Dakota the next morning! The winds picked up even more over night, and we drove straight into them for a couple more hours until we arrived in South Dakota and stopped at a coffee shop called Josiah’s--we spent a while there enjoying a snack and some coffee before setting off again. We stayed in Mitchell, SD and the next morning we went to the Corn Palace!

For those who have no clue what the Corn Palace is, let me tell you, it’s not a whole lot! From the beginning, before we even left on our trip, my Uncle Joe had been telling us that no matter what we do, we HAVE to visit the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. To him, it was a place he stumbled upon back in the day when he was on a road trip, and it stood out as such a silly landmark. There have been 3 Corn Palaces over the years, this newer one literally being a fancy looking gymnasium with corn murals on the outside..but we took a tour, got some souvenirs and giggled about it later that day. It’s definitely not something I’d go out of my way to see, but it will always be a funny memory. It had gotten pretty late in the day, so we decided to stick around that area a little longer and do some laundry before heading towards the Badlands. We stopped at a neat antique store and an “1880 Town” which was pretty bizarre. We decided to stay at a campground in the Badlands that night, and by the time we arrived it was almost totally dark out. We could just barely see the rock formations against the sky, and they were so foreign looking we couldn’t help but be ecstatic about what we were going to see the next day!

Here are the photos from the House on the Rock. Again, these do no justice and are infact a sad attempt at capturing this place... In my defense, the lighting was as bad as it possibly could be...