The time is 4a and the alarm is singing on my phone as well as a brown eyed, wet nose pup who even in the dark is able to show them to me with a pouty look. Its a bit cool in the hotel rooms, the a/c barely stopped during the night which should have clued me in to what I was about to walk out to but I'm always in denial when it comes to the heat. When we, Aria and I step, out we're not only greeted by a full parking lot but a large gust of warm, dry wind and the air is filled with humidity.
We walk around the building to the walking area and more wind blows our hair around and the dust and sand are also being kicked up. There is no sign of the sun and at this time of the day I'm alway cautious of walking Aria, especially here. The parking lot is well-lit and so is the walking area but on the way to it there are enough shadows that make it difficult to see if anyone is standing there, but a few steps reveal I'm the only one in the hotel who is up and about.
After the walk, Aria is fed and the last minute packing preparations are underway. I have stayed at this hotel many times and when we pulled in yesterday, Aria had a little bit of spring in her step. Not only did she remember the place, but I think she also remember that this place means last night in a hotel.
Last night's rest was interrupted several times by the neighbors, as in, after midnight. Not sure if they had just arrived or what the deal was but woke up once to a slamming of a door which startled both Aria and I out of our sleep. Several more door shuts, not quite as loud, and a car alarm finally had the night back to quietness. Its times like these, I wish I knew who the people were so I could walk by there room, make a loud sound, wake them up and then go about my day. Or at the very least, sign my brights into their room for a few minutes. But I digress.
It is about a nine hour drive back to Wisconsin, without stops, and since it is the weekend before 4th of July I want to be in the cities as soon as possible. Hopefully, I'll be able to avoid traffic. The bags are packed in the car and the phone app reveals the temperature only dropped to approximately 75 during the night. Yuck! It is going to be a hot and humid day. I take Aria for one final walk and as the time pushes 5a, some lights in the rooms also begin to glow. Time for everyone else to start waking up too.
We hop into the car and as I back out it becomes clear there was one thing I forgot to do yesterday and that was, wash the windshield. Ever since I left Rapid City, the bugs have decided to aim for my windshield and make it a huge mess and make it difficult to see out of. I hate being at gas stations or truck strops, even in my own town, when it is still dark out. Stories on Unsolved Mysteries flow through my head so when I have to, I stay close to the car. But the Pilot Truck Stop doesn't have buckets of cleaning fluid at every pump. So I have to walk away from the car in order to get it.
There is only one other car at the pumps and he is several feet away but I still move quickly so I can get back into a locked and running car. May seem paranoid but when it comes to my and Aria's safety I will gladly take it. Window cleaned I pull back out onto the road and onto a deserted Interstate. Even in the oncoming lanes there are no cars. It is ominous as I drive into the darkness and away from the small town. In the far distance, behind me, there are two dots which means I'm not completely alone and the further East I travel I run into a few more vehicles, mostly trucks. I also run into something else several more times; bugs.
The clean windshield is no more and some of them are big and aiming right into my line of view. By the time the sun starts coming up I can barely see out of the windshield and the wipers are no help. Off to the North I can see dark and heavy clouds that appear to be raining. Its the one time I wish it would veer South towards me and help me clean off these bugs but no such luck and I push forward to Mitchell, SD. Here, I'm able to pull into a gas station and thoroughly clean the windows, again. At this rate, I'm going to have to stop every hour or two to clean it which is going to be a major slow down in my travel time.
I use the facilities and pull over to the side to walk Aria again, the rest of the drive is going to be a hard push and only stopping for gas which will be several hours from now, that is, if the bugs don't stop me. The wind has also picked up and large, grey clouds are forming around us. Definitely a storm on the horizon probably the same front I saw at Glacier a few days ago and is now making its way East. It could get intersting, depending, on how far South it drops.
Back on the road and heading into Minnesota and it is nothing but wind fighting the entire way. Gusts are pushing me back and forth along the Interstate and at times I driving into which makes me feel like I'm going no where fast. A glance down at the tank shows it too is dropping quickly, grrr, but it is what is and I keep going. The one benefit of the wind is, it is keeping the bugs away and I still have a clean windshield.
There is a pull over at a gas station in a small town along Minnesota 169. The wind is getting stronger and the humidity is rising. A glance at the dashboard shows 90 and we're not even to the cities yet. I get back in the car and the few minutes it was off to gas up and use the facilities makes it feel like the car hasn't been running in hours. Once on, I kick on the a/c and switch it to the floor so Aria stays cool, she is not a fan of heat and humidity, can't blame her. We were both in our glory when visiting Glacier and the wind was cool with temps in the high 60s, low 70s and waking up to 50 degree temps. Heaven! Now we're back in the heat and humidity which means we're both growling at each other until the car cools.
From here to the cities it is nothing but road construction. Thankfully we keep a steady pace through the next ten miles or so but at time we do slow down to a crawl which means the cold air turns to cool, Aria starts panting and pacing and we're both miserable until we get going again and the a/c turns back to cold. The joys of idiling. We're back up to speed and through the construction and away I go. Peddle to the floor, everyone move over.
It is a few minutes before 1130 when I arrive just outside of Bloomington and on to 494, traffic before the turn off had been slowly getting thicker but a turn onto 494 reveals we are at a stop. Ugh! I can never win with this route. There is always traffic, but will today be a stop and crawl traffic or slow and steady moving. A few lane changes, thanks to breaks in the cars, reveals we're at a slow and steady pace. Thank the Universe! It's still a bit of a nail biter but at least we're moving. Once past the airport turnoffs, the speed increases and I'm moving along but not until I pick up lunch at a local store and the call for the day is Sushi. Love it!
I pull in and get a spot next to the door and quickly run in, thankfully, there is self-checkout and the specific item I'm looking for is in the display case but it doesn't stop a few people from slowly blocking me. I think to myself, "come on, come on, I have a car outside that isn't getting any cooler and a pup who isn't going to be happy". Finally, through the checkout and quickly walking back to the car which is starting to get warm and Aria a bit upset. I quickly turn on the car and the cool air blasts us both, calm and relief flow over us and I set up my lunch so I can eat and drive.
I'm back on 494, heading North, and the turn off I usually take which would be 494 to 94 is backed up a few miles, time to detour pass it, stay on 694 and head over to Stillwater. Again we're slow and steady and the turn off to Stillwater comes quickly. I merge on to it only to be encountered with more traffic. Clearly everyone was able to leave before noon today and I'm in the middle of chaos and stupidity. Everyone, regardless of speed, is in the left lane and staying there. I've had to do a few changes of the lanes but make it through without issue and see the new bridge before. Almost to Wisconsin, which means we'll be at a faster speed and everyone will be spreading out.
Over the bridge and within a mile later it is clear sailing the rest of the way home. Even though, due to traffic, I had to take one more detour Aria still knows when we're pulling into our driveway. Her head peaks out between the front seats and she lets out excited whimpers as if to say, "we're home! we're home!" Yes, indeed we are home.
I let her out of the car and she rejoices in being off the leash and having a lot of grass to walk in. An amazing road trip that I'm so happy I was able to enjoy with good weather and a safe journey. I look forward to heading back out to the area and visiting Yellowstone. Another place I visited as a kid but would like to go back and drive through it again.
Driving across country can bring about some interesting situations. Broken down on a day by day basis enjoy my adventures and set backs along the way to some beautiful destinations.