Southwest: Days 24-29 (Home!)

Southwest USA

Retirement Trip

September 2019

29 Days – 6,500 Miles – 19 States

7 National Parks

Several State Parks – 6,000+ Photos

1 Trillion Insects Squished by Car Windshield

 From 108 Degrees to Snow

From 282 Feet Below Sea Level to 12,000+ Feet

Bison, Elk, Prairie Dogs, Lizards, Wild Horses

Elvis, Aliens, John Wayne Westerns

Walking In The Footsteps of Forrest Gump

And More! 



This is the last page of our travelogue.  Since we have traveled from West Virginia to Nebraska many times in the past, we did not take many photos and therefore combined all the last 6 days into one page.  Besides, several of those days were spent visiting family in Wisconsin.

After a great breakfast at the hotel, we were on our way and into Iowa by 7am. 
We’ve been very lucky with the rain so far, but today looks iffy.
As we head east into Iowa, the scenery continues with the cornfield theme we saw in Nebraska.
Everywhere you look – Corn!

These two plaques at a rest stop in Iowa talk about the values appreciated by farmers:

Good Farming – Clear Thinking – Right Living

If only more of us could live by those values, what a better world it would be.

This nearby plaque tells about an untold story. 
As we work our way into Iowa, we see more and more wind farms mixed in with the corn fields.
I wish we had time to take the back-roads and explore some of the small towns and farms away from the interstate.
Ooooo….  sounds like a future road trip!
We’ve made it to about the middle of the state at Des Moines. 
From here, we stay on I-80 toward Chicago.
The skies are starting to clear a little. 
More corn fields and farms.  Much of this has not changed since we drove these roads many times 20 years ago.
More Iowa farms and more corn (in the distant fields).
Skies have cleared a lot in the past hour.  Looks like no rain today.
And another windmill. 
I wonder if Beth would like one for our garden?  Maybe I’ll surprise her with one for her birthday.  (Shhhh…)
Big barns at this old farm.
Crossing the Mississippi River.
There’s an old man called the Mississippi
That’s the old man that I long to be
What does he care if the world’s got troubles?
What does he care if the land ain’t free?
(“Old Man River” from “Show Boat”)
Welcome to Illinois.   Shortly, we will be turning north-east toward Wisconsin, where we spent the next few days visiting family.


There are only a few photos here of this visit, including our visit to the Wisconsin State Fair.

Beth grew up on a dairy farm which is now operated by one of her brothers and his family.
This is the dairy barn where they milk about 80 Holsteins twice a day. (Their days start at 4:30am)
Some of the cows enjoying the nice day outside.

There’s more to dairy farming than just milking. Cows need straw bedding, hay, and feed.
This field of straw has been cut and mowed, and is ready for baling.
The baler forms the bales and shoots them back into the trailer. Next stop – the barn.
The straw bales are loaded onto the elevator to take them up into the barn.
It’s going to take a lot of bales to fill the barn. By the end of summer, it will be filled nearly to the roof.

Cows enjoying the nice day.
Sunset and the end of a busy day.

It’s Fair Time!! Wisconsin State Fair

One of the big attractions is the dairy judging. (After all, it is Wisconsin!)
Not only are the cows judged, but the young men and women are judged for showmanship and leading.
Some of Beth’s family and their kids brought some Holsteins to show.
You can’t go to the Wisconsin State Fair and not get a Cream Puff! Mmmmm.
These folks are hard at work trying to keep up with the hungry crowd.
They will make thousands of these cream puffs each day.
Enjoying our Cream Puff while Beth’s brother John enjoys his in the background.

Having seen all of the exhibits and getting our fill of cream puffs, we headed back to the farm.

One day we visited Beth’s sister (Jane) and she served this fruit for dessert.   Any guesses?  I thought pineapple.
I was wrong.  It is yellow watermelon.   I’ve never seen that.   It was good, though. 

Do you remember when we were at Bluff Fort, Utah?  

In one of the cabins, we saw an old high chair and Beth told me they have one just like it at home.

Well, she was right!   On the left is the one from Bluff Fort (missing some pieces) – On the right is the one at their home. 


After a few days of visiting family in Wisconsin, it was time to head home to West Virginia.  We left early (4am) on Sunday morning to avoid heavy traffic around Chicago, but we ran into rain – heavy rain – just minutes after leaving.  After 28 days of almost no rain, we drove through rain that slowed traffic on the interstate down to a crawl at times.  Eventually, we broke free and had an uneventful drive the rest of the way home.

We’re Back!!!   Only 10 miles to go at this point.
What a good feeling!
Trip Meter Summary for the entire trip.
Total Miles Traveled:  6,574.2
Average Gas Mileage:   32.9 MPG 
(Pretty good MPG considering we were really loaded and with all the mountains and stopping for photos.)


We have been talking about taking this trip for several years, and were very glad to have the opportunity to do so. 

First, thanks to Lya and Joe for covering for me at church for 4 weeks!

It was great seeing old friends and family along the way.  We appreciate everyone taking time to meet with us and welcome us into their home. 

People have asked us what the favorite part of the trip was.  That question is impossible to answer!  There were so many interesting sites we visited, and each had their own particular features.  Some of the nicest things were unplanned (Caprock Canyons SP with the bison in Texas), and some far exceeded our expectations (Petrified Forest NP, Arizona).  There were no disappointments, except maybe for not seeing Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner anywhere in the desert.

It was nice seeing our old homes in Mascoutah, Illinois and Bellevue, Nebraska.  As much as we liked living there at the time, we both agree that we like being in Morgantown and don’t care to move back.  We both enjoy living in West Virginia and all it has to offer – both in Morgantown and the outdoor destinations.

For anyone planning a trip like this, we offer a few suggestions:

1)  Don’t Rush! –  When I planned the itinerary, I allowed only 200-300 miles per day max (once we reached the Midwest) and even less in areas with places to visit.  On some stops (Grand Canyon, Zion, Death Valley, Mesa Verde), we stayed 2 nights in the same hotel so we would have a full day to explore.  It’s better to have an extra hour or two to relax at the end of the day than not enough time to see everything and feeling rushed.  Of course, we could have stayed longer at some.

2)  Stay in nice places.  Notice I didn’t say “expensive” places.  With a lot of online research, I found the highest rated hotels at each stop and shopped accordingly.  We stayed in Comfort Inn, Best Western, and similar hotels and paid $70-$100 each night  (except at busy places like Grand Canyon).  We earned enough points at Comfort Inn to get 2 or 3 free nights on our next trip, which Beth is already planning.

3)  Eat well! We also took advantage of the free breakfasts at the hotels, which reduced our food bill by $10-$15 each day.   Beth also made sandwiches and snacks to eat in the car when we were not hungry enough for a sit-down meal.   Grapes are our new favorite snack.

4)  Get a National Park Pass.  Not only does it save money on this trip, but it encourages you to go and explore new parks.

5)  Take lots of photos and make a travelogue like this or a book on Shutterfly so you can look back and remember the trip for years to come.

6)  Load up a thumb drive with music and interesting talks.  We downloaded over a dozen Garrison Keillor “Prairie Home Companion” shows and enjoyed listening to them along the way.  And some relaxing classical music.

7)  Make sure your car is in good shape (tires, hoses) and bring spare fluids (oil, coolant, tools) along.  ALSO:  Get some type of Roadside Assistance like AARP or one that will tow you long distances in case you break down 150 miles from the nearest mechanic.  The AARP deluxe package is about $100/year.

8)  Wash the bugs off the front of your car each night with a bucket of water and clean rag so they don’t get baked on.  Oh, yes, and don’t use the gas station sponges to clean off your windshield at Death Valley. 

  Did I leave anything out?  Yes — I forgot to say “HAVE FUN AND EXPECT MINOR PROBLEMS ALONG THE WAY.  BE FLEXIBLE!”

Thank you for joining us on our big trip! 

Mileage:  1,217 Miles

Trip Total:   6,574 Mile