In our last post, we wrote about our drive eastbound from Ontario to BC, through Canada. You can read about it here. On our return trip, due to colder weather and really just for a change a scenery, we decided to take a more southern route through the United States.
British Columbia to Ontario
This southern route would take us through 10 states, following I-90 most of the way. While the distance was almost exactly the same, the driving time was estimated to be 3-4 hours shorter. This is due to much of the interstate through Montana and Wyoming having a fantastic 80mph (~130km/h) speed limit. This compares to only 100-110km/h (and sometimes as low as 90km/h) on much of the Trans-Canada Highway on the Canadian route.
The scenery was beautiful through Washington State, northern Idaho, Montana and into Wyoming. While the mountains aren’t as impressive as they are driving from Calgary to Kelowna, they are still beautiful.
In Washington State and Idaho, we had to contend with some snow on the higher passes. We were glad we had bought snow tires before leaving BC. Northern Idaho, especially around Coeur d’Alene, for anyone who hasn’t been, is a really scenic part of the country. The area is a combination of old forests, lakes, and foothills to the nearby Rockies. Trevor used to come here once in a while for work, as the area used to be a hotbed for silver mining.
There are several old mining towns along the route, that each have their own unique charm. The town of Wallace, Idaho was worth a stop. The entire town is on the National Historic Register. Unfortunately, we passed through town too early to check out the famous Oasis Bordello Museum. Considering this is a mining town, I guess that gave a new meaning to the phrase “get your rocks off”.
Driving through Montana, we saw a lot of deer. A few of them were alive. But most were dead, either by the side of the highway or strapped to the back of a pick-up. In fact, we inadvertently stayed in a motel in Livingston that happened to share a parking lot with a butcher shop. As we tried to leave in the morning, we were met with a line-up of local hunters trying to sell deer out of the back of their trucks. Yummy!
The mid-west of the United States really includes states in the north middle of the country. But, I guess they’re further west than New York. Kind of like how in Canada, areas are often described by their location relative to Toronto. For example, “south-western Ontario” is by no other definition “west”, other than the fact it’s an area slightly west of Toronto. Much of the mid-west was similar to the Canadian Prairies, with farmland stretching as far as the eye could see. The most interesting part for us, was a rest day we took in Rapid City, South Dakota. The famous Mount Rushmore is only a 30 minute drive south of town.
The sculptor wished that entry to see Mount Rushmore would be free for everyone. In keeping with his wishes, entrance is free. But parking isn’t. So yay, capitalism! Luckily the parking pass is valid for a year, so we won’t have to pay when we go back (cough). Visiting in the off-season was great, as the weather was clear and the monument only gets about 5% of the visitors that it does during the summer.
Rapid City is actually a cool little town. The historic downtown is worth a couple hours to explore. They have an “Art Alley” with commissioned graffiti, and the downtown street corners are occupied by entertaining bronze statues of each former president.
For one last taste of Americana, we stopped in Mitchell, South Dakota to see the World’s Only Corn Palace. Not really knowing what to expect, we were still surprised. Instead of a fun corn maze for kids or stockpiles of corn cobs, the Palace actually houses a basketball stadium! The name seems to come from the fact that the outside of the building is covered in ears and husks of corn. This includes corn used to create murals on the side of the building. Well, hey… it was enough to get us off the highway and check out the town. So mission, accomplished, Mitchell, SD!
Minnesota to Michigan
Maybe we were just getting a bit road-weary, but we didn’t take many pictures of the last 5 states we drove through. By this point, we just wanted to get back to Canada.
Which Route Was Better?
That’s a tough call. We found the drive through the U.S. to be more scenic. Mountains were visible on the horizon for the first few days of the drive, pretty much until we reached South Dakota. On the negative side, we were a bit thrown off by the number of dead animals poking out of pick-up trucks. We’ll also never feel comfortable lining up in a Walmart behind people buying ammunition. On the plus side for Canada, you don’t come across pro-Trump bumper stickers, and there are far fewer preachy billboards along the highways as well. We are always surprised how many people in the U. S. want to impose their own, extremely personal, politic or religious views on everyone around them. For a country that’s all about freedom, it’s a bit odd.
And would we do it again? Um…probably not. It is a loooong drive. But we’re glad we did it. Twice.