Labor Day Chicago to Mount Rushmore Road Trip
Over Labor Day weekend Emily and I took a Chicago to Mount Rushmore road trip through Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa. This is a recap of the long weekend trip and all of the roadside attractions we saw.
Friday: Labor Day Chicago to Mount Rushmore Road Trip
Friday morning I ditched work for the last time all summer, woke up even earlier than I would have if I had gone to work, cut myself shaving, bled all over the place, cleaned up the blood that got all over everything, packed up black pickle (AKA my car) with way too much crap, and was off only twenty minutes late to pick up Emily.
So we were on the road for our Labor Day weekend road trip by 7:30am, which was not too shabby as we had 2,300 miles to drive and our first stop was 2 hours away…
Bessie the Cow
Our first stop was Bessie. Bessie is a giant cow and lives in front of a Del Taco in Janesville, WIsconsin.
How can you not stop at a place called Mousehouse Cheesehaus? Especially one that has a giant mouse on its roof. Em and I got some cheese curds there that were yummy but didn’t squeak. I’ve decided that I have to use the phrase Mousehouse Cheesehaus more often in every day conversation because it is pretty fun to say.
Sissy the Cow
Sissy the Cow is another giant cow roadside attraction. She sits in front of another cheesehouse. There is a speaker in her jaw because I guess she used to be a talking cow, but she doesn’t talk anymore.
Down the street from the big cow is a big pink elephant. A big pink elephant that wears glasses. Did I mention it’s pink?
North Freedom, WI
So we pull up to this shack of a surplus store and Emily is certain I have the wrong place. But I am certain we do not. So we go into the store and she asks a guy where the stuff is and he points us out back. Behind piles and piles of junk, we see it: the Forevertron! The Forevertron is a huge scrap-metal alien landscape of space-age sculpture. Pretty darn cool. We also saw some pretty scary-looking dentistry chairs and such. Kind of creepy.
Giant Mouse with Cheese
You can’t go wrong stopping at another big mouse!
By this point in our road trip to Mount Rushmore we were pretty darn hungry and wanted to stop at somewhere more local. I guess local doesn’t always=good. I waited ten minutes as the only guy working there made Emily’s food and then made my corn dog. And then my corn dog came frozen on the inside and goopy on the outside. I couldn’t eat it.
World’s Largest Bicyclist
We apparently drove past the world’s largest bicyclist in Sparta several times looking for it before we actually found it. It’s a giant fiberglass bicyclist. It talks too and tells you all about the town!
FAST: The Fiberglass Statue Factory
F.A.S.T. was one of the coolest places ever! It is a factory that makes fiberglass statues for roadside attractions, parks, and all kinds of other purposes. They just keep everything outside though so you can see them in various stages. It looked like a huge massacred graveyard of fiberglass statues.
World’s Largest Six-Pack
La Crosse, WI
I thought Emily would appreciate me adding this one to the itinerary. I was correct. They fashioned the big things beer is held in into a huge six-pack. How cool?
And we made it to Minnesota! This is a big corrugated metal man!
Next up we wanted to go to the Spam Museum, but it was a bit too far to get to on time. Alas, some other time 🙁
Sprout, Jolly Green Giant’s bud
Blue Earth, MN
We stopped off the highway to fill up black pickle at a gas station. The gas station had a little green sprout with beer and pizza pie!
Jolly Green Giant Statue
Blue Earth, MN
I’m not exactly sure if Blue Earth has anything to do with the Jolly Green Giant other than the fact that they have a pretty kick-ass statue of it. But they have a huge statue of the Jolly Green Giant.
So we went in search of this tiny church in Minnesota. What if God Was One of Us playing on the car radio led us there. The church was pretty tiny. I looked at the door and declared that I was kind of afraid to check if it was open or not. I thought either an alarm would sound if it wasn’t or that a rabid squirrel or a bear or a ghost would jump out if it was. I slowly turned the handle and it opened. There were no bears or ghosts but there were free bibles for the taking.
Concrete Outline of USS South Dakota
Sioux Falls, SD
And with that we made it to our destination state: South Dakota. Before retiring for the night we decided to squeeze in a couple of Sioux Falls roadside attractions, starting with the Concrete Outline of USS South Dakota. The town salvaged pieces of a battleship and arranged them as they would be if the battleship was in one piece.
Muffler Man – Mr. Bendo
Sioux Falls, SD
You can’t have a road trip without finding a muffler man. So we went to see this Mr. Bendo muffler man (similar to the muffler man we saw on our Chicagoland road trip).
After that we drove another hour or so to the town of Mitchell where we found a Super 8 and totally crashed. We needed a good night’s sleep to prepare for another day of searching out South Dakota roadside attractions…
Saturday: Exploring South Dakota Roadside Attractions and Mount Rushmore
Saturday we woke up early and grabbed a continental breakfast at the hotel, checked out, and hit the road. We decided to bypass a few things and just drive to the big stuff as we still had a few hours to go. The drive was breathtakingly beautiful and allowed the freedom of me going somewhere between eighty-five and a hundred miles per hour the whole way. I don’t know if they planned it this way or not but as you’re driving westward on I-90 and see an overpass bridge and the mountains are behind it and slowly reveal more and more of themselves until it’s all you see.
We stopped at a Sinclair Station for gas and said hello to their dinosaur.
And stopped at a “scenic overlook” that didn’t really overlook anything.
Wall Drug Store
So if you’ve driven westward on I-90 you probably know what Wall Drug is. OK, so you might still not know what it is but you damn well know that it exists. And how can you not go somewhere that advertises for hundreds of miles with sign after sign after sign? So after nearly killing my car on a pothole and parking we headed in to the tourist trap of all tourist traps! Basically Wall Drug is a big store. They have souvenirs. I got a pressed penny (I collect them), a shot glass, and the cutest little stuffed jackalope ever! His name is Flopsy. Wall Drug also has touristy things you can take your picture with and jackalopes galore and a chicken machine.
Men Made from Tires
Rapid City, SD
After Wall Drug it was on to Rapid City, which was kind of a mecca of cheesybreezyness. First up were some tiremen in front of a tire store.
Rapid City, SD
Dinosaur Park is kind of like the movie Jurassic Park, but much cooler. It is on a mountain and has dinosaurs! They are GREEN! And it has a store that has a 99cent hot dog and soda combo. Yum lunch!
Rapid City, SD
Storybook Island is a park that is full of fairy tale and storybook statues. You can totally tell the difference between the old statues that have been there forever and the newer ones (hint: Disneyized). As a faerie myself it was a fun site to check out.
Cosmos Mystery Area
Rapid City, SD
Cosmos mystery area is a phenomenon of a place where balls roll up and gravity seems to be out of whack. We watched as a ball rolled and water flowed upwards on a ledge. And we walked into the house and were instantly dizzily stood sideways in the shack and stood on the walls. As much as I love these silly mystery spots, I also pretty much don’t believe in them at all. Emily is insistent that it is real. I am insistent that everything is built on angles and is an optical illusion. Don’t get me wrong though, I’d visit every mystery area in the world and still have fun.
Finally halfway through Saturday we made it to our ultimate destination: Mount Rushmore! It really was awesome to see the presidential monument up close. We hung around and took a little walk with a park ranger who told us more about the history of the monument. And then we got presidential sodas. Because they make presidential sodas. I had Martin Van Buren strawberry.
After Mount Rushmore Em and I headed over to Flintstone’s Bedrock City campsite to set up camp for the night. We checked into our Flintstones-themes campsite and tried to set up tent but it was way windy and we didn’t have everything we needed to properly secure the tent down. So after a bit of debate Em and I discussed it and decided that we should just ditch out and continue driving and find a hotel room instead.
Chief Crazy Horse Memorial
Crazy Horse, SD
Before leaving South Dakota we stopped at Crazy Horse, which is a huge memorial that is still in the works. They’ve been building it for 50 years and still have 50 to go. It’s actually pretty cool and pretty huge and is funded privately and through money spent to get in and in the gift shop. We watched a video that showed how it was made and is being made and it was neat because at first it was entirely done by hand.
After Crazy Horse we took off for Nebraska in probably the most backwards fashion ever. But we passed buffalo roaming and managed to get someone else pulled over 🙂
We drove finally made it to Nebraska and drive until we saw lights. We pulled off into Chadron, Nebraska and stopped off at some diner to get food. They totally had rocky mountain oysters (cattle testicles) on the menu. I did not order them though because they surely would have made me sick.
After we ate we went around looking for a hotel room for the night. No place had any rooms at all despite the fact that they had no cars in their lots. The Super 8 had a room that was out of commission that they could move the furniture back into, a jacuzzi suite they tried to sell us, and three really really creepy looking men at the front desk. We decided to pass and drive an hour more to Alliance.
There we checked into a Days Inn in Alliance, Nebraska, and were given a room that had all the towels used, ice in the ice bucket, and a used bar of soap. We didn’t care though because it was late and we needed sleep. What we did care about though was the damned air conditioner that made a buzzing sound all night and kept waking us up…
Sunday: Roadside Attractions in Nebraska
Sunday we woke up early and grabbed a continental breakfast at the hotel, checked out, and hit the road. You know you’re in the middle of nowhere Nebraska when the roadside attraction that is first on your list is also first on the list of “things to do in the area” section of the Days Inn Guide…
So you know that thing in England? You know that thing where all those rocks are laid in a circle on top of each other? Stonehenge? Yeah, that was totally based off of Carhenge. And Carhenge kind of totally rocks.
There were also a bunch of other car and random art things around it.
And then I drove. A lot of driving. There was so much driving for so long that I had to let my new friend Flopsy take over for a bit
World’s Largest Porch Swing
I don’t know about you, but when I heard that there was a world’s largest porch swing I was kind of imagining an Edith-Ann like wonderment in the sky. Something to the likes of:
I guess I was therefore a little disappointed when instead of that I got this:
But it was still pretty awesome. And holds like 16 people or 24 children. And probably a couple thousand Flopsies.
World’s Largest Time Capsule
This is the world’s largest time capsule. There is a Chevy Vega buried in there. It was buried in 1975 and is to be opened in 2025. The pyramid on top of the time capsule was built in 1983 and contains another car.
After stopping at the time capsule we headed over to Omaha to meet up with our friend Glen. Read: free night’s stay. Unfortunately I am a dumb blonde and transposed some of the numbers in his address and we wound up at the wrong place. For the record, Glen does not live in a tree. We finally found his place though. So we caught up with Glen and went for dinner to Romeo’s Mexican Food and Pizza. Because, well, it was a Mexican food and pizza place. How can you go wrong?
Monday: Road Trip Back to Chicago
Day 4 we woke up bright and early, bid adieu to Glen and stopped at the Kum & Go for gas. Yes, it’s called Kum & Go. And when I paid the guy at the counter said “sorry you had to kum and go so soon.” Brilliant. Oh, and not so Brilliant I totally tried to exit where there was no exit and crashed into the bumper. It was early OK. Val=dumb blonde.
Spider Made Out of a Volkswagen
Since everything we did apparently involved cars, why not a stop to see a giant spider made out of a Volkswagen?
10-Foot-Tall Rotating Ear of Corn
Coon Rapids, IA
You know what’s awesome? Giant corn. You know what’s even awesomer? When giant corn rotates.
I even took a video of this one so you can see it rotating:
As we drove on I hit another milestone: 20,000 miles on black pickle!
World’s Largest Truck Stop
As our last stop and our last stop for gas on our zany Chicago to Mount Rushmore road trip where else COULD you go but the World’s Largest Truck Stop? It has gas and food and shopping and a nap room and a barber shop and all kinds of stuff. It even had VHS tapes on sale. Crazy!
Oh, I also managed to try to drive out of the gas station with my soda cup still on the roof. Oops. Luckily some people stopped my car to tell me…
And with that one last stop we left Iowa and finished our road trip back to Chicago. I had tons of fun and was happy I had Emily along for the ride. I hope she had fun too (even with my dumb blondeness)! She said she would write a guest blog to explain her side of things. Maybe you’ll see that…