You probably want to read it, so here it is… EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED ON OUR ROAD TRIP!!!!
Day 1: Austin-Dallas-Tulsa
The trip got started bright and early Thursday morning. In a very rare instance of John out-sleeping me, I woke him up. “John, wake up, it’s time to go on our trip!” The boy leapt out of bed and threw his clothes on. We said our goodbyes and were on the road by 8am.
The first item on my to-do list was brunch in Dallas at the acclaimed Maple Leaf Diner, a Canadian themed breakfast spot. Johnny opted to eat only a scone, while I snarfed down an eggs Benedict. The most difficult driving I encountered on the trip was in southern Dallas on 35-E, where road construction had the interstate down to two very narrow lanes. I was in the left lane attempting to get around a semi, going 75mph, with literally two inches of space on each side between a concrete barrier and the truck. White knuckle driving, indeed.
North of Dallas, things cleared up and it was a pleasant drive to the small town of Denison, TX. I stopped to see the birthplace and museum of 34th president Dwight Eisenhower. Johnny screamed, pouted, and threw a fit that we stopped because it interrupted his watching of Ghostbusters cartoons. He perked up though when he remembered he had $50 of souvenir bucks for the trip, and bought a cheaply made army tank kit from the gift shop. Onward we went into Oklahoma, where I came upon a famous peanut shop, the Peanut Shoppe. We loaded up on peanuts, pretzels, taffy and jerky and hit the road again. Later, I slammed on the brakes and pulled over to buy the boy some fruit at a roadside fruit stand. Even then, the shop proprietor gave him a popsicle. He fell asleep as we headed up the turnpike to Tulsa.
Upon arrival in town, we checked into our cozy little Airbnb and relaxed. The boy would have been highly content staying at the house for the rest of the day, but I coaxed him into the van and over to Tulsa’s renowned park, The Gathering Place. Wow. This park had it all. Apparently the heir to an oil fortune donated $600MM to construct the most amazing playground I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. We played in 100º heat for two hours and left with both of us soaked to the bone. We returned to the Airbnb and showered, and planned our dinner. Johnny wanted pepperoni pizza, so I texted my company’s CEO and asked if he knew a good spot. My company, ConsumerAffairs, is based in Tulsa, after all. That was part of the reason for stopping there overnight. Rather than direct us to a good restaurant, he instead invited us over to his house for dinner. John played with my boss’s two kids while I enjoyed a couple beverages with the adults. Good but late night! We were asleep around 11:30.
Day 2: Tulsa-Independence-Topeka-Auburn
We awoke and headed to my office first thing in the morning, where every Friday they cater breakfast and have an all-company standup meeting. I was called to the front to say a few words, and was surprised when my colleagues pulled out masks of my face, forming a Glanzer flash mob. How welcoming! We had plans for more Tulsa stops, but it was raining heavily so we just hit the road north into Kansas.
I stopped near the small town of Independence to check out one of the Laura Ingalls homesteads. John again showed zero interest of this roadside attraction and sulked on the front porch, refusing to budge. As we were there alone, way out in the country, I left him to sort out his feelings and explored on my own. He later perked up and wasted a few bucks in the gift shop on a log cabin toy and a cowboy that grows in water. In town, we spotted a free zoo, so I pulled over. Turns out it was the zoo where the original monkey blasted into orbit was from! A bit of space history. We motored on north through miles of rolling prairies of eastern Kansas with virtually nothing to stop and see.
Finally we made it to Topeka, where I had a handful of items to check out, but we wound up visiting only one—the Evel Knevel Museum, which is inside a Harley dealership. If you ever get to Topeka, it’s worth a visit! We each took our turn on a virtual reality 4D bus-jumping motorcycle experience. While it made me a little nauseous, Johnny loved it and went twice! We were running a little behind schedule, so I skipped plans to see the Brown vs Board of Education building and state capitol and ventured on into Nebraska, where we arrived at the home of Dorrie and Ken Heronimus, parents of my good friends Jason and Jeff LaPlant.
The Heronimuses and LaPlants were very welcoming. We enjoyed a home-cooked shrimp boil dinner and caught up. Once nearly inseparable, I had not seen either LaPlant brother since at least 2012. Johnny was wound up on sugar and caffeine and put on quite a display of silliness in the basement, whacking people with pillows and stealing socks. In the morning, we enjoyed a tasty biscuits/gravy breakfast and headed out.
Day 3: Auburn-Vermillion
The long drive along I-29 through Nebraska and Iowa was uneventful. Sure, I could have stopped off and done some fun stuff in either Omaha or Sioux City, but in the end the boy was sick of stopping, and I am already quite familiar with that area of the country. So, we cruised straight into Vermillion, SD, home of my sister’s family. Jordan and her boys Hudson and Colton were eager to take Johnny to the town’s new pool. Johnny had a blast swimming with the cousins all afternoon. In the evening Jordan left for a photo shoot and Abul and I were in charge of heating pizzas for dinner for the kids, but wound up with black smoke billowing out of the house. 13-year-old cousin Emmy graciously volunteered to babysit the younger kids so the adults could enjoy a trip to the bars. Some of Jordan’s co-workers joined us and we were out til around 1am. I’d venture to say not everyone woke up feeling terribly perky, though I was A-OK.
Day 4: Vermillion-Sioux Falls-Watertown
We made the quick drive north to Sioux Falls primarily so I could get fitted for a tux for a friend’s upcoming wedding—I had to get fitted there or Des Moines, so it worked out well that it happened to be on the path. We also wandered the mall, ate lunch at Huhot Mongolian Grill, and I saw Falls Park for the first time. Afterwards we headed north to Watertown, specifically Lake Kampeska, where good friend C.M. Walsh allowed us to stay at his family’s lake cabin free of charge for two days. I could have just headed to the family farm in Carpenter, but I figured this would be more fun. Brother Alex and his family joined us at the cabin Sunday night, and we enjoyed dinner at The Prop and then swam off the dock until dusk. There were no late-night shenanigans this time!
Day 5: Watertown
The first day totally off the road was spent at the Walsh family cabin. I did, however, make a quick trip into town for breakfast groceries. There was more swimming in the morning, and around noon my parents arrived. The original plan was that Dad would be bringing his boat and we’d spend the day zipping around the lake tubing, but due to mechanical problems the boat was left at home. Instead, it was just a lot more swimming and a little kayaking. Some of the adults did some quality day-drinking, otherwise things stayed pretty calm and some of the kids even napped during the day. At night, all the family left for home. John and I were faced with a tough decision of following them out to the farm for the night or just staying in Watertown at the cabin. Seeing how going to the farm would have added 125 miles of driving onto our trip, we opted to just stay by ourselves at the cabin and bid the family adieu.
Day 6: Watertown-Minneapolis suburbs
After packing up the cabin in the morning, John and I embarked eastward for the first time on the trip, heading into Minnesota on backroads due to road construction. As I approached the Twin Cities, we stopped in Chanhassen at the site of my first job, Microboards Technology, better known today as Afinia. There, we were given the tour of the changes to the building since I last was there in 2011. It was a very weird feeling being back there—in some ways it felt like I had been to work just yesterday. So little had changed. The personnel was almost all people I had known from before. I walked into a bathroom and immediately remembered every word to the Abraham Lincoln poster hanging on the wall. Johnny, needless to say, was bored senseless.
Next, we had a pretty wide open agenda. It was only 2pm, and we had a couple hours to kill. There were numerous friends, restaurants, bars, or attractions I could have taken the lad to, but he wanted to see his Grandpa Steve and Granny Anne, so off we went to Bloomington to visit with them for a couple hours. After being carted around for 1,300 miles and stopping for many piddly things, John looked perfectly content to just stay at his grandparents house and play Legos all night, but it was not to be. I loaded him back in the van and headed to Eden Prairie to visit friends Liz and Curt right before their big move. John was forced to acclimate to more new friends in short order, and just as they were getting acquainted, we loaded up and headed further west!
We arrived in Minnetrista where our friends the Walshes were enjoying National Night Out, serving root beer floats on the street corner. After Johnny and his old buddy Lorenzo got reacquainted, they attempted to have a sleepover. Naturally, Johnny wound up in bed with me again. I was up relatively late catching up with Walsh and Sarah, but we just ain’t as crazy as we used to be. Midnight was about all I could handle.
Day 7: Minneapolis
This day was 99% based around the Twins-Braves day game at Target Field. It was a scorcher, too. Our seats were in the direct path of the sun and there was nowhere to hide. Before the game even started, we were seeking shade. John burst out in tears in the top of the first. I assumed it was because he was hot and uncomfortable, but it was due to the Braves hitting a pair of solo homers! This poor kid, what have I set him up for… The boy pleaded to leave early many times, but was bought off with sno-cones and mini donuts. As we departed the stadium in the eighth inning, we popped into a lower-level section to see if a friend was sitting there. He wasn’t, but we snagged some seats near the playing field and immediately had a foul ball wiz past us, and were spotted on the JumboTron. As we left the park for good, an usher asked if the boys wanted to go on the field and run the bases… of course we did!
The kids seemed to enjoy the experience, but I am sure Walsh and I were even more eager to step foot on the sacred grounds. I attempted to film ourselves running the bases, which was a mistake… I should have just enjoyed the moment. The kids were both out cold in the car on the drive home, and it was an early bedtime for me on the couch as we attempted to watch TV with Mr. Bradley Feeney.
Day 8: Minneapolis-Wisconsin-Iowa-Galena, IL
We said goodbye to the Walshes and headed to the Minneapolis airport to pick up Lauren and Edie for the Poulter family get-together. This was the part of the trip we probably would have done in some form, week-long road trip leading up to it or not. Johnny sure missed his baby sister! We loaded them in the car and made a quick pit stop for breakfast at Hot Plate Diner. The road to the northwestern corner of Illinois took us through Iowa and Wisconsin where we saw some surprisingly nice scenery.
The ride with the baby in tow certainly slowed things down compared to just the boys. We had to stop off fairly often as she was screaming and sick of the car. Around 4:00 we got to the small town of Galena and headed out into the country to the Eagle Ridge Resort. Lauren’s family arrived from around the Midwest throughout the night and we hung around chatting and such.
Day 9-10: Galena
The time at the resort was mostly very laid-back and relaxing. There were a couple of connecting townhouses rented out, a floor for each family basically. We ate all meals in, with different groups in charge of preparing each meal. Activities during the day ranged from swimming and pontoon rides to horseback riding and board games. But swimming at one of two pools seemed to be the kids’ preference. One day while Lauren was out with Johnny and the cousins, I took Edie into town on my own and saw the home of former president Ulysses S. Grant. Edie, unlike her brother, was a good sport and posed nicely for all of the pictures I asked for without making a fuss.
Day 11: Galena-St Louis-Rural Arkansas
When the Poulter family fun was through, the Glanzers hit the road around 10am and started south towards St. Louis. At one time, it was believed that the drive home would be just as leisurely as the first two days. John and I would dump the gals in St Louis at the airport to fly home, and we’d take our time seeing fun sites, and grazing parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Unfortunately, we received word too late in the game that John had to be back in Austin by Monday at 4pm for kindergarten orientation, which did turn out to be very important and something we would have regretted missing. So out went the fun and it was pedal to the metal. We dropped Lauren and Edie at the airport around 5:30pm Sunday, giving us 22.5 hours to make it 14 hours back to Austin. Even though there was a more direct route through Missouri that connected back with I-35, I decided to do something different and see a part of the country I’d never visited before.
So, we went south of St Louis through Mark Twain National Forest. It was very nice scenery and very minimal traffic on a 4-lane divided highway for hours. When we finally hit the state line in far northeast Arkansas, however, the roads turned to two lanes, the sun went down, and towns were very sparse. At this point, John was sick and tired of the trip and regretted not flying home with the girls, which at one time was on the table. He bawled and bawled. So I gave in and let him grab whatever junk he wanted at gas stations to calm him down—he bought a toy gun, Gatorade, and M&Ms. It quieted him down for a while, but soon he was bawling again. He cried himself to sleep as we continued through Arkansas well into the night.
I had made the decision earlier in the night to try to pull an all-nighter, so I stopped for coffee at every McDonald’s on the way. But at 1:30, even though I was still feeling alright physically, I was getting blown off the road by semis on I-30. I kept spotting deer in the ditches, and was afraid of hitting one, so I was going at best 58mph. I guess the semis wouldn’t have cared too much if they hit one cause they kept blowing around me at 80mph. So, I finally vowed to pull off at the next lodging sign I saw. It happened to be a random motel called the Southfork Inn, outside a town called Gurdon, Arkansas. I buzzed on the intercom holding a limp child, asking for a room. I got the key and tossed him on the bed. Despite being wildly caffeinated, I quickly went to sleep. I got about four solid hours before waking at 6 to continue onward.
Day 12: Gurdon-Texarkana-Austin
The final push was Monday morning. A road-weary Johnny was promised fresh donuts for the drive, but had to settle for pre-packaged powder mini donuts from a dumpy truck stop. We reached Texarkana, and I had the option of heading south towards Shreveport or heading on west towards Dallas. It wouldn’t have been too much further to hit the Louisiana border and then drive over to Austin, but I decided the quickest route was best, and continued on towards DFW, site of the worst traffic of the trip. And once again, upon reaching the giant metro, it was more white knuckle driving. I regretted the decision to cut a few miles off and visit a new state only to wind up back in that mess. With a brief stop here and there for snacks, we finally reached Austin around 1:30 and had arrived home with 3,008 miles on the van. So close to a round 3,000!
Unlike last year’s Black Hills trip, I returned home from this trip feeling very good about the things we were able to do and see. I upped my game tremendously in terms of pre-trip research this time around. I had about three possible attractions in every town between Austin and Vermillion to stop off and see, and every time the mood struck, we pulled off and saw one of them. The trick for researching fun road trip to-do items is not to rely on sites like RoadTrippers.com or RoadsideAmerica.com or whatever. Strictly Google the town, and Google provides a “travel guide” with top attractions. That’s where I found almost everything fun we did. No, we didn’t do everything on my list due to time constraints, but the fact that we did even half of them is pretty amazing.
We also had a blast catching up with old friends, colleagues, family and strangers along the way. Special thanks again to the Carmans, the LaPlants and Heronimuses, the Krogmans, and the Walshes for their hospitality!
What might I do differently if we were to do this trip again? For the first three days, nothing. Those days were perfect! Day 4 where we went from Vermillion to Sioux Falls to Watertown, I rushed things a bit. We could have easily found more interesting things to see on the way. I was anxious to get to the Walsh cabin, believing the whole family would be there when we arrived. But it turned out we had several hours alone. I might also have gone out to the farm for a day instead of spending two nights at the cabin. We were sad to not get to see Grandma Bell! Same goes for the drive from Watertown to Minneapolis… we made great time and got into town early, but didn’t really have a plan. I should have thought that out a little more and capitalized on a rare free afternoon in the greatest city on earth. After that, there wasn’t really much room to rethink things. The Galena part was pretty well structured, and the drive home left for virtually no lallygagging. I think it was the right amount of time to be away… Johnny was sick and tired of it by the very end, though, so I wouldn’t have extended it any. And I came back to work very refreshed.
Oh, my 2019 does not slow down at all. In the coming months are trips to Tulsa, a mystery Luke Katuin bachelor party destination, Des Moines for Luke’s wedding, probably Tulsa a second time, and maybe even a 10-year wedding anniversary trip in November if we can make it work. But for road trips like this? I fully intend to do something of this nature every year from now on. The kids have long breaks from school and daycare, and I work remotely and have a great PTO plan at my job, so it should be easy to get away. Also, I kind of enjoy driving in general. I get to drive outside the Austin city limits so infrequently, it feels very good to just hit the open roads for an extended period of time. I just wish I could avoid Dallas! The kids probably won’t actually enjoy long car rides for a while yet, but they will learn to like them eventually. I remember distinctly in 1991, nearly 9 years old, so stoked to go on the 7-hour drive to the Black Hills. I sat in the backseat of the Oldsmobile with a notebook and wrote down everything I saw on the way: every town name, every attraction, etc. But to that point in my life trips were extremely rare/nonexistent, so of course it was a thrill.
I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing every detail about my journey.