SUMMER ROAD TRIP, DAY 1
And so our epic 80 day summer road trip begins – 12 U.S. states, 1 Canadian province and 11 national parks. For the upcoming months, I will be sharing with you our highlights, lowlights, adventures, favorite spots, best tips and our thoughts on three months of road tripping and living in a pop up. I’ll try to answer any and all of your questions too! You can also follow our journey via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
If you would like to read about our plans and full itinerary start here.
Getting Ready for the BIG Road Trip
The days leading up to today were filled with endless errands, planning, last minute researching and car maintenence. It was hectic and as much as we prepared and organized, it still feels like we could have done more. But time was up and we were in the car grinning from ear to ear starting our crazy adventure!
We darted to my in-laws for a crash course on the pop up camper. Did I mention we’ve never done any of this before? Sure my husband helped his parents as a kid, but – without calling him out on being an ol’ man – that was a LONG time ago. We’ve camped, but that only includes tent and truck camping. We’ve never been the sole responsible party for setting up and taking down any type of camper. An afternoon later, we are experts!
This should be interesting….
Day 1: Rockford, Illinois to Austin, Minnesota
Miles Driven: 305
Average Gas Price per Gallon: $2.34
States: Illinois, Wisconsin & Minnesota
The Great River Road in Wisconsin
Excitement and intrigue filled the car as we drove out of Illinois into the first state we are traversing: Wisconsin. From Rockford, we decided to take the less direct route up to La Crosse, Wisconsin via the Great River Road. It’s a 2,069 mile long road that follows along the Mississippi River through ten states. We traipsed along the scenic highway from Prairie du Chien to La Crosse.
An Afternoon in La Crosse, Wisconsin
We spent the afternoon exploring the river city of La Crosse. We stood in awe at one of the best overlooks of the Mississippi River Valley we’ve yet to see, we took a short pilgrimage, walked along the river and ate a wonderful lunch.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe
The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a Catholic shrine dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God. We stretched our legs on the peaceful one-mile walk through the meditation trail. The trail winds through a wooded path and leads to various devotional areas such as the Votive Candle Chapel, Memorial to the Unborn, Stations of the Cross, Rosary Walk and the Shrine Church.
Next, we drove up to Grandad Bluff which overlooks the entire city of La Crosse and the Mississippi River Valley. We read that the view encompasses three separate states: Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. The panoramic views were gorgeous!
Lunch at Dublin Square Irish Pub
We always manage to find an Irish Pub wherever we are and so was the case in La Crosse! Dublin Square Irish Pub did not disappoint. The burger with jalapeno bacon cream cheese (with actual sliced jalapenos and bacon strips) is delicious. They even put the special cream cheese on my buffalo chicken wrap. The homemade mac n’ cheese had a light sprinkle of panko bread crumbs right on top of the heavenly cheese sauced shells. What made this lunch extra special? A cold pint of Spotted Cow by New Glarus Brewery. Chances are, if you find yourself in a Wisconsin restaurant or bar they will have some kind of New Glarus beer on tap. If that’s the case, try one! Spotted Cow is universally liked as it is a smooth, light pale ale.
We walked along the river and through a small garden in Riverside Park.
Lodging En Route to the Badlands – Rodeway Inn & Suites: Austin, Minnesota
We decided not to use the pop up for less than three overnights so our first stop is right off highway 90 in Austin, Minnesota. For those of you that enjoy quirky roadside attractions, this is also home to the Spam Museum. I probably would have dragged my husband through it, but it closes early and opens late so he lucked out.
The rooms at the Rodeway aren’t five stars, but it was clean, had a microwave, fridge, free wi-fi and breakfast. The breakfast includes bananas, cereal, white bread, bagels, donuts, coffee and juice. The owners were extremely friendly. The total cost with tax was $61.