I haven't posted for the last week because I was en route to our lake house in Quebec. This is the second time in 1 year that I've driven across the United States! Most of the drive is unbelievably boring, but between our two separate trips I've found a couple spots that are worth coming back to.
I was sorry that we only had one evening in this little lakeside community on the shore of Lake Superior. This is the access point to the Apostle Islands with ferries and charter boats leaving regularly. The town has cute little Victorian houses, a nice little downtown with great restaurants and wares from local artisans. Nearby are fruit and flower farms where you can pick your own berries in the summer. There are performing art events all summer at the Big Top Chautauqua just outside town.
We stayed at the Winfield Inn, which is a nice inexpensive motel in walking distance to town. Comfy rooms have private patios or balcony with view of the lake and dogs are allowed. The motel has a really nice garden overlooking the lake.
There's a great candy and ice cream store in town with homemade peanut brittle and fudge. Gruenke's Inn and restaurant is supposed to be great although we didn't eat there. For breakfast I recommend The Egg Toss (but get there before 8am if you want some of their homemade pastries).
It probably goes without saying that this national park is worth seeing. However, I think it's worth reiterating that if you are within 100 miles of Yellowstone it's worth it to make a detour. We drove through Yellowstone on our 1st trek across the U.S. so had not planned to cut through it again. However, we made a last minute decision to make a side trip and were so glad we did.
Both times we have gotten up close views of herds of buffalos. This time a whole herd (with little calves) past all around our car. Our dog was barking wildly so we were ready for them to knock our car over! We saw a moose and a bald eagle too. This time we drove north through the Mammoth Hot Springs which are a very smelly, but beautiful geologic formation. Even spending only a few hours in the park each time I have been amazed. Note, dogs are allowed in the main areas of the park--within 100 feet of parking lots, roads, etc. They are not allowed on trails, boardwalks, or hot springs area (they might fall in).
We stopped in this little gold mining town on our 1st trip across the US to see Wild Bill's grave site and were struck by how picturesque the town was. The historic downtown has nicely restored brick buildings and the surrounding hills are beautiful. I found a great antique/everything store (wish I could remember the name!) on the way into town where we bought one of those cow head skeletons with horns that you see in pictures of the old west. We didn't stay overnight, but looks like there are a lot of cute places to stay in town.
Virginia City, NV
This little gold mining town outside Reno, NV is a nice diversion (especially for kids). Wooden sidewalks and restored buildings and lots of souvenir shops line the streets. There are a couple amazing candy shops with all kinds of old time candies that are hard to find like candy cigarettes and neco wafers. Grandma's Fudge has all kinds of different flavors of homemade fudge.
We rented a car for this trip and it came with a GPS. I didn't think we would use it much, but it turned out to be the best thing ever. The feature we used the most was the built-in Yellow Pages that made it easy to search for restaurants, grocery stores, and coffee! You can type in the name of any popular chain (Starbucks, Whole Foods Market) and it will locate the nearest one to your location. Definitely made our trip smoother.
I recommend this chain restaurant for road food that is a step above fast food. Have to say we were sick of hamburgers by day two. So, some bbq rib's and corn was a welcome change. Not sure that I would seek it out as a destination, but was great compared to other roadside grub.
Here's the route we took for this 2nd trip (blue bubbles indicate where we stopped each night. The first night was a short day because we left around 5pm). We did a good job this time around of breaking the trip into manageable chunks. Each day was about 8-9 hours of driving.