This trip has become an obsession. Whenever I’m having a rough day or just need to focus my mind I find myself thinking about it. I think I’m putting more effort into this than anything else I’ve done in my life. I’ve certainly never spent more than a year on any one work project. Doing hours of research from various sources, creating dozens of maps, and constantly updating and tweaking my Google spreadsheet have created a project that far surpasses any assignment I’ve done in my undergrad or graduate work. This is why I now weigh every addition and subtraction to the trip with great deliberation. It’s also why I’m starting to feel a great loss when I remove a potential stop from the trip. This post is to highlight a few locations I will now be omitting.
I’ll start with the easiest stop I’ve removed since draft 1. The Mystery Hole in West Virginia was stricken from the maps after my return from Kentucky. I happily checked it off the must see list and eliminated a few hours from the final day of my trip. I’m glad I was able to fit this into my small mid-west trip instead of tacking it onto The Trip. I’m sure by the final days next summer I will be exhausted and ready to sleep in my own bed. The Mystery Hole, while fun, was a bit of a let down. I would hate to end my magnificent circumnavigation of the U.S. on a down note.
A major change I’ve recently made is the elimination of the great North West. Sadly I will not be crossing into Washington or Oregon. One of the highlights of that leg of the trip was Cedar Creek Grist Mill. Rated with 4.5 stars on Trip Advisor and offering one of the most original souvenirs, I’m disappointed I won’t be making it there. The water powered mill was created in 1876 and still works. No gas or electricity is used at the location and visitors are given FREE!! bags of flour to take home (donations accepted). I’ve bought t-shirts, shot glasses, and bumper stickers from a myriad of tourist traps. Never have I been offered a signature bag of flour. And free?! Free souvenirs are the rarest of the rare making this simple bag of flour the last unicorn.
So why then was this wonderful sight cut? Simply put, their hours are too constraining. They are only open for 4 hours on Saturday and 2 hours on Sunday. With all the driving I’ll be doing, it would be too difficult to plan the entire trip so I end up in Washington during that small window of time. There would be too much stress for that (awesome!) bag of flour. The good news is I’ve shaved a day off the trip meaning I’ll have one day between The Trip and going back to work to rest. Also I’ve decided a future trip to Portland, OR is in order. I need to see the world’s largest continual chocolate waterfall before I die. When in Portland I can easily rent a car and drive up to the mill.
Another stop that was canceled due to limited hours of operation is the Opera in Focus in Rolling Meadows, IL. During the one hour shows, patrons are shown scenes from various operas acted out by puppets. Not just any puppets either, very detailed and life like puppets. This is far from the sock puppet theater forced upon parents by bored children. This is legit theater preformed by talented puppeteers. Currently shows are only Wednesdays at 4:00pm or Saturdays at 1:30pm. Reservations are required and I can’t set my entire trip schedule based around this one location. Any traffic delay would forfeit my admission fees. Fortunately I can make the drive from my hometown in a day. This could certainly be the impetus of a long weekend to Illinois.
The last heartbreak I’ll mention is Bear World in Rexburg, ID. As I mentioned in a previous post, I love traveling to animal encounters. So why then am I canceling the opportunity to bottle feed a baby bear? I have two good reasons. Or at least two reasons I’m using to justify this heart wrenching decision. First because of the timing of the tours and feedings, I would need to write off the entire day for this excursion. While worth an entire day, I would have to eliminate the other stops I had planned for the area. The second reason is all about the trip theme. I could spend my time at Bear World or I can hit two other museums instead. I can’t do all three. I chose the other two because they follow the theme of tacky tourist traps. Bear World is more like a zoo and not as oddball as the two museums I’ve decided to visit instead. I will not be listing any of my planned stops through this blog. I will only reveal them each night of The Trip as I visit them. For the 3 or 4 friends who might read this blog, you just have to be patient to find out what whimsical locales beat out Bear World. I don’t think any of us will be disappointed.