Road Trip: Democratic National Convention Edition

lake-superior.jpgIt’s that time of year again where I go off grid for a period of time and people resign or other momentous stuff happens while I’m away from the Toobz.

I’ll be leaving Friday evening for a road trip with mr. emptywheel and McCaffrey the MilleniaLab, up over the top of Lake Superior, through South Dakota so mr. emptywheel can see Abraham Lincoln in a rock, and from there down to Denver for the Convention (and to visit my family, some of whom live there). I can’t promise you mr. emptywheel will let me check on the Toobz until I get to Denver a week from tomorrow, though perhaps if I go into withdrawal I’ll liveblog Wall Drug for you (you think Wall Drug has wifi??). And McCaffrey the MilleniaLab, who was named after Eddie McCaffrey of the Denver Broncos, is hoping to be able to see Barack Obama accept the nomination in Mile High.

It’s bound to be a particularly momentous absence, as Calculated Risk will also be gone from the Toobz for some of the same dates as I’ll be gone–and when he goes off  grid, banks tend to fail. Obviously, one of the things I’ll be missing is the announcement of Obama’s Veep (and no, I didn’t sign up to get a text as soon as it’s announced), but who knows, maybe we’ll be lucky and another high level Bushie will resign to spend more time with his family.

In the meantime, bmaz will have the keys (yes, to the blog and to the liquor cabinet, you lushes), and I’ve instructed him he can do with those keys as he sees fit–so behave! You don’t want him to key your car. We’ll also have a few posts from another surprise guest poster next week, so you’ll be in great hands while I’m gone.

Anyone have any tips for must-see things along the way?

(Photo of Lake Superior Provincial Park, where I plan to do a day hike on Saturday, by loimere.) 

  1. bmaz says:

    Anyone have any tips for must-see things along the way?


    Jim, I actually think I have one in the refrigerator, and that sounds just right about now. Thanks for reminding me!

  2. emptywheel says:

    Cordelia Lear from DKos is going with Blogging for Michigan. In her day job, she wrote a review of all the breweries and whatnot in MI. We’ve got a date to go brewery hop in Denver itself.

    So I got that one covered–unless there’s one in SD or in N MN that I should know about. Thunder Bay, maybe?

  3. skdadl says:

    The thing about Lake Superior is that it is very big. Very very big. I mean, the north-shore countryside is gorgeous and all, but it does go on and on. And on. I hope that you have a good exit strategy planned.

    Have a wonderful time.

    • skdadl says:

      I hope you weren’t speaking to me, because I was just joking. A lot of Canadians know the topside of Superior as one long road or train stretch, so maybe I was being too local. It is wonderful country, and I meant my good wishes sincerely.

      • emptywheel says:

        Well, in the States, we say that about Iowa, Nebraska, and Texas, two of which I’ll hit on the way back.

        And they’re nowhere near as scenic as Superior.

  4. WilliamOckham says:

    Speaking of breweries, I’m starting one in my home. Ok, actually I’ve just got one of the standard 5 gallon at a time set ups. The first batch is an English-style stout of course. Should be done in a couple of weeks, assuming my fermentation isn’t stuck.

      • WilliamOckham says:

        That’s funny, my wife talked me into it because she thought I needed a hobby that didn’t involve the computer. Little did she know that there’s all sorts of opportunities to write software for this stuff… hehe

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Well, next time you get out to Wa State (if it’s in the summer) we have some lovely hop fields in the Yakima Valley — home of the Hops Growers of America.

      My spouse is quite the biermeister — splendid brews, and lots of fun for a science and chem buff. But the sugars in the yeast knocked him sidewise, so now he’s big into making pickles and mustards. Hope your batches work out splendidly; I’m sure in that Houston heat you and your wife will enjoy a few cold beers!

      And EW, I’ll ’second’ Emma’s suggestion: Custer State Park is exceptionally beautiful.

      Have a safe drive!

    • emptywheel says:

      Not long after we got McC, he threw himself into oncoming traffic–a Toyota Camry. He got hit, twice. Rolled over, got up, then hit again.

      Rushed him to the hospital, they looked and looked and looked.

      And determined he had broken a toenail.

      Mind you, he had already been named McCaffrey. But he sure lived up to the name. In fact, we’re pretty sure he did so well because he was lithe and flexible like Eddie. So there you have it.

      • plunger says:

        What a crack up…sound just like a McCaffrey crossing pattern.

        Does he curse you for committing him to a life of big hits?

  5. rxbusa says:

    Have a great vacation! My husband and I love road trips, but haven’t been to that part of the country yet, so I can’t offer any tips…although people say the Corn Palace in Nebraska is a sight to see.

      • WilliamOckham says:

        My recollection from 30 years ago is that the Amana Colonies are way more interesting than the Corn Palace.

      • Mommybrain says:

        If you like funky museums, go to Pioneer Village in Minden, NE. You’ll need a couple of days. It’s a collection of American stuff, used every day from the 1800’s until sometime in the 60’s. Just cool.

      • Minnesotachuck says:

        Actually, contrary to rxbusa’s assertion in 16, the Corn Palace is not in Nebraska, but rather in Mitchell, South Dakota, which is right on I-90. Thus, you’ll be in a position to stop there on the way out if you’re taking the freeways. It’s abut 65 miles west of Sioux Falls, and is worth seeing just how corny it is, if you pardon the expression.

  6. PetePierce says:

    Have a great time. See if you can run Hillruh and Billruh off the road before they hit Denver.

    Obama’s Veep is Biden. Glad to get it to you quickly.

  7. behindthefall says:

    Naaaah. Once you’ve walked the acres of Wall Drug, you’ve seen it all. (I was clearing out the cellar a few years back and came across a stack of those felt pennants you could buy back in the 50s and early 60s; I guarantee a good fraction of them came from a single visit to Wall Drug.)

    Of course, if you are lucky enough to see avocets standing at the edges of a pool on the prairie, that’s pretty memorable, too, but you probably have already seen that.

    Have fun.

  8. Emma says:

    Custer State Park is just south of Rushmore. It’s a huge park and is absolutely beautiful, and buffalo and cattle roam close to road that winds thru the park (and occasionally walk or run in front of your vehicle). There are several lodges and cabin resorts scattered around the park, all with different amenities, and we stayed in a lovely cabin near a small lake. We spent hours watching the prairie dogs, which are pretty tame and very entertaining. This is all based on 12 years ago, but hopefully it’s much the same as then. I highly recommend it.

    • emptywheel says:

      Very cool. We have two nights reserved at a campground there. Will do a long dayhike there. Looking forward to it, though I hope McC doesn’t try to take on the bison.

  9. Rayne says:

    Have a blast, EW. Be sure to look up my news editor while you’re in Denver (think you’ve met before, surely at the MI Policy Summit).

    My folks took the Great Lakes Circle Tour a few years ago; will have to ask what they thought was the highlight. If I had the time and kids that were patient enough to do it, I’d check out Grand Portage on the Tour.

    Also sorely tempted by Batchawana Provincial Park, Ontario, but it’s day use only. Definitely interested in Neys Provincial Park, Ontario — has camping for those who enjoy it (not me).

  10. PJEvans says:

    I’ve heard that Left Hand brewery, in Longmont, CO, has pretty good stuff. Milk stout, for one.

    The only sights I know of are on the other side of Denver – I have friends who just got back from a road trip there, with many photos of Petrified Forest (what’s left of it) and the Painted Desert. Also lots of the plains of AZ and NM – they were on I40.

  11. LiberalHeart says:

    They have cool little thingys you can plug into your laptop, giving you a hot spot wherever you are. I’m just sayin’…

    Have a great time.

    And in case Obama’s having trouble with the big decision:
    Obama/EmptyWheel 08

      • klynn says:

        LiberalHeart, I’m with you…Obama/Emptywheel sounds great to me!

        Have a great trip EW and Mr. EW. (Plus M the M Lab)…

          • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

            Well, I’ll take that as a cue to go mix up my first whiskey sour and scrounge around to see whether there’s any hummus left in the fridge. Or any veggies that the Master Pickle Chef hasn’t yet boiled in one or another vinegar bath…

          • freepatriot says:

            you gotta go to the bathroom sometime …

            see, ew, this is what happens every time you give him the key to the liquor cabinet

            so Heren is workin out okay there, huh ???

            • bmaz says:

              Haran is turning out very good; just resigned him for more years. Carlos Gonzales is going to be good for you guys too though.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Bozeman’s just a great place, period ;-))
      The dinosaur bones are just an added bennie.

  12. masaccio says:

    Rats, posted too fast. I meant to mention that the city of Bozeman is beautiful, and then you can drive south from there through the Gallatin National Forest and Yellowstone on your way to Denver.

  13. whitewidow says:

    The stretch from Thunder Bay to Grand Marais, in MN’s only mountains, the Sawtooth Range, is some of the prettiest I have seen. I was just there a couple of weeks ago. Of course it’s not the Rockies, but with that big lake as a backdrop, it’s pretty breathtaking.

    While there I was checking out the local newspaper and reading the local police calls. My favorite, paraphrasing: “Car hit moose on Gunflint Trail. Car sustained major damage. Minor injuries to occupants. Moose ran away into woods.”

    Watch out for those moose. They are really, really big. Enjoy your trip, ew.

  14. bobschacht says:

    Since you seem to be going the northern route, here are a few suggestions:
    1. Red Lake in northern Minnesota– Paul Bunyan country. Very green.
    2. Since you’re going to see Abe in a Rock, you might as well go see Deadwood, and Pine Ridge (best to make contacts in advance to really “see” anything), and then drive through the “Badlands” for an utter contrast with Red Lake
    3. If you have time for a slight detour westward, take I-90 west from Deadwood to Buffalo, Wyoming, and then head south on I-25, where you will soon be in Teapot Dome country, to commemorate the corruption of another era. Then stop by in Midwest (that’s the name of a town) to see what a Company Town has turned into, before continuing southward to Cheyenne.

    4. Schedule your trip to spend lunch, or dinner, or an overnight, in the delightful college town of Ft. Collins, and have a brew or two. You are now in “Front Range” country, where I used to live.

    5. Take a short side trip to Boulder, and take a walk through the downtown/college hangout area. This is DFH heaven.

    6. Don’t forget to leave Boulder and go to Denver. That is the reason for the trip, isn’t it?

    Bob in HI

    • emptywheel says:

      When my mom and I were going to do the drive out, we were going to stop at Deadwood to see her friend the Jesuit priest at Pine Ridge. She’s not doing the drive though…

    • Leen says:

      Wednesday and Saturday farmers market in Boulder are great family time plus great food. The Boulderado Hotel right downtown is great to stay in but very expensive, Spruce Street pool at the corner of Spruce and 22 a great local place for swimming. Boulder creek is a great place to rent some inner tubes (at the gas station at the corner of Arapahoe and Broadway and then head up into Boulder Canyon and get on the creek for a great water ride (the water is not up to high right now)

      The bike path through Boulder is great for walking up the Canyon (just keep your eyes peeled for the high speed bike riders

      Another great place to stay in BOulder
      Foot of the Mountains

      EW I am sure you have heard they are going to be shutting down some of the roads around Denver during the convention. Driving is going to be crazy, RTD (the Bus service in Denver ) has great day and week passes.

  15. JohnLopresti says:

    Some election law experts in OH devised this final exam in 2008 for a US presidential 2008 election contingent upon Denver poll worker conduct. There is an enclave of climate change denialists in Denver, they figure on selling realestate for a lofty price when coastlines begin to experience sealevel increase. Reportedly they are working with some arctic circle factions as the most likely residual colonies on the planet after some tipping point is exceeded.

  16. bonjonno says:

    Hi Marcy. I’m thrilled that you’ll be driving by my pad on the way to Rushmore. Woo Hoo! We need better brain power around here. I’m playing at the smoke free bar in Rapid City Thursday (21st) if you’re still around; it’s called Dublin Square and they have Guinness on tap. It’s raining heavily and cold in the Hills right now. So bring warm clothes in case. Bon voyage.

    • emptywheel says:

      We’ve got the “just in case” for the Canada part.

      I’ll keep in mind the bar–what’s the name of the band? And is it small enough that if I showed up without emailing, you’d be able to see me? Or I’d be able to find you?

      Like I said, we’ll do a long day hike that day, so it’ll depend on how popped we are.

      • bonjonno says:

        Hi Marcy. Hope you haven’t left yet. The band at Dublin Sq Rapid City next Thursday is called Crash Wagon. Everything is small here. Capacity ~ 200. Just walk right up to the stage and Howdy! I’m the drummer. The others have questionable ideas about politics. Be careful.

  17. Loo Hoo. says:

    EW family, have a wonderful trip! If you do get to Paul Bunyan country, be sure to wave to Bemidji, my childhood home.

    Will you make Wexler’s gig in Denver?

    Join us for the whole week if you can, otherwise please make plans to join me on Thursday (scroll down) for a special day devoted to oversight, investigations, and impeachment. Rep. Keith Ellison will be joining me on the morning panel, and in the afternoon Rep. Ellison; Leslie Cagan of United for Peace and Justice; Steve Cobble, Institute for Policy Studies Fellow; and The Nation’s John Nichols will continue the discussion on constitutional law.

  18. MrWhy says:

    Enjoy the trip. I’m sure you’ll hear about the VP choice in good time. Does McCaffrey get any perks during the vacation other than being present for the nomination of Obama?

  19. Leen says:

    EW have a great trip. I am in Boulder Colo after being up in the mountains for two weeks with my family. For the last week I have been volunteering for the Dems in Denver and Boulder. Tomorrow I will be handing out tickets for the Obama speech at the stadium to folks who have won the lottery. Close to 5000 volunteers have signed up for the convention.

    When you are coming across South Dakota are you going across Montana? Or dropping down earlier? I am a hot springs junkie (great to do with your family) and one of my favorite hot springs is just outside of Yellow Stone here is a link…..HGR211-031

    Of course in Colorado there are so many hot springs to choose from. Have your ever been up to the Steamboat Hot springs? When I lived there you had to either hike in or cross country ski to the Strawberry Park Hot Springs in Steamboat. While I was never happy that these springs were developed (what can you do if you can not buy them) the guy who did develop them did a beautiful job. You can rent inexpensive cabins and your hot spring fee is included. A great place for family time.

  20. freepatriot says:


    bmaz doesn’t scare me

    I don’t own a car

    well, looks like we can take a few days off before we start seriously trashin the place

    dibs on the comfy chair …

  21. freepatriot says:

    here’s some early morning brain lint:

    deep in the tinfoil zone, there is a rumor that the Georgia-Russia conflict was started to boost mcsame’s candidacy

    I’m not sayin there is any truth there, but …

    if it is true, are the Georgians the dumbest fucking people on the planet or what ???

    doug feith MUST be of Georgian decent

  22. wavpeac says:

    Lake superior is my favorite lake. Do you plan to drive down the minnesota side and cross over?? Because highway 61 along the minnesota border has some of the most stunningly beautiful coastal veiws. Split rock lighthouse is gorgeous. It’s a about a 3 hour drive down from the canadian border along the coast line and ends at Duluth. It’s absolutely worth the mileage if it was not your intended route. Sleepy seaside villages, a well kept secret in the midwest.

    I believe we did that drive one year stopping in south dakota first and then up to duluth and grand marais.

    Stop in and say hi to my mom and dad about 3 miles south of grand marais. They have a place right on the lake and my mom can cook like no tomorrow. (not haggis though…but they are both Irish and there is always Jameson on hand for around the campfire).

    I hope you have safe and happy travels!!

    • emptywheel says:

      That is precisely the route we’re taking: St. Ignace, Marathon, Grand Marais, and from there, somehow, to the Black Hills.

      I’ll say hi to your folks. Though do they have Guinness? Neither me nor mr. emptywheel drink Jamesons.

  23. njr83 says:

    don’t know if Wall Drug has wifi, but the public library in Spearfish does, as does my livingroom, do drop in
    and yes, Spearfish has a small brewery too

  24. wavpeac says:

    There are some really nice waterfalls along the highway 61 drive. Just south of the canadian border there are the high falls. Just a 1/2 mile hike but really pretty this year because of all the rainfall. Quick hike if you have the time.

    Also cascade falls are worth a mile hike just south of grand marais. You have to hike into the woods for about a mile but it’s an easy hike, but worth the gorgeous view. So, it’s a quickie if you have the time.

  25. wavpeac says:

    I should have said that my dad would have both Jameson AND Bushmills.

    My dad has never been to Ireland but when he tips a few he talks with an Irish brogue.

    Well I am off to work. Enjoy your trip and bring back pictures!! I love to travel vicariously.

  26. JohnLopresti says:

    to @55@~OT, you can try the linked thread, it has >600 comments, one prolix from a member of the dwindling climate change denialist community which is attempting to bond with realestate people for profit purposes, sounds fringeFoil thinking, but the site is the latest accurate science on the topic, the comment an BartonInhofeDroll of sorts.

    It’s a long time since I ‘found a mountain’ in EstesPark, CO. I would imagine Jeralyn will be in the 5280neighborhood this year for the convention. I still think the floor votes will be surprising, more open than media are reporting.

  27. randiego says:

    EW – since you’re headed to Mt. Rushmore, I’d also check in on the Crazy Horse Memorial – something I’ve always wanted to do. They are both in the Black Hills, 20 miles apart.

    Something else I’ve done, which you may want to skip, but you never know: The World’s Largest Ball of Twine. It’s in Cawker City, KS – which is in north central KS, very much in the middle of nowhere.

  28. Minnesotachuck says:

    Hey Marcy, welcome to you and Mr. EW to my state. As for some what-to-see suggestions:

    Grand Portage National Monument has lots of interesting stuff about the fur-trading voyageurs of the 17th and 18th centuries. It’s just a few miles across the border from Ontario on Hwy 61.

    Grand Marais, about 40 miles down the road, is an old lumbering town now morphing into a funky artists enclave. It’s also the beginning of the Gunflint trail the other end of which is in the heart of t he eastern end of the Boundary waters Canoe Area. The BWCA is the largest designated wilderness in the lower 48.

    Another 25 or so miles southwest is the Lutsen Resort, which has been there since the turn of the 20th century, before there was a highway 61, when guests came by water from Duluth. I worked there for a few months 45 years ago, and its place in my heart was widened a year ago this month when my son got married there. It has a good restaurant and rooms in a wide price range. It is almost exactly at mile #90 (from Duluth), and as you’re coming from Canada the turn off is immediately after you cross the Poplar River.

    Next up is Temperance River State park, about 8 miles past the Lutsen Resort turnoff. It’s one of several state parks at the mouths of rivers that rise in the Boundary Waters and its deep gorge, in my opinion, makes it the most picturesque.

    I second the notion that Split Rock Light House, mentioned above, is worth a stop.

    Finally (at least with regard to the Minnesota North Shore segment of your trip), you come to Duluth, where I can’t ignore bmaz’s concern at #2 for finding opportunities for you to indulge your desire for the fruit of the malt. The place to stop, I have it on good authority, is Fitgers Brewhouse. I’ve never stopped there myself, since when I’m in that area I’m usually in a hurry to either get to the BWCA or home from it. But I’ve been told by those whose judgment I trust in such matters that they make a wicked good brew. Nearby there is also a Fitgers Inn, which is a B&B in the restored building of the old Fitgers Brewery. The latter went belly up decades ago and I’m told that the new Fitgers beers bear no resemblance to the old.

    So much for the North Shore. Needless to say, if you stop in the Twin Cities area for any length of time there are several of us avid readers of this blog who would look forward to quaffing a brew or sipping something stronger, and sharing some conversation. Just let us know and when and where, of contact one of us for suggestions re the latter.

    Finally, since you’re heading for western South Dakota, my guess is that you’re planning to take I-35 south from the Twin Cities to I-90 and thence west all the way to Rapid City and environs. About 50 miles along the way west you’ll come to my home town, Fairmont a small city of about 10,000. It’s quite picturesque as small upper Midwestern towns go, as it’s set on a chain of five lakes. There’s a fairly good place to eat there called the Sirloin House. It’s on the south side of town (the freeway passes on the north side), but it’s fairly straight forward to get to. Take the first of the two Fairmont exits, which is State highway 15, and go south past the shopping areas. When you’re getting close to the wind turbines on your right, start looking for Hall Street, where you’ll turn right. Take Hall Street as far as you can go, to Albion Avenue, and turn right. The Sirloin House will be on your left in about a quarter mile, overlooking Hall Lake. You can check their hours by phone at (507) 235-3856, and here’s a link to a map. I have no personal agenda in suggesting the Sirloin House. It’s just that I know from personal road travel experience how tempting it is to fall into the familiar franchise rut if you don’t have any suggestions from people with personal knowledge of an area.

    Bon Voyage!

  29. wavpeac says:

    Wow, so fun to talk minnesota. I just returned from vacation up there for two weeks, and a visit with my folks. We went to grand portage (a yearly quest) and my kids really enjoyed seeing the fur trading post.

    We also stayed at gunflint lake on the canadian border in the BWCA. I really love the true wilderness. I know that the BWCA “land taking” was highly controversial, but it really is so special to have that kind of wilderness available. So many other beautiful destinations have become so tourist driven that the “back to nature” element has been all but lost.

    Minnesota is a great state, even if the republicans are soon to overtake it. We had to listen to “tales from Lake Woebegone” the whole trip.

    There is nothing like a hike to the back woods, and a swim in a cold clear lake to make your head and heart clear.

    Break from work, client no showed…a little meditation as I remember when my head WAS clearer.

  30. ironranger says:

    Fitger’s Brewhouse in Duluth is a must stop for my 3 grown faraway boys when they are home. They are beer picky but plenty of choices at the Brewhouse which has even started a local beer delivery. Their burgers are good with a wild rice burger on the menu.

  31. Minnesotachuck says:

    While we’re on the subject of corn, here are a couple of stops to consider if you’re planning to go through the Cornhusker State:

    Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park, near Orchard, Nebraska, where twelve million years ago ash fallout from an eruption of a supervolcano in what is now Idaho killed hundreds of animals. Unfortunately it’s far off the beaten path in the NE part of the state, about 125 miles NW of Omaha.

    And moving on from the sublime to the ridiculous, there’s Carhenge, also off the beaten path, but near Alliance in the opposite, western end of the state.

  32. Slothrop says:

    If you can make it up to Boulder, I would be honored to buy you a cup of green tea at the Trident Bookstore and Cafe.

  33. siri says:

    siri come lately has a tip.,…..
    when you look at Lincoln on the rocks, take a side trip through Pine Ridge, SD and look at those who paid for that.
    Balance is never a bad thing.