Saturday, August 11, 2007

Road Trip to Our New Home

On Sunday, August 5th, after having spent the last several weeks packing (thanks again to those who helped!), we set out on our long road trip to Detroit. Along the way we stopped by several locations from LDS Church and American history. What follows is a day-by-day recounting of our adventures. (follow this link for pictures)

We headed out at about 8:30 Sunday morning, and we hooked up to the I-80 eastbound for Wyoming. We crossed most of the state by the end of the day moving mainly along less traveled roads, stopping by Martin’s Cove and Devil’s Gate then Independence Rock (still a potty stop 150 years later, how sad (wink, wink)) before having dinner at the very patriotic Fort Laramie American Grill (FLAG) and bedding down at the Tea Kettle Ranch Bed and Breakfast on a cattle ranch outside of Torrington. Isabel and Calvin treated us to chocolate crème pie for dessert on their back porch as we watched deer drink at the watering hole.

Monday morning, the 6th, dawned hazy, but that didn’t stop Mike from wandering along the bluff and getting a spectacular view of the broad panorama. The only sounds that could be heard were the cooing of the doves, the screeching of the hawks, and the rumble of the motorcycle caravans headed for Sturgis. We crossed paths with many a motorcycle over the course of our trip, lots of them headed to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally along the scenic back roads. After a hearty breakfast, we headed down the road to Nebraska. In Nebraska we stopped by Chimney Rock and followed the historic Lincoln Highway, which in turn follows much of the Mormon, Oregon, and California Trails and the Pony Express route, through several small towns before hooking back up to the I-80 and bedding down in Omaha. That night we stopped by Winter Quarters and witnessed a wild thunderstorm (along with our first real ugly muggy humidity) before finding our motel. Throughout the day, the landscape became greener and greener as we moved from the backside of the Rockies to the middle of the Great Plains to the edge of the Prairies. The corn we saw was indeed as high as an elephant’s eye, and it grew everywhere as far as the eye could see.

Tuesday the 7th dawned muggy and sunny. We went to the Kanesville Tabernacle in Council Bluffs, Iowa, before heading south toward Kansas City and Church History sites in Liberty (Liberty Jail) and Independence, Missouri (the LDS Visitors Center and the Community of Christ temple). Before we started this trip, we had thought we would stay in the area, but we decided to bypass a lot of the KC touristy things (like the Hallmark Visitors Center, the Harley Davidson factory, and the Truman Presidential Library) and save them for a time when we could take the time to really see them. So we pressed on to Columbia, where we dined at the 63 Diner, a recommendation from a book we own called Roadfood, before going to bed at the Stoney Creek Inn.

Wednesday the 8th found us St. Louis bound. We made our way to the Gateway Arch in the 100-degree heat coupled with 85% humidity. For a couple of kids used to dry, dry Utah heat, the combined heat and humidity about wiped us out! We stopped by Ted Drewes’ for a couple of concretes and by C & K for some St. Louis style barbeque (both were Roadfood recommendations) before traveling along the Mississippi River and ending our day at the Stoney Creek Inn in Quincy, Illinois. We felt like we were soaking wet as we took our bags in for the night.

We spent Thursday the 9th and the morning of Friday the 10th in Nauvoo, Illinois, where Mormon pioneers settled after being driven out of Missouri and before finally moving en masse to what would become the state of Utah. In recent years, much of the historic portion of town has been restored to what it might have looked like during the time the Latter-day Saints lived there. Two branches of the Latter Day Saint tradition (note the difference in spelling) own sites in Nauvoo, reflecting the present result of a historical disagreement over who should lead the Mormons after Joseph Smith, founder of our church, was killed by a mob in Carthage, Illinois (more on that later). We went to the LDS Church’s visitors center and rode in a carriage around the outskirts of town and in a wagon around the built-up historic part of town before we watched a play in the visitors center and went up to the more modern part of town for dinner. In the evening, we went back to historic Nauvoo, where we saw another play and a sunset musical revue on the Mississippi River. Mike has ancestors who lived in Nauvoo during its historic period, and the name of one of his ancestors is listed in a pavilion dedicated to saints who died of causes endemic to being driven out of Nauvoo. In Mike’s ancestor’s case, James Clark Owens, Sr. died of exposure to the extreme cold near Mt. Pisgah, Iowa, in January 1847, the winter after the 1846 exodus from Nauvoo that came about when Mormons “chose to leave because we had to” rather than continue to face persecution from non-Mormons residing in the general area after Joseph Smith’s death.

On Friday, we went to another couple of sites in Nauvoo before heading to Carthage Jail, site of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and Hiram, his brother. We appreciated being able to visit the sites around Nauvoo over the last couple of days. They provided a real-world context for so many stories we had heard from our youth. In some ways, some of the entertainment was hokey (Mike called Nauvoo a bit of a Mormon Disneyland), but the overall experience served to build our understanding of our religion and the sacrifices made by our ancestors in order to have the right to worship as they believed. We spent the rest of the day traveling through Illinois, following the Illinois River on up past Peoria before ending up back on the I-80 and ending the day in Michigan City, Indiana.

Today, Saturday, August 11, we finally made it to Detroit after a trip of 2500 miles. We are staying in Warren until we find a home to buy, and Mike has to start working in earnest starting Monday. The weather ended up practically ideal for summer, and we had a yummy couple of sandwiches from Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor (again, a Roadfood recommendation). We look forward to our new adventures in the Detroit area, and we’ll make the attempt to keep you posted.