We decided to take an epic five-day road trip. Originally we’d planned to drive to Glacier National Park. But we chose to push that off until next year. Instead we decided to take a less “exciting” trip to finish off a few pesky counties in the middle of Wyoming – and finish off the state completely.
We set off on a Friday morning after we’d picked up our car rental – a Nissan Juke. We’d had about 4.5 hours of driving through Wisconsin and Iowa before we were able to reach our first new county. We got onto HWY 18 just outside of Madison, and followed it into Iowa, picking up the new counties of Chickasaw, Floyd and Cerro Gordo. In Cerro Gordo County we drove to the city of Clear Lake and visited the Surf Ballroom where Buddy Holly, Richie Valence and the Big Bopper performed their final concert. We also visited the plane crash site just north of town.
After we left Clear Lake, we got back on HWY 18 and followed it west for a long time. Along the way we picked up Hancock, Kossuth, Palo Alto and Clay Counties. In Clay County we switched highways and continued west, picking up O’Brien and Sioux Counties. From there we entered a couple of counties we’d already been too, while at the same time crossing into South Dakota.
We got on HWY 50 until we reached the city of Vermillion, crossing into Clay County in the process. From there we went due south, crossed the Missouri River, and picked up Dixon County, Nebraska. We took a couple of pictures from the scenic overlook before we headed back into South Dakota. Once we got back onto HWY 50 we traveled west into Yankton County. We spent the night in Yankton at the Econo Lodge. After 10:45 minutes on the road, we were ready to relax. We had a Mexican Dinner at the El Tapatio Restaurant, and spent the rest of the night at the hotel.
On Saturday morning we started early. After filling up the car with gas, we immediately went south, crossed the Missouri River again, and picked up Cedar County, Nebraska. A few miles later we headed west on HWY 12 and drove through Knox County, as well as the city of Crofton. We continued west for about 20 miles before we headed north, crossed the Missouri River once again and went into South Dakota, this time picking up Bon Homme County. Once there we turned around and got back onto HWY 12 in Nebraska.
We continued west and crossed into Boyd County. A short while later we headed south on HWY 281 and entered Holt County. We continued west, picking up Rock and Brown Counties as well. We also stopped at a Subway along the way. Eventually we headed back north and picked up Keya Paha County, where we got back onto HWY 12/20. We followed it west for over 160 miles, picking up Cherry and Sheridan Counties along the way. We finally got off HWY 12/20 at the city of Hay Springs. From there we went south, eventually driving through the city of Hemingford and picking up Box Butte County. Outside of Hemingford we headed north back to HWY 20 and picked up Dawes County. From there we headed west towards the Wyoming border, picking up Sioux County along the way.
We entered Wyoming (and Niobrara County) and almost immediately headed south near the community of Van Tassell. In the spirit of “No county left behind” we found ourselves on a gravel road for about four miles. And although there was no county sign, we did briefly cross into Goshen County. We then turned around and got right back onto HWY 20 – which had a major construction project going on. HWY 20 was actually just as bad as the gravel road.
From there we headed into Douglas to see the Jackalope statue in town. After that it was a straight shot to our hotel – the Holiday Inn Casper East - Medical Center. We stopped for dinner at Sanford’s Pub and Grub – which has a very unique décor to go along with its very large food portions. We highly recommend it! After dinner we went back to the hotel for the night. For the day we had driven 10:46.
After two long days of driving, we were looking forward to a more “relaxed” drive of 8:26 on Sunday. However we thought we would make this crazy road trip even crazier. So we decided to drive all the way to Grand Teton National Park. What’s another five hours, right? So we got up very early on Sunday morning and headed out of Casper on HWY 220 to Muddy Gap. From there we went west on HWY 287 and picked up Fremont County – our first new county of the day. We also saw a few hundred antelope on the highway. They were everywhere!
We followed HWY 287 for about 70 miles before hooking up with HWY 28. From there we went another 40 miles, crossing into Sublette County. This border was where we originally planned to turned around. But instead, we kept going. Eventually we turned north and headed towards the city of Jackson. Once we got there we made a slight detour before going to the National Park. Since we had come this far, we decided to head into Idaho and pick up Teton County – a county that was a “hole” on our map. Before we’d made the decision to collect counties, we’d had a few road trips. And we were able to go back and retrace out steps to determine where we’d been. Unfortunately that left a hole that was Teton County. That hole was filled 17 miles later. Once we crossed into Idaho we immediately turned around and headed straight for the National Park. The mountains and Jenny Lake were very impressive!
After touring the park we exited and headed mostly east on HWY 26. Once we got to the city of Shoshoni we headed north and entered Hot Springs County. As we entered the city of Thermopolis we caught a glimpse of the world’s largest mineral hot spring. We continued north and picked up both Washakie and Big Horn Counties – our last two new counties of the day. After an epic day of 14:03 driving, we finally arrived at our hotel - the La Quinta Inn & Suites Gillette. Once we settled in, we walked next door to the Good Times/Taco John’s restaurant for a quick bite to eat before bed.
On Monday we were originally going to drive 8:57 to our hotel in South Dakota. However, since we were so close to Devil’s Tower, we decided to pay a visit and extend our trip even further. So we set out to the National Park. Once we arrived we walked around the whole thing. We even saw some climbers on their way up. If you look closely in the fifth picture below, you might see them.
After leaving Devil’s Tower we headed south, eventually entering Weston County – the last county we needed in Wyoming to complete the state. From there we headed east into South Dakota, and Custer County. In the city of Custer I was able to snap a picture of the Dino statue from the Flintstones-themed Bedrock City which closed a few years ago.
We continued south to Hot Springs and picked up Fall River County. Shortly after leaving the city we encountered a couple of wild buffalo near the road. We then hooked up with HWY 18 and traveled east for a long stretch, picking up Oglala Lakota, Bennett and Todd Counties. Near the town of Carter we veered off the road to the north, and traveled about one mile down a gravel road until we reached the border for Mellette County. There were no signs. But we were there!
Once we’d turned around and gotten back on HWY 18/44, we continued east and drove through Tripp, Gregory, Charles Mix, Douglas, Hutchinson, Turner and Lincoln Counties. Once we’d finally reached Lincoln County we got onto I-29 and headed north into Sioux Falls and straight to our hotel – the Quality Inn & Suites Airport North. Our total drive time for the day was 10:12.
On Tuesday morning we set out and started our long drive back home. But we still had a few more counties to hit! From our hotel we immediately got onto I-90 east. Right after we crossed into Minnesota we got off at the first exit and headed south to the Iowa/Minnesota state line. But before we crossed over it, we ventured west about a half mile and stopped at the tri-corner marker where South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa come together.
Once we left the tri-corner marker we headed back and turned south into Iowa, and Lyon County. Near the city of Larchwood we hopped onto HWY 9 and headed east for quite awhile, picking up our last seven new counties of the day: Osceola, Dickinson, Emmet, Winnebago, Worth Mitchell and Howard. We then drove through a rain storm and experienced a jack-knifed semi in Milwaukee. When it was all said and done, our drive time for the day was 9:38.
Our epic road trip netted us 55 new counties. And all it took was 55:24 of drive time spread over five days – an average of over 11 hours per day. Yikes! So what’s next? We have a small trip planned for Massachusetts next month which will pick up two difficult counties and finish the state. And we also have a trip to northern California scheduled for November. So stay tuned!
NEW COUNTIES - 55
TOTAL COUNTIES FOR 2017 - 122
ALL TIME COUNTY TOTAL - 1839
ALL TIME COUNTY TOTAL - 1839