Memorial Day weekend, 2015 found us taking a little road trip to Montana. Our definition of “little” ended up equating to nearly 36 hours of drive time. But hey, we had fun!
We left our home on Friday night and drove to my fiance’s mother’s house. She lives on the far west side of Wisconsin. So this gave us a nice jump start for the weekend ahead.
On Saturday morning we headed out. Our destination was Aberdeen, South Dakota. Along the way we picked up four new counties in Minnesota: Pope, Stevens, Big Stone and Traverse – the latter of which we had to drive a mile out of our way to reach. While we did hit a few additional counties leading up to these four, they’d all been ones we’d been to before.
In the city of Glenwood we stumbled upon an interesting display entitled “Pottyville.” Apparently a couple of neighbors decided to start a used outhouse collection - the results of which you can see below.
After leaving Traverse County we headed south and west, crossing into South Dakota on HWY 12 in Ortonville. We followed the highway all the way to our hotel, the TownePlace Suites in Aberdeen. Along the way we drove through Grant, Roberts, Day and Brown Counties. We’d hoped to stop in Webster to see the museum that holds the world’s largest hairball. But it was closed by the time we arrived. So that grossness will have to wait for another day.
We did however get to visit an unusual park in Aberdeen. Being as L. Frank Baum (author of “The Wizard Of Oz”) had once lived in Aberdeen, the city built a park called “Storybook Land.” It features several Oz-themed attractions as well as other storybook attractions and a petting zoo. It was wonderfully odd. But it was very well-maintained. We found it a little strange that a town the size of Aberdeen would be able to support such a place. But they do. Be sure to go into Dorothy’s house to experience the tornado!
On Sunday we had our longest driving day planned. We got an early start, got back on HWY 12, and headed west. We picked up Edmunds, Walworth and Corson County before we took our first detour. After we crossed the Missouri River we veered south a few miles to see the (disputed) grave of Sitting Bull. We then took a slight side trip a little further south to cross into Dewey County. It was the middle of nowhere. And there was no county sign. But we went far enough to know that we were in.
We then got back on HWY 12 and continued northwest. The highway runs parallel to the North Dakota border for 30-40 miles. At its closest point it’s less than one mile away. So of course we had to cross over into Sioux County.
When we got back on HWY 12 in South Dakota again we only had to go about two miles in order to get into Perkins County. We of course had to stop in Lemmon to see their Petrified Wood Park.
After hovering close to North Dakota for so long, HWY 12 finally crosses the state line. As we entered we crossed Adams County off our list. We then had to take another detour to hit Harding County, SD. So we followed HWY 22 south from the city of Reeder. It was 12 miles there and back. But in the quest for “no county left behind” we did it. Once we got back on HWY 12 we continued northwest, driving through Bowman and Slope Counties in North Dakota. We then crossed the border into Montana – and Fallon County.
We had planned to fill the car with gas in Baker, MT before heading south on HWY 7/323 toward Alzada. Unfortunately we forgot. About halfway there (picking up Carter County on the way) we suddenly realized that gas might be a problem. We had enough gas to get to Alzada. But according to our GPS there were no gas stations in Alzada. And the closest one was in Hulett, Wyoming – about 30 miles south of Alzada. And according to our car we’d run out of gas about two miles before we got there. Although we had a phone signal, we had no internet access. So we couldn’t verify anything. We decided we’d go for Hulett. Our GPS was nice enough to give us the phone number for the gas station there. So of course I tried it just to verify that they were still open for business. And of course they didn’t answer. So again we started to panic. The fact that it was raining didn't help any. We then decided to contact AAA. They were able to confirm that in spite of our GPS, there was indeed a gas station in Alzada. And sure enough as we pulled into town we saw the B&J Convenience Store. The gas was a little pricey. But it was a very welcome sight.
After we filled up we headed northwest on HWY 212. Our goal was the city of Boyes, and more specifically Powder River County. Hitting this county was a 35-mile “turnaround.” Generally speaking we would never travel that far just for one county. But it was in the middle of nowhere. And we’d managed to get into every other county surrounding it. If we didn’t go these 35 miles now, we’d have to go much further at some point in the future. No county left behind…
We immediately turned around and followed HWY 212 back from where we’d come. Shortly after Alzada we passed into the state of Wyoming. We spent about 20 miles in it before we got back into South Dakota – and the new county of Butte. The one Wyoming county we were in was one we’d gotten to two years earlier.
We drove through the city of Sturgis. It was a few months before the annual motorcycle convention. But the motif is always evident.
On Monday we headed out for the long journey home. We got on HWY 34 and went east, following it all the way to the Minnesota border. Along the way we drove through Hyde, Buffalo, Jerauld, Sanborn, Miner, Lake and Moody Counties. Once we got into Minnesota the road changed into HWY 30. We continued to follow it through Pipestone, Murray, Cottonwood and Watonwan Counties.
As we headed toward Mankato we entered Blue Earth County. We had to slightly veer off course and cross the Minnesota River once we entered town. By doing so we ended up in Nicollet County. From there we were able to put our home into the GPS. We still had about six hours of driving. But the most direct route home also picked up Waseca, Steele and Dodge Counties. And as we approached Rochester, there were no new counties to reach the rest of the way.
It was a crazy fun weekend, and arguably our most ambitious weekend road trip to date. In the end we drove 2200 miles in 36 hours. What’s up next? We’re only two weeks away from a weekend road trip through Missouri and Arkansas. We’ll see you then!
NEW COUNTIES – 42
TOTAL COUNTIES FOR 2015 – 159ALL TIME COUNTY TOTAL – 921
7/17/17 UPDATE: We recently realized that in putting our county list together, we had inadvertently failed to include two counties that we had previously entered. On a summer, 2014 road trip, we went to Disneyland in California (Orange County). And upon leaving Disneyland for Las Vegas, we entered Riverside County as well. So even though it says 921 total counties in this post above, the actual number at the time was 923.