Thursday, July 6, 2017


For the 4th of July long weekend we decided to visit our next–door neighbor, Minnesota. There is a vast area in the northern part of the state – counties that are rare visits even for county collectors. Our goal was to finish them all off – and see part of North Dakota in the process. As this was a last minute trip, we didn’t have any major sights lined up to go visit. Of course the area, while very beautiful in the summertime, is pretty remote. There are a lot of lakes and very few cities.

We decided to leave from my in-laws’ home on Sunday morning. They live about an hour from the border. We followed HWY 8 into Minnesota. Once we reached the city of Cambridge we turned north on HWY 65 and drove into Kanabec County, our first new county of the road trip. We continued in a general northerly direction and entered Mille Lacs County. At one point the road we were on actually hugged both counties at the same time.

As we passed by Mille Lacs Lake we crossed into Aitkin County. We headed west through the city of Aitkin, and entered Crow Wing County about five miles later. Shortly thereafter we turned north on HWY 6. About 15 miles later we entered Cass County and further on, Itasca County.

Following HWY 46 and HWY 72 we wormed our way further north picking up Koochiching, Beltrami and Lake of the Woods Counties. Finally we reached Roseau County, and the city of Warroad – the northern-most point on our trip. From there we took a southwest path towards North Dakota on HWY 11. We followed this into Kittson County. At the city of Donaldson we took a detour south on HWY 75. Two miles later we crossed into Marshall County.

From there we turned around, got back on HWY 11 and drove right into North Dakota and Pembina County. At the city of Drayton we got onto I-29 and headed straight for our hotel – the Baymont Inn & Suites Grand Forks. We picked up Walsh and Grand Forks Counties on the way. After a quick stop at Jimmy John’s for a late dinner, we retired to the hotel for the night.

On Monday we had a rather leisurely drive (for us anyway) of about 6.5 hours. There wasn’t a lot of excitement on the drive however. So it seemed longer. We started the day by picking up two “bonus” counties in North Dakota. We went south on I-29 with a destination near the city of Hatton. A few miles north of it we entered Traill County. The next county required a drive on a gravel road through what appeared to be a corn field. There was no sign. But nonetheless we briefly crossed the “road” and turned around in Steele County. No county left behind!

Leaving North Dakota behind we headed east on HWY 15 back into Minnesota and Polk County. We drove around the city of Crookston and headed northeast until we reached the city of Dorothy and Red Lake County. At Dorothy we drove a few miles north on HWY 3 and briefly crossed into Pennington County.

We then headed both south and east towards the city of Mahnomen– where we stopped to get lunch at Subway. We picked up Norman and Mahnomen Counties on the way. Five miles later we got onto HWY 113 at the city of Waubun. We went east and stayed on the road for about 40 miles. Along the way we crossed into both Becker County and Clearwater Counties. The road ended one mile into Hubbard County as well, where we got onto HWY 71 and headed due south. We followed this all the way to the city of Wadena, and Wadena County. From there we headed in a southeast direction on HWY 10. We were able to follow this road all the way to St. Cloud, where our hotel was. On the way we picked up Morrison and Benton Counties. St. Cloud actually is located in three different counties. We had to take a brief three-block detour to pick up Sherburne County before heading to our hotel – the Country Inn & Suites by Carlson – St. Cloud.

Since we had plenty of time for a change, we decided to take in dinner and a movie. So we picked Mexican food at the LA Casita Restaurant. Then we headed over to the Marcus Parkwood Cinema to see the film “Baby Driver.”

On Tuesday we had about 9.5 hours of drive time to get home. But we still had 12 counties to reach. So even though home was east, we started our day by heading west. We entered Kandiyohi County, eventually reaching the city of Willmar. From there we headed northwest, crossing into Swift County. Once we were in we turned due south at the next road and followed a gravel road into Chippewa County.

From there we finally set out back east towards home. As we headed towards the city of Stewart, we picked up Meeker, Renville and McLeod Counties. From Stewart we headed towards Henderson, picking up Sibley County, crossing the Minnesota River and entering Le Sueur County. Our last destination city was Dennison. Once we reached it we had picked up Rice County and Goodhue County – our last two new counties of the trip. Goodhue County also happened to be the last county bordering our home state of Wisconsin that we had not yet been too. Apparently our route also got us very close to some "Little House On The Prairie" sights. But we didn't have time to stop and tour.

All in all we picked up 39 new counties in the two states – not bad for a last-minute impromptu road trip. We didn’t have any extra activities planned. So we didn’t see much more than the countryside. But we still had plenty of fun. What’s next? That remains to be seen. We’re getting married next month. But a honeymoon is not yet planned. There’s a good chance we may spend a week in Las Vegas. But if we do that… bet money we won’t stay put in Vegas for that entire week. So stay tuned!

                                                NEW COUNTIES - 39
                                                TOTAL COUNTIES FOR 2017 - 149
                                                ALL TIME COUNTY TOTAL - 1670

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 1670 total counties in this post above, the actual number at the time was 1672.


For our family summer road trip, we ended up flying to our location first. In this case it was Salt Lake City, Utah. We arrived very late and didn’t arrive to our hotel (the Hyatt Place Salt Lake City/Farmington/Station Park) until after 1:00 in the morning. That short trip netted us our first two new counties of the trip: Salt Lake and Davis. Since we had a long day of travel scheduled for the next day, we went to bed immediately.

In the morning we got up earlier than we wanted to and set out due south. Our destination was Bryce Canyon National Park. We stayed on I-15 for quite awhile, picking up Utah and Juab Counties along the way. We then took a less than direct route (as all county collectors do) and head toward the town of Fayette, and Sanpete County.

We then went straight to our hotel in Richfield – the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Richfield. It was a little too early to check in. So we got lunch at the Arby’s next door to kill some time. After checking in we headed over some mountains to the east and ventured into Wayne County – one of the least-visited counties in the state. We then turned around and headed for Bryce Canyon on HWY 62. We picked up Piute and Garfield Counties on the way.

The sights in Bryce Canyon were amazing. However we were disappointed that a large portion of the Park was closed for road repairs. However the “big ticket” items that people want to see were open for hiking. And in spite of the heat, that’s exactly what we did. We highly recommend the Navajo Trail Loop. It’s only 1.3 miles. And if you get there in the late afternoon like we did, the sun is actually behind the canyon and won’t beat down on you. We had shade for almost the entire walk. And the views were breathtaking.

Since a good portion of the Park’s roads were closed, we were not able to get to a place called Rainbow Point, on the southern end. And that happens to be in a different county from where the Park begins. So after we left we had to find another way around. So we crossed over HWY 12, turned south on HWY 89, drover another 18 miles or so and entered Kane County. From there we turned around and went back to our hotel for the night.

The next day we drove to Moab and checked into our hotel – The Homewood Suites by Hilton Moab. We didn’t pick up any new counties on the way. But we got there quickly thanks to the 80 MPH speed limits! We did pull over in the town of Green River to view an odd piece of art in the middle of nowhere. It’s entitled “Ratio.” It’s based on the mathematical Fibonacci sequence. It took us awhile to figure out how. But we eventually got it. Essentially it’s a 44-foot pile of concrete cubes – which was cool! We also did a brief stop in the ghost town of Cisco. But it was pretty uneventful. After we checked in to our hotel we went back out and headed to Arches National Park, which was about five minutes from our hotel. Once again the views were incredible. The heat rose to 113 degrees. But that didn’t stop us from doing a couple of hikes. We walked to the Double Arch. We also did the walk to the Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoint before calling it a day.

The next day was our longest day of driving. We drove east into Colorado, then headed north on HWY 139. We picked up Rio Blanco and Moffat Counties on the way. Once we got to Dinosaur, Colorado we headed back into Utah and picked up Uintah County. We then made somewhat of an unscheduled stop at Dinosaur National Monument, where we got to see and touch actual dinosaur bones.

After leaving the dinosaur bones we drove to Vernal and went north on HWY 191. About 25 miles later (and a lovely drive through Ashley National Forest) we crossed into Daggett County. We then turned around and headed back.

From there we headed south and west, picking up Duchesne and Carbon Counties on the way. Just north of the city of Castle Gate we turned and headed northwest back to the Salt Lake City area. We spent about four minutes driving through Wasatch County along the way. But we got it! We spent the night at the Home 2 Suites by Hilton Place Salt Lake City – Murray.

The next day our destination was Idaho. We started out by heading east on I-80 and picking up Summit County. We then got on I-84 and headed towards Ogden, picking up Morgan and Weber Counties on the way. North of Ogden we entered Box Elder County, before getting off the interstate to head towards the city of Logan. About 10 miles later we entered Cache County.

After passing through Logan we continued north on HWY 91. About 15 miles later we entered the state of Idaho, and Franklin County. While there we stopped in the city of Preston in order to visit several of the sights where the movie “Napoleon Dynamite” was filmed. The city has certainly embraced its small claim to fame.

After leaving Napoleon’s domain, we headed north on HWY 34 until we reached Caribou County. From there we double backed, cut across a middle of nowhere empty gravel road (Oxford Rd.) until we got back to HWY 91. We took to the city of Downey, then headed west to get back on I-15 to head back to Utah. We picked up Oneida County, ID. on the way. That night we stayed at the Hyatt Place Salt Lake City/Farmington/Station Park once again. But before we settled in for the night we decided to venture over to Lagoon Amusement Park, which was literally across the interstate from our hotel. They have discount rates after 5:00. So we spent the last six hours of our night riding the roller coasters. We recommend the Cannibal above all. That first drop is a doozy!

The next day we hopped in the car and drive to Wyoming. We’d run out of time the day before. So we had to delay it until our last day. But we reached the border and picked up Unita County. We then went straight back to the hotel to pack up and leave. As we headed back south towards the Salt Lake City Airport, we took one final side trip – with good reason. We got onto I-80 and headed west about 10 miles until we crossed into Tooele County – which completed the state of Utah for us. We also stopped to walk over to the Great Salt Lake. And just like the first time I visited it, it stunk a little. And there were (literally) millions of brine flies at the shore line.

All in all we visited a total of 26 counties in four states. And we completed our 11th state. 39 more to go! What’s next? Well we’ve already taken a long weekend getaway to northern Minnesota and eastern North Dakota. That blog entry will be coming soon. Stay tuned!

                                                NEW COUNTIES - 26
                                                TOTAL COUNTIES FOR 2017 - 110
                                                ALL TIME COUNTY TOTAL - 1631

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 1631 total counties in this post above, the actual number at the time was 1633.