Richard's North American Odyssey 2003

9 March 2003 - Chicago IL to Winnipeg, MB (km 2,741)

I must have had a lot of coffee yesterday, because even though I didn't get to bed until 2:30 am I was up and on the road by 8:30 am.  This will be a long day covering about 1,300 km.  My route takes me through Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Manitoba.

I have found out that Wisconsin really is the cheese state.  Every freeway off ramp had a sign advertising at least one cheese factory.  I stopped for gas and the little convenience store had at least seven types of cheese curds for sale and blocks of cheese shaped as bucking horses, to peoples names.  
This is what the roads looked like through Wisconsin.  I'm sure they would be very picturesque during the summer and fall.

They have a certain charm even at this time of year and the occasional rock outcrop helps to add interest to the landscape.

On the dry, windy afternoon of 27 april 1977 a forest fire started south of Black River Falls.  The fire quickly became a ranging crown fire, travelling through the tree tops of the dense pine forest.  This mound, directly in the path of the fire, was burned in just a few minutes.  In the 12 hours it took for the fire to run its course, 14 homes and 17,590 acres of forest had been burned.  The nearby village of Millston was spared because of a last minute wind shift.


Most of this area has since been reclaimed naturally by oak and aspen which sprouted vigorously after the fire.  A small portion of the area was planted with pine, a more valuable tree species.

The area has since become a prime wildlife habitat supporting large deer and small game populations.  It is estimated in 50 years all visual reminder of the Black River Falls Fire will be gone.  Except of course the sign commemorating it.

This area also seasonally hosted the huge flocks of passenger pigeons that once roamed North America.  They were larger than the morning dove, which they resembled.

The passenger pigeon derived its name from an indian word meaning "wanderer" or one who moves from place to place.  Flying at a normal speed of sixty miles per hour, the pigeon moved hundreds of miles in migration and 50 to 100 miles a day during the nesting season, searching for food.


The largest nesting on record anywhere occurred in this area in 1871.  The nesting ground covered 850 square miles with an estimated 136,000,000 pigeons.  John Muir described the passenger pigeons in flight:  "I have seen flocks streaming south in the fall so large that they were flowing from horizon to horizon in an almost continuous stream all day long."

Many reasons have been given for the extinction of the passenger pigeon.  Each year millions were trapped, clubbed, or shot for food and pleasure.  The last known passenger pigeon died in a Cincinnati zoo in 1914.

At the same rest stop, this memorial to State law enforcement personnel who had lost their lives in the line of duty was erected.
The landscape started to flatten out as I reached Minnesota and North Dakota.  In these pictures of the sun setting in North Dakota you can see why they call it "big sky country."

While Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota tened to place rest stops every 60 to 100 miles, I think there were only two stops in all of North Dacota.  Lesson learned: after driving all day, and drinking three liters of coffee, and a liter of Coke, never drive past a rest stop without stopping.  Of course North Dacota made up for their lack of rest stops a bit by having a speed limit that is five miles per hour faster than the other three states.

I continued on for several more hours after this sunset and finally arrived in Winnipeg at about 11 pm.

Average temperatures for Winnipeg at this time of year of -3 C, but just for my visit they had arranged -33 C temperatures, so they could live up to the name Winterpeg I guess.  The hotel did not have indoor parking, but did provided plugs at all the parking spots.  Of course not having a block heater this didn't help me very much.

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