June 18, 2007
Cheyenne, WY to Des Moines, IA
Today's goal was simple: put on as many miles as bearable in order to shorten Tuesday's drive. Although the rental car wasn't due back until 10:30 AM Wednesday, I wanted to save a night's lodging expense by dropping it off before the office closed at 6 PM Tuesday. That way we could also see my parents when we picked up our dog from their house. As it turned out, we did put on a lot of miles, but we also did a lot of shopping.
We got up and out of the Guest House Motel by 9 AM and drove to Shari's for breakfast because we didn't see any better options. I ordered the super-sweet Burst-o-berry crepes again since I didn't know when I'd have another chance. Then we drove back toward the interstate and turned down Campstool Road. Discount clothing and outdoor gear shoppers will recognize that street as the home of Sierra Trading Post. We were headed for their huge outlet store, which is next door to their warehouse. I had a coupon for a free T-shirt with a $25 purchase, and I was sure my wife would meet or exceed that requirement.
I was a little disappointed at Sierra. Although I had ordered some nice cycling clothing from them a few months earlier, they had very few cycling items on the sales floor. That's the feast-or-famine nature of outlets, I guess. I found an inexpensive pair of gloves and a couple of T-shirts. My wife bought sunglasses, pajamas, and a shirt. The clerk rang up a total around $85. When I handed him our LL Bean credit card, he joked that he would have to charge us an extra 10%!
Back on the road, we hardly noticed the transition from Wyoming into Nebraska on I-80. It wasn't an exciting road, although the scenery was rather comforting to a couple of lifelong flatlanders after so many days of driving through mountains. Our first stop in Nebraska was Sidney, home of Cabela's World Headquarters.
I planned to find a light windbreaker and quickly get back on the highway, but that just wasn't possible -- I was amazed how much great stuff I found at Cabela's. The windbreaker came first, and it was on sale for half price, only $20. Then I found a moose T-shirt for my dad. After a fruitless swing through the clearance room, I found a rack of 3-season jackets which were on sale for only $14.95. Although known as an "outfitter" type of store, Cabela's had an unexpectedly wide variety of merchandise. My wife bought foot cream and candles, and I bought my mom a silly, animated, singing yellow labrador. Our total bill was $210, about four times what I expected before we walked in. Our checkout clerk was happy to see our LL Bean card: "Oh, they have good things, too." She laughed when I told her the Sierra Trading Post clerk was going to charge us extra. Since we had already wasted so much time shopping that it was well after lunchtime, my wife suggested that we eat in their café. I had a Philly cheesesteak, which wasn't bad. The fries were excellent.
Back on the road, we still had to cover 400 miles of I-80 just through Nebraska, and I was hoping to reach Des Moines. Fortunately, the speed limit was 75 mph so we could drive about 80 mph with traffic most of the time. We listened to a "local" artist for the first time since Oregon, Matthew Sweet (Idaho and Wyoming aren't known for rock stars). Although Sweet rose to fame in Athens, Georgia (no surprise), he grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The sun was gone by the time we crossed the Missouri River into Iowa. I enjoy Iowa much more since they raised their interstate speed limit from 65 to 70 mph. I felt unusually alert considering how much driving I had done. The next 120 miles passed quickly, and we got off at the first Des Moines exit. The Motel 6 was new, but their rates weren't unreasonable. A sign said Wi-fi access was $2.99 per night. While fancy hotels charge as much as $40 (!) for Internet access, I was accustomed to getting it for free in Super 8s, Travelodges, Econo Lodges, etc. I refused to pay extra for it, and since I would be home the next day anyway I left the laptop in the car.
We were lucky that there was a restaurant nearby still open at 11:30 PM. Unfortunately, it was a Perkins. My experience with Perkins has been spotty at best, but I figured it had to be better than going to bed hungry again. I ordered a breakfast sampler, which included three types of sausage. The patty was typical and the links were okay, but what did me in was the kielbasa. I've never had kielbasa for breakfast, and as far as I know, Perkins is the only sizeable chain to offer it. It tasted okay at that moment, but it stayed with me long after the rest of the meal was forgotten. Seriously, I endured kielbasa burps for the next ten hours, and it wasn't pleasant.
Our night at the Motel 6 would have been better had we not been situated near the elevator. The groaning machinery kept us awake for a while until either it stopped or we became too exhausted to care.
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