I was sort of kidding but at the same time I was being a little self serving as I have never been to Omaha and I have not cached in Nebraska, so I had an opportunity to add a new state to my Geocaching list. Little did I know that Kris's boss at the Midwest Region would think it was a great idea and before I knew it we were making plans for an epic weekend driving trip. I think we did end up saving the region about $400 or so, so it was worth it all around.
So on Friday...
we took the afternoon off, picked up the van and stopped at storage and loaded up the sky dancers and championship flags in addition to two empty boxes for a couple sky dancers we need to pick up and return to Minneapolis that would be at the race in Omaha. Once we were loaded up , we were on the road by 3:30pm with a goal of making it to Iowa City for the evening. I have gotten pretty bad lately with long trips and driving after dark, I get uncomfortable and tired very quickly. Since our goal was to get to our hotel before dark we tried to limit our stops along the way and managed to keep ourselves from getting distracted to much. Only two stops, one for a cache in Janesville and then we could not stop ourselves when we saw a sign for the "Largest Frying Pan in Iowa" which we quickly confirmed in our Roadside America App.
When booking this trip, we needed to keep it an inexpensive as possible and knowing that our hotels would be just a place to lay our heads for a few hours, in particular on Friday evening, I decided to give Hotwire.com as we had really good results booking our rental car for Portland later this year. We were able to book both evening very inexpensive and even though with Hotwire you will not know the hotel name until after you make your reservation (fully paid), they do provide you with the TripAdvisor rating for the hotel which is reassuring. The hotel in Iowa City was decent and we got it for over half off so I recommend Hotwire
was our LONG driving day and we got up early (not too early) to continue down to West Burlington to pickup the flags and then head to Omaha. West Burlington was still about a hour south of Iowa City on the Illinois border and we arrived about 8:30am. The flags were being stored at the local medical center and once we figured out where the flags were located and loaded them up we were ready to go. We got a treat as we were ready to go as the local Air Medic took off from helipad which was only a few feet away.
My initial goal was to find caches in three states in one day on Saturday and to do this we had to make a quick side trip into Illinois to grab a quick cache over the river. Once that was done we really had to get going as it was 9am and we had to get to the race site in Omaha by 3pm, which was going to take all six hours to get across the state.
I won't go into our drive across Iowa and it was very uneventful and we did not have time for any distraction/ stops along the way but the one thing that we learned was that western Iowa is nothing but long rolling hills. The van was not a fan as every long downhill followed by another long uphill that always put the van into overdrive which was killing our gas mileage.
We arrived at the race site right at 3pm thanks to some minor seeping across the majority of Iowa and met with the Race directors and started setting up the flags on the finish line chute. All said and done it looked really good and made a nice touch to their finish line. We also dropped off the sky dancers and Championship flags that they would be setting up in the morning. Having completed our tasks it was now time to A) find our hotel and B) find food. Hotel was moderately easy to find, although we did have a bit of a challenge with their elevated freeway (Highway 6) but once we figured it out we were good. Again Hotwire was a great resource for a decent, very inexpensive hotel.
Based on a recommendation from one of the race directors, we decided to head downtown to the Old Market District to find something interesting to eat. Not the ideal area to drive a big cargo van into but we survived. It is a very cool area of Omaha and I am glad that we chose this area as it was very lively (busy) and there was a lot of choices to pick from. After a lot of walking around checking out the scene we decided on a brewery (surprise, surprise) which was very good. Upstream Brewing Company has some very good and unique beer choices and has excellent food. I had the Chipotle BBQ Beef Tip Salad and it was wonderful. On the beer side of the world, I had their Raspberry Belgian Wit, one of their seasonal choices and I would highly recommend it My second beer was their Cask Conditioned Ale (conditioned in a cask and served at cellar temperature i.e about 55 degrees), unfortunately it is just one of their standard ales, in this case their Flagship IPA, conditioned this way. Not a beer I would have chosen but I was going for the experience. After dinner we were exhausted after such a long day of driving and we would be up early so we headed back to the hotel to call it a night.
Before going to sleep we tried to watch the Tour on the TDF Live App, what a waste of time and money that app was. The recap video, if it was even available, was not our friendly Paul and Phil but some other announcer and the other clips were so small that you only got tiny slices of what actually happen during the stage. NBCSC normally does a great job covering the Tour but BEWARE, stay away from their App.
Started out a bit later then we planned, we were exhausted from the day before and knew we have another long drive ahead of us today so we let the alarm slip a bit. We were still up by 8am but by the time we got up and picked up something to eat (the free breakfast at the hotel was packed and they have Dunkin Donuts in Omaha) we made it to the race by 9am, not early enough to catch the top finishers but we did get to see a lot of the field finish. Omaha Triathlon put on a nice race and it is a great venue, the swim is in a nice clear reservoir and how often does a race get to close all of the roads on it's bike course? While we waited for the final finishers, we found our first Nebraska geocache within sight of the finish line. Once the race was over we quickly packed up the flags and sky dancers and were were on the road by 11:30am which was about a half an hour earlier they I was expecting. On the way out of Nebraska we stopped at the last exit before the 680 bridge and stopped at the Florance Mill, a Mormon stop on their way west, to grab at least one more Nebraska geocache and were rewarded with a small farmers/craft market to look through as we grabbed the cache. Lots of muggles but we managed.
That stop at Florance Mill would set the tone for the rest of the day and a trip that should have taken about 6 hours ended up taking over 10 hours with all of our stops and side trips. We came home via Sioux City, Worthington and Mankato route which allowed us to cache 4 states (NE, IA, SD & MN) in one day with a quick side trip into South Dakota. Along the way we also stopped at Le Mars, IA the Ice Cream Capitol of the World and home to Blue Bunny Ice Cream where they have an amazing ice cream parlor and museum, well worth the stop and the "Highest Point" in Iowa at Hawkeye Point. Kind of cheesy but worth a stop to break up a long trip. Special Thanks to our Roadside America App for letting us know about this locations.
Final Stats for the Trip.
Total Miles - Just shy of 1200
Total Hours - 23 Hours (during a a 55 hour period)
Total States - 5 (MN, IA, IL, NE & SD)
Total Geocaches - 14 (5 different states & 4 states in 1 day)
Total Roadside America Stops - 4
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We had a fun time, not sure I would have tried this in such a short period as we did, add another day so we are not constantly driving but I think we set a precedent and will be making a similar trip like this next year.