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Author Topic: STL to Northeast Minnesota  (Read 767 times)

STLmapboy

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STL to Northeast Minnesota
« on: July 25, 2020, 03:45:06 PM »

First time doing this, so bear with me.

Drove from St Louis, MO, to Northern Tier High Adventure Base for Scouts. Drive up is linked here (took place on 15-16 July) and drive back is linked here (virtually the same, took place on 24 July).

Going up for a Scout canoe trip. Left on Vandalia bus from church parking lot at 9:30 or so. Drove up US-61 through Hannibal. Stopped at this Flying J in Wayland, rural NE MO, around 12:30am. After that, we crossed into Iowa on MO/IA-27 and then 218; the entire length of our drive was on divided highways (thanks to the Avenue of the Saints). The pavement quality dropped off as we entered Iowa; decaying concrete seemed to be the norm. Someone had the bright idea of putting in Hunt for Red October at 1am, which meant sonar blips and torpedoes while I was trying to sleep. I tried to stay awake but fell asleep after the US-34 interchange in Mount Pleasant.

I woke up at this Kwik Star in Cedar Falls (near Waterloo) at 3:30am. As I slept, we had driven I-380 through Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. This stop was a driver change, meaning we all had to get out. I got something from the store: Kwik Trip operates in MN, WI, and IA but is named "Kwik Star" in Iowa bc QuikTrip also has a few stores there. After we left, I stayed awake through the IA-58 expressway in Cedar Falls but soon fell asleep.

I woke up driving NB on I-35 between Mason City and the Minnesota border, around 5:15am, in the neverending cornfields of the state with the least scenic roads. Overnight, I had driven up US-218 through Waverly/Charles City and cut west on the US-18 expressway past Mason City to connect with I-35. I saw the first lights of dawn peek over the horizon; other scouts were waking up. Fog blanketed the farms; it had been very foggy all night, and only the occasional silo peeked through. The sun rose as we crossed into Minnesota and passed Albert Lea/I-90; MN had better pavement than Iowa (on par with MO imo) and really consistent signage). I stayed awake as we drove through rural southern MN; many others went back to sleep. I held on as we went through St Paul around 7:30 on I-35E; there was very little traffic, and it was cool to see the MnPASS lanes. I went back to sleep around Wyoming, MN.

I woke up on MN-33 in Cloquet 2 hrs later, around 10:30; MN-33 is a four-lane expressway that connects I-35 and US-53. We soon segued onto US-53, surrounded by trees and some hills. It was cloudy now, unlike sunny St Paul, with spurts of rain. Most everybody was up. Some drinks were passed around, and we had a brief rest stop at the Anchor Lake rest area. We drove through Virginia, part of the NE MN Quad Cities as Virginia/Gilbert/Eveleth/Mountain Iron proudly call themselves. The US 53 fishhook-shaped reroute is pretty nice, with one of the highest bridges in Minnesota. We then went up the bumpy and soon to be repaved MN-169 to MN-1, heading east to Ely. We had lunch at a Subway there before heading up a few county roads to Northern Tier base camp, arriving around 1.

The camp was cool; my crew of 8 spent 7 days paddling 75 miles. We portaged between lakes and saw the Canadian border. There were several cool activities.

The drive back was nearly identical in routing. We left at 7:00am, watching Spaceballs and then Captain America: Winter Soldier. We drove through Ely on MN-1 and took MN-169 south; the road was being milled and paved, so flaggers stopped traffic for a few minutes. It was mostly sunny that day, and I was awake for the entire ride. We continued south on US-53, then MN-33, and then I-35, stopping at this very nice rest area. We continued down I-35 and once again stayed on I-35E through St Paul. Traffic was a little heavier this time, but there were still no backups. The bus exited at Little Canada Rd north of St Paul itself so we could get boxed lunches from this Jimmy John's, which were good. We also let two people off here. After that, we continued down 35 in southern MN and crossed into Iowa, the sun high in the sky. At Clear Lake, west of Mason City, we stopped at a Pilot Travel Center for a driver change. Next, we headed east on US-18 and south on US-218, like last time. All of it overlapped with IA-27. It was really, really, really dull...cornfield after cornfield after :sleep: X-(. We passed through Waterloo and got on I-380, heading through Cedar Rapids and then to its terminus at 80 near Iowa City. Between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids the four-lane freeway was very heavily trafficked. At the 80/380 interchange (where new ramps are rising), we swung east on 80 for one mile to get to this Culver's in Coralville, where we had dinner around 5:15. We then headed south on 218 through Mt Pleasant and crossed onto IA-27. As the sun set, we crossed the Des Moines into Missouri on MO-27, segueing to US-61. We stopped briefly at Ayerco (a little dozen-location MO chain) in Canton to get gas, then continued down 61. We arrived at the church around 10:15.

Here are some photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/bEkqG4SyWhw4oSwW8
« Last Edit: July 25, 2020, 04:42:46 PM by STLmapboy »
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TheHighwayMan394

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Re: STL to Northeast Minnesota
« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2020, 03:45:51 PM »

I found MN 135 to be a more interesting route between MN 1 and US 53 than MN 169. Obviously you weren't managing the route, but MN 135/MN 37 would only have added about five minutes.
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STLmapboy

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Re: STL to Northeast Minnesota
« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2020, 07:53:01 PM »

I found MN 135 to be a more interesting route between MN 1 and US 53 than MN 169. Obviously you weren't managing the route, but MN 135/MN 37 would only have added about five minutes.

Yeah. I guess I wouldn't have seen the new 53 bridge/reroute had we gone that way (saw the signs for Gilbert and Biwabik though).
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webny99

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Re: STL to Northeast Minnesota
« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2020, 10:33:01 PM »

Sounds like you and I almost (but not quite) passed on I-35! I was driving up to Duluth on the morning of the 24th.
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TheHighwayMan394

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Re: STL to Northeast Minnesota
« Reply #4 on: July 29, 2020, 07:03:56 PM »

The Quad Cities moniker as far as I've seen is rarely/never used by outsiders (and maybe not even by many locals), who almost always refer to the collective area as the Iron Range, which also includes several towns not in the "Quad Cities".
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Re: STL to Northeast Minnesota
« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2020, 11:55:25 PM »

The Quad Cities moniker as far as I've seen is rarely/never used by outsiders (and maybe not even by many locals), who almost always refer to the collective area as the Iron Range, which also includes several towns not in the "Quad Cities".

Iron Range was frequently used up in the that area. It appears to be a mining stronghold (didn't US 53 have to be relocated because mines wanted to exploit land under the road?). The Quad Cities sign on 53 did look straight out of a tourism bureau.
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froggie

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Re: STL to Northeast Minnesota
« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2020, 11:32:57 PM »

Quote from: STLmapboy
I woke up driving NB on I-35 between Mason City and the Minnesota border, around 5:15am, in the neverending cornfields of the state with the least scenic roads.

You need to get out more if you think I-35 south of the Twin Cities represents all Minnesota road scenery.

I gather you haven't rode/driven the neverending pine trees of I-59 in Mississippi...

Quote
The US 53 fishhook-shaped reroute is pretty nice, with one of the highest bridges in Minnesota.

FTFY.  It's indeed the tallest bridge in the state.


Quote
Next, we headed east on US-18 and south on US-218, like last time. All of it overlapped with IA-27. It was really, really, really dull...cornfield after cornfield after :sleep: X-(.

Yet you were complaining about I-35 upthread...? 😌

Quote from: TheHighwayMan394
I found MN 135 to be a more interesting route between MN 1 and US 53 than MN 169. Obviously you weren't managing the route, but MN 135/MN 37 would only have added about five minutes

Before or after the Eagle's Nest relocation/upgrade?

Quote from: STLmapboy
It appears to be a mining stronghold (didn't US 53 have to be relocated because mines wanted to exploit land under the road?).

Yes, the area has long been a mining region.  And yes, US 53 was relocated because a mining company actually owned the land the previous alignment was located on and wanted access to it.
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STLmapboy

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Re: STL to Northeast Minnesota
« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2020, 11:49:18 PM »

Quote from: STLmapboy
I woke up driving NB on I-35 between Mason City and the Minnesota border, around 5:15am, in the neverending cornfields of the state with the least scenic roads.

You need to get out more if you think I-35 south of the Twin Cities represents all Minnesota road scenery.

I'm referring to Iowa ("between Mason City and the Minnesota border"). MN has some great scenery. Maybe it's because I'm a midwesterner, but I find neverending cornfields more boring than neverending trees. At least trees give you the illusion of speed.
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froggie

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Re: STL to Northeast Minnesota
« Reply #8 on: August 03, 2020, 12:25:16 AM »

Trees can be insanely boring, not to mention block visibility.  Despite the mass hordes of cornfields in much of the Midwest, one can usually see several miles from any given point.
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STLmapboy

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Re: STL to Northeast Minnesota
« Reply #9 on: August 03, 2020, 10:34:45 PM »

Trees can be insanely boring, not to mention block visibility.  Despite the mass hordes of cornfields in much of the Midwest, one can usually see several miles from any given point.

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.
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kphoger

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Re: STL to Northeast Minnesota
« Reply #10 on: August 04, 2020, 09:05:48 AM »

I too prefer cornfields to trees.

At least with never-ending cornfields, you can see all sorts of farmhouses, barns, irrigation systems, implements, etc.  And you can compare the health and ripeness of different fields of corn.  With never-ending trees, you get to see...well, not much of anything.
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Re: STL to Northeast Minnesota
« Reply #11 on: August 04, 2020, 09:11:16 AM »

Is it actually all corn? I've seen the half mile grid in satellite view, and I've always thought that each square half mile was a different crop from the ones around it (or else they would look the same).
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kphoger

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Re: STL to Northeast Minnesota
« Reply #12 on: August 04, 2020, 10:55:39 AM »

In that part of the country, it's common to see corn, soybeans, and wheat.
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webny99

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Re: STL to Northeast Minnesota
« Reply #13 on: August 04, 2020, 12:37:50 PM »

Iowa and southern MN are boring, but they're not particularly flat. If you want real flat, try eastern North Dakota.
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TheHighwayMan394

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Re: STL to Northeast Minnesota
« Reply #14 on: August 04, 2020, 02:01:41 PM »

Is it actually all corn? I've seen the half mile grid in satellite view, and I've always thought that each square half mile was a different crop from the ones around it (or else they would look the same).

Corn is just a generic word used to describe driving through farm fields.

I prefer trees, but only the taller pine forests such as those in northern MN and WI specifically.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2020, 02:07:29 PM by TheHighwayMan394 »
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kphoger

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Re: STL to Northeast Minnesota
« Reply #15 on: August 04, 2020, 02:30:49 PM »

Corn is just a generic word used to describe driving through farm fields.

...by those who have never lived in farm country.
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Re: STL to Northeast Minnesota
« Reply #16 on: September 09, 2020, 09:44:05 PM »

Trees can be insanely boring, not to mention block visibility.  Despite the mass hordes of cornfields in much of the Midwest, one can usually see several miles from any given point.

As a storm chaser, I agree with you. It's why I hated chasing in MO. Anywhere near the MO and MS Rivers. The Ozarks? forget it.
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