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Author Topic: Colorado to South Dakota, Minnesota and Illinois (and back)  (Read 1903 times)

The High Plains Traveler

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Colorado to eastern South Dakota, Minneapolis area, Rockford IL.    Trip taken June 14-24.

This was an unusual road trip for us, in that we usually drag a travel trailer behind us. On this trip, we drove our car and moteled it or stayed with family and friends.  Last year, at exactly the same time of year, we traveled to Minnesota for my sonís 30th birthday. This year, there was a family reunion for my stepson that coincidentally was at the same time, so I added a visit to my family in the Twin Cities and friends in Rockford.  My price for doing the trip was the ability to plan the route.

Travel Day 1: Colorado and Nebraska. Starting at Pueblo CO: N on I-25 to U.S. 24 at Colorado Springs to Limon, east on I-70 to Burlington, N on U.S. 385 to Holyoke, northeast on CO-23/NE-23, then N on NE-61 to I-80. East on I-80 to North Platte, north on U.S. 83, E on NE-92 and NE-2 to Broken Bow.

Comments: I chose this very indirect route to see a part of Colorado I hadnít seen and drive through two counties I wouldnít otherwise have reason to. The Sand Hills, generally associated with Nebraska, extend south almost to I-70 in this corner of the state. CO-23 wins the prize for worst condition state highway in this state Iíve been on. NE-92 goes through a very picturesque part of the Nebraska Sand Hills. We stayed in Broken Bow at a restored late 1920s-era hotel, though it was a bit of a letdown to see the rooms that were updated in the 1980s originally as apartments. Not a bad place, though.

Travel Day 2: Nebraska and South Dakota. Next day, headed as straight as possible for Lake Cochrane SD, located NE of Watertown almost on the MN border. From Broken Bow, NE-70, U.S. 183, NE-91, NE-11, NE-95, U.S. 281. This zigzag route took us to the eastern edge of the Sand Hills. We then took 281 northward into South Dakota, then picked up U.S. 18 east to I-29. There was construction and a detour that forced us north a little to access I-29. Then, SD-15 and county roads to our destination.

Travel Days 3 and 4: South Dakota- Minnesota.  For the trip to the Twin Cities, we left in the afternoon and took SD-22/MN-68 to Marshall. Next day, we took MN-19, MN-5, and U.S. 212 and 169 to where we were staying. MN-19 was always my preferred route from the Twin Cities west because it has fewer towns. The road has wider shoulders as you get east of Redwood Falls, and I was a little disappointed that MnDOT hasnít expanded its test of raising the speed limit along certain two-lane highways from 55 mph to 60 mph. MN-19 and MN-5 would certainly safely support this speed. This was my first time on the new U.S. 212 freeway from Chaska to Eden Prairie. One observation: the exit at MN-101 has been rebranded as County 101, reflecting the successive turnback of this route to Carver County as it is improved by MnDOT (GSV shows the exit as MN-101). The county route marker on the guide sign was the black on white square favored by Carver County rather than the blue pentagon used in most of the other metro counties. We encountered the one-lane section along U.S. 169 north of 212 for bridge construction in mid-afternoon, with little delay.

Some Minnesota observations, from our trip across the state and around the Twin Cities Metro area. There are now BYPASS LANE signs (small black on white) where such a lane if provided for passing left-turning vehicles on 2-lane roads. I have never seen these anywhere before, and could not find it after looking this up in MUTCD, is it a standard sign now?  Approaching towns, Minnesota always used BEGIN SPEED LIMIT xx 1/5 MILE, with the first and last of these on separate supplemental signs above and below the speed limit. I saw several instances of these on a single sign. Also, there are some W3-5 signs for reduced speed ahead, as well as a couple of REDUCED SPEED AHEAD (no indication of what speed). I canít tell if these are older and newer installations or inconsistency in marking.  Also new to me: there are small changeable message signs on sign bridges over each lane along freeways in the Twin Cities. They seem to be used at least to advise motorists of lower speeds ahead Ė we saw 45 MPH and 35 MPH on successive signs as we approached a slowdown. Also new are time-to-destination signs as messages on VMS. These must use data from HOT lane transponders.

Travel Day 4: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois. From the Twin Cities for Rockford, we drove MN-62, MN-55 and U.S. 61 to I-90. Unfortunately, we were on the wrong side of the river to be able to cross the new Hastings bridge on U.S. 61. We also used the MN-316 shortcut south of Hastings Ė this road will apparently be realigned in the future to connect directly on the south side of Hastings with the new Dakota CSAH 46 extension to Hastings. Itíll be interesting to see the jurisdictional and numbering changes that will occur with this.  U.S. 61 is unchanged from what I remember, and itís always a beautiful drive along the Mississippi River.

Not wanting to arrive late in Rockford, I reluctantly took I-90 from the U.S. 61 junction near La Crosse all the way down.  Truck traffic is heavier than I remember from the last time I took it (last year), and south of Madison I looked in my mirror to see the scrum of trucks I had escaped bottling up the road behind me.  My in-car GPS apparently did not want me to take the tollway, and not being overly familiar with Rockford-area roads I let it guide me onto IL-75 and 251 to our friendsí house. (There doesnít appear to be a good access point to this part of town from the Tollway, so maybe this was the best choice).
 
While there, we took a day trip to Schaumburg, west of Chicago proper. The Northwest Tollway is undergoing construction along nearly all this stretch of over 30 miles, with EB traffic diverted onto the WB side, separated with jersey barrier. The speed limit along this entire stretch is 45 mph, even though the construction is taking place mostly away from the road and behind barriers. I can only imagine traffic flow during rush hour.

The trip home
Travel Day 5: Illinois, Iowa, Missouri. I chose a route home that would not duplicate the route I took last year (basically, the CKC and then I-70 west from KC).  I also had no interest in following I-80. But on this trip how could I omit Iowa? So, I took I-39 and the CKC to Monmouth, then U.S. 34 to Burlington. Here, I noted that IA-163 is marked concurrent with U.S. 34 upon entering Iowa, I would guess to create a single route designation to Des Moines. (Mentioned on the Iowa board in 2010). From a quick look at GSV this appears to be a new designation. I took U.S. 61 south to IA-2, then to avoid Keokuk moved west to IA-27. Last time I took this route into Missouri, it was IA-394 crossing the Des Moines River at a toll bridge. Now, itís a four-lane expressway that turns into MO-27 and then U.S. 61 to Hannibal. (Side question:  When the Avenue of the Saints highway was extended over this route, was the MO-27 designation available or was an existing route duplicated or renumbered?) 
To capture a part of Missouri I hadnít seen before, I headed south on MO-19 and U.S. 54 to Kingdom City, east of Columbia. (Note to the wise: there are no restaurants other than a truck stop greasy spoon you would want to eat at in Kingdom City). 

Travel Day 6: Missouri, Kansas. From there, I picked up I-70 to Kansas City.  All of I-70 from here to just east of Kansas City was new to me, and even though it was Sunday morning, there was considerable truck traffic to contend with. I can understand how this highway is difficult to travel due to this commercial traffic.  At Kansas City, I went through downtown for the benefit of my passengers, headed south on I-35, and picked up U.S. 56 to clinch the last piece of this highway I had not traveled.
Much of U.S. 56 in eastern Kansas is relatively narrow 2-lane road, little to no shoulder and posted 60 mph. There is a detour that required me to return to I-35 and return to U.S. 56 via U.S. 59. West of the Kansas Turnpike, the road is wider and posted 65 mph. Of the routes I have traveled through the Flint Hills, I found this to be probably the least scenic, at least from the standpoint of seeing hills around me. I followed 56 to McPherson, then picked up KS 61 (via KS-153) to Hutchinson, where we spent our last night on the trip. KS-61 is a 70 mph expressway, obviously recently constructed. It apparently used to end at U.S. 56 (the portion now called 153) but now connects to I-135.  The GPS in my car had me driving over fields in the southbound lane, though fortunately it didnít constantly warn me to get onto a proper road.

EDIT: In looking back at older maps, it looks like K-153 was never a part of K-61. Rather, 61 ended at Business U.S. 81, not now marked, before being upgraded in its own right and connected to I-135.

Travel Day 7: Kansas, Colorado. The last day was U.S. 50 all the way home. Very familiar territory for me so little to report. Compared to last yearís trip, the temperatures were about 10 degrees cooler, though there was still the typical Kansas southerly blast-furnace wind pushing us off the road.  Upon arriving home last year, we had been greeted by an eerie red sky due to smoke from the Waldo Canyon fire that ravaged Colorado Springs. This year, the sky was pretty clear and although there was also smoke, it was high in the sky, from the big fire near South Fork. Later in the evening, it smelled like a campfire outside my house.

Accomplishments: 1. Added to my clinch of the western portion of I-70, from I-15 in Utah to Kingdom City MO.  My new total on this route is 1255 consecutive miles. 2. Clinched U.S. 56, you might argue with an asterisk because of the forced detour. But to me it counts. 3. If I can grab Gilpin County later this year, I will clinch every Colorado county. 
« Last Edit: July 02, 2013, 10:15:42 PM by The High Plains Traveler »
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froggie

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Re: Colorado to South Dakota, Minnesota and Illinois (and back)
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2013, 02:38:58 AM »

Quote
Some Minnesota observations, from our trip across the state and around the Twin Cities Metro area. There are now BYPASS LANE signs (small black on white) where such a lane if provided for passing left-turning vehicles on 2-lane roads. I have never seen these anywhere before, and could not find it after looking this up in MUTCD, is it a standard sign now?  Approaching towns, Minnesota always used BEGIN SPEED LIMIT xx 1/5 MILE, with the first and last of these on separate supplemental signs above and below the speed limit. I saw several instances of these on a single sign.

Sporadic examples of both of these have existed over the years.  I believe for at least the last 10 years, new BEGIN SPEED LIMIT signs have been single signs, and the older ones have slowly been replaced.

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We also used the MN-316 shortcut south of Hastings Ė this road will apparently be realigned in the future to connect directly on the south side of Hastings with the new Dakota CSAH 46 extension to Hastings.

This was studied in 2002 IIRC.

Quote
Itíll be interesting to see the jurisdictional and numbering changes that will occur with this.  U.S. 61 is unchanged from what I remember, and itís always a beautiful drive along the Mississippi River.

Most likely, MN 316 will follow the reroute to end at US 61.  I doubt US 61 will change, as US 61 is Constitutional Route from Hastings south to MN 50.

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kphoger

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Re: Colorado to South Dakota, Minnesota and Illinois (and back)
« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2013, 06:46:44 PM »

Quote
Minnesota ... There are now BYPASS LANE signs (small black on white) where such a lane if provided for passing left-turning vehicles on 2-lane roads. I have never seen these anywhere before, and could not find it after looking this up in MUTCD, is it a standard sign now?

Sporadic examples of both of these have existed over the years. 

Yeah, I've seen them often enough in Minnesota that I thought they were the norm.  I've been to Minnesota quite a number of times, but only to a relatively small region of the state.
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