February 15-17: The trip south
Here are pictures from the southbound part of our trip to visit Leslie's family in Georgia this February!
The morning we leave, Monday, February 15, our two cats, Gimli (the orange cat visible but trying to hide under the stereo) and Baby (the black cat on the rocker) anticipate going into their carriers to begin the long trip south. The cats actually travel fairly well, and they make the trip more fun! They know how to get around, as by the end of this trip they will have been to a total of 12 states.
Now underway, we make our way onto eastbound US-2, better known locally as the Bong Bridge going between Duluth and Superior, Wis.
Not long after getting out of Superior, the cats get a little carsick, and we stop at the rest area just outside of town along US-2 and US-53. Almost all of our route in both directions used freeways to take advantage of the availability of year-round rest areas as needed. Note how wintery the scene looks with some fresh snow cover and watch as we go south.
With some snow the night before, the passing lane was still somewhat snow covered, but the right lane of US-53 stayed in good shape in the northern end of our trip and we sailed along at close to the speed limit. This view shows US-53 in northern Washburn County, Wisconsin near Minong.
Do you eat Jack Link's jerky? Here is where it's made, Minong, Wisconsin. US-53 cuts through the middle of their cattle ranch where the animals are raised that eventually get turned into tasty snacks.
As US-63 splits off to the right in Spooner, Wisconsin, we are now about half way between home and Eau Claire. This first day's drive will take us all the way to Bloomington, Illinois, and from Spooner we're still approximately 1300 miles from our ultimate destination.
Now on the outskirts of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, just north of Eau Claire
Leslie was intrigued by our proximity to Lake Hallie, as one of the characters in the Trixie Belden series of books she collects is named Hallie.
After 150 miles of US-53, we're about to join the Interstate system with our first of many Interstates in the next week and a half. The junction with I-94 is on the southeast side of Eau Claire.
Eastbound I-94 traffic is not bad for a Monday and a holiday (President's Day)
We're now in heavy truck traffic as I-39 joins I-90 and I-94 in Portage, Wisconsin
The next three big cities along I-94. We'll only be going through one of them, as we'll take I-39 and I-90 south of Madison.
One of only a couple of places in the U.S. where you can drive on three Interstates simultaneously
On the east side of Madison, I-94 is about to split off to head to Milwaukee, while I-39 and I-90 continue on toward Rockford.
Near Janesville, Wisconsin, we travel behind this truck from Risinger Bros. Transfer of Morton, Ill. that had a decal proclaiming John 3:16 on the back of the trailer.
Near the Illinois state line is one of a number of electronic changeable message signs along I-39/I-90 in the area. With an estimated travel time of 17 minutes to the I-39/I-90 split, which is 16 miles distant, it appears traffic on the Jane Addams Tollway won't be too bad today.
The Illinois state line
After about two and a half more hours, we will arrive in Bloomington for our first night's stop. It didn't take Baby long to settle in and get comfortable once she was out of her carrier...
...or Gimli long to start exploring and get up close to "Cantore Stories" on The Weather Channel
The next morning on our way out of Bloomington, we head across the street from where we stayed to the site of the former Clarion Hotel which has recently been demolished. Jody and his friend Kent stayed here twice when they played in the Strat-o-Matic Hockey tournament held here on different occasions a few years back. Though the old hotel is gone, the tournament goes on each September in a new home at another hotel in the area.
We're approaching the home office of State Farm Insurance, headquartered in Bloomington, with this nice-looking facility ahead and to the right along Veterans Parkway. Veterans Parkway was once part of the famous U.S. Route 66 between Chicago and Los Angeles.
On our way out of Bloomington now, Veterans Parkway ends at the junction with I-55, I-74, and US-51 on the southwest side of Bloomington. Our route today will start us out on I-74 eastbound toward Champaign and Indianapolis.
More of the wide open landscape of east central Illinois
Approaching the Indiana state line
Approaching Ronald Reagan Parkway in Brownsburg, Indiana, one of the most reliably Republican-voting places in the U.S.
We had initially planned to continue along I-74 all the way to the Cincinnati area before joining I-75 to head south. However, a snowstorm passed through the area the day before, and weather reports from earlier this morning indicated it was still snowing in Cincinnati and travel not advised. To be safe, we decided to detour south sooner. Here we approach I-65, where we will turn south and head toward Louisville, Kentucky.
Wet, heavy snow clings to branches as we leave Indianapolis to head toward Louisville.
This attractive water tower is in Scottsburg, Indiana, about half way between Indianapolis and Louisville.
On the northern outskirts of the Louisville area, in extreme southern Indiana
The downtown Louisville skyline. We really won't get to see downtown Louisville except for this, as I-64 will quickly take us out of the downtown area.
Crossing the Ohio River and into Kentucky. Technically, we're already in Kentucky, as the state line with Kentucky actually gives it all of the Ohio River, and we're currently over mid-stream.
Another quick split comes up once we get back on land as I-64 breaks away from I-71
About to pass through a tunnel in Louisville
We lost nearly an hour not long after this tunnel due to a car accident in a construction zone, so one of our longest travel days of the trip ended up even longer. But once we got past the accident, we picked up speed nicely as we pass through Simpsonville, Kentucky
Jody looks intent on making up some of our lost time
But let's also enjoy the views along the way. Kentucky is one of the prettiest states, even in the winter. Notice we're this far south--at approximately the 38th parallel--and there's still solid snow cover. That is unusual for this far south.
On the outskirts of Lexington, it's obvious we're near the capital of horse country with farms like this
Approaching I-75 on the north side of Lexington
I-64 and I-75 do not go into the center of Lexington but rather make an arc around the north and east sides of the city. Kentucky Highway 4, better known locally as New Circle Road, forms the loop around the circumference of Lexington at approximately a four-mile radius from downtown. Several roads connect New Circle Road to I-64 and I-75. Here we approach the busiest of these, Newtown Pike.
Incidentally, Ashland, as it is referred to here, is Ashland, Kentucky, which is to the east along I-64 across from Ironton, Ohio. We are a long way from Ashland, Wisconsin by now.
Another busy thoroughfare in Lexington is Man O' War Boulevard, named after the famous race horse.
We will have about another two and a half hours to go to our night's stop in Knoxville and should be there just after 7:00 p.m.
I-75 is scenic near Richmond, Kentucky
An interesting, yet cold looking, rock and ice formation near London, Kentucky
Dusk is settling in as we reach the Tennessee state line
Even though we're done driving for the night and in our motel room in Knoxville, Baby doesn't look quite as happy about having spent another day in the carrier as she did the day before.
It's 7:19 a.m. Wednesday morning, about to leave Knoxville, and it's still mostly dark outside. It's also not very warm, about 27 degrees, as Jody's still using his heavy winter coat. But if you look carefully outside, you'll see there is finally no snow on the ground! It took until this far south--the 36th parallel--to get out of snow cover.
Much of our last day's drive south involved non-Interstates for some variety and scenery. Here on US-411 near Ocoee, Tennessee, you can see why they are named the Great Smoky Mountains. We had initially hoped to take a different route through this area, but our first choice was closed by rock slides in late January and was not expected to be open for a few more weeks. Nonetheless, we still had a nice drive, and later on this route allowed us to see some property Leslie's dad still owns in north Georgia.
Finally we've made it to Georgia! It is the 19th state I've been to.
The view along US-76 west of Ellijay
We stop for a few minutes in Ellijay to give the cats some water. Nearly four hours after leaving Knoxville, it STILL hasn't warmed up much...
We continue onward toward Dahlonega
After a lunch stop in Dahlonega, we continue with the rest of the trip. This is on US-19/Georgia 400 just south of Dahlonega. Georgia 400 serves as one of a number of freeway connectors from the far northern stretches of the Atlanta area and feed into other freeways that lead to the heart of downtown Atlanta.
This is the center of Duluth...Georgia, that is. We're at the intersection of Georgia Highways 120 and 141 in what could best be described as a cookie-cutter suburban area.
We are about to get on the busy I-285 freeway loop around the Atlanta area
Eastbound I-20 is busy with afternoon rush hour traffic in Conyers, Georgia
The end of the trip is near...approaching Georgia 162, Salem Road, and the way to Leslie's parents' house.
Do you want to see what we did while we were in Georgia? Follow us on the rest of our trip by clicking here.