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Albert Maywood Courtright II

Reminiscences of Maywood Courtright

The Road Home Thru Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan

When we left Cody the next morning, I was the only one who had any enthusiasm left for visiting any more mountain scenery or canyons. The others were for getting back home as soon as possible. There was little of interest anyway in the high, dry country of the western prairies except for a stretch thru the Black Hills of South Dakota where our route took us directly past the giant sculptures of the heads of Lincoln, Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt, by Gutzon Borglum, on Mount Rushmore. The road wound around thru the hills giving us several views of the work as we approached it. When we got close to it we could see workmen hanging from ropes from the top of the cliff perched on Lincoln's nose. The fourth figure was not completed. We passed just north of the Badlands of South Dakota and when we passed a sign indicating a side road that would take us through them I was ready to turn off but the others vetoed the idea. They had seen enough funny-shaped rocks. The road was two-lane - four-lane highways came later - but smooth and straight and there was not much traffic so we made good time. Before we left Cody, Yvette had fixed a mixture of dry cereals, pretzel sticks, peanuts and hazel nuts, seasoned everything with salt and garlic powder and filled two big cereal boxes for snacking on the way as was our usual procedure.

Mt. Rushmore is in Custer State Park in the southwest corner of South Dakota, a short distance to the southwest of Rapid City. We would have had to take alternate [route] 16 near Wall to see it. I was a little disappointed to miss it when we were so close but I gave in to the majority like a good citizen. Taking alternate 16 would have lengthened our trip by perhaps an hour or two. We continued on and crossed the Missouri River at Chamberlain but I can't remember whether we stayed the night on the west or east side of the river. It must have been one of the small towns between Rapid City and Sioux Falls, or maybe we crossed into Minnesota before bedding down. An any rate, it was the last time we slept in beds until we got back to Muskegon. Still following R-16 - it is now Interstate 90 - which runs straight west just a few miles north of the Wisconsin border - we kept a steady pace of 50 miles an hour stopping only to buy gas, usually at a Conoco station as their restrooms were always clean. To save time we ate in the car, our boxes of snacks, peanut butter sandwiches, oranges and Hershey chocolate bars for dessert. In Minnesota we were back where the landscape was green again. I was doing all of the driving and we were making few stops to stretch our legs but I didn't feel tired. The four in the back seat and Yvette were playing word games when someone made a suggestion, "Why don't we find a place to sleep along the roadside for two or three hours and just keep on going until we get back to Muskegon?" Midge said she had her driver's license and would relieve me at the wheel; so I agreed. We thought the best place to slepp would be a park in a small town and along about 11 o'clock we found an ideal place, a well-kept park in a little town on the banks of a river. I think we were still in Minnesota by Yvette says we had crossed the Mississippi and were in Wisconsin. It was a balmy night and street lights a block away in the business district gave us enough light to spread blankets on the grass of the sloping river bank next to the drive where we had parked the car.

I slept about three hours and woke up refreshed as if I had had a full eight hours sleep. The others had slept in the car before we stopped and everybody was ready to go on.

We crossed the Mississippi at La Cross, Wisconsin, and I would have been willing to stop at the Wisconsin Dells but didn't even suggest it. Instead we followed the more direct route 14 southeast to Madison, the capital of Wisconsin and also the seat of the university. R-14 took us thru the heart of downtown and along the shore of Lake Mendota on which the capital is situated.

I considered driving straight east from Madison to Milwaukee and taking the ferry across the lake to Muskegon but passage for four adults and two children plus the car would have made it pretty expensive and if we didn't make good connections we might have to wait in Milwaukee for 24 hours. I made a wide sweep to the east and south of Chicago to get away from city traffic as far as possible then going north to catch M-11 along the east side of Lake Michigan at New Buffalo. From New Buffalo north to Muskegon Heights we were on familar territory as it was the route I took at least once a year to Peoria or to Brooks' in Illinois, usually at Christmas time. Route M-11 was later renamed [to] 31. Interstate 94 and 196 now bypass the small towns along the lakeshore but in 1934 it was necessary to drive thru the heart of town in all of them, slowing to 20 miles an hour.

The Risk family was much surprised when we drove up in front of the Risk Home on Maffet Street a day or two earlier than we were expected. We let Marj and Midge off with the bags containing their sleeping clothes - they got their souvenirs and other things later - then headed for our beds. We all got up late the next day.

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Yellowstone Park
Our First Trip to Mexico, 1940

Last modified on 15 April 2021 17:59