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Getting There

Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt
By Car
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It's a two day trip by interstate. From Lexington, Ky., we recommend taking I-64 to Louisville, I-65 North to Indianapolis, 465 around Southwestern Indianapolis, and I-74 on to Illinois. Prepare for slowdowns or stoppages on 465. This is Indiana's Permanent Construction Project, now in its 20th year. We usually stop at Champaign Urbana for gas and lunch, since it's exactly halfway to the Dells. Jimmy John's is a favorite. They have good sandwiches and a gas station next door. Then we continue on I-74 west to Bloomington (Ill.), I-39 north to Madison (Wisc.) and I-90 northwest to the Dells. You'll see one of the nation's largest wind farms on I-39 (shown at right) at Pawpaw, Illinois. We usually turn off the interstate and drive down the local road about a mile for some closeup shots of the giant three-blade propellers, but they're close enough to the interstate you can get shots from the vehicle window. There are five groupings of windmills, four along I-39 and one off to the West. They generate enough electricity here to provide for the whole county's energy needs plus sell the surplus to Chicago and eliminate their local property taxes.
Be sure to have change available at Rockford (Ill.), where they charge tolls on the interstate.You may look at the map and be tempted to drive through Chicago, but we strongly urge against it. There are too many stretches of standstill traffic, even on the eight lane interstate. Using I-39, you only risk one traffic slowdown or stoppage, at Rockford where I-90 from Chicago merges. This simple three mile stretch has become Illinois' newest Permanent Construction Project. It is now in its third year and we can't see any progress whatsoever. Driving North is usually OK except for narrowed lanes and occasional slowdowns. Coming back South is a recurring nightmare. On that return trip, be very alert and stay to the right. There are no signs (they've all been removed during construction) but suddenly an unpaved exit to I-39 veers off. If you've over in the left lane trying to pass you'll miss it, have no other exit, and find yourself on the toll Chicago Turnpike, also known as I-90 East. It's five miles to the first turnaround and then you have to pay another toll to get back to I-39. There have been so many people caught in this trap that the state highway commission has printed up a form just for you to fill out and mail in to try and get the toll refunded. If it weren't such a mess it would be comical.
Once in Wisconsin, the traffic thins out and driving gets easier. If you have any beer conneisseurs in your vehicle, you might stop at Janesville, which has a brewery producing four of the nation's best beers. At Madison you can visit the University of Wisconsin, one of the nation's most beautiful campuses and the alma mater of John Muir, one of outdoor lovers' Holy Trinity, along with Harvard products Henry David Thoreau and Theodore Roosevelt. From Madison you take I-90 northwest 40 minutes to the Dells. If you left Lexington at 9 am you should be arriving at the Dells by 7 pm. At the Dells you can take the first exit and drive through almost all of the town, or the fourth exit and drive straight to the Indian Trail Motel. (Go through the main intersection with Mexicali Rose on your right, cross the bridge, climb the hill and look for the Indian Trail on your left at the end of the business district.) Remember you've crossed a time line so the Dells is an hour earlier than whatever your watch says.
Click Here For Complete Coverage Of The Wisconsin Dells

From the Dells you take I-90 and I-94 northwest. Where I-90 swings left (West) to head for South Dakota and the Black Hills, you stay on I-94, which you'll take on through Minneapolis (top left), Fargo and Bismark en route to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. This second day is a long haul, 773 miles. With a few gas and snack stops it takes about 12 hours. Remember you cross another time line. If you make this trip in late Summer, you'll see why some natives call North Dakota "The Sunflower State" (see top right).

You should be arriving at Medora just in time for a sneak preview of the park. The interstate runs right along its Southern edge, and the Painted Canyon Visitor Center has its own exit to your right. Stop here. It should be evening and the setting sun should lend lots of color to the landscape. You may want to walk over to the railing and take a few photos. Then, driving on, keep your eyes open for wild horses, buffalo and antelope. Continue on past Medora to Exit 18. Drive past the campground. You'll climb the hill, swing to the right, and drop down the other side. The Buffalo Gap Ranch central holdings are 1.3 miles on the unpaved road.

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