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Contributor: Travel editor Kerri Westenberg.

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Posts about Road trips

"Happy" on a road trip

Posted by: Kerri Westenberg Updated: October 9, 2014 - 11:36 AM

Alamo Rental Car UK teamed up with a music psychologist at the University of Oxford to understand what makes a catchy pop song, the kind that keeps kids singing and off their devices on road trips. Turns out, there are a few key ingredients, including an upbeat tempo, a memorable hook, an anthem that is life affirming and a harmony that revolves around this simple four-chord progression: I – V – vi – IV.
The car rental company’s survey of 1,000 drivers found that 83 percent of parents like to entertain children with music, compared to 19 percent who turn to iPods. For those music lovers, they have a couple of suggested tracks for the playlist.
“This year, hands down, the most popular family car song is ‘Let it Go,’ from Disney’s hit film, ‘Frozen’,” according to a news release about the survey. Other songs that hit chords with kids are Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” and One Direction’s “Live While You’re Young.”
This nifty infographic reveals the secrets behind a great road song anthem. Study it, and you just may be able to come up with the soundtrack for your next road trip with the kids.So, what will you be singing during the upcoming long weekend school break?

Old journal recounts the cost of a 1940 Minn.-California road trip

Posted by: Updated: March 3, 2014 - 11:41 AM

Lyle Lundeen, an 89-year-old retired Navy pilot who lives in Bloomington, found an old palm-sized notebook that brought back some memories -- and some signs of the wrench inflation has thrown into road trips. His parents kept track of costs on a 1940 drive from Minneapolis to California. Cabins were $2. Gas was as cheap as 15-cents a gallon.

According to his calculations, the whole trek for four cost less than $120 for gas, "eats" and lodging.

Ace Star Tribune copy editor Bruce Adomeit put the somewhat staggering figures into context:

According to the inflation calculator at, $118.95 in 1940 dollars for the California trip is equivalent to $2,002.03 in today’s money.

Gas in Salt Lake City at 20 cents a gallon sounds dirt cheap, but that equals $3.37 a gallon in today’s dollars. shows that Saturday’s average price in Salt Lake City was less than that: $3.266.

My favorite rest stop

Posted by: Kerri Westenberg Updated: July 1, 2013 - 3:16 PM





When I take off for road trips Up North, coffee is my friend. Since I generally load the car and drive away in the morning, a cup-to-go is my standard sidekick. Which means I'm rolling along, alert and happy, until just shy of Duluth -- when I need a break. Badly. Thanks to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, one is always nearby as I roar north up I-35. In my numerous stops, I've grown partial to one: Culken, between milepost 225 and 226. Likemost, it is neat and clean, but this one stands out because it is situated on a bucolic piece of land with a pond. If driving with argumentative teens or whining toddlers is making you a tad tense, just go out back, sit on a bench, and watch the Red-winged Blackbirds flit around the bushes. That always settles the nerves.

Pretty scenery is just one benefit of a stop, but not the most important, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. "Rest areas are essential safety features on the highway system that help address driver fatigue, a major cause of serious accidents," according to their Web site.  "Their basic service is crash prevention. Studies reveal that a 15 to 20 minute break improves individual performance, even among sleep-deprived people."

Next time you're on a long drive, remember to enjoy the journey as well as the destination. If that means gazing at pretty scenery, having a picnic or playing catch with fido (many stops have designated dog areas), find a DOT rest stop along your route. Check out the rest stops along your route, including where to find them and what amenities they might have here.


A visit to an underrated state park near Mille Lacs

Posted by: Updated: October 1, 2012 - 11:39 AM

VINELAND, MINN. -- If you're like me, you take Minnesota state parks for granted. But with colors expected to peak this weekend, here's a suggestion: Check out Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. 

We signed up for a free archeology canoe tour last weekend and the maples, aspens, sumacs and oaks were just starting to overlap with eruptions of bronze, yellow, orange and blood red. The park sits eight miles north of Onamia and south of Garrison along Hwy. 169 a couple hours north of the Twin Cities.

We learned that archeologists have found clues of people living in the area at least 9,000 years ago. Several small Dakota villages punctuated the area, a crossroads of sorts with access to the Rum, Mississippi and other rivers and a few hefty portages from Lake Superior. In fact, the explorer that the city of Duluth is named after -- Frenchman Daniel Greysolon, Sieur Dulhut -- is the misspeller responsible for Kathio's name.

Greysolon met with the Dakota in the area in 1679 and they called their collective villages Izatys. His sloppy handwriting made the "Iz" look like a "K" and the name stuck. It's one of those gems we fly by at 65 mph, but well worth stopping for a visit. You can rent canoes and paddle around Ogechie Lake, once a hub of Dakota travel and trading. Hunters would transport their buffalo meat up the winding Rum River in the Anoka area to their villages here.

This Saturday, the park is offering a short hike and talk about bird migration from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Go to mile marker No. 221 on Hwy. 169 about eight miles north of Onamia. (This photo of dormant ice houses was snapped along Hwy. 47 around the south side of the lake near Isle.)

Ada to Zumbrota: a virtual tour of every Minnesota county

Posted by: Updated: September 13, 2012 - 12:13 PM
Pat Dodds

Pat Dodds

From his computer screen in Fresno, Calif., retired teacher Patt Dodds is embarking on quite a trek: He's visiting all 87 Minnesota counties for his new blog,

 The blog is lovely, with nice photos, fun facts and maps -- all culled from the Internet.

"It takes me about three hours of on-line research per county and I'm doing this every Monday, Wednesday and Friday so it should take me about seven months to get from Kittson County in the northwest to Houston County in the southeast," Dodds, 62, tells Escape Artists.

Why is a Fresno guy who grew up and worked at two newspapers in Iowa so obsessed with Minnesota?

About eight years ago, in the pre-blog era, he and his son visited all 99 counties in Iowa. He'd been to the Twin Cities and Rainy Lake and "thought it would be fun to virtually get to know the state better. It's frustrating to only hit the highlights so I'm digging a little deeper."

To wit: He points out that Baudette was rebuilt after a 1910 fire and the Northwest Angle that juts up into Canada ended up in Minnesota because of confusion about the Mississippi River's origins during 1783 Treaty of Paris talks.

He's three counties into his tour with 84 to go, but Dodds is looking ahead.

"Texas has 254 counties," he said.


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