As winter starts to show its cold and windy forecasts, we start to hunker down and work as efficiently as possible. We dress with layers and put on winter work jackets, Udder Tech overalls and wool socks. We make sure we have gloves in every pocket of the hooded sweatshirts and the work jackets, because they often get wet doing chores and feeding calves. If I get cold, it shortens my stamina to keep going, and I head to the house early to change socks and warm up.
As this fall was so beautiful, I was not as prepared as in the past years. November so far has been warm and sunny. Just recently, we had our first snow that stayed on the ground. Snow makes me think of holidays. Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday.
Thanksgiving is usually celebrated with a great meal. Now as my kids have grown and moved off the farm to other parts of the country, we usually enjoy the holiday with only a few of our children. The others will get a call from us when we settle in to eat.
For us dairy farmers, it also means morning chores must get done before the turkey goes into the oven. If I am having a good night before, I can prepare the dinner rolls and pies. After morning chores, I usually head in and get stuff cooking for the big meal. This year will be completely different because Anna will be home on the farm, and Duane and I will be driving to Washington to visit our son Curtis and his wife, Meeya.
This will be the first time Duane has visited Curtis and Meeya’s home. They moved West in 2015 after graduation. We flew out for their wedding in 2019 but were in the resort on Crystal Mountain. Then, we stayed in a house in the Mount Rainier National Park. It was such a memorable time at their wedding with all of us together off of the farm for seven days.
Curtis and Meeya have driven back to Wisconsin many times and have given us the routes and what stops they make as they travel for fuel, bathroom breaks and also for their dogs to stretch. The roads are easy. Because they are interstates, they are plowed and are open shortly after a snow storm.
Interstate 90 goes through southern Minnesota, South Dakota and Wyoming before crossing into Montana from the south. On the far western side of South Dakota, it goes through the Black Hills National Forest and the Badlands National Park. That is also fairly close to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. When we cross into Wyoming, we will be near the Devil’s Tower National Monument and Bighorn National Forest.
I-94 goes through the Twin Cities and into North Dakota before crossing into Montana on the east. On the western side of North Dakota, you drive through Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Dakota Prairie Grasslands. There is also a 32-mile bypass in North Dakota called the Enchanted Highway that has huge sculptures. A few are visible from I-94.
There is not a lot of difference between the two routes in terms of logistics. Both take about 30 hours total and involve about the same amount of traffic. Through the Twin Cities, I-94 can be busy if we hit it at rush hour, but it usually isn’t that bad for us otherwise. Once we are out of Minnesota, there is practically no traffic on either, and the roads run straight for miles until the mountains in western Montana.
Curtis thinks we would enjoy driving both, maybe one on the way out and one on the way back. He thinks I-94 is prettier through northern Minnesota and into North Dakota. The forest fades into the hills and prairies. There’s a lot of farmland on I-90 through southern Minnesota and into eastern South Dakota. It does get pretty around the Badlands though, so it is worth it.
We will be driving about 10-15 hours per day. We want to see the parks along the way and hopefully be able to hike. We will have to see what the weather will give us as we head out on the road. I do know if it is snowing there will be many more hours to travel then just 30. So, with Anna holding down the farm, we will not have to worry if it is a longer stay.
We have planned on bringing some of Wisconsin’s finest cheeses and also a couple of cases of Spotted Cow beer. We’ll also pack local honey and a cooler full of our processed pork, beef and venison sausage. I have pie pumpkins and apples that we will bring to make homemade pies. Both Curtis and Meeya love to cook, so they will be in charge of the turkey and all the fixings. I will have to squeeze into the kitchen to make the pies while we all enjoy snacking on Wisconsin cheese and beer.
    Tina Hinchley, her husband Duane and daughter Anna milk 240 registered Holsteins with robots.  They also farm 2,300 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wisconsin. The Hinchleys have been hosting farm tours for over 25 years.