a TigerRAWk Film

Thursday, May 2, 2019

A Shared Life: Elphie & Joel's Upper Midwest Road Trip (08.31.2018 - 09.05.2018)

Over an extended Labor Day weekend, Elphie and I decided to take an Upper Midwest Road Trip with the main goal of visiting North Dakota. This would knock off another state for Elphie leaving two left of the 50 that she has not yet visited (with plans to achieve that in 2019). I felt that since we would be just south of the border, why not cross back into Canada and add Manitoba to the provinces visited and Winnipeg to the cities visited...I also hoped to get some Poutine! This trip relied heavily on Atlas Obscura and Roadside America. We pretty much completely routed the entire trip based on interesting things we found, other than ensuring that we would get to North Dakota and Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Overall, I think the trip was great but I feel the video work still could stand improvement on my end using the Canon Rebel T6. I am still getting used to working with that camera and handling its weight compared to the iPhones or other previous cameras that I have used. I hope in future projects, I will see more improvement in this regard.

Animating the map for the intro and "teaser trailer" was done in a similar method as previous projects. I picked the map using google of the whole area we would be traveling. I decided to have pictures of the various stops fly by...the idea was to be like wind blowing the pictures around. I also added in flags representing the places we were traveling to and from. The rest of the maps were zoomed in closer to locations we would be hitting on each day so the image would hopefully be somewhat clearer.. I used a silhouette car image to drive along the dotted line that I had animated on the map going to each location. I also manipulated the view to zoom in and out further. All the maps and animations were done using Motion 4 on a Macbook. The soundtrack is a clip from "Traveler (Mora Brothers Club Vocal Mix)" by Kevin Max.
We left after work on Friday, August 31st. It started as a bit of a hectic day and we got going quite a bit later than we had hoped, delayed in part by a thunderstorm rolling in as I was loading what we needed out to the car. Eventually I was able to get everything out to the car and we left while the rain slowed and headed north to Wisconsin. I chose to avoid tolls to keep our costs down. Our first destination was Madison, Wisconsin to see a plaque to commemorate Elvis Presley stopping a street fight by getting out of his limo and taking a karate stance. He died 52 days after this. I opened the soundtrack of the project with "Hound Dog" by Elvis Presley due to this being the first site we would stop at during the trip. The rain had stopped but there were a significant amount of large mosquitoes who wanted to eat us so we did not stay too long.

From Madison we drove a short distance to the town of Mount Horeb to see the trolls of the Trollway. As we got into the town, we didn't notice much in the way of trolls. One here or there but then we got in the center of town and saw quite a few. The town was founded by Norwegian settlers and trolls are of Scandinavian folklore so it became something the town would embrace. The town's welcome center had both the American and Norwegian flag and had "Velkommen" written on it which is welcome in Norwegian. We walked around for a bit checking out the wooden sculptures before heading out. I used "Vegetable" by Dark Valentine for the soundtrack.

It was quite late at this point so we made our way to our last destination that we had scheduled for the night...the Wisconsin Dells. We planned to pull off there somewhere to sleep. We found a Wal*Mart and parked then rearranged our things so that we could go to sleep in the car.

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We woke up Saturday, September 1st to some clearer weather and got ourselves going to Plainfield, WI to try to find the grave plot of Ed Gein - a murderer who is the inspiration for Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs, among other characters. It took us a while, searching around the cemetery but with help of others who also were looking, we did locate it. A small plane would fly by from time to time as well. "Vegetable" by Dark Valentine continued to be the soundtrack for this part.

We headed to Athens, WI next to see a Geographical marker for the spot where 45 degrees latitude and 90 longitude meet. We passed by a junkyard to a farm field where we parked the car and took the short walk into the field to visit the marker. Afterwards, we drove over to Wausau to write our name in the book and get the commemorative coin. I used "On The Road Again" by Willie Nelson as a soundtrack for this section due to the nature of the trip of being on the road. I also included "Queen Of The Northern Soul" by The Trigger Code. Since we were in northern areas, it seemed that it would fit.

We then drove to Tomahawk, WI for a barbecue picnic with Carrie Lang, her husband and friends. I was able to get in a shower at this point before another night in the car. The food was wonderful and it was a good time hanging out before continuing our drive north through Wisconsin. We experienced the sunset as we drove toward Lake Nebagamon. We passed through a town called Phillips that had a concrete park with concrete figures which I noticed from the road but we didn't realize it was an Atlas Obscura site until after the trip was over. I used "Small Towns" by Triple Stitch as part of the soundtrack due to traveling through a lot of small towns and Triple Stitch being based in Minnesota.

We arrived in Lake Nebagamon after dark and unfortunately it appeared that the shed which houses the World's Heaviest Ball of Twine was closed and we were not comfortable trying to explore further in the dark on the creator of the twineball's private property.

We headed for Duluth, MN next. We crossed into Minnesota then found somewhere to pull off so that I could get some coordinates on the things we wanted to check out. As it turned out, I had pulled off next to the SS William A. Irvin which was on our list of things from Atlas Obscura so we took a look at that. Elphie needed some time to relax so I drove somewhere that was away from everything which involved crossing an interesting bridge. While she took her time, I looked into how to get to Uncle Harvey's Mausoleum. I explained that it looked possible but required parking that might be paid then walking a bit to where viewing could hopefully be possible. Elphie decided she would take some more time to relax and I walked out to find the Mausoleum. While it was dark, I did get to see it and tried to capture some footage of it and a sign with some information about it. We headed over to the Glensheen Historic Estate next which was being used for a wedding at the time. We snuck around the grounds of this place that is thought to be haunted. I also took the opportunity to put my hand into Lake Superior leaving Huron as the only great lake I have not yet touched.

We left Duluth, MN for Cloquet, MN where we planned to sleep in another parking lot. Elphie thought we could possibly use the lot of the Frank Lloyd Wright gas station which we checked out in the dark but I felt more comfortable using the nearby Wal*Mart again as it was open. "I had added "Girl From The North Country" by Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash as a soundtrack here again using it for its reference to the north and Bob Dylan being from Minnesota.

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We woke on Sunday, September 2nd, once again in a Wal*Mart parking lot, still in Cloquet, MN, and it had rained overnight. We got ourselves together then drove back to the Frank Lloyd Wright gas station to see it in the daylight. "Girl From The North Country" by Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash continued as the soundtrack to begin this section.

We drove to Bermidji, MN through a few small towns and crossed over parts of the Mississippi River. Somewhere along the way, we saw a large wodden lawn chair. We arrived in Bermidji where there were two sites to check out from Atlas Obscura - the Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues and a fireplace with stones from all 50 states and other areas. We spent a bit of time here looking at the various Paul Bunyan "artifacts" and eating some lunch.

We headed toward Itasca State Park next to see the headwaters of the Mississippi River. I crossed the water as we walked to the headwaters while Elphie took a bridge. We got into the water at the headwaters which is where the river begins leaving Lake Itasca. There are rocks that I guess officially mark the boundary of where the lake ends and the river begins. I once again crossed over the river at this point as well. I also shot some footage of a thee dimensional model of the entire length of the Mississippi River and a few other things surrounding the area.

In this part of the project, I used "Big River" by Johnny Cash and "Black Water" by The Doobie Brothers due to both being about or mentioning the Mississippi River.

We would have liked to have spent a little more time there but had set a deadline for arriving in Ada, MN, our next destination. I actually ended up getting us there a little faster than anticipated. We crossed through White Earth Reservation along the way. In Ada, we spent time with Cynthia and Tina, some Audiofeed friends and had another barbecue picnic. Just down the road, one of Cynthia's friends had his basement set up as a small club so we went there when it got later and the sun had gone down and he spun some goth music. I captured a bit of that with some Depeche Mode playing from the system.

We drove to Fargo, ND afterwards where we would sleep at Tina's house for the night. I got gas on our way into town. I added in "Summer" by Il Neige to the later part of this section of the project because Vanessa lived in Minnesota and is Canadian.

We wpoke up on Labor Day, Monday, September 3rd, in Fargo, North Dakota but not in the car in a Wal*Mart parking lot but in a bed in our friend Tina's apartment instead. It was a nice change! We had some breakfast then went to the Fargo/Moorhead visitors center to see the Woodchipper from the movie, Fargo. There was one outside in the middle of a Walk of Fame so we checked out the Walk of Fame as well. Instead we saw the Woodchipper from the movie with a foot inside it along with other artifacts from the movie. It is interesting how the movie is called Fargo yet it is set entirely in Minnesota. Elphie purchased a hat and I ended up getting a free patch before we departed toward Canada. "Summer" by Il Neige continued as the soundtrack then I added "Blowin' In The Wind" by Bob Dylan next, again because he is a native to Minnesota and due to the windy conditions.

It was a long drive on a long stretch of straight road to the border. Our car seemed to get louder than ever during this stretch while we were permitted to go 80mph. The border crossing was fairly easy this time and we spent a little time at the visitors center getting pictures and video of signs and flags. It was very windy. I added the song "When The Summer's Gone" by Ampersand (Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken) here because this trip in a way signaled the end of the summer season for us.

We continued our drive to Winnipeg and to the Travelodge where I booked a suite so we could enjoy the hot tub. It also had a pool. We took a few minutes to relax then went to find some dinner. Elphie decided she wanted Subway which was nearby and I figured I would try to get some poutine.

After getting Subway, we drove east to find the Longitudinal Centre of Canada near Lorette. We passed the new park that was made to commemorate the spot while looking for the sign so we crossed over the area twice before stopping at the park. As we left, the sun began to set so we got some good footage of it as well as some pictures.

We drove around a loop of Winnipeg in hopes of finding the "cement cemetery" to the west of the city near Rosser. We could not see it with the night setting in and with later resarch, it appeared we may have been a mile or so away from the location and even drove by where we might have been able to catch a glimpse had we been aware. We returned to downtown Winnipeg and I tried to get poutine only to find that Smoke's Poutinerie was closed. I dropped Elphie off at the hotel then tried another Smoke's location but it was also closed...apparently due to Labor Day. I was a bit bummed and ended up eating cans of ravioli then partaking in the hot tub. "Rockin' The Poutine" by KBDProductionsTV was used as a soundtrack to end this part of the project for obvious reasons.

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We woke up from our nice hotel suite at the Travelodge in Winnipeg on Tuesday, September 4th, and began our long drive back to Chicago...but not before I made another attempt to get poutine! This time I had success and I ordered the largest option available to go from Smoke's Poutinerie. It would be really nice to have a Smoke's in Chicago. Poutine is not the easiest thing to eat while driving but I did the best I could as we drove toward the border. We passed the Bell MTS Place where the Winnipeg Jets play as we left the city. We passed another stadium along the way and we noticed a little church in the grassy median between the north and southbound lanes of the highway when we were driving into Canada so we made sure to get video of that as we left. I continued using "Rockin' The Poutine" by KBDProductionsTV as the soundtrack for this part of the project.

Crossing back into the United States of America proved to be a more difficult experience than crossing into Canada or really any other border crossing that we have experienced to this point in our travels. Apparently, one of the border patrol agents thought capturing the signage and border building on video or taking pictures (by the passenger, not driver...just FYI) was suspicious so we were questioned then told to pull our car into what appeared to be like a little garage, leave all electronic devices in the car, and empty our pockets. We were asked about any fresh fruit we might be carrying on board and told it was illegal to cross the border with fresh fruits...even ones we had bought in the United States. Next, we were told we need to go in a little room while they searched our car and I hoped that they would leave my poutine alone. After they got done searching the car, they asked Elphie to show the clip she was filming as we pulled up to the border. They were satisfied that they did not appear in the video and they let us go (As it turned out, they did indeed appear in the video as I found out during the editing, ha!). I used the song "Dakota" by Bradley Hathaway in this part of the project simply because of the title.

We made the long drive toward Fargo and Moorhead where we planned to meet with Tina again so we could get some things we had left behind in case of any search issues and the border. It turns out that was good thinking on Elphie's part, ha! We met Tina at a Dairy Queen in Moorhead where the Largest Dilly Bar stands. We got some ice cream and hung out for a little while then, as we were trying to leave to make it to our other intended destinations, Tina convinced us to take a few more minutes in Moorhead to go to the Hjemkomst Center and see the Viking ship and church. They were pretty cool to see. As we left we checked the forecast because it appeared the weather might be taking a bad turn and we were hearing reports of a severe storm coming into the area. I used "Purple Rain" by Prince as the soundtrack with the return into Minnesota since Prince is a native of the state. I asked Elphie if she had any thoughts on a Prince song to use and she suggested this. I had thought of using this myself as well with the rainy conditions during this part of the trip and being in Minnesota.

We arrived in Alexandria after driving through some rain but it was dry in Alexandria. We saw Big Ole, the viking statue the accompanied a rune stone to the World's Fair. The rune stone is in the nearby Runestone Museum that was closed at the time we arrived.

We made our way to Belgrade next and I think it stayed fairly clear during that short trip. In Belgrade is the World's Largest Crow so we checked that out and the accompanying park around it. We arrived as the sun was setting giving us some nice colors to see as we drove.

We went to Darwin next to see the World's Largest Ball of Twine Rolled by One Man. Unlike the other twine ball we tried to see, this one was housed in a light up public building. We checked it out and the things sitting in near proximity that we could see in the dark before heading toward Minneapolis.

As we approached Minneapolis, Elphie got in touch with another one of her friends so we made a slight detour to see her. It seemed no one we were connected to in the Twin Cities area was available but it turned out that we had the wrong phone number for one couple Elphie was trying to reach. We rested a bit while Elphie caught up with her friend then we went to downtown Minneapolis to see the Mary Tyler Moore statue and crossed into Saint Paul to see the statue of Herb Brooks near the XCel Energy Center where the Minnesota Wild play. We also stopped by a bar that had a baby changing table with "place child sacrifice here" written on it but it seemed that the phrase had been removed.

We drove a bit longer to Rochester, MN to find a Wal*Mart parking lot to sleep in for the night and settled in for a few hours before another long day on the road back to Chicago. I started "Traveler (Mora Brothers Club Vocal Mix)" by Kevin Max to end this part of the project.

Wednesday, September 5th, we woke up and prepared to leave the Wal*Mart parking lot in Rochester, MN. Elphie went inside and ended up finding some Halloween stuff to buy saying she felt she should buy something since we slept in a few Wal*Mart parking lots on the trip.

This was a day of pretty much driving back to Chicago. We really only had one stop figured out for the day in rural Wisconsin. We ended up going passed the World's Largest Six Pack in La Crosse, WI, after we crossed the Mississippi River one last time. I failed to capture it on video because I didn't realize it was an Atlas Obscura site or had any real significance until later. It was silos of the city brewery made to look like beer cans. As we drove we went through a town and several other areas that had recently been flooded. We saw some major damage to roads and buildings but we thankfully could continue to pass through without too much difficulty. In the early evening, we eventually made our way to  the Gravity Hill in Shullsburg, WI and experienced the illusion of appearing to roll up hill. We entered Illinois near the town of Apple River and had to get gas. Our GPS then put us on an impassable road. I navigated us toward the highway to get us home.

We stopped for dinner at a Taco Bell near Freeport, IL. We drove through Rockford, Elgin, then into Chicago and home! At home we were greeted by Stein who seemed to be quite happy that we were back. I continued to use Traveler (Mora Brothers Club Vocal Mix)" by Kevin Max for the additional soundtrack on this part and on through the credits.

The trip went well overall. It was a lot of road time and the car has been getting loader and running harder but we made it through and saw a lot of interesting things. We were happy to see some friends a long the way as well. This was a good trip!

The Complete Project Soundtrack: “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley, “Vegetable” by Dark Valentine, “On The Road Again” by Willie Nelson, “Queen Of The Northern Soul” by The Trigger Code, “Small Towns” by Triple Stitch, “Girl From The North Country” by Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, “Big River” by Johnny Cash, “Black Water” by The Doobie Brothers, “Summer” by Il Neige, “Blowin In The Wind” by Bob Dylan, “When The Summer’s Gone” by Ampersand (Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken), “Rockin’ The Poutine” by KBDProductionsTV, Dakota” by Bradley Hathaway, “Purple Rain” by Prince, “Traveler (Mora Brothers Club Vocal Mix)” by Kevin Max

Footage filmed using a Canon Rebel T6 and iPhone 6 and 8 by Elphie and Joel A. Swanson. Editing done using Final Cut Pro on a Mac Mini by Joel A. Swanson. Titles and animations created using Motion 4 on a Macbook by Joel A. Swanson

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