Friday, October 15, 2021

Goodby Minnesota

October 15.  Time to leave Minnesota, it is getting cold!

I sure have enjoyed the fall colors.

We took several "Peeper" drives. Pretty trees were not all we saw.

 We were surprised to see these critters in a small pasture.

I wonder what they were. Based on pictures on the internet, I think they were yaks.

One of them was not satisfied with the nice grass in the pasture. He or she worked very hard to eat the grass as close to the fence as possible.

Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes. This was one small one. Maybe it was just a pond. The tall water grasses waved gently in the breeze.

The RV parks seemed to be telling us it was time to head south!  We stayed at Pete's Retreat for a week, up to October 1 when it closed for the season.

Many of the days were quite blustery with threatening clouds. This park, the Grand Casino Campground in Hinckley Minnesota, had shut down large areas.

The section we stayed in had only a few rigs.

Next we stayed at Lake Elmo, a small county park, and then at Dakotah Meadows Casino Campground near Minneapolis.

We enjoyed the beautiful fall color all around, but didn't do much walking because Craig was having trouble with his hip.  He is going to have it checked out when we get back to California.

While at Dakota Meadows we drove into the city to see the Van Gogh Immersive Exhibit. It was a wonderful experience. The still pictures below cannot express the full impact of the exhibit. 

There were two galleries; both had the same show. All four walls formed a continous screen. If you looked carefully you could see the screens were broken into repeated images but were blended perfectly. Van Gogh's work is all about light and movement. This projected show was made up of many layers of images from his paintings. They moved and changed and were accompanied by a fantastic sound track. 

In the first gallery (above) everyone either stood  or sat on the floor for the half hour show.

In the second gallery there were several benches. We stayed and watched the show a second time after scoring a bench the minute someone else left it. For our old bodies, it was nice to be able to sit.


Several of Vincent's self portraits appeared throughout the show.

This was my favorite. The flames on the candles flickered as if they were actually burning.

At one point I said to Craig: "This would really blow Van Gogh's mind!"

I appreciated the fact that everyone was required to wear a mask in the galleries. Not "recommended",  "required!"  Throughout our summer travels, we have met people who were not vaccinated. I am not afraid to ask, and if someone tells me they are not vaccinated, I just move away and don't continue any contact with them. The case numbers are going up in Minnesota, but at most stores you see very few people wearing masks. We do. 

This last week we went to a CVS and we both got our flu shots. A few days later I got my Pfizer Covid booster. Now that it has been approved, Craig will get his Moderna booster next week. All we can do is take care of ourselves. 

So now we are in Iowa at an almost empty state park in Clear Lake for three nights. The trees are just starting to turn here, but the temperatures are going down. Autumn is truly my favorite time of the year. 

[Update from Craig] Older rock fans might call Clear Lake IA "the place the music died".  In 1959, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and "The Big Bopper" J. P. Richardson were killed in a plane crash near here.

Monday, September 27, 2021

September 2021

I have not been keeping up with the blog again, so this is a catch up post.

Overall, we have had a very pleasant September. We have met up with and/or visited two of our favorite RV couples: Jeannie and Eldo, and Karen and Steve, but for some reason the cameras never got used. Both meetings were very nice.  It is always good to see your online friends in person, even if it is only once every few years.

After a week in St. Ignace we traveled north to Tahquamenon Falls. It was one of the places we wanted to stop at on our Lake Superior Circle tour a few years back, but cancelled so we could stop at a recommended place on the Canadian side.

There are two falls located in the park. The lower falls are a cascade.

Upper Falls

The Upper Falls are taller and there was  quite a lot of water coming over.











We also took a couple of nice walks along the river that was by our campground.

The cloudy sky was reflected as silver. The UP is one of my favorite late summer destinations. We had pleasant temperatures, few mosquitos or other bugs, and a couple of rain storms.



The next stop was at Munising Tourist Park. We were here once before and had done most of the usual walks and other activities. The gal at the office suggested we take a half hour drive, west, to see Lakenenland Junk Yard Art.


It was a delightful collection of large "found object" sculptures, that you could either drive or walk past. Worth every penny of the free admission.
We also went on their Bog Walk. The ground was dry alongside the planks, but you could see that in wetter weather it would be quite soggy and the planks would be necessary.

When we visited Karen and Steve, we stayed at the Oconto Holtwood park. We took a stroll along the river at sunset. The water was so still it was a perfect mirror.   

One of the necessities of having a motorhome is the need for maintenance and upkeep. This month we had our roof recovered in Alexandria, Minnesota. It took four days, during which we were able to stay in the Alfa. For some other repairs we have had, we were not able to be in the rig when it was in the shop. For the roofing we could, and it was odd to sleep in the Alfa while inside a building.

Not every driving day is easy. We had to leave Alexandria before 6 AM in order to get to Brainerd MN for a 8:15 AM appointment at Pleasureland RV, to have our new Blue Ox tow cable evaluated and ultimately replaced. In addition to being much too early for our taste, it rained very hard all the way there. This was particularly stressful because it was so dark and we were on unfamiliar roads.

All I can say is we were both glad when we got there without any problems.

After Pleasureland we had only eight more miles to go to our next stop, Lum Park on Rice lake.


When we went for our park walk, Craig let go of some of the stress by trying out the dinosaur slide. 

Yes, he did slide down.  There were no children around.

On Saturday we took a long drive around a couple of scenic road routes to look for fall color.

The color is starting to show, but it will be a while before it comes to peak.

In many places it seems like only the tops and tips of the trees have been kissed with color.

We will be in Minnesota for another two weeks, so I do expect to see a lot more fall color. I got a reservation for the upcoming week, the last week of September, but I don't yet know where we will be going after that. I have called or otherwise checked a number of RV parks in "good color" spots, only to find out they will either be closed after October 1, or are already full. After a carefully planned and reserved summer, this give ME a bit of anxiety. 

 If nothing else, there is always Walmart!

Check back to see where we land.

Monday, September 6, 2021

North Shore of Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan

Our next stop along US 2 was on the Garden Peninsula, which extends 22 miles southwest into Lake Michigan.

Fayette Historic State Park features a somewhat restored "company town" that was built in the late 1800's for the management and workers at the Fayette Iron Smelter.

The buildings were empty, but there was plenty of signage that explained what each was and how they fit into the life of the town.

Smelting iron ore was an arduous process, using heat produced by burning large amounts of charcoal. 

The charcoal was made in these large kilns.  Several years ago, we saw similar cone-shaped kilns in Death Valley.





Looking up at the hole at the top of the kiln can make you feel a bit dizzy.

 The end result was charcoal pig iron, which was then sent by ship to the Great Lakes steel companies.

The Fayette state park campground was pretty, but quite crowded.

Although there were a few larger RVs, most of the campers had smaller trailers, pop ups, and tents. It seemed almost every site had a trailer, a tent or two, a boat, and a screened easy-up over the picnic table. For all of that, everyone was peaceful and there were no loud groups.

Many state parks have no hookups, or as in this case electric only. Starting with a full fresh water tank, we can be self-sufficient with respect to water for about five days, or up to a week if we use the park bathhouse and are careful with our water usage.

State park campgrounds are often  "in the trees." We were lucky to find a small hole between the branches which allowed us to get satellite reception.

We took a couple of walks while we were there. This short peaceful wooded trail was quite a contrast to the busy campground.

 A rocky shoreline was just a short walk from our camp.

We also found this stretch of sandy beach.

[From Craig] The patriarch drank too much, but the young ones were fine upstanding folks.

Not far from the sandy beach above was the old Fishermen's Cemetery. There were some very old stone markers and some new wood crosses marking old graves. One of the churches in the area maintains it. 


Although it was broken off, this was one of the more elaborate markers we saw. I think it was a family plot marker. Many of the graves are unidentified.

On our walk back to campground, we went along this berm in the forest. We discussed how and why it was there, and decided it might have been an old road going to the cemetery.
On September first we went back to Highway 2 and headed east to St. Ignace, which is at the north end of the Mackinaw Bridge.
I'm glad I made our  reservation here way back in February. Our week included Labor Day, which is always a busy time in the campground world. They had a very nice pot luck for us campers on Sunday. Many of the campers come here every year for the end-of-summer holiday.
We didn't do much while here, this being our third time in the area. We didn't go over to the Island, nor across to the Fort because we had already done those tourist things.

We did go on a nice walk in the Hiawatha National Forest. No signs of fall color yet, but the wildflowers are making their last stand.

As I have noted before, our route this summer was based on driving US Highway 2 from end to end.

Well, we made it.
Longtime readers may recall this similar image from Key West in December 2014.
We still have some good plans along the route back to California: including visiting with old friends, stopping in Minnesota for a new RV roof, and taking a swing down to Louisiana for some routine maintenance on the Alfa by one of our favorite RV techs.  
So keep an eye out for my next update, and come along for the ride.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Iron Mine Tour, Vulcan, Michigan

Max, a friend in San Diego, has asked if we meet new friends in campgrounds. We have, but not as many as we would like. I think he imagines campgrounds as big kumbaya meetings around communal campfires. When actually, as campers we are fairly private, and although friendly greetings are often exchanged, chatting with strangers is rare.

Liz and Mike

But once in awhile the usual banter starting with "where are you from ... " turns into a meeting of  new friends. This week the couple with the fifth wheel next door, stopped by and said hello. She saw the Escapees sticker on our rig which led into my mentioning Jojoba. It turned out they have been there and know Coney and Carrol. 

We chatted for several hours and the next day went to the Mine Tour together.

I've been on coal mine tours, and I've seen large open copper pit mines, but I have never been on an iron mine tour until this week in Vulcan, Michigan.

I'm not sure I like the way the earth seems to sag just above the mine entrance. Had I noticed it, I might have been hesitant to go in! But we did. The mine tour has been going on safely for many years.

The tour started with a small outdoor exhibit of old mine equipment. We had an excellent tour guide who used to be a history teacher. I just felt he enjoyed sharing history with us.  

We were given hard hats and rain coats to wear in the rather cold and wet mine.

We rode a single wide train through 1/4 mile of mine tunnel. It took us only a few minutes, but we were told it had taken seven years of manual labor to dig out. No power tools were used.

We then walked down into a tunnel system where the floors had been smoothed, and lights  and handrails installed, long after the mine was closed.

Along the way we learned more about the hand work involved in this type of mining, and the hazards experienced by the miners. At a time when a loaf of bread cost about five cents, they made seven to ten cents an hour. No benefits or safety regulations.



After the mine tour we stopped for a miners lunch. Pasties of course. 

The pasty was a lunch food brought over from the Cornish mines in Britain. It is a large closed pastry filled with meat, potatoes and/or turnips that the miners could eat "out of hand." These were some of the best we have had. 

We ended the day with another "sit around" at the campground. No campfire, just lawn chairs and an open grassy space.

Our new friends left the next day, but we have exchanged contact information and hopefully we will meet up again. 

Today is a "cozy" day. We are relaxing in the Alfa enjoying the sounds of a midwest summer rain.  

A good day to write a blog post. 

Tomorrow we travel on.


Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Beautiful Wisconsin

 It is Tuesday August 25, our last day at the Apostle Islands RV Park in Bayfield, Wisconsin.

It is a pretty, small community on the Bayfield Peninsula just below the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior. 

Today is a perfect day to be working on a round-up post for the week. It is raining! I know, for local residents rain is no big deal. But we have seen so little of it this last year, it is a welcome sight.

Note: rain stopped about noon.

Earlier in the week we went on the three hour Apostle Island Cruise. 

It was a late afternoon trip and the weather was perfect. It had been a bit hot all day, so we looked forward to getting out on smooth Lake Superior.

We got to the dock area quite early since the plan had been to explore the shops before boarding. But there really wasn't much to see, so we wandered over to the pier and were actually the second couple in line. Other passengers arrived while we had a pleasant conversation with the first couple. They were from Wisconsin, but not quite locals.

There were quite a few sailboats out around the islands. Since the Apostle Islands are a National Park, they don't have private homes on them. There are only a few "grandfathered" homesteads left, that will go back to the park when the current owners pass away.

A popular fire proof building material, brown stone, was quarried on the islands for the rebuilding of Chicago in the 1870's. But when the Eiffel tower was completed in 1889, iron became the preferred material for the new "skyscrapers." These brown stone blocks were ready for shipment when the market for them crashed, and have been sitting here for over 100 years.

Water, wind, ice, and time.  Nature's sculpture tools.

Of the 22 islands, Devils Island has the deepest and most extensive "sea caves."


Yes, the water was this green in some places.

We also went past a couple of lighthouses and an old fish camp that are being maintained for historical reasons, and learned a lot from the captain's narrative about the islands themselves.

Finally, it was time to turn back and as the boat speed increased, we held onto our hats and faced the wind.

We had intended to get a fish fry at one of the many restaurants in town, but when we went into two, we were turned back by the large crowds of unmasked people, including the servers. We are being very careful about COVID exposure, and since we suspected that most of these people were NOT vaccinated, we opted for a nice pizza at home in the Alfa.


While on the boat we heard about a nice easy, three mile, hike on the "Lost Creek Falls" trail.

It was very pretty, and amazingly there were very few mosquitoes. Probably because it was so dry. 

There were sections of boardwalk over many parts of the trail. You could see that in wetter weather these traversed marshy places. 







Like most wooded trails, there were plenty of rocks and roots. Somehow this image does not show the steep downward slope of this and some of the other places on the trail.


Unfortunately, I have a bad knee that can suddenly become very painful while hiking. Particularly when I'm going downhill. I think it is time for a really good stabilizing brace if I want to continue trying to hike. This is the second time this summer I have gotten into a difficult situation because of it. Difficult for me, but not for 99% of other hikers!

The trail took us to the falls. I did not make it all of the way because of the incline, but Craig took a few pictures for me. This whole knee thing is a mystery to me. By the time we returned to the Jeep, on the last 1/3rd of the trail where is was smooth and level, my knee did not hurt.

I suspect woodpeckers may have been at this tree, but the odd thing was there were no other similar holes in any trees we could see. 

Also there were no holes farther up the trunk and it was quite a tall tree!


Speaking of natural oddities: Craig saw this little creature in the center of the trail.  Was he just snacking on a leaf, or was he waiting to trip up some careless hiker?

Wednesday we head back to US 2 and go southeast into the UP of Michigan. We have two more stops before arriving near Mackinaw City, reaching the end of Hwy 2. 

Check back to see more.