Nowhere in Particular, Minnesota

July 3, 2015 Categories Camper Van, Road Trips, Travel, USA

Today was the best day. We didn’t follow the “plan” at all and ended up having a blast without even trying. It began this morning after leaving the Walmart we camped at last night and headed off in the direction of Duluth, Minnesota. After driving for maybe 30 minutes, at most, we stumbled across a McDonald’s and decided it was time to get us some Internets done. Adela made the mistake of clicking “Update” on her iPhone and the Internet connection was too slow to actually update, so her phone was in a limbo mode for the next few hours until we hit Duluth and were able to find a Starbucks that had significantly faster Internet.

We were trying to decide the best route to take and still be able to see a good fireworks display for the Fouth of July. The original plan was to go to Voyegers National Park in upper Minnesota to do a couple hiking trails and from there head towards Fargo, North Dakota. We decided there was just no way to get up that far North, do the hikes, and then drive somewhere to a town large enough to have a decent fireworks show. Instead, we just headed for Fargo and didn’t have a plan to do anything along the way. Litte did we know it would turn out to be the best day of the trip so far.

From Duluth, we drove Highway 2 until it connected to Highway 200 and then we followed that. Most, if not all, of Highway 200 passes through the Chippewa National Forest. Along the way, we came across a small town called Remer and a really interesting looking building called The Rusty Bucket (205 East Main St, Remer, MN – go there!). The building had a large, metal roof that arced from the ground all the way up and then back down to the ground on the other side, forming a half cylinder laying down. It was, of course, a little rusty. On the outside was a giant fish made of bicycle rims and a toilet seat mouth with spikey teeth, as well as cool signs indicating it was filled with antiques, art, and other fun and interesting things. We drove by and decided we HAD to turn around and check it out. Boy, was that a great choice. It had a lot of cool things inside, one of which was an old door knocker with a rooster on it and I decided I had to have it for the van (which is now named Henrietta, by the way). Adela pointed out a very old, very large birthday card with an old man on the front and it said “They say if you give up smoking, drinking, and sex, you might live to be a hundred… if you can call that living!” Inside were a bunch of funny, one line stories someone had written and signed “Love, Carol”. Being that Adela had decided my “spirit animal” was an old man (because I mentioned how I like stories with grumpy old men), I had to get the card. For $1, it was a pretty cool find. Adela found an awesome little guitar and a “bandana”. As simple as it may sound, this shop had made our day and was extremely delightful to come across; not to mention how the owners seemed to enjoy our commentary as we walked around the store checking things out.

We continued West on Highway 200 until we reached Highway 34. Eventually we passed a sign for Paul Bunyan State Park and I mentioned how the Paul Bunyan folklore is pretty huge in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and that they even have large statues representing him and his ox, Babe. We pulled off to the side of the road just as we started entering a little town called Akeley and were looking up where the nearest Paul Bunyan statue was. While parked on the side of the street, we looked up to notice a building across the road with a “Musical Jamboree”. This building was the Woodtick Musical Theatre. We were immediately interested and went inside to inquire about prices. It was only $17.50 per adult ticket, which we thought was a fair price, and the lady at the counter told us about a Paul Bunyan statue just two blocks down the road! We were stoked. We had an hour before the show started, so we set off to the statue to get a couple pics before hand. On our way to the statue we passed a really cool painting of Babe, the blue ox, on the front of a building and shortly after there was a sign painted on the side of a building that said “No Standing, Dancing Only”. We played Eye of the Tiger as Adela showed off her slick dance moves, which seemed to be overly enjoyed by a group of bikers who were passing at the exact moment and gave some honks of enthusiasm.

Less than a block away was a tree stump with what looked like an elephant trunk of a limb still attached and two blue bowling balls on chains bolted to the top of this “trunk”. Needless to say, some jokes were made. Eventually we reached the statue and took pictures.

Anywho, back to the Woodtick Theatre we went. The show was absolutely amazing. Seriously. If you ever go through Minnesota or even anywhere near it, make a stop in Akeley at the Woodtick Theatre and see their show (44 Broadway St E, Akeley, MN; 1-218-652-4200; woodtick-theater.com). Great music, great stories, lots of laughs, and over two hours of entertainment for less than $20. Adela even got a free button (the kind you pin on). We stayed after and got signatures and told them how much we loved the show. It was just an amazing, unplanned event that wouldn’t have even happened if we didn’t deviate from “the plan”.

We drove another 20 minutes and are camping out in a Walmart parking lot again tonight. Tomorrow we should hit Fargo and will be spending the day there doing who knows what and to watch whatever fireworks show they’re doing that night.

Porcupine Mountains State Park, Michigan

July 2, 2015 Categories Camper Van, Road Trips, Travel, USA

Our camp out at the random casino last night worked out great and we were undisturbed the entire night. It was a very comfortable sleep, though it did get a little chilly at some point during the night. We hit the road around 10am and headed for the Porcupine Mountains State Park, right off the shore of Lake Superior. We got in the area a little after 11am and stopped along the beach to relax for a bit and have lunch.

After a stop off at the visitor center, we drove up to the Lake of the Clouds, another seven miles up the road. There’s a really nice scenic overlook about 300 feet from the parking lot. I snapped a few photos of the lake and then we headed out to hike part of the Escarpment Trail that follows the ridge along the lake. We only hiked about an hour before stopping on a cliff on the opposite end of the lake. I think we sat there for a good 45 minutes just staring out at the forest and the water, enjoying the view, and talking about completely random nonsense. Eventually, we hiked back to the van.

There’s only one campsite in the park with modern facilities and we took it upon ourselves to stop over and use the showers. We’d paid the $9 for the daily “Recreation Passport” and figured we’d get the most out of it. It was a nice way to cool off after the hike.

We ended the day by driving to the opposite end of the park to look at Manabezho Falls, which ended up not being as impressive as the post card at the visitor center. It was still cool to see a waterfall two days in a row.

We’re camping out in a Walmart parking lot tonight, so we’ll see how that goes.

Ottawa National Forest, Michigan

July 1, 2015 Categories Camper Van, Road Trips, Travel, USA

We’re currently in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula checking out the Ottawa National Forest and a couple state parks. We were gonna do Isle Royale National Park, but it turns out the ferry ride to the island is like $120 per person, plus $4 per day to be on the island. I have no intentions of spending close to $300 just to visit ONE National Park on a list of many. I’m trying to conserve my pesos, man.

This morning started a little slow getting the last little bit of things loaded up into the van, as well as fixing/modifying some things that I noticed yesterday after driving a little with the drawers fully loaded. When I built the drawers, I bought drawer slides that have the soft-close feature which make them a little more difficult to open for the first inch, as they have to pop the soft-close springy thingy (technical term) in place. Well, with the full weight of food in the drawers it just wasn’t enough to keep the drawers shut going around corners. So, simple fix, I just bought the same door latch clippy things (another highly technical term) I bought for the cabinet doors and mounted it to the inside, top of the drawers. We drove all day today and they held up great. One of the other last minute add-ons was buying a cheap bathroom door mirror from Walmart (like, $5) and attaching it horizontally across the top of the kitchen sink area to use as a mirror for shaving (trimming), brushing teeth, or whatever. I also bought a small, wicked sweet rooster chalk board and mounted that up.

It was around noon by the time we actually hit the road. It took us about five hours to get up to Michigan from where I live in Wisconsin, and that’s including a stop to pick up some extra stuff along the way. We ended the day by checking out Bond Falls State Park inside the Ottawa National Forest. I’ve never heard of it before, but it is a pretty kick ass waterfall. There’s not much of a trail to get to it, but there’s a very nice walkway that goes all the way around it. We spent over an hour there walking the entire thing and I ended up taking over 100 photos, most of which I won’t be posting since a lot of them are similar.

We left the park and camped out at Lac Vieux Desert Resort Casino for the night. Seemed like a good place to stop where we wouldn’t be bothered. Today is the first time cooking in the van, and it went better than I was expecting. Because I’m using the counter top that covers the stove to put things on, I did have to clear it off and temporarily place everything on the bed, but since it doesn’t take too long to cook, it wasn’t that much of a bother.

As I’m sitting here right now, it’s honestly very easy to forget that you’re in a van. I feel like I’m just sitting in my bed at home; it’s surprisingly comfortable in here.