Category Archives: Minnesota

Minnesota Part II: Bemidji

Our second Minnesota stop was in Bemidji, in the north central part of the state. Initially we thought about driving south toward Minneapolis/ St. Paul for our second stop in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but we could not find any stellar RV parks in that area of the state. After several days of researching our options, we decided to stay on a path due west of Duluth and drive a couple of hours to Bemidji – the first city on the Mississippi. We ended up being pleased with our choice. Bemidji was a small quiet town of about 13,000 residents. The town was built on a lake so the scenery was pretty. The downtown was busy with lots of specialty shops and restaurants, there was a state park about 20 minutes away from us, and we were close to lots of trails where we could walk the dogs. The park itself was small, but quiet and clean. We only had 30 amps this time, so we had to be strategic when it came to running the washing machine, air conditioner, hot water heater, and/or microwave. We turned on the generator every morning so I could run a load of laundry. I was very grateful to the owner of the campground for allowing us to do that. Not all campgrounds allow their guests to run generators.

We didn’t take too many daytrips from this stop, but we did make a short drive to Lake Itasca. We wanted to see the headwaters of the Mississippi. Lake Itasca State Park was really beautiful, and it was fun to finally see where the Mighty Mississippi originates. The rest of our time was spent taking advantage of small town Minnesota – picking up produce at the farmer’s market, taking long walks on several state trails, shopping at the mom & pop stores, and wandering around the local art festival on Saturday morning. Mike was able to fish a couple of times and hit golf balls at a nearby driving range. It was a low key and enjoyable two weeks.

Our spot during this stop.

Our spot during this stop.

Bemidji happens to be the home town of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. They greeted us at the Visitor's Center when we walked there to pick up some tourist brochures.

Bemidji happens to be the home town of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. They greeted us at the Visitor’s Center when we walked there to pick up some tourist brochures.

What do you do when your husband starts to grill dinner and a surprise rain shower lets loose directly overhead? Bring him an umbrella and refresh his cocktail.

What do you do when your husband starts to grill dinner and a surprise rain shower lets loose directly overhead? Bring him an umbrella and refresh his cocktail.

The town of Bemidji has public art on every corner, literally. One of the themes around town was dragonflies.

The town of Bemidji has public art on every corner, literally. One of the themes around town was dragonflies.

We felt lucky to stumble upon this little musical concert at the amphitheater in Bemidji State Park after one of our afternoon walks.

We felt lucky to stumble upon this little musical concert at the amphitheater in Lake Bemidji State Park after one of our afternoon walks.

Ruttgers is a small lakeside resort on Lake Bemidji. They are only open for the summer season. The restaurant was open to non-guests and it was the only place in town that would allow Piper and Cessna to join us at the table.

Ruttgers is a small lakeside resort on Lake Bemidji. They are only open for the summer season. The restaurant was open to non-guests and it was the only place in town that would allow Piper and Cessna to join us at the table.

Our back yard at Royal Oaks RV Park.

Our back yard at Royal Oaks RV Park.

We have crossed the Mississippi River dozens of times since the beginning of our adventure. It was very interesting to finally make it to the 'starting point'.

We have crossed the Mississippi River dozens of times since the beginning of our adventure. It was very interesting to finally make it to the ‘starting point’.

The headwaters of the Mississippi River.

The headwaters of the Mississippi River.

Lake Itasca - where the Mississippi River originates.

Lake Itasca – where the Mississippi River originates.

The Mississippi River starts out as a tiny little stream.

The Mississippi River starts out as a tiny little stream.

We came across this random totem pole during an afternoon walk as we made our way through the campus of Bemidji State University.

We came across this random totem pole during an afternoon walk as we made our way through the campus of Bemidji State University.

Lake Bemidji.

Lake Bemidji.

The beautiful path where we took the dogs for long walks at Lake Bemidji State Park.

The beautiful path where we took the dogs for long walks at Lake Bemidji State Park.

The Mississippi River flows into the west side of Lake Bemidji and keeps flowing east as it leaves the other side of the lake. A short distance down its path is when it turns south toward Minneapolis.

The Mississippi River flows into the west side of Lake Bemidji and keeps flowing east as it leaves the other side of the lake. A short distance down its path is when it turns south toward Minneapolis.

We found some live music on Saturday night at the Brigid Irish Pub in downtown Bemidji.

We found some live music on Saturday night at the Brigid Irish Pub in downtown Bemidji.

Minnesota Part I: Duluth/Saginaw

We knew our drive from Marquette to Duluth would be a little longer than usual as we drove west along the shores of Lake Superior through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin until we got to our destination at Ogston’s RV Park. We had estimated it would be a little over five hours so we got an early start. (Early, as in we were ready to start the engine at 9:45 instead of 11:00 AM). We have a routine on travel days. As Mike gets ready to start the engine, pull in our slides, and disconnect our power I take the dogs for a last-minute walk. They know it is their last chance to do any business until we get to our next destination, and we are conveniently out of the way when the walls start closing in.

Mike turned the key, the engine started… and then after about 3 seconds it stopped. Hmmm, that was not part of the plan. I thought it would be best to try and be as helpful as possible, so I jumped into action, immediately revising our walking route to make our outing take twice as long. The best thing I could do for Mike while he was trouble-shooting the problem was to be invisible. We work really well together. Piper, Cessna and I walked all the roads of the campground and through some of the wooded trails. We were gone for at least 30 minutes. I figured everything would surely be all settled by the time we made it back to the Monaco. As we approached the campsite the engine was still silent and Mike was in the driver’s seat reading a manual. I continued to be helpful by keeping my mouth shut and diverting my attention on my laptop.

After all of his diagnostics were unsuccessful, Mike got on the phone and called a Cummins engine repair shop in the next town over. Lucky for us, they were able to send out a field-technician within about 45 minutes. When he arrived he hooked up a laptop to our engine and started asking it questions. Pretty soon there was lots of stinky smoke in the air. This, also was not part of our plan.  As it turns out a water-fuel separator sensor had gone out. The part was actually installed by Monaco AFTER the engine was built, so it was not critical to operating our rig. The repair man disconnected it for us, started our engine, and assured us we were good to travel. We finally pulled out of the Marquette Tourist park a little after 1PM.

The drive was fairly easy and very beautiful. We ended up arriving into the Superior/Duluth metro area right at rush-hour, but all the traffic congestion seemed to conveniently be in the opposite lanes of traffic. We found our campground with no problems and set ourselves up for our first stop in Minnesota.  The campground was small but clean and quiet. There were four small lakes on the property, and Mike was able to fish without a license since they were on private property. He was happy about that. It had been a long and stressful day, so we enjoyed our ‘first-night’ martinis and I made quesadillas for dinner. We both crashed in the bed extra early – eager to put this travel day behind us.

The city of Duluth was lots of fun. The scenery was very pretty, the people were extremely friendly, and we found lots of fun things to do on our outings. We stayed in this spot for two weeks and the only complaint I had was about the water. Brown rusty iron water is not good for drinking, cooking, cleaning, or laundry. (More details about that under my picture from the mine).

First Minnesota sunset, outside of Duluth.

First Minnesota sunset, outside of Duluth.

The dogs are happy to show the love to our driver after another safe journey from Marquette to Duluth.

The dogs are happy to show the love to our driver after another safe journey from Marquette to Duluth.

Our spot at Ogston's RV Park outside of Duluth.

Our spot at Ogston’s RV Park outside of Duluth.

The table is set for steaks and baked potatoes al fresco!

The table is set for steaks and baked potatoes al fresco!

The Hibbing Taconite Company Mine on the Masabi Iron Range is a National Historic Site. It is the 2nd largest operating open pit iron ore mine in the world. It is 8 miles long, 3.5 miles wide and 535 feet deep. Iron Ore is harvested here and pellets are transported by rail car to Duluth, where they are loaded onto ships that carry them through The Great Lakes to places like Detroit, Toledo and Cleveland, where they are used to manufacture steel.  The water at our campground was well water. There was so much iron in the water that it was brown and tasted like metal - undrinkable. I unknowingly washed a load of whites in my washing machine and ended up ruining a couple of white shirts... they look like they had been tie-dyed with brown ink. The walls and floor of my shower were also stained brown... took three days of cleaning with scrubbing bubbles before I could get it back to normal.

The Hibbing Taconite Company Mine on the Masabi Iron Range is a National Historic Site. It is the 2nd largest operating open pit iron ore mine in the world. It is 8 miles long, 3.5 miles wide and 535 feet deep. Iron Ore is harvested here and pellets are transported by rail car to Duluth, where they are loaded onto ships that carry them through The Great Lakes to places like Detroit, Toledo and Cleveland, where they are used to manufacture steel.
The water at our campground was well water. There was so much iron in the water that it was brown and tasted like metal – undrinkable. I unknowingly washed a load of whites in my washing machine and ended up ruining a couple of white shirts… they look like they had been tie-dyed with brown ink. The walls and floor of my shower were also stained brown… took three days of cleaning with scrubbing bubbles before I could get it back to normal.

The view from our beach day on Lake Superior.

The view from our beach day on Lake Superior.

We camped out at the waterline because the sand was so hot where it wasn't wet.

We camped out at the waterline because the sand was so hot where it wasn’t wet.

Park Point Beach on a skinny peninsula between Lake Superior and Superior Bay.

Park Point Beach on a skinny peninsula between Lake Superior and Superior Bay.

Geese everywhere at this park.

Geese everywhere at this park.

A shallow waterfall at Gooseberry State Park on the north shore.

A shallow waterfall at Gooseberry State Park on the north shore.

One of the waterfalls at Gooseberry State Park.

One of the waterfalls at Gooseberry State Park.

The signs at Gooseberry State Park told visitors it was not safe to swim in or near the falls. I guess lots of folks in Minnesota are unable to read.

The signs at Gooseberry State Park told visitors it was not safe to swim in or near the falls. I guess lots of folks in Minnesota are unable to read.

The Split Rock Lighthouse. I recently read a travel article somewhere titled "10 Under the Radar Attractions in the U.S.". This spot was number 9 on the list. When I read that, I made sure to plan a daytrip for us to go see for ourselves. It was certainly beautiful!

The Split Rock Lighthouse. I recently read a travel article somewhere titled “10 Under the Radar Attractions in the U.S.”. This spot was number 9 on the list. When I read that, I made sure to plan a daytrip for us to go see for ourselves. It was certainly beautiful!

Dina and Cessna exploring the Split Rock Harbor.

Dina and Cessna exploring the Split Rock Harbor.

Another view of Split Rock State Park.

Another view of Split Rock State Park.

A view from our morning walks at our campground.

A view from our morning walks at our campground.

Our view from the patio at Midi's Restaurant in the historic Fitger's complex on the east end of downtown Duluth.

Our view from the patio at Midi’s Restaurant in the historic Fitger’s complex on the east end of downtown Duluth.

Cheer's y'all!

Cheer’s y’all!

The North Shore Scenic Railroad. The tourist in me got sucked in and I paid $16 to ride the train on our last Monday in Duluth. Mike stayed home and did research to find upcoming campgrounds. I guess if I had been in charge of six kids under the age of nine it might have been more enjoyable. As it turns out I had already seen all the scenery showcased from inside the rail cars. Oh well, the trains are operated completely by volunteers, so my ticket money went to a good cause.

The North Shore Scenic Railroad. The tourist in me got sucked in and I paid $16 to ride the train on our last Monday in Duluth. Mike stayed home and did research to find upcoming campgrounds. I guess if I had been in charge of six kids under the age of nine it might have been more enjoyable. As it turns out I had already seen all the scenery showcased from inside the rail cars. Oh well, the trains are operated completely by volunteers, so my ticket money went to a good cause.

The Lake Walk is a 7.5 mile trail in the center of Duluth along the shores of Lake Superior. We walked the dogs on different portions of it and the views were always spectacular.

The Lake Walk is a 7.5 mile trail in the center of Duluth along the shores of Lake Superior. We walked the dogs on different portions of it and the views were always spectacular.

The dogs came with us to watch the Wednesday night sailboat races. Cessna found it more interesting than did Piper.

The dogs came with us to watch the Wednesday night sailboat races. Cessna found it more interesting than did Piper.

I guess one of the rules of the race it to dodge the ships coming into the harbor.

I guess one of the rules of the race it to dodge the ships coming into the harbor.

The Rose Garden in Duluth.

The Rose Garden in Duluth.

There were lots of military jets and carriers flying over the skies of our campground. Mike loved seeing them race across the sky.

There were lots of military jets and carriers flying over the skies of our campground. Mike loved seeing them race across the sky.

A selfie from a fun bar in downtown Duluth called Black Water. Is that a reference to the well water at our campground?

A selfie from a fun bar in downtown Duluth called Black Water. Is that a reference to the well water at our campground?

U.S. Coast Guard

U.S. Coast Guard

The historic Fitger's Brewery is a large complex with several restaurants and shops on several levels. Mike spotted this 'day care' in a hallway. I guess they prefer to cater to the adult crowd!

The historic Fitger’s Brewery is a large complex with several restaurants and shops on several levels. Mike spotted this ‘day care’ in a hallway. I guess they prefer to cater to the adult crowd!

Bob Dylan was born in Duluth and then his family moved to Hibbing (where the giant mine is located) when he was a young boy.

Bob Dylan was born in Duluth and then his family moved to Hibbing (where the giant mine is located) when he was a young boy.

The Duluth skyline from our afternoon cruise aboard the Vista Fleet. (It was more fun than the train ride).

The Duluth skyline from our afternoon cruise aboard the Vista Fleet. (It was more fun than the train ride).

This ship is 1,000 feet long. It is loaded down with iron ore and heading out of the harbor to makes its way across Lake Superior. It has so much cargo that the vessel reaches down another 28 feet under the water.

This ship is 1,000 feet long. It is loaded down with iron ore and heading out of the harbor to makes its way across Lake Superior. It has so much cargo that the vessel reaches down another 28 feet under the water.

The lift bridge in Duluth connects the Canal Park area to the Park Point Peninsula. Vehicles and pedestrians cross the bridge when it is down. It lifts when boats and ships need to pass under it.

The lift bridge in Duluth connects the Canal Park area to the Park Point Peninsula. Vehicles and pedestrians cross the bridge when it is down. It lifts when boats and ships need to pass under it.

Another draw bridge in the Canal Park area.

Another draw bridge in the Canal Park area.

Last year we were in Washington D.C. on July 4th. This year we were in Duluth, MN.

Last year we were in Washington D.C. on July 4th. This year we were in Duluth, MN.

A view of Duluth and Superior (WI) at night.

A view of Duluth and Superior (WI) at night.

We drugged Cessna with Benedryl so she could make it through the fireworks. Piper, on the other hand, was ready for the action!

We drugged Cessna with Benedryl so she could make it through the fireworks. Piper, on the other hand, was ready for the action!

Waiting for dark to come so we could watch the fireworks from a scenic spot along the Skyline Parkway in Duluth. They say it was the largest fireworks display in all of Minnesota.

Waiting for dark to come so we could watch the fireworks from a scenic spot along the Skyline Parkway in Duluth. They say it was the largest fireworks display in all of Minnesota.

We enjoyed a view of Duluth's harbor while we waited for the fireworks.

We enjoyed a view of Duluth’s harbor while we waited for the fireworks.

Interstate 35 starts in Duluth and goes south all the way to Laredo, Texas. When the city planned to construct the highway through downtown Duluth, it was originally intended to be four stories tall. The citizens were concerned that the highway would ruin the view from the city (which has a footprint that climbs up a steep hill from the lakeshore). The local folks nixed the original plans and reworked the design so that a tunnel allowed cars to pass through downtown - preserving the view. This mosaic mural depicts the history of the city as the highway runs parallel to the Lake walk. There are cars traveling at 60 miles an hour on the other side of that concrete wall.

Interstate 35 starts in Duluth and goes south all the way to Laredo, Texas. When the city planned to construct the highway through downtown Duluth, it was originally intended to be four stories tall. The citizens were concerned that the highway would ruin the view from the city (which has a footprint that climbs up a steep hill from the lakeshore). The local folks nixed the original plans and reworked the design so that a tunnel allowed cars to pass through downtown – preserving the view. This mosaic mural depicts the history of the city as the highway runs parallel to the Lake walk. There are cars traveling at 60 miles an hour on the other side of that concrete wall.

Part of Duluth's Lake Walk.

Part of Duluth’s Lake Walk.

A marina across the channel from Canal Park.

A marina across the channel from Canal Park.

The view from our front window at Ogston's RV Park.

The view from our front window at Ogston’s RV Park.