South Dakota Part II: Mitchell

Our second stop in South Dakota was brief. Mike found a municipal campground on a lake in the small town of Mitchell, on I-90 about 60 miles west of Sioux Falls. The price was fairly reasonable, and he could fish… so we booked a reservation.  We only stayed in Mitchell for one week. Aside from fishing, talking walks around the lake, visiting the Corn Palace, and making a daytrip to Sioux Falls, there wasn’t too much to do. The park was small, quiet and clean. We spent a lot of time just relaxing after our busy time in Rapid City. Mike also worked on the coach a little bit – doing some washing and other cleaning. The weather was nice and pleasant the whole time, so it was a nice stop on our tour.

Mike's fishing spot on Lake Mitchell. This is why he booked a week for us here at this campground. (That, and the prices was cheap).

Mike’s fishing spot on Lake Mitchell. This is why he booked a week for us here at this campground. (That, and the prices was cheap).

Falls Park in Sioux Falls. Very impressive.

Falls Park in Sioux Falls. Very impressive.

A selfie at Sioux Falls.

A selfie at Sioux Falls.

The Sioux Falls Courthouse Museum. Construction on the County's first courthouse began in 1889. It is constructed of native Sioux Quartzite Stone.

The Sioux Falls Courthouse Museum. Construction on the County’s first courthouse began in 1889. It is constructed of native Sioux Quartzite Stone.

Downtown Sioux Falls has lots of public art sculptures placed randomly along the sidewalks and other public spaces.

Downtown Sioux Falls has lots of public art sculptures placed randomly along the sidewalks and other public spaces.

Downtown Sioux Falls was very clean. The historic buildings were well-maintained and the landscaping along the sidewalks was very lush.

Downtown Sioux Falls was very clean. The historic buildings were well-maintained and the landscaping along the sidewalks was very lush.

The World's Only Corn Palace. They call it ear-chitecture. 120 years old. The theme changes every year. "They" grow six different colors of corn in separate fields so the hues are not combined. Then they prepare a color-by-number design and start filling in the blanks by affixing ears of corn to the exterior of the building. As you can see, the 2015 theme is American Pride.

The World’s Only Corn Palace. They call it ear-chitecture. Get it? 120 years old. The theme changes every year. “They” grow six different colors of corn in separate fields so the hues are not combined. Then they prepare a color-by-number design and start filling in the blanks by affixing ears of corn to the exterior of the building. As you can see, the 2015 theme is American Pride. They are still working on the left panel, and Willie isn’t completely finished either.

While we were in town, there was a National Indoor Bull Riding Competition at the Corn Palace. This photo was taken after the event, they are cleaning the floors after they were covered in dirt. All of murals on the walls are also made of corn and change each year!

While we were in town, there was a National Indoor Bull Riding Competition at the Corn Palace. This photo was taken after the event, they are cleaning the floors after they were covered in dirt. All of the murals on the walls are also made of corn and change each year!

Inside the Corn Palace. The interior columns are covered in mosaic tiles intended to resemble shucked corn cobs.

Inside the Corn Palace. The interior columns are covered in mosaic tiles intended to resemble shucked corn cobs.

The side of the Corn Palace building.

The side of the Corn Palace building.

The Missouri River.

The Missouri River. We crossed it on our way to Mitchell from Rapid City.

A view of Lake Mitchell from our campground.

A view of Lake Mitchell from our campground.

Our spot, #4. Luckily there weren't too many other registered guests during our stay, so we got to park our car in the adjacent spot for the whole week we were there.

Our spot, #4. Luckily there weren’t too many other registered guests during our stay, so we got to park our car in the adjacent spot for the whole week we were there. We couldn’t park the Honda in front of our rig because the spot was too short.

There was a hiking / biking trail around Lake Mitchell that was accessible from our campground. It was a great place to take the dogs on their walk.

There was a hiking / biking trail around Lake Mitchell that was accessible from our campground. It was a great place to take the dogs on their walk.

South Dakota Part I: Rapid City

When we left Miles City, Montana, we traveled south on Highway 59 and east on Hwy 212 until we hit I-90 to the west of Rapid City. It was an easy drive because the roads were practically deserted. The view of vast brown grassy plains and the wide open sky remained a constant for most of the drive. The highlight of the excursion was seeing the antelope. We must have seen 100 or more pronghorn antelope near the road and across the lands through which we drove.

We stayed at the KOA in Rapid City, which is on the northeast part of town. It was a fairly large campground and it stayed very busy. Most of the guests were travelers just making overnight stops. There were only a few campers like us who were there for extended stays. In our case we were in Rapid City for a total of two weeks. The reason Mike selected this campground for us was because they also had deluxe cabins and we had reserved one for his parents!

A few months ago, Mike had coordinated schedules with his folks and they had planned a trip to fly out to South Dakota and visit us for a week. It was time to get settled in and complete some final preparations for our family reunion! We spent a couple of days doing some deep cleaning, grocery shopping, cooking, and outfitting their cabin with sheets, towels, pillows, and treats for the kitchenette. We finally picked up my in-laws at the airport on Thursday evening.

The Martins had actually lived in Rapid City when they were freshly married and new parents. Mike was a tiny baby. His brother, Pat, was born in Rapid City. They moved here because my father-in-law had gotten a job working with the Minute Man Missile Project near Ellsworth AFB. On several occasions during our visit, they both remarked that Rapid City was the favorite place they lived in all of their years together. It was so much fun to spend time with them in a place that held so many fond memories for them.

Our week together was jam packed with road trips, FOOD, football, and relaxing. We packed a ton of action into those 7 days, and enjoyed every second of them. Since the Martins made the effort to come out and see us on The Lower 48 in 48 Tour, it just might be one of my favorite stops on the entire trip! I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story.

This is what our drive from Montana to South Dakota looked like.

This is what our drive from Montana to South Dakota looked like.

This was a very busy KOA. The lines for afternoon check-in were pretty long on some days.

This was a very busy KOA. The lines for afternoon check-in were pretty long on some days.

The Martin's cabin was directly across the street from our rig. It was the perfect set up!

The Martin’s cabin was directly across the street from our rig. It was the perfect set up!

A view of our spot at the KOA in Rapid City. We were in #120.

A view of our spot at the KOA in Rapid City. We were in #120.

The Farmer's Market in Rapid City had a little bit of everything: produce, jellies, jams, salsas, flowers and food trucks! For breakfast I had a sandwich of brie, apples and nuts melted between two slices of cranberry bread from the melted cheese sandwich truck.

The Farmer’s Market in Rapid City had a little bit of everything: produce, jellies, jams, salsas, flowers and food trucks! For breakfast I had a sandwich of brie, apples and nuts melted between two slices of cranberry bread from the melted cheese sandwich truck.

This eagle sculpture is at Founder's Park in Rapid City. It is dedicated to two fallen officers. I thought it was very beautiful.

This eagle sculpture is at Founder’s Park in Rapid City. It is dedicated to two fallen officers. I thought it was very beautiful.

Inside the cute little cabin where Mike's folks stayed during their visit.

Inside the cute little cabin where Mike’s folks stayed during their visit.

Cessna helped my mother-in-law and me keep a lookout for pretty vistas to photograph during our drive through the Black Hills.

Cessna helped my mother-in-law and me keep a lookout for pretty vistas to photograph during our drive through the Black Hills.

We asked my father-in-law to name the first thing he wanted to do after they got to Rapid City. The answer: hit the casinos in Deadwood! We started at Cadillac Jacks and then moved the car to the middle of downtown. After stopping into some of the local shops, we finished gambling at the Silverado. Before driving home we enjoyed the crab and prime rib at the Silverado Grant Buffet.

We asked my father-in-law to name the first thing he wanted to do after they got to Rapid City. The answer: hit the casinos in Deadwood! We started at Cadillac Jacks and then moved the car to the middle of downtown. After stopping into some of the local shops, we finished gambling at the Silverado. Before driving home we enjoyed the crab and prime rib at the Silverado Grant Buffet.

The historic city of Deadwood is in the middle of the Black Hills National Forest. The natural beauty of mountains and trees provide a wonderful backdrop for the historic buildings and colorful characters up and down Main Street.

The historic city of Deadwood is in the middle of the Black Hills National Forest. The natural beauty of mountains and trees provide a wonderful backdrop for the historic buildings and colorful characters up and down Main Street.

Deadwood was a prosperous mining town in the late 1870's... until the gold played out. The population of the town had dwindled from 20,000 at its peak to 2,035 residents by the end of the 19th century. To add insult to injury, a devastating fire nearly destroyed what was left of the local economy in 1959. The entire city was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961, but the community was still on the brink of extinction. By the 1980's Deadwood could not generate enough tax revenue to maintain basic city services. When South Dakota passed a constitutional amendment to allow limited -stakes gambling in Deadwood in 1989, everything changed. Now gaming revenue has allowed the community to transform itself into an old-west entertainment mecca.

Deadwood was a prosperous mining town in the late 1870’s… until the gold played out. The population of the town had dwindled from 20,000 at its peak to 2,035 residents by the end of the 19th century. To add insult to injury, a devastating fire nearly destroyed what was left of the local economy in 1959. The entire city was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961, but the community was still on the brink of extinction. By the 1980’s Deadwood could not generate enough tax revenue to maintain basic city services. When South Dakota passed a constitutional amendment to allow limited -stakes gambling in Deadwood in 1989, everything changed. Now gaming revenue has allowed the community to transform itself into an old-west entertainment mecca.

I'll let you fill in your own caption for this photo.

I’ll let you fill in your own caption for this photo.

Custer State Park has driving trails, hiking trails, lodges, camping areas, and cabins. Visitors can see the park on foot, from a car, from a canoe, from a bicycle, or while on a guided tour. Several of the lodges even have shopping and dining. It would be a wonderful place for a family vacation... during the warmer months of the year.

Custer State Park has driving trails, hiking trails, lodges, camping areas, and cabins. Visitors can see the park on foot, from a car, from a canoe, from a bicycle, or while on a guided tour. Several of the lodges even have shopping and dining. It would be a wonderful place for a family vacation… during the warmer months of the year.

Custer State Park is 71,000 acres big. The four of us drove Wildlife Loop Road looking for buffalo, pronghorn and prairie dogs. I'm happy to report spot all three!

Custer State Park is 71,000 acres big. The four of us drove Wildlife Loop Road looking for buffalo, pronghorn and prairie dogs. I’m happy to report spot all three!

Antelope posing for the tourist cameras in Custer State Park.

Antelope posing for the tourist cameras in Custer State Park.

Donkeys in Custer State Park.

Burros in Custer State Park.

Another view from Mt. Coolidge. It is hard to see, but if you look just to the right of the middle of this photo, you will see a mountain top that has less trees than any other. That is actually the Crazy Horse Memorial. The mission of the sculpture is to protect and preserve the culture, tradition and living heritage of the North American Indians. It is so gigantic, one can see it from miles away!

Another view from Mt. Coolidge. It is hard to see, but if you look just to the right of the middle of this photo, you will see a mountain top that has less trees than any other. That is actually the Crazy Horse Memorial. The mission of the sculpture is to protect and preserve the culture, tradition and living heritage of the North American Indians. It is so gigantic, one can see it from miles away!

A park ranger at Custer State Park suggested we drive to the top of Mount Coolidge and see the views from the firetower. We were really happy he gave us that advice because we would not have known to turn left at the base of the mountain without his help. The steep single lane gravel road was not too much fun to traverse, but I wasn't driving, and the outcome was amazing!

A park ranger at Custer State Park suggested we drive to the top of Mount Coolidge and see the views from the firetower. We were really happy he gave us that advice because we would not have known to turn left at the base of the mountain without his help. The steep single lane gravel road was not too much fun to traverse, but I wasn’t driving, and the outcome was amazing!

A lone bison grazing in Custer State Park.

A lone bison grazing in Custer State Park.

When I snapped this photo, we didn't realized we would actually be driving in the middle of those crazy rocks within about 15 minutes.

When I snapped this photo, we didn’t realized we would actually be driving in the middle of those crazy rocks within about 15 minutes.

Do you see what I mean when I say these rocks look like drizzled sand castles?

Do you see what I mean when I say these rocks look like drizzled sand castles?

One of the most spectacular sections of Custer State Park was the Cathedral Spires area. From a distance the rock formations looked like wet sand had been drizzled into shape with no regard to shape or pattern. Up close it looked like the surface of another planet. I kept expecting Captain James T. Kirk to jump out from behind a rock and rescue our car for a safe return back to our own home galaxy.

One of the most spectacular sections of Custer State Park was the Cathedral Spires area. From a distance the rock formations looked like wet sand had been drizzled into shape with no regard to form or pattern. Up close it looked like the surface of another planet. I kept expecting Captain James T. Kirk to jump out from behind a rock and rescue our car for a safe return back to our own home galaxy.

Making our way through a "tunnel" in the Needles Eye section of Custer State Park.

Making our way through a “tunnel” in the Needles Eye section of Custer State Park.

On the way to the best viewing platform at the base of Mount Rushmore, visitors get to walk through an archway of all of the state flags. Very festive.

On the way to the best viewing platform at the base of Mount Rushmore, visitors get to walk through an archway of all of the state flags. Very festive.

I cannot talk about this stop on the Lower 48 in 48 Tour without posting a photograph of this iconic American sculpture.

I cannot talk about this stop on the Lower 48 in 48 Tour without posting a photograph of this iconic American sculpture.

Family picture at Mount Rushmore.

Family picture at Mount Rushmore.

We had a great time exploring this region of South Dakota, but when the weekend arrived, it was time for football!

We had a great time exploring this region of South Dakota, but when the weekend arrived, it was time for football!

Our KOA campground sat high up on a bluff, so we had a nice view of the Rapid City area.

Our KOA campground sat high up on a bluff, so we had a nice view of the Rapid City area.

The four of us spent one day driving through Badlands National Park. Paleontologist Thaddeus Culbertson has this reaction to the mysterious region, "Fancy yourself on the hottest day in summer in the hottest spot of such a place without water - without an animal and scarce an insect astir - without a single flower to speak pleasant things to you and you will have some idea of the utter loneliness of the Bad Lands".

The four of us spent one day driving through Badlands National Park. Paleontologist Thaddeus Culbertson has this reaction to the mysterious region, “Fancy yourself on the hottest day in summer in the hottest spot of such a place without water – without an animal and scarce an insect astir – without a single flower to speak pleasant things to you and you will have some idea of the utter loneliness of the Bad Lands”.

The Badlands Visitor Center near Interior, SD has a wonderful exhibit that focuses on the cultural history, prairie ecology, and paleontology of the White River Badlands. They also have a book store, a theater featuring the film "Land of Stone and Light", and a gift shop.

The Badlands Visitor Center near Interior, SD has a wonderful exhibit that focuses on the cultural history, prairie ecology, and paleontology of the White River Badlands. They also have a book store, a theater featuring the film “Land of Stone and Light”, and a gift shop.

Of the rock formations in the Badlands, early explorer Dr. John Evans once described them as "some magnificent city of the dead, where the labor and genius of forgotten nations had left behind them a multitude of monuments of art and skill".

Of the rock formations in the Badlands, early explorer Dr. John Evans once described them as “some magnificent city of the dead, where the labor and genius of forgotten nations had left behind them a multitude of monuments of art and skill”.

The South Dakota Badlands. Wow. For the Lakota the place was 'mako sica'. Early French trappers called the area 'les mauvaises terres a traverser'. "Bad Lands".

The South Dakota Badlands. Wow. For the Lakota the place was ‘mako sica’. Early French trappers called the area ‘les mauvaises terres a traverser’. “Bad Lands”.

Wall Drug Store is a icon of the South Dakota Badlands. The place is so big it comes with its own map! Albeit it was in the middle of nowhere, a young pharmacist and his wife purchased the business in 1931. When business was slow, his wife had the idea of offering free water and coffee to travelers on the nearby highway. Once she gave passersby something to stop for, their business took off. Now, almost 85 years later, the business is a bona fide tourist attraction.

Wall Drug Store is an icon of the South Dakota Badlands. The place is so big it comes with its own map! Albeit it was in the middle of nowhere, a young pharmacist and his wife purchased the business in 1931. When business was slow, his wife had the idea of offering free water and coffee to travelers on the nearby highway. Once she gave passersby something to stop for, their business took off. Now, almost 85 years later, the business is a bona fide tourist attraction.

Inside the world famous Wall Drug Store.

Inside the world famous Wall Drug Store.

Stained glass above the entrance to Wall Drug Store. I love stained glass.

Stained glass above the entrance to Wall Drug Store. I love stained glass.

Mike and his dad spotted few turkeys on their route to the fishing lake.

Mike and his dad spotted a few turkeys on their route to the fishing lake.

Some of downtown Rapid City's skyline.

Some of downtown Rapid City’s skyline.

The four of us took a nice stroll through downtown before dinner at Delmonico Grille one evening. My father-in-law treated us to dinner and each of us enjoyed our selections immensely!

The four of us took a nice stroll through downtown before dinner at Delmonico Grille one evening. My father-in-law treated us to dinner and each of us enjoyed our selections immensely!

My favorite store in Rapid City. Several stories of art, jewelry, blankets, clothes, pottery, beads, furniture, and more.

My favorite store in Rapid City. Several stories of art, jewelry, blankets, clothes, pottery, beads, furniture, and more.

Two beautiful historic buildings and the second mural at Firehouse Brewing Company.

Two beautiful historic buildings and the second mural at Firehouse Brewing Company.

Rapid City had a downtown alley where graffiti ruled.

Rapid City had a downtown alley where graffiti ruled.

We spotted an unlucky elk on the way home from dinner.

We spotted an unlucky elk on the way home from dinner.

We got so lucky when we visited the South Dakota Air and Space Museum! The B1B Lancer was doing 'touch-and-goes'. The Air Force Runway was very close to the museum building. It raced by us jetting into the sky so fast, it was almost impossible to get a good photograph. And loud. It was incredibly loud. The power of the whole machine at full throttle erupted through my core and I shuddered when it was nothing but a speck in the clouds.

We got so lucky when we visited the South Dakota Air and Space Museum! The B1B Lancer was doing ‘touch-and-goes’. The Air Force Runway was very close to the museum building. It raced by us jetting into the sky so fast, it was almost impossible to get a good photograph. And loud. It was incredibly loud. The power of the whole machine at full throttle erupted through my core and I shuddered when it was nothing but a speck in the clouds.

B1B Lancer. Big. Loud. Fast. The wings sweep back for 'cruise flight'. They also extend out for take offs and landings.

B1B Lancer. Big. Loud. Fast. The wings sweep back for ‘cruise flight’. They also extend out for take offs and landings.

When Mike's parents lived in Rapid City about 53 years ago, it was because W.D. was working on the Minute Man Missile project. He really got a kick out of being back to see about it all over again.

When Mike’s parents lived in Rapid City about 53 years ago, it was because W.D. was working on the Minute Man Missile project. He really got a kick out of being back to see about it all over again.

The four of us visited the South Dakota Air and Space Museum outside the gate of Ellsworth AFB, to the northeast of Rapid City. Admission was free! Mike and his Dad especially enjoyed this outing. The exhibits were very informative and they had several aircraft parked outside the museum for display.

The four of us visited the South Dakota Air and Space Museum outside the gate of Ellsworth AFB, to the northeast of Rapid City. Admission was free! Mike and his Dad especially enjoyed this outing. The exhibits were very informative and they had several aircraft parked outside the museum for display.

The KOA where we stayed had a very nice pool and hot tub. Unfortunately we only got use it once. They drained it to prepare for winter about mid-way through our stay there.

The KOA where we stayed had a very nice pool and hot tub. Unfortunately we only got use it once. They drained it to prepare for winter about mid-way through our stay there.

Mikey gathers wood for the fire.

Mikey gathers wood for the fire.

What is a camping trip without a campfire? And yes... we DID have s'mores for dessert.

What is a camping trip without a campfire? And yes… we DID have s’mores for dessert.

An eagle that Mike spotted while fishing one morning.

An eagle that Mike spotted while fishing one morning.

Mike and his dad went fishing at a nearby lake one morning. They returned to camp to report there were no fish in the lake.

Mike and his dad went fishing at a nearby lake one morning. They returned to camp to report there were no fish in the lake.

Rapid Creek runs through the middle of Rapid City. The city has created a wonderful walking trail that runs parallel to the creek. There are many relaxing green spaces all over the community.

Rapid Creek runs through the middle of Rapid City. The city has created a wonderful walking trail that runs parallel to the creek. There are many relaxing green spaces all over the community.

There were two beautiful murals on the walls of an outside patio at Firehouse Brewing Company in downtown Rapid City. This one was the most vibrant.

There were two beautiful murals on the walls of an outside patio at Firehouse Brewing Company in downtown Rapid City. This one was the most vibrant.

Selfie on the rooftop.

Selfie on the rooftop.

We had a few extra days in Rapid City after Mike's folks flew back to Dallas, so we went on a Friday evening pub crawl in downtown Rapid City. We found this rooftop bar at Que Pasa Mexican Cantina and decide to have dinner while we watched the big moon rise over the other rooftops in the Central Business District. We were surprised to find the Mexican food to be pretty good too! (Let's just say I have never had an enchilada prepared in a flour tortilla, pan grilled and then served with no sauce... but it was pretty tasty)!

We had a few extra days in Rapid City after Mike’s folks flew back to Dallas, so we went on a Friday evening pub crawl in downtown Rapid City. We found this rooftop bar at Que Pasa Mexican Cantina and decide to have dinner while we watched the big moon rise over the other rooftops in the Central Business District. We were surprised to find the Mexican food to be pretty good too! (Let’s just say I have never had an enchilada prepared in a flour tortilla, pan grilled and then served with no sauce… but it was pretty tasty)!

Rapid City has a Scandinavian Chapel in the Hills that is an exact replica of the Borgund Stavkirke built about 1150 and located near Laerdal, Norway. The Rapid City Chapel was built with the permission of and architectural drawings supplied by the Norwegian government. The intricate woodwork was carved by a master carver in Norway and shipped here. It was completed and opened in 1969, and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Its original purpose was as the home of the "Lutheran Vespers" radio program.

Rapid City has a Scandinavian Chapel in the Hills that is an exact replica of the Borgund Stavkirke built about 1150 and located near Laerdal, Norway. The Rapid City Chapel was built with the permission of and architectural drawings supplied by the Norwegian government. The intricate woodwork was carved by a master carver in Norway and shipped here. It was completed and opened in 1969, and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Its original purpose was as the home of the “Lutheran Vespers” radio program.

When the American Lutheran Church moved the radio program to Minneapolis in 1975, the building and grounds were left with no support, and its future was uncertain. A Non-Profit organization was established to protect the chapel. The Chapel in the Hills has no congregation and receives no funding from local, synod, or national church organizations. Funding for the operation comes exclusively from donations, wedding fees (wouldn't THAT be a beautiful place for a wedding), and gift shop sales revenue. I found the church and the surrounding gardens to be a beautiful and tranquil spot tucked into a quiet neighborhood. I'm glad I stopped by, but couldn't linger too long because a wedding was scheduled for 1PM. I didn't see the bride, but all the guys wore tuxes that had camo fabric on the lapels and cuffs of their suits! Their 'look' was quite the juxtaposition against this ancient and intricate backdrop!

When the American Lutheran Church moved the radio program to Minneapolis in 1975, the building and grounds were left with no support, and its future was uncertain. A Non-Profit organization was established to protect the chapel. The Chapel in the Hills has no congregation and receives no funding from local, synod, or national church organizations. Funding for the operation comes exclusively from donations, wedding fees (wouldn’t THAT be a beautiful place for a wedding), and gift shop sales revenue.
I found the church and the surrounding gardens to be a beautiful and tranquil spot tucked into a quiet neighborhood. I’m glad I stopped by, but couldn’t linger too long because a wedding was scheduled for 1PM. I didn’t see the bride, but all the guys wore tuxes that had camo fabric on the lapels and cuffs of their suits! Their ‘look’ was quite the juxtaposition against this ancient and intricate backdrop!

I understand this is not a good photo (the iphone camera can only do so much), but we had a nice skyline view of Rapid City from our campground at night. Lots of lights twinkling off in the distance.

I understand this is not a good photo (the iphone camera can only do so much), but we had a nice skyline view of Rapid City from our campground at night. Lots of lights twinkling off in the distance.

Rapid City is known as the City of Presidents. On each corner in their downtown sits a bronze statue of one of our U.S. Presidents. I thought it would be fun to find the statues of the presidents who were in office when we were born and take our pictures with them. Here I am with fellow Texan LBJ.

Rapid City is known as the City of Presidents. On each corner in their downtown sits a bronze statue of one of our U.S. Presidents. I thought it would be fun to find the statues of the presidents who were in office when we were born and take our pictures with them. Here I am with fellow Texan LBJ.

We found JFK, but Mike thought it was a stupid idea.

We found JFK, but Mike thought it was a stupid idea.

Montana Part I: Miles City

Our route planning for The Lower 48 in 48 Tour is typically pretty loose. This means we have a general direction in which we want to proceed but we don’t make reservations in specific campgrounds too far in advance. This way we can be flexible as we make our way through the country. The general rules are: north in the summers, south in the winters, from east to west. After that, we make it up as we go. In keeping with the North- in- the- summers, south- in- the- winters concept, our general idea had always been to turn south from North Dakota and start our way down through South Dakota, Nebraska, etc. After Mike started studying the map and the calendar, he decided to swing a little farther west when we left North Dakota. It was still September, so the weather was likely to hold out for a while longer before winter started to set in. Montana is a big state with diverse terrain ranging from mountains to plains.  The eastern part of the state is a vast land of grassy plains flanked with a rich native American history. We expect to spend some time next summer in the western part of Montana, but we wanted to see what the other part of the state was like too. We decided to put South Dakota on the back burner for a couple of weeks and visit Miles City. This historic western town had plenty of Indian history along with a proud heritage of cowboys, agriculture and livestock. Plus, Mike could dove hunt for free on public lands… during the times he wasn’t fishing.

Miles City is a legendary western town at he confluence of the Tongue and Yellowstone Rivers. In 1876 Col. Nelson Miles built a Cantonment in the area as a base for battle against hostile Indians in the area. As a result of the military installation, merchants and bar owners started sprouting up to service the soldiers. As the area began to expand with settlers, the soldiers began building Fort Keogh two miles from the original site. Here, many of the free Indians, weary of battle with cavalrymen, would surrender to Col. Miles and accept the reservation lifestyle. Miles City is in Custer County. No coincidence. Custer camped in Miles City only weeks prior to his death 135 miles away in the Battle of Little Big Horn.

We stayed at a KOA Campground. It was small, but nice, clean, quiet and within walking distance to downtown (and to a great fishing spot)! Mike had a great time dove hunting and fishing. I had a great time eating the birds and fish. I spent my time looking at the downtown shops and local museums. Our last two stops had been REALLY cramped, so we spent lots of time enjoying our camp spot again. I read my kindle. We walked the dogs through town. I visited the farmer’s market. Mike had a great time hunting. We had dinner at a couple of downtown restaurants. Mike hit some golf balls at the local golf club. We went to church. It was a nice and peaceful two weeks.

The Yellowstone River flows to the north.

The Yellowstone River flows to the north.

The Yellowstone River is approximately 692 miles long.

The Yellowstone River is approximately 692 miles long.

Flat tire. We were so lucky to discover this development after we were parked. A local tire company came out and took it off to find a huge hole exposing the interior metal of the tire. They couldn't patch it, so they located another one for us in Billings. A couple of days later, they were back out to get us totally situated. Flat tires are no fun and the $864 invoice at the end was not very exciting, but it was all okay because we did not encounter any danger on the road as a result of the puncture. I think this was the most convenient flat tire, ever.

Flat tire. We were so lucky to discover this development after we were parked. A local tire company came out and took it off to find a huge hole exposing the interior metal of the tire. They couldn’t patch it, so they located another one for us in Billings. A couple of days later, they were back out to get us totally situated. Flat tires are no fun and the $864 invoice at the end was not very exciting, but it was all okay because we did not encounter any danger on the road as a result of the puncture. I think this was the most convenient flat tire, ever.

Not only is there LOTS of hay... there are multiple varieties of hay too!

Not only is there LOTS of hay… there are multiple varieties of hay too!

The dove's view of Mike hunting.

The dove’s view of Mike hunting.

Mike's view while dove hunting.

Mike’s view while dove hunting.

A selfie from The Montana Bar.

A selfie from The Montana Bar.

The municipal swimming pool is a natural lake two blocks from downtown!

The municipal swimming pool is a natural lake two blocks from downtown!

College football season started while were at this stop. Mike is happy now. He would probably be a bit more happy if our Longhorns could win a game!

College football season started while were at this stop. Mike is happy now. He would probably be a bit more happy if our Longhorns could win a game!

More fish from the angler. A catfish, a white bass and a sauger. Piper is inspecting the loot.

More fish from the angler. A catfish, a small mouth bass and a sauger. Piper is inspecting the loot.

We were near the trail of Lewis and Clark in this part of the country. Local history says Captain William Clark, Sacagawea, her baby son Pomp, and 22 permanent members of the Corps of Discovery camped here at what is now Pirogue State Park in July of 1806.

We were near the trail of Lewis and Clark in this part of the country. Local history says Captain William Clark, Sacagawea, her baby son Pomp, and 22 permanent members of the Corps of Discovery camped here at what is now Pirogue State Park in July of 1806.

We usually don't get up too early. (For that matter, we usually don't go to bed too late either)! But Mike was up with the sun on most of our days in Miles City. He was drinking coffee in preparation for either dove hunting or fishing... or both.

We usually don’t get up too early. (For that matter, we usually don’t go to bed too late either)! But Mike was up with the sun on most of our days in Miles City. He was drinking coffee in preparation for either dove hunting or fishing… or both.

Some mule deer watching Mike fish from across the Yellowstone River.

Some mule deer watching Mike fish from across the Yellowstone River.

A deer watching Mike hunt for dove.

A deer watching Mike hunt for dove.

Some cream cheese and jalapeno stuffed bacon-wrapped dove fresh off of our grill.

Some cream cheese and jalapeno stuffed bacon-wrapped dove fresh off of our grill.

This is where Mike fished during our time in Miles City. It was at the confluence of the Tongue and Yellowstone Rivers. It was within walking distance of our camp and he always had good luck!

This is where Mike fished during our time in Miles City. It was at the confluence of the Tongue and Yellowstone Rivers. It was within walking distance of our camp and he always had good luck!

More fish from the confluence of the two rivers.

More fish from the confluence of the two rivers.

The back of our spot at the Miles City KOA.

The back of our spot at the Miles City KOA.

Sunset through the 100-year old Cottonwood trees in our campground.

Sunset through the 100-year old Cottonwood trees in our campground.

There is LOTS of hay in this part of the country. I guess they have to stock up for the winter months!

There is LOTS of hay in this part of the country. I guess they have to stock up for the winter months!

The 1880's era Olive Hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A scene from the epic film Lonesome Dove was filmed in one of its rooms.

The 1880’s era Olive Hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A scene from the epic film Lonesome Dove was filmed in one of its rooms.

We happened to be in town during the 28th Annual Classic Car Show hosted by the High Plains Classic Car Club. The entire park was filled with antique cars of all makes, models, and ages.

We happened to be in town during the 28th Annual Classic Car Show hosted by the High Plains Classic Car Club. The entire park was filled with antique cars of all makes, models, and ages.

There are two eagles that are long-time residents of Miles City. George and Martha built a big nest in one of the cottonwood trees in a city park near our campground. They grew out of that original nest and recently constructed a newer model in the same tree. They do leave for a couple of months each year, but they always return to raise their eaglets. They even have their own 24/7 eagle cam. The live feed runs when they are in town. Here is the link: http://53431558b81c6.click2stream.com

There are two eagles that are long-time residents of Miles City. George and Martha built a big nest in one of the cottonwood trees in a city park near our campground. They grew out of that original nest and recently constructed a newer model in the same tree. They do leave for a couple of months each year, but they always return to raise their eaglets. They even have their own 24/7 eagle cam. The live feed runs when they are in town. Here is the link: http://53431558b81c6.click2stream.com

This sign in the museum made me chuckle. A little bit more of a western slant as compared to the tone of southern charm!

This sign in the museum made me chuckle. A little bit more of a western slant as compared to the tone of southern charm!

This longhorn is a native Texan.

This longhorn is a native Texan.

There is a big history between the Native Americans of this region and the white man that invaded the land. This Reconciliation Blanket was given to the people of Miles City in 2008 (only SEVEN years ago) by the Tribal Council of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe.

There is a big history between the Native Americans of this region and the white man that invaded the land. This Reconciliation Blanket was given to the people of Miles City in 2008 (only SEVEN years ago) by the Tribal Council of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe.

This velvet quilt dates to 1720 and came from Sweden. It was also in the Range Riders Museum.

This velvet quilt dates to 1720 and came from Sweden. It was also in the Range Riders Museum.

A month after the defeat of Col. George Custer's troops at Little Big Horn, Congress established an Army post to be built at the confluence of the Tongue and Yellowstone Rivers. Building of the site commenced in August of 1876. The military function of the fort was shut down in 1908 and it became a remount station, providing horses for the military. During WWI, more horses were processed here than at any other U.S. army post. Now Fort Keogh is part of the Department of Agriculture and conducts scientific investigations to improve the sustainability of range beef cattle production and the rangeland on which they live.

A month after the defeat of Col. George Custer’s troops at Little Big Horn, Congress established an Army post to be built at the confluence of the Tongue and Yellowstone Rivers. Building of the site commenced in August of 1876. The military function of the fort was shut down in 1908 and it became a remount station, providing horses for the military. During WWI, more horses were processed here than at any other U.S. army post. Now Fort Keogh is part of the Department of Agriculture and conducts scientific investigations to improve the sustainability of range beef cattle production and the rangeland on which they live.

This photo from the museum cracked me up. Ladies night at Fort Keogh.

This photo from the museum cracked me up. Ladies night at Fort Keogh.

A photo from the Range Riders Museum. This is cowboy and indian territory - for sure.

A photo from the Range Riders Museum. This is cowboy and indian territory – for sure.

The Range Riders Museum near our campground was an amazing museum. This is a log cabin display in one of their 8 buildings.

The Range Riders Museum near our campground was an amazing museum. This is a log cabin display in one of their 8 buildings.

A stage coach at the Rough Riders Museum in Miles City.

A stage coach at the Rough Riders Museum in Miles City.

The bar at the Montana Bar.

The bar at the Montana Bar.

The Montana Bar could quite possibly be the most authentic bar I've ever been into. Dark. Nostalgic. Polished. The stuffed hamburgers were pretty good too!

The Montana Bar could quite possibly be the most authentic bar I’ve ever been into. Dark. Nostalgic. Polished. The stuffed hamburgers were pretty good too!

No Longhorn Network up in Montana. Mike listened to the game on his phone while we were at the sports bar.

No Longhorn Network up in Montana. Mike listened to the game on his phone while we were at the sports bar.

Lots of cool neon after dark in downtown Miles City.

Lots of cool neon after dark in downtown Miles City.

Kevin and his wife had recently purchased the KOA in Miles City (I think they had closed on all the paperwork only one month before we arrived). He was retired from UPS and they moved to Montana from Tennessee. It was fun watching this family becoming familiar with the routines of their endeavor and enjoying the new of every day! We were lucky enough to meet Grandpa too because he came to visit for a few days while we were there.

Kevin and his wife had recently purchased the KOA in Miles City (I think they had closed on all the paperwork only one month before we arrived). He was retired from UPS and they moved to Montana from Tennessee. It was fun watching this family becoming familiar with the routines of their endeavor and enjoying the new of every day! We were lucky enough to meet Grandpa too because he came to visit for a few days while we were there.

Some of the beautiful stained glass inside the historic United Methodist Church.

Some of the beautiful stained glass inside the historic United Methodist Church.

Some of the fresh catch Mike supplied to us during this stop.

Some of the fresh catch Mike supplied to us during this stop.

We had breakfast one morning at the 600 Café in downtown. It was all-60's reunion weekend, and I was able to listen in on lots of interesting conversations while we enjoyed our meal.

We had breakfast one morning at the 600 Café in downtown. It was all-60’s reunion weekend, and I was able to listen in on lots of interesting conversations while we enjoyed our meal.

The Saturday Farmer's Market was located at a park within walking distance of our campground. We bought fresh corn, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and cookies when we visited.

The Saturday Farmer’s Market was located at a park within walking distance of our campground. We bought fresh corn, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and cookies when we visited.

 

 

 

 

North Dakota Part II: Medora

Our second stop in North Dakota was in Medora, an old-west tourist town on I-94 in the southwestern edge of that state, at the gateway to the Badlands. Neither of us knew anything at all about Medora before we got there. As Mike was lining up future reservations for us, he was looking for an RV park west of Bismarck. All of the other parks he looked at were already booked during weekends, so the Red Trail Campground in Medora turned out to be our only option. We are so lucky! I cannot say that the campground itself was in any way spectacular, but the land and scenery around us made up for the drawbacks of the RV park.

Medora was founded in 1883 and is the county seat of Billings County, but it is not really a traditional town. Most of the land and businesses in the center of town are actually owned and operated by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation. Almost all of the shops, restaurants, and activities in town are owned and staffed by the Foundation. It is a seasonal community. Each year about 600 people from all over the country come to Medora to work for the summer. That workforce is supplemented by another army of volunteers who come to town and spend a week of their time catering to tourists visiting the area. The Foundation also works very closely with the National Park Service, as Medora serves as the gateway to Teddy Roosevelt National Park.

Theodore Roosevelt arrived in Medora for a buffalo hunt in September of 1883 and immediately fell in love with the land. He invested in cattle and soon operated two large ranches, the Maltese and the Elkhorn. His time in the area and his affinity for the Badlands made him the most famous individual to be intertwined with Medora and its history. Harold Schafer, however, is probably the person most responsible for the evolution of Medora into the attraction it is today. Mr. Schafer was a native of North Dakota and a “rags to riches” businessman. He rose to national acclaim as the original maker of Glass Wax, Snowy Bleach, and Mr. Bubble bubble bath. Do you remember Mr. Bubble in the pink plastic bottle? I do! Harold Schafer is the man that established the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation in 1986 and set preservation efforts into motion so that Medora would become somewhat of a living history museum – showcasing the lifestyles and physical environment of the western cowboy era.

We spent two fun weeks in Medora. We visited the museums, shops and restaurants. We also took advantage of most of the other entertainment options available to visitors. When we weren’t wandering around the cute little town, we were in the National Park or on one of the other hiking trails in the area. This was our first exposure to the Badlands and the landscape was gloriously beautiful. I will let the pictures below tell the rest of the story.

Although the Keystone Pipeline from Canada to Texas has not yet been officially approved, we have seen yards of pipes ready to go since we were in Duluth, MN. I wonder what will happen with all of this equipment if the construction of the pipeline is ultimately denied?

Although the Keystone Pipeline from Canada to Texas has not yet been officially approved, we have seen yards of pipes ready to go since we were in Duluth, MN. This was a pile of pipe that we passed along I-94. I wonder what will happen with all of this equipment if the construction of the pipeline is ultimately denied?

This is not the greatest photo since it was taken out of the passenger side window as we were driving west across North Dakota, but this is a field of sunflowers. I did not know North Dakota is the largest producer of sunflower crops in the United States. They look so bright and magical as they all face the same direction - like a little army of happy flowers.

This is not the greatest photo since it was taken out of the passenger side window as we were driving west across North Dakota, but this is a field of sunflowers. I did not know North Dakota is the largest producer of sunflower crops in the United States. They look so bright and magical as they all face the same direction – like a little army of happy flowers.

Our first glimpse of the cute town of Medora as we walked to downtown from our campground.

Our first glimpse of the cute town of Medora as we walked to downtown from our campground.

These horses provided tourists with a 30- minute tour of the town as the man with the reins serenaded them with old-timey cowboy songs.

These horses provided tourists with a 30- minute tour of the town as the man with the reins serenaded them with old-timey cowboy songs.

A spectacular national park.

A spectacular national park.

The basic components of any community: the post office, the bank, and the church.

The basic components of any community: the post office, the bank, and the church.

St. Mary's Catholic Church was built in 1884 and financed by the town's namesake Medora de Vallombrosa. Back at that time, she received an annual income of $90,000 from a stock portfolio she received from her father before her marriage. Can you imagine earning an income of $90k over 131 years ago? She was loaded!

St. Mary’s Catholic Church was built in 1884 and financed by the town’s namesake Medora de Vallombrosa. Back at that time, she received an annual income of $90,000 from a stock portfolio she received from her father before her marriage. Can you imagine earning an income of $90k over 131 years ago? She was loaded!

St. Mary's Catholic Church is too small to accommodate 2015 crowds, so now services are held at the Community Center in the City Council Chambers at 4pm on Saturdays. The priest travels from the town of Beach, about 30 miles west of Medora. The historic church is still open to visitors for prayers and lighting of candles.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church is too small to accommodate 2015 crowds, so now services are held at the Community Center in the City Council Chambers at 4pm on Saturdays. The priest travels from the town of Beach, about 30 miles west of Medora. The historic church is still open to visitors for prayers and lighting of candles.

The only road leaving Medora to the south.

The only road leaving Medora to the south.

Medora offers a musical variety show every night of the week during the summer season. We got to the parking lot extra early on the night we saw the production, and had our own little private tailgate party. This was our view from the back of the Honda.

Medora offers a musical variety show every night of the week during the summer season. We got to the parking lot extra early on the night we saw the production, and had our own little private tailgate party. This was our view from the back of the Honda.

Tailgate selfie.

Tailgate selfie.

A view of the badlands as sunset approached.

A view of the Badlands as sunset approached.

While we enjoyed our tailgate party, we were able to watch these two elk graze on top of a hill across from us. (Mike was in heaven)!

While we enjoyed our tailgate party, we were able to watch these two elk graze on top of a hill across from us. (Mike was in heaven)!

The views from The Badlands' hilltops are magical.

The views from the Badlands’ hilltops are magical.

The musical in progress.

The musical in progress.

Did you know prairie dogs live in towns? I did not.

Did you know prairie dogs live in towns? I did not.

Piper and Cessna also thought the scenic views of The Badlands were incredibly majestic.

Piper and Cessna also thought the scenic views of the Badlands were incredibly majestic.

Mike and his dog looking for wildlife.

Mike and his dog looking for wildlife.

Badlands selfie.

Badlands selfie.

Wild mustangs or feral horses off in the distance.

Wild mustangs or feral horses off in the distance.

Buffalo everywhere.

Buffalo everywhere.

The rock formations in The Badlands had me thinking we might have been transported to another planet all together.

The rock formations in the Badlands had me thinking we might have been transported to another planet all together.

Taking it all in during a driving tour of Teddy Roosevelt National Park.

Taking it all in during a driving tour of Teddy Roosevelt National Park.

The public golf course in Medora is called the Bully Pulpit. There were several golf tournaments taking place during our stay, so unfortunately Mike only got to hit balls from the practice range. No tee times available for 18-holes.

The public golf course in Medora is called the Bully Pulpit. There were several golf tournaments taking place during our stay, so unfortunately Mike only got to hit balls from the practice range. No tee times available for 18-holes.

The Maah Daah Hey Trail is a 145 mile non-motorized trail that stretches through the Badlands. Portions of the trail that run through the national park do not allow dogs, but they are allowed outside the park. Piper and Cessna loved our daily hikes.

The Maah Daah Hey Trail is a 145 mile non-motorized trail that stretches through the Badlands. Portions of the trail that run through the national park do not allow dogs, but they are allowed outside the park. Piper and Cessna loved our daily hikes.

One of our daily hikes.

One of our daily hikes.

One of Medora's most famous historic citizens was the man who invented Mr. Bubbles bubble bath. Another was Theodore Roosevelt. There is a performance in the town theater every day at 3:30 when the former president talks to the audience about his life, his philosophies, and his aspirations. It was very interesting and educational.

One of Medora’s most famous historic citizens was the man who invented Mr. Bubbles bubble bath. Another was Theodore Roosevelt. There is a performance in the town theater every day at 3:30 when the former president talks to the audience about his life, his philosophies, and his aspirations. It was very interesting and educational.

The ceiling beams in the Little Missouri Saloon were covered in dollar bills and cowboy hats.

The ceiling beams in the Little Missouri Saloon were covered in dollar bills and cowboy hats.

I've been trying to recall exactly how many 'signed' dollar bills we have left across the country since this adventure started. I can for sure remember tacking them to the walls of watering holes in Pensacola, Rhode Island, and Columbus, Ohio.

I’ve been trying to recall exactly how many ‘signed’ dollar bills we have left across the country since this adventure started. I can for sure remember tacking them to the walls of watering holes in Pensacola, Rhode Island, and Columbus, Ohio.

The only remaining train line that runs through Medora is the BNSF.

The only remaining train line that runs through Medora is the BNSF.

We had our own personal Badlands hill on the outskirts of our campground.

We had our own personal Badlands hill on the outskirts of our campground.

This photo was taken the night before the full moon was up in Medora during our stay. The National Park Service was sponsoring a guided full moon walk /hike in the park on the next night. Unfortunately, the wild fires burning in Montana and Washington were so bad that the smoke darkened any view, so I opted not to go after all.

This photo was taken the night before the full moon was up in Medora during our stay. The National Park Service was sponsoring a guided full moon walk /hike in the park on the next night. Unfortunately, the wild fires burning in Montana and Washington were so bad that the smoke darkened any view, so I opted not to go after all.

Buffalo traffic jam.

Buffalo traffic jam.

The Little Missouri River.

The Little Missouri River.

Medora was founded by a Frenchman named the Marquis de Mores (his wife was named Medora). Their home was a 26-room Chateau constructed during the 1880's. It is still standing and open to the public for self-guided tours. The home features original furnishings and décor. This was the pantry off of the kitchen. Looks like they were ready to host aristocratic hunting parties at any time for any number of guests.

Medora was founded by a Frenchman named the Marquis de Mores (his wife was named Medora). Their home was a 26-room Chateau constructed during the 1880’s. It is still standing and open to the public for self-guided tours. The home features original furnishings and décor. This was the pantry off of the kitchen. Looks like they were ready to host aristocratic hunting parties at any time for any number of guests.

This is the type of thing that we shared the sidewalk with as we walked the dogs around town.

This is the type of thing that we shared the sidewalk with as we walked the dogs around town.

Mike fries us up some fish from our last stop in Valley City.

Mike fries us up some fish from our last stop in Valley City.

As we returned from an afternoon walk, NINE coaches from a caravan were all arriving to check in at the campground.

As we returned from an afternoon walk, NINE coaches from a caravan were all arriving to check in at the campground.

The Pitchfork Steak Fondue takes place each night from 5:30 - 6:30 on an outdoor terrace overlooking the Badlands. Mike had one of the western style steaks. I had a plate of roasted buffalo, grilled chicken and bbq'd ribs. I thought the meal would be mediocre at best, given the number of crowds they serve each night and the orientation toward 'touristy' entertainment. I'm happy to say I was wrong. It was surprisingly good. I later learned this dining experience was featured on the "Best Of" show on Food Network.

The Pitchfork Steak Fondue takes place each night from 5:30 – 6:30 on an outdoor terrace overlooking the Badlands. Mike had one of the western style steaks. I had a plate of roasted buffalo, grilled chicken and bbq’d ribs. I thought the meal would be mediocre at best, given the number of crowds they serve each night and the orientation toward ‘touristy’ entertainment. I’m happy to say I was wrong. It was surprisingly good. I later learned this dining experience was featured on the “Best Of” show on Food Network.

The line for dinner at the Pitchfork Steak Fondue.

The line for dinner at the Pitchfork Steak Fondue.

Three trophy mule deer bucks in the national park. The photo is grainy because I was zoomed in all the way. Mike was salivating.

Three trophy mule deer bucks in the national park. The photo is grainy because I was zoomed in all the way. Mike was salivating.

We got up extra early one morning and took a sunrise drive through the park. The objective was to see as many wild animals as possible as they were out and about at dawn. Our strategy was successful. We saw turkey, white tail deer, mule deer, coyotes, feral horses, bison, birds, prairie dogs and pronghorn.

We got up extra early one morning and took a sunrise drive through the park. The objective was to see as many wild animals as possible as they were out and about at dawn. Our strategy was successful. We saw turkey, white tail deer, mule deer, coyotes, feral horses, bison, birds, prairie dogs and pronghorn.

A single pronghorn at the base of a hill.

A single pronghorn at the base of a hill.

Two mule deer on the side of a mountain. The photo is grainy again because of the zoom factor.

Two mule deer on the side of a mountain. The photo is grainy again because of the zoom factor.

It is almost impossible to see, but I took this photo of a coyote making his way up the side of this mountain.

It is almost impossible to see, but I took this photo of a coyote making his way up the side of this mountain.

Mule deer.

Mule deer.

buck

A momma and her baby.

A momma and her baby.

Only the streets within downtown Medora are paved. All other roads in the area are red gravel.

Only the streets within downtown Medora are paved. All other roads in the area are red gravel.

The amphitheater at the Medora Musical before the evening's audience was seated.

The amphitheater at the Medora Musical before the evening’s audience was seated.

The Maah Daah Hey Trail name comes from the Native American language of the Mandan Hidatsa Indians. It means "grandfather, long-lasting". It is used to describe things or an area that has been or will be around for a long time and is deserving of respect. The trail markers feature a single turtle. Adopted from the Lakota Sioux Indians, the turtle symbolizes patience, determination, steadfastness, long-life and fortitude. The turtle shell symbolizes protection.

The Maah Daah Hey Trail name comes from the Native American language of the Mandan Hidatsa Indians. It means “grandfather, long-lasting”. It is used to describe things or an area that has been or will be around for a long time and is deserving of respect. The trail markers feature a single turtle. Adopted from the Lakota Sioux Indians, the turtle symbolizes patience, determination, steadfastness, long-life and fortitude. The turtle shell symbolizes protection.

A snapshot of the Maah Daah Hey Trail above the Bully Pulpit Golf Course.

A snapshot of the Maah Daah Hey Trail above the Bully Pulpit Golf Course.

Hiking the trail.

Hiking the trail.

 

North Dakota Part I: Valley City

Our first stop in North Dakota was in the tiny town of Valley City, about an hour west of Fargo. The City had a 27-spot Tourist Park campground directly on Main Street near downtown. The spots were very narrow but the price was only $18 per day, so the trade off was fine. We were at this spot for three weeks.

A few weeks back, I had scheduled a quick solo weekend trip to Colorado for a getaway with a couple of my lifelong girl friends. We all went to high school in Austin, but Janet and Amy coincidentally both live in Denver now. Mike initially looked for campgrounds near Fargo, but no one could take us during the dates we requested. Valley City had availability, and it was still convenient for me to get to the airport when the time came for my flight to Colorado. Mike drove me over to Fargo on the last Thursday of our stop. He dropped me at the airport and drove back to Valley City. He hung out with the dogs, spending his weekend waxing the Monaco and watching the PGA Championship Tournament on television. On Sunday evening, he drove back over to Fargo and picked me up. The following Tuesday we left Valley City and continued west to the opposite side of the state.

There wasn’t much to do in Valley City, but it was a clean and safe little town of about 6,000. We were able to walk everywhere on our errands. We walked to the Parks & Rec Department, Visitor’s Center, Bank, Library, Post Office, Grocery Market, St. Catherine’s Catholic Church, and the dog park. Mike got a 10-day fishing license and fished on Lake Ashtabula, which was about 12 miles to the north of town. He also fished on the Sheyenne River in town at a little public space near the hospital. There was a nine-hole public golf course on the south east side of town and Mike hit some balls from the driving range on a couple of occasions. I had a nice spa mani/pedi at a local salon in town. We went on a couple of scenic driving tours through the Sheyenne River Valley, and visited Fort Ransom State Park and Little Yellowstone State Park. We drove to Jamestown to get groceries at the Walmart Super Center, because the grocery prices at the market in tiny Valley City were totally jacked up. We also made a couple of daytrips into Fargo. Mike and I took the dogs one afternoon to walk and explore. I went back another time on my own for a haircut at a downtown salon.

Our cramped #24 spot at the Valley City Tourist Park. $18 per night.

Our cramped #24 spot at the Valley City Tourist Park. $18 per night. The campground had a steady stream of overnight stops with people passing through. There were also a dozen or so highway construction workers from Bemidji. They lived in their campers during the work week, and drove back home to Bemidji over the weekends. Our neighbor on our driver’s side was an elderly widowed gentleman from Rapid City, S.D. visiting his hometown. He had a beautiful springer spaniel named Ike. He was there before we arrived and was staying for a while longer after we left. There was also a homeless lady living in a tent at the park. She was there the entire time we were there too.

The famous elevated train track in Valley City.

The famous elevated train track in Valley City.

The local historic Carnegie Library is one of the few restored structures still in use as a functioning library. The amount of data on our monthly AT&T plan was running low, so I walked over with my laptop on most days to use the free wifi while I checked email, worked on my blog and other stuff like that.

The local historic Carnegie Library is one of the few restored structures in America which is still in use as a functioning library. The amount of data on our monthly AT&T plan was running low, so I walked over with my laptop on most days to use the free wifi to check email, work on my blog and other stuff like that.

Another one of Mike's fishing spots was only a couple of blocks from our camp.

Another one of Mike’s fishing spots was only a couple of blocks from our camp.

There was a medicine wheel at a civic park in Valley City.

There was a medicine wheel at a civic park in Valley City.

We saw this on the first night we were camped at the Valley City Tourist Park.

We saw this on the first night we were camped at the Valley City Tourist Park.

Geese (of course).

Geese (of course).

The Sheyenne River.

The Sheyenne River.

The Sheyenne River out of the dam from Lake Ashtabula.

The Sheyenne River out of the dam from Lake Ashtabula.

Lake Ashtabula (one of Mike's fishing spots was off the end of the pier at the bottom of the photo).

Lake Ashtabula (one of Mike’s fishing spots was off the end of the pier at the bottom of the photo).

Some of Mike's daily catch.

Some of Mike’s daily catch.

The harvest.

The harvest.

A Viking Statue on top of a pyramid shaped hill (is the perfect shape of the hill a natural coincidence, or was the mount created by Indians from civilizations past? (The debate rages on).

A Viking Statue on top of a pyramid shaped hill (Is the perfect shape of the hill a natural coincidence, or was the mound created by Indians from civilizations past? The debate rages on).

The Sheyenne River at Fort Ransom State Park.

The Sheyenne River at Fort Ransom State Park.

This hawk and I has a time consuming stare-down. All he wanted was to hunt for rodents in the field under this utility pole. All I wanted his to do was fly away so I could get a photo of him in flight. After 10 minutes, I gave up. He was very patient.

This hawk and I had a time consuming stare-down. All he wanted was to hunt for rodents in the field under this utility pole. All I wanted him to do was fly away so I could get a photo of him in flight. After 10 minutes, I gave up. He was very patient.

The original food truck. In 1912, as part of a threshing rig, this car followed the harvest from Colfax, ND to Canada and was returned by rail back to Colfax.

The original food truck. In 1912, as part of a threshing rig, this cooks’ car followed the harvest from Colfax, ND to Canada and was returned by rail back to Colfax.

Fort Ransom State Park has hiking trails, horse trails, snow-mobile trails, and bike trails.

Fort Ransom State Park has hiking trails, horse trails, snow-mobile trails, and bike trails.

A view of the Sheyenne River Valley from the scenic overlook at Fort Ransom State Park.

A view of the Sheyenne River Valley from the scenic overlook at Fort Ransom State Park.

Fort Ransom State Park. (This would be a fun place to visit during winter)!

Fort Ransom State Park. (This would be a fun place to visit during winter)!

Storm clouds east of sunset.

Storm clouds east of sunset.

A bird over the dam at Lake Ashtabula.

A bird over the dam at Lake Ashtabula.

A train on 'the bridge' in Valley City.

A train on ‘the bridge’ in Valley City.

Jamestown boasts the largest buffalo structure in all of the United States.

Jamestown boasts the largest buffalo structure in all of the United States.

We went to Jamestown, about 35 miles west of Valley City to get our groceries. This was the home town of Louis L'amour. How many of these books have you read? I read quite a few of them for a western lit class I took from Don Graham at U.T.

We went to Jamestown, about 35 miles west of Valley City to get our groceries. This was the home town of Louis L’amour. How many of these books have you read? I read quite a few of them for a western lit class I took from Don Graham at U.T.

Downtown Fargo has a nice fabric of historic commercial buildings.

Downtown Fargo has a nice fabric of historic commercial buildings.

I'll be this colorful mural in downtown Fargo brings a bit of cheer to the environment during the white cold months of winter.

I’ll bet this colorful mural in downtown Fargo brings a bit of cheer to the environment during the white cold months of winter.

Downtown Fargo has brightly painted bison sculptures placed at different spots all around the central business district.

Downtown Fargo has brightly painted bison sculptures placed at different spots all around the central business district.

Have you ever had hog wings? We first learned of them at the Sunset Bar and Grill in southern Wisconsin. Pork shanks (pig ankles). Brined and then grilled. Delicious. Fall of the bone. If they are ever on the menu in a restaurant you are visiting, do yourself a favor and order them.

Have you ever had hog wings? We first learned of them at the Sunset Bar and Grill in southern Wisconsin. Pork shanks (pig ankles). Brined and then grilled. Delicious. Fall off the bone. If they are ever on the menu in a restaurant you are visiting, do yourself a favor and order them.

Cessna enjoying the view of the Red River of the North while we enjoyed happy hour drinks and snacks in Moorhead, MN - on the west side of the River, across from Fargo.

Cessna enjoying the view of the Red River of the North while we enjoyed happy hour drinks and snacks in Moorhead, MN – on the east side of the River, across from Fargo.

Hanging out at the Aurora Reservoir on Friday during my weekend side-trip to Denver.

Hanging out at the Aurora Reservoir on Friday during my weekend side-trip to Denver.

Sunday brunch before they put me back on the plane for my return to Fargo Hector International Airport.

Sunday brunch before Janet and Amy put me back on the plane for my return to Fargo Hector International Airport.

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.

Michigan Part III: Marquette

When we left Wisconsin, we drove north along the shore of Green Bay until we crossed into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Our destination was Marquette, the most populated city in the U.P. with only about 25,000 citizens. I think I will make it official and say that this was one of my favorite stops on our trip so far! We stayed at a municipal park and campground on the north side of town and the location was perfect! We had access to walking trails in all directions, and we could get almost anywhere in town via a 30-minute bike ride. The town was charming and historic, the natural scenery was spectacular, we were on the shores of Lake Superior, and the people were very friendly. The locals up there are called Yoopers. They are a hearty, durable, and good-natured bunch. I guess you would have to be in order to survive one of their winters! Everyone was extremely active and fit. People were out on the trails walking, running or bicycling regardless of weather conditions. All cars had some sort of sports gear strapped to the roofs (kayaks, bikes, paddle boards). Everyone seemed to be on a quest to enjoy the summer weather at all costs. The weather while we were there at the end of June was cool and crisp. It didn’t get dark until after 10PM. We stayed very busy because there was so much to do and see. To this blog post I am attaching more photos than I have in any other post since our trip began because everywhere we looked we saw something beautiful or interesting.

A view of our site at the Marquette Tourist Park.

A view of our site at the Marquette Tourist Park.

Piper did not know about chip monks before we visited Marquette. He now has a new obsession.

Piper did not know about chip monks before we visited Marquette. He now has a new obsession.

The Dead River on the northern boundary of our campground.

The Dead River on the northern boundary of our campground.

As we were arriving at our spot at the Marquette Tourist Park, we had to wait for this baby skunk to cross the road in front of us. There were six of these cute and scary critters running around our side of the campground. I was terrified one of the dogs would get sprayed. What the heck would we do with a skunked dog in this motor coach! As it turns out, the dogs did not get sprayed... but one of the campground workers did while she was mowing the grass. Eventually, they were all trapped and relocated to a more remote recreation area.

As we were arriving at our spot at the Marquette Tourist Park, we had to wait for this baby skunk to cross the road in front of us. There were six of these cute and scary critters running around our side of the campground. I was terrified one of the dogs would get sprayed. What the heck would we do with a skunked dog in this motor coach! As it turns out, the dogs did not get sprayed… but one of the campground workers did while she was mowing the grass. Eventually, they were all trapped and relocated to a more remote recreation area.

This is the view from most of our walks in Marquette.

This is the view from most of our walks in Marquette.

The Wooden Nickel is a fun dive bar near the University. We stopped in for happy hour one evening and had fun absorbing all the signs and pictures that adorned every inch of the walls and ceiling.

The Wooden Nickel is a fun dive bar near the University. We stopped in for happy hour one evening and had fun absorbing all the signs and pictures that adorned every inch of the walls and ceiling.

We saw a fox on one of our walks!

We saw a fox on one of our walks!

Some sandy beach in Marquette.

A sandy beach in Marquette.

I happened to be cruising around Presque Isle when this sea plane landed near the harbor. He taxied up the boat ramp and dropped off his passenger. Then the turned around, went back into the water and flew away. What a fun sight to see!

I happened to be cruising around Presque Isle when this sea plane landed near the harbor. He taxied up the boat ramp and dropped off his passenger. Then he turned around, went back into the water and flew away. What a fun sight to see!

The sea plane taxis out of the Presque Isle Harbor, preparing for take-off.

The sea plane taxis out of the Presque Isle Harbor, preparing for take-off.

 

Pasties are a Michigan thing. They might even be a more exclusive U.P. thing. I first learned about them when we visited Mackinac early last fall. Pie crust filled with ground meat, diced potatoes and diced rutabaga. The ultimate comfort food. Beware though... they are pronounced paastie (soft A). When I ordered my first one, I pronounced it more like what one would wear if dancing with a pole. Everyone knew I was a tourist at the counter. Before we left Marquette I stocked my freezer with 4 of them. Simple and delicious.

Pasties are a Michigan thing. They might even be a more exclusive U.P. thing. I first learned about them when we visited Mackinac early last fall. Pie crust filled with ground meat, diced potatoes and diced rutabaga. The ultimate comfort food. Beware though… they are pronounced paastie (soft A). When I ordered my first one, I pronounced it more like what one would wear if dancing with a pole. Everyone knew I was a tourist at the counter. Before we left Marquette I stocked my freezer with 4 of them. Simple and delicious.

Mikey watching golf on a Sunday afternoon.

Mikey watching golf on a Sunday afternoon.

Live performance art at the downtown Farmer's Market.

Live performance art at the downtown Farmer’s Market.

There was one food truck in Marquette. I never got a chance to sample the fare, which was unfortunate. He was parked all over town - different locations on different days. Sometimes as I was driving through town, I would see folks lined up and waiting for the truck to arrive so they could order lunch. Must be pretty good food if your customers sit and wait for you to drive up and serve them!

There was one food truck in Marquette. I never got a chance to sample the fare, which was unfortunate. He was parked all over town – different locations on different days. Sometimes as I was driving through town, I would see folks lined up and waiting for the truck to arrive so they could order lunch. Must be pretty good food if your customers sit and wait for you to drive up and serve them!

We actually went to church with the Methodists in Marquette, but I stopped into this beautiful cathedral on a couple of occasions to light candles for friends and family (as well as for us to continue our adventure with safe travels and positive outlooks).

We actually went to church with the Methodists in Marquette, but I stopped into this beautiful cathedral on a couple of occasions to light candles for friends and family (as well as for us to continue our adventure with safe travels and positive outlooks).

The rail cars carry Iron Ore from the mines west of Marquette. When they reach the docks, the rail cars are emptied into the ships below. The most frequent destinations for the ships when they leave with a full load are Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago.

The rail cars carry Iron Ore from the mines west of Marquette. When they reach the docks, the rail cars are emptied into the ships below. The most frequent destinations for the ships when they leave with a full load are Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago.

A ship at the 100-year old Iron Ore Pocket Dock.

A ship at the 100-year old Iron Ore Pocket Dock.

Presque Isle is a municipal park on the north side of Marquette. You can see why it is considered the jewel of Marquette.

Presque Isle is a municipal park on the north side of Marquette. You can see why it is considered the jewel of Marquette.

Lake Superior or Gitche Gumee. With more than 10% of the world's fresh water, its 3 QUADRILLION gallons are home to 80 different species of fish and the resting place of 350 shipwrecks. Its area spans 31,280 square miles - 350 miles from east to west. Average depth is 483 feet, and its deepest point is 1,333 feet.

Lake Superior or Gitche Gumee. With more than 10% of the world’s fresh water, its 3 QUADRILLION gallons are home to 80 different species of fish and the resting place of 350 shipwrecks. Its area spans 31,280 square miles – 350 miles from east to west. Average depth is 483 feet, and its deepest point is 1,333 feet.

The waters off of Presque Isle.

The waters off of Presque Isle.

World's largest glacial copper. Weighs in at 28.2 tons. A sign next to it implores visitors and locals to support the campaign to preserve this massive rock for public display.

World’s largest glacial copper. Weighs in at 28.2 tons. A sign next to it implores visitors and locals to support the campaign to preserve this massive rock for public display.

A nice family of geese strolling along the bike path on a sunny afternoon.

A nice family of geese strolling along the bike path on a sunny afternoon.

Piper was on guard at all times he was outside. Between the squirrels, skunks, and chip monks... the poor boy never got any down time.

Piper was on guard at all times he was outside. Between the squirrels, skunks, and chip monks… the poor boy never got any down time.

A big trout that Mike caught near Wichita, Kansas - out of the brine and ready for the smoker.

A big trout that Mike caught near Wichita, Kansas – out of the brine and ready for the smoker.

Mike's make-shift smoker. Works amazingly well!

Mike’s make-shift smoker. Works amazingly well!

The trout is smoked!

The trout is smoked!

Smoked trout dinner.

Smoked trout dinner.

The marina at the edge of downtown Marquette.

The marina at the edge of downtown Marquette.

Lake Superior rules the weather in Marquette. We were exploring the bars and restaurants in downtown when a fog rolled into the southern part of the city center. It was crystal clear where we were standing, but visibility was only 1-foot three blocks down the street.

Lake Superior rules the weather in Marquette. We were exploring the bars and restaurants in downtown when a fog rolled into the southern part of the city center. It was crystal clear where we were standing, but visibility was only 1-foot three blocks down the street.

What is better that surprise crawfish at dinner? Live southern music to go along with our food!

What is better than surprise crawfish at dinner? Live southern music to go along with our food!

We were in Marquette during "Art Week". A surprise visit from the local barbershop quartet made our dinner at Lagniappe that much more fun!

We were in Marquette during “Art Week”. A surprise visit from the local barbershop quartet made our dinner at Lagniappe that much more fun!

Interestingly enough, one of the best restaurants in Marquette turns out to be Lagniappe Cajun Eatery. (Their radio commercials boast 70 NON-spicy recipes for the yoopers)! ha ha. You might be able to tell that we went a little crazy getting our Cajun fix at dinner that evening. First of all, we were shocked to learn they had live crawfish (flown in every Wednesday). The mudbugs were $12.00 per pound, so we were conservative and ordered just 2 pounds. Then to our order we added blackened alligator, hush puppies, fried cheese grits and red beans & rice - all extra spicy!

Interestingly enough, one of the best restaurants in Marquette turns out to be Lagniappe Cajun Eatery. (Their radio commercials boast 70 NON-spicy recipes for the yoopers)! ha ha. You might be able to tell that we went a little crazy getting our Cajun fix at dinner that evening. First of all, we were shocked to learn they had live crawfish (flown in every Wednesday). The mudbugs were $12.00 per pound, so we were conservative and ordered just 2 pounds. Then to our order we added blackened alligator, hush puppies, fried cheese grits and red beans & rice – all extra spicy!

Mount Marquette Ski Area. (The scenic overlook we were in search of was actually on the OTHER side of the mountain).

Mount Marquette Ski Area. (The scenic overlook we were in search of was actually on the OTHER side of the mountain).

I heard about a scenic overlook on Mount Marquette and convinced Mike to go find it with me. The expedition turned into a bit of a scavenger hunt. At first, we went to the wrong side of the mountain. I got better directions from a lady working in the ski area. We drove across town and found the obscure road (with no signage) that took us up to the top. I think the unpaved mountain road literally went STRAIGHT UP. I happened to be driving, so when we reached the overlook the engine smelled like it was on fire. I asked Mike if it was our car that was indeed smoking. He confirmed that yes, "you are just hard on cars". After we looked around and took some photos of the beautiful view, he enthusiastically offered to drive us back down to level land! I'm not sure which one of us was more frightened on the way to the top... me in the driver's seat - or him on the passenger's side.

I heard about a scenic overlook on Mount Marquette and convinced Mike to go find it with me. The expedition turned into a bit of a scavenger hunt. At first, we went to the wrong side of the mountain. I got better directions from a lady working in the ski area. We drove across town and found the obscure road (with no signage) that took us up to the top. I think the unpaved mountain road literally went STRAIGHT UP. I happened to be driving, so when we reached the overlook the engine smelled like it was on fire. I asked Mike if it was our car that was indeed smoking. He confirmed that yes, “you are just hard on cars”. After we looked around and took some photos of the beautiful view, he enthusiastically offered to drive us back down to level land! I’m not sure which one of us was more frightened on the way to the top… me in the driver’s seat – or him on the passenger’s side.

Looking west from Mount Marquette.

Looking west from Mount Marquette.

The swimming section of the lake at Marquette Tourist Park. The temperatures were too chilly to get in the water during the 2 weeks of our visit.

The swimming section of the lake at Marquette Tourist Park. The temperatures were too chilly to get in the water during the 2 weeks of our visit.

Iron Ore is a big deal in the Upper Peninsula. All the rocks are black.

Iron Ore is a big deal in the Upper Peninsula. All the rocks are black.

One of the exhibits in the Maritime Museum illustrated how the coast guard rescued crew members from ships that  wrecked just off the coastline.

One of the exhibits in the Maritime Museum illustrated how the coast guard rescued crew members from ships that wrecked just off the coastline.

A lighthouse lense in the Marquette Maritime Museum.

A lighthouse lense in the Marquette Maritime Museum.

McMarty's Cove Beach, from the lighthouse. This is a great picture, aside from the power line running through the middle of it!

McMarty’s Cove Beach, from the lighthouse. This is a great picture, aside from the power line running through the middle of it!

A view of the northern part of Marquette - snapped from the shore by the lighthouse. You can see the Superior Dome, the Power Plant, and Presque Isle. The Ore Docks are there too, just too small to see.

A view of the northern part of Marquette – snapped from the shore by the lighthouse. You can see the Superior Dome, the Power Plant, and Presque Isle. The Ore Docks are there too, just too small to see.

The only reason I insisted that we buy a ticket for a guided tour of the Marquette Lighthouse was because I thought that ticket would get us access to walk out onto the breakwater. As it turns out - the Federal No Trespassing Sign at the beginning of the path is just for show...the locals do not pay attention to the barrier.  I was able to walk out onto the breakwater for free. However, the lighthouse tour turned out to be very interesting. If we had not bought our tickets, we would not have been able to go out to the end of this catwalk and see the view from a different perspective.

The only reason I insisted that we buy a ticket for a guided tour of the Marquette Lighthouse was because I thought that ticket would get us access to walk out onto the breakwater. As it turns out – the Federal No Trespassing Sign at the beginning of the path is just for show…the locals do not pay attention to the barrier. I was able to walk out onto the breakwater for free. However, the lighthouse tour turned out to be very interesting. If we had not bought our tickets, we would not have been able to go out to the end of this catwalk and see the view from a different perspective.

A full campground at the Marquette Tourist Park.

A full campground at the Marquette Tourist Park.

A view from the beginning of my walk out to the edge of the Marquette breakwater. The only other person I saw that morning was just coming back to land as I was heading out. As we passed, he looked at me and said 'enjoy'. It was at that moment that I realized I had the place all to myself on that beautiful morning. It was kind of like church in nature instead of in a building. I'm glad he took the time to point out the obvious, because I don't think I would have clued in to how special the moment was without his insight.

A view from the beginning of my walk out to the edge of the Marquette breakwater. The only other person I saw that morning was just coming back to land as I was heading out. As we passed, he looked at me and said ‘enjoy’. It was at that moment that I realized I had the place all to myself on that beautiful morning. It was kind of like church in nature instead of in a building. I’m glad he took the time to point out the obvious, because I don’t think I would have clued in to how special the moment was without his insight.

Sunday morning in Marquette.

Sunday morning in Marquette.

A full view of Marquette from the far end of the breakwater that surrounds the city's harbor.

A full view of Marquette from the far end of the breakwater that surrounds the city’s harbor.

These two ducks and I had the harbor all to ourselves on the Sunday morning that I walked out to the edge of the breakwater.

These two ducks and I had the harbor all to ourselves on the Sunday morning that I walked out to the edge of the breakwater.

Our last campfire in Michigan.

Our last campfire in Michigan.

The Superior Dome, which opened as the "world’s largest wooden dome" on September 14, 1991, is a domed stadium on the campus of Northern Michigan University. I wonder how high the snow gets on the sides of the buildings in the winter.  I don't think I would want to be there in person to find out.

The Superior Dome, which opened as the “world’s largest wooden dome” on September 14, 1991, is a domed stadium on the campus of Northern Michigan University. I wonder how high the snow gets on the sides of the buildings in the winter. I don’t think I would want to be there in person to find out.

A ship leaving the Ore Docks.

A ship leaving the Ore Docks.

By the time we get up and get moving (without rushing around) on travel days, it is usually around 11AM when we pull out of our site. Leaving Marquette, we had a five-hour drive to Duluth, MN. We were extra efficient that morning, and Mike started the engine at 9:45. Everything powered up like usual... and then the engine died. Mike got the manual out, and I took a short walk to try and stay out of the way while he did his trouble shooting. He couldn't identify any obvious solutions, so we ended up calling a Cummins Shop in the next town over. Lucky for us, they arrived to help us only 45 minutes after we placed the call. As it turns out it was a fuel-water sensor that Monaco had installed after the engine was built. The service man disconnected it for us and we were able to make the drive with no problems at all. Mike is still working on ordering a replacement, but we are not hindered until the new one is installed.

By the time we get up and get moving (without rushing around) on travel days, it is usually around 11AM when we pull out of our site. Leaving Marquette, we had a five-hour drive to Duluth, MN. We were extra efficient that morning, and Mike started the engine at 9:45. Everything powered up like usual… and then the engine died. Mike got the manual out, and I took a short walk to try and stay out of the way while he did his trouble shooting. He couldn’t identify any obvious solutions, so we ended up calling a Cummins Shop in the next town over. Lucky for us, they arrived to help us only 45 minutes after we placed the call. As it turns out it was a fuel-water sensor that Monaco had installed after the engine was built. The service man disconnected it for us and we were able to make the drive with no problems at all. Mike is still working on ordering a replacement, but we are not hindered until the new one is installed.

Wisconsin Part II: Two Rivers

We left our campground in the middle of the farmers and fields in Milton, drove north and east to Milwaukee, got onto Interstate 43 North, and hugged Lake Michigan until it was time to exit for Two Rivers. This time our natural settings would include forests, rivers and Lake Michigan. We stayed at Scheffel’s Hideaway Campground on County Road O, next to Point Beach State Forest. It was a small and clean campground with nice owners. We were on the outskirts of the little town of Two Rivers so the noise level was low and the night sky was bright. We were at this park for two weeks, and enjoyed our time exploring the sister-cities of Manitowoc and Two Rivers. We took one daytrip a little bit north to Door County, WI, but for the most part we just took advantage of our quaint surroundings and all the natural beauty of the area.

The locals call Two Rivers “Cool City” because the temperatures in summer are always the coldest in the state. If you look at a map, the geography of Two Rivers jets out into the lake and that physical location causes lots of extra weather issues for the community; such as fog, rain, colder air, etc. They say the effect is opposite in the winter, and Two Rivers is generally warmer than anywhere else (until the lake starts to freeze as winter wears on). All I can say is it was chilly during the month of June. We rarely went anywhere without at least a sweatshirt… and we never even thought about having a loungy day at the beach. It was sort of strange for summer, but we didn’t complain. We just kept thinking about how hot it was in Houston, and enjoyed the refreshing temperatures as a novelty at this time of year.

We selected lots of photos to share from this stop too. I’ll keep this narrative brief and let the pictures tell the story again.

The Manitowoc Lighthouse is at the end of this bulkhead.

The Manitowoc Lighthouse is at the end of this bulkhead, I promise.

Even though it was high noon on a June afternoon, our walk through the Manitowoc Marina on this day felt much more like we were in the thick of a fall evening.

Even though it was high noon on a June afternoon, our walk through the Manitowoc Marina on this day felt much more like we were in the thick of a fall evening.

Mike and his affinity for geese.

Mike and his affinity for geese.

There was a paved 'Trail of Two Cities' along the Lake Michigan shore between Two Rivers and Manitowoc. The trail was dotted by small parking lots along its route. The beautiful landscaping around each parking lot was maintained by private citizens because of their passion for gardening, or in memory of a loved one. The flowers were beautiful, and each bed had a distinct personality. They also had pieces of art at various points along the trail. This eagle sculpture was my favorite.

There was a paved ‘Trail of Two Cities’ along the Lake Michigan shore between Two Rivers and Manitowoc. The trail was dotted by small parking lots along its route. The beautiful landscaping around each parking lot was maintained by private citizens because of their passion for gardening, or in memory of a loved one. The flowers were beautiful, and each bed had a distinct personality. They also had pieces of art at various points along the trail. This eagle sculpture was my favorite.

Friday Night Fish Fries in Wisconsin and the U.P. are sort of like the tradition of Friday Night Mexican Food in Texas. That is what everyone does on Friday. We walked over to a fish fry at the Port Sandy Bay Restaurant next to our campground on the last Friday we were in town. This Point Amber Dude stared at us the whole time we had drinks and ate. He loosened up at the end, and we were friends by the time we paid our tab.

Friday Night Fish Fries in Wisconsin and the U.P. are sort of like the tradition of Friday Night Mexican Food in Texas. That is what everyone does on Friday. We walked over to a fish fry at the Port Sandy Bay Restaurant next to our campground on the last Friday we were in town. This Point Amber Dude stared at us the whole time we had drinks and ate. He loosened up at the end, and we were friends by the time we paid our tab.

A local guy said this steeple in downtown Two Rivers was featured in the movie "Back to the Future". Not sure if I'm buying it... but it was a very pretty church.

A local guy said this steeple in downtown Two Rivers was featured in the movie “Back to the Future”. Not sure if I’m buying it… but it was a very pretty church.

There were not a ton of waterfront dining establishments in the area we were visiting. We heard about Gibs on the Lake Supper Club, and stopped in Kewaunee on the way home from our daytrip to Door County. It was a beautiful setting.  We wanted to have a drink before dinner so we decided to sit at the bar instead of at a table in the dining room - because it had the best view of the water.  The bartender was new (as in 4th day on the job). Mike ordered our martinis and the nice kid brought them to us WARM. No ice, no shaker. Warm martinis. Because of the view, we stuck it out. We coached the lad a bit on the second ones, and he did much better. We are glad we persevered because our dinner was delicious.

There were not a ton of waterfront dining establishments in the area we were visiting. We heard about Gibs on the Lake Supper Club, and stopped in Kewaunee on the way home from our daytrip to Door County. It was a beautiful setting. We wanted to have a drink before dinner so we decided to sit at the bar instead of at a table in the dining room – because it had the best view of the water. The bartender was new (as in 4th day on the job). Mike ordered our martinis and the nice kid brought them to us WARM. No ice, no shaker. Warm martinis. Because of the view, we stuck it out. We coached the lad a bit on the second ones, and he did much better. We are glad we persevered because our dinner was delicious.

Our Door County daytrip included a stop in Algoma. Sport fishing is big there. The fishermen concentrate on Trout and Salmon because the waters around there are stocked to eliminate another species of predatory fish. The Ahnapee Brewery and von Stiehl Winery are owned by the same people and located next door to each other where the Ahnapee River meets Lake Michigan in downtown.  It was a great spot to grab some refreshments and enjoy the sunshine (which was warm until the wind suddenly switched directions and started blowing off of the cool waters of the lake). I must have taken my jacket on and off about 20 times during our two drinks! My mind kept telling me it was summer and my body temperature kept telling this Texas Girl that it seemed more like late fall.

Our Door County daytrip included a stop in Algoma. Sport fishing is big there. The fishermen concentrate on Trout and Salmon because the waters around there are stocked to eliminate another species of predatory fish. The Ahnapee Brewery and von Stiehl Winery are owned by the same people and located next door to each other where the Ahnapee River meets Lake Michigan in downtown. It was a great spot to grab some refreshments and enjoy the sunshine (which was warm until the wind suddenly switched directions and started blowing off of the cool waters of the lake). I must have taken my jacket on and off about 20 times during our two drinks! My mind kept telling me it was summer and my body temperature kept telling this Texas Girl that it seemed more like late fall.

The marina in Algoma.

The marina in Algoma.

Have you ever seen this? A fake (plastic) coyote-type bird deterrent on the beach in Algoma. It is mechanical, and motion sensors cause it to move from side to side when something goes near it. Not sure if it works, but it sure was fascinating to see. (I'm thinking that if it WERE effective... we might have stumbled across more of these contraptions during our travels... maybe it is cutting edge)!

Have you ever seen this? A fake (plastic) coyote-type bird deterrent on the beach in Algoma. It is mechanical, and motion sensors cause it to move from side to side when something goes near it. Not sure if it works, but it sure was fascinating to see. (I’m thinking that if it WERE effective… we might have stumbled across more of these contraptions during our travels). On the other hand, maybe it is cutting edge!

 

Cave Point County Park is in Door County just north of Whitefish May.

Cave Point County Park is in Door County just north of Whitefish Bay.

We stumbled upon these rock stacks while exploring Cave Point County Park.  Apparently the act of building Carins is a big deal there. We didn't know, but it didn't really matter, either. They were such a whimsical and unexpected surprise to stumble upon. It made the day and the stop at this special county park extra memorable.

We stumbled upon these rock stacks while exploring Cave Point County Park. Apparently the act of building Carins is a big deal there. We didn’t know, but it didn’t really matter, either. They were such a whimsical and unexpected surprise to stumble upon. It made the day and the stop at this special county park extra memorable.

The trail at Cave Point County Park was pretty rugged. The roots and rocks were so thick that it was not feasible to gaze at the beautiful view of the water while walking. Instead, it was necessary to look down and avoid tripping into a face plant.

The trail at Cave Point County Park was pretty rugged. The roots and rocks were so thick that it was not feasible to gaze at the beautiful view of the water while walking. Instead, it was necessary to look down and avoid tripping into a face plant.

The water blowing off of the Lake and into the caves on the point created a violent yet strangely soothing noise that stifled all of the other tourist voices around us.

The water blowing off of the Lake and into the caves on the point created a violent yet strangely soothing noise that stifled all of the other tourist voices around us.

The Rawley Point Lighthouse is a working lighthouse in Point Beach State Forest.

The Rawley Point Lighthouse is a working lighthouse in Point Beach State Forest.

The back of the Frank Lloyd Wright House, "Still Bend", that I didn't even know I was going to get to see before we arrived in Two Rivers.

The back of the Frank Lloyd Wright House, “Still Bend”, that I didn’t even know I was going to get to see before we arrived in Two Rivers.

I was reading a newspaper after our arrival to Two Rivers and learned that a private individual owned a Frank Lloyd Wright house on the East Twin River - right in town! The Bernard Schwartz House was a Usonian Design that was completed in 1940. Its third and final owners are brothers from the St. Paul area. They rent out the property as lodging and also host special events on site. He gives private tours on the third Sunday of each month, and we just happened to be in town at the right moment! Guess where I was when 3:00 PM came around on that Sunday afternoon.

I was reading a newspaper after our arrival to Two Rivers and learned that a private individual owned a Frank Lloyd Wright house on the East Twin River – right in town! The Bernard Schwartz House was a Usonian Design that was completed in 1940. Its third and final owners are brothers from the St. Paul area. They rent out the property as lodging and also host special events on site. He gives private tours on the third Sunday of each month, and we just happened to be in town at the right moment! Guess where I was when 3:00 PM came around on that Sunday afternoon. You can find lots more information at www.theschwartzhouse.com

A selfie at Johnny Chimpo's Bar in downtown Two Rivers. Aside from us, everyone in the place new everyone else in the place. It was very obvious we were not locals. However, Sam the bartender was a great kid, and all the patrons were extremely friendly. We got tons of great advice on things to do and places to see while we were visiting the area. The locals always spot the out-of-towners in the churches and bars.

A selfie at Johnny Chimpo’s Bar in downtown Two Rivers. Aside from us, everyone in the place new everyone else in the place. It was very obvious we were not locals. However, Sam the bartender was a great kid, and all the patrons were extremely friendly. We got tons of great advice on things to do and places to see while we were visiting the area. The locals always spot the out-of-towners in the churches and bars.

A selfie at the Two Rivers Carp Fest. They sold beer and pop at the event... but there were no fences or gates or anything. We found this to be a great excuse to bring our own wine, beer and tequila with us. We just left our personal bar in our car in a cooler with some ice. We made our way back to the Honda for refills, and no one cared one bit.

A selfie at the Two Rivers Carp Fest. They sold beer and pop at the event… but there were no fences or gates or anything. We found this to be a great excuse to bring our own wine, beer and tequila with us. We just left our personal bar in our car in a cooler with some ice. We made our way back to the Honda for refills, and no one cared one bit.

Live music on stage at the Two Rivers Downtown Commons during Carp Fest. The actual fishing is catch and release style. The participants fish from several local parks along the Twin Rivers. Winning is based on the highest weighing catch. We didn't watch any of the fishing, just came for the music at the end of the day.

Live music on stage at the Two Rivers Downtown Commons during Carp Fest. The actual fishing is catch and release style. The participants fish from several local parks along the Twin Rivers. Winning is based on the highest weighing catch. We didn’t watch any of the fishing, just came for the music at the end of the day.

A completely restored WWII submarine can be toured from the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in downtown Manitowoc.

A completely restored WWII submarine can be toured from the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in downtown Manitowoc.

The S.S. Badger Carferry transports humans and their vehicles back and forth across Lake Michigan between Manitowoc, WI and Ludington, MI. The 410' ship holds 600 passengers, plus autos, RVs, buses and large trucks. The trip takes about 4 hours.

The S.S. Badger Carferry transports humans and their vehicles back and forth across Lake Michigan between Manitowoc, WI and Ludington, MI. The 410′ ship holds 600 passengers, plus autos, RVs, buses and large trucks. The trip takes about 4 hours.

The only lakefront restaurant in Two Rivers was the Water's Edge Restaurant inside the Lighthouse Inn. We had drinks and dinner there one evening. The food was okay. The bartender girl kept opening new bottles of beer and giving them to Mike before he would even ask for another. We finally had to eat and run before she stuck another cold one in front of us.

The only lakefront restaurant in Two Rivers was the Water’s Edge Restaurant inside the Lighthouse Inn. We had drinks and dinner there one evening. The food was okay. The bartender girl kept opening new bottles of beer and giving them to Mike before he would even ask for another. We finally had to eat and run before she stuck another cold one in front of us.

The Ice Age Trail in Point Beach State Forest was accessible from our campground. If you trekked along a narrow forest trail for about 1.5 miles, you would emerge from a canopy of trees and end up at this beautiful spot along the lake shore.

The Ice Age Trail in Point Beach State Forest was accessible from our campground. If you trekked along a narrow forest trail for about 1.5 miles, you would emerge from a canopy of trees and end up at this beautiful spot along the lake shore.

This boardwalk on the Ice Age Trail took us from the woods, across the dunes and to the lake.

This boardwalk on the Ice Age Trail took us from the woods, across the dunes and to the lake.

Sand dunes and pine trees at the edge of the lake.

Sand dunes and pine trees at the edge of the lake.

A marsh along the trail from our camp to the lake. One day we stopped here and watched a beaver swimming and playing in the water. The next time we passed this spot, we stopped to watch hundreds of carp mingling around in the shallow water. It looked like they were having their own version of Carp Fest!

A marsh along the trail from our camp to the lake. One day we stopped here and watched a beaver swimming and playing in the water. The next time we passed this spot, we stopped to watch hundreds of carp mingling around in the shallow water. It looked like they were having their own version of Carp Fest!

The trail off of our campground connected to the trails of Point Beach State Forest to one direction and the Two Rivers Municipal Neshotah Park and Beach in the other direction.

The trail off of our campground connected to the trails of Point Beach State Forest in one direction and the Two Rivers Municipal Neshotah Park and Beach in the other direction.

Our camping spot at Scheffel's HideAway Campground. The owners, Tammy and Paul, were extremely nice folks!

Our camping spot at Scheffel’s HideAway Campground. The owners, Tammy and Paul, were extremely nice folks!

 

 

Wisconsin Part I: Milton

Our drive from Sycamore, IL to our first stop in Wisconsin was easy peezy. It was under two hours. We got onto Interstate 90 at Rockford and drove north for about an hour until the exit for the Hidden Valley RV Resort on State Highway 59 between Edgerton (hometown of Pro Golfer Steve Stricker) and Milton, across the street from Lake Koshkonong. We were about 30-minutes south of Madison and a little over an hour south and west from Milwaukee. The closest biggish town was Janesville, a few miles to our south.

The RV Park was very nice. There were about 200 spots, and about half of those were full-time seasonal campers or mini mobile home ‘cabins’. The full time seasonal spots were individually owned, and the rotating spots (like ours) were managed by the campground office. There were plenty of amenities to take advantage of, such as disc golf, pool and hot tub, a snack bar/ restaurant, walking trail, golf carts for rent, etc. We stayed at this spot for 2 weeks. The place was super busy each weekend but things cleared out considerably during the weekdays.

I selected lots of photos from this stop, so I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story on this post.

A view of the vineyard and other fields at Taliesin.

A view of the vineyard and other fields at Frank Lloyd Wright’s personal estate of Taliesin near Spring Green, WI. I drove over by myself one Sunday afternoon to take a tour.

 

The bird walk at Taliesin (and another view of the beautiful landscape on all sides of the house).

The bird walk at Taliesin (and another view of the beautiful landscape on all sides of the house).

This water tower is called Romeo and Juliet. Frank Lloyd Wright's sister asked him to design one for their boarding school compound, and this is what he designed.

This water tower is called Romeo and Juliet. Frank Lloyd Wright’s sister asked him to design one for their boarding school compound, and this is what he designed.

The Wisconsin River outside of Spring Green, WI.

The Wisconsin River outside of Spring Green, WI.

A classic bell tower in downtown Milwaukee.

A classic bell tower in downtown Milwaukee.

Another classic building in downtown Milwaukee.

Another classic building in downtown Milwaukee.

Some public landscaping art in downtown Milwaukee.

Some public landscaping art in downtown Milwaukee.

More pretty architecture in downtown Milwaukee.

More pretty architecture in downtown Milwaukee.

All the baby geese are getting bigger as spring turns into summer.

All the baby geese are getting bigger as spring turns into summer.

Downtown Milwaukee from the shore of Lake Michigan.

Downtown Milwaukee from the shore of Lake Michigan.

A cargo ship and a sailboat heading out to Lake Michigan.

A cargo ship and a sailboat heading out to Lake Michigan.

Milwaukee Harbor.

Milwaukee Harbor.

The Third Ward District in downtown Milwaukee is an historic warehouse district that backs up to the water. The buildings have been converted to residential lofts, and some lucky folks get to park their boats out back.

The Third Ward District in downtown Milwaukee is an historic warehouse district that backs up to the water. The buildings have been converted to residential lofts, and some lucky folks get to park their boats out back.

Brewers Stadium. It is not located in downtown, so we just snapped a photo as we passed by on the highway.

Brewers Stadium. It is not located in downtown, so we just snapped a photo as we passed by on the highway.

This was the outdoor section of the restaurant that was closest to our campground. We enjoyed hamburgers there on Memorial Day, and picked up a full rack of smoked ribs to take home on another afternoon. It was called Lakeview Campground and Bar. Guests could arrive by car or boat.

This was the outdoor section of the restaurant that was closest to our campground. We enjoyed hamburgers there on Memorial Day, and picked up a full rack of smoked ribs to take home on another afternoon. It was called Lakeview Campground and Bar. Guests could arrive by car or boat.

We didn't want to stand in line for a photo with the Wiener Mobile, so we just snapped a shot of another family getting ready to pose.

We didn’t want to stand in line for a photo with the Wiener Mobile, so we just snapped a shot of another family getting ready to pose.

This was the cooking station in back of the Brats Tent at Brat Fest. Outside of the tent they had an electronic billboard flashing the number of brats sold since the beginning of the festival. When we were there on Memorial Day, it was up to 130,750.

This was the cooking station in back of the Brats Tent at Brat Fest. Outside of the tent they had an electronic billboard flashing the number of brats sold since the beginning of the festival. When we were there on Memorial Day, it was up to 130,750.

One of the music stages at Brat Fest. There were four in total. Three of them were facing each other from opposite sides of a big field. They were a little too close together, so the sound all combined together into one LOUD mishmash of noise. Mike had one beer, I had one order of ice cream - then we bailed on the festival and drove to the lake.

One of the music stages at Brat Fest. There were four in total. Three of them were facing each other from opposite sides of a big field. They were a little too close together, so the sound all combined together into one LOUD mishmash of noise. Mike had one beer, I had one order of ice cream – then we bailed on the festival and drove to the lake.

After a walking tour of Madison we stopped at a sidewalk café for some drinks and an appetizer. This cool motorcycle dude passed by us with his super cool dog riding shotgun. The girls at the table started taking photos of them with their phone. The biker dude loved the attention. When the light turned green, he wasn't done with the spotlight, so he circled the block and came back to pose for more pictures during the next red light.

After a walking tour of Madison we stopped at a sidewalk café for some drinks and an appetizer. This cool motorcycle dude passed by us with his super cool dog riding shotgun. The girls at the next table started taking photos of them with their phones. The biker dude loved the attention. When the light turned green, he wasn’t done with the spotlight, so he circled the block and came back to pose for more pictures during the next red light.

The Wisconsin Capitol.

The Wisconsin Capitol.

Lake Mendota, on the western side of downtown Madison.

Lake Mendota, on the western side of downtown Madison.

The University of Wisconsin campus has a beautiful walking trail along the lake.

The University of Wisconsin campus has a beautiful walking trail along the lake.

We think this was the location of the University of Wisconsin commons or union area. There is a food court area and beer carts located along the lakefront. Brightly painted tables and big picnic tables are located at the water's edge. It was such a fun and pleasant atmosphere on the Saturday afternoon that we visited. Of course, the gorgeous weather didn't hurt anything.

We think this was the location of the University of Wisconsin commons or union area. There is a food court area and beer carts located along the lakefront. Brightly painted tables and big picnic tables are located at the water’s edge. It was such a fun and pleasant atmosphere on the Saturday afternoon that we visited. Of course, the gorgeous weather didn’t hurt anything.

I didn't have to worry about finding a farmer's market near our campground because this old farmer brought his trailer of goods directly to us!

I didn’t have to worry about finding a farmer’s market near our campground because this old farmer brought his trailer of goods directly to us!

After we left Brat Fest in Madison, we drove back to the Sunset Bar and Grill on Lake Koshkonong. They had a live band and lively crowd that we enjoyed watching for a couple of hours.

After we left Brat Fest in Madison, we drove back to the Sunset Bar and Grill on Lake Koshkonong. They had a live band and lively crowd that we enjoyed watching for a couple of hours.

Sunset Bar and Grille on Lake Koshkonong. This is where I learned about pigs wings. YUM!

Sunset Bar and Grille on Lake Koshkonong. This is where I learned about pig wings. YUM!

Our campground had a disc golf course. It was 9 holes of wide-open grass field. I am the most awful disc golf player. When I let loose of the disc, it flies sideways. I give lots of credit to Mike who constantly encourages me instead of laughing into hysterics. Not sure I would be able to do the same.

Our campground had a disc golf course. It was 9 holes of wide-open grass field. I am the most awful disc golf player. When I let loose of the disc, it flies sideways. I give lots of credit to Mike who constantly encourages me instead of laughing into hysterics. Not sure I would be able to do the same.

Our campground had two cute little cabins for non-camping campers.

Our campground had two cute little cabins for non-camping campers.

Their was a trail around the edges of the campground so it was easy to walk the dogs in the mornings and evenings.

There was a trail around the edge of the campground, so it was easy to walk the dogs in the mornings and evenings.

Mike and Piper discussing the drive up from Sycamore, IL.

Mike and Piper discussing the drive up from Sycamore, IL.

A super full campground over Memorial Day weekend.

A super full campground over Memorial Day weekend.

When we arrived on the Tuesday before Memorial Day, the campground was almost empty. One of the campground workers told us the place would be totally full over the coming weekend. I didn't believe him. Turns out he knew what he was talking about!

When we arrived on the Tuesday before Memorial Day, the campground was almost empty. One of the campground workers told us the place would be totally full over the coming weekend. I didn’t believe him. Turns out he knew what he was talking about!

Our spot was #221 on the last aisle up against the asparagus field of an neighboring farm.

Our spot was #221 on the last aisle up against the asparagus field of a neighboring farm.

The view from our bedroom.

The view from our bedroom (asparagus).

 

A selfie by the pool at our campground.

A selfie by the pool at our campground.