Monday, August 3, 2020

RVentures the Week of July 26-August 1

Do you ever wake up and try to figure out where you are?? Not a good problem to have ... unless your house is a small van that changes locations quite often.

Yes, I wake up most mornings and have to remind myself where I am. We are traveling faster and having a lot of fun in the Baby Beest. And while it is a challenge to keep up with our blog, we do want to keep you up-to-date with our travels, (and also help us remember all the amazing places that we have been). I am going to try to post some of the weekly highlights of our travels each Sunday ... or Monday ... or ???
RVantastic travels this week include:

Sunday: Whitefish, Montana
One of our favorite ski hills became a favorite summer hiking area. We rode the ski lift up to the summit of Big Mountain, enjoyed the fantastic views, and were grateful that we could hike the four miles back down the mountain instead of up like we saw a lot of crazy people doing.

Monday: Kalispell, Montana
For years we participated in the MS TRAM (The Ride Around Minnesota) to benefit the Multiple Sclerosis Society. This year we joined our friends in spirit as we did The Ride Around Montana. Monday's ride was along the Great Northern Historical Trail from Flathead Lake to Kalispell and back.

Our ''campground'' was the lovely 4 acre yard of Marty, a delightful Boondockers Welcome host. He helped refuel us with freshly picked Flathead Cherries, and provided a good viewing area for a hot air balloon show.

Tuesday: Missoula and Stevensville, Montana
We enjoyed a lovely drive south along the eastern shore of Flathead Lake (the largest lake in Montana) and headed to Missoula for a shower at the local Planet Fitness. Missoula seemed very ''busy'' so we headed down to Stevensville where we found a more tranquil town and a Harvest Host brewery that allowed us to park in their lot overnight (Win-Win!!)

Wednesday: Hiking in the Bitterroot National Forest
Not far from Stevensville is the Selway Trail that led us along the lovely Bass Creek and provided us with magnificent views of the surrounding mountain peaks.

Thursday: Biking the Hiawatha Trail Near Lookout Pass Ski and Recreation Area on the Montana/Idaho border
A bike ride worthy of its own blog entry. Train tunnels and sky-high trestles and views that didn't disappoint!

Friday: Biking and Hiking in Wallace, Idaho
First time in Idaho! We stopped in the cute little town of Wallace that is just off of I-90. There the paved Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes runs almost parallel to the highway for 73 miles. We did a seven mile section uphill and into the wind ... and had a sweet coast back down!

Afterwards we hiked the two mile Pulaski Tunnel Historical Trail. Markers on this beautiful but challenging uphill trail recount the heroic story of forest ranger Ed Pulaski whose quick actions saved the lives of 65 men during the horrific forest fire of 1910.

By leading them into this abandoned mine tunnel, the men managed to avoid certain death from the fire, smoke and falling timber.

I rewarded my hero for accomplishing all these amazing athletic activities this week with a beer and pizza at Historic Wallace Brewery.

Saturday: Centennial Bike Trail along the Shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
We are settled in at the CCHC Ranch in Coeur d'Alene (another lovely Boondockers Welcome host) for four days of exploring this town overlooking a beautiful lake. There are lots of bike trails in the area for us to check out. Our first ride on Saturday was the Centennial Trail that runs along Lake Coeur d'Alene and the Spokane River. Lots of people and boats out enjoying a warm day on the water.

Back at our new temporary ''home'' (where am I again??), we gear up for another week of exploring the Coeur d'Alene area while Baby Beest checks out a baby deer that wonders by.

While we couldn't join our former TRAM team members in riding the MS TRAM and ''Breaking for Cake'' this year, we are grateful that we could join them in spirit for some amazing bike rides and hikes. We also hope to support those we know and love who are affected by MS. Therese, Sergio, and Stacy, you are our real heros!

Sunday, August 2, 2020

The Bison Are BIG in North Dakota!

The unknowing eye may call this a buffalo. But to anyone who is from North Dakota, and especially those who proudly display this green and yellow flag ...

... these are Bisons. And as we crossed the Minnesota border and headed west, we quickly realized that the bison are BIG in North Dakota.

North Dakota is a new state for RVentures. When exploring a new area, I like to consult Roadside America to make sure that we take in all the quirky and unusual sites that are on our way. The app advised us to get off I-94 in Jamestown because ... who would want to miss the ''World's Largest Buffalo''??!!

''Dakota Thunder'' stands 26 feet tall and seems to invite weary travelers to stop and enjoy something just a little bit different from the seemingly endless fields of corn and wheat and cows. He got our attention!

Our first overnight in North Dakota was the capital city of Bismarck. There I was able to get a picture in front of my 19th state capitol building ...

... but as you can see by the empty square above, my photographer failed me! Not sure what happened to the picture that Doug took, but I guess we are just going to have to try it again sometime in the future.

Just south of Bismarck, we stayed at a great state park. Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park sits on the banks overlooking the confluence of the Heart and Missouri Rivers. In addition to beautiful scenery and biking, the park celebrates its historical significance with some very interesting historical displays. On-A-Slant Indian Village is a reproduction of the Mandan earth lodges that stood on this land hundreds of years ago.  

Displays in each of the structures give a fascinating account of everyday Indian life on the northern prairies. Time and time again, the displays stressed how BIG the bison was for this Indian culture, as it provided food and materials to help sustain these early tribes.

Continuing our westward trek, we were once again drawn off the highway to admire another BIG North Dakota landmark ... ''Salem Sue''!

This giant Holstein cow stands 38 feet tall and was build by the town of New Salem, North Dakota to honor the local dairy farming industry. Continuing up the hill from ''Sue'', we had a great view of the endless fields of North Dakota agriculture.

After many hours of driving, these fields can seem quite mundane  ... but as we looked out over these endless fields, we were struck by their importance to Americans. These fields of wheat, corn, Holsteins, and (occasionally still) bison ... and the farmers that work the land, help feed America. And that is a BIG reason for us all to be proud of the land of the Bison!


Monday, July 27, 2020

Lake Time on the Shores of Lake Michigan and a Few of Minnesota's 10,000 Lakes

Lake Time:
Have fun ... Find the sun ... Read on
Kayak ... Relax
Corn hole ... Take it slow
Take a hike ... Ride a bike
Speed boat ... Gentle float ... Pontoon
Bring a friend ... Jump in
Play a game ... Campfire flame
Make a s'more .... Love life more!

Summertime in the Midwest is synonymous with Lake Time. It is Mother Nature's reward for braving another long, cold winter. And even more important this year, Lake Time provides a way to safely gather outside with family and friends.

Even though we can't claim to have braved a Midwest winter in a number of years, it is always nice to embrace Lake Time with our family and friends when RVentures bring us back ''home''.

After we left the Durand, Michigan area, we headed west towards the shore of Lake Michigan. On our way, we passed through Grand Rapids, Michigan where we discovered the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. In light of the current conditions, we are hesitant about visiting indoor museums. This works out OK for Doug, who is not exactly the art or history museum kind of guy ... but it is sometimes a bummer for me. But so far, we have been successful in seeking out and finding beautiful outdoor attractions. The Meijer Gardens fit my desire for an interesting walk in the park. We were greeted with ...

flower-lined paths,

... unique sculptures,

... joyful waterfalls,

... and someone who was willing to
just listen to all that I had to say!

Later that day, we reach the shores of Lake Michigan and explored the lakeside towns of Muskegon and Ludington. 

Pick any town on Lake Michigan,
and you can most likely take a
walk out to a lighthouse.

The pizza and beer were spot on
for Doug's first microbrewery
visit since the pandemic began.

The SS Badger ferry rested in the Ludington
port, waiting to take passengers and vehicles
across Lake Michigan to Wisconsin in the morning.

We had decided to stealthily park on the streets of Ludington for the night ... otherwise known as boondocking. Unfortunately for us, the friendly policeman who knocked on our door at midnight didn't seem to agree with our plan.

Not sure if the young officer will ever get
over the shock of seeing two ''old folks''
hanging out in a van in their pajamas!

Lesson learned: never assume the local overnight parking ordinances are up-to-date on Google and therefore, always have a ''Plan B''. It worked out for us that there was a Walmart three miles away, so we were able to stay there for the rest of the night.

Our journey up the Lake Michigan coast continued the next day. Originally we had planned to visit Sleeping Bear Dunes, but the rain reminded us that we always need to stay ''flexible'' with our travel plans.

No sitting outside at
this Traverse City Brewery,

... but the Grand Traverse Cherry Pie
was a tasty replacement.

That night we decided not to risk another midnight visitor, so we settled in at a free casino RV parking area in Petosky, Michigan. The next day, the sun was shining and the winds were calm as we crossed the Mackinac Bridge and started driving along one of our favorite stretches of highway. US 2 runs along the northern shore of Lake Michigan and provides great views as well as spectacular pull offs where we enjoyed our classic ''Yooper'' lunch ... a pasty.

A chance message to a friend who lives in Gladstone, Michigan became our next Lake Time experience. Our van fit nicely in their driveway, and their two girls were delighted to have a ''playhouse on wheels'' to hang out in. They were quite sure that their parents would gladly trade their house on the shore of Lake Michigan for our van ... I'm thinking not. 

We enjoyed another beautiful Upper Peninsula day at Fuller County Park ... once again camping right on the shore of Lake Michigan. After three days of boondocking, we were looking forward to a real shower, but unfortunately, due to the current pandemic, the showers in the park were closed. Time to jump into the cold lake or hurry on to Minneapolis!

We decided on the quick trip across Wisconsin which brought us back the next day to the City of Lakes ... Minneapolis. There we enjoyed bike rides on the trails that surround the city lakes and took advantage of refueling with a few ...

... backyard barbecue lunches
hosted by our sons and our
cute grand-puppies,

... Peter tha Pug,
always cute in person or on Instagram

... and Pippy Ann Longbody,
likewise adorable in person or on Instagram

Our time in Minneapolis always goes too fast, but we were grateful to be able to spend time with ...

... friends who are like sisters,

... and sisters who are the
best of friends!

With plans made to visit Glacier National Park in two weeks, it was time to start our journey west. Lake Itasca State Park is often rated as the #1 state park in Minnesota, and during our three days there, we found out why.

Beautiful hiking and biking trails surround the lake, and the park has two well-maintained campgrounds. But a trip to the northern tip of the lake reveals the significance of this gem of a park. Flowing out past this rock lined stream, the mighty Mississippi River begins its 2,552 mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico.

As a kid, I visited this spot with my family and recall slipping on the rocks while my dad was filming the whole un-graceful event (on movie film reels that were all the rage in those days). That ''movie'' became the most requested by my siblings who would enjoy a good laugh at my expense. This time around, I was hopeful that I could successfully make it across and join the ranks of the ''I successfully walked across the Mississippi River'' champions. Sadly, the rocks have gotten even more slick through the years, and I was only able to get halfway across. I will just have to look like a champion as I pose for a picture.

Our travels nicely matched up with the Lake Carlos State Park camping vacation that some friends from Rochester take every year. This is the ultimate Lake Time experience complete with ...

... speed boats and tubers flying through the air,

... lakeside games,

... and time to relax with that special someone.

One last Lake Time experience awaited us before we left the land of 10,000 lakes.  This was another one of those ultimate boondocking experiences as we snuggled in alongside our friends' new lakeside home.

Knowing that we bring our own kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom with us, we were able to have a CDC-approved socially distanced visit ...

... complete with masks for the two
engineering geeks as they examined the things
that only engineering geeks find interesting!

So many wonderful memories of our summer Lake Time in the Midwest! And it was just what we needed this year as Lake Time gave us an opportunity to come together with family and friends even as we need to stay six feet apart. 

Thank you, family and friends, for all the special Lake Time moments that we will hold close in our hearts as we venture into a new territory (for us) and explore the western United States.