Travels With Minnie: Bugs Galore

We’ve heard stories about summer bugs in certain parts of the country…now we know. What an introduction we had at Tawas Point State Park along Michigan’s east coast. The campsites were large and lush, the showers were clean and modern and the nature walk was a birdwatcher’s dream. If only we could have enjoyed it a little bit more.

Our morning walk was interrupted by armies of tiny, flying insects buzzing around our faces. Above, the swarm gathered to plan their attack.

We packed up Friday morning and waved goodbye to the Great Lakes Region of the country. Needing an overnight stop on our way south into Ohio, we reserved a place with another Harvest Home member. We have found these stays to be easy, fun and a nice break from the typical campground experience.

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Travels With Minnie: Mackinac Island-A Life Without Cars

We caught an early ferry to explore Mackinac Island.

Charming Mackinac Island sits in Lake Huron, just off the east coast of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Established in 1895, it’s Michigan’s first state park and offers something for everyone…except car enthusiasts. The automobile ban began in 1898 and remains in effect today. Visitors see the park on foot, bike, horse or in one of the horse-drawn carriages or taxis.

Even trash collection is done with horse and wagon.
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Traveling With Minnie: A Superior Day

We arrived in Ishpeming, Michigan yesterday for a two-night stay on the U.P. That’s short for Upper Peninsula and the folks who live here proudly refer to themselves as Yoopers. Those unlucky enough to live in the lower part of the state below the Mackinac Bridge are, in good fun, referred to as trolls. Why? Well, because we all know that trolls live “under the bridge.”

Another beautiful campsite.

With a full day to fill Sunday, we drove east to the town of Marquette, located on the banks of Lake Superior, the largest of the five Great Lakes.

Gray clouds disappeared as we began our walk along the shoreline of Lake Superior.
Our goal was to walk out to and around Presque Isle Park, an oval-shaped peninsula seen in the distance above.

Tomorrow we will continue east and set up camp at Straits State Park on the north side of the Mackinac Bridge. I guess we’ll see for ourselves if there are any trolls under that bridge!

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Travels With Minnie: Drifting Across the Country

It’s been just over four weeks since we hitched up Minnie and towed her east. With no set plan, other than to eventually reach West Virginia for a visit with (son) Chris and Gail, we weren’t sure what route we’d choose.

For some folks, traveling without a set itinerary is the stuff nightmares are made of. Understandable…we’ve had our challenges, for sure. For us, the rewards and discoveries far outweigh the negatives. Yesterday we pulled into this roadside RV park in Wisconsin for two nights, primarily to take advantage of their full hookups and laundry room.

The park is nothing fancy but we have lots of space and it’s quiet.

As we turned off the highway, I noticed a sign across the road for Copper Falls State Park. With a day to fill, we packed a lunch, took a chance and discovered (what must be) one of Wisconsin’s most beautiful parks. Created in 1929, many Civilian Conservation Corp buildings remain, adding charm and a sense of history.

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Travels With Minnie: Miles and Miles to Minnesota

The restored 1918 barn houses the Wilde Prairie Winery tasting room near Brandon, South Dakota.

After our Nebraska Harvest Host experience, we popped back up into a corner of South Dakota for a night at Wilde Prairie Winery, another Harvest Host site.

The next morning we spent an endless day of driving into Minnesota, in part because I misdirected Reg down a narrow (paved) road with so many potholes and washboards that it took us a good hour complete the 20-mile “detour.” It wasn’t the only wrong turn of the day but I’ve got to say, Reg is getting really good at maneuvering the Minnie in tight spaces!

We arrived at Gull Lake Recreation Area, just outside Brainerd, Minnesota, for a three-night stay. As we settled into our oversized campsite, we silently thanked the Army Corp of Engineers for understanding what makes a great camping experience.

Tomorrow we leave this beautiful part of the country and continue east into Wisconsin, then down a part of the Michigan coast. We have a week of reservations ahead of us with relatively short drives…according to google maps. Google won’t let us down, will it?

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Travels With Minnie: Harvest Hosts Welcome Us

Before we left on this trip, we purchased a membership in the Harvest Hosts program. This allows us access to a variety of “hosts” throughout the country who will let us camp, free of charge, overnight on their property. No hookups available, simply a place to spend the night and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Wineries, farms, ranches, breweries and museums are but a few of the options available. Reservations 24 hours in advance are required, and as a courtesy, guest are advised to purchase a bit of what is offered.

Cindy, our host, welcomed us into her beautiful tasting room, offering us our choice of 6 free tastings from her list of wines. In addition to the vineyard/winery we learned this is a working cattle ranch and that her husband’s family has been in the area for five generations.
After tasting a couple whites, a rose and several red wines, we settled on two bottles to take home. These may not last long.
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Travels With Minnie: So Long South Dakota

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Travels With Minnie: A Biking Paradise

We stopped our ride along the Poudre River Trail to watch this brave soul test the water. He never took the plunge.

We arrived in Fort Collins, Colorado two days ago, eager to discover if the bike trails were as incredible as we’d heard they were.
Our Friday outing began in the small community of Laporte, just north of Fort Collins. The Poudre (pronounced poo-der) River Trail would lead us 9 1/2 miles downstream along a beautifully maintained concrete trail, eventually reaching Fort Collins.

Saturday we rode a different segment of the Poudre River Trail, joining it just south of Windsor, Colorado and aiming ourselves toward the town of Greeley, roughly 12 miles away.

Another gorgeous river ride on a wide, relatively flat path.

This was another easy ride for Reg, but for someone who hasn’t really ridden a bike much in the last 30+ years (like me), things were beginning to feel a little sore. We turned around after about 10 miles, found a spot for a picnic lunch, then returned to our starting point, convinced that the area bike trails are some of the best we’ve ever seen!

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Travels With Minnie: Great Sand Dunes National Park

A quick trip to see North America’s tallest sand dunes, including the 755 foot Star Dune, was today’s outing. Driving toward the entrance to the park, the Sanger de Cristo mountains dominated the skyline and left me wondering just how impressive sand dunes could be in comparison.

As we got closer, the dunes captured our attention.
It was impossible for me to photograph the entire length of the dunes.
The seasonal Medano Creek, shallow enough to wade across today, flows at the base of the dunes, requiring dune trekkers to get their feet wet.
The park colors are absolutely beautiful this time of year.

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Travels With Minnie: Colorado – Durango to Alamosa

A rare photo of the two of us. Many thanks to Rich.

Three days in Durango, Colorado allowed us to experience a range of weather conditions. Cold nights, windy days, a brief bit of snow while we picnicked and finally, a beautiful spring day.
The high point (literally) of our stay was the hike we took up The Animas Mountain Trail with college friends Emily and Rich. A great day and a long overdue visit!

Sunday morning Durango faded in the distance as we drove east, aiming for the highest mountain pass of our trip…so far. Today was new territory for us and the scenery did not disappoint.

Treasure Falls cascades 105 feet into Falls Creek and is visible from Highway 160. We pulled off for a quick photo, opting not to make the short walk up to the base.

We’ve got Minnie back on level ground for the next two nights, parked in the little town of Alamosa, gateway to Great Sand Dunes National Park. More adventures to come.

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