Wow, here we are. The last “big adventure” blog post. We think we’ll do a summary/post-trip post eventually, but given how long it has taken us to finish this one don’t expect it anytime soon. It’s hard to keep up the blog momentum now that we’re home!
After a brief stop at Sioux Falls, SD we continued due east to Fairmont, Minnesota, just a few miles north of the Iowa border. It’s a nostalgic place for Mark after dozens of family visits with both sets of grandparents during his childhood in the 60’s and 70’s. Our own kids had their first visit to Fairmont in the 90’s when they met their great-grandma Champine. The original Champine home, where Mark’s dad grew up, is still in the family and has continued to be an occasional family meeting place. The home sits just on the edge of downtown, yet has an excellent view overlooking Lake Sisseton, (one of a chain of 5 lakes in town).
In honor of Mark’s dad, George, our plan was to revisit many of his favorite spots. We walked around downtown Fairmont, and to the Dairy Queen, and to the cemetery where several family members rest. We rode the excellent bike paths around several of the lakes. We ordered takeout pizza from Jake’s – the family favorite pizza shop. Each night we watched the sun set over the lake from the back yard. Mostly, we just reminisced and relaxed.
Finally, it was time to head north for a family reunion with Mark’s aunts, uncle, cousins/spouses, and their children. We masked/distanced kinda sorta. It was great to see everyone, but it was still a bit unnerving to be around so many people suddenly after being mostly an island unto ourselves for so long. We appreciated everyone’s contribution to an enjoyable day. Great seeing you all!
Next, more lake: Minnetonka! We spent a couple days parked at Mark’s aunt’s house on the lake, which we toured by boat (lunch at Lord Fletcher’s :)) and rode our bikes around the town. Mark even got to Jet ski. Thanks Jo, Beth, and Matt!
Finally we headed north to Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior for Gooseberry Falls, Tettegouche, and Grand Marais – all beautiful. Mark hadn’t been to Duluth since running Grandma’s Marathon there during college. Grandma’s Saloon is still there, though we didn’t go for beers. Too crowded for comfort! There’s a great lakeside bike trail going north from Duluth, and we enjoyed several hours of the afternoon riding it. Lori dipped her toes into Lake Superior. For the rest of the trip she did that in every Great Lake we visited (Lakes Michigan, Huron, and Erie). The only one we missed was Lake Ontario.
We hope you enjoy our Minnesota Video!
Since we’d decided on the northern route through Michigan’s upper peninsula, spending time in Wisconsin’s prime scenic area north of Sturgeon Bay would have been a significant backtrack. We decided not to add the extra days and hundreds of miles that would have required.
Still, we did stop for a while in the lovely Wisconsin town of Ashland, on Lake Superior’s south shore. As you’ll see in the video, Ashland is crazy for murals! We walked Main street’s “Mural Walk” and marveled at the size and sheer number of them.
In retrospect, going through Wisconsin might have been the better choice. We tried to hug Superior’s southern shore through the upper peninsula but unlike Minnesota’s coastline there was almost nothing to see. No rocky cliffs, grand vistas, etc. We camped in a few campgrounds along the way, and they weren’t great either. A letdown!
We did have one great experience in the Yoop (Upper Peninsula) though – Mackinac Island! A quick 20 minute ferry ride under the Majestic 5 mile long Mackinac Bridge brings to you a quaint island village – with no cars! Horses and bikes rule. We rented a tandem bike and proceeded to make a complete loop of the island on the flat, wide and paved coastal trail. Beautiful views were around every turn. Fabulous!
Our big treat in Ohio was a visit to Don Drumm Studios and Gallery in Akron. Don is the father of our friend, Elisa, so we were familiar with Don’s work, but we had no idea how amazing the Gallery would be – it’s quite a place. We were surrounded by beautiful creations on every side. https://www.dondrummstudios.com/ Elisa’s brother-in-law, Tim, greeted us and we had a great chat. He also told us about nearby Brandywine Falls, which was another nice side trip that day. We had a picnic lunch and short hike to the falls.
Here’s our video covering Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio.
The smidge of Pennsylvania along lake Erie is even smaller (by half) than the smidge of Wisconsin on Superior! But that tiny bit of PA is home to the beautiful peninsula known as Presque Isle State Park. It has a bike path (and road) that follow the entire 4+ mile perimeter. If you’re ever near Erie, PA you should check it out. We made one major mistake there. The sun began to set and we still needed to eat and fill the RV with fuel before heading to our campground so we loaded up the bikes and drove off. While we were at the gas station the sky was suddenly blazing red and orange, perhaps the brightest, most vivid colors in the sky we’d seen all trip. Had we waited 15 minutes longer on the western shore of Presque Isle, we’re sure we’d have seen a truly spectacular sunset.
We Stayed in 3 great New York State Parks. Lake Erie State Park is right on the lake, with beautiful shore views. Letchworth State Park is home to some of the most beautiful falls we’ve seen anywhere. And Robert H. Tremen State Park near Ithaca was amazing as well. Ithaca is a treasure trove of beautiful river hikes with gorgeous falls. Unforgettable.
Between Letchworth and Ithaca We also stopped to hike the gorge at Watkins Glen. Wow, wow, wow! Highly recommended. It’s an easy hike and it’s spectacular.
Here’s the video. We hope you like falls, because you’re going to see a lot of them!
Home again, home again, jiggity jig! We capped our trip with a stay in western MA, near lake Pontoosuc. Our good friends, Sue and Jon, joined us with their tent and kayak for the perfect socially distant visit. We hiked, we kayaked, and we ate, ate, ate, like kings and queens. What a lovely welcome home!
We spent the afternoon visiting with Kelly in Northampton before returning to Westford. It took us a few days to fully unpack Wandah. After that, we found secure storage for her in Ashland. RV storage is hard to come by these days. Camping is more popular than ever. We hear it’s a good time to sell, but we’re not ready to let her go just yet.
As we’ve told a few people, we don’t think we’re done Wandah-ing, especially since we had to bypass the entire pacific coast because of some dumb pandemic thing you may have heard about. So the hope is to get a “redo” as soon as the coast is clear! (hee hee) We still need to figure out the right way to get back there. Do we bring it there this fall and fly back in January? (hoping of course that things are better..) Or do we winterize it and then make a mad dash for a place warm enough to camp? We’re not sure yet.
We plan one more post to summarize the trip and what we learned. Maybe we’ll do a FAQ. Feel free to send any questions and we’ll answer them as best we can!
Thanks for sharing this adventure with us.
Mark and Lori