My dad was the fourth oldest of 16 siblings. Although most of the family settled and still live somewhere in the northeast and a few retired to warmer climes, two escaped when they were younger. Both moved around quite a bit, and both eventually made their way to Missouri.
Kansas would be different. We don’t know anyone in Kansas. There are no National Parks. State Parks are all about fishing. It’s mostly flat farm country. Still, our memories of traveling through Kansas in 1984 is that every town has a town campground and that the locals are curious, fun to chat with, and friendly. We planned to drive back roads, reminisce and cross the state in whatever time it took, then visit family in Missouri.
Based on a limited sample of 5, our impression is that our National Parks are located in gorgeous places worthy of a visit, well operated and maintained, and extremely popular. As we approached Rocky Mountain National Park (known by locals as Rocky Park) after the kiddos had gone back to school, we expected diminished crowds and lots of options. Ha! A few days before we expected to arrive, we checked the on-line reservation system and found that of the 3 campgrounds remaining open in September, there was exactly 1 site available, at Moraine Park. We booked it, not expecting much. Turns out… it may have been the most beautiful campsite in the park!
You can’t make this stuff up, unless you make it up as you go along…
As I’ve mentioned before, we don’t have much of a plan – we’re letting this adventure unfold as we go along. After our visits and sightseeing in SD, we had a chance to arrange a visit near Boulder, CO. The folks we were meeting were only available on the weekend, and somewhere in there we needed a day or so to take care of a few things on our own. That was tight (at least for us, given our typical travel habits), but it appeared that, yes, we could be there with a little bit of hustling.
Coming from Hot Springs, we decided to enter the Badlands National Park via the southeast entrance, seeing hints and badland teasers as we approached. Nothing could have prepared us for the view as we crested the hill and dropped into the area known as Cedar Pass. And, we were staying at the Cedar Pass Campground. Cue the squeals!
Folks told us we’d be bored with all the flatness and corn fields of eastern and central South Dakota and North Dakota. ‘Take the interstate. Drive 80 mph along with the trucks. Suck it up and get it over with.’ Trucks? Hmm. Plus, 65 mph in our rig feels almost too fast, and we haven’t driven 100 miles straight on an interstate since we left Maine. To top it off, the sights we wanted to see called for a diagonal route through both states and the interstates just don’t go that way – but, hey look, some of these state roads do!
Joe introduced me to Mike in 2007. Mike’s company Axia Strategies, a small healthcare consulting firm based in Savage, MN, needed to add a clinician to one of their client teams. That started a nearly 10-year relationship between our respective consulting firms. Mike and I shared a similar client service philosophy and a passion for craft brews, and he shared with me his love for the midwest. Mike’s work travel, a new grand-baby, getting 4 kids off to college, and managing a high-schooler’s sports schedule made arranging a get-together kind of tricky, but we were fortunately able to meet with Mike in Minneapolis for a great lunch. It was so fun to catch up, live, on his turf!
This schedule also gave us a couple of days to explore more of MN. We opted to stay along the St. Croix River where we enjoyed a gorgeous bike ride along the rolling hills near the WI border. We visited Pipestone National Monument, the sacred Indian mines. And since we were headed toward SD, Mike provided local intel on back roads to see MN prairies. We And of course, corn…
There couldn’t have been a better place than Palisade Head, near Silver Bay, MN, on a stunningly beautiful day, to say our farewell to the Great Lakes. On June 19 we were in Cape Vincent, NY, where Lake Ontario becomes the St. Lawrence Seaway, and for the better part of the next 8 weeks we were awed, entertained, and educated on the Lakes. One of the areas in the U.S. that neither Doug nor I had been in, we’re happy that we chose to explore these Great Lakes on our great adventure.
The ‘Simply Superior, part 1’ title for the earlier post started out as a joke – I saw it on a roadway sign and thought it sounded cool. Yet, there is decidedly an eastern and a western UP – we’re not sure where the line is. We clearly crossed the line somewhere between Munising and Marquette, MI. Both halves share the beauty of Lake Superior and its shoreline, a penchant for winter sports (the locals talk wistfully about snowmobiling and ice fishing all summer), and the highest average daily spotting of tourists driving around in RVs since we started this adventure. The Hiawatha National Forest with its endless views of flat terrain, scrub pines and wetlands dominates the eastern half and most of the towns cater to tourists whether lake or snow related. The western half is all about mining (and evidence of its related current or former prosperity) and higher education. The terrain becomes hilly and the forests more deciduous. Hard to explain, but palpable…