Welcome, Minnesota

Day 154

     Barbara says we have to stop dilly-dallying around and head west toward Mount Rushmore. 

     The direct route from here to there is Interstate 90. We generally travel 4-5 hours between campgrounds. That takes us about 180 to 200 miles, with a stop for lunch. Although I am quite comfortable driving the Sphinx, as you can imagine it is a tiny bit stressful. Since we are in farm country, campgrounds are spread out. So, it would be going much longer than 200 miles, or shorter.

     Our first stop is Welcome, Minnesota, population 689. 


     There is absolutely nothing to do in Welcome. Since the town was established in 1890 and there are only 689 people living here, that tells the story.  

     We saw smoke a short distance from our camp, so we went to investigate. It was a fully involved barn fire. That was today’s excitement.

     We were welcomed everywhere.day-154-welcome-mn-5869_fotor

     There are miles and miles of corn fields.day-154-welcome-mn-5870_fotor

     Barbara tried talking to the local people, but they were not very responsive. day-152-lake-city-mn-5806_fotor

Technical Stuff:

Wabasha, Minnesota to Welcome, Minnesota 169.5 miles

9.4 MPG

3 hours 20 minutes

Diesel: $2.34

Kellogg, Minnesota

Day 153


     Each year at this time, the harvesting of watermelons, Kellogg Minnesota hosts their watermelon festival. 

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     The main attraction is the parade.  Each of the various fire engine and float participants throw candy. The children come prepared with plastic grocery bags.


     Too bad that one kid wasn’t watching, those dual wheels sure make a mess.

     They have their own version of the Clydesdales

day-153-kellogg-mn-5836_fotor              The City has a nice tribute to their heroes.


     We are in farm country

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             Now, that is a John Deere:


     A popular event is the children’s tractor pull.

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     And, of course, there is watermelon. 



Lake City, Minnesota

Day 152


     It was a beautiful day to take a paddle boat ride down Old Man River.


     Lake City is where the Mississippi meets the Chippewa river and widens out to Lake Pepin. Not only is it the largest lake on the river, but also one of the few natural lakes, formed about 400 million years ago. The others are man made as a result of 21 dams on the Mississippi. 


     Many were out enjoying themselves.

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     The Pepin lake is 22 miles long and 2 miles wide. There is only one working lighthouse on the Mississippi River, and here it is:


     By coincidence, Lake City was having their annual Junk Crush. And boy, did they have junk. 

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     Everything you could imagine, and more, including a barn door.


     Barbara did take time out to dip her piggies in the Mississippi River.





National Eagle Center, Minnesota

Day 151


      In 1782, after a 6 year debate, the US Congress chose the Bald Eagle as the symbol of our nation. To them it represented courage, freedom, and immortality (who knows why immortality). The more practical man, Benjamin Franklin, wanted the Turkey to be our national bird. 

     As you can see, the Bald Eagle is not bald. The name actually comes from an old English word — balde — which meant “white” rather than hairless. The English settlers therefore named the “Bald Eagle” meaning “white-headed eagle”.

    The National Eagle Center, located in Wabasha, Minnesota, has an amazing exhibit of Bald Eagles. Their purpose is to educate about the eagles, and encourage their growth.


     Why here? The Mississippi river meets other rivers here in Wabasha. The rapid current prevents the river from freezing. This, therefore is a feeding ground of fish for the eagles migrating South looking for food. During the winter there are over 500 eagles in this area. 


     This education center was built to view the river and the eagles. Eagles that are injured and can no longer survive in the wild are brought here to help in the education. 


Wabasha, Minnesota

Day 150     day-150-wabasha-mn-5609_fotor                             

     Continuing our westerly direction we crossed the mighty Mississippi River. We followed the scenic byway along the west side of the river from Wisconsin to Wabasha, Minnesota. Wabasha is the oldest town, established in 1830, in what is now the State of Minnesota. It is named in honor of an Indian Chief of the Sioux Nation, Chief Wa-pa-shaw. Minnesota became a state on Tuesday, May 11, 1868. The territory became a US possession as the result of the War of 1812, known here as the Blackhawk War, named for Chief Blackhawk who fought on the side of the British.

     Of course, the first thing we did after setting up camp was to go down to the river for a nice dinner.


     The town of Wabasha is now best known as the filming place of the 1993  movie Grumpy Old Men, starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. 


     The author of the screenplay lived here and the movie is based on stories his grandfather told him of the colorful characters of the town.


     From this point, the Mississippi River is 1,151.2 miles from New Orleans. Barbara wrote a letter to her brother who lives there, put it in a bottle and dropped it in the river at 7:02 PM. Al, the letter should reach you in 11 days 13 hours and 43 minutes. Wait for it. 

Technical Stuff:

Baraboo, Wisconsin to Wabasha, Minnesota 147.3 miles

10.5 MPG

2 hours 55 minutes

Diesel $2.34


LeValle, Wisconsin

Day 148

   Carr Valley Cheese Company is over one-hundred years old. We visited their factory in LeValle to watch the cheese being made. It was cheesy. 

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     I was surprised in the difference in taste between the same cheese, aged. We bought cheeses aged from made today to 10 years old. The cheese made today is called curds. It is very popular in Wisconsin, probably because you must have access to a cheese factory. Supposedly it “squeaks” when you eat it. I did not notice this squeak, but Barbara said she did. 

Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin

Day 147

     The route to reach Devil’s Lake in La Valle, Wisconsin, can be reached by going through the forest, or climbing the Bluffs. We chose the later because of the tremendous view we anticipated. From the ground the hike did not look too bad.

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     It was a strenuous hike, but the view was worth it.

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      It took us over an hour to hike the 1/2 mile up, and 935 ft in elevation.

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     The entire trip was just under 3 miles as we hiked through the forest on the way back. 

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Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Day 146

     Wisconsin Dells takes its name from the Dells of the Wisconsin River, a  glacially formed gorge, called a dell. Not unlike the painted rocks, but no paint.

We saw a water show:

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     Traveling around, we have seen some strange things, from this street performer who didn’t keep his neck straight, what a mess:

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to these strange sights:

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    As hard as we looked, we couldn’t find the farmer.

Baraboo, Wisconsin

Day 144

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     The International Crane Foundation has it’s headquarters in Barbaboo, Wisconsin. What do you think we saw there?

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     The foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to the study and conservation of the 15 species of cranes in the world. 

     Historical note: The Ringling Brothers started their circus right here in Baraboo, Wisconsin in 1884.

Technical Stuff:

Peshtigo, WI to Baraboo, WI 202.6 miles

4 hours 7 minutes

11.7 MPG

Diesel: $2.38

Peshtigo, Wisconsin

Day 142

     On October 8, 1871 there was a great fire. Where was it? (Hint: we are in Wisconsin.)

     If you said Chicago, right date wrong place. In 27 hours the Chicago fire consumed 3 1/2 square miles of ground and killed 300 people.

     The fire was in Peshtigo, Wisconsin. In only 7 hours the fire consumed 1,000 square miles of land and killed 1,200 people.

     The town of Peshtigo lies on both sides of the Peshtigo river which is a tributary of Green Bay, which is an arm of Lake Michigan. In olden times it was a great place to trade goods, and later on part of the lumbering industry.

     A little history on why these fires are on the same day. For the entire summer of 1871 there were only 2 rain days, the last one 6 weeks before October 8th. It was an unusually warm and windy season. After the Civil War, the area of Peshtigo was looking to populate and they offered any Civil War veterans 80 acres of land. But they had to clear the land of trees. After felling the trees and using the wood for homes, etc. they would remove the stumps by burning them. This was a common practice of the time. Here, as elsewhere, including Chicago, there was no education on fire safety, and people where very careless, letting fires burn and smolder unattended. Smokey Bear had not yet been born.

     Ok, you ask, when was Smokey Bear born? What, do you think I know everything?


Actually I do.



Day 142 Peshtiho WI5188_Fotor       Smokey Bear was born August 9, 1944.

     Meanwhile, back at the ranch, because of the arid summer and high winds, there were numerous fires, not only here, but all through Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois. In fact in Chicago the week before October 8th the fire department, consisting of only 200 men, responded to over 40 alarms.

     No one knows how the Chicago fire started, but the O’leary cow makes an excellent story. Here in Peshtigo, the winds picked up the embers of the smoldering fires in the area, sent the sparks to the dry fields and houses, which then consumed the area. There was no fire department.

     Three blocks from our campsite was the Peshtigo Fire Museum. In addition to facts about the fire, it had vast exhibits on other items through time, including Uncle Fred’s dentist equipment.

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Badger Park, Wisconsin

Day 139

     We have now crossed the top of Lake Michigan and are continuing our journey down the west side of the lake, which takes us into the State of Wisconsin.

     Looking for campsites off the beaten trial, we found Badger Park in the small town of Peshtigo. This beautiful and tranquil town park includes 60 camping sites. For a small park the campsites are very spacious, easily accommodating our 40 ft. Sphinx and truck. The cost was $12.50 a night with water and electricity. No sewer on campsite, but there is a dump site as you leave. We are staying here 4 nights, so there is no problem on the sewer.

     Since we are in Wisconsin, the first thing we did was look for cheese.  

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Technical Stuff:

Newberry, Michigan to Peshtigo, Wisconsin 202.3 Miles

10.6. MPG

4 hours 7 minutes

Diesel $2.59

Paradise, Michigan

Day 137

     Ok, enough about light houses, let’s move on to waterfalls. 

     We are at the top most part of Michigan. Like the rapids of the St. Mary’s River, which were converted into locks to connect Lake Superior with the lower lakes, so are there numerous other rivers with rapids, and therefore water falls.

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          Tahquamenon Falls is the closest one to where we are staying. It is located in Paradise Michigan which is on the eastern part of the Michigan Peninsula, on  Lake Superior. 

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     The brown color of the falls, and of the river, is caused by tannins leached from the Cedar, Spruce and Hemlock trees in the swamps which empty into the river.

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     We hiked along the river and saw other falls and rapids. Day 137 Paradise MI 5125_Fotor_Fotor

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      Most parts of the river were only 5 to 6 inches deep. It seems to be a pastime of people wading across the river to put up stone monuments, 

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as they were up and down the river.

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     We hiked 3 trails, one by the river and 2 through the forest.

     In hiking through the forest up from the river I noticed the trails were blazed blue, so were the cross trails. 

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     Barbara thinks that all 16 trails are blazed blue to let you know that it is a trail. I think this is confusing when reaching a spoon in the road. 


Soo Locks, Michigan

Day 136

     There are 4 locks that connect Lake Superior to Lake Huron. Collectively they are called the Soo Locks. The locks are required as there is a 21 foot drop between the lakes. The connecting water way is the St. Mary’s River. The rapids of the river caused by this 21 foot drop prevented goods to be transferred between the lakes by boat. 

     In 1797, the Northwest Fur Company constructed a navigation lock 38 feet long on the Canadian side of the river for small boats. This lock remained in use until destroyed by the Americans in the War of 1812. No one bothered to rebuild the locks until 1853. 

     I don’t know why the 4 locks are collectively called Soo. It might be the anglicized word from Sault, which is from the Indian word for rapids. 

     It was a busy day at the locks, from large freighters

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To motorboats

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To a small dingy.

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We happen to see the Tall Ship Niagara, from Erie, Pennsylvania, go through.

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     This man is either the Captain, or a deckhand being hung out to dry and disciplined. 

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     The locks are run by the Corps of Engineers, and there is no charge for a ship to pass through the locks. 

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        Sorry, we are experiencing technical difficulties.

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     The Valley Camp is a cargo ship built in 1917 that has now been converted to a museum. 

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I have never been on a cargo ship. It was cool.

Munising, Michigan

Day 134

     We took a 2 hour whale watching cruise on Lake Superior. 

     Traveling down the west coastline of Michigan we saw what the locals call The Pictured Rocks. This part of Michigan’s coastline is made up of 50-200 ft. sandstone cliffs that extend for more than 15 miles along the shoreline. It is a very porous substance that allows water to drain through it from the above vegetation to the Lake.

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     That water has minerals in it, which stain the rocks, iron (red), manganese (black-white), limonite (yellow-brown), copper (pink-green), and other minerals. As the water evaporates, these minerals leave streaks of color. 

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     Sea caves, arches, blowholes, turrets, stone spires, and other features have been sculpted from these cliffs over the centuries by unceasing waves and weather.

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     To appreciate how massive these cliffs are, I threw in some kayakers.

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     Wherever you have rock formations, people see strange things in them. For example in this outcrop

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some people think it is an Indian Chieftain, but obviously it is soft serve ice cream in a cone.

     And this one is a man with a gag over his mouth.

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     Of course, there was a lighthouse. 

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     For those in the know, know that the Great Lakes are fresh water and whales are salt water mammals. 

Newberry, Michigan

Day 132

     When we woke up this morning, the rain had subsided but the winds had picked up. They were now gusting to 30 miles per hour at the campground, and I assume more at the bridge. Nevertheless, we packed up our camp and headed off for the Mackinac Bridge. This bridge is 5 miles long. When it was built (who remembers the year from a previous post?) it was the longest suspension span in the United States. At it’s apex the roadway is 200 feet in the air.

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     When we arrived at the bridge, the winds had subsided to around 10 miles per hour. No trouble crossing the bridge.

     Upon reaching our campground we asked the host, as usual, if anything special was going on in the area. He informed us that the annual Wild Blueberry Festival was concluding it’s three days of celebration “just down the road.” In the Upper Peninsula their concept of distance is a little different than us city folk. We kept driving and driving, and driving. The festival was 46 miles “down the road”, just outside the town of Paradise, Michigan, on Lake Superior.

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     Is that blueberry pie, with ice-cream and whipped cream, and blueberry sauce on top you are eating?

     We travelled another 11 miles to the Whitefish Point Light Station. It now had turned out to be a beautiful clear day as a result of the wind.

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You can see Canada across Lake Superior.

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     We came across Popeye the Sailor’s old tugboat.Day 132 Newberry, MI 4819_Fotor

Technical Stuff:

Mackinaw City, MI to Newberry, MI 84.2 miles

2 hours 3 minutes

10.2 MPG

Diesel: $2.50

Mackinac Island, Michigan

Day 131

     Mackinac Island sits in the Straights of Mackinac. You can only arrive there by boat. We took the Hydro-Jet Ferry.

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     It took us under the Mackinac Bridge:

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     The island has been a popular tourist get-a-way since the 1840’s. Before that, it was a major trading post between the Indians and European settlers. At that time the only means of transportation on the island was the horse and wagon. By the 1900’s the fur trade subsided, and tourism became the main form of revenue. With the advent of the horseless carriage the residents passed a law that these new fangled devises would not be allowed on the island. Hence, with the exception of a firetruck, ambulance, and police car, there are no motor vehicles on Mackinac Island.

     Main street is lined with tourist traps and restaurants. We took a buggy ride for a different view.

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Most of the island is preserved forest, part of the State Park 

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      The main attraction of the island is the Fort. Dismantled by the British piece by piece from Mackinaw City, it was reassembled and enhanced on the island, which provided a better defense from the American rebel gunboats. 

     It has a commanding view:

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     No battles took place on the island during the Revolution. At the conclusion of  the war, the new United States received all of the British occupied land, including this fort. However, at the end of the rebellion, the continental soldiers left the army to return to their farms. This left an army of only about 50 men, not enough to send a detachment all the way up to the Great Lakes. As a result, even though the fort now belong to the US, the British remained here for another 18 years, until 1796, when Colonial soldiers arrived. The British moved only a short distance away, as they had other forts across the lakes in Canada. There again, this fort was used mostly for trading with the Indians.

     As you know, the peace between England and the United States was short lived with the beginning of the War of 1812. However, no one informed the American Commander of Fort Mackinac that the war had begun. (I don’t know why they just didn’t call him.) 

     During the night, the British sailed down the lake, came ashore on Mackinac Island, went to the rear of the fort with their cannons poised. At sunrise, the British Commander knocked on the fort door and inquired if the Americans wanted to defend the fort. The American Commander, seeing he was vastly outnumbered, plus his cannons were facing the wrong direction, determined that discretion is the better part of valor and surrendered the fort. 

     This, therefore, was the first land engagement of the War of 1812. Once during the war the Americans tried to retake the fort, but were unsuccessful. At the conclusion of the war the fort, again, was returned to the United States. The Island became a National Park, the second after Yellowstone. At the request of the State of Michigan, the Island was turned over to them and became Michigan’s first State Park. 

     The park hosts interpreters to tell you the history of the fort and life of the soldier and his family. 

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     They had a cannon firing demonstration.

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     And that is how we spent the day.

     I leave you with this thought:









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Technical Stuff:

     We have now been traveling over 4 months and each day brings a new challenge. Today’s challenge is wind. On our way up to Mackinaw City there were numerous billboards about the Mackinac Bridge. Some of them warned you that the bridge was subject to high winds and use caution. Some informed you that if you were uncomfortable driving the bridge that you could have their driver drive you across at no charge.

     With all these signs posted, would you be concerned driving a 40 ft. long 13 ft. high trailer? Your darn right. However, the entire time up to tonight there were no winds, and therefore no concerns. Tonight things changed. As I write this it is raining with high winds. We are scheduled to leave tomorrow morning with reservations on the Upper Peninsula. I am sure I will sleep good tonight. However, if there are no further posts, you know we went into the drink and didn’t make it.