08 June – Spent much of the day again travelling through Minnesota via Highway 23, passing through Pipestone, Florence and Paynesville to Eden Valley. We had several attempts to find a nice camping spot beside one of the many lakes in this region but finally after getting a bit mislaid by road closure detours had to settle for a tiny private campground beside a smallish lake. Only a handful of mostly full-time RV’ers at the site but we were invited to join them at their campfire and spent a pleasant evening.
09 June – More steady motoring on Highways 23/35 with not much to see, via St Cloud, Milaca, Mora (for a quick provision stop) and to stop for the night at a roadside rest area near Duluth. This region is reputed to hold over 15,000 lakes, but we saw only a few of them mostly through the trees.
10 June – Just a short hop from our overnight rest area on the Interstate into Duluth which is an important shipping destination for Lake Superior. Here we spent a few hours at the fine Railroad Museum. It had some interesting trains – one lovely old steam train straight out of the old Westerns with the big can-like spark arrester on top and cow-catcher out front. The other impressive train was the Mallett – it was a huge black beast with wheels as tall as me, built during WW2 to pull huge iron ore trains. There were quite a few period carriages and a mail sorting car from the 1940’s. The mail would get sorted in the train as it went along and thrown out as they went past various mail drop off points. At these same points the mail to be collected was hung on a pole which was captured by the guard as they whizzed past. Around the edge of the train tracks on the original platform were a series of recreated shops from the early 1900’s with original articles lining the interiors and many recreated station scenes from the era.
Left Duluth after lunch and started on the North Shore road along the north side of Lake Superior for around 100 miles, stopping off at Gooseberry Falls to admire the waterfalls during a walk, then on to Grand Marais and up the hill to the home of George and Lesley (boondockers who had been so helpful with information when I was researching this trip before we left). They have five acres surrounded by rivers, lakes and trees. They are a bit higher above the lake and the difference in temperature must be about 10degrees C – Lake Superior which had only recently given up the last of it’s winter ice keeps the air really cool down at the lake level. Lake Superior is huge – from the shores it is like being at the seaside – you can’t see anything but water on the horizon. The road follows the coast and although it hugs the water side – there is a band of trees blocking the view in a lot of places.
Spent an hilarious evening with George & Lesley – depleting their wine and beer stocks and sampling home smoked trout and moose brat (like salami). It is illegal to kill moose here but they are on a list that if one should happen to be killed on the road, they get the call. At 1am a few days ago they were asked to pick up this moose and because the night was warm they had to get it all butchered before daylight, all 600lbs of it!
11 June – Dropped down into Grand Marais town for the day – sampled the local food and walked out to the lighthouse. Nice town with many cute art galleries and eateries. Drove back up the road on the Gun Flint Trail and stopped for a short walk up a hill for some great views over to some of the many lakes and more forest.
Had an extra treat today – George & Lesley have a red Alfa-Romeo sports car and they took us each out for a little blast. What a neat little car – blats along very nicely and just the thing for a summer’s day. It can’t come out in winter though as the roads get snowed in and at -20 below you would get a tad cold around the ears. The day was topped off by a lovely home-cooked meal with our hosts.
12 June – After yesterday’s clear blue skies, we awakened this morning to rain and fog. After saying farewell to our gracious hosts, we set off back towards Duluth – the first 50 miles were in fog and rain, then that cleared and we had another 50 miles of strong winds. We had just one stop to make in Duluth and that was the maritime museum which is alongside the aerial lifting road bridge. We had hoped to see a ship come in via the canal and see the bridge lifted but not to be. Weren’t very impressed when we got back to Wanda to find we had a parking ticket, despite the fact that we had paid at the kiosk – it seems that we should have paid for two spaces as we extended a little into the adjoining space. If the car-park had been full it would have been more palatable, but there was hardly anyone in the huge park. Crossed over into yet another state – the very northern tip of Wisconsin and the small town of Superior for the night.
13 June -Travelled via Ashland into Upper Michigan and another small town, Wakefield, where we found an RV storage place offering camping places for a small donation. It was right beside a small lake – very picturesque and pleasant apart from the inevitable mosquitoes. West Coast NZ sand-flies have nothing on this region, there are just swarms of the things and it is a real battle to keep them out of the van despite our fly screens. Ventured out for a wander around the town but couldn’t actually find very much of a town centre so returned back home. There are often subtle differences when you move from state to state – like the speed limits and petrol prices will change, new chains of supermarkets and even the road rules can be different. When we came into Michigan the traffic lights, instead of being on poles, are suspended on overhanging wires.
14 June – Mosquitoes seemed to have found their way inside overnight so any chance of a sleep-in was out with those little blighters buzzing in your ears. Set off on a long day of straight roads through lots and lots of trees, coming occasionally to the shores of Lake Superior. Stopped off at the Painted Rocks, colourful cliffs on the lake shore, before heading south to stop for the day at a Forest Park Campground beside Lake Colwell. If we thought the ‘mossies were bad yesterday, they weren’t a patch on the swarms here. The poor camp hosts who had come down from Alaska to man the campground had only been there for a couple of weeks and were ready to turn tail and go back home. It is impossible to sit outside as the crafty beasties seem to be able to find ways in despite the screens on every opening, often hitching a ride on your clothes if you venture outside.
15 June – Covering quite big mileages each day at the moment as we try and tick off the last few things that we need to see before crossing over into Canada. The wind was up again today which makes driving a challenge. Travelling on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan following Highway 2 through Manistique and then we crossed the bridge over the straight between Lakes Michigan and Huron. That was a little worrying – we had parked up for lunch just in view of the bridge and happened to see that there was a wind advisory in effect for RV’s and trucks – speed had to be reduced to 25mph. It turned out not to be quite as bad as expected – it is one of the longest suspension bridges in the country and goes quite high over the water. Our camping book had us headed ultimately for Mancelona on the other side – we were inland for a few miles before we hit the coast of Lake Michigan and again it is like being at the seaside – sandy beaches, sand dunes and heaps of very flash resorts. Left the coast at Charlevoix to make for Mancelona and their city park, which turned out to have closed down for camping. In the end we decided that we wouldn’t see that particular sign if we parked behind it and stopped there overnight anyway.
16 June – We had no problems overnight and set off again next morning towards the coast at Empire – on the map it looked as if it would be a nice scenic drive along the lake shore, but for ages we were in forest instead. Finally made it to the lake at Frankfort and stopped for some lovely fresh smoked trout. We then selected a route which would take us past many small lakes in the hope of finding a suitable spot to camp, but this is such a popular holiday area that all the lakes had holiday homes around them ruling out staying there. Continued on in the direction of Twin Lake – our trusty book had a spot listed there but after some toing and froing in the village, had to ask for directions to find our camp – a motorcyle trail ride staging park – ideal place in among the trees with heaps of parking.
17 June – Another of those storms during the night – the lightning just seems to go non-stop for ages and quite a bit of rain. Not too far to go today – we skirted Grand Rapids and made for our friends place at Plainwell just north of Kalamazoo. We met Dave and Dixie in Arizona where they spent some of the winter and had an invite there to call in when we reached Michigan. They have a home in the country on a couple of acres, surrounded by trees, so it feels like you are in the forest. We had a lovely evening catching up on our respective travels.
18 June – Just as well we weren’t in Twin Lake today – another huge storm front passed through; as we were watching the weather radar the lightning strike count was 10,000 and increasing by the second. Dave and Bob took Wanda down the road to get rid of our waste-water and we all had a lazy day. Dave and Dixie had dinner planned that evening with friends and relatives and very kindly invited us along. Boy what a meal – a Texan steakhouse – huge tender steaks with equally huge sides. It was nice to meet with their friends and to enjoy the local lifestyle. Stopped off on the way back at a local Best Buys store – these stores sell every electrical appliance imaginable – we were in the market for a replacement dash-radio, so checked them out with the intention of going back the next day to get one fitted.
19 June – Our radio must have had burning ears, because today when we switched on our ignition it decided to behave and run better than it had been doing for ages! Not far down the road in Portage was an Air Museum called the Air Zoo which had very well laid out exhibits interspaced with some themed rides and activities suitable for children, and also a busy restoration hangar. We spent the best part of the afternoon wandering around the complex before returning back to Dixie and Dave.
20 June – A few miles in another direction took us all to the Gilmore Car Museum and what a place that is. We met up with Nancy and Dennis (they were also camped out in Arizona a few months earlier) and we all spent the entire day wandering around this huge complex. Set on 90 acres of beautifully manicured grassed area are currently 12 buildings ranging from a large heritage centre to vintage barns and even a genuine 1943 diner. The range and standard of vehicles was incredible. A large Franklin collection; Model A Ford Museum (this was in a building designed to look like a Ford Dealership in the 1930’s); Classic Car Club of America (this housed many elegant vehicles from mainly the 1930’s along with a large collection of hood ornaments); a large collection of pedal cars; small collection of motorcycles and a replica Shell Gas Station. We had our lunch in the original diner and returned home quite weary after a fun day.
21 June – Sadly, time to depart today and keep on with our planned destinations on the list before heading towards Canada. Headed down to Ohio, via a short stint through Indiana to stop for the night at Bryan in the trusty Walmart carpark. The area through here is mostly agricultural growing corn and soy beans and is very luxuriant with all the rain they have been having.
22 June – Continued on towards Dayton, stopping off at some interesting towns along the way. Van Wert advertised a famous coffee shop in operation since 1920’s, so we stopped off there for some coffee, cherry pie and donuts – the decor hadn’t changed from then and the food was excellent, but no espresso machine! The town itself had some impressive buildings, especially their courthouse from 1874 – a multi-storied brick building with huge columns and a clock tower. Next stop Greenville and as we had a few hours to spare we visited their local museum – this was another of those surprising finds – our two hours there was not enough and we got thrown out as they were closing at 4pm. They had two big exhibits centred around locals Annie Oakley (‘Annie get your gun’) and Lowell Thomas, a radio journalist, adventurer and world explorer. He shot to fame in the USA when he covered and authored an account of Lawrence of Arabia whilst filming the campaign in which the Turks were driven from Jerusalem in WW1.
We then hit the road and freeway to Dayton – just as well it was a Sunday as the freeway had all sorts of road works happening and it would be diabolical on a weekday. Our destination was a boondocker stay on the east of the town – chosen for their close proximity to the US Air Force Museum. Found their house with the help of Sally the Garmin and were warmly welcomed in – the offer of showers was gratefully accepted and got to watch the USA-Portugal world cup soccer match on a big screen TV. USA nearly had that game won, just lost concentration in the dying seconds of the game and it ended as a draw to the disappointment of Roger and Lyn.
23 June – Our hosts served up bacon and eggs for breakfast which set us up nicely for the day. We were told that we would need 3 days to see the museum and that wasn’t far off. We spent all day there and didn’t manage to cover off everything. They have three huge hangars with the most planes we have yet to see in any one place – even I found it interesting. With displays of WWI and the Wright Brothers planes right through to current day – each era had a huge amount of additional displays. We got thrown out at 5.00 and just made it back to our host’s place before a huge thunderstorm hit and the heavens opened. Finished the day with ice-cream and coffee courtesy of our hosts.
24 June – We could get accustomed to this – eggs and bacon again!! We had 3 hours to spend at the museum before we had to make a rendezvous at the Ford agency for another 4k service. On the way to the museum we passed through a lot of carnage created by the storm overnight – downed trees and branches everywhere. The 3 hours just flew by and still there were displays not visited.
Our service took a while but they advised us to get the ball joints checked out, so tried an RV place first – if we could wait until August then they could help. They did however suggest another Ford agent in London about 30 mins away so off we trundled. They were very good and put Wanda up on the hoist – seems things will be OK for the foreseeable future. With no question of letting us pay for the inspection we headed back northwest to Springfield to pick up supplies and then find a new overnighter to try out – Cracker Barrel. Yet another deluge and thunderstorm hit while we were in the store, the rain continued to fall, and the heat and humidity were quite oppressive.
25 June – Not one of our better nights – the traffic on the Interstate thundered by all night long and the humidity stuck around until the early hours. Made up for the bad night with a breakfast treat at Cracker Barrel’s restaurant and that was a good feed which saw us right through the day.
Decided that we really needed to get some vent covers for Wanda so that we can keep some ventilation going when it is raining – currently if we leave our roof vents open the rain comes in. The other good thing about them is that we don’t have to remember to make sure that we have them closed before setting off (that has the potential to rip them off their hinges!). Managed to find the right things at Walmart in Bellefontaine and then motored on to the small town of Lakeview to a RV wholesaler and picked up a few other things that we needed to replace (one of our light fittings had conked out and a window latch had broken). Also treated ourselves to some levelling blocks so that we can throw away our broken bits of wood. With Wanda sorted we went a little further up the road to Neil Armstrong’s birthplace at Wapakoneta and The Armstrong Air and Space Museum. Interesting artifacts like the Gemini VIII spacecraft, Neil Armstrong’s spacesuits and many items from life on board a spacecraft as well as memorabilia from his early years and Air Force career.
Sat tight for a while after coming out of the museum as we could see a storm ahead of us and we have learnt that it is better to wait until they clear. Our stop for the night is a very neat and tidy county camp ground just a little way out of Lima. Nice friendly camp hosts and campers alike.