We finally visit Wisconsin and Minnesota
Fargo, North Dakota --- The last newsletter was done when we were near Grand Rapids, Mich. We have traveled a few miles since then and have little stories rather than one or two big ones.
We discovered Rosie's Diner in Rockford, Michigan just after the last newsletter was printed. Located on M-57 just ½ mile east of US 131, it is like a diner mirage in the middle of nowhere. If you like diner food, nostalgia, or both, be sure to stop in. It is busy, noisy and complete with 40's music in the background. The waitresses dressed in pink uniforms with aqua collar and cuffs and little matching aprons hustle from the booths to the kitchen window. When the orders are ready, the cook bellows out the waitresses name. Even without food, all of this would be fun to experience, but the food is excellent. We had hamburgs which were among the best we've ever eaten, but other typical diner fare is on the menu. Meatloaf, roast beef, pork, liver & onions, macaroni and chicken are just a few of the dinners featured. For dessert they tempt one with "diner made" pies, carrot cake, bread pudding and apple crisp. Our cherry pie was so full of cherries that there was hardly room for the rest of the filling and it was not too sweet or tart---just right. Oh and they have malts, shakes, sodas and sundaes too. If you are ever in the area check them out and when you get there, don't think you are seeing double. There are two diners, side by side. One is the art studio for owner Jerry Berta. Jerry's wife creates diner art (ceramic diners) and out back is a miniature golf course created by the pair. All of the holes are food creations. It is cute and looks challenging.
Northport, Michigan, and the home of good friends, Jim and Norma Neve, was our next stop. Northport is a quiet little lakeside town at the top of the Leelanau Peninsula (about 35 miles northwest of Traverse City). The Neve's beautiful home is high on a hill with a view of Lake Michigan and the Manitou Islands. Sunsets are spectacular. Their driveway is quite steep and very long, and on top there is little room to maneuver. Ron took our Bounder right up to the top and after some jockying, was able to back into an out of the way spot at the far end of their driveway. We all pitched in to finish folding the newsletters. A few days after we were there our new books arrived. Ron and I worked on our stuff during the day and in the evenings, after the four of us conspired to fix dinner, we played pinochle. We play a silly game of double deck pinochle where the dealer decides whether we play a passing game or not. Norma and I pulled far ahead early, but at the end of the 10 days, it was a draw which was monumental since the guys usually do the winning.
In Traverse City one day, Ron and I ate at a little cafe called Checkers. It is on the main drag just a little east of downtown. We have had their famous pies before. This time we opted for a sandwich which was big, fresh and delicious. They also boast great salads (gourmet type), which looked wonderful. We forced ourselves to split a piece of rhubarb pie.
While in Northport we started preparing the publicity campaign for the book and for starters the Traverse City paper did a nice story. We were supposed to be taped for a segment on Interlochen public radio, and followed the suggested plan (to camp at Interlochen and the DJ would check with the rangers, find us and come to our house at 9:30 a.m. Monday). We were there, but the rangers couldn't find our slip to tell the radio guy where we were. He left, and when we found out what happened, we called, but it was too late.
Since we were just a little behind schedule we drove straight to Indian Lake State Park near Manistique (off route 2 in the Upper Peninsula) on Aug. 5 and stayed until Sunday the 8th. There are many things to do nearby (Big Spring and the ghost town state park of Fayette), but we had reported on those thoroughly two years ago.
One day we drove east on route 2 and north on 77 to the Seney National Wildlife Refuge. Once there, we felt real bad that we didn't know about the nearly 70 miles of bicycle trails in this park. Our bikes weren't on the car and we had waited until our last full day in the area to visit the park. Darn!
We did watch the movie on loons which was interesting and drove the 7 mile Marshland Wildlife Drive. This self-guided auto tour allows one to view lots of wildlife including swans, loons, and a bald eagle. Biking would have made for better viewing.
Rhinelander, Wisconsin, in the northern part of the state was
our next stop. There was much we wanted to see in Wisconsin, but somehow
our PR schedule got the best of us so we had to forgo Door County this
trip. While in Rhinelander, we toured the Rhinelander
Paper Company. Few paper
We had read about Wisconsin's Concrete Park in Reader's Digest's Off the Beaten Path so took the pleasant drive to Phillips. The park is unique. In 1950, Fred Smith (age 65) began the construction of his park. Using his homestead farm, he built over 200 statues of wood, covered them with wire then hand mixed cement. His statues are adorned with bits and pieces of broken glass which was easily available to Smith because he owned the tavern next door.
We moved to Hastings, Minnesota, (where the St Croix and Mississippi Rivers meet) on Friday the 13th without any problems (we're not superstitious). Ron's cousin Hollis Grubb and his wife Sylvia live in Hudson, Wisconsin, just across the border. The first few days in the area were filled with business. Saturday, Sylvia had scheduled us to do a book signing at both of her book stores (Valley Bookseller). And on Sunday, we drove into Minneapolis to be the guest on WCCO Radio. The 45 minute live interview on the McFarland show was great fun and we understand that quite a few listeners called the 800 number and ordered books. On Wednesday we drove to the Minnesota Public Radio station in St. Paul for another interview. This one was taped and aired on the Friday morning show. They did not give the 800 number, so anyone interested in the book might still be wasting time looking for it in the big bookstores.
We had lots of great family time with the Grubbs (including Stuart, Sue and 18 month old Muriel) which included a cook-out, dinners out, a boat ride and sightseeing in Hudson, Wisconsin and Stillwater, Minnesota.
We liked the picturesque town of Hudson the best. It was named Hudson because the early settlers thought it looked like the Hudson Valley of New York and it does. The St. Croix River boarders the town on the west and is protected as a wild and scenic river by the National Park Service. There are many big, stately homes in town. We toured the Octagon House which was built in 1855. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A big highlight of our visit to the Minneapolis, St Paul area (referred to as "The Cities") was a visit to the Mall. The Mall of America is the largest mall in the United States and boasts 4.2 million square feet. It is three stories tall and the shopping area (400 + stores) frames a large amusement park (Knott's Camp Snoopy). Although the rides are geared for the younger set, we enjoyed the Paul Bunyan Log Chute Ride, the Mystery Mine Ride and the Screaming Yellow Eagle. We walked the entire mall, but did very little shopping. Many of the stores can be found in any mall. I did visit Nordstrom's and found the exact pair of cowboy boots (in my size---believe it or not) that I had been looking for for months. The third floor consists of night clubs and the movie theater. Names like Fat Tuesday, Gatlin Brothers Music City, Gators, Knuckleheads and America's Original Sports Bar give some clue to the activities up there. We spent the whole day at the mall and enjoyed every bit of it.
We moved to Marshall, Minnesota, for the "it's about time" visit with good friends Grant and Nancy Joy. Some of you may know that we met the Joys early in our full-timing life (in southern Ohio) and have met five different times (in five different places), but this was our first visit to Marshall.Nancy is an enthusiastic supporter of our book so had made arrangements for us to speak at their RV club on Monday evenings, to be interviewed by the local paper on Tuesday and for a live radio interview on Wednesday. We especially enjoyed getting to meet all the RVers in the group and they certainly made us feel right at home.
Grant and Nancy went out of their way to treat us royally. We got to see their beautiful home, got a private tour of the town and Nancy's beloved Camden State Park nearby. We camped with the Joy's right next to us in their new Winnebago Vectra. We also learned of the destruction from the floods that hit Marshall. Especially evident was the damage done to the bridge at the state park and the healthy population of mosquitoes that kept us from doing any hiking.
One day Grant and Nancy drove us to nearby Pipestone and we toured the Pipestone National Monument---a first for us all. They remarked that we so often ignore those treasures right in our own back yard. The monument is set aside to preserve the sacred pipestone quarries of the plains Indians. Besides enjoying the ¾ mile circle trail, we watched as Indians demonstrated the carving of the pipes out of the red stone.
Now we are here in Fargo, North Dakota. We haven't done any touring
yet. Looks like a nice city and several nightclubs offer free dance lessons
early in the evening. One of us needs lessons, so we plan to take
that in when we get the newsletter done. We will have time to see many
of the sights and
We were on another radio (KDSU) show here---twice as a matter of fact because it was taped.
And I got sick, so we got to visit a very high tech hospital. Dakota
Hospital and the doctors here prove what we have said all along. Full-timers
need not worry about getting good, prompt health care. I was seen in the
emergency room one night, the next day I saw a specialist and the very
next day I was scheduled for an endoscopy. New medicine may help with the
gastric distress I had been having.
Indian Lake State Park, Manistique, Michigan. I love this Upper Peninsula park, right off of US 2. Every site is a good one and many are on beautiful Indian Lake. The $12 daily fee includes electricity. Level sites are easy to get into. Boat rentals are available and there is good lake swimming. West Bay Camping Resort, Rhinelander, Wisconsin, (CCC), page 489. This friendly resort is in a rustic setting overlooking Lake Thompson. There is a heated swimming pool in a beautiful setting, but other facilities are minimal. Hook-ups are good, but it will not be easy to maneuver with big rigs in this small wooded campground. They will try to assign a site for your needs, but it can still be tight.
Greenwood Campground, Hastings, Minnesota. This well maintained
campground was handy for our visit to Hudson and the Twin Cities. The weekly
rate of $90 will get you a good hook-up and a level site, along with good
facilities. Sites are a bit narrow. Location is 4 miles from the historic
Camden State Park, Marshall, Minnesota. It's easy to see why our friends, the Joys, love this park. Excellent sites (with electricity), good hiking, swimming and scenic beauty make this a jewel in the Minnesota Park System. While we were there a water system was being installed, because a recent flood ruined the previously good water. The water was terrible, but that will be rectified soon. Like Michigan, Minnesota charges daily entrance fees ($4 per day or $18.00 for an annual sticker per vehicle).
Fairground Campground, West Fargo, North Dakota. This wide open
field next to the fairgrounds is not the Ritz, but it's cheap ($50 per
week or $10 a day). That rate includes full hook-up, so considering the
close proximity to Fargo—Moorhead, it is a bargain. The scenery consists
of a terrific view of a large grain elevator and the fairgrounds grandstand.
The thunder of the Saturday night car races, smell from the elevators
and the herds of mosquitoes add to your enjoyment. Seriously, Fargo has
a lot to offer, and basically we just sleep here.
by RonMany state parks have raised their entrance fees. When you are only in the state for a short time, it definitely adds to the camping cost. In our case it sometimes adds $30 (two vehicles) or an extra $4.25 per day when only staying a week. That can get the daily rate in the $16 to $17 range. In some cases the state parks are getting too expensive for full-timers.
Because of reduced budgets, many of the rust-belt states are having a hard time maintaining their roads and bridges. It's a shame to see the deterioration, but the many road construction signs may promise an improvement.
I thought it would be scary for Barb (in the passenger seat) crossing the Mackinac Bridge. It didn't faze her, even though we are now much higher over the railing. Too bad it wasn't windier. Just kidding.
You heard it here first. We are now scheduled to appear on ABC's Good Morning America, the first part of October. Tyler Matheson, editor of Money Magazine, has contacted us about being on his segment of the show. Sorry that we can't give you a specific date at this time. Stay tuned.
Everybody knows that Aunt Vi is an excellent bridge player, so we were fearful about playing cousin Hollis and Sylvia in case her skills were inherited. In fairness to them both, they were doing real well until Sylvia doubled Barb's five clubs. I should have warned them about Barb.
Twenty-seven years is too long for cousins not to see each other. Hollis and I were close buddies growing up and because of geography and schedules did not keep in touch. What a shame. We both vowed that we will see each other again and soon.
When I was a young gullible kid, following my older cousin like a puppy
dog, he pulled a trick on me. With his woodburning set, he engraved "FREE"
on a popsicle stick and switched it as we were eating ice cream.
He explained that when you got one of these, you would get a free ice cream.
Of course I believed everything he said, and from that day continued to
look for the "free" stick. Can you believe, he did it again at the Renaissance
Festival. This time I was a little smarter. What memories.
This 'N That
I like finding new radio stations as we travel around and here in Fargo, North Dakota, I found one I really like. KDSU is public radio that plays jazz all the time. Now that is my kind of station.
Speaking of Fargo, I like this town. It is just the right size for me, and the University of North Dakota campus is real pretty. There's all the comforts of a big town (all the familiar stores and restaurants are here). Too bad there are no hills or trees and that the winters are so long and hard. I'll enjoy it here while the weather is good and then move down the road. At this time of the year---that means south.
I think I have mentioned before that Ron has always wanted the expensive horn that plays many songs (including On the Road Again). I checked into it for his birthday and almost died of shock. The price tag was nearly $1,000 and our Bounder salesman (who I have sent many customers to), offered me a real deal (he said). He could get me that horn for only $800. Gulp! No thank you. I ran right out and bought a Willie Nelson tape with that song on it. Now when we are leaving a campground, I put the tape in, open the windows and play it as loud as I can stand it. That only cost $10. Now I need an outside speaker so I won't need to break my ear drums.
Did I ever tell you about our fun idea for giving each other greeting cards? Since we are almost always together, we visit a card store and pick out a card we would buy for each other. But instead of actually buying the card, we just share it then and there and put it back in the rack. Saves money, and paper and we still get the message.
Sometimes, I feel like Rip Van Winkle. It is as if I just woke up from
a long slumber, because while we did not own a microwave (in the Mallard),
I paid no attention to all the new microwave products available. Imagine
the fun I am having. My good friend, Carolyn Branch (Tupperware manager),
While we were waiting to get the tree damage fixed (see Coffee Break), I peeked in the 94 Bounders that had just arrived. Basically I don't like them. The upholstery is ugly and there are no jalousie windows. But they did improve in a couple of areas. Now the electrical plugs are on the wall (instead of the ceiling) and instead of carpet in the bathroom, they have a nice tile floor.
I keep forgetting to share something that we enjoy doing. We like to
visit libraries and spend several hours catching up on reading. It is a
great way to read all the magazines you want without having to buy them.
I always enjoyed reading and missed the magazines until I came upon this
How many of you have traveled I 75 in Northern Michigan? How about letting us know if you stop at the Ronald R. Hofmeister rest area. If you are like me, you see parks which have been named after someone and have no idea who it is. Now you can stop there and say "I know him."
Since I am Ron's navigator, part of my job is to let Ron know if the entrance to an expressway is on the right or left. Why can't they be more consistent? It is so hard to see the sign from far away and they seldom give advance warning. How many times have you been in the wrong lane? I lost count long ago.
We are really having fun with the PR for the book. Every time we do a radio show or get interviewed for a newspaper story, the interviewer says, "You've done this before haven't you?" And we are always surprised with how impressed everyone is when they find out about this lifestyle.
Did you read that Judy and Wayne Richards are finally free ? They have been trying to sell their house for two years. I tried to call them on September 4th figuring that they would be in the final parts of moving out, but the phone had been disconnected. Can't believe that they came home from vacation and only had three weeks to get out of their big house. Judy said that she works better under pressure. I can't wait to get the full report and will share it.
The Rydings also began full-timing in September. The floods contributed to their decision to go for it. Their apartment kept flooding every time it rained, so they felt they could never leave without worrying---unless they didn't live there anymore.
I like the central time zone because the news comes on earlier at night then the good shows come on. I like Mash, Cheers and some of the other old shows.
We will be heading south soon. Our plans are to camp a week each somewhere in South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska then we will spend a week with Jim and Sue in Missouri. From there we will go to Kansas for a week to visit the Rydings. (We're filling in the central part of our United States Map). After that we will head to Oklahoma City for the FMCA rally (Oct 21, 22 & 23).
If any of you will be attending the FMCA rally, please look us up and introduce yourself to us. For that matter, look for us anywhere.
Please keep your letters coming too. We love hearing from you all.
1. What is the height of the Paul Bunyan Log Chute ride
2. How many public elevators are there in the Mall of America?
3. How many elevators are in the Mall?
4. How many permanent jobs were created by the Mall of America?
5. The forty acres of gardens surrounding Buckingham Palace would
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