Category Archives: Road to Minneapolis

Across the Mighty Mississippi

Sunday morning, instead of cooking breakfast in the coach we ate at the campground pancake breakfast. This was more convenient than cooking and cleaning up before we broke camp and departed. Donna had the pancakes and brought her own syrup (pure maple) plus a hard-boiled egg. I chose the biscuits and gravy with sausage. I ate hearty but maybe not so healthy.

During breakfast the camp host couple talked to us about points of interest as we head west. They knew we were westward bound and leaving that morning. A family from Toronto at the next table overheard this and offered to give us their AAA Guides to the western states. They were on their way home and said they didn’t need the guides anymore. After breakfast Donna walked with them to their camp and returned with the guides.

It continued to rain as I made preparations to leave. I dumped and flushed the holding tanks while Donna prepped the interior. Once I had the shore power and water disconnected, I had her pull the slides in and retract the jacks. I was a little wet, but I was also glad that we packed the trailer, loaded the outdoor furniture and mats and put the awning in the night before.

I weighed the coach at the truck stop before we hit I-90 west. As I suspected, we are a little overweight. It’s not the total weight, it’s more of a weight distribution issue. Our rear axle is overloaded while the front axle and trailer are below capacity. I think I can relieve some of load by reorganizing the trailer again to reduce the tongue weight. I’m not sure how I can redistribute things in the coach. I’m not too worried about it.

We crossed the mighty Mississippi on I-90 and are arguably in the west. I really don’t consider Minnesota to be a western state. I’ll feel like we’re in the west when we reach the South Dakota Badlands. After we crossed the Mississippi, the rain stopped and the clouds thinned out. We continued on I-90 to Rochester where we turned north. Just before we left I-90 we stopped at a rest area. It was very clean and nicely landscaped with several picnic tables. Donna made tacos with leftover pork loin and avocado. We sat in the sun at a picnic table and enjoyed our lunch.

We considered detouring south to stop at the Spam museum in Austin, Minnesota. Austin is the home of Hormel foods – the maker of the mystery meat in a can. Roadside America rates the Spam museum as Major Fun. It features the history of Spam with humor.

Spam (the meat) always reminds me of Hawaii. They have the highest per capita consumption of Spam in the US there. It’s on the menu in many restaurants – eggs and Spam, Spam omelette with cheese. Grilled Spam and cheese sandwich. In Hawaii, McDonalds has Spam on the menu. In 2007, Burger King added Spam to the menu there to compete with McDonalds. Enough about Spam. We passed on the museum and stayed on our planned route.

At 3pm, we pulled into the Dakotah Meadows RV Park. As I mentioned previously, this park is owned and operated by the Shakopee Mdewankanton Sioux Community. It’s a large, fully paved and nicely landscaped park. We have a pullthough site near a pond that covers a couple of acres. The pond has an aerator sprayer – it looks like fountain spraying water in all directions from the center of the pond. Last night we slept with windows open and the aerator provided a soothing white noise. Otherwise it’s very quiet here.

The tribe operates this park to complement the casinos they have in the area. Free shuttle service from your campsite! I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and I’m not too interested in the casino. The concept must work though. There are more high end motorhomes in this park than I’ve seen anywhere else. The shuttle came by several times. It doesn’t follow a schedule, you call for pick up. Including tax our paved, full hook-up 50amp pullthough site is under $30/night. The sites were graded fairly level before paving, so I didn’t have to do much adjustment of the jacks.

Today Donna wants to do some bicycling. We’ll also go laptop shopping – there’s a Best Buy a few miles from here. Then she’ll probably go to the casino resort for a manicure and pedicure. She has to fly to New York City tomorrow to do a national TV satellite media tour on Wednesday. She’ll fly back Wednesday night. I’ll be a bachelor for a couple of days.

The weather forecast calls for sunny skies, temps in the upper 70s with low relative humidity for the next few days. Not what I expected in Minnesota but I’m not complaining.

View of pond from our site this morning

View of pond from our site this morning

 

 

 

Overweight?

It’s 7am Sunday morning. I’m typing to the rhythm of rain drops on the roof. I’ll recap the past couple of days.

Friday’s weather couldn’t be beat. It was mid 70s, mostly sunny with a breeze. Donna took advantage of the heated swimming pool here at the Oakdale KOA. Later, I unloaded the scooter from the trailer and we rode into the next town, Tomah, in search of cheese. We found it at the Humbird Cheese Mart. It was a longer ride than I anticipated. On the map it looked to be seven or eight miles, but it turned out to be close to 12 miles.

Donna at the Humbird Cheese Mart

Donna at the Humbird Cheese Mart

The Humbird Cheese Mart has every type of cheese you can imagine and some you probably never thought of – like cranberry cheese (this is a cranberry growing region), pepperoni cheese, habanero cheese, etc. It also has the typical tourist “gift shop” items and sausages. Donna selected a white cheddar with morel mushroom and leek. I bought a couple of garlic beef sticks and local bratwurst with cheese.

The town of Tomah is a quaint village. We rode down the main street. Apparently there is an Amish population in the area. We saw a few vegetable stands set up by Amish people. We stopped at a supermarket in town. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety and freshness of the food there. They also had a section called the “Hootch Hut” with liquor and wine. I checked the prices and they were quite good.

Amish stand

Amish stand

When we returned to the KOA, I saw another Amish stand a quarter of mile from where we’re camped. Donna and I walked over there to see what they had for sale. This stand had mostly baked goods but they also had maple syrup at a great price. We saw maple syrup for sale in Humbird’s but they wanted $13.50 for a pint! The Amish sold a pint for $7. Donna bought a pint of syrup and a small jar of sliced sweet pickles.

Some people think when you’re on the road it’s all fast food, restaurants, or grilled burgers and such. Life with Donna is not like that. I’ve posted some of the meals we cook and I’ll continue to do that. She doesn’t just come up with great meals when we have company. I eat like a king most days! Friday night I grilled Mojo Marinated Pork Tenderloin with grilled onion slices and local corn on the cob. It was the best pork loin I’ve ever tasted.

Mojo Marinated Pork with grilled onion

Mojo Marinated Pork with grilled onion

The campground was nearly full by the evening. The sites here a little bit tight – our neighbor apologized for crowding our space as he was hooking up. I said, “No worries, you didn’t lay out the site.” He had a large motorhome – a new Fleetwood Expedition, with a large slide out that extended near our picnic table.

Saturday was another beautiful weather day. The breeze picked up a little pace, but I wouldn’t call it windy. Donna told me the floor in front of the refrigerator was wet. Oh, no. You know how I feel about water intrusion and the damage it can cause. I started pulling things apart to investigate. From the outside panel behind the refrigerator, I could see the floor it was mounted on had some wetness. There are only a couple of places where the refrigerator could leak water – the condensation drain hose and the ice maker.

I put my efforts towards making sure the drain hose was clear. It didn’t make sense though. I couldn’t see an active leak – nothing was wet but the floor. After an hour of futzing about, I realized I had turned the ice maker on the night before. All this time I was thinking the ice maker was off and not a suspect. Now I understood why I didn’t see the actual leak. The ice maker solenoid only activates briefly to add water to the unit and then shuts off the water flow. These solenoids are notorious for leaks coming from the cheap plastic housing they’re made with. I shut off the ice maker. Problem solved for now. It’ll be job done when I replace the solenoid.

Donna used the pool again – the water was 80 degrees! She used her pool weight set to get a jogging workout in the water. I rode back to the supermarket for a couple of items and to get a look around the area. Donna needed mango and vinegar. I also bought a three liter box of “Black Box Cabernet.” It’s our favorite box wine and they had it for $17.99. I bought another bottle of bourbon – they had one of my favorites – Eagle Rare – for $27.99. The liquor cabinet is well-stocked at this point.

We walked over to the Amish stand again and Donna bought a pie. We’re expecting visitors in Minneapolis Sunday evening and will serve blackberry pie for dessert.

Blackberry pie

Blackberry pie

I checked the weather forecast and the weather guessers were calling for rain to move into the area overnight. I believed them. I spent a couple of hours re-organizing things in the trailer and loaded the scooter. I put the awning in and packed up our chairs and floor matting. With rain falling this morning I’m glad I was ahead of it.

We’ll finish packing up after breakfast. There’s a truck stop with a certified Cat scale before the freeway entrance. I’ll gas up there and get the coach weighed. I’ve been wanting to know our actual axle weights and total combination weight. This is important information, necessary for setting proper tire inflation pressure. I wonder if we’re overweight?

We’re driving about 200 miles today to Dakotah Meadows RV Resort. This campground is just outside of Minneapolis on the SW side. It’s on a Sioux reservation and run by the tribe. On the internet it looks like it will be the nicest park we’ve stayed in. I hope it’s as good as it looks online.

Cheeseheads

Yesterday I was up early and posted to the blog. After that I grabbed a breakfast sandwich and coffees at Subway and we hit the road. When we dry camp in a parking lot, it doesn’t take much preparation to drive away. I do a walkaround and make sure all of the compartments are secure, check the trailer and tires and that’s about it.

Speaking of the trailer, the owner’s manual recommends checking the torque on the lug nuts after the first 100 miles and every 1000 miles after that. I’ve read enough stories about lost wheels on various forums and blogs to believe this is a good idea. I’ve checked them a couple of times already. With the torque wrench set to the specified 100ft-lbs it just clicked with no movement of the lug nut, indicating the nuts were tight. Before we left Green Acres Lake Resort, I checked them again. To my surprise, three of the five lug nuts on the right side moved slightly before the torque wrench clicked. I don’t know what it is about trailer wheels that causes lugs to loosen.

Shortly after we started to drive up US30, I stopped for fuel and coffee at a Speedway gas station with lots of room around the pumps. As I pumped fuel, Donna went in to get coffee. She also signed us up for a Speedway rewards program. Donna’s always thinking. I pumped $168 worth of gas into the tank. At this rate, we should earn rewards! I also paid with my Chase Visa card. For the third quarter, July though September, it gives me 5% cash back on gasoline purchases!

I haven’t been looking at the map lately. Donna has taken over the navigation duties. This created an issue after an hour of driving. I had said to Donna that I didn’t want to be anywhere near Chicago. I should have stated this more clearly by saying something like I don’t want to be within a 100-mile radius of Chicago.

She saw US30 as a way to skirt past Chicago but she didn’t realize how much urban sprawl there is in the area. This route took us stoplight to stoplight through Chicago Heights. This would be a very bad place to have a breakdown! The police had surveillance cameras on the sidewalks. After a couple of hours, we’d only covered about 40 miles and finally got on I-80 west and got out of there.

From there we drove on country roads for a while. Our intention was to reach Madison, Wisconsin for another dry camp night and then on to Minneapolis for a week long stay. As always, flexibility is our motto as plans have a way of changing.

We stopped for lunch in a closed truck weigh station. I fired up the generator and charged my laptop, ran the roof AC while Donna heated up leftover chili in the microwave. We both took showers and Donna did a little work on the computer before we got back on our way. The stop took about an hour.

Once underway, Donna began looking for a campsite to book in Minneapolis. This is when we had to change our plan. This weekend there is a festival there and all of the campsites we wanted were booked. Donna booked us into our first choice campground Sunday through next Thursday. Then we had to figure out what to do until Sunday.

We decided to find a campground along the way and just relax for a few days. That brings us to our present location at the KOA in Oakdale, Wisconsin. This is a nice park, a little too close to I-90/94 for our taste but we have a long pullthrough site with full hookups including 50 amp service. I opted to purchase a KOA membership for $24 and got a $12 discount on our stay. If we stay a few more days in KOAs over the next year it will pay off.

They put us in site 2. When we pulled into the site, we both thought it was sub par. No shade and only one site away from the interstate noise. Before I hooked up, I reconnoitered the area. Sites 4 and 5 were superior with shade trees and farther away from the traffic noise. Donna went to the office and asked if we could change sites. They said okay so we are in site 5. We learned it doesn’t hurt to ask!

For dinner, I grilled garlic-rubbed flank steak with chimichurri sauce. As usual Donna did all the work. All I did was heat it and eat it. Yummy.

Grilled garlic-rubbed flank steak with chimichurri sauce

Grilled garlic-rubbed flank steak with chimichurri sauce

After dinner a Royale coach by Monaco, built on a Prevost chassis showed up and parked in the site we were originally in. This million-dollar luxury coach belongs to Steve “Doc” Hopkins. He and his daughter are top fuel motorcycle drag racers. He also owns the Harley Davidson dealership in Shawano County, Wisconsin. They are on their way back from the motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. A coach like this is something I can only dream of.

Royale Coach by Monaco on a Prevost chassis

Royale Coach by Monaco on a Prevost chassis

We crossed two state lines as we went from Indiana, through Illinois and into Wisconsin. Today I think we’ll scoot over to Humbird Cheese Mart. We are in Wisconsin so we might as well sample cheese! We’ll chill out here until Sunday and then move 200 miles to Prior Lake, just southwest of Minneapolis.

 

Doc's trailer

Doc’s trailer

A Day in the Life

Tuesday, August 6th was our first “working day.” Donna had things to do. She needed to complete a couple of projects. I stayed out of her way in the morning by hauling our laundry to the park’s laundromat. Donna says there’s nothing sexier than a man doing the dishes. I wonder if doing the laundry trumps that. I passed the time by reading a book while enjoying the view of the pond. I’m reading Covert by Bob Delaney – a book Donna’s brother-in-law, Tom lent me.

One of Donna’s projects was to complete her application to be a presenter at the annual conference of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO). The application required a short video segment. We set up in the motorhome and shot the video. I’ll link to it later in YouTube.

Donna had a visitor in the afternoon and they took a short hike around the campground. It seems like wherever we are, she knows someone. She is the queen of networking. This paid off in a big way when she was contacted yesterday via Facebook by our mail carrier back in Michigan to let us know that there’s a problem with forwarding our mail. I don’t understand how this happened. Donna submitted the online form and received confirmation via email and mail. And the letter carriers confirmed forwarding information in person. But somehow the post office has no record of our forwarding address. Our regular letter carrier, Betty, has been holding our mail and reached out to Donna yesterday. Donna went online and re-submitted the forwarding information (and paid the fees again).

I wish I could report something exciting about our stay at the Green Acres Lake RV park. It was just a day in the life. Yesterday we packed up. I filled our fresh water tank, stopped at the dump station and hit the road. Fresh water full and holding tanks empty – the only way to fly.

Donna studied the maps and navigated our route. I felt good and put in about 350 easy miles. This brought us to Walmart in Valparaiso, Indiana. 350 miles might not seem like much in your car, but in a rig like ours, it’s a long day. We crossed I-75 about 45 miles south of Toledo – which is 2 hours south of where we started two weeks ago! Getting to Walmart required faith in our GPS – we call her “Nally.” She directed us off US30 into a narrow tree lined street. No Walmart or houses – just trees. The she had us turn on another narrow street that looked like a road to nowhere. We rounded a curve and there it was. We entered the Walmart parking lot from the backside. This turned out to be the simplest way in, otherwise we would have had to exit US30 and do a series of U-turns to access the entrance.

Once we parked we went inside to seek permission for overnight parking. The customer service girls were a little confused by my request – they though I was a trucker parking an 18-wheeler and said it wasn’t allowed. Once they understood I was parking an RV, they told me where to park it. Donna and I took a stroll through the store. I wasn’t sure about the liquor laws in Indiana. I remembered going to a liquor store in Indianapolis before before but didn’t know if Walmart carried beer, wine or liquor.

There it was – a liquor aisle. Walmart sells liquor in Indiana and the price for bourbon is a fair bargain. They had a bourbon I’ve been wanting to sample, Bulleit Bourbon, for less than $30 for 750ml. Makers Mark was only $23. I bought both!

While we were in the store a thunder storm poured rain. It subsided quickly but the heat and humidity remained. It’s in the mid 80s and the humidity is unbearable. We went to a restaurant across the parking lot for an early dinner – made early by the fact we are now in the Central Time Zone. I left windows open and the fantastic fan running in our coach. After we ate, another thunder storm arrived and it rained hard. I was anxious to get back to our coach, I was wondering how much water was coming in through the open windows. The fantastic fan pulls air through a roof vent and it has a rain sensor to automatically shut the vent when it rains. After ten minutes or so the rain stopped, we returned to coach and found a little wetness but no¬† big deal.

I sampled the bourbons (both are excellent) and we hit the sack early. Today we’ll drive through Illinois and into Wisconsin.

Indbrbn

Westward Ho!

It’s 7am Tuesday morning as I write this. I’m sitting in a campground near Akron, Ohio. Here’s how we got here.

Sunday morning dawned clear and beautiful. We had a goal of leaving by 11am. Donna went for a hike on a trail in the Thompson’s Lake State Park where we were camped. I got started on packing the exterior and getting the coach ready for travel. When Donna returned from her hike she wanted to shower before packing the interior items that she usually handles. We were a little out of sync on the packing duties and I was impatient, wanting to hit the road.

We left the campground shortly after 11am and drove through Schoharie to I-88. The drive was very scenic but also on hilly, narrow roads. I made a wrong turn at one point but we managed to get our rig turned around by remaining calm and waiting for the right opportunity. In this case a school parking lot provided the room needed to get turned around.

I-88 is a nice section of Interstate – very scenic with a smooth road surface and very little traffic. Thunderstorms cropped up, we drove through squalls, sometimes with heavy rainfall and wind. The rain was variable but the wind was relentless.

We stopped a little past noon in Oneonta. Our plan was to go to Brooks BBQ, a local favorite. Donna’s dad had advised us to park in the Price Chopper parking lot down the street from Brooks. When we arrived it started raining again. From the Price Chopper it was a bit of a hike to Brooks so I passed by not wanting to walk that far in the rain. I pulled into the Brooks BBQ parking lot; it was jam packed with cars. I threaded the needle to get turned around and out of there.

Donna spotted a medical clinic next door which appeared to have a parking lot that wrapped around the building. I took a chance and pulled in there. If it didn’t actually wrap around I would be in a real tight spot trying to get out. It turned out to be fine although the lane wrapping around the back of the building was tight.

My choice of smoked pork short ribs was a little disappointing. I tried a taste of Donna’s chicken and realized I’d ordered the wrong dish. The chicken was very good and I recommend it if you ever get to Brooks BBQ in Oneonta, New York.

We were back on the road a little after 1pm. As we drove past the Price Chopper to get back on I-88 Donna spotted a wine and spirit shop. She said, “Why don’t you stop? There’s a big parking lot and you need to stock up.” I didn’t take her advice thinking we’d have opportunities later.

When we left that morning, we didn’t have a real destination – just more of a general direction. We knew we wanted to head down towards Williamsport, Pennsylavania. Then we could hit I-80 west. Donna studied the map (yes, a real paper map). I had her program way points in the GPS so we would have guidance with speed information. Our GPS is RV specific and also considers things like low clearance, weight limits and other restrictions when calculating a route.

Donna used the POI function on the GPS to locate RV friendly overnight parking. We decided to stop at a Walmart Supercenter in Mansfield, Pennsylvania. Donna could see the route on her map; we simply had to continue south on Rt 220 then west on Rt 6. The GPS had us deviate on PA 4014. We had a short debate over which way to go. I decided to follow the GPS. One thing bothered me though. The GPS was no longer talking to me. It was only displaying the directions without any sound.

As soon as I turned on PA 4014, I knew it was a mistake. The road was narrow and just 100 feet down the road was a sign that said “Rough Road – Construction Next 6 Miles.” There wasn’t any way to turn around so I pressed on. Again it was a very scenic route but also very demanding to drive. I didn’t take in much of the scenery. The road was a series of sharp curves punctuated by short, steep climbs and descents. Many of the little bridges on the route had 10-ton limits. We were over the limit and I couldn’t understand why the GPS routed us this way.

By the time we made it to Mansfield, I was worn out. We found an open area to park and went inside to seek permission for overnight parking. It wasn’t a problem. The next item on my list was finding cold beer. I searched the Walmart aisles and didn’t find any. I finally asked a store clerk and was told they can’t sell beer in Pennsylvania. She suggested that I try the little store across the street.

We walked across the street and again didn’t find any beer. I asked at the counter and a young man standing behind me told I had to go back into the town center to the beer distributor. I had a vague memory of strange alcohol laws in Pennsylvania when we came through a couple of years ago touring on our BMW motorcycles.

I was told it was a long walk – maybe 30 to 45 minutes each way. I was thinking about getting the scooter out of the trailer when the guy offered me a ride into town. I accepted and Donna went back to the motorhome.

It turned out to be a fairly long way. If I had opted to walk it would be over 3 miles each way. It was Sunday and the beer distributor was closed. Like me, the guy that offered me the ride was now on a mission. He was determined to find me a six-pack. He took me to a small Mexican restaurant/bar and said I should ask for take-out beer there. Sure enough, they sold me a six-pack of Yuengling to go. This might be the norm in Pennsylvania, but it’s just plain weird anywhere else.

Back at Walmart, Donna fixed us a salad for dinner. Another RV from Quebec parked right behind us. I checked our GPS settings and found the problem. Somehow the settings I had programmed were lost and the default factory settings were on. It listed a rig smaller than ours weighing 20,000 lbs. No wonder the GPS sent us down that road! I re-programmed our actual information and turned the sound back on.

After dinner we discussed our plans for the next day and decided we should stop somewhere with hook-ups. We needed to replenish our fresh water and also do some laundry. I searched on the internet and found a couple of options off of I-76 in Ohio. That would mean a nearly 300-mile day but it looked like a fairly easy route.

RVs overnight at Walmart

RVs overnight at Walmart

We planned to leave by 8am and actually hit the road at 8:05am. The route took us through the Allegheny Mountains. It was an easy drive although the road was almost never flat. It was constant climbs and descents. This is beautiful country and we enjoyed the ride. We stopped for gas and found a station with easy entry and exit. We crossed the highest point on I-80 east of the Mississippi in western Pennsylvania. It was only 2250′ above sea level. We’ll cross much higher summits out west.

We stopped to stretch and walk in a couple of rest areas. One of the RV parks I found on the internet was a Passport America affiliate (we have a membership). The other was a Good Sam affiliate (we have a membership with them also). To get the Passport America 50% discount, this park required a two-night minimum. We decided two nights would be okay. This would allow Donna to get some work done that she needed to do while I could take care of domestic chores.

Donna called ahead and booked a pullthrough site with 50 amp hook-up. When we arrived we found there was electricity and water on the site but no sewer. That means I’ll use the laundromat today and we’ll hit the dump station on the way out.

Our pullthrough site is long but close to the neighbor

Our pullthrough site is long but close to the neighbor

After we were settled in, Donna and I walked down to the swimming pond. Donna swam and I headed back to the coach to shower. On the way I talked to a neighbor. He lives nearby and camps here to get some quiet time. I asked if there was a liquor store nearby. I wanted to re-stock the liquor cabinet with bourbon.

He told me of a couple of possibilities. I showered and then unloaded the scooter. I went to the first place he mentioned and found beer and wine only. I asked a guy in the parking lot and he said “You mean hard stuff like Johnny Walker?” He was skeptical but said I might find it a few miles down the road. I went into the store he told me about and found beer and wine again. I asked the clerk and he said, “Liquor? Around here?” Apparently it was an unusual request. He told me of a possibility that involved riding another 20 to 30 minutes. I gave up and came back to the park.

Next time Donna tells me there’s a wine and spirit shop with ample parking, I’m not passing it up.