Category Archives: Wisconsin

More Deer Than People

Traveling the last two days left me behind on posting. On Saturday morning, we started off with Donna’s famous banana pancakes made with just two ingredients – bananas and eggs. We eat them with a little maple syrup and a dollop of fresh ground peanut butter.

Donna's banana pancakes on the induction cooktop

Donna’s banana pancakes on the induction cooktop

The rain in the forecast never materialized – it passed to the north of us. Donna went out for an 18-mile bike ride to check out Lake Cleary Regional Park. On the way back, she saw what looked liked a farmers’ market in downtown Prior Lake. Sure enough it was, but all the vendors were just breaking down. The market is open from 8am to noon every Saturday.

We took advantage of the dry weather and put the Traeger grill to use roasting a whole chicken. Donna rinsed the chicken, patted it dry, brushed it with olive oil and spiced it with salt and pepper inside. She added grated fresh garlic and put a cut lemon with a few sprigs of fresh rosemary inside. This is how she usually prepares the chicken to roast in the oven.

I preheated the grill on high for 10 minutes, then put the chicken on the rack at 450 degrees. An hour later, I added mixed veggies in a special grilling pan with holes in it. Donna cut up peppers, onions and asparagus and coated the mixture with oil before I put them on. After a total time of 75 minutes, we had a delicious roasted chicken and veggies.

Roasted chicken

Roasted chicken

Roasted veggies to go with the chicken

Roasted mixed veggies to go with the chicken

Clean-up was a snap. I had lined the drip pan and bucket on the Traeger smoker/grill with aluminum foil before started. All I had to do was wipe down the grill, pull the foil and throw it away and wipe the pan. Simple. I like simple clean-up.

On Sunday morning, we pulled out of Dakotah Meadows RV Park and said goodbye to Prior Lake, Minnesota. We crossed the Mississippi River on I-94 and were in Wisconsin. We left I-94 at the junction of US29. We followed this almost to Wausau before we headed north toward Merrill.

The terrain was a series of rolling hills, never flat. As we drove north on US51, there was a steady stream of vehicles in the southbound lane – cars and trucks pulling trailers with ATVs and boats along with many RVs. Everyone was heading back to the city after a weekend up north.

We took a break at a truck stop and Donna fixed lunch for us. That’s one of the nice things about a motorhome. We can stop and eat, use the restroom and move on without even leaving the coach.

We finally found ourselves driving east on US8 after Nally (our Rand-McNally RVND7720 GPS) directed us along a few lightly traveled county roads. It wasn’t the route I would have chosen looking at a map, but it was interesting drive.

Ozark was in her plastic carrier crate and she wasn’t happy about it. She took a couple of short naps, but spent most of the time vocalizing her displeasure with rolling down the road. I think the crate is the best thing for her though. She isn’t freaked out by the motion and going crazy, just complaining. I don’t know if cats ever get to be good travelers.

We covered about 300 miles of fairly easy driving before we found a wayside park west of Armstrong Creek that we had read about. It had a large lane for parking RVs or trucks with trailers. Overnight parking in rest areas is allowed in Wisconsin, so we set up for the night. We only put out the bedroom slide on the curb side to keep from having a car hit a slide on the street side in the night.

I went outside to check things in the trailer and found the area thick with mosquitoes. Donna put on plenty of insect repellent before she went for a power walk down a forest service road.

In the morning, I went outside to do my usual walk-around before hitting the road. I like to look everything over and make sure all is as it should be before we roll. It had rained in the night and the mosquitoes were out in force. I came inside and swatted 12 mosquitoes on my arms and legs, number 13 was on my face and number 14 got away.

Wayside Park for the night

Wayside park for the night

We continued east. Once again, Nally directed us to a little used county road to shortcut our path to US2. The county road was fine at first. Once we crossed the Michigan state line, the road surface immediately deteriorated. Michigan’s reputation for poor road conditions is well-deserved. On this section, we saw more deer than people. My friend Jim Birditt would probably say, “That’s not a bad thing.”

We stopped for fuel at Hermansville and continued east on US2. This route took us through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula along the north shore of Lake Michigan. After 230 miles on the road, we checked in to the Lakeside Park Campground on Lake Michigan about 3 miles west of St. Ignace, where I’m typing this. We lost an hour along the way as we are now in the Eastern Time zone.

Ozark was much better about traveling this time. She spent most of the time napping in her crate and only cried out when Donna would get up or start talking to me. Maybe she’ll adjust to traveling after all.

Donna took a walk along the northeastern shore of Lake Michigan and shot a few photos. I’ve been having a problem with my foot since being bitten by a bug in Texas and have limited my walking while it heals.

Trail from the RV park to the lake

Trail from the RV park to the lake

Mackinac bridge (say Mackinaw) a few miles east of us

Mackinac Bridge (say Mackinaw) a few miles east of us

Power company sign warning about underwater cables across Makinac Strait

Power company sign warning about underwater cables across Mackinac Strait

We didn’t unpack the grill from the trailer since this is just an overnight stop. Donna prepared tilapia piccata and a veggie medley of oven roasted parsnips, carrots and beets. Like most root crops, beets are full of nutrients but I’m not a fan – they taste too earthy to me.

Tilapia and veggies

Tilapia piccata and veggies

Today we are road warriors again making the drive across the Mackinac Bridge south through the state to Addison Oaks County Park in Oakland Township – our old stomping grounds. Addison Oaks is one of the first places we stayed in when we started RVing. So much has happened in the two years since then. It’s the time warp I’ve mentioned before. When we think of all the places we’ve been and the things we’ve experienced, we have to wonder how it could all happen in just two years.


Texas Ironman

Although there was a threat of thundershowers in the afternoon, I unloaded the scooter yesterday. Donna and I took our chances and rode up to The Woodlands to watch the Ironman competition. Our friend Allen Hutchinson was competing in the triathlon.

We rode west to the IH-45 service road and stayed on it all the way up to The Woodlands Parkway. In Texas cities, most interstate freeways have frontage roads that parallel the freeway. These frontage roads are generally one-way roads on each side of the interstate. On-ramps and off-ramps to and from the freeway are found at intervals along the frontage. The speed limit on IH-45 is 45mph, but Texas drivers don’t pay much attention to that. We were blasting along at 60mph+ at times to keep from being run over by speeding traffic.

As you can imagine, traffic was heavy at The Woodlands. We made our way to Lake Robbins Drive and parked the scooter near the finish line of the race. The scooter is handy for these situations – we can easily find parking where cars cannot fit.

We walked past the finish area on a bridge overlooking the canal. There were some spectators setting up along the canal. Later, this area would be crowded with spectators.

View from the bridge -only a few spectators along the canal

View from the bridge – only a few spectators along the canal

We walked down to the canal and followed it west past the pavilion to the transition area. We expected Allen to ride into the transition area soon and wanted to see him. On the east end of the transition area, we saw red plastic bags lined up. Each bag was identified with a racer’s number. The bag contained the items they would need to transition from a bicyclist to a runner. They had running shoes and whatnot in their bags.

Running gear in bags at the west end of the transition area

Running gear in bags at the east end of the transition area

As we walked along the transition area, we saw competitors coming in. They would hand off their bikes to a race staff member who would take their bikes to the assigned bike rack for them. Having left their cycling shoes clipped into the pedals of their bikes, the racers would jog barefoot across the muddy grass and retrieve their bag of running gear. I hope the bags contained something to clean their feet – the area was very muddy.

We found a spot to stand where the racers were required to stop and dismount from their bikes. At that point, they had to walk their bikes to the hand-off area. After 112 miles of hard riding some of the competitors struggled to get off their bikes. We saw several people suffering from leg cramps as they tried to dismount. A few riders nearly crashed.

When Allen arrived, he was so focused on stopping and getting off his bike, I don’t think he saw or heard us even though we were only a few feet away from him. He was moving so quickly, I could only snap a quick shot of the back of his head.

Allen getting off his bike

Allen getting off his bike

We retraced our steps past the transition area and found Allen’s wife Crystal and his sister Aleshia. We tried to figure out how long it would be before Allen would run by. We decided to cross the canal on a walking bridge and wait for him on the south side of the canal. As we crossed, a guy gave us cow bells to ring as we encouraged competitors coming by.

We found a small grassy area where we could see up the course. The runners would approach our spot where they had to round a curve past us. We learned that this was the five-mile mark of the run. The temperature was 86 degrees and the humidity was unbearable. We were soaked in perspiration just standing there. The competitors had to be suffering and probably would have welcomed rain. We had a couple of false sightings before we saw the real Allen running toward us.

Allen at the five mile point of the 26.2 mile run

Allen at the five-mile point of the 26.2 mile run

After Allen passed our position, we walked back over the bridge and started following the canal back to the east. The competitors ran east on the north side of the canal before crossing over and coming back west on the south side of the canal. By heading east, we would see Allen coming toward us again sooner than if we held our spot.

We stopped at the Marriott hotel and went inside for a restroom break and to sit for a few minutes in the air-conditioned lobby. We went back outside and found the course was quite crowded with spectators. We found a place to sit on a low block wall and cheered on the runners. Allen came past and slapped hands with us. He was looking good.

We went up the street by the finish line and had lunch at the Baker Street Pub and Grill. I forgot to mention that Allen generously bought our lunch the day before at The Olive Garden. I reciprocated by buying lunch for Crystal and Aleshia. A cold Guinness with the meal was just what I needed – Donna enjoyed one too.

After lunch, we saw Allen go by on the other side of the canal. We knew it would be a while before he came by our position, so we retreated to the Marriott again to cool off. I had another cold one at the bar. The bar area was hopping with spectators who had the same idea.

I mentioned in my last post how The Woodlands is an upscale neighborhood. We saw several interesting cars on the roads – Porsches, Ferraris and such. Outside the Marriott, I snapped a photo of an Aston Martin convertible in the valet parking area. Apparently the owner wasn’t too worried about a thundershower – he left the top down.

Astin Martin at the Westin

Aston Martin at the Marriott

This being Texas, I think more people were impressed by the big four-wheel drive pickup truck next to it. As it turned out, we only had a few stray rain drops all day, so the Aston Martin interior was safe.

We returned to the course to find the sidewalk along the canal filled with people. At times, the competitors had to thread their way through the crowd as they ran past. We saw Allen come by on his last lap of the canal. We figured it would be about 80 minutes before he would get to the finish line.

After another pit stop at the Marriott, we went to the finish line. We watched the competitors come down Waterway Avenue where they had to make a 180-degree turn and run back up Waterway Avenue to the finish line. The first stretch on Waterway was slightly downhill with a tail wind. After the turnaround, the last 200 yards was slightly uphill into the wind. It seemed like a cruel way to finish a 140.6-mile race.

Some of the competitors were clearly struggling to make the finish line. Others were smiling and jumping for joy. We saw a few make an all-out sprint to the finish. After waiting about 40 minutes, we saw Allen come by. He hit the red carpet and the finish line with a total race time of just under 12 hours.

Allen checking his watch 100 yards from the finish

Allen checking his watch 100 yards from the finish

He hits the red carpet and finishes under 12 hours

He hits the red carpet and finishes under 12 hours

Allen’s first words to me when I found him after the finish was, “Man, it’s hot out there.” After congratulating Allen and saying our goodbyes, we hopped on the scooter and got out of town. It was nearly 7pm by then and had been a long day. I was feeling tired and sore from spectating – imagine how the competitors must have felt.

We stopped at HEB on the way back and picked up a few things including a pizza for dinner. Today, we have rain in the forecast again. We want to do a little fishing in the lake. Then, I plan to kick back and watch the Moto GP race from Le Mans, France. Tomorrow we’ll relocate about 200 miles away to Rockport on the gulf coast.




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





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.


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