We spent the last 3 days at Cedar Pass Campground in Badlands National Park. The scenery is beautiful. It feels as is we are on another planet at times. The campground layout is odd and obviously designed before large RVs existed, but we have enjoyed the views, peaceful setting and the birds, including Western Meadowlarks and Mountain Bluebirds.
We did some amazing hikes, even with my sore foot (not improved at all). It was mostly climbing and descending, which hurts far less than normal walking. We also scoped out our next camping area, which will be boondocking off-grid, at the rim overlooking the Badlands.
It will be a few days before we post again, since we will be off grid.
Our first stop in Minnesota, also our 5th camping location of 16, was Myre-Big Island State Park. The park was very quiet and not very full. Though it is surrounded by lakes, we were unable to find any access to the water for swimming or even taking photos. It seemed very odd, since we are from Michigan, where life revolves arund the lakes.
We were happy that we stocked up on supplies in Wisconsin. For lunches we had fresh baked sourdough from a bakery, really good turkey and cheese. Dinner was sweet corn, known as “candy corn” in WI., veggie burgers and tater tots. It was our 3rd day of temperatures in the 90s, so we cooked outside. the corn lived up to it’s name.
The next day we went to Blue Mounds State Park. It is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, near the South Dakota and Iowa borders. The park is surrounded by farms and features include prairie grasslands, rock formations, Buffalo herds, many trails and a wooded campground. This park was a little more full, but still very peaceful. We wish we had more time to enjoy the bike trails and plan to return.
Nearby was the sleepy town of Luverne, MN. The town motto “Love the life!” was everywhere. We found the microbrewery in town, Take 16 Brewing. They had converted their parking lot to a beer garden with well-spaced seating and live music. The entire town was there and it was clear everyone knew each other. The beer was fantastic and we enjoyed hearing live music for the first time in many weeks. It was so fun to enjoy a small town in a beautiful location.
Minnesota was far more flat and lake-free (at least where we were) than we expected on this trip. Minnesota campers seem to be far more mellow than Michigan campers. There were no family reunions and large groups of raucous partiers, playing loud music and drinking heavily into the wee hours, as in MI.
People ask me how we chose our 5th wheel RV? Well, we didn’t actually choose it…. it sorta chose us.
We were looking at smaller RV’s, a lot smaller, and looked at a few 18-22′ range lite bumper pulls. Lisa and I looked at a friend’s Airstream Basecamp, but at 6’7″ tall I didn’t really “fit” in any of these things.
My longtime friends Lynne and Brian just happened to be upgrading to a bigger rig and had theirs up for sale. Brian wanted me to buy it, but I resisted because we thought theirs was way to big for us (so I thought). Brian convinced us to at least look at it. The moment I stepped into it and looked up with 18″ to the ceiling, I knew it was for me. I then had to convince Lisa that this was the one. It was a real leap of faith for her.
The RV is a 2012 Keystone Cougar 29′ internal foot print, 32’6″ overall length.
I’ve made lots of changes to it, stripping out the bunk house, most of the doors, the dinette, and other useless dead weight (useless for our needs). We also added a full size queen memory foam mattress (Sealy To Go), and it’s the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept on.
The bunk house in the rear carries all of our gear – mt. bikes, boards, etc. Not having our bikes dangling on the back is really nice.
We had a blowout on one of our first trips last summer, on the old tires. That time on the side of the road was not fun, and I made a point not to ever have to do it again. The whole thing was a blessing in disguise.
I’ve upgraded the old suspension with new springs, and ezflex equalizers. My brother loaned me the use of his shop and tools and I did most of the work myself…. with the help of his trailer mechanic, Ricky. I took the opportunity to learn everything I could from Ricky about the suspension, hubs, wheels, bearings, etc.
I also upgraded the tires to Carisle Radial HD , with the highest rating to E load range (for 15″). Original factory RV tires are commonly known as “china bombs”. Few people actually notice the low speed and weight ratings of these tires.
The loaded weight with all of our stuff is just about 8,000 lbs, and pin weight approx. 1500lbs. We pull it with our 2019 Chevy Silverado, with Max NHT tow/payload package. I drive with 3 fingers. Its so easy… and the Silverado pulls it like it’s hardly there.
We are at Goose Island County Park in La Crosse, campsite #4 of 16. We feel so lucky that we stumbled upon this place. It has to be one of the best kept secrets in Wisconsin. It’s absolutely beautiful. We are also fortunate enough to have the best site here (thanks to the friendly park manager). It has water and electric, the most shade and a lot of space around it. All great features when it is 98 degrees! The park is probably about the size of Stony Creek or Kensington Metropark. There is a 7+ mile canoe trail, numerous boat ramps, a small sandy “beach”, picnic areas, as well as campsites. It is a popular place to fish for bass. We rode our bikes through every inch of the park. It feels like a remote wilderness location.
We went to the popular attractions in the area. Shrine of our Lady of Guadalupe is quite beautiful and Dave agreed it’s worth going just to see the flowers (as beautiful as my sister’s garden!). Sorry my photos do not capture the beauty. We didn’t go inside because I was wearing a tank top and flipflops (I’m not Catholic, but expect that would be disrespectful). We also went to Grandad Bluff Park, which overlooks all of La Crosse, including the University of Wisconsin campus. Surprise – Wisconsin is not flat!
La Crosse is a very cool town and we wish we could experience it without the pandemic. We also enjoyed the IPA at Turtle Stack Brewery and ate dinner twice at Bodega Brew Pub. Everything is homemade there (including the pesto and thousand island dressing) and NOT typical bar food. I can’t remember Dave ever being so happy with a meal, as he was was today. He had their spicy Reuben sandwich. The La Crosse aloha is similar to the Detroit aloha and we plan to return .
Sorry for the delay in posting – internet issues finally resolved
Hartwick Pines State Park
Hartwick Pines was our first stop on our great adventure. It’s about a 3 1/5 hour drive, north, from our home. This is a beautiful park, with old growth pines, some nice campsites, hiking trails, logging museum and very easy mountain bike trails. I haven’t done any trail riding for many years, so was happy to start conditioning for the Copper Harbor trails in September. I’m pretty sure I have a sprained foot (injured hiking on flimsy running shoes on last trip), but gimped along the hiking trails to see the beautiful trees and lakes (hoping the Ibuprofen eventually helps). Many of the buildings were built buy the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) in the 1930’s an 1940’s. We were fortunate to book a campsite surrounded by trees. We are learning every campground has trade-offs. This one is some noise from I-75 when the wind is light.
Lake Michigan Campground
First comment – trade-off – view and noise of traffic from US -2 during daytime, vs secluded beach. The beach was nearly deserted , peaceful, with gorgeous sunsets. This was a rustic campsite, no water or power. No problem for us. We checked out St Ignace. Nice, but the pandemic resulted in a wait for outdoor seating at some places.
Wells State Park
We have a beautiful site on Green Bay. This is another CCC campground. My first impression is that I could spend a long time here. The view and sound of the water is so peaceful. We have had a constant, cool breeze off of the water. A family with 4 children under 5, with a tiny popup trailer, showed up next to us (of course). Surprisingly, the whole family was very “chill”, no yelling, tantrums, crying, hitting.. whew! (Lucky kids and lucky us!!!!) Another CCC campground. The short hiking trails are beautiful. The rustic cabins and campsites are really nice. We felt the need to check out Escanaba. It seemed to be a very desolate version of Port Huron. Though Upper Hand Brewery was closed on a Monday, we did enjoy Hereford and Hops brewpub. Fabulous Redemption IPA, RED and White Tail Ale.
I’m so excited I’m struggling to sleep at night. I can’t wait to be on the road with new adventures every day! Planning the trip got me through the pandemic stay-at-home orders and now it’s actually happening! Wednesday we leave the Detroit area, heading north toward Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (the UP), on our way to the Badlands, Mt Rushmoore and Deadwood, then back to the UP for a couple of weeks.. Every campsite is booked, except for our boondocking sites.
We spent 3 days cleaning the RV, inside and out and made some changes for easier travel, with less weight. We also created our detailed checklists for hitching and unhitching and lists of what we need to bring. Our 9-day mini-tour around Michigan helped us to tighten up our inspection process and understand what we need to bring. We purchased parts and gear for the RV. I found hiking boots and shoes and shorts for mountain biking. The route is entered into the Good Sam Club route planner, so we know the best route and fuel stops for RVs. I even learned how to use this blog software, sort of….. All that is left to do is final grocery shopping and packing. Badlands, here we come!
We took a 9-day mini-tour around Michigan, as a trial run for our Badlands trip. We camped at several state parks and off-grid on our property in Frankfort. We learned a lot and it was so fun to be camping and seeing new sights.