A terrific day on Minnesota’s North Shore

LOCATION:  Just outside of Duluth, Minnesota in a cozy, log cabin for the week
WEATHER:  We have hit the jackpot.  So nice every day – sunny.  High 67

Today was an outing on the North Shore.  I did the driving.  It is so helpful to have two back-seat drivers…..not!

We took the scenic route, following Lake Superior.  We did a lot of oohs and aahs over the beautiful foliage.

We stopped along the shoreline for a nice view

We admired the falls at Gooseberry Falls State Park where we had a hike, although there is not much water there this time of year.

We made the obligatory stop at Betty’s World Famous Pie Shop where George got a piece of bumbleberry pie.

Then, we went to Split Rock Lighthouse.  Again, more beautiful scenes.

And, we stopped at a fish shop and bought some smoked whitefish from Lake Superior.

By this time, I was fretting about the gas tank.  Alexis had the privilege of listening to us bicker about whether to stop.  Guess who wanted to wait for a better price!? As you can see on the gauge, we are below Empty.

We made it back to Two Harbours, filled up our tank, and then filled our tummies with some good beer at Castle Danger Brewery

As we passed through Duluth, we stopped at Bent Paddle Brewery for another fill-up.  Alexis and George are pleased with their designated driver….moi!

Back home, I happily made dinner.  The kitchen here is huge and it is fun cooking. 

DINNER:  Yaki-soba and Japanese-style eggplant.  I sauted some fake chicken strips (as Alexis is vegan) along with onions, mushrooms, and green beans, adding some teriyaki sauce and soy sauce at the end.  I cooked up the soba (Asian buckwheat noodles).  George thin-sliced the eggplant and grilled them, as they do in Japan.  I coated them lightly with sesame oil when they were done.  Oishikata, as they say in Japan!

After dinner, George and Alexis checked out the gazebo down by the lake and enjoyed a fire in yet another firepit. 

A restful day at “our” beautiful cabin

LOCATION:  In a cabin outside of Duluth, Minnesota
WEATHER:  Another great autumn day.  A few sprinkles in the late PM

We hung around the cabin today, enjoying the beauty and getting some chores done.  I did a ton of laundry, taking advantage of the great facilities here.

We took a walk along the road in front of the cabin.

  First we said “good morning” to the neighbor’s darling calf while the neighbor welcomed us to the area. 

George did some of his morning stretches outside while Alexis and I did yoga following a DVD.

For lunch, I made some miso soup from miso paste Alexis brought.  This is something I should travel with more often, as it takes only a little space and lasts forever.  I added some veg and fake chicken to it for a nice, healthy soup.

George and Alexis chopped some more firewood for the fireplace.

I just admired the beautiful colors.

DINNER:  I made a British fish pie — a layer of mixed vegetables, mushrooms, and sauted onions.  Then, a layer of smoked mussels and sauteed scallops.  Then, topped it with scalloped potatoes. Only problem….a lot of leftovers!

In full autumn splendor

LOCATION:  Outside of Duluth, Minnesota – in NE part of state
CAMPGROUND:  We have rented a cabin for the week
WEATHER:  Smashing!  High 68..  Sunny.  Pure autumn!
DRIVE:  4 hours

The three of us to managed to sleep pretty well inside Joy at the Harvest Host brewery.  Here is daughter Alexis enjoying her morning coffee.

Our drive today took us through lots of farm land – full of cows, corn, and soybeans.  Very pretty.

We arrived at our cabin mid-afternoon.  Alexis had found this on AirB&B.  It is a beautiful log cabin tucked in the woods.  First, George got Joy parked under the maple trees, in their autumn splendor

The cabin is huge – so far we have found 6 bedrooms.  The kitchen is well-stocked.  We unloaded all of food.  Between Alexis’s CSA that she brought and the veg that we have been picking, we have a lot of food to go through.  We may have guests this weekend, so I am planning menus to use it up.

We enjoyed a beer on the deck.  We will get this fire pit going later in the week.

Then, we hiked around the yard.  We are right on a lake.  The fall leaves are everywhere!

Cute, little chipmunks are running around everywhere.

We may take out a canoe later in the week.

The sunset was very nice. 

Then, George got a roaring fire going in the living room fireplace.

DINNER:  Green chili stew.  I made it with a sauce that I have only found in south Texas.  I kept it vegan (for Alexis) using fake beef and chicken.  It is yummy.  Lots of leftovers for Alexis to take home.

On our way to the cabin…

LOCATION:  Menomonie, Wisconsin in west central part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Zymurgy Brewery, part of the Harvest Host membership.  In their parking lot.  Good beer.  Within walking distance to town.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Cold.  High 50.  Low below freezing!
DRIVE:  4 hours

It got below freezing last night, and we awoke to frost on the pick-up.. 

We enjoyed our Sunday morning ritual – grits, eggs and bacon for breakfast while watching “CBS This Morning”.  We especially like the “moment of nature” which shows beautiful natural parks and forests, many of which we have visited.

Then, off to Rochester to pick up one of our daughters, Alexis. Here we are with her partner at the pick-up place.  We are going together to spend a week in a cabin near Duluth.

We drove on toward Menomonie, stopping along the way at a brewery in the middle of a cornfield. 

Then, we arrived at this cute brewery, converted from a gas station, where we will “camp” overnight.

We enjoyed some beers and chatted with the brewer/owner.

Then, we walked to another brewery, a converted train depot.

The brewery where we are “camped” is near downtown so we had a lot of restaurants to choose from.  We found one with yummy bowls.  We shared bowls and an order of cauliflower wings.

Making our way through Minnesota

LOCATION:  Mankato, Minnesota – in central part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Sawmill Campground..  This is a commercial RV park with all the amenities – pull-through sites with picnic tables and firepits, full hook-ups, ok bathrooms, wifi.  Nice hosts and spacious sites.  $30/night.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Cold and dreary.  High 48
DRIVE:  3 hours

We had to leave the winery where we stayed last night (Round Lake through Harvest Hosts) fairly early as they were setting up for an 11:00 AM wedding.  I’m afraid it was not going to be a very pleasant out-door wedding as it is cold and spitting rain. 

We drove through rain and under overcast skies.  Might as well be in a car. 

Since we didn’t have far to go, we arrived in Mankato before we could check in at the RV park, we killed an hour in the Mankato Brewery.  Good beers.  Lots of social distancing, since the place is cavernous.

Most of the RVers in this campground are snow-birds and are getting ready to go south after spending the summer here. 

You know that we are in Minnesota when you see ice-fishing houses used as RVs…

We had a quiet afternoon, watching TV, reading books, and munching on popcorn.  Since we have electricity, we are nice and toasty with our electric space heater.  A good way to spend a dreary afternoon.

DINNER:  Those peppers George picked and I sauteed yesterday.  I added onion, mushroom, and Italian sausage.  First course was a caprese salad with one of the perfect tomatoes we picked a few days ago. 

BOOK:. “Lilac Girls” by Martha Hall Kelly.  This is based on a true story about several women’s experiences (German, Polish, and American) during WWII.  Very moving.  5 stars out of 5

Winery hopping!

LOCATION:  Round Lake, Minnesota – in SW part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Round Lake Winery, another Harvest Host site.  This is our 3rd time here.  One of our very favorite HH sites. 
WEATHER:  Colder.  Cloudy.  High 50
DRIVE:  3 hours

During the night, one of our propane tanks ran out, so we did not have any heat.  It was in the 30s inside Joy, but we were toasty under 2 blankets and a heavy sleeping bag.  In the morning, George switched to the other tank, and now all is well again.

Early this morning, we watched the farmer/vintner pick the remaining field of grapes. 

It is a pretty slick operation. The machines are from France.

They were working hard, trying to get everything done today, before the freeze

Meanwhile, George picked some of their vegetables – tomatoes and peppers.

We headed out about 11:00 and took our time driving to Round Lake, another winery.  We passed a lot of farm equipment on the road, and saw big semi-trailers full of sugar beets.  We went through little towns with signs “Population 312 or 27 or 1249”.  Lunch was a picnic along one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. 

The two other times we were at Round Lake were in the summer, so it looks different now with the fall colors.  Just beautiful.

We are parked right along the lake

They are preparing for a lake-side, outdoor wedding tomorrow. 

To pass some time and to warm up Joy, I cooked up some of the peppers George picked this morning.  We will have the peppers tomorrow night.

As with Hinterland Vineyards (yesterday’s stop), they are finishing up the harvesting here, too. 

The cozy tasting room with a nice fire in the fireplace beckoned us in.   We tasted several good ones and selected 2 to buy.

DINNER:  We went back to their tasting room/bistro for a lovely dinner with excellent service.  A lot of locals seem to patronize the restaurant.  We shared a hamburger, salad, and sweet potato fries. 

Tonight is supposed to get down to 29!  We are prepared! 

Through the hinterland to Hinterland!

LOCATION:  Clara City, Minnesota – in west central part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Hinterland Vineyards and Winery, through Harvest Hosts.  In a beautiful peaceful setting.  In the farm/barn area parking.  Literally right in the vineyards  Lovely tasting room/restaurant.  5 stars out of 5!
WEATHER:  Windy again.  High 50.  Mostly cloudy
DRIVE:  3 hours

From our window at the brewery in Luverne, MN, we watched the school children get on the bus.  In typical Minnesota fashion, even with temps in the 30s, the kids were hopping on the bus in t-shirts and shorts.  They are hardy here! 

We walked around Luverne, where we spent last night at the brewery.  It is obvious that the residents take pride in their town.  We walked through a new park/sports center, and then when it started spitting rain, returned to Joy to hit the road.

We are in middle of rich farm country.  Black soil.  The soy bean and corn fields go on and on.  Now, evereything is golden.  Some fields have been harvested.  Many farmers are out busily harvesting.

We pulled in to Hinterland in mid-afternoon and got settled. 

We are literally an arms-length from the vineyards.

It is a beautiful setting.

We did a wine-tasting in the late afternoon in their cozy tasting room.  We found a dry red that we liked and bought a bottle for the road.  Then, we returned for dinner.  We had a charcuterie platter and then an Italian flatbread.  Of course, we had a bottle of their red to wash it down with!

The winery owners sat at a table next to us and we chatted with them.  They have one part of the vineyards left to harvest and he said he would get up early tomorrow to pick the grapes, as it is supposed to get to below freezing one night soon. 

On to Minnesota!

LOCATION:  Luverne, Minnesota in SW part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Take 16 Brewery through Harvest Host.  In their event center parking lot.  Downtown Luverne, but very little street noise.  Great beer.  5 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Crisp and cool.  High 65.  Windy in PM
DRIVE:  30 minutes

Since we only had a very short drive to our next stop, we spent most of the day at the Big Sioux Recreation Area where we were camped the last 2 nights.  Check-out was not until 4:00 – how convenient! 

George spent the day doing odd jobs.  He fixed the condensation problem we have had with our rearview video camera.  While he did that, I took several hikes around the park.  I just can’t get enough of the lovely autumn weather and colors. 

One of the trails follows a well-maintained  disk golf course.

I checked out this old homestead log cabin built in 1869 that has been preserved in the park.  Some Norwegians homesteaded here, and raised a family of 8!

After a 30-minute drive, we crossed the border from South Dakota back to good old Minnesota, my favorite state.  We got parked easily and went in to enjoy a comfortable brewery and to sip on their beers.  Last year when we were traveling through this area, we stopped here and I recommended the brewery as a Harvest Host site.  When they joined, I received a nice referral bonus! 

The brewery is named after Route 16, a historic highway that crossed from Yellowstone to Detroit.  George got our growler filled up with one of their IPAs.

DINNER:  We walked a few blocks to a very nice downtown bistro for dinner.  We shared their special – Wednesday Wings.  It was a very nice atmosphere, and they were doing a great business – somewhat surprisingly since the town is not that big and it is not the weekend.  Unlike some small towns we pass through, Luverne seems to be thriving well. 

Autumn camping

LOCATION:  Just outside of Sioux Falls, SD
CAMPGROUND:  Big Sioux Recreation Area
WEATHER:  Drop-dead gorgeous!  Perfect fall day.  AM crisp; PM warm at 75

We spent the morning hiking around the campground.  To me, this is the best time of year to camp…..the weather is perfect and the campgrounds almost empty. 

We headed to the city of Sioux Falls for lunch.  We took some back roads which took us through booming residential areas.  The city really looks prosperous and seems to be growing by leaps and bounds.  We found a nice English-style pub for lunch.

We did some grocery shopping.  The stores are set up for fall and Halloween.

Back at the campground, we took more hikes along the Big Sioux River.  Just beautiful.

George made another one of his award-winning campfires to cook dinner.

DINNER:  We started with a caprese salad using a tomato from the Harvest Host brewery’s garden.  It is probably the last time we eat caprese salad for the season.  Grilled hamburgers and BBQ beans. 

And then we watched the debate….and almost got sick!

A real autumn day

LOCATION:  Just outside of Sioux Falls, South Dakota – in southeast part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Big Sioux State Recreation Area.  A lovely state park with paved, level sites, spaced far apart.  Electricity.  Dump station with water.  Fire rings and picnic tables.  Beautifully clean bathrooms and showers.  $27/night.  5 stars out of 5
WEATHER: Windy and cloudy..  High 53
DRIVE:  2 hours

It was another windy day for driving, but the wind was at our back, so was not bad.  Those winds from Alberta! 

This campground is about 1/3 full, so we didn’t have any problem getting a spot.  We spent the afternoon hiking & scrounging for firewood, and exploring the park.

It is really autumn here.  It is fun walking through the leaves and hearing them scrunch underfoot.

George did a few handiwork projects (like fixing the hinge on my clothes closet) while I did some internet work, figuring out a route as we travel down the Mississippi in a few weeks.

We made a great fire.  Its warmth really felt good.  George has perfected the process…

1)  Assemble everything needed to make the fire.  Make sure George has a beer and I have a glass of wine to get everything going.

2)  Make sure the secret weapon handy fire starters are ready.  My project last winter was to collect toilet paper rolls and stuff them with clothes dryer lint with a dab of Vaseline.  We have a big plastic bin full of these guys.

3) Stuff an empty 6-pack beer container with the toilet paper fire starters.  Add any bits of paper on hand.   (Sometimes it is a paper plate left from lunch or newspapers rolled up).

4) Then, add some small kindling in the beer container.  If pine cones are around, place one in each of the beer container holes.

5) Arrange a few pieces of bigger wood on the sides. Then light…..

6) Here it comes; here it comes……

As the fire gets going well, add bigger pieces of wood.  I try to cook dinner over the fire – either directly on or in an iron skillet every time we have a fire. 

DINNER:  Leftover gumbo.  I added more shrimp and one of the green peppers we got at the Harvest Host brewery yesterday.  We cooked it in an iron skillet over the campfire.

Life is good!