Bridges of Madison County

October 11-14, 2017

Now we’re on the way to Iowa.  It was going to be a pass-through state, but we stopped at the cute little visitor’s center and picked up brochures.  I found one for the covered bridges in Madison County.  That’s in Iowa!?  And the annual covered bridge festival is THIS weekend!  Well that changes everything and we have to go.  The schedule is flexible, so we just adjust and point Lucy in the direction of Winterset, IA.


Iowa visitor’s center.  How cute is that?

Criss Cove County Park

I called ahead as we drove trying to get reservations, but both the city and state parks were all full.  They recommended a nearby county park that was first come-first served.  Our next stop wasn’t too far away, but we decided to just keep on driving and get all the way there to snag a mid-week spot.  Sometimes you have to drive more than 200 miles in one day.  Whew!


This is the view at Criss Cove.  A nice quiet little place, likely built before bigger RVs.  There were only two other people there, so we had our pick of places.  Our only issue here was the big sneaky tree branch that scratched the entire passenger side of Lucy on the way in.  Ouch!  It was either that or drive into a pretty big washout off the road.  That’ll buff right out we said.

A few more Criss Cove views.

Bridges of Madison County

I was so excited to learn that Winterset, Iowas is indeed the home of the famous bridges of Madison County and where they filmed the movie starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood.  Funny thing.  Neither Pat nor I have seen the movie, but I do love covered bridges, so off we go on the driving tour.


The Roseman Bridge is the most famous one and favors heavily in the movie.  We visited this one first.  There are a total of six remaining covered bridges in the area where there was once as many as 19.

On the drive what do we see?  Corn, corn, corn.  That comes to mind first when I think of Iowa.  Most of the corn around here is left to dry out completely before being harvested for use in animal feed.  I did manage to find a few yellow kernels peeking out of the dry husk.


Bridge #2 on our drive was the Cutler-Donahue Bridge and is in the middle of Winterset’s city park.  The historical plaque noted that the bridges were often named for the closest residents.  Both the Cutler and Donahue families claimed naming rights on this one.


Across from the Cutler-Donahue was the Rotary hedge maze.  We had some fun with Jackson inside this one.  I ran ahead, kept calling him, and they gave chase.  That is until I took a wrong turn down a dead end.  Momma has been found!

Jackson and I were like trolls under the rock bridge across from the hedge maze.


Clark Tower is also in the city park.  So picturesque and peaceful.  It was erected in 1926 and stands as a monument to Winterset’s first pioneer family.  It’s made of native limestone with Middle River valley views from the top.

Jackson couldn’t climb the slick stone steps, so we took turns at the top.

Ok, so four more bridges to see and some are miles out of town.  We ditch Jackson back at the motorhome and continue our quest.


#3 is Hogback Bridge named for a nearby ridge.


#4 is Holliwell.  This one is the longest at 122 feet.


And the Middle River view from the Holliwell Bridge.


The saddest one is what remains of the Cedar Covered Bridge, and #5 on our tour.  This one was destroyed by arson in 2002 and rebuilt only to be destroyed by arson a second time in April of this year.  Fundraising is underway so it can be rebuilt again.  This is the one we could have driven across if not for the fire.


Bridge #6 is the Imes Bridge and the oldest of the bunch.  Built in 1870, it was moved twice to end up in it’s current home in St. Charles.  This one was a bit of a drive, but I was determined to see all 6.  It’s different than the others with a white front and back and different latticework on the inside.


The little town of Winterset turned out to be filled with fascinating history and connections to multiple movies and famous people.  ‘Cold Turkey’, a Dick Van Dyke flick was filmed here along with ‘The Bridges of Madison County’.  Pat has a hazy memory of ‘Cold Turkey’.  I’ve never seen either one.

As for the famous people, John Wayne was born here.


This statue was outside the John Wayne Birthplace & Museum.  His boyhood home was right around the corner and in case you didn’t know, he was born Marion Robert Morrison.  We’re not particular John Wayne buffs, so decided to skip that entrance fee.  Of course everyone seems to have a favorite John Wayne movie.  Mine is Hatari.  I can just hear that Baby Elephant Walk song.  Mom & Dad had the soundtrack album and I liked playing that one.

I was really intrigued by the other famous person we read about from Winterset.  George L. Stout was a museum director and art conservation specialist.  I know, you’re thinking – boring.  But, did you happen to see the movie ‘The Monument’s Men’?  Well, George Clooney’s character is based loosely on Mr. Stout who joined the army and personally supervised the removal of thousands of art works during World War II.  Quite a remarkable life saving priceless art on the front lines.  Not so boring after all.


It was just the cutest little place with an old-fashioned town square and beautiful old courthouse.  Reminded me of the one from my old hometown in DeLand, FL.  Also lots of restaurants and they do serve Bud.  This truck reminded us of our visit to the Clydesdales earlier in the year.

We ended up extending our stay here by one day to catch the yearly Bridges of Madison County Festival, but the weather was horrid.  It rained buckets most of the day and I felt bad for the place.  Fortunately we did our touring and browsing the few days before, so we didn’t feel like we really missed out.  One extra day was all we could spare.  We’ve set out sights on Springfield, MO again and have reservations.  See you on the way!


Under a Minnesota Sky

October 8 – 10, 2017

Since we went so long without great sunsets this summer, we definitely appreciate a good evening show.  Our Minnesota lakeside spot was just the place and provided all the best colors for our viewing pleasure.

When A Cop Knocks On Your Door

I knew that would get your attention.  Sure did for us, too.  But let me catch you up first.  We bid farewell to the family in North Dakota and made our way to Minnesota.  We didn’t have an exact plan for our trip from this point, so I researched a spot that wasn’t too far from Thompson, ND.  Sauk River Park in Melrose, MN looked just about right.  A lot of towns up north have city campgrounds that are typically quite nice and you just put money in a fee box to stay the night.  This one was right on the river and looked good, except for one thing.  The sign going in said the season was only until October 1st.  Hmmm.  It is now 10/8.  There’s another camper in the park and water & electric connections seem to work fine.  We decide to set up camp since it’s just for the night.  Not like we’re going to be rousted out by the cops or anything…..


See how pretty it is?  And yes, a nice policeman did come knocking after an hour or so.  He confirms that the season is now over and we’ll have to go.  We can stay the night, but that’s all.  We assure him that was our plan all along.  Apparently that other camper has been there for a while and has yet to vacate after being asked multiple times.  Sounds like a bad scene, and we mostly definitely head out first thing the next morning.

Lake Byllesby Regional Park

Thanks to a former work buddy, Carla, for the Lake Byllesby suggestion.  It’s a regional park, but unlikely we would have found this gem on our own.  It’s just perfect for a two-night stop and they are indeed still open.


A grand lakeside spot and practically empty.  We do love the shoulder season!

We’re just south of the twin cities and on the reservoir forming the largest lake in southern Dakota County.


Nice walking trail for Jackson, too.  He’s checking out the water flowing away and Pat is checking out the dam.

More pretty Fall foliage and the area’s first frost of the season.  Bitsy had the white stuff on top.  We just loved this view right out the front (dirty) windshield with a little mist on the water each morning.

We even entertained a guest on the second day.  Carla’s husband Rick came to visit since they have the exact same motorhome.  A fun coincidence that Carla and I discovered as we were chatting about plans before my retirement.  Anyway, Rick got the “grand” tour and Jackson got right up in his lap for the whole visit.

That Minnesota Sky


Lovely purple and pinks on our last night.  A nice Minnesota farewell.


Just a tranquil spot, and as you can tell, we hardly shared it with anyone else.

We know we haven’t done this state justice and we’ll be back one of these days.  Meanwhile, we’re ready to head south.  That first frost is signaling that it’s time to go.  Next up – Iowa, John Wayne & bridges.  See you on the way!

Grand Forks

September 29 – October 8

We’re all Scandinavian’d out and on the way to Pat’s boyhood home – Grand Forks, North Dakota.  People are always surprised when he tells them where he’s from.  Lots of people live there, but have you actually met a native North Dakotan?  Well, other than Pat?  It’s a novelty fer sure.  But, before I take you there, I have to put in the best picture that I didn’t take from Norsk Høstfest 2017.


Can’t believe I left this out of the Scandimonium post.  I said I wanted a “Helga Hat” as a souvenir, but I was satisfied with a snarly picture in one.  Our favorite actual souvenir?  A bumper sticker that says “I’d rather be pillaging”.  That’s going on Bitsy when we finally make a clean spot.

Turtle River State Park

You know we prefer state parks for camping, so we opted to camp about 20 miles outside of Grand Forks initially, with the option to move to a campground “in” town later on.  This location turned out to be ideal since the sugarbeet harvest was just gearing up.  The “in” town location had big trucks rumbling by day AND night loaded with the ugly suckers.  We’ll stick with our quiet spot and make the drive, thank you very much.


Checking in to our new peaceful spot at Turtle River State Park


It was a great time for the Fall colors.  Just look at the difference in the tree a mere 5 days later.  Gorgeous yellows and oranges popped out during the week.


We camped under a golden canopy and couldn’t help staring at the prairie sumac turning brilliant red and orange on the roadsides.

This spot met with Jackson’s approval right on the Turtle River with plenty of leaves for scuffling along.  Scuffling is nice, especially when you know you don’t have to do any raking.

Just a lovely place and it was nearly empty while we were there.


And we learned about galls – that big pink bulb.  Wasps lay their eggs on the plant stems and it stimulates the plant to grow tissue around them.  The gall provides the food supply for the larvae as they eat their way out.


Can’t forget the ladybugs.  They were everywhere.  I like them a little less after we had a small infestation.  They tagged along starting at Turtle River and we didn’t get rid of them all until Iowa.

Old Friends

This stop was also a chance for Pat to re-connect with some of his high school buddies.  We had several great outings, but one of the best was in Fargo with Greg & Rod.


I have no idea what they were saying to each other, but just kept clicking away to capture their fun.  Nothing like old friends from way back.  They know you in ways that new friends never will.

We had several other dinners with Greg.  One was at a brand new Vinyl Taco and I hope we find another one of those somewhere.  Great Mexican food and the menus were on old record covers.  Greg also treated us to lunch at the North Dakota Museum of Art on the University of North Dakota campus.  He’s the chef there, so we were special guests and even scored a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum’s Barton Exhibit.

We’d never heard of Barton before, but he’s known for his ephemera shadow boxes on various themes that he called ‘visual AIDS’.  I’d show pictures, but I couldn’t take any in the gallery and the photos online are copyright protected.  Barton Lidice Benes gifted everything from his New York apartment to the museum, and they actually built a replica.  According to the New York Times article when he died, he had quite a collection of artifacts in addition to his own artwork.  “Among its objects, many of them macabre, are a blackened human toe; a giant hourglass holding the mingled ashes of two of Mr. Benes’s friends, partners who died of AIDS; a gall stone removed from his friend Larry Hagman, the actor; and a stuffed giraffe’s head.”  It’s an amazingly wild collection, and the religious artifact visual AID was my favorite.  Google him up.

Driveway Camping

For our last weekend in the area, Pat’s brother Rob invited us to “camp” in his driveway in Thompson, just outside of Grand Forks.  Another first for us since we backed in next to the house and ran an extension cord for our power.


Super convenient and we’re calling this Rob and Paula’s B&B.  That’s Breakfast & Backyard.  Paula spoiled us with Grandma’s pancakes one morning, and biscuits and gravy the next.  We could get used to this!  And Jackson?


He’s frolicking in his new backyard with Brandy…


And Murphy.

But the real boss of this household is Rory.  That’s Rory on the left and Ethan’s Charlie on the right.  Amazing resemblance.  It was like petting my own cat, but the cat didn’t know me at all.  I think Rory is naughtier than Charlie though.  He has to be locked in the bathroom when the dogs are fed, eats the butter left out on the counter, and steals whole packages of shredded cheese when Paula has her back turned.  We think they’re both Nebelung cats.  A real breed and the description fits them both to a tee.


Rory is supervising.  Nothing gets past him.


We had a roaring campfire in the backyard with Rob, Paula and nephew Matt, and only had to walk about 20 feet to hop into our own bed when were done for the night.

Rob was going to take us to see the sugarbeet harvest in progress, but the temperature got too warm.  Too hot or too cold and harvesting stops until the temps are right again.  The farmers are all in a mad dash to get the harvest in during the month of October.  Those sugarbeets are big ugly white lumps and during harvest there’s quite a bit of dirt and mud on the roads.  You have to be careful driving those routes so you don’t slip and slide.  We love our sugar though, so the harvest must go on!


No sugarbeet field pictures, but I did take this one outside of town.  This is what I think of when North Dakota comes to mind.  Flat, blue sky as far as the eye can see, and fields ready for harvest.  In this case, hay.


Here’s the farewell picture before we left our driveway campsite.  Pat, Rob, Paula and Matt.  What fun we had!

And this officially concludes the Epic Journey!  We saw Alaska (Boy did we ever!), and we managed to visit all the siblings, Pat’s mom, some of my cousins and most of our nieces and nephews.  Of course our travels don’t end, but this seemed to be a good logical close to the BIG trip.  The weather she is a changin’, so we’re bugging out for parts south and our wintering spots in Texas.  See you on the way!



September 25-28

I didn’t make that word up.  Norsk Høstfest did.  What, pray tell, is that?  Well, it’s a festival celebrating all things Scandinavian – food, clothing, music, crafts, and so much more.  Another event we read about and just had to go considering Pat’s Norwegian and Swedish heritage.  Plus it’s the 40th year of “pure Scandimonium” if the advertising is to be believed.

Geographic Center of North America

Not so fast.  We have a stop planned at Icelandic State Park to fill in our schedule before the Høstfest begins.  To get there, we officially re-enter the US and the customs guy takes away my two apples.  I have a gift for buying things that don’t have a price or any other kind of sticker on them.  These apples were true to form.  Nothing to prove their country of origin, so they had to go.  My banana made the cut, however.  After the customs guy completed a quick check of the motorhome front to back, including the inside of the refrigerator and freezer, we are free to move about our home country again.

We note on the atlas that we’re pretty close to the geographic center of North America.  Yes, this is a thing.  In Rugby, North Dakota to be exact, and sounds like a photo op to us.


And here it is, conveniently located right on the side of US 2.


And the other angle to show you how it’s also conveniently located in the parking lot of a Mexican restaurant.  Really?  We’re pretty gullible, but didn’t buy this for a minute.  Since we stopped for lunch at a cafe nearby, we asked about the monument.  The waitress confirmed what we suspected.  The ACTUAL center is a few miles away off in some field somewhere.  But that’s no good for the tourist photo ops, so the town moved it here when US 2 was widened.

Icelandic State Park


Icelandic State Park is the next stop and we make it with no trouble.  There really are more trees and rolling hills here than we remembered in North Dakota.  Interestingly enough, this area is part of the Pembina Escarpment that runs all the way up into Manitoba to Riding Mountain where we stopped earlier.  An unexpected connection and the reason for the different terrain in this part of the state.


In a rare sunny moment, I was able to marvel at the huge evergreens.  Three different trees side by side in three different shades of green.

We were mostly rained out at this stop and spent time doing indoor things, although we did walk Jackson.  That is until we heard coyotes howling somewhere nearby one evening.  Scared me to death and I’m headed back to the motorhome!

There’s a great Pioneer Heritage Center in the park that we visited during the downpour.



Such a cool display showing the prairie grasses and how deep the roots go to anchor the plants.  The ground here can soak up nine inches of rain an hour!


Think about living here as some of the original settlers did.  In sod houses like this one.


Have you ever seen one of these?  We hadn’t either.  Believe it or not, sugar wasn’t always available in granulated form or even in cubes.  It came in a loaf and you cut off chunks with your sugar loaf cutter.

We also read about North Dakota’s reputation as America’s bread basket with all the fertile farmland and hardy pioneers settling here to work the land.  And that land?  Shaped by glaciers so long ago.


Under the flap it says that erratic comes from the Latin word erraticus meaning “to wander”.  Big boulders like this one in the area came from Canada and were carried down in the Ice Age glaciers.  Who knew we’d end our epic journey with a glacier connection after seeing so many active glaciers in Alaska?


Norsk Høstfest

From Icelandic State Park, we journey west a bit to Minot.  Why not?  Sorry, I just had to.  Minot is home to the Norsk Høstfest and is filled with Scandinavian culture.  This festival involved camping in the state fairgrounds parking lot, clustered around light poles for power.  We still couldn’t reach, but fortunately some kind Canadian gentlemen fixed us right up with a very long electrical cord.


If you ask Pat about this stop he’ll tell you, “I’m just here for the lefse”.  Here’s the best picture of the day complete with one happy man.

For those of you unfamiliar with lefse, it’s defined as “a traditional soft Norwegian flatbread”.  Kinda like a crepe, kinda like a tortilla, made mostly of potatoes.  Pat and all his siblings absolutely love the stuff and remember it fondly from their childhood.  This treat is legendary and is rolled out thin with a special rolling pin.  From there it requires a special large flat griddle and long wooden turning sticks.  It’s a complete pain to make, but oh so good.


And preparing your piece of lefse is serious business.  You get a pan, a piece of lefse, and then the ritual begins.  Most people butter it carefully.  Not too rough with the butter or the lefse will tear.  Then comes the sugar sprinkled just so.  Some add cinnamon, but most pooh-pooh that addition.  Then finally it all gets rolled up. Although one woman turned up her nose at the rolling and insisted that folding was the way.  Watching the crowd solemnly prep the lefse was the most fun for me.  I tried a bite, but since I wasn’t raised on it, I don’t fully appreciate it’s charms.  Ask Pat how he feels about grits and I think you understand.

I did love the Viking on a stick, however.  That’s a great big meatball rolled in batter and deep fried.  Follow that up with authentic rice pudding and Icelandic fish & chips, and it’s a very good food day.  Pat also found some cakey brownies like his grandma used to make.


There was music on the troll stage…


And quite a few accordians…

There was even a group from Sweden who demonstrated real Scandinavian feats of strength.


And a group demonstrating battle tactics with axes, swords and shields.


The authentic crafts were amazing and included great woodworking.  The building columns were decorated with many works of art just like this wooden Viking.  We watched spinning, weaving, and even rosemaling – a decorative style of painting on wood.  On the backside of the building we even found the Iverson Arena.  With our ‘son of Iver’ moniker, we’re practically royalty at this event!

It was really a lot of fun and I enjoyed learning about the Scandinavian culture.  And Pat?  He got his lefse fix.

Next up – our final stop of the Epic Journey and visits with Pat’s brother Rob and high school buddies.  See you on the way!


International Peace Garden

September 22-24

Pat is a native North Dakotan, so at this point we’re headed back to his hometown to visit his brother on our way south.  Back when Pat first took me to visit his fair state, I noticed the state nickname on the license plates – Peace Garden State.  I asked about it and found that even he hadn’t been to see this special garden.  So, it went on the “must-see” list and perfectly aligned with our exit from Canada.  It turns out I really, really liked this spot and want to return to see it in another season.

Farewell Canada

We’re ready to be back in our own country with all our own customs and measurements.  Yes, miles per hour, feet & inches, pounds & ounces, and boring money all the same color.


The International Peace Garden turned out to be a perfect border crossing spot and farewell location.  Manitoba and the state of North Dakota partnered to set aside the garden and celebrate the peace between the United States and Canada.  This cairn was dedicated in 1932 and the plaque says it so well.  “To God in His glory, We two nations dedicate this garden, and pledge ourselves that as long as men shall live, we will not take up arms against one another.”  A lovely sentiment and we hope it spreads.


The grounds were so pretty with the Fall colors.  The view West, East and the Promise of Peace sculpture.

The garden is unique since it straddles the Canadian and US borders and boasts the only structure built to also straddle the border.


Sitting on the bench in both peaceful countries.  The Peace Chapel is behind me and sits on the border.  You are invited to sit and contemplate a world without war, completely at peace.


Inside the chapel, the surrounding walls are all marble and are inscribed with quotes about peace.  My personal favorite, Numbers 6: 24-26.


The Grounds

We weren’t sure what to expect at this time of the year, especially since it was rainy and cold all the way here from Riding Mountain.  We had gloomy skies during the visit, but the grounds were still incredibly beautiful.

The fountains and the Promise of Peace Sculpture are in the center of the garden on the country border.  The carillon was on the US “side” and serenaded us as we strolled.


My favorite tree…

The floral clock kept the correct time and has a different flower “theme” each year.


We also learned about the International Boundary Commission that maintains the border between the US and Canada.  According to the Commission, ” It forms the boundary between ten states, seven provinces and one territory. It also traverses four of the five Great Lakes. This constitutes the world’s longest land border between two adjoining countries.”  The Commissioners are mandated to maintain a 20 foot boundary “vista” for the entire border length.  If you look closely in the picture above, you’ll see the break in the treeline forming that vista.

The most interesting part of this visit was the fact that we were “technically” not in either country.  Well, we were, but we had passed the border entry station for Canada, but had not yet passed through customs to re-enter the US.  The Internal Peace Garden entrance lies between the two.  Again a perfect end to our Canadian travels as we pass back and forth freely across the border inside the garden for a few days.  We could even pay for lunch and souvenirs with whatever currency we chose.  We chose Canadian dollars since the exchange rate was in our favor and we had a little colorful currency left.

The Formal Garden


The deer are not favorites here.  We saw them on the grounds, but missed the “ravaging”.  They are not allowed in the prettiest of spots, probably because they eat everything in bloom!


I was particularly taken with the evergreen trees surrounded by flower beds.  Such a beautiful contrast of colors and seasons.

All the colors of the rainbow in flowers.  Crab apples, too.  A few plants were frostbitten, but most were still gorgeous.

The Cactus Collection

There seems to always be a surprise waiting for us, even at planned stops.  We knew there would be an extensive outdoor garden here, but who knew there would be one of the world’s larges cactus collections on site?  The interpretive center houses over 1,000 plants that were part of Don Vitko’s donated collection.  As a boy, Don started his collection in Minot, ND from a packet of seeds given to him by his grandmother in 1963.  He traveled the world adding to his collection that grew to over 4300 different species of cactus and succulents and included nearly 6,000 plants.  An unbelievable collection organized by regions of the world where the plants are found.


Did you know that all cactus are succulents, but not all succulents are cactus?  It’s a tricky definition and basically they can all store moisture.  We had no idea there were so many kinds.  Love this perfect succulent specimen.


And the delicate little flowers!  Definitely giving those outdoor show-offs a run for their money.

Now let’s talk texture.  Everything from the spiky dog-collar look, to melted wax, frosting, Venus fly traps, and fuzzy mittens.


Then there’s this guy. He’s called the Old Man of the Andes and is from the high mountains of South America.  These guys only grow above 9800 ft – at least in the wild.  This collection is so extensive and special that they have a horticulturist from Africa who lives on site.


And the colors.  The photos don’t do justice to the hues.  They look like something from a Dr. Seuss book.

I want a Christmas tree just like this!


And one more since I simply couldn’t leave any out.


I’ll leave you with one of my favorite shots of the fall colors on the grounds, and my second favorite quote from the Peace Chapel:

“I shall pass through this world but once.  Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now.  Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again”  –Author Unknown

Next up – Icelandic State Park followed by pure Scandimonium!  See you on the way.

Riding Mountain National Park

September 18-21, 2017

I have to start dating these posts since the stops were so long ago!  We’re all tucked in listening to Christmas music, but I’m determined to finish off the Epic Journey posts before the new year.  We still have some great places to share in Canada as well as the lower 48.  Our last spot in Canada was Pat’s pick, but satisfied my request to camp in one more Canadian province – Manitoba.  So, off to Riding Mountain National Park we go.

On The Way to Riding Mountain

The journey is so often the “thing”.  This travel day was no different.  We stopped for lunch in Melville for the best onion rings at the local A&W and drinks in frosty mugs.  As you know, we love a good fast food stop and Pat likes root beer.  I hates it, I do, but I’ll take my diet coke in a frosty mug instead.  We bid adieu to Sask and enter Canadian province # 4.


We were warned that the roads in Manitoba were a little rough.  Another “paved with good intentions” kind of drive.  The bumps don’t help our clunking noises under the coach, but we’re trying to ignore them.  We pass fun named places like Waywayseecappo and dub it Way Way for short.  This way is Way Way bumpy!

Riding Mountain National Park

It was a long travel day to get here, but well worth it.  This place has >600 campsites and we’re here in the off season.  Practically deserted!  Our kind of peace and quiet and no crowds at all.  After scarfing down the best nachos we’ve ever had at a little restaurant outside the park, we settle in for a rain day.  What is this wet stuff from the sky?!  It’s been a long time since we had rain and the area really needs it.  Pat reads all day, Jackson sleeps and I write a blog post and make cards.  Nice and restful.


And the next day?  Simply beautiful on Clear Lake near the campground.  A little bit of fall color and expansive blue sky.  We strolled on the dock and discovered a dinner cruise opportunity on the Martese tour boat.  I originally wanted to take the sunset cruise, but those were done for the season.  Good news!  The dinner cruise comes back just in time for a waterfront sunset.


DSC00133Sunset on Clear Lake after our superb dinner complete with cream puffs for dessert.

Floating Trail

Since we got rained out on the first day, we decided to extend our stay.  Next up, hiking on the Ominik Marsh trail.


This was Jackson’s outing, and I think he was confused by the floating dock-like trail and kept thinking we’d get to the end at some point.


“Quit holding me back!” Jackson says.

More scenes from the marsh

Bald Hill Trail

Riding Mountain National Park is interesting because it seems to rise out of nowhere in Manitoba.  The park sits atop the Manitoba Escarpment surrounded by acres and acres of farmland.  I’m sure I’m not the only one unfamiliar with the term escarpment.  According to the National Geographic Society, it is “an area of the earth where elevation changes suddenly”.  Essentially it’s a ridge that rises 500 feet above the surrounding area.

We hiked over 4 miles one day trying to get to Bald Hill, an area of exposed rock atop the escarpment.  The Bald Hill Trail was disappointing, but a drive farther down the road finally brought us to the view we were seeking.


On top of the escarpment looking at the patchwork of farmland down below.  The clouds are getting ready to roll in.


Take two with a better shot of the Fall color


Scenes from the Bald Hill Trail

And a few more from Clear Lake

This was our last stop to use our Canada 150 pass.  What a great time to be in Canada and enjoy their National parks for free.  Ah, but we’re longing to be back in the good ‘ole US of A.  Next up – North Dakota and the International Peace Garden.  See you on the way!

Saskatchewan – Easy to Draw, Hard to Spell

September 10 – 17

We’re headed East and our next Canadian province is Saskatchewan.  It’s the only one with no natural borders, so pretty much a rectangle.  The visitor’s center outside Maple Creek had shirts with the “Easy to draw, hard to spell” slogan and we totally agree.  No real “must do’s” in this part of Canada, but some unexpectedly great campsites and meals.


Just to show we were there…and lots of wheat growing in the province.

We passed Pinto McBean on the drive and would have planned a stop for photos if we had known he was coming up.  Who doesn’t love a giant bean statue?

Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park

Technically we stayed on the Alberta side for this stop, but I’m counting it since it does connect to Sask.  Yes, Sask.  That’s what you say if you’re hip and also saving letters on signage.  Anyway, we stopped for two nights.  It was originally going to be a one nighter, but I really didn’t want to pack up and move again on my birthday.  So we sat another day to relax on 9/11.


A little hazy, but much better as far as the smoke goes.  Pretty Elkwater Lake with those dry hills, but surprising evergreens to brighten the shore.


We even found a nice boardwalk for Jackson.  Of course it was a little too far from the campsite, so we drove him over.


The only parking spot I could find reasonably close.  One of these things is not like the others….

The night before my birthday, Hurricane Irma was hammering at Florida and I was enjoying delicious ribs at the campground Cookhouse.  The server spilled beer on me and comped the beer, half my ribs AND dessert.  I barely got splashed, but it made for fun banter with the waiter, and a cheap birthday dinner.  Fortunately, we were able to see how Florida faired in the news reports the next day.  We can’t tell you how relieved we were not to be worrying about a house while we were so far away.

Moose Jaw

I read about some fun things to see in Moose Jaw, so we’ve set our course for the next stop.  Along the way, we saw 2 deer, a fox, bison and lots of sheep.  Our stop at the Maple Creek visitor center sent us to the little bitty town off the highway for lunch.  Howard’s Bakery and Cafe did not disappoint with great sandwiches and the hands down best doughnut I’ve ever had.  I’d go back that way just for another stop to buy cookies, more doughnuts and whatever baked goods ‘ole Howard is selling.  Delicious.


View of downtown Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan from the hill above the River Park Campground.  Our home for the next 4 nights.  We’ve escaped the smoke, but we’re right by a refinery.  Different smell entirely, but still no good.  When we first arrived, we thought we had a tire problem!

Laundry is overflowing again, so I look for a spot.  I only found one and it was a sketchy place for sure.  The two other places that my internet search showed me were ice cream parlors.  I chalked that up to being “Googled” until another guy showed up at the laundromat.  He said both those other places did indeed have laundry as well as ice cream, but they’re apparently more expensive.  Hopefully they’re in better repair, but I got the job done anyway.  And the guy gave us excellent dinner recommendations.

We also got a visit from a mobile Speedy Glass guy to repair Lucy’s two newest windshield cracks.  One was a spider crack and destined to cause trouble on the rough roads.  Good to have that taken care of.


Moose Jaw is home to the world’s largest moose statue.  Mac stands at 32 feet tall.

We also went on two Tunnels of Moose Jaw tours.  These underground tours are a little bit history lesson, a little bit interactive theater and a lot of fun.  The ‘Chicago Connection’ tour turned us into bootleggers running rum for Al Capone’s gang.  I got to do the “secret” knock on the door to enter the inner sanctum.  For tour number two, we were Chinese immigrants in ‘Passage to Fortune’.  Both tours went from building to building below the streets of downtown Moose Jaw.  No photos allowed, so you’ll just have to imagine what the tunnels looked like.

While out to dinner the first night, we saw an advertisement for tickets to a concert in town.  It turns out that Moose Jaw won the “One Horse Town” contest sponsored by Coors, entitling them to a free concert with headliner Darius Rucker of ‘Hootie and the Blowfish’ fame.  We love his voice and he’s one of Pat’s favorites.  Unfortunately for us, it was for town residents only and the 1500 free tickets were already gone.  Since Moose Jaw is not a huge place, we could hear the concert from our campsite.


I also read about the Claybank Brick Plant which is a National Historic Landmark in Canada.  It sounded a lot like Birmingham’s Sloss Furnaces or the Kennecott Mine in Alaska.  The visitor’s center told us the tours were closed, but we could check out the grounds, so off we went.


This is what we found when we arrived.  Bummer.  This gravel road adventure was not as exciting as I’d hoped.

This spot is virtually unchanged since 1912 and in season has tours to showcase the clay quarry in the nearby hills to the brick kilns at the plant.  We walked around outside the fence for a little bit, but the brisk wind turned us around pretty quickly.


Pretty spot with some Fall color.  My artsy shot for the day.

Crooked Lake Provincial Park


From Moose Jaw, we wound our way off the beaten path to Crooked Lake Provincial Park.  When we arrived, I jumped out to run ahead and check out a few sites.  I turned around and saw this.  Lucy coming through the tree canopy – just magical!

This was also going to be a one night stop and we just couldn’t leave.  It was so peaceful compared to Moose Jaw (yes, a train next door to the campground), and didn’t smell at all.  No smoke, no petroleum, just clean, crisp Fall air.


The boys approve of the lakeside strolls.

Lots of trees just turning colors on the lakeside.

This is also where we encountered tons of red box elder bugs.  Creepy looking things.


Jackson really liked the big sticks at this stop.  He’s not worried about the bugs.

The park host let us know the water was being turned off at the campground the next day, so time to go.

On the way out of Saskatchewan, we’re noticing these orange enclosures in the fields.  I’m calling them hospitality tents.  Turns out I’m not far wrong,  They are there to attract leaf cutter bees required to pollinate the canola crops.  I envision a little wine tasting and finger sandwiches to keep those special bees happy in the fields.


There are bees partying in these tents.


Our time is Sask is done and they thank us for driving safely.  We’re off to Manitoba and Riding Mountain National Park next.  See you on the way!