Winter is Coming…

Mon (14 Aug) –

Check it –

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That’s right, I did it. Sorry, Keeper, we… I hooked these two beasties up, under Keeper’s watchful eye (he had the checklist), dumped the bilges and got ready to go to Minneapolis. Last night we put away the Clam, packed up the bikes, bled off the propane to secure the outdoor kitchen, just in case I made good on my threat to drive all the way to Minneapolis. Mid-morning we stopped in the Van Riper SP office on the way out to let them know we’d be vacating our spot a day early. And we were given a refund. Michigan is all right.

Wisconsin too. Until I had to get gas. Duluth was a heavy contender for Flight’s commute because, in his words, “Well, that way you won’t have to get gas.” I asked, “Is that tricky?” Flight said something to the effect of, “Well, it’s easy to get in a bad situation at a gas station, meaning you may get pinned in and have to disconnect the Toad, and you’ll be around stuff that can blow up if you hit it, so yeah, it can be.” Well, crappity crap crap crap. His parting advice, “Just go to a truck stop so you’ll have plenty of room to maneuver.”

I watched the fuel level sink below ¼ tank and started my search in earnest for said truck stop, despite not being signed off on my underway replenishment operations. I read “CENEX family stop (maybe?), Truckers Welcome.” Sweet! I made my move to get off the highway and didn’t immediately find said CENEX. It took 1.2 miles down the road through small-town America to get to a small Mom and Pop gas station. Pretty sure truckers don’t come to this place, as they all know better. I pulled a fancy u-turn of sorts to land our traveling circus at both gas pumps and blindly guessed the location of the fuel tank. Nailed it.

Inserted my card. Nothing. Wouldn’t take my card. Wouldn’t take any card. Not even the fellow ‘s across the pump from me. The manager came out to say their credit card system at the pumps had gone down just as I drove up. I was not entirely surprised – Flight does refer to me as “The Walking Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)” as I do tend to leave fried electronics in my wake. Also not surprisingly (I was clearly buying A LOT of gas), the manager was very apologetic and told me the credit card system was fine inside and I could just start the fueling process. It was and I filled up the tank and departed without hitting a single thing.

I got back on the road and my phone told me I would be getting to our new campsite just outside Minneapolis at 4:10 pm. And then it was 4:40. And then it became 5:30. Shoot. I had Keeper text Flight. He had landed at 2 something in Minneapolis and was Ubering to Baker Campground. Through Keeper, I learned of Flight’s promise to pick the best campsite. We rolled into Minneapolis just prior to 5 p.m. in the thick of rush hour traffic. After a day on the road I felt well versed in operating Davista by now, but I was not prepared for what happened next.

I learned that in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota (Utah says this too…), there are only two seasons: winter and construction. Winter is coming, but it’s not here yet and road construction is in full swing. The 94 tunnel going through town is partially closed and not allowing any vehicles over 9000 pounds. I saw a small sign indicating so and began to panic as we’re more than twice that limit. Before we left, my college roommate told me she looked for the “Nervous Mother Driving” window sticker from the Partridge Family Bus, but couldn’t find it. Too bad, it would have been the perfect warning sign to stay out of my way.

Now following little truck detour signs in an unfamiliar city in may not be challenging in and of itself, however doing so in rush hour traffic surrounded by people who have never driven such a long-legged beastie was extremely so. Every time I left enough room to merge, with my turn signal clearly indicating my intentions well ahead of time, pint-sized little cars kept popping into the space. I was left with no other option, I donned Maryland habits (that’s where our plates are from) and merged as necessary, which had the same effect as Fezzik yelling, “Everybody MOVE!”

After being diverted not just once but twice from 94, we found our way through the city to Baker Campground, pulling in to see a very relieved Flight lounging with his luggage.

Our stay in Minneapolis was unfortunately short, as there’s so much the Twin Cities have to offer. We didn’t even get to see nearby Minnehaha Falls, which was recommended by a good friend who’s a Twin City native. Since tide, time, formation, and solar eclipses wait for no one and we had a long way to travel in a short amount of time, we were only in the area for one day and that was consumed by mundane errands. :/ Most critical of these was getting new glasses for both Firebolt (“Mom, I don’t really need them,” while screwing up her face to squint…) and Keeper (“Mom, I was heating and bending my earpiece to make it fit better and it broke. But it’s okay, I used duct tape to fix it.” Hmmmm…) so both could actually see the eclipse. A close second was going to Trader Joe’s as we were next traversing the Frontier, so we had to stock up.   Not falling in the mundane errand category was a fantastic visit with one of Flight’s Stanford friends and his oldest son who was also home (the rest of the family was still in Hong Kong).

Now to decide: do we go the shorter northern route (through ND, MT, and ID) or the southern route (through SD, WY, MT, and ID) with potentially more interesting stops…

Feelin’ Minnesota

It was an easy flying commute but a tough few hours.  After much back and forth and variations on the theme of “so you’re comfortable with this?” from my end, TC decided it was time to depart Michigan and get her trial by fire qualification via a drive from Michigan to Minneapolis.

In theory this was easy on me as I was able to simply fly to MSP from Boston after my redeye from Oakland.  Much easier than trying to get into Marquette or even Duluth.  In practice, it was nerve-wracking at best, thinking about her doing her first no-kidding long drive with the kiddos and without me.

Quick digression, though… I mentioned Oakland, and this was pretty cool.  I had 24 hours there during my second of two trips while gone from the family back in the UP, and was fortunate enough to have a brunch with my parents, my sister and brother-in-law, and all her kids (one home for the weekend from college even!) at my parents’ house.  This is extremely rare, both managing to do this sort of thing under the auspices of work and getting all of those people together at once.  Noteworthy and unforgettable!

Back to Minneapolis.  I arrived there at about lunchtime while TC and the fam were en route.  I was able to track Keeper’s phone’s location, so every half hour I’d keep my angst in check by bringing up the display of Keeper’s face trucking down Minnesota’s back roads toward Minneapolis.  Progress appeared solid, and I grabbed a Lyft to the park at which we’d planned to camp with the intention to scout campsites and check in prior to their arrival.  We had opted for a park on a lake (you need to work not to be on a lake in Minnesota I think) on the west side of town near a good college friend I’d hoped to visit while in town.

My Lyft driver was a very personable, younger Somali gentleman whom I was able to chat with on the 45 minute drive.  My Navy time never took me to the horn of Africa, and my knowledge of the area is more or less limited to Black Hawk Down and Iman / David Bowie, so I wasn’t the best conversational partner.  I did manage to ask him whether he enjoyed Minnesota (yes, but it’s quite cold in the Winter) and whether he missed Somalia at all (NO!).  Um, duh.

Returning to the family, Tacco killed it.

IMG_8836Managed both the gas station evolution (which requires far more pre-planning than it would appear) and a detour through downtown Minneapolis, the thought of which made me shudder.  They rolled in triumphantly in the late afternoon, and we settled into another thoroughly pleasant campground.  The Midwest seems to do these well.

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The following day in Minneapolis was devoted to errands, as we’d yet to have such a day.  Eye exams and new glasses for the kiddos, Trader Joe’s for the rest of us, and a bit of mall time in the interim.  Not the Mall of America mind you, but the one in Wayzata is as thoroughly pleasant as the campground was, as is the rest of the town.  I can see why Brandon and Brenda missed it at times, despite their new Beverly Hills digs.  I’m sensing a recurrent “pleasant” theme in Minnesota.

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We spent the evening catching up with one of my college roommates and great friends, and his oldest son at their gorgeous house on (another!) lake in Plymouth.  Fantastic.  As often happens, it ended up being the type of thing that was so brief that it makes me wish for a full-on several day visit instead, but still great to see him.  I’m able to do that sort of fly-by visit quite a bit with my job, but I’m finding that we’re doing even more of it than I’d expected we would with this trip, as we keep remembering about people who are in town and/or others who happen to be either vacationing in our area or currently living somewhere in our path.  It’s turning out to be one of the unexpected benefits of this year.  It would’ve been nice to join them on their boat on Lake Minnetonka the following day, but it was time to head West.