Sitting around 30 June and thinking about “stuff.” Working on the house (sort of). Not much that can be done since we are STILL awaiting our building permit. It has been over a year now since that process started. You would think we were building a skyscraper. Full of Gun Dealers, Gentlemen’s Clubs and marijuana dispensaries. Next to an elementary school. The wheels of City Bureaucracy turn slowly, but that is a whole different document!
Anyway, we decided to take a holiday-weekend trip to my sister’s place in Northern Minnesota. Near Aitkin. Which is near Lake Mille Lacs. Which is basically near nowhere. This I know because there is no WiFi and no Cell signal. We are OFF THE GRID. It is difficult for me…fortunately I have had a year and a half of retirement to gradually disengage. I think if this had been our first trip I would have had a psychotic break (even BEFORE being in the presence of family)!
So, I should describe the driving part of this adventure. This IS, after all, the “RV Where Yet” section of the blog…Getting there was uneventful. But even “uneventful” can have moments worth noting. For example, we found out that the bus has a special compass, one that can help us follow the major Laws of Retirement:
“If you have no destination in mind,
you cannot be lost, late OR disappointed. “
We broke the trip in half and stayed in a Walmart parking lot. This was a little more eventful than our previous stays with Sam. About 1:30 AM I woke up smelling smoke. Liz smelled nothing and told me to go back to sleep (except not so politely). I seriously did smell smoke. So much so I was afraid the bus was burning. The actual smoke DETECTOR was not chirping, which was encouraging. But this needed investigation. I grabbed a flashlight and made a circuit of the bus…no obvious fire. Walked a bit upwind from the bus…smoke smell is still obvious (and from this position, obviously not from the bus). I noticed plumes of smoke from behind the Walmart. I think someone was burning trash. So eventually I did get back to sleep.
Since the trip was a surprise even to us, we were certainly not expected in Aitkin, where most of my family, many friends and assorted hangers-on were spending the holiday weekend. So, we drove down the gravel road leading to the cottage playing “LA CUCARACHA” on the horn. They ran towards us, not away. A good start! Later an old college friend, Keith Cambre, whom we had called on the way up, turned up with THREE Growlers from his favorite taproom. Things are getting better and better!
The weekend was a very typical one for Northern Minnesota with Family.
Liz and I brought hot dogs, and B-I-L David had some Brats. So I offered to BBQ. Went to start the grill and disturbed the VERY LARGE Wasp Nest hanging invisibly under the shelf of the grill. I was stung only once, and Liz not at all (though we did have her Epi-pen in case).
We lit the tiki-torches and citronella candles on our “patio,” looking forward to beer/wine and conversation. But once the sun settles to the horizon we learned that, contrary to marketing info, these actually ATTRACT mosquitos. You can apply DEET in various concentrations, which does prevent biting. However, the insects form an impenetrable cloud and their sheer volume obscures the sky! So, activities move inside after dark.
Keith inaugurated the pull-out sofa-bed in the Bus. Judging by the depth of his unconsciousness, it seemed comfortable. And, let’s just say, Keith has a reputation for snoring (which he can neither confirm or deny as he is asleep when this allegedly occurs). Anyway, the bus’s bedroom “door” muffled this alleged snoring enough such that we were not aware. So, the lesson learned: we CAN host others (no matter how loud) as we travel. Make your reservations now!
We rode our bicycles into the center of the Greater Aitkin Metropolis (about 5 miles away) on Saturday Morning. They have a surprisingly excellent coffee shop there (“The Beanery”) which has WiFi!!! So, a civilized breakfast and our Kindles could download the Chicago paper! This excellence is a surprise for Aitkin, whose other (only?) cultural event(s) include an Ice Fishing Shack parade down Main Street every Thanksgiving weekend. After brekkie, we rode our bikes a few blocks more to see the Mississippi River, which in Aitkin is quite small though already muddy. Its source is in Itasca, MN. which is about another hour’s drive north.
Later Saturday, we (Keith and I with Liz as the designated driver) borrowed my sister’s car and drove to a Real, Honest TAPROOM for the Jack Pine Brewery in Baxter Mn. There we had a couple flights, bought a Growler for later and basically thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
We left on Monday morning to make the trip back to Chicago in a leisurely fashion. We stopped in Minneapolis to see Mom. Then we stopped in Decorah Iowa for the night. Another Walmart and an EXCELLENT Taproom (Toppling Goliath).
The rest of the trip back did not turn out to BE leisurely: Two things you NEVER want to see